kaasirpent: (Good Idea)
Saturday, April 15th, 2017 01:29 am
So it turns out a lot of people — well, I hope it's a lot of people, because I believe that decent people vastly outnumber the others — are abandoning LiveJournal in droves thanks to the new Terms of Service they enacted sometime in the last few days. They claim that people with paid accounts (like me) aren't affected, but do I really trust the Russians at this point? ("Hello, this is the 80s calling. Are you folks really still going on about Russians?")

No. I do not. I suspect no one will be "safe" from reprisals if anyone does anything Putin's goons find objectionable. And I will not give any more money to people who lock innocent people up in a prison camp for something they can't help, and for doing absolutely nothing. Nor will I censor myself. It made me feel dirty to have to "agree" to their POS TOS in order to access my account just to move it and then delete it.

So, here I am on DreamWidth, waiting for my LiveJournal account to be imported. I have over 3000 posts over there. So it's likely to take a couple of days at least.

I think only three of my friends have made the switcheroo so far. I look forward to seeing more.
kaasirpent: (Work)
Monday, May 12th, 2014 12:30 pm

This entry is part 10 in an ongoing series of sem-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 11

This isn't even a surprise to me at this point. It's like a character in a sitcom saying, "What else could possibly go wrong?" and the studio audience all going, "Oooooooooh."

As I said in part 9, I returned to work last week. Not on Monday, but on Wednesday. This was because I couldn't get an appointment with the doctor the prior week, and didn't have the okay to drive until I saw him. He gave me the OK on Tuesday and I left the next morning to head back to the office.

Flash forward to Friday. I'm paid hourly because of some kerfuffle that happened a few years back with IT workers suing for overtime pay in California(?), and most of the rest of the nation followed suit to avoid the same lawsuit (as I understand it). Anyhoo, I was salaried up to a point, then became hourly, and so I can, if the need is great, get paid overtime for anything > 40 hours that I work. What this has to do with anything is that I have to put my hours into our PeopleSoft system, which they use to calculate my weekly pay. Friday is the day we fill that out and submit it, because the payroll is run on Monday before noon, Pacific. (But we still have to have our time submitted before noon Eastern on Monday. Whatever.)

Before I left for surgery and recovery, I pre-submitted two weeks of time sheets with 40 hours each of leave time. There was apparently some question about that (I was apparently not supposed to fill out a time sheet at all for leave time, even though LEAVE is one of the sub-categories under EXCEPTION TIME, but no one tells me anything), and an email discussion between my boss and our payroll department ensued, on which I was CC'd. It was cleared up before I ever even saw the email exchange. Problem: Solved!

Or so I thought.

Friday, I opened PeopleSoft and clickity-clicked through to where I put my hours in . . . and it didn't recognize me. As in, the place on the form for "Employee ID," which heretofore had always been populated automatically, wasn't.

Thinking that maybe I had done something wrong, I looked up the number on my paycheck stub and put that in. Invalid ID. Hm. I tried searching on the ID. Invalid ID. Name, last first. Invalid ID. Name, first first? Invalid ID. Grrrr. Advanced Search. Same results.

I looked for my boss, but he was in a meeting, so I walked around until I found another manager (who was my manager before my current manager). I told him what was going on, and he did some button-pushing and mouse-clicking. He informed me that the Employee ID number on the paycheck stub and the Employee ID in PeopleSoft are two separate things. But I should try the other one and see if that worked.

I managed to get the other number off of an approved timesheet from earlier in the year. Invalid ID. Hm.

I tried searching on that number. Invalid ID. Advanced Search? Invalid ID.

Worried, I approached my boss once he was out of his meeting, and said, "PeopleSoft says I don't exist."

He got this look on his face I interpreted as, "I knew this was going to happen. I just knew it." Plus some fun expletives. He didn't say them, but I could see them in his eyes.

Seems that part of that little problem with my 'leave' time ended up with me being taken completely out of the whole time reporting system. I mean, I could log in, and I could see my previous time sheets and approvals. I just couldn't put in anything new. Because that's logical, right?

He was on his way out and said he would deal with it over the weekend.

Flash forward to today.

He didn't have time to deal with it over the weekend because Mothers Day.

So I looked up the number for Payroll on our company Intranet, and got ready to beard the dragon in his lair. Before I dialed, I thought, "I'd probably better try the time sheet one more time so I can read off the exact error to them."

And I was fine. The Employee ID (the correct one) was in place. It knew who I was. I was able to report my time and submit it to my boss, comfortably before noon. Eastern.

All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare said.

I'm sure this will be the last problem I'll have stemming from this whole thing. Sure. Absolutely. I mean . . .

What else could possibly go wrong?
kaasirpent: (Caduceus)
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 01:09 pm
Evil emoticon by wstera2, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  wstera2 

This entry is part 6 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

You knew there was going to be another part, didn't you? I certainly did. Because why should anything be over when it's over?

So, first things first: Story time!

This is long, but it does at least tangentially relate to the rest of the post. So you should probably click it. )

Why did I tell that story? It will soon become obvious.

So. Back in October, we left our intrepid hero (me) with physical therapy appointments, finally. After a long, drawn out battle. I had my first six PT appointments. They seemed to help. I had a lot of exercises to do, and they all hurt like heck. But I did them.

And after six visits, it still hurt like heck, but there was a bit more mobility. But Some Company had approved "eight to ten," so we still had a little wiggle room. So we scheduled six more, and I went back to my doctor to get another order for PT, which he gladly gave me.

Fast forward to the tenth PT visit. Melissa told me that Some Company had told them they weren't paying for any more visits after the sixth one, because they had only approved eight to ten. (Don't think about this too long. I did, and I lost 7 IQ points, permanently. But I still remember Gilligan's Island episodes. Can't ever get rid of something that doesn't matter. But I digress.)

I pointed out that they had said "eight to ten," and that six is not equal to either eight or ten, based on my many years of mathematics. I mean, I'm not a nuclear physicist, but this is fairly easy math. But apparently not for Some Company.

We cancelled my last two appointments until they could straighten everything out, and Melissa said they had also sent in my doctor's request for six more.

I spoke to Jane in HR about the whole thing, and she once again got everyone involved, and Some Company said that they would, indeed, pay for ten full visits. Once we explained the math to them. And I don't even mean that facetiously. Jane had to actually say, "You said 'eight to ten,' and he had six, after which you refused to pay for any more. Six is not 'eight to ten.' He's had four more, and by your own agreement, you should pay for them."

But still nothing about the approval for the remaining ones my doctor felt were needed.

Then I got The Letter. <ominous chord>

In The Letter <ominous chord>, I was informed that a doctor I have never met in my life reviewed my case and decided that since I "had returned to work at full duty" (which I never left, I might add), further therapy was "not medically necessary," and that they would not be covering the last two visits, nor would they be covering any subsequent visits. Further, my case was closed, and that was the end of it, as far as Some Company was concerned.

I . . . might have exploded. All over anyone in audible distance. I . . . might have used some of those words I didn't use in 8th grade. I might, indeed, have invented a few new ones. And I might have marched, letter in hand, to HR.

The next email from HR — after Jane talked with Some Company and others — was that Some Company would be paying for the final two visits. They I would request my PT for a referral to an orthopedist. And we would go from there.

So, I asked the PT for a referral.

Crickets. When I finally got hold of them again (another week went by because I thought maybe they were mailing it), they said they didn't do that, and that Melissa was no longer employed there, and who was I again? I would have to talk with my regular doctor.

I went a few rounds on the phone with his office staff, as well, and basically found out that I can't trust his office staff to give him messages.

Finally, in frustration, I contacted HR again and got them to send me a list of 'approved' orthopedists. I picked one and made my own damned appointment.

Which was yesterday at 3 pm.

The first question he asked me was, "Has your elbow been x-rayed?" I said it had not. He made some remark under his breath that I didn't quite catch, and then sent me to get an x-ray.

They x-rayed my elbow. And developed the film. And put it up on the light box.

And from all the way across the goddamned room, I could see . . . something.

He called me closer. "Do you see this little dark line right here?" He pointed. I said I did. "That is the sign of a healed compression fracture. That's why your elbow has been hurting."

He said that fractures like this "always heal" and that the treatment is basically to keep using it as normal so you get full movement once it heals. But it would continue to hurt for 3 to 12 months. I assured him that I had been using the arm as normally as I could given the pain. He said that was good.

Well, that's nice to know.

He then wanted to schedule me for an MRI of my shoulder. Which meant I had to call Some Woman at Some Company and get that approved. I called, and it went directly to her voice mail.

Much amaze. So expect. Wow. I didn't even bother leaving a message.

