Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More Of That "Life" Crap Happens

The lack of posts around here lately might have drawn peole towards the conclusion that nothing has been happening at La Famile Stevie of late, but, in fact, the reverse has been true in spades.

for a start, The Stevieling went to New Orleans for a Lutheran Gathering and Reconstruction Effort. She was impressed with the Non-Reconstruction activities, including a concert that was, apparently, "awesome". I'll have to take her word for that.

She also forgave Mrs Stevie for kitting her out with hiking (aka "ugly") boots and making her break them in before going, because after the first day she was the only Lutheran from her church without blisters. The congregation had been warned that there would be a lot of walking, but apparently they were no more "with it" than the kids when it came to suggesting prudent choices of footwear.

She was also sent off with gloves, the only child thus equipped, and therefore was the only one to survive the "reconstruction" project (which turned out to be another term for weeding) unscathed. She was mad about not getting to rebuild houses, or at least paint them, but happy that she still had skin on her hands.

Mrs Stevie and I had planned to Have Fun while the Stevieling was gone since it was my birthday and Mrs Stevie decided to suspend hostilities in celebration, but then she got scheduled to have her Chemotherapy port removed on the Friday and didn't feel like having fun for a few days, so we went with plan "B" and just waited 'til she felt up to arguing and had a row.

The next week just flew by, or to be more precise, teemed down. More gallons of wet from above because, Azathoth knows, we haven't had enough rain this year1. On the Thursday, just as I began my evening commute home, I was bombarded with phone calls and text messages, none of which I could respond to because they arrived in the short window in which my train moved out of Flatbush Avenue RR station and into the tunnel it takes for a couple of miles or so. Leaving the tunnels I found myself still unable to respond because my phone was bombarded anew with yet more text messages and calls shunted to voicemail. When the phone, in danger by then of melting from the overstimulation of its vibrator gubbins2, finally allowed me to actually read the texts and listen to the voicemails it turned out that Mrs Stevie had been rushed to hospital with some problem that caused her heart to beat so fast - 200 beats a minute it turned out - that she became "unresponsive" and was rushed to the emergency room of Plainview hospital.

I contacted the Stevieling, who had been thrown into a small panic because Mrs Stevie's boss had called her before me3, and told her what I knew, involved her by asking her to get a Google Maps route from Chateau Stevie to said Emergency Room and settled back in my seat for an hour's serene contemplation of impending bachelorhood C/W vistas of the flood of crumpet now to open before me. Of course, this was too good to be true.

I eventually got to the hospital to find a goodly selection of family already there4 and made my way back to bay number 13 5 where Mrs Stevie was watching reruns of "NCIS" while hooked up to oxygen. She was surprisingly not-at-death's-door, only in mild discomfort from having various monitoring sensors stuck to her body and inserted into it in places I could only speculate upon.

"So. Feeling better then?" I asked?

"No thanks to anyone here! And why is the sound for this TV permanently off?" she wittily replied.

A couple of hours passed as though they were a month, then a doctor hove into view to say he couldn't find any problems and she could go home. Mrs Stevie asked what had caused the problem, but he didn't know. I asked if the problem could have been psychological in origin, and he glared at me and snapped "No!" Why this suggestion should have upset him I don't know, unless he thought that my question, designed to elicit a confirmation of my thought that it might be stress related, was actually a paraphrasing of "Is she bugnuts or what?", and even if that were true, why he held psychology in such low esteem is beyond me. Perhaps he was struggling with his own inner demons. Perhaps he just wanted Mrs Stevie off the premises tootsweet, for which I couldn't blame him.

I returned home to find a pile of bills that needed paying, including a Visa bill from Bank of America that included a service charge because I had paid the bill two days late. They had also sent, under separate cover, a helpful letter explaining how to most effectively use a credit card to minimize financial outlay. This I found a bit much for three reasons:

a) I always clear the balance on this card. I've twice before missed payments, once because a bill fell behind a piece of furniture, once because my brain shut down. Twice in almost a decade. This late payment could, I suppose be said to represent a third infraction.

2) The credit card industry for years rewarded people with bad payment habits and pretty much rubbed the faces of anyone responsible with their money in the dirt. The way you got your credit limit raised on any credit card in the last twenty five years was to run it up high, make minimum or less-than-balance payments for a couple of months and then clear it. A ten- to fifteen percent increase in your credit limit for that card would be announced by the next post.

♥) Bank of America is at the center of the financial meltdown and a bonus scandal for which they were just fined 33 million bux for not keeping their public balance sheet properly (it's used to tell shareholders and would-be shareholders what you're worth and how much you've promised to shell out on stuff in the near future). I happen to cleave to the eccentric belief that anyone who demonstrably cannot run a bank for toffee has no business telling me how to run my pitiful finances "efficiently". Nowhere in the "suggestions" they sent were the instructions to lie to anyone who could give them cash about what I was going to spend it on, or using my influence with politicians to get my crushing debts covered by the taxpayers.

These buggers crack me up. They, and the newspaper reporters that cover them, claim that the ridiculous bonuses they pay are justified because:

a) Those departments where bonuses are paid were profitable

2) The bonuses were guaranteed by employment contracts

♥) The bonuses are paid "mostly" in stocks in the company the people work for, most of whom have lost a bundle as a result of that. þ) If they don't pay them, the individuals concerned will flee to other firms and their expertise will be lost. Indeed, I heard one analyst admit that the AIG bookkeeping was so twisted that firing the buggers involved would mean no-one would be able to understand what the company was actually worth.

To these idiots I respond in the following way:

a) You're missing the point. Without a public bailout these incompetents would be on the street trying to get work in the rather more accurate light of having put themselves out of a job with no references.

