Sunday, April 12, 2009

(why) I suck at blogging

OK, I'll admit it. Well, I'll admit multiple things, but there's two I'm getting at right now:

  1. I suck at blogging.
  2. I've become (a twaddict / twobsessive-compulsive).

I'll look at the blogging suckage now, and try to take a look at the need to be connected next week.

(why) I suck at blogging.

Let's see... I'm articulate ("Verisimilitude; Xenophobe; Regurgitation"). I've even got some things to talk about (C# Custom Attributes vs. Marker Interfaces? Eventually. HP's award-winning technical support? Eventually.) So why then have I not written anything in 5 months?

As I feared, I got distracted by something shiny. Note to self -- the start of the busy holiday season (Halloween, Child2.Birthday, Thanksgiving, Child1.Birthday, Christmas, New Year's Eve) is not the time to try to start any new endeavor, let alone two blogs. Then came January, full of promise...

...and we dropped one addiction for another.

I'm not going to say it's a bad thing -- it's just that The Lovely Bride and I quit smoking on January 12. For those of you who've never been down this road, there's a couple of issues -- the physical and the psychological.

The physical addiction was actually the easier side for us to handle. Working for a company that says "We want you to quit smoking so much that we'll cover not just your meds, but meds for any dependents as well" made it really easy to get the prescription for Chantix, which did wonders in that regard.

The psychological addiction was more difficult -- most smokers have events that get raised, and smoking is one of the handlers subscribed to those events. So driving, post-eating, lunch time and breaks at work -- all of these had to be handled differently. Some, like the breaks at work, just stopped completely -- I pretty much go to lunch, but that's it. Others were more difficult, with after-dinner being the worst of the bunch. We needed something to do with our hands, something to answer the question "OK, we're done with dinner -- what now?"

The answer was already in our house

Stupid Guitar Hero.

The Fat Man in the Red Suit brought Child1 the PS2 game Sing Star at Christmas. If you're not familiar with it, think of it as PS2-Karaoke. Child1 loved it.

Nobody wants to hear me sing. Trust me.

So we picked up Guitar Hero III on a lark, as something I could do -- and found in mid-January that it answered the question perfectly. It was engrossing, kept the hands busy, and was something we both enjoyed.

Guitar Hero III led to GH World Tour and Rock Band, then Rock Band 2 and GH Aerosmith on the Wii. Free time has now officially been filled.

There's good news, though -- neither of us has slipped, so we're now 3 months nicotine free. We've stopped playing GH / RB quite so much, so we're able to get to other things we want to do (I'm setting up a Virtual PC image w/Windows Server 2008 as I type this. The Web Platform Installer is made of 99.44% pure awesome, and i'm pretty sure the other .56% has something to do with Mr. Rogers) I finally caught up on some things on the DVR (we'd maxed out the drive), and now...

I'm going to try this again. Hopefully it'll stick this time. Next up: not sure, but it should be interesting to see when...

(dual posting between personal and tech blogs -- that way they're all at the same reset point.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A story about Bad Doctor and good customer service

Brianna's eyesight is... poor. We found out at her 7-year well check that she's legally blind in her left eye, with her vision rated at 20/400. This came as quite a shock to us, since she'd never shown any of the "normal" symptoms -- she'd always done well in school, didn't squint when trying to watch television or read and didn't ever complain about it.

The first optometrist we'd taken her to understood the problem -- he was very smart, diagnosing Brianna with a "lazy eye", and even diagnosing some of the Lovely Bride's... quirks, like constantly telling me that I was stopping too close to the car in front of us, as related to her eyesight. Brianna (and the Lovely Bride) got their glasses (plastic lenses for Brianna, since the polycarbonite lenses were going to be an additional $100 we didn't have at the time), and all was right with the world -- with one exception...

The optometrist suggested a course of vision therapy for Brianna. He said that her brain had adjusted to her poor eyesight, and that her eyes were being used differently than most people. Rather than working in tandem, she was using one eye to determine where things were, and her "good" eye to determine what they were. His vision therapy would work on teaching her eyes how to work in tandem again. Sounds great, right? Well, it would be, except:
  • Insurance won't cover it.
  • The cost is over $7000.

Not what we wanted to hear.

Still, being dutiful, concerned parents, we went ahead and put her on the waiting list. We figured we'd take a look at our finances, and maybe by the time she was able to get into the program, we'd have found a way to swing it. Brianna's turn on the waiting list came up, and we had to pass -- finances being what they are for a one-income / four-person family, $7,000 didn't magically appear in the intervening six months. No problem, we thought. We'll just continue on with the glasses, and look for a more traditional (and insurance-covered) method of working through this.

That's where the problems started.

Brianna's glasses broke -- the arm came out of the socket on the temple hinge. We called her doctor, and they said that the glasses were still covered under warranty. No problem, only the frames Brianna had have been discontinued -- they could only get Plum or Honey colored frames, not pink. Given Brianna's complexion and hair color, we opted for Plum.

Shortly after that, Brianna's annual eye exam came up. Her vision was improving a little bit, which was good. We asked her doctor about more traditional methods of treating a "lazy eye", and he again suggested the Vision Therapy as the treatment of choice, and proceeded to make us feel like inadequate and uninterested parents because we weren't able to afford the program.

Let me repeat that:
Her eye doctor made us feel like inadequate and uninterested parents because we couldn't afford a program not covered under insurance.

I can certainly understand a doctor suggesting a course of action as the right thing to do, regardless of the cost. That's their job, to do what's right for their patient. What you don't do, under any freaking circumstances, is tell parents that if they cared about their daughter's eyesight, they'd find a way to fork over $7,000 for something their insurance company doesn't recognize as a valid treatment.

We changed optometrists. No-brainer. Since Brianna had just had her annual exam, we paid for this one out of pocket. Her new doctor is recommending more traditional methods of treatment, and doesn't feel that the vision therapy is necessary. We were glad to be done with the old doctor.

Her glasses broke again last Tuesday, in the exact same way. Crap. That meant we had to go back to her original doctor, since they had the warranty information. We stopped in, and they said that the glasses were no longer under warranty, and we'd have to pay $36 to get a replacement temple for them. We paid them, and then came the phone call. The Lovely Bride took the call from her old doctor's office, and they told her that the manufacturer didn't have any replacement temples -- we'd have to get the only frames they had left, which were the Honey-colored frames. Again, given Brianna's hair color and skin tone, this was less than ideal.

This is where the outstanding customer service comes into play. The Lovely Bride called VSP, our insurance carrier. After explaining the situation, they agreed to authorize an early exam, frame and lens benefit. Brianna's appointment was on Friday, and she's getting her new glasses (with the polycarbonite lenses, which are fully covered by insurance for anyone under 18, contrary to what her old doctor's office had told us) within two weeks.

It turns out that you can still find good customer service -- we couldn't be happier with the insurance carrier, and we're never going back to her original doctor again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


[This is a re-blog (how sad is that) from my second (and possibly last, depending on how this goes) blog entry on MySpace. (originally posted 10/25/2008). Since there were things I just didn't like about the MySpace blogging system, I decided to try out Blogger to see how it goes.]

So, in keeping with the theme of nothing...

First, in case there's anyone who reads this who's unaware (yeah, I mean you, Vin. Lots goes on that doesn't seem to make it into email -- we really need to hook up, sometime after Halloween), Conner spent the first year of his life with chronic ear infections. This set him back a bit with his language skills. By two, he only had about a 3-5 word vocabulary. His inability to communicate also led to some behavioral issues, like banging his head against anything hard he could find (floors, walls, concrete, etc.) when he became frustrated that we didn't understand him. Thanks to a phenomenal resource called Arizona Early Intervention, we were able to start getting help for him when he was about 2 and a half years old. When he turned three, he aged out of AzEIP, and transitioned into the special education department of the public school system. At the beginning of this school year, we met with his teacher, and they said that he had met all his current goals, and the new goals were...


She said that they could "be creative" and find some new goals, but their suggestion was that he move into a Young Learners Kindergarten progarm, which takes him out of Special Education and into "mainstream" education.

So, since early in the school year, he's been in the YLK program, and has been doing great. We just had his parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago, and his teacher said that there really wasn't any indication that he'd had any delays, and that he was a joy to have in the classroom.

One P/T Conference, one glowing report with nothing that needs fixing.

So, then we had Brianna's parent/teacher conference yesterday. Brianna goes to a charter school, which is a bit of a drive (about 15 miles each way, morning and afternoon) but well worth it based on the quality of education she's receiving. Found out a few things:
  • They've changed the grading system at her school. It now looks like this:

    • A: 96% - 100%
    • B: 90% - 95%
    • C: 80% - 90%
    • D: 70% - 80%
    • F: 69% or less

    [This used to be in a nice HTML Table, but MySpace's blog page forced it to the bottom for some reason.  One of these days, if I continue to blog (an unknown) and want to branch into technology blogging (which I'll probably try to do if I do continue to ramble online), I'm going to have to get my own site.]