A few minutes later, as I was checking out and the receptionist was getting ready to call Some Woman themselves, my cell phone rang. It was Some Woman! OMG! First call I've ever gotten back! Alas, I was so shocked that she had called me that I didn't manage to answer. But we knew she was at her desk. So the receptionist ("Martha") called her and got on the phone with her!

The conversation, edited to remove the back-and-forth between me and the receptionist, went something like this:

Receptionist: Hi, this is Martha at Orthopedists R Us. I have one of your clients in my office, and we need to schedule an MRI for him. . . . [Kaa] . . . his right shoulder. . . . He made the appointment himself; there was no referral. . . . He says he got our name from a list of approved medical professionals from his workers comp representative at work. . . . Martha . . . Orthopedists R Us. . . . [Kaa] . . . his right shoulder . . .

And it went on. Then, Some Woman apparently said she'd have to call back and let them know where to send me for the MRI.

Martha said she would let me know if and when Some Woman called her back. [I should note here, for the record, that the doctor and the nurse and the receptionist were all scandalized when I told them about the sixty days Some Company made me wait before getting PT. Apparently, that is not normal. My mishandling of the initial doctor visit is probably what it all stems from. Had I gone to an orthopedist from the get-go . . . but hindsight is 20/20.]

That was yesterday at 4 pm.

Another part of Jane's email from work says this: "Katie (the My Company workers comp program manager) will oversee / ensure that Some Woman is facilitating the approval in a timely manner."

What that said to me was that someone is now watching over Some Company and Some Woman in particular, and that I may finally get some reaction from them on a timely enough basis to do something about.

What? Why are you laughing? That's not very polite.
kaasirpent: (Idiots)
Monday, October 28th, 2013 02:27 pm

This entry is part 5 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

You knew there was going to be another part, didn't you? I certainly did. Because why should anything be over when it's over?

Shortly after the last installment in this mini-memoir of incompetence compounded with stupid, I got very involved in some projects at work, and thus did not do my due diligence by calling the physical therapist. I mean, Jane had told me they approved it, and said they would be contacting me. So . . . Some Woman at Some Company would surely call me at some point, right?



A week went by (for those keeping track, it was now October 10). I finally got tired of waiting and sent Jane another email. It was during Jane's week of vacation, and her 'out of office' automatic reply said that she would be unable to access email, and would be back on the following Monday (October 14th). Meh. So I'd have to wait another few days. At this point, what was another few days?

About an hour later, I got an email from Jane. She had checked her email, seen my (rather despairing) email and replied. She said she would look into it.

A couple of hours later, I got a phone call from Some Company (I could tell by the caller ID it was the same company), but a different number than Some Woman's. It turned out to be "Nancy" (not her real name) who was two levels above Some Woman. She was calling to let me know that everything had been taken care of. I was approved.

I paused, and then said, "But . . . how do I access it? I mean, what do I need to tell my physical therapist so they'll know whom to charge?" (I did not say 'whom' but it's grammatically correct and this is my blog. :) I was looking for . . . I don't know, some sort of paperwork? A number to call? Something physical that didn't exist entirely in electrons and the faulty memories of several people.

"Oh, they have the information. You just make an appointment and you're covered for 8 to 10 treatments."

I thought, "Yay!" and let myself believe it was actually over. And then those projects I mentioned above got hot again, and I got distracted.

On the morning of the 21st (a Monday), I had an item in the USMail from . . . the physical therapist. I opened it. It was a bill for $300. Um.

So I called, having intended to do so anyway to set up my remaining appointments. Only to find out that the reason they billed me is that my insurance rejected the claim because they still had no information from anyone about worker's comp. I asked if they had heard from Some Company, because they had told me . . .

Nope. Never heard of them. They only billed me because they hoped I might know who to actually contact.

I . . . might have blown my top. Just a small amount. Either that, or my outburst of expletives had nothing at all do with how very, very quiet it got in the surrounding cubes. I'm fairly certain it was just a coincidence.

I sent a very carefully worded email to Jane. It started, "I have officially lost whatever amount of patience I might have had left with these people. Can you arrange a conference call with you, me, someone from Some Company, and whomever here has been dealing with this issue? I don't trust them unless I have someone else listening." I also said, "I'm not interested in fault. I'll accept whatever blame there is to accept. What I want is an appointment with the physical therapist and to not have to pay $300."

So about 3 hours later, this call happened. And Nancy threw me to the wolves. As expected. I don't think she quite understood that I was in the room listening to the conversation. Because she had a pretty snotty tone until I did speak up and say something.

"On the 10th when I spoke to Mr. [Kaa], I indicated that he should ask to speak directly with Melissa [NHRN] at [the Physical Therapy office]. It was her that I spoke to on the 10th when I called. And, in fact, it was to her that Some Woman spoke this morning when she called to check on the disposition of this case."

Now, when I talk to these people, I take notes. Copious ones. And at no point did I write down 'speak directly to Melissa.' And my call to the physical therapist must have occurred before Some Woman called. It's nice to know that she does, apparently, call some people back.

But. What. The. Fuck. Ever.

Nancy agreed that Some Company would take care of the $300 bill if I faxed it to them. I called Melissa and made an appointment for the next morning.

I now have six more appointments scheduled. One today (Monday the 28th) at 4:30 pm, one Wednesday the 30th at 4:15 pm, one Thursday the 31st at 4:30, and three the following week on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, all at 4:30 pm. Since we couldn't do mornings, I opted for 'very late.'

So. That's why I'm arriving at work at 6:30ish am this week. so I can leave the office around 2:30 pm in plenty of time to battle Atlanta traffic to make the 45-minute drive in two hours. Or so I hope. We'll see, I suppose.

The only issue remaining open (Did you hear that? It sounded like . . . like an ominous chord. Surely just a mistake, right? Right?) is the $300 bill that I received and faxed to Some Company shortly after our conference call. To which I never received an acknowledgement.

But I'm sure that's just an oversight. I'm sure they got it. I'm sure they're, even now, as I type this, moving forward on that lickety-split.

kaasirpent: (Caduceus)
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 11:57 am
Hurdles by .oskar, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  .oskar 

This entry is part 4 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

After DEFCON 1, I realized that I was very close to saying something that would get me in hot water with either my own HR people or the people at Some Company. Certainly, calling Some Woman a lying, incompetent waste of human DNA would not have endeared me to her, that was all I had left. So . . . I punted up to HR and I backed the hell off.

I communicated with "Jane" (not her real name; the HR director) a few times, checking on progress. Which was slow.

Unfortunately, I had a slight incident with some data and lost several days of notes on this and other topics. So I'm working solely from memory, here.

On the 17th, pretty much out of the blue, I got a call from Some Woman at Some Company. She had, she said, just called the physical therapy place and was waiting on a call back from them. She said she would call me back and let me know the outcome of that call.

That was the last contact I had with anyone over this until yesterday. Not trusting my temper, I didn't write about it, nor did I do more than note to Jane in HR (and my boss) that I had had the contact and was very pointedly not expecting a call back, given our history.

Flash forward to this week. I finally finished the project I was working on and before I could get wholly sucked in on the next one, I decided to give Some Woman a call. Of course, I got her voice mail, complete with "I will return your call promptly."

I left a message for her to call me back, and you'd have to be either deaf or completely unable to judge tone of voice not to know that I've reached the end of my patience. I think my last sentence was something like, "Look, all I really need from you is just a call saying 'yes' or 'no.' Really. That's it."

I called the physical therapist's office. I asked if they'd had any contact with either Some Woman or Some Company. Can you guess their answer? Can you? Because I could. I already knew before I dialed.

They said they had heard nothing at all. I may have . . . voiced a tiny bit of frustration. She explained to me that because I checked the "work injury" box on my form, the insurance company would reject it instantly, and that the only other recourse I had was to pay for it out of my own pocket. I thanked her for the information and said I would try to light some fires on my end of things.

I sent another email to HR.

The last time I heard from [Some Woman] was on the 17th of September. She was going to call [PT Place] (the rehab place). She said she had left a voice mail and would let me know something after they called her back.

Well, you can guess the rest. I have heard NOTHING. Nada. Zilch.

I called [PT Place] today and they said they had no record of any such contact.

What is the progress from our end?

For about an hour after that, I typed and deleted several tweets to @SomeCompany. And another email to HR. And one to the corporate office at Some Company. All of them were, frankly, hostile and bordering on insubordination (hence the 'deleted' part). Finally, I just left the office.

This morning, in my email box, was the following from Jane.

[Kaa] –

I received a response back from our Account Manager and one of the team leads at [Some Company].

They have given authorization for 8-10 PT visit per the doctor recommendations.

You should be hearing from someone with [Some Company] – but I wanted to go ahead and update you on this information as soon as I had it. I'm so sorry for the issues that arose. Hopefully it will get smoother.

Victory? Maybe? I have a missed call on my work phone, but the phone system didn't record who it was from or when it was missed. Maybe it was Some Woman. More likely, it was left over from last night when the contractor who did my window replacement a couple of weeks ago called me about something. (My phone number rings both my cell phone and my office.)

Who knows how long it will take for all the pieces to align at this point, but after two solid months of trying, I finally got the one-word answer I've been asking for all along. I didn't honestly care if it was 'yes' or 'no.' I still don't. I just wanted it over and done with.

The moral of my story is this: Unless you want to go through all nine circles of the Inferno, all nine rings of Mount Purgatory, a detour through Mordor (which one does not simply walk into), and emerge doubleplus goodfully, loving Big Brother, you'll not report anything as an on-the-job injury. Take it from me: it's not worth the hassle. If I could go back in time to the 31st of July, I'd tell people at work I got hit by a car a block from work. I'd be done with PT by this point. And I would never have encountered Some Woman at Some Company, and my frustration would not now be co-orbiting with the ISS.

By the way, I'm so, so very sorry for putting that song in your head. I really am. Really.
kaasirpent: (DIAF)
Monday, September 30th, 2013 04:03 pm
I was at the mall the other day to take my computer to the Apple Store. My Macbook has been having problems, and I figured it was time to let the Geniuses handle it. I'm not being snide, here; that's what the employees at the Apple Store are called: geniuses. I had an appointment, and I was about twenty minutes early.

I parked as close as I could, which — as usual — was at the Belk store closest to the Apple Store. I successfully threaded the competing displays of Halloween and Christmas (Honestly, does this not make anyone else sick?) and made my way upstairs so I could go directly from the Belk just around the corner to the Apple Store.

As I walked through the mall, I noticed a big crowd of people downstairs from me. There was a lot of murmuring, squealing, and flash bulbs. But I didn't have time to loiter.

I made it to the Apple Store just in time for my appointment. I gave The Shiny (my MacBook) to the nice, bearded young man (Is there some rule that male Apple Geniuses all have to have beards?) named Paul. I explained what was going on with the computer and he said he would plug the diagnostic tool into it and let me know if it was something easy, like the graphics card or a bad USB port. Something fixable.

The Apple store was crawling alive with people. Must be something about the end of the month or back to school or something. He told me it would take about an hour if I wanted to wait. Well, of course I want to wait. I can't leave The Shiny overnight.

The withdrawal would be unbearable. :)

I couldn't stand being in the Apple store with all those people, so I wandered back down toward where there are some couches to sit and read on my phone.

I heard that crowd down below again, and figured, "Eh, what the hell. I have time to at least take a look."

There was a large crowd of mostly adults, but some older kids, and frequent flashes from cameras and squeals of delight. "Gotta be puppies or kittens or something," I murmured. "Maybe the ASPCA is sponsoring adoptions."

Then I saw the bright pink sign. A big cartoon close-up of a smiling, toothless baby, its blue eyes practically luminous. Underneath, it said, "PHOTOGRAPH WITH A BABY - $15"

"What the . . . ?" I edged a little closer to see what was going on.

There was a large, fenced-off enclosure. Inside there was a floor that looked like Pergo or linoleum of some kind. The floor was scattered with assorted toys, all brightly colored. Also inside the cage were a bunch of babies.

Yes. Naked babies of all races and both genders. They all looked to be of crawling age, although quite a few of them weren't crawling. Some of them were piled together, dozing, in a big pile of stuffed animals. Others were crawling lazily around on the floor. Adults wearing pink shirts were on their knees cooing to the babies, shaking toys at them and trying to attract their attention.

Dumbfounded, I pushed in a little closer, and got called a very unpleasant name by an older lady whom I apparently offended. I was just in time to see a woman with a couple of older teenagers point at a little Asian baby girl hesitantly crawling away from one of the pink-shirted adults with toys toward the pile of dozing babies.

A man standing in the gate gestured to the baby the woman had pointed at and raised his eyebrows. "That one?"

"Yes!" the woman exclaimed, bouncing on her toes. The man turned away and I heard her say to her two children, "Oh, isn't she just the most adorable little thing?" The boy rolled his eyes.

The man went over to the baby girl and unceremoniously picked her up. She started crying, but the guy held her under her arms, bouncing her up and down, and blowing in her face until she grimaced toothlessly.

"I don't want that one if she's going to be crying," said the woman with the two kids. She was frowning and both of her kids were starting to complain.

"Mom, what if she spits up?" one of them asked.

"Hush," she said. "These people know what they're doing, honey."

The man inside the cage must have overheard her. He smiled. "Don't worry, ma'am. I'm resetting her, now. She'll be ready for your picture."

I looked at the baby girl more closely. I could see her ribs, and it was clear from her pallor that she wasn't healthy. Snot ran out of her nose, and from the look of it, she was either drugged or so sleepy that her eyes were barely open, and her head lolled.

Meanwhile, other people were pointing at other babies. Some of them were waked from a sound sleep and, if they cried, given the same treatment as the little Asian girl. A couple were slapped on their bare buttocks or on the face to wake them up.

At one end of the cage was a mock-up of an idealized nursery. Rocking chair, toys, building blocks — it looked like a perfect baby's perfect room, right out of a movie set.

The woman and her two teenagers were led into that end of the cage and the teenage girl sat in the rocking chair, first.

"How do you want her?" asked the man, still holding the feebly protesting baby girl.

"Ew. I don't want her all naked. Can you put a dress on her, maybe? Or a bonnet? Her hair is ugly."

Her hair was, indeed, ugly. Matted to her skin and patchy.

I watched while the man expertly draped a too-large "dickie" of a bright pink, frilly dress around the squirming baby, and then tied a bonnet over her hair. It looked to me like he tied it too tight.

He roughly wiped the snot from the baby's face with a towel of questionable cleanliness and handed the baby to the girl, who held her awkwardly under the arms with both hands, a look of terror in her eyes.

The man stepped up and said, "No, like this." And he showed her how to hold the baby on her lap so that her face was toward the camera. "Do you want a bottle, or just go like this?"

"Like this," the girl said firmly.

The baby's head lolled and I could tell even from where I was that she was sleepy. The man grabbed her roughly and bounced her until she opened her eyes and blearily looked back at him. He then handed her back to the girl, arranged the dress and bonnet, and quickly stepped back to operate the camera.

Just a second before he snapped the photo, the teenager shrieked. "Ew! Oh, my God, mom! She peed on me!" The girl shoved the now-dripping baby away from her at arm's length.

The man sighed and came and took the crying baby. "Do you want me to get another one?" he asked.

The mother looked ready to spit nails. "No, we do not want another one!" She grabbed her daughter's hand and said, "Come on, Chelsea. Let's go get you cleaned up." She practically dragged the girl from the cage, followed by her younger brother.

The guy inside the cage ripped the dress dickie off the baby, pulled off the bonnet, and tossed the sodden pair into a bin. He handed the now wailing baby to another man, who held her up by one arm and sprayed her with a hose. I could smell the disinfectant from all the way across the cage. The baby was now wailing and crying loudly. I guess the water was cold.

I felt faint and ill. What the hell was going on, here? Was this even legal?

I elbowed my way back out of the crowd and worked my way around to the side where another employee of whatever this place was stood. He was wearing a pink shirt like all the others, complete with a grinning baby-head logo on the pocket.

"Excuse me," I said.

"You'll have to go to the end of the line, like everyone else, sir," he said without even looking up.

"No, I'm not in line. I just have a question."

He looked up at me, annoyance clear on his face. "Yeah?"

"Where are these children's mothers? I mean, are they — ?"

"It's all in the brochure." He shoved a glossy brochure at me. I backed out of the crowd and went to stand a few feet away near a support column and took a look at it.

"VAN DUREN FOSTER HOME" was emblazoned across the top in neon blue lettering. I quickly thumbed through it. Pictures of happy, grinning, fat babies being held and fed by what looked like older teens. Nothing like what was going on scant feet from me.

I started reading. They claimed to rescue homeless teens. They provide them sanctuary — a safe place to live, medical care, room, board, and clothing. Help them kick drug habits. Educate them. And any children born to them during their stay are taken to foster care, and also "displayed for public education and entertainment."


So that's what this was. I wondered if the parents of these babies even knew what was happening to their children. I felt sick to my stomach. I ripped the brochure in two and looked for a trash can. How on earth can they legally keep this up? Why aren't there laws?

"Sir?" I turned around to face the voice as someone tapped me on the shoulder. An older woman smiled at me, crows feet around kind, brown eyes. "You look like you could use this." She held out a cup of water.

I took it. My hand was shaking. "Thanks," I said, then took a sip.

She held out a hand and I took it. "My name is Tricia Phillips. We're here protesting." We shook hands and she gestured toward a small group of about seven people standing over to one side, carrying signs. And being ignored.

She led me over to her group. They all welcomed me warmly, then showed me pictures they had of the Van Duren foster home. Teenagers living in barbaric conditions, not much better than packing crates. Barely big enough to move around in. No heat or air conditioning. Mud everywhere. Open latrines swarming with buzzing flies. It looked like a third-world refugee camp. No trees or any kind of shade. The teens' eyes looked dull and lifeless in the photos. Haunted.

"Those were taken about a week ago," Ms. Phillips explained. "A couple of former employees of Van Duren smuggled the pictures out to us."

As I flipped through the pictures, I noticed that most of the girls were pregnant. I commented on it.

"Yes, well . . . where do you think these babies come from?"

I felt sick again. "They're breeding them?"

She nodded, compassion in her eyes. "Some of these poor children are related, but Van Duren doesn't even care. They encourage them do whatever they want. We suspect they're drugged most of the time and aren't even aware of what they're doing."

"Holy shit," I said. "Isn't this illegal?"

She smiled sadly. "Well, of course it is. There are all kinds of laws, but they're seldom enforced."

I couldn't take my eyes off the pictures of the pregnant teenagers. So young. "What happens when, when . . . ?" I choked on the bile in my throat.

"Turned back out onto the streets. The infants used in these awful mall things end up in foster homes or wards of the state or worse. There are child pornography rings that pay good money for children as young as eighteen months."

I'm going to stop here. At what point did you figure out I was writing fiction? Are you appalled? Disgusted? Infuriated? Do you want to call me terrible things for being sick enough to come up with something this disgusting?

Because guess what? Take out the human babies and the homeless teens being raised as breeding stock and substitute tigers, and it's all true.

You read that right. All true.

There are places that set up in malls that allow the public to pay to have pictures taken with tiger cubs. Cubs that are very young and need proper nutrition, enough sleep, and whose immune systems aren't strong, yet.

These poor, innocent creatures are bred ruthlessly by people who claim to be "rescues" who operate "sanctuaries" for big cats. They claim to be working with conservation efforts, and that the only way to raise money for their good work is to take these cubs around for public display.

They claim that the cubs enjoy it. That blowing in their face calms them down. That holding them dangling from under their front arms and bouncing them up and down "resets" them. (What does that even mean?) That constantly being poked, prodded, handled, and grabbed by dozens of people, day in and day out for weeks at a time isn't harmful to them. That bright lights and flash bulbs aren't harmful to their sensitive eyes. They claim that they're well fed. That's it's 100% safe for humans and the cubs.

That the exhibitor is doing this to "teach people" not to have exotic animals as pets.

And they tell people that the cats will go to good homes when they get too big for petting.


The reality is very different. They're kept in tiny cages, forced to breed constantly, and since white tigers are popular, they inbreed their stock to produce more of them. When they get too old, the cubs end up in roadside "zoos" where they are forced to lie on hot concrete in direct sun year round in a cage barely big enough to stand up or turn around in. Fed insufficiently and incorrectly. Given no shelter.

Often, they are killed for their fur and the body is cut up and sold illegally. There is good money to be made on the black market selling tiger parts, where they are prized for their supposedly magical properties. There are still countries in which the fur trade has no limits to the types of animals that can be used.

These cubs are torn from their mothers too early, causing distress to both the cubs and their mothers. They're not allowed to imprint naturally on their mothers, but instead imprint on their human captors. Babies of any species need lots of sleep, but these are not allowed to get enough. They are constantly poked and prodded to be kept awake. Tiger cubs want to explore instinctively. But when they try, they're restrained. They spend hours in small cages inside trucks being carted from place to place so people can have their pictures taken while petting or feeding them.

The cubs are constantly sick and often have diarrhea, which goes untreated, so the cubs are irritable and in pain from the constant wiping by their human captors. Those cute little "roars" are screams of pain.

I get apoplectic with rage over this. I've been trying to come up with a way to show how awful it is, and I finally came up with this. I hope it makes you think, next time you hear of one of these events. If you've ever been to one, stop. If you know people who do, show them this post. If a mall near you advertises such an event, contact the owners. Let them know what is really going on. Encourage them to pass.

And hopefully, everyone who reads this will follow this link to an article entitled "The Truth About Tiger Cub Petting Displays in Malls" from Big Cat Rescue, which is where I got most of the details for my little story above. No infringement is intended. Any mistakes in facts are mine, not theirs.

I'm not affiliated with BCR in any way other than that I contribute to them, and try to spread the word like I'm doing right now. I love big cats, and it makes me furious to hear how they're being mistreated. They're such beautiful, powerful, amazing animals, and yet . . . we treat them like garbage. But I believe it's mostly out of ignorance that we still permit this kind of thing to occur. We still want to believe the best of people, and when we're told that it's safe for the animals and that they're being taken care of, and all the money is for research and conservation, we want to believe it.

There is actually one part of the fictitious tale of human baby petting zoos that is complete fiction and is not based on the plight of these tiger cubs. There are few laws against this, or very few. There are laws, for instance, that regulate the ages at which these creatures can be exploited: 8 weeks to 12 weeks. Yet it is commonplace for these tiger petting zoos to ignore the regulations, because resources for enforcement are limited.

But there are bills in Congress to prevent any private ownership of several species of big cats. You can help get these laws passed. Contact your congressperson and representative.

Thank you for indulging me this far, and I do hope you'll keep this in mind for the future.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer: All names used are fictitious and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is unintentional. The names Belk® and Apple® are used to set up the framing story and are in no way affiliated or associated in any way with the kind of practice portrayed herein. As far as I know, there is no such place as Van Duren Foster Home, and the fictitious name was picked at random. If any such place exists, I apologize and will change the name. Big Cat Rescue does exist, and as stated, I am not affiliated with them in any way whatsoever. They had no prior knowledge of this post and were not consulted before publishing.

Originally published at Insert Something Pithy Here. You can comment here or there.

kaasirpent: (Enraged)
Thursday, September 12th, 2013 05:02 pm
DEFCON 1 by bovinity, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  bovinity 

This entry is part 3 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery. In case you haven't been keeping up: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

I left messages with Some Woman at Some Company asking a simple question: Did you get the information my doctor's office faxed over to you on 9/11? It's a simple question. It only requires a simple, one-syllable answer: Yes (yay!) or no (rats!).

So, today, I got tired of it. Rather than wasting more time with Some Company, I decided to escalate things from my own side of things.

"Jane" [not her real name; manager of HR for my division of my company], I need your advice.

I know [My boss] has kept you up to date with the situation regarding my workers comp claim resulting from my fall on July 31st in our parking lot. The doctor sent me to physical therapy on the 19th of August, and there I found out that they can’t bill anyone until they know who[m] to bill, so I can’t schedule another visit unless I pay for the entire thing out of my own pocket.

That’s where [Some Company] comes in. They are, basically, holding my healthcare hostage while calls are not returned and while they ask for one more thing from my doctor, but they never contact me until late in the day or only after I’ve wasted days leaving voice mails trying to get hold of them. For instance, before I left for vacation, I asked the doctor to fax them what they said they wanted, and when I returned a week later, I called for two solid days before I finally got hold of [Some Woman], only to have her say, “Oh, your doctor hasn’t faxed the information I asked for yet.” I mean, at what point were they going to tell me this? I’ve had to make two personal visits to the doctor to get them to fax yet another document, and at each stage, I find out that [Some Company] needs just one more thing.

My frustration level is at DEFCON 1. How firm am I allowed to get with them? How far up the ladder am I allowed to push this, or will ‘let me speak to your manager’ even work with them? I’ve had it with them. At this point, I just want an answer from them, whether it’s yes or no, because by the time someone finally gets around to it at the rate they’re going, the PT will take longer because my muscles and tendons have gotten weaker.

This has been ongoing since the 20th of August.

"Jane" replied within twenty minutes:

[Kaa] –

I have submitted a ticket to our HR Support Center – the folks who are the HR benefits/workers comp experts. I have asked them to escalate this issue – and for someone to help intervene with [Some Company]. Stay tuned.


PS By the way ---- I am so sorry that you have been experiencing such frustration and difficulty with [Some Company]. Hopefully we can get this escalated to someone who can help.

So now the ball is in someone else's court. I'm basically done being the least bit civil. If Some Woman ever does call me back — which is not a foregone conclusion at this point — I'm tempted to say, "Please hold," and conference in our HR people. Let her explain to them what the hold up is in telling me whether a goddamned FAX made it or not.
kaasirpent: (Caduceus)
Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 12:55 pm

This entry is part 2 in an ongoing series of semi-irregular posts detailing my frustration with Workers Compensation and the wonderful world of rotator cuff surgery: Part 1 | Part 2 (YOU ARE HERE) | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

You may remember a post I made last month about how I injured myself in a fall at work. The doctor at the time told me that it was not broken, nor did I have any sort of rotator cuff injury, which were the two things I was most concerned about. I took Ibuprofen and basically went about my normal business, expecting my arm to get better.

Only it didn't.

I mean, it did, but not fully. By the 19th of August, nearly three weeks past the date I had fallen, I went back to my doctor and told him that it still hurt like hell to move my arm in certain ways <insert old joke "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Well, don't do that!" <laughter> here>, and that I was getting tired of not being able to use my dominant arm.

I must interject a "rest of the story" point or two, here. The first time I went to the doctor, I did not mention the term "worker's comp" or "on the job injury" or anything of that sort. I fell in the parking lot, it was no one's fault, and, hey, he said it would get better, right? I told my boss about the fall, and he duly reported it to HR. Who reported it to someone else, and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and eventually it made it up to the Office of Homeland Security. Or something. I am fairly sure the NSA was involved. I don't really understand how the whole system works (clearly), but the upshot is I got a call from Some Woman at Some Company who asked me a bunch of questions, expressed skepticism about workers comp paying if the incident took place in the parking lot (unless my company owns the parking lot . . .). She would call me back, she said, if she needed any more information. That was on, like, the same day I posted that earlier post.

So anyhoo, on my second visit on the 19th, my doctor referred me to a physical therapist down the road from his office. I called the number and made an appointment for the next day.

I went early on the morning of the 20th of August and within 5 minutes of having me perform various motions with my joints, the doctor took me over to a large anatomical chart showing the bones, muscles, and tendons of the arm and shoulder, and showed me exactly what I had done to myself. The gist is: tendons. I did bad things to the tendons that hold my upper arm in place so that it doesn't scrape painfully against my shoulder blade when I move it. The whole 'jamming' thing, probably.

He gave me some exercises to do every two hours, some to do twice per day, and sent me on my way.

On my way out, I paused at the desk to schedule my next appointment.

And that is when my tape turned crimson.Click to read the rest. )
kaasirpent: (Work)
Monday, June 24th, 2013 07:25 pm
You go to a web site and do some sort of business with it. You purchase something, say. After your transaction is complete, usually something pops up on the web page and asks, "Would you like to take a survey about your recent experiences with XYZ Corporation?" (Questions 1 and 2 below relate to this.)

Assuming you bother, there will almost always be a question along these lines: "How likely are you to recommend XYZ Corporation to everyone on the entire planet?" It's usually on a 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 scale where 1 is "I would not recommend XYZ Corporation to anyone" and the highest number is "I will stop random people on the street, hold a gun to their heads, and literally force them to visit XYZ Corporation's site."

[ETA: I worded one of those questions badly. When I asked "Are you truthful?" I meant when you answer the 'How likely are you to recommend . . . ?' question, not here. :)]

[Poll #1920767]

Now, on to the reason I asked. :)

I learned a couple of weeks back that my company actually pays a huge amount of attention to this question. No, really. According to the guy presenting at the meeting, it is viewed as the single most important question on the entire survey. Answers of 7 or below are considered customers we need to work on, because they don't love us enough, if at all. Answers of 8 to 9 are considered satisfied. Customers who answer 10 are considered evangelists who are recommending us to . . . whom? Their competitors? I was a little shaky on exactly how this would scale up from an individual to a business.

If I really, really love XYZ Corporation, and I think they're the best thing since flying cars, I might randomly say to a friend, "Hey, you ought to check out XYZ Corporation!" But if I'm a person working in a corporate environment, how does that scale up? If I'm in charge of Spacely Sprockets' contracts, do I call up my counterpart at Cogswell's Cogs and say, "Hey, we've gotten excellent customer service at XYZ, and we think you should use them, too!" If they call me (Why would they?) and ask, would I tell them?

You see my confusion, I hope.

When I see that question, I always think to myself, "Well, no. I don't go around annoying my friends and family by shoving unwanted recommendations in their faces." Or I might think, "Well, if someone were to ask me what company I use for whatever service XYZ is providing, I might say, 'I use XYZ.'"

The best score I ever give on those questions is whatever means "Neither likely nor unlikely." I guess it's because I have always interpreted the question . . . oddly? I'm certainly not an evangelist, I don't hate them or I wouldn't do business with them. But I'm not going to say I'm likely if I'm not. So if the companies whose surveys I'm answering are paying as much attention as my company claims to, I'm coming across as a hater, when all I really mean is, "If they ask, sure."

I'm curious if I'm the only one that interprets it that way. I'm also curious if the companies you work for take it as seriously. And lastly, I'm curious if it surprises you that they do take it seriously. I always thought it was a throw-away question.

As an aside, the guy making the presentation said they send out one of these surveys to every customer of ours, and we get back approximately 13% of them. That doesn't surprise me at all. :)
kaasirpent: (Spam)
Friday, March 23rd, 2012 04:04 pm
This post is about Spam. You may have gotten that from the ingeniously clever and subtle subject I worked very hard to craft.

Not too long ago—back in January, I believe—I was upset by the SOPA and PIPA thing. Enough so that I decided it was time to contact my congresscritters to give them a piece of my mind. Because I have so many to spare. (Pieces, that is. Of my mind.)

I used one of my several email accounts (myfullname@myisp.net) and wrote carefully worded emails to Senators Isakson (R - GA) and Chambliss (R - GA) and Representative Rob Woodall (R - GA).

Isakson and Chambliss ('s respective staffs) responded almost immediately with emails that actually addressed the subject of SOPA and PIPA. And that was the end of it. No more correspondences have been received from either of them since the responses to my original emails.

And then there's Representative Rob Woodall. Oh, Rob, Rob, Rob.

It took two extra weeks to get a response from Representative Rob Woodall (RRW for short). I guess his staff are less efficient, or perhaps they have more to do. I don't know and don't really care. The response I got back was . . . let's say, "only vaguely related to SOPA and PIPA."

And then, a week later, I got another one, that had nothing to do with SOPA/PIPA. And the day after that, another one. And two days after that, another one. And another one a week later.

In all, I've gotten one or two emails per week from RRW's office.

There was no "unsubscribe" link in any of them. It said at the bottom
If you have received this message in error, please disregard. Thank you.
I find it reprehensible that United States Code (Title 15, Chapter 303, Section 7704) requires unsolicited commercial emailers (That's Spammers to you and me, kids!) to include an opt-out or unsubscribe link right in the body of their Spam, but when I get email from a government official ('s staff), they're not. And the way they determine "unsolicited" is asinine. Apparently, since I contacted RRW, that makes it perfectly all right for him to automatically put my email onto some stupid Spam list.

So I visited his website and found an 'unsubscribe' link. Yay! I clicked it, gleefully. It had me fill out some information, and then I pressed a button and it was on its way! And now I would be—

<ding> You've got mail!

Hmm. It would appear that the 'unsubscribe' didn't work.
You are not subscribed to the NEWSLETTER-GA07 list under the address your message came from (myfullname@myisp.net). You are being mailed some additional information with a few hints on getting your subscription cancelled [sic]. Please read these instructions before trying anything else.
Well, those instructions were unhelpful and basically said, "You're on your own."

After another round of emails in the last couple of days, I finally called RRW's local office. I dutifully pressed 0 to talk to a real person, and waited on hold for a few seconds while my call was being routed to the correct department.

The man who answered sounded very friendly and helpful. I told him that I seem to have gotten myself onto some mailing list from which I could not easily unsubscribe, and asked if he could help.

Him: <sigh> "You're on the LISTSERV, correct?" [I could practically hear him rolling his eyes. I got the distinct impression—and this is just my interpretation, mind you—that I'm by no means the first person who has called to complain about this.]

Me: Yes.

Him: <sigh> "I'll need your full name and your email."

Me: <gives this information>

Him: <repeats the information correctly>

Me: "That's correct."

He told me he would get the information to the right people and asked if there was anything else he could help me with. There wasn't, so I hung up after thanking him and wishing him a nice day.

So, why was the process so easy for the senators and so stupidly, nonsensically complicated for the representative? Is this why it took two extra weeks to get a response? Because his staff is busy taking phone calls from the last few hundred people stupid enough to email him?

So here's a helpful tip: When emailing a government official, do what I should have done and create a throw-away email so that you can do just that: throw it away. It's easier than jumping through the hoops. I recommend Sneakemail, by the way. I've been using them for many, many years, and I can't recommend them highly enough.

This experience demonstrates why you should never, ever give out your real email. Give them a Sneakemail address and have that forward to your real one. And if you get spam on the Sneakemail address, delete it and create another one. Easy!

Why didn't I? Because like an idiot, I thought elected officials had to abide by certain rules of ethics. Yeah, I know. I'll never make that mistake again.

And now to try to figure out why the Spam on another of my accounts has increased by about 500% over the last month or two.

It's a never-ending battle.
kaasirpent: (Atlanta)
Thursday, October 6th, 2011 12:50 pm
This is an extremely Atlanta-centric post. If you're not in Atlanta, you can easily just skip ahead. :)

No, really, if you're not in Atlanta, you can skip it. )
kaasirpent: (House)
Monday, August 30th, 2010 12:28 pm
Just got off the phone with ALFA's home office in Montgomery, Alabama. I spoke with a very nice young man I'll call "Fred" to whom I had to explain the entire, sordid saga, starting in May of this year, because he wouldn't let me speak directly to the underwriters. After my last post, I did speak to ALFA and was told that the underwriters would "look into it" and "get back to me" within a day or two. I waited more than a week (I've dealt with them before, you'll recall), then contacted them today.

Fred waited until I got to the end, which went something like this:
...So, there is a discrepancy of $9 which they were claiming I owed, but which came from an error somewhere inside ALFA, and I will not be paying that $9. They were supposed to 'research' the situation and get back to me, but no one ever did, so I'm calling to see if it was resolved.
He then said that my account showed a $9 credit from the 26th. (See why I waited? "A couple of days" was more like a week.)

So. It looks like maybe the whole thing is now cleared up. And it only took four months. Plus many hours of my time, my local agent's time, ALFA's customer service people's time, and their underwriters' time.

Because some idiot typed a wrong number (I'm guessing) in 2007.

Joy, O Rupture.

Letter to ALFA president and other key officers beginning...probably tomorrow. Will post for review (for you to help me de-whine it), then mail.

Meanwhile, I'll be researching other insurance solutions.

So, like the end of the movie "The Blob" (the good 1950s one with Steve McQueen, not whatever remakes you may be thinking of), I'll end with:

The End <slowly fades in>?</slowly fades in>
kaasirpent: (House)
Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 11:10 am
Just got off the phone with my local ALFA agent's office. Didn't talk directly with "Mark," but spoke with the receptionist-type who answers the phones. (I'm sure she does more, but...whatever.)

I asked if they had received the check I sent last week (attached to The Letter).

"Oh, I sure did, and I posted that on yesterday." No mention of the contents of the letter or to the $9 discrepancy. Interesting.

Tomorrow, I'll call the home office in Montgomery and we'll see if they have any record of it. Who wants to bet?

Anyone? Anyone?

 Skeptoid #219: Stalin's Human-Ape Hybrids by Brian Dunning from Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena (Rating: 0)
kaasirpent: (MacSnake)
Friday, August 13th, 2010 03:06 pm
According to Apple, if you "buy" an album using iTunes, you aren't buying the album or the songs on it. What you are buying for $0.99 is the right to download it from them once.

If the download doesn't take, or you manage somehow to lose your files via a hard drive crash, if Apple's records show that your download was successful, tough shit. Buy it again, and they'll allow you to download it again. Once.

And that's that.
kaasirpent: (Money)
Thursday, August 12th, 2010 04:56 pm
Gary Henderson
<address withheld>
<phone withheld>

12 August, 2010

ATTN: "Mark"
ALFA Insurance
<address withheld>
<phone withheld>

Mr. "Mark":

Enclosed is a payment of $519.00 for my homeowner's policy. The amount is $9 under what I have been told is owed. Through an error on ALFA's part, the amount of $519—not $528—was refunded erroneously to HSBC Mortgage Corporation instead of my correct mortgage company, Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

I consider my policy paid in full upon ALFA's deposit of this check. If ALFA chooses to make an issue of the remaining $9, then I suggest they locate where it went when the original check was sent to HSBC Mortgage Corporation, retrieve it from there, and apply it back to my policy.


Gary Henderson
kaasirpent: (Evil)
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 05:40 pm
According to several dictionaries
in-, prefix from Latin. 1) not

surance, (obs) variant of assurance from Old French asseurance (11c., Modern French assurance) "assurance, promise, truce, certainty."
So..."insurance" should mean "lack of assurance, promise, truce, or certainty."

[Yes, you etymology geeks, I'm fully aware that this is incomplete and contrived only to prove my dubious point, like any propaganda. Now back off. :)]

Got a call from "Meredith" at ALFA this morning. She completed her research and here is what she found mixed in with information I have gleaned from my own records. This is a compilation of information from my private journal, this LiveJournal, and a couple of Google searches.

Note: This post is mostly for compiling everything I have in disparate records into one spot in preparation for the letter I'm going to write ALFA. As such it may change as I narrow uncertain dates down and remember details and make more connections. This also represents one of the rare positive uses of my overactive pattern-matching ability, which usually just plants stuck songs in my head, but on rare occasion, let's me connect important dots. But if you choose to, feel free to click here and read it. )
kaasirpent: (House)
Monday, August 9th, 2010 12:46 pm
So there. NYAH!

Yes, this is the level I have been reduced to. I've regressed to five years old, on the playground. I would tug on their ponytail if they had one.


So, previously on As the Insurance Turns...

I was sick on Friday and did not come to work, but I had a message from my local ALFA agent when I arrived at work this morning. I called him back. He informed me that HSBC (my old mortgage lender) cashed the check that was refunded to them, and which was supposed to have been returned (for what reason I still do not know) to Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed). The total amount was $528.

Got all that? :)

He suggested that I pay the owed amount and then they'd deal with getting it all straightened out later. I said, "No. This is not something I caused, and I will not pay one red cent. Nor will you cancel my policy. This is ALFA's fault, not mine."

So. I began today's journey with a call to Pentagon Federal. Just to check to see what their records say.

They paid in May, then sent the supplementary payment of $131 that started this whole, misguided saga in June.

That was the last money they sent. They have received no other requests for payment from escrow.

Okay. So I next called HSBC. I gave them my old loan number (I still remember it by heart, oddly enough) and explained the situation to the nice Indian lady who it must be pointed out did not try to convince me her name was Sally, but which I didn't get because she said whatever it was too fast. She looked up the account and informed me that there had been two "refund" checks sent to me in the last year: One in "Jan of two tousan ten" and one in July. Aha! "July? What was the amount of the one in July?"


Not $528. Still, it was within $9. I thanked her for the information.

Next, I decided to beard the lion in his den and called ALFA's home office. I spoke with the rudest, most unhelpful person I've ever had the displeasure of talking to at ALFA. Normally, they're very nice, or at least tolerant. This woman was...well, just rude. She was just put out by the fact that I didn't know my policy number by heart and that she had to actually look up my information. Lots of heavy sighs and muttering. Eventually, she forwarded me to the underwriters.

I spoke with a very nice woman, there, whom I will call "Meredith." (Again, I've never spoken to the same person twice unless I specifically asked for them. Maybe ALFA's kind of a big company or something, huh?1 :)

I explained the whole situation—in detail—and gave her the information that I had from PenFed and HSBC as well as my local agent, whom I'll call "Mark." Meredith could not pull up all of the information and said it would take some research, but that she would call me back.

In particular, I want to know why the refund was sent to HSBC. Not sent to HSBC—because I get that: they had the wrong mortgage company in their computer system—but sent to HSBC. At all. I mean, they were waiting on money from PenFed for my account, received it...and sent it back to the wrong people. Plus some more. So the original $131 plus another $397 that remains unaccounted for in my book.

So I get to go home today and root through my unopened mail (I pay everything online, so unless there's a problem of some sort, I don't usually open bills. Especially mail from a mortgage company I no longer do business with. Why would I? Apparently, I'll have to change that, thanks to ALFA. <heavy, heavy sigh>) looking for envelopes from HSBC. And then I'll have to deposit that and mail a personal check for that amount to Mark, then Mark has to...yadda yadda blah blah blah. I just don't care anymore. And if there is a $9 discrepancy and they want to cancel my policy over their own fuck-up... There's not a lawyer in Georgia who would take my case, dammit. And it's not worth the amount of money I'd have to pay to get no satisfaction. But oooooh it would feel so good to sue them. And I'm not even litigious at all. But don't you think this has gone on far too long as it is?

I just want this over with. And then, as I said, they are fired, and I can move forward with Geico (probably).

I'm sure there'll be another chapter. Stay tuned next time for As the Insurance Turns.
  1. Which, by the way, is that makes this so infuriating. I could understand if maybe ALFA was a mom & pop Insurance R Us type of place, barely making it in competition with the big guys...but ALFA is the big guys.2 And they should have computer systems that link up better than they apparently do. I'm willing to bet that all of this was caused because someone, somewhere, in a remote office keyed in something wrong (probably back in 2007, when this all started) and I was the lucky person who got shafted.
  2. More like the medium guys, actually. They were worth about a half-billion back in 1998, and I can't3 find much on them recently.
  3. Okay, it's less "can't" and more "don't want to waste any more of my time than is absolutely necessary dealing with this for one nanosecond more than I absolutely have to."
kaasirpent: (People Suck)
Monday, May 10th, 2010 05:38 pm
Those of you who don't drive a lot on I-20 between Atlanta and Birmingham won't know what I'm talking about, but bear with me.

Interstate 20 between Birmingham and the Alabama/Georgia state line is pretty horrid in spots. It's crumbling in places, and it's like driving over corrugated steel. The posted speed limit has been 70 for most of that distance for quite some time, with pockets of 55 or even 50 due to "road construction." The second you cross into Georgia (going east), the road improves. (Or going west, the road is great until you get to the Alabama border, and then it's like driving on a rutted dirt road at times.)

A few weeks back, there was an incident on the stretch of road between Talladega and the Georgia border where a vehicle kicked up a rock, which went through the windshield of the car behind, striking and killing a woman in that car.

Very tragic accident, but it was just that: an accident. A freak accident, at that.

But the state of Alabama, in their Paris-Hilton-esque wisdom, decided that the tragic occurrence had nothing to do with the crumbling road—which provides ample rocks to be kicked up by trucks—but instead had to do with the "unsafe speeds" at which people were traveling. (Note: I'm not saying everyone actually went 70; keep reading.)

The speed was posted at 70. When I would drive 70, people would pass me going so fast, my car would shake with the force of the wind created as they zoomed past me.

So Alabama lowered the posted limit to 55, and made sure that the segment of newly lower-limit highway is patrolled by an abundance of police...sometimes.

So. The posted limit was 70 and people went 75 to 95. What makes you think, dear, wise state of Alabama, that people will slow to 55 because the posted speed limit is now 55? Isn't it much more likely that people will still continue to zoom through at 75 to 95? Because you can't stop everyone. And no one believes they will be the one you stop, as long as they're going the same speed as everyone else.

As I drove through this area last night on my way back, I was the hazard. Going 55 mph, I nearly caused several wrecks as cars zoomed up behind me and were forced to slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending me while dozens of cars whizzed by in the left lane. The drivers forced to slow to a crawl tailgated me, sometimes blinking their lights at me and slaloming from side to side in impatience, until there was enough room for them to jerk suddenly into the left lane, floor it, go around me (while flipping the bird, often enough), then jerk back over into the right lane, sometimes barely missing my front bumper. To "teach me a lesson," I'm sure. How dare I drive the posted limit‽ Don't I realize they have somewhere to be‽ (Note: Not everyone did all of that, but a good number did at least one of them.)

A good number of the tags on those cars that did that were from Georgia. I didn't keep a tally or anything, but...I believe the Georgia assholes far outweighed the Alabama assholes. Probably because most of the Alabama assholes didn't have a reason to be on the Interstate headed for the Georgia border at 10:00 pm on a Sunday night. :) Of course, I'm just guessing, here.

So. What has Alabama accomplished? Let's take a look, shall we?

1. They lowered the speed limit in a knee-jerk reaction to a freak accident. (CYA)

2. No one actually follows the new limit any more than they followed the old one. At least, not unless they post patrol cars every few miles to keep people "honest." And while they're doing that, I'm fairly sure people are selling meth to minors, but instead of catching them, the cops are out giving tickets to people. (Yes, I know this is a logical fallacy, but it's such a fun one, I just couldn't help myself. :)

3. They created hazards in the right lane as people who do pay attention to speed laws both endanger and are endangered by the other drivers, thus increasing road rage and incidents of reckless driving, which is far more likely to cause accidents than if everyone were driving closer to the same speed.

4. Rocks are still kicked up from the roadway, because nothing is being done to fix the root cause of the problem. And I'm fairly sure a good deal of that problem was caused by Alabama going with the lowest bidder—who, let's face it, was also probably the Lt. Governor's corrupt, no-good brother-in-law. The roads were basically broken on the west end by the time they finished laying the east end.

I have to wonder if they're preparing to use all this in their defense if/when another freak accident occurs. "Well, we lowered the speed limit, and your son/daughter/dad/mother/uncle/aunt/cousin/significant other/whatever was traveling at an unsafe speed, so it's not our fault even though our roads are awful. If s/he'd observed the posted speed limits...."

But honestly? People need to slow the hell down, anyway. It's a stupid thing for Alabama to have done, but come on. At 55, you cover that 30 miles in 32 minutes, 44 seconds. At 70, you cover it in 25 minutes, 43 seconds. At 75, you cover it in exactly 24 minutes. At 95, you cover it in 18 minutes, 57 seconds.

So for five to fourteen extra minutes, you're risking...what? Hurting someone else? Hurting yourself? Getting a massive speeding ticket or possibly getting points on your drivers license? Getting all riled up because the guy in front of you won't get the hell out of your way so you can get to your exit a whole 1.8 seconds earlier?

Is that even sane?
kaasirpent: (Money)
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 12:06 pm
Back in October, interest rates for mortgages started to fall precipitously. They eventually reached a low of somewhere around 4.5%. It was at this point that, at the urging of a couple of friends of mine who are much more financially aware than I urged me to refinance my mortgage.

Back in 2001 when I got my mortgage, the rate was 6.875%. I did some calculations and found that I could nearly halve my monthly payment. Since my company did not give out merit pay increases last year but everything else went up in cost, saving any sort of money is a good thing.

I got a recommendation of a reputable financial institution with good rates from one of those two aforementioned friends and started the process of a mortgage refinance. I had the rate frozen at 4.625%, which is not too bad.

Then began the long process of proving to the bank that I had enough money, was employed, had a decent credit rating, etc.

One of the final steps was scheduling a home appraisal. My target value of the house was $173,000, because the amount I still owe on my current mortgage is approximately 80% of that number, which means I wouldn't have to pay PMI. Since I bought it in 2001 for $165,000 and it was worth more than that at the time (the sellers were highly motivated to sell), I thought it was a lead-pipe cinch, as the saying goes. <ominous chord> Whoa. Did you hear that? It sounded...ominous. And chordy.

Meanwhile, I had my roof repaired to fix the damage from the September Monsoon. We scheduled the appraisal for the Monday after the repairs would be done so that she (the appraiser) would see the house in a better state.

She came. She appraised. She took pictures. She measured. She promised I'd get the report in about a week. She left.

A week goes by. But in the meantime, I have become very ill and am taking medication that makes me a bit loopy, and on top of that, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, so it sort of slipped my mind that the report should have arrived on the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

Yesterday, I realized I'd heard nothing from her, and contacted my loan guy at the bank to see if he had, and I asked him if there was anything else he needed from me to proceed.

He forwarded me the email he got from her (I did not get it), apologizing since it was obvious I hadn't received his earlier email.

Turns out the house appraised at $150,000. Considerably less than my target of $173,000, and about $30,000 shy of where it should be.

This lowered the amount they were willing to loan me by $20,000, which means that I would now have to pay $20,000 down in order to get the refinance.

The whole purpose of this refinance was to save money, not blow my entire savings. It would take me > 5 years to save $20,000, and...well, it's just not worth it.

What caused the devaluation? In a word: neighbors.

I am a good mortgage-holder. I have paid every payment, never missing a single one, including during the time I was unemployed (Thanks to my mother!). I've been late a few times, but not by more than a few days. And once I was able to schedule the payments via online banking (several years ago), not a single payment has been late. This doesn't matter.

My house is in good shape (as far as you can tell by a cursory inspection; more on this in another post, perhaps) and I have added value by re-siding the house in HardiPlank and had the roof repaired. This doesn't matter.

I have a "very good" credit score. This doesn't matter.

I have no outstanding debt other than the mortgage, and a home equity line of credit that is currently paid off, and which I'm only keeping open because if I close it, it makes my credit score go down.1 This doesn't matter.

I pay off my credit cards every month in full, carrying no debt from month to month. This doesn't matter.

I am gainfully employed and this situation is not likely to change in the near future. I have proven that I can pay $X/month for my mortgage for nine years even during the 21 months of that I was unemployed. This doesn't matter.

The only factor that made a difference is that 20% of the homes in my neighborhood have been foreclosed. When the bank forecloses a mortgage, they offload the property for a fraction of the actual value, thus causing the property to lose value by default. And since 20% of the homes in my subdivision have lost value, the others lose value by proxy.

To sum up: because my neighbors were unable to pay their mortgages2, I got screwed over.

The irony, of course, is that I would obviously—to anyone with a single working brain cell—be able to make lower payments each month. But because the appraiser basically gave me the purple shaft, I get screwed over financially.

When I worked through all this in email with my loan agent at the bank and realized what it meant, I was pretty much beside myself with rage, frustration, and no small amount of moral outrage. None of this is my fault. I did nothing wrong. I made a post to Facebook3 that said
just received some very frustrating, infuriating financial news. And he is SO FAR BEYOND PISSED OFF that there isn't a word in English. More later. For now: silent fuming.
I composed a Facebook note that consisted largely of the F-bomb interspersed with epithets about my neighbors and their supposed incestuous origins. I'm not overly proud of it, and I'm glad I decided to wait until I cooled down to say any more.

Because under the light of a new day, I can calmly see that nothing has actually changed. I'll still be making the same mortgage payments I've been making for nine years. I'm still being paid and am gainfully employed. I'm not thinking of selling the house any time soon, so the fact that it's worth $30,000 less than I expected is, while not a pleasant thought, not the end of the world.

Granted, I won't have ~$500 more per month to use at my discretion like I've been planning. But that's all that has changed. That, and I know my credit score, the actual value of my house in this down market, and exactly what I need to go through when I try this again in a few years.

So, there you have it. I put this here to preserve it for posterity and to put a link to on Facebook to explain the extremely frustrated post I made yesterday evening.
  1. Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe the entire "credit" industry?
  2. As much as I want to call them names and sling mud and curse and gnash my teeth, I realize that for most of them, it wasn't their fault any more than this was mine. Very few people choose foreclosure.
  3. Generally speaking, if I can say what I want to say in 140 characters or less, it goes to Twitter. If I can say it in 420 characters or less, it goes to a Facebook status update. If it's a quick-and-dirty, straightforward message bigger than 420 characters that I can type, edit once, and press "send," I put it on Facebook in a note. If it's going to turn into a dissertation with footnotes or, for whatever reason, I feel the need to save it for posterity, I put it on LJ. Don't you feel privileged? :) (Or if I want only a subset of people to see it, I put it on LJ and change the security level to something other than "public.")
kaasirpent: (Geek)
Friday, May 29th, 2009 09:28 pm
I said in my last post that I'd do a follow-up post to explain the last post.

This is that post. And I'm sorry, but it's a bit lengthy. I'll try to make it entertaining, though.

So, <flashback effect> picture it: Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the summer of 1982.

I'm between my junior and senior year in high school. (I'm 44. Put away the calculator.) Because my ACT score was high enough, I got into the Capstone Summer Honors Program at the University of Alabama. Basically, this is a summer-semester-long program for college-bound high school students with a high enough test score to earn college credit before actually going to college.

It also turns out to be a great opportunity
  • to meet other students who are at your same level, both academically and socially (with 18 in my senior class, there weren't a lot of nerds, geeks, etc. for me to hang out with who had read Vonnegut and Stephen King and Heinlein, liked (programming) computers, and could recite Star Wars)

  • to learn {about|your way around} the campus

  • to learn about life in a dorm and having roommates

  • to learn how to use campus resources like the libraries, textbook stores, registration, etc.
Since we were seventeenish years old and, therefore, young and naïve and stupid—and since we were there by permission of our parents, who had been promised nothing bad would be allowed to happen to us—we got all the standard lectures about fraternizing with "the wrong element," going to places where that element hung out, and basically ruled, regulated, and "infractioned" to death.

Since it was expected that many of us would be returning to campus in a year to begin our college careers, the counselors would give us "helpful hints" about the University of Alabama campus to make things smoother for us.

Among these tips were
  • Stay away from Byrd Hall1! They're weird and they <whispering>probably do drugs!</whispering>.

  • Always buy used textbooks whenever you can because they cost less.

  • You do not, as it turns out, get an automatic 'A' in every course if your roommate dies during the semester.

  • The Quad is a very dangerous place and under no circumstances were any of us wide-eyed, innocent high-schoolers to walk on The Quad alone.

  • And no, that is not because Denny Chimes will crumble if a virgin walks by it.

  • And no, that does not mean you should try to remedy that status if it applies to you, "to save the chimes."
For the purpose of this little narrative (and to actually get us to the topic of squirrels), the only one of those that matters is the fourth one about the quad being dangerous.

Now, to be fair, I'm sure it was dangerous, to a certain level. Especially to girls walking alone at night.

Of course, I immediately found mah peepz (i.e., I found the nerds/geeks and they found me) and we immediately formed our little clique. That was on day 1. :) About a week into the semester, after all the warnings and orientations and what-have-you, we discovered that one of our little group was a jogger. He liked to get up at the ungodly hour of 5 AM (I mean, seriously. Five AM? Weirdo.) and go jogging around...<dun Dun DUNNNNN!> the quad.

So we jokingly asked him, "Hey, Mark, did you see any of those rapists and murderers and kidnappers out there?" Because, you know, we were seventeen and fairly stupid in spite of being smart.

"Nope, not a thing," was his reply. "Except an awful lot of squirrels."

"Squirrels?" we asked.

"Squirrels," he confirmed. "There must be thousands of them. And they have no fear."

Well, that's all that took. Thus began, in the 1982 Capstone Summer Honors Program, the rumor of <dun Dun DUNNNNNN!> The Killer Squirrels™!

It wasn't rapists, murderers, kidnappers, muggers, and aggressive Jehovah's Witnesses out there on the quad at five in the morning that we were supposed to be wary of. It was <dun Dun—> Okay, I'm going to stop that, now. Ahem. It was The Killer Squirrels™. <insert images of squirrels with switchblades> <insert image of squirrels swarming an unsuspecting, lone student, consuming him until nothing is left but bones, lying on the green grass of the quad, gleaming in the hot sun....> Mark must have gotten away safely only because he somehow was of no interest to the squirrels or could perhaps outrun them.

We had great fun with The Killer Squirrel™ thing. The counselors rolled their eyes a lot, quite aware that all their precautions and warnings and "infractions" were doing nothing to stop us from doing everything they said not to do. It just made us2 more stealthy.

So, anyway, Capstone ended, 1982 ended, and 1983 came 'round. I graduated from high school. And I went back to the University.

And it was then that I learned that we were not the first group to have come up with the whole Killer Squirrels™ thing. It was a joke around campus that our quad was populated with aggressive squirrels who would chase people for hand-outs and had pretty much no fear of people.

</flashback effect> And then there's now.

Today, I was reading a new-to-me online comic called Surviving the World. It's not really a comic, so much as it is a guy taking pictures of funny things he's written/drawn on a blackboard, and he wears a lab coat and a hat, and....well, here:
So when I saw this, I IM'd my friend [livejournal.com profile] adsmguy who was at UofA at the same time I was and said, "Hey! I thought the whole Killer Squirrel™ thing was just a UofA thing!" I sent him the link. He wasn't surprised, but I was. I had no idea that others might have come up with the whole Squirrel Uprising thing besides us. Proving that age and experience don't necessarily cure naïveté and stupidity, even if you're (supposed to be) smart. :)

So that's what the poll was about. It was to see how many of what is admittedly a fairly small but diverse group in terms of age and geography had also heard of Killer Squirrels™ or the Squirrel Uprising or whatever.

I'm somewhat vindicated by the response, though. Most of you had no idea what I was talking about (or at least didn't without context, which was admittedly and purposefully lacking), but a few of you did, and not all of them were from the University of Alabama, nor from the early 80s. :)

  1. On campus, there was an Honors Residence Program called The Mallet Assembly wherein many of the so-called "smart people" lived. Well, really, there were two. Byrd Hall was the men's dorm and Fitts Hall was the women's version of same. I can't speak for what they told the girls, but they told us boys to steer clear of Byrd/Mallet because, basically, they were weird...and probably did unspeakable things in there. Like drugs and underage drinking and quantum physics. I mean, who knows, right?3 *shudder*.
  2. And by "us" I mean "them." I was as pure and innocent as driven snow. I never did anything they said not to. I never got in any trouble. And at least one of those statements is true, but not all three. :)
  3. The sheer irony of it all is that I believed the malarkey (see above, re: young, stupid, naïve) they fed us about Mallet and steered clear of it. Two of my current long-term friends turned out to have been in Mallet at that very time; a co-worker I liked at my first, on-campus job lived there with his girlfriend, who later became his wife; a classmate I befriended as a junior lived there, and we ended up spending a lot of time together at Byrd working on a team project; and two other long-term, close friends were associated with Mallet in some way (they were Mallet groupies who hung around but didn't live there). So it turns out if I hadn't listened to the counselors at CSHP in 1982, I would have met all these people I befriended way before I eventually did, and probably would have come through college a little more loose for the experience. Oh, and although there may have been drugs (and quantum physics!), it was discrete and none of my friends participated in any of that sort of thing. :)

    I really hope they're not still warning students away from the "weird folks" just because they're weird. What a travesty.