2) Has no-one in the financial industry heard the term "Force Majeure?" It means "Sorry guv. I know we inked a contract saying you were quids-in for the next three years but the money has run out so you're history". These firms were all, in every way calculable, broke until the bailout gave them fistfuls of free cash, at which point it was Bonanza Time for the Boys Upstairs.

♥) Lies. The bonuses are paid partly in stock options, a sweetheart insider deal to sell stock to the boyos at a cut rate, a process so rife with fraud Steve Jobs was outed for fouling before the meltdown was fully underway. Steve Jobs, a man so rich he need never work another day in his life cheated on a process that already guaranteed him a stock price no-one else could get. I digress. You want to pay the bonuses entirely in stock, add a rider that the shares so "earned" cannot be sold for 24 months and I'm all for it. That way, even if some bugger has cooked the books he can't get out from under quick enough to guarantee he won't be caught. No more guaranteed cash bonuses for these bastards who demonstrably know little about how the economy actually works despite their bragging that they do.

þ) This is just laughable. If a mechanic screwed up so badly that his place of work was threatened with closure, the owners would fire him with extreme prejudice. Ditto nurses, computer programmers, firemen, garbage collectors and everyone else you can think of up to and including the President of the USA (although the last bugger to sit in the chair seems to have gotten clean away now I come to think upon it). If a computer systems expert introduced procedures that only he or she could understand as a job protection scheme, as has happened recently in a much publicized case in San Francisco and in several less publicized cases in my own experience stretching back over 30 years in the biz, he or she would be subject to severe penalties including, depending on where the computers were located, heavy fines and imprisonment. Jail a couple of these fbleepers for five years and the rest would soon fall into line.

And then there is this whole sorry "healthcare reform" hysteria, with Americans I normally respect running around convinced that a nationwide government plan run alongside the extremely self-marginalizing private insurance schemes will spell the end of civilization as they know it.

If ever there was a broken healthcare system, the American one is it. Americans often proudly announce to anyone who doesn't move quickly enough that the USA has the best health care system in the world6 without taking time to ponder the usefulness of any healthcare system that people cannot afford to use. If anything illustrates the bankruptcy of the current model it is that my own healthcare insurance policy now wants to charge me a co-payment for hospital visits, including emergency rooms (though they generously state they will refund the 50 dollars for an emergency room visit if I am admitted to hospital, while omitting to stress that I will then be dunned for 100 dollars), and that to avoid unnecessary expense I should visit alternate emergency clinics (listed on their helpful website) for "non life-threatening emergencies".

Re-read that. Part of the much-vaunted "personal choice", often touted as the primary raison-d'etre of the current US healthcare system, the removal of same being the bugbear waved in front of people should anyone (like Hillary Clinton back in '95) try and change things, now include the personal choice to become an expert medical practitioner with the knowledge to self-diagnose emergency conditions as life-threatening or not.

Even better, my dental plan has just declined (again) to cover a dental procedure needed to fix a 50 year old tooth (on which the warranty went out years ago), citing an "age-related" exclusion. Apparently, this dental plan is based on the notion that one needs less dental work as one matures. I imagine it was originally intended for Rugby Football teams and Hurley players, who typically knock out all their teeth before they're thirty.

And this morning I was joined on my two-stop subway ride by a woman who spent the trip to stop one haranguing the air about "people who try and claim more of the public transport than they're due". I initially though this was intended for me since I had stood aside to let some children off and been elbowed aside for my pains by a crowd who wished to board now, and had been rather forceful in asserting my own right to a seat as a result. However, she seemed after a little observation to be directing her weird diatribe at the air around a lady passenger of great size. Normally under these circumstances I would, of course, have offered my seat to the large lady so she would squish The Oratrix (for such I named her), but I'm having trouble with leg pain and didn't.

The large lady debarked, but the diatribe didn't stop. I turned to another passenger and we traded a grin, at which point The Oratrix began to direct her attention my way. I began to lose it and started to giggle, The Oratrix got a little more personal (I think; it was hard to tell since her peroration was voiced in the same manner as a William Burroughs novel is written and sense only sometimes made it past her lips). As I stood for my stop she demanded in the plaintext if I was laughing at her. Actually, she said something along the lines of "You better not be laughing at me". I spluttered "Keep taking the tablets miss" and stepped off the train, laughing hard now at the thought of her rage-enhanced dribble entertaining the others for the long ride to Jay Street/Borough Hall.

Sudden thought: I hope no-one got stabbed by The Babbling Loon of the Seventh Avenue Line.

  1. Warning: This statement contains significant quantities of irony
  2. My hatred of cell phone ring tones extends to my own phone and I try and avoid inflicting it on anyone if possible. Would that everyone else would do me the same courtesy
  3. Lawyer. I used to think lawyers were smart but now after meeting a few dozen of them I realize that they only have to appear smart twice in their lives - when they take their finals at Law School and when they take the Bar exams for their state. I remain amazed that some of the ones I have met could manage that
  4. or to be more precise, a Bil the Elder's entire in-law-to-be collection was there; Mrs Stevie's family were all at home watching "McGuyver" reruns and mine moved to north west Canada the minute I wasn't looking
  5. Another bum steer - it appears that that number confers no lack of luck on the occupant of the room, just their husbands
  6. It is notable that most who say this have no actual knowledge of other healthcare systems; these are the same people who believed George Bush Senior when he blamed rising health care costs on hordes of Canadians swarming over the border to tax our system. People believe this tripe despite the self-evidently ridiculous notion of people abandoning the umbrella of their insurance to pay privately for American healthcare, and the even more ridiculous notion that this, if is could happen, would magically increase costs to the average American

No comments: