Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

The 25 Thoughts You Have While Checking Your LinkedIn Connection Requests

Monday, October 20, 2014 By

1. Ooh, new connection requests! Yay!

2. Wait, I thought I'd already contacted everyone on my contacts list about connecting on LinkedIn.

3. Eh, I have a lot of contacts. Maybe I missed some.

4. Who's this?

5. Who's that?

6. I don't know half these people who have requested that I connect with them. No disrespect, but this is LinkedIn, not Twitter. It's for professional networking, so we should probably be in each others' general circles.

7. Who is this? Do I report this person for trying to connect with me when we don't know each other?

8. No. That's a douche move. Maybe I'll meet this person later. I'm sure I will find him/her to be lovely.

9. This person is a director of sales, so we might have a lot in common.

10. Oh. For a car dealership. That means you're going to try to sell me a car. I have a car. Rejected. Sorry.

11. And here's one from an insurance agent I've never met. You're going to try to sell me insurance. Rejected. No offense.

12. And here's someone else I don't know whose entire LinkedIn profile consists of 6 months running a home-based multi-level marketing business. Rejected aaaaaaaand.... reported.

13. Doesn't anyone I know want to connect?

14. Here's another one I don't know.

15. And another one.

16. Ugh! Reject, reject, reject, reject - wait...

17. Oh! I know her! I worked with her, like, 15 years ago!

18. No, wait, she was horrid to me. Nevermind.

19. Psh! I can't believe she'd try to connect with me. The nerve...

20. Oh, she lost her job and is looking for a new one... (sigh) Okay, fine. But I still don't like you. Accepted.

21. Hey! This person works where I work!

22. But so do 12,999 other people. And I don't know 12,990 of them.

23. Do I accept her request?

24. Eh, why not. Accepted.

25. Sooooo.... one. One nebulously connected person out of the 20 connection requests.

Friday, October 17, 2014

You know you should go to the Big Mo

Friday, October 17, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - The photo above is the main screen at The Big Mo in Monetta, S.C. It's about 45 minutes from Augusta, and about 30 minutes from Aiken, S.C. Doesn't look like much, does it?

You shut your mouth! The Big Mo is my new obsession.

As a movie lover, I'm always looking for a great experience. IMAX was an exciting development, but I am priced out of that market. Plus, most screens that claim to be IMAX (Augusta Regal Cinemas, I'm talking to your very disappointing selves) aren't what you imagine when you think of IMAX, which is this:

Stadium seating is nice, but how much you can enjoy it depends on the behavior of the other 200 people stuck in a black box with you. Let's face it, the theater experience is not always great. It's so claustrophobic. I never know what to do with my arms and legs. Who gets the arm rest? How much reclining can I do? When can I get up and go to the bathroom without irritating the people around me? Why is that baby crying? Wait a minute - are we on a plane

Plus, I don't want stupid day-old popcorn. I want real food. 

Essentially, all the modern trappings of movie-going have done nothing but make me want to go to the movies even less.

Well, here come our grandparents to save the day. Because The Big Mo, a drive-in that originally opened in 1951, deals with all of these quandaries, and more.

First of all, the people around you are there to chill. No one is going to get on your nerves. If they do, you are probably being a little grumpy, do dial it back, Gramps. Kids can run around and play before the movie - see the playground in the top photo above? Adults can get up and stretch their legs whenever they want.

Second, you can design your seating in whatever way makes you comfortable. Some people park their car and watch the movie from their regular seats. We bring camp chairs, like a lot of folks. But I've seen kids chilling on inflatable couches, teenagers lounging in the back of mini vans with stadium blankets, and even a family snuggling together on an air mattress on the grass, complete with a quilt and pillows. I'll admit it: I was kind of jealous of them. But Emerson and I watched part of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" from the top of the playground set. That was pretty awesome, too.

Third, the Big Mo's concession stand serves everything from cotton candy to mozzerella sticks. And it's all reasonably priced and pretty darn good. We got a half-pizza for $7. Hot dogs are $1.75. Cheeseburgers are $3.50. Plus Emerson wanted boiled peanuts, because she's crazy for them, so that was $4, but not a customary expenditure. Still, other families brought in their own food in picnic baskets. Some folks in a pick-up truck behind us were enjoying plates of pulled pork barbecue. Heck, yeah.

Finally, at $8 per adult and $4 per child, for a double-feature, the price of admission is more competitive than big box theaters. We last went Oct. 10. "Alexander" was in its first week of release, and the second film was "Guardians of the Galaxy." The Big Mo really knows how to pair movies for families.

Bonuses: The theater was recently given a grant from Honda to digitize their projection system, making them able to bring newer movies to their three screens. And they even have a loyalty card, called the Frequent Star Gazer Card.

Because when you're not looking at the screen, you'll be gazing at the sky.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

And here's where I lose about ten friends.... sorry.

Thursday, October 16, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Someone I love sent me an email recently. That email, which I should have deleted the moment I saw "FW:" in the subject line, has stuck in my craw, as we say in the South. It was an email that said, essentially, that Newsweek magazine was out of business, now. But before they closed, the editors printed a take-down of President Barack Obama so passionate as to shake the very foundations of his support.

A simple check of Snopes revealed it as the hokey propaganda I knew it to be:

But that wasn't the only thing that clued me in that it was not worth the rise in my blood pressure to read it...

First, Newsweek is still in business.

Second, this piece was never published by a reputable news organization - no matter how much the website 
American Thinker wants to be regarded as one. It's really just a news aggregater.

For this particular piece of propaganda to work on an audience, it
must be couched as a surprising about-face from an organization that Obama-opponents would say supports him - which is anyone and everyone who doesn't diametrically oppose him, of course. The reason it needs to be framed in such a way is because not once in the article does it provide citations for a single claim. Not once does it provide a link or an academic citation to an unbiased third-party source. And all the writer had to do was pull up the Wikipedia article on the man. Even this site cites every claim it makes.

Finally, the lack of citations aren't even the worst part of this piece. The worst part of this piece is the reason that there are no citations: Because it's full of lies.

I won't get into every falsehood, because I just don't have the time. But a good example is this claim: "There is no evidence that he ever attended or worked for any university or that he ever sat for the Illinois bar." There is plenty of documentation and photographic evidence for Barack Obama's birthplacelaw school graduation, and university career. I can't immediately find evidence that he sat for the bar exam, but he does hold a license to practice law, which requires a bar exam passing score, so I would deduce from his license that he did. Not that he needs to pass the bar or have been a practicing attorney to be president.

Look, there are plenty of reasons to deride Obama's presidency. Escalation of military intervention in North Africa and the Middle East. The cluster-mess of compromise that is the Affordable Care Act (although I still think it has improved many lives and put insurance companies on notice). And his administration's failure to prosecute the robber-barons who caused the housing and banking collapses.

But there are plenty of reasons not to hate him. Job growth has improved. The auto industry was saved and improved. Expanded hate crime laws now include sexual orientation.

The fact is that it's easier for people to put their hands over their ears (and eyes) and say, "lalalalalalalalala I can't hear you" than it is for them to argue impactfully against policies with which they disagree. That's unethical and just poor sportsmanship. 
Being angry that your party lost or that policies you don't like are being enacted is no excuse for flat-out lying.

Deal with the political process. In American politics, the ends of an election, policy implementation, or legislative action cannot justify the means. Because the very idea of democracy is based on the means

Let's all hope the country does better in the next 8 years. But for the country to do better, we all have to do better as individuals. Let's start by being honest.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This post contains explicit material

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA. - Emerson and I were at the Dollar Tree this weekend, getting a new pooper scooper, because Emerson somehow misplaced ours. Which is as disgusting as it sounds.

In the toy section, Emerson saw a ball. And with her typical impression of Foghorn Leghorn, she said, "Scented balls? What are scented balls? Mom, do you know anyone who has scented balls?"

Emerson only has three volumes:

  1. Dear God, What is The Emergency?
  2. Attempt at Whispering That Sounds Like a Normal Volume
  3. Sleeping

She was in emergency mode. I wish I could say I was cool, but I had to walk away for laughing.

When I walked away, covering my hysterical giggles with my hand, she followed me, basically hollering the same set of questions. I had to choke out, "Please stop saying scented balls."

Mistake. She's almost 10, and we've had several co-ed puberty talks, and she thinks the whole dang thing is hilarious. Apparently, every normal body part and function on an adult is just the funniest thing ever. There's no hierarchy. They're ALL The Funniest Thing Ever.

And when I said that, she got it. And fell on the ground belly laughing. I tried to hush her, because her laughing is approximately the same volume as an ambulance siren. But that just made her laugh harder. I walked to the other end of the aisle, so I could still see her, but perhaps my mortification would be far enough removed that it would no longer amuse her so much.

And it worked. She caught up with me a minute or two later, still grinning so wide her face might have cracked, and still chuckling. But calm enough that I didn't feel the need to gag her.

"Sorry, Mama. That was just so funny!"

"Mmm..." I refused to comment, and resumed shopping. Then I heard it.

"sssssssscenteeddddd baaaaaaaaallllllsssss....[snort][chortle]"

She followed me around the store, whispering the phrase over and over. Needless to say, it was the fastest shopping I've ever done.

She collapsed into a fit of belly-laughing in the car, while I tried to keep a stern look on my face.

"Doodle, I understand that you think that's funny, but it's really more of a private funny. Not something to share in public," I chided her.

Her eyebrows shot back on her forehead in dismay. "But, mom, that's why I was whispering!"

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Product Review: Dr. Scholl's Dream Walks

Tuesday, October 07, 2014 By

I would say that the above photo pretty much sums up my experience with high heels. I own probably 10 pairs of various kinds of heels - sandals, boots, pumps. And I might wear them once a year. I hate heels. Hate them. Didn't wear sparkly heels to any of my Major Life Events. Don't plan on doing so in the future. 

You know why? Because heels hurt. They hurt a lot. I don't see why that should even be a thing that women do to themselves. 

Now, I have had a few pairs of comfortable heels. They had no more than two inches in height, did not narrow to a pinpoint on which I was expected to balance, and were generously cushioned.

Unfortunately, they also seem to be as elusive as Bigfoot. ... Well, slightly less elusive than Bigfoot, as I've owned three or four comfortable pairs of heels, and approximately zero Bigfoots. Bigfeet? I don't know. Anyway.

All I want to be able to do is enjoy the air of professionalism and the illusion of height that accompanies wearing heels. My footwear is, I think, quite professional. But something in my closet just screams that I've totally given up. And I had.

Now... a ray of hope. 

Dr. Scholl's was kind enough to send me a sample pair of Dr. Scholl's Dream Walks (like, three months ago - I am soooooo late!). They are high heel insoles "clinically proven to help prevent foot pain" made from a "wicking fabric designed to keep feet dry" for all you unfortunate foot-sweaters - and hikers, I guess, who prefer to visit nature dressed like you're going to the club. 

Packaging features a lot of pink, of course. Because us ladies are stupid,
and wouldn't know we are allowed to wear things if they aren't slathered
in the Official Color of Womanhood - amiright, ladies?!

Close up of the packaging. Nothing particularly exciting
about the package, 
except that it's not one of those made of the
plastic you have to use a can opener to get into.

These are my trusty black leather pumps. Everyone has a pair like these, right. Eh, probably yours are cuter than mine, because my friend, Lisa, says I have no cute shoes. So I assume everyone else but me is winning the footwear game. I want to be able to wear these, if nothing else. They are sturdy. They match ALL THE THINGS. But they freaking hurt my feet.

