Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

We here in the Kelly/CPA Boy Family are very glad to see the end of 2013. It has been a rough year what with the uncertainty of CPA Boy's health woes. Now we are on an even keel and look forward to a more normal (whatever that means) new year.

So I herewith offer a swift kick in the backside to 2013 and welcome 2014 with open arms.

Happy New Year to everyone!

PS: I am not much of a resolution maker much less a resolution keeper but I will try to blog more regularly as, ahem, I have many interesting things to say! (Only Lady Chardonnay will get that inside joke. This one's for you, Babycakes!)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Time Flies

Whoops, I can't believe a month has passed since my last post! We had Thanksgiving, a CPA Boy health crisis involving an emergency room visit (he's fine), the start of Christmas shopping, doctor appointments, seeing a musical, and everything else in the usual run of life (laundry, making dinner, watching TV, etc...).

To catch up, here we go!

The health insurance bill denied by Blue Cross was finally paid once they got more information from the hospital. Yay!

As I said, CPA Boy is fine but we are still on a trek to find out exactly what disease or syndrome he has. This involved a new doctor in San Francisco at a place called the Forbes Norris Clinic. It specializes in muscular dystrophies (and ALS too). We assumed Forbes and Norris were two different people but no. Dr. Forbes Norris was a neurologist who specialized in treatment for ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Anyway, we drove into San Francisco for a 2:30 appointment. The GPS was telling me to use Divisadero Street; the directions from the Sutter website told me to use Webster Street. I knew that Divisadero was one of those steep hills and decided to follow the website instructions. Big mistake! Turns out that Webster is in the TOP TEN official steepest SF streets and Divisadero doesn't even show up on the list!

Egad, I LOATHE driving in The City. It was our first big rainy day of the year so the streets were slippery and I was not sure my Prius (not exactly a powerhouse) would make it up each of these hills. I was so, so scared! But we made it to the parking garage across from the medical center where the clinic is located. The parking garage with the sign "Garage Full" blocking the entrance. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

I drove around and around the blocks looking for a parking spot but found nothing. I finally dropped CPA Boy off and figured I would need to move out several blocks to find a space but on my last quick pass before circling wider around the medical center the closest possible parking spot opened up and I slid right in (didn't even need to parallel park as it was the first spot on the block!).

The doctor wasn't familiar with CPA Boy's case so it took a while for him to get the history and do an exam. Basically he said that we needed to wait for the results of the genetic tests already in process from the Santa Rosa neurologist before we can do much else.

Then we went and had fondue for dinner before heading home. For the record I have already plotted out a much flatter route to the medical center for our next trip.

The doctor ended up calling CPA Boy the next day after he had read through the rest of the medical records and added a test to already ordered genetic testing. Results of those tests are due around December 20. We'll see.

Coincidentally we needed to drive into The City again last weekend so we could see "The Book of Mormon" at the Orpheum Theatre on Market Street. The play was good, the drive was minimally stressful, and we had dinner at Chevy's afterward.

Thanksgiving was fine but low key. Pops was down in Southern California visiting my brother Everest and his wife Francine Bear. Brother K2 also flew in for the week.

I made our turkey dinner on Wednesday because we went to my in-law's house for dinner on Thursday. This meant that we still had leftovers once we got home! (Tonight's dinner uses up the rest of the leftovers: mashed potatoes in a sausage potato casserole.)

I started making a blanket for The Boy as a Christmas present. I had made him one years ago but it was sized for his twin bed; this one is sized for his double bed.This is it so far, about a third of the way finished. It's so bright and cheery! Meanwhile there's a large pile of yarn on the family room floor:


My plan is to avoid repeating any color patterns (so far so good) and it helps to have everything out where I can see it. The Boy knows about it as he helped pick out the colors.

My other November activity while crocheting the blanket was watching a zillion documentaries on the JFK assassination. I am a total assassination buff so these shows were fascinating for me. I am not a fan of the conspiracy theories or of the fictional retellings. I'd rather see the actual Jackie Kennedy than an actress portraying her for instance.