    This is actually more generous than the old scale. 80% used to be a D, but since 80% is the "Mastery" level for a skill, they wanted to at least have it in the "Parents don't freak out" range ("mastery", a D? That was harsh.)

  • Her school no longer has a First Honor Roll / Second Honor Roll system -- it's just one list, and you have to have an B to be named to the Honor Roll. [Edit -- I'd originally said 'A' rather than 'B' -- that's what I get for going by memory rather than looking at the paper.]

  • Brianna's weekly packet came back from her teacher last week with a note indicating that she's the top student in her class.

  • Brianna made Honor Roll with an A.
The only thing her teacher said was that she still has challenges completing her work on time -- she's a bit on the meticulous side, so that's not surprising. Come to think of it, Brianna's never had anything except A's -- she's been on First Honor roll every quarter since she started going to her school, even with their tough grading standards.

Two P/T Conferences, two glowing reports with next-to-nothing (hence, the geeky programmer "Nothing++" reference) that needs fixing.

We couldn't be prouder of our kids. We're generally of the opinion that they're the sharpest tools in the shed (except for common sense, which no child has). Generally, I rack that up to parental huberis. We all think our kids are the best and the brightest.

Nothing wrong with that...

The Seinfeld of Blogs (a blog about nothing)

[This is a re-blog (how sad is that) from my first blog entry on MySpace. (originally posted 10/22/2008). Since there were things I just didn't like about the MySpace blogging system, I decided to try out Blogger to see how it goes.]

Or, "Jeremy's being a whiny bitch and just needs to suck up and deal with it"

I've been dealing with a bum leg for a long time. I'd actually consider it a really long time, but I'm still 6 years away from it being half of my life. It's something I've come to terms with as a constant -- death, taxes, linux fanboys bashing all things Microsoft, the Broncos not being able to field a competent defense and leg pain. On the off chance that anyone reads this that doesn't know, I took a little, 4-inch-or-so fall off a skateboard the only time I ever tried to ride one, and spent a week in the hospital as a reward. 1 surgery, 2 plates and 20-or-so screws later, my leg and ankle were put back together.
My Lovely Bride has been reminding me for years that I ought to go and see a doctor about it, to get something done since the pain has gotten worse over time. I've always come up with some rationalization or other as to why now's not a good time, or some other nonsense to divert attention from the fact that I suffer from chronic procrastination syndrome. About a month ago, the Lovely Bride noticed that there was swelling in my leg -- not an uncommon occurrence by any stretch of the imagination, but the location was odd. Rather than being located around the ankle, it's centered right about at the top of the outside incision where they put humpty dumpty's leg back together. Finding this odd (and relatively disconcerting), I set up an appointment to have it looked at.

[Some day, I'll write about the HMO Primary Care Physician to Specialist referral "system". It's a good thing I only needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, and not an oncologist or cardiac specialist. That's a story for another day]

Fast forward a little under a month. All kinds of scenaros have been playing out in my head, most of which involve some sort of hardwarectomy, replacement, or other such thing that doctors, especially orthopedic surgeons, do to make pain go elsewhere. I've prepped both jobs, the kids, friends and family for the fact that we're guessing I'm going to be going under the knife for sai..omy, and I'm ready for it. After 15 years of constant problems, pain and magnet jokes, I'm pretty much ready to have the damn stuff out of my leg, hopefully get some mobility back, and try to live a more "normal" life for a 36 year old chubby guy with two kids.

So, we went to the doctor today. Hopes were high -- we were chatting, making jokes, and everything was generally right with the world. X-rays were taken, genetalia was protected, and time was spent waiting for the Doctor.

The doctor's suggestion:

That's not nothing as in "He got stuck in traffic and we never saw him". Nor is it nothing as in "He's mute, so he really couldn't tell us anything." Nope.

Nothing. As in "There's nothing we can do." Nothing as in "No surgery is going to fix what's wrong. There's two choices, but they're both down-the-road fixes: fusing the ankle, or a prosthetic replacement. In the mean time, here's a prescription for some anti-inflammitories. Have a nice day, see you (and your $40.00 copay) in a week."


Dissappointed would be an understatement. I spent most of the last month getting ready, trying to figure out worst-case scenarios. What if they had to re-break my leg? What if the surgery falls around Halloween, or Christmas?

Not once did I imagine that the answer would be "nothing".

Oh, and the swelling? It should go away with the anti-inflammitories. It's not uncommon, just a new thing that I'd never seen before.

In short, nothing.

So, the running total: $70.00 in copays, 1 day off work, prescriptions still to fill.


You guessed it.