Wearing the inserts actually helped. I made it through an entire work day. My feet hurt by the end, but most of the day was fine. Well, I did hurt myself, but that's because I slipped and almost fell. I can't blame that on the Dr. Scholl's Dream Walks.

So, while they were generally effective, there are some shortcomings:

  • First, these aren't gel inserts. They're really just extra-cushy versions of the same old shoe inserts you can get at any drug store or super center. So they don't work as well as they could work, if they were made of more forgiving materials.
  • Second, they didn't prevent all pain. I still winced as I flat-footed around the house at home, thankful (for the first time) that my home is carpeted. 
  • And, finally: Unless you have a very narrow foot, Dr. Scholl's Dream Walks don't cover the entirety of the insole of the shoe, which results in pressure against a an unusual part of your foot, and feeling like the insole is slipping under the arch of the foot.

See? It only covers about 60 percent of the real estate inside my shoe. I want it all, Dr. Scholl's. Give it to me.

Frankly, if Dr. Scholl's would just make women's work shoes - like Doc Marten did - we could skip all this runaround and just buy shoes that are comfortable in the first place. I owned Docs in the 90s, like everyone, because we were super original. All of us. Owning them was almost a requirement to graduate high school. Unfortunately, before I entered college, some jerk had stolen my Docs so I just bought some $20 surplus Army boots. Yeah. Who's real, now, grunge scene? Thrift store clothes and $150 boots - what's that even about?

Incidentally, Doc Marten only makes one pair of heels - which I would actually buy, if they weren't $140 and I didn't have to walk into pretentious stores teeming with Millennials to find them.

Anyway, here's the summary: Dr. Scholl's Dream Walks are really nice if you suffer from mild to moderate foot pain while wearing heels; and if you either have tiny, narrow feet - or you don't mind the feeling of walking around on shifting pool floats all day long.

Frankly, it felt a lot like this.

But for $7.99, and a recommended lifespan of six months, they are a good enough value for you to give them a shot. Also, here is a coupon for $2 off!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

I'm sorry, Winnie Cooper

Thursday, October 02, 2014 By

Me: "She has a degree in theoretical mathematics, or... something."

R.H.: "So... she has a degree in pretend?"

Me: "...Oh. My. God."

R.H. (grinning): "I mean if you have a theoretical degree, do you even have a degree?"

Me: "You are a dork."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Not-So-Fantastic Voyage: My recent insurance odyssey

Monday, September 29, 2014 By

AUGUSTA, GA - I'm lucky to have excellent insurance - expensive insurance, but excellent.


Accessing those benefits can be more difficult that I had imagined. Come along on my journey that took place just a couple of weeks ago.

Emerson had complained about mild stomach pain for a couple of days. We treated it at home. Then one day, it wasn't so mild. Uh-oh. I called the doctor.

Only they wouldn't see her. No openings that day.

So I took her to the prompt care place that we have used for five years.

Only they wouldn't see her.

"We're not listed as her primary care physician," the desk clerk said to me. "It's an HMO, so they'll have to approve that change."

Commence epic phone call to Blue Cross Blue Shield. The wonderfully friendly customer service rep was happy to change Emerson's primary care physician... once I got her on the phone. Long hold, many numbers punched in, several false starts due to the automated voice recognition system picking up Emerson's incessant chatter in the back seat, then the system accidentally hung up on me, commence another long hold, etc.

My phone was dying, when finally she says, "Hmm. I'm finally where I need to be in the system, but I'm getting an age error."

"An age error?"

"Since she's under 15 years old, it says they won't treat her."

"But... they've been seeing her since she was four. They diagnosed her and treated her for pneumonia," I said, confused.

Then came another hold. Blarg.

Ten minutes later, she was back: "It looks like he changed his contract in July of this year."

Oh, great. Would it have killed him to send a letter?

"Well, thank you for investigating that. I really appreciate it. But I still need to see a doctor. Her primary care physician can't see her today. And, obviously, this place won't take her. Can you give me another idea?" I asked.

They sent me to another prompt care place 15 minutes away. "They're the first recommendation on the list," the rep said. Great!

Only they wouldn't see her.

"We don't take that insurance," the desk clerk said.

"But... my insurance company is who recommended you," I smiled. This was getting kind of ridiculous.

"No, we don't take that insurance."

"I'm... I'm... confused," I blinked, and tried to keep smiling. "Can you help?"

"What help do you want?" she asked, giving me the side eye. "We don't take your insurance."

"I guess I'm wondering under what circumstances my insurance company might tell me that you're a provider, when you're not. Is there maybe a practice with a similar name that might be the source of confusion? Or... something?" I stammered out an answer that was nowhere close to what I wanted to say.

She gave me a hard look, "We are not responsible for misinformation your insurance company provides you, ma'am."

Oh. She ma'am-ed me. And invoked "responsibility." I wasn't going to get anything further out of her. I could see her making a mental note of me as a "problem."

Just then a colleague of hers leaned into the window.

"You have an HMO, right?" she said, brightly, with a smile on her face. "We only take Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO patients if their primary care physician is a part of this health care system."

Do what?

There was no point in discussing it further. I kept my smile plastered to my face - hopefully they didn't notice the Crazy Eyes that went with it - thanked them for their time, wished them a good day, and carried Em to the car. Her stomach was hurting again.

In the car, I called the insurance company again. Cue the long wait, the multiple menu items, the false starts, etc.

"So, I'm out of ideas," I told the rep, trying to keep a cheerful voice so she'd want to keep talking to me. "My daughter needs to see a doctor today. She's in pain. The first prompt care place you listed for me won't see her anymore, and the second doesn't take the insurance."

"What do you mean they don't take the insurance?" she asked.

"They said they only see HMO patients if their primary care physician is an employee of their health care system," I explained.

"Well, ma'am, we can only give you the information that is listed in the system," she said.


"Yes, ma'am, thank you. I can appreciate that. I guess what I would request is that you flag the practice, or make a note, and perhaps someone can investigate this misinformation."

"We have no way of knowing that we're giving out incorrect information," she said, defensively. "The doctors update their information in the system, themselves. We go by what they put in. We would have no way of knowing if it is not accurate."

Great. Now she's offended AND I'm no closer to getting my child to a doctor. I smear a smile back on my face and hope it conveys through the phone line.

"I didn't mean to imply that it was in any way your fault, or that anyone at Blue Cross is not doing an excellent job. I've only spoken to super nice people today, who have gone out of their way to be helpful. I guess my concern is that I work for an organization with 13,000 employees in this area. We're all pretty much insured by you. If that is your number one recommendation, how many other customers are being misinformed? That's not your fault, of course. But maybe it wouldn't hurt for someone to follow up with the practice?"

"I guess I can tell my supervisor and maybe she can do something," she said.

"I would really appreciate that," I said. "Thank you."

"So as for other urgent care practices, I have only one more on the list that you haven't tried," she said, naming one I had previously used and to which I wouldn't take a stray dog. Their unprofessional attitudes in dealing with patients seriously made me question the quality of their patient care. Because whatever specialized education and training medical practitioners have completed, let's be clear: It's still about taking care of people. Listening to them.

In fact, in a study I read (okay, I reviewed a summary) some years ago, family practitioners said that a large part of their diagnostic tools boiled down to the conversations they had with their patients. This practice is incapable of listening. So, in my mind, they are incapable of doing their jobs well enough for me to entrust my child to them.

This is where things could have gone totally wrong. Because, essentially, I was refusing to walk through the open door they had presented me. She was out of options for me. She suggested that I call the primary care provider and ask again. She had tried. I couldn't fault her for my unwillingness to try her final attempt at a solution.

So I called the primary care provider again. They still couldn't fit us in. But Jill, the unlucky medical assistant who answered the phone when I called, suggested that I call another branch of the practice, where Emerson had previously been a patient. We loved that branch, but shifted care when it became geographically impractical.

"They have her in the system as a current patient, and they can fit her in today," she confirmed via their shared database. I could have kissed her on the mouth. What an easy solution to our problem!

Then I called that branch. Let's just say that the level of customer service did not live up to my expectations. The person who answered the phone was... unenthusiastic about her job. And then disputed what Jill had shared with me.

Well, I wasn't going to allow her to call my new best friend Jill a liar. So she spoke with her supervisor, who verified that they couldn't see Emerson that day. Although I'm not entirely convinced that she didn't just put me on hold and file her nails. Anyway, she said they couldn't see Emerson until about three weeks later. She suggested that I go to the E.R.

Now, look, the E.R. is lovely. We've been there before. But it's not a primary care office. And, frankly, with so many doctors supposedly worrying about attracting and/or keeping patients who are insured by anything but the Affordable Care Act, you'd think she'd find a way to squeeze in a sick 9-year-old who had been a patient. But, no.

I didn't know what to do. A $100 co-pay at the E.R. was looking pretty good right about then.

But I made one final phone call to Jill... who doesn't know that she's my best friend in the whole world.

"Hang on a minute," she said. And put me on hold. The hold button and I were becoming dear friends. (It's okay, Jill, I still like you best) Then she came back on the line. "Turns out, another doctor had a cancellation. If you can get here right now, we can fit you in."

Y'all, I didn't even know that my hatchback had rocket boosters. But it totally does.

We waited less than 30 minutes, paperwork and all. They whisked us back, and we waited less than 10 minutes to see the doctor. This doctor was awesome. Kind, intelligent, blunt in a way that let me know she was not messing around about our daughter's health. Here's one exchange:

Her: "How much sugar does she eat?"
Me: "Oh, I regulate her sugar intake pretty well."
Her: "Okay, now much sugar does she really eat?"
Me: "Way too much."

Then we were done. Prescription written. Problem solved.

What's the moral to this odyssey?

First, the way insurance companies do business is actually causing pain, discomfort, and anxiety to its customers, because it is putting up unnecessary barriers to adequate medical care.

Yeah, this story is anecdotal. But it's a scenario that plays out in various versions throughout the country on a daily basis. Insurance companies routinely deny claims that they cover, because a certain percentage of people don't realize that they're covered for the thing that was denied, or can't navigate the labyrinthine appeal process. Insurance companies sometimes demand "prior authorization" before treatments can be approved, despite the fact that 95 percent of their employees have little to no medical training and are wholly unqualified to deny or approve any medical treatments, whatsoever.

Second, persistence pays off. I picked up Emerson from school at 10 a.m. She saw a doctor at 4 p.m. If I hadn't been persistent, she might not have been seen for days. As it turns out, it wasn't medically necessary for her to see a doctor immediately. But I had no way of knowing that. That's what doctors are for.

Anyway, at no point did I lose my temper with anyone, or speak harshly to them, or insult them, or cry. I wanted to do all of those things, and I would have been justified. But it would not have been a good model for Emerson. Being a bitch about the situation wasn't in her long-term best interest. Although, I think being a bitch is not necessarily a bad thing.

But there are other ways. In any darkened, closed system, there are gaps though which light shines. And many of those gaps are beautiful humans. You just have to find them.

"You know, when it's an elderly person or a child, you just find a way," one of the medical assistants cheerfully told me when I praised the staff and thanked them for getting my child in to see a doctor that day.

It would be inappropriate to tell you where Emerson and I go for medical care. But let's just say there's a multi-branch center of primary care physicians who will have my loyalty for life. I highly recommend them.

Unless they fail to attend to my child. Then we'll be out like a shot.