And speaking of Mrs. Kennedy, watching all of these shows (and there have been dozens) highlights what an amazing woman she was. I have so much respect, admiration and sympathy for her and the tragedies she lived through. She was only 34 years old and had already lost two children (one stillborn daughter and one son who died two days after his birth). She died relatively young from cancer; she was 64 (only 13 years older than I am now). Amazing woman.

That's the gist of November's activities. I still have a bunch of Christmas shopping to do but it's all coming along. I'll need to get the tree up too. December is generally a month where nothing else gets done but Christmas ore New Year's Eve related things. January will bring some peace and quiet. That's the plan anyway!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Health Insurance Hell

You know what's stressful? When you have a medical procedure that costs more than what you owe on your mortgage and the INSURANCE COMPANY DENIES THE CLAIM!!!!

These are words to strike fear into one's heart (pun very much intended): "It is your responsibility to pay $224,088.32."

Yeah, who needs a restful night's sleep?

Anyway, the insurance company paid the claim from the doctor who performed the surgery so presumably they will end up paying this one as well. Unfortunately things get denied if they don't have every bit of information so this will get resubmitted and processed. But you know, until it does, one (meaning ME) does not rest easy!

But let's go back to the beginning....

CPA Boy had a pacemaker implanted in May. He has a condition called atrial fibrillation (AF). In most people this means an irregular but generally faster heartbeat. CPA Boy decided to be different and have a very slow heartbeat.

This is a problem because the procedure they use to treat AF is called cardioversion, where the doctor "shocks" the heart back into proper rhythm. So for all intents and purposes the patient's heart stops for a brief moment and then restarts, resetting the heart without atrial fibrillation. It works if you have only had the condition for a short time. If you've had AF for a longer period it won't work. We have no idea how long CPA Boy has had the condition.

(By the way, I am not a medical professional --- or amateur for that matter --- so I may not explain all this in the proper medical way but it's how I understood it from all the doctors. I do a lot of web surfing researching medical things and came across many blog entries with good information. For any newcomers who find this blog --- welcome! --- just keep in mind my non-medical status!)

Before the doctor could perform the cardioversion they were afraid that CPA Boy's heart might not restart (due to the slower heart rate) and the solution was a pacemaker. Then the pacemaker would do its job and keep the heart beating fine.

Which it did although the cardiovert itself failed, most likely because the atrial fibrillation condition has existed for quite a while.

So all was going well over the summer. With the pacemaker and some new meds we were waiting until September to see if the ejection fraction improved. CPA Boy had an echocardiogram that month to find out. (Also in September he was also having a muscle biopsy performed in hopes of determining the underlying condition causing all these health issues. A blog entry for another day!)

Before we could get to the cardiologist appointment on September 30 for the electrocardiogram results CPA Boy started having these episodes where he was almost blacking out. The first one happened as we were driving home on our wedding anniversary (September 24). So we decided to stop in the cardiologist's office after one of the biopsy follow-up appointments on September 27.

Turns out the ejection fraction hadn't changed. And the blackout incidents were something called ventricular tachycardia (VT), a condition were the heart rate speeds up. Because he had a pacemaker the nurse could upload the data from it and pinpointed the VT. CPA Boy's heart rate was going over 170 beats per minute during these episodes. They lasted for several seconds and then stopped. The fear is when they DON'T stop as cardiac arrest can result.

So the answer to all of these issues was a new pacemaker called an ICD, an implantable cardiac device that has a pacemaker as well as an internal defibrillator (an internal version of the device they use in medical TV shows where they place the two paddles on a patient's chest and yell "Clear!").

CPA Boy had this surgery on October 7. And all is well. The ICD is doing its job. He's still in the six week recovery phase but is doing fine. He still has AF and VT but the ICD and its leads to the heart are keeping them from going very far. Thank goodness for modern medical technology!

And now we are left with the medical bills. We have insurance and we have reached our large copay ($5,650) and also reached what they call out-of-pocket expenses ($5,350) so insurance should pay for everything else through 2013. (Our premiums cost about $12,000 a year so we will pay over $23,000 total this year, not counting dentist and eye doctor visits for which we have no insurance coverage.)

The Medtronic guy we talked to said the wholesale prices of pacemakers run from $4,000 to about $10,000. For the ICD the hospital billed $110,000 for the ICD and $33,000 for the two new leads. The Medtronic Revo pacemaker from the May surgery was billed for $26,125 and the lead was billed for $10,560.

I found a pricing list online for Medtronic dated May 2013. It indicates a list price of $13,000. The hospital billed us twice that. The newer Medtronic Protecta ICD was shown at a list price of $34,000.

So let's do some math! If the Revo costs Medtronic approximately $4,000 then they sell it for $13,000, more than three times its cost. The hospital turns around and doubled the price when billing us/insurance.

On the Protecta it costs approximately $10,000 for Medtronic to manufacture. They sell it for $34,000, again more than three times the cost. But this time the hospital charged $110,000, over three times its cost.

For the record, because we used a network hospital the insurance has negotiated paying a lower amount to the hospital. For the $224,088.32 they discounted the bill by a total of $166,499.31 leaving a balance of $57,589.00. That would be the maximum amount the insurance company will pay the hospital. (Interestingly, we would be on the hook for the whole amount if insurance refuses to pay.)

So it's hard to say how this works, really. If the hospital paid $34,000 for a device and they bill for that and the other costs related to an operation and overnight stay, then they are really only getting just over $23,000 to cover those expenses.

(Keep in mind that the doctor who performs the surgery bill separately; he billed $6,550 and received $2,677 from insurance.)

The $23,000 seems a reasonable amount to cover expenses. (A hospital administrator might say otherwise!) There were at least a couple of dozen different surgeries going on that same day (mostly out-patient) and if the hospital gets $23,000 a pop at say, 24 surgeries, then they are taking in over $500,000 that day as well as whatever they are getting from patients already admitted. The doctors bill separately so they are paying nursing and administrative staff as well as overhead costs.

Anyway, I realize this is less than interesting to most of you. I just really wanted to put some numbers out here for those other people scouring the Internet for information. I hope this might help someone else.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. Maybe.

I have decided that it's time to grow my hair out to its natural color. Which is white. Eeek!

I need to use a fairly dark hair color to cover the white hairs and after several years of coloring most of the length is basically black because it has soaked up so much color. I am not even sure I have any of my original dark brown anymore! If there's any left it's on the back of my head.

Generally my hair would get lighter as it grew out. But with the hair color it gets darker and ultimately LOOKS dyed. Part of this is my cheapness regarding paying hair stylists close to $100 (and spending about 3 hours at the salon) compared to $7 and 1 hour at home. 

In times past when I've grown out my hair color --- and I generally seem to do this right around vacations --- I end up with photos of myself with white hair down to my ears and the rest a dark, dark mess. Sigh.

This time I am going to try something different: chop it all off and grow it out from scratch. Right now my hair is really long, about 3 inches from my waist. It would take years to grow out the color and keep the length.

I will still need to grow it out somewhat, about 4 months worth should do it. My hair grows about 1/2 inch per month so if I can hold out for 4 months I will have a good two inches of growth in my natural color.

To help the process along I think it might be a good idea to get a shorter haircut with lots of short layers (usually I have long hair with long or no layers). My hair will be less heavy so it will "foof" and hide the roots longer. Luckily winter is coming (ooh, a Game of Thrones reference!) so I may be able to get away with wearing a hat too!

Here are the pros:
  • No more time or money spent on hair color.
  • I read on someone's blog (she was going through this process) that natural white hair is generally soft because the hair color is the main culprit making hair feel like straw.
  • If I hate it it will grow out and/or I can color it again. (If I have any of my original hair color left I can point to it and say, "Match THIS!")
  • My very dark hair will look natural instead of unnatural (the color buildup is not very pretty).
Here are the cons:
  • I might look older than my age.
  • I might look very different, going from long, dark hair to short, white hair.
  • I might look more Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables" than Halle Berry in anything.
    • For those not in the know, Anne's hair gets chopped off to an extremely short (and unflattering) length in that movie because her character is poor and she sells her hair to support her daughter. I will assume everyone knows what Ms. Berry looks like.
Here I am a few years ago (with CPA Michelle) in process of growing out my hair color (also having a shorter, layered haircut):
It's snowing on top of Mt. Kelly!
I think having a relatively young-looking face will help (thanks to my good parental genes!).

Obviously this is a huge vanity issue!

My identity seems wrapped up in having longer, darker hair. Who will I be if I have short, white hair?! Obviously, still me, but vanity is strong!

I will try to do some before and after photos (I have difficulty with the process of taking "selfies"!). My plan is to have my hair cut sometime this month.Stay tuned!

Eeeeek!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kelly's Pumpkin Carving: Scary or Just Pathetic??

I carved a jack-o-lantern yesterday for the first time in YEARS. (Usually I just get mini pumpkins for the entryway table.) And as I was trying to scrape out pumpkin guts I realized WHY it had been years since my last carving foray.

First of all, it wasn't as simple as sticking in the knife and carving! The knife went in but would stick. I wasn't able to follow my pattern with a "gentle sawing motion". I basically stabbed, yanked out and stabbed again. Eh, it got the job done but I did feel as though I was MURDERING the pumpkin.

And second, pumpkin guts are slimy and slippery. I am still a little nervous using knives with slimy, slippery textures (see: avocados and the emergency room visit a few years back). Plus all my spoons are wooden or plastic so I was having real difficulty scraping out the stringy stuff. Then I remembered our dinnerware set has a serving spoon made of metal. Hooray!

Anyway, the jack-o-lantern is supposed to look like it's screaming but it just looked overly Botoxed!

So Halloween was successful this year. The weather was perfect. (Last year it rained.) We ran out of candy around 8:20 and usually we stay "open" until 9.

We gave out full-size candy bars this year. Costco had them for the same basic price as the bags of fun size candy. And you get lots of oohs and aahs from the trick-or-treaters!

The Boy, who was dressed as a basketball referee (he had an afternoon shift at the theater and they dressed in costume), performed door duty. He does this with zeal and good humor. The kids seemed to get a kick out of a costumed candy dispenser. CPA Boy and I were watching a little TV in the family room and we heard things like:
  • Trick-or-treater: "You're a REFEREE!" 
  • The Boy: "Yes, yes I am." 
Then there was a group of boys who spent about 5 minutes at the door trading their candy bars in for something different. That led to this exchange:
  • Trick-or-treater: "Can I get doubles?"
  • The Boy; "NO."
And he was really great with the littlest trick-or-treaters, the ones so new to it they don't know what to do once candy is placed in their bag.They just stand there while their parents tell them to say thank you. But they don't move. The Boy would get down to their level and tell them "Happy Halloween!" So, so cute!

We haven't been out trick-or-treating since The Boy was in 4th or 5th grade which was about 9 or 10 years ago. What's sad is that the last time we took him out, we didn't KNOW it was the last time! The next year he went out with a bunch of friends and that was that. Having him hand out the candy was the next best thing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Books, Books and Comic Books

Here are the latest books I've read:

NON-FICTION

  • Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
    • This was a fascinating book about food and how some of it is manufactured to create "bliss points" and the ideal "mouthfeel".
      • Cheetos are designed to melt as soon as they touch your tongue in a taste of salt and flavoring but your brain apparently never quite registers them as food. So you keep eating them.
      • From my own experience, take Oreos for example. Thinking of them as a snack they really don't don't do anything for me. (My favorite cookie is chocolate chip.) But once I eat just one Oreo I can't get enough of them. And I don't even LIKE them that much!
      • My favorite factoid was that "fruit juice concentrate" is made from mainly grapes and pears from which the peels, fibrous bits and water is removed. That leaves only the fruit sugar. Thus, when a label says it contains "fruit juice concentrate" it sounds good but it really just means more sugar has been added.
  • Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed and Why It Still Matters by Roger G. Charles and Andrew Gumbel
    • Very interesting book about the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City for which two men were deemed responsible. The authors' research indicates that a larger conspiracy was responsible but that once McVeigh took credit the investigators dropped other leads. This means that, if true, a whole bunch of other people got away with the crime.
  • Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman
    • I enjoy books about religions and how they came to be. Scientology has the added dimension of a highly visible celebrity component which makes the whole thing kind of gossipy.
  • Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall
    • This was a fun little book. The author presents stories and research about various sleep maladies like night terrors, nightmares, and sleepwalking. 
    • People have killed while sleepwalking. Is it murder?
    • Because of sleep cycles West Coast teams have better odds of winning Monday Night Football than East Coast teams.
  • The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins
    • The evolutionary biologist explains how events earlier civilizations thought was magic (and developed myths to explain them) had scientific explanations.
    • Why are there day and night? What causes earthquakes and tsunamis? What is stuff made of? Who was the first man or woman? (Spoiler: no one.) Ultimately scientific method answered these questions.
    • I love science and I am not a believer of any creation myths so this book, which was beautifully illustrated by artist Dave McKean, was right up my alley.
  • Foundation: The History of England From its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd
    • I adore British history!
    • This is only the first volume of the author's history. I have read and studied the Tudor era so I know quite a bit about Henry VIII, James I and Elizabeth I. I am not as knowledgeable about the earlier kings of England. The War of the Roses, the Hundred Years War and so on are harder for me to retain the details. Too many Henrys and Richards! And I can never keep track of all the dukes.
    • In between the history chapters are shorter chapters about the lives of the common people which adds a nice dimension to the story of England.
    • The next volume about the Tudor dynasty comes out soon and I am looking forward to it.
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
    • I really got a lot out of this book. We all have habits good and bad, things we do almost unthinkingly because they are so set in our brains.
      • The author's example is about backing out of the driveway. When we first learn to drive we are overwhelmed with all the information we need to process: start the vehicle, adjust seat and mirrors, look in all the mirrors, engage the gas pedal, etc...
      • But experienced drivers just hop in the car and we rarely need to THINK about the procedures we follow to back out the driveway because the whole process has now become habitual.
      • When you first learn to do something your brain needs to work harder. Once you have done it enough times you have developed pathways in your brain so it doesn't need to work hard anymore. That's why it can be so difficult to break habits: your brain wants to take the easy way out and resort to its old set ways!
  •  Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick
    • This was recommended by Lady Chardonnay and I really liked it. I went through it pretty quickly so I still need to go through it a second time and make a list of the books I somehow missed in my youth.
    • I hadn't even heard of some of these books! During the years when we were supposed to be reading books for book report purposes I was in 7th and 8th grades (I don't recall having to do extra-curricular book reports for any of my high school classes because I think we all read the same book.). I was attending a Catholic school at that point so I am not sure how that might have affected our choice of books on the shelves in our class! 
    • But I know that the library at Sonoma Valley High was pretty good. I checked out books all the time.
    • I went through a phase where I read every available book by Paul Zindel (probably most famous for The Pigman) and there were a bunch of books about the "dark side" of teenage life: Go Ask Alice (drug use), Mr. & Mrs. BoJo Jones (pregnancy), Lisa Bright and Dark (mental illness) and so forth.
    • Ah, the 1970s!
  • The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans by Ned Sublette
    • The author gets a fellowship at Tulane University in New Orleans for the academic year 2004-2005 and is thus living there in the year before Hurricane Katrina hits.
    • It is a memoir about how he and his wife settled in the city but also takes several long trips into the local history, especially the music scene. So many jazz greats were from New Orleans and today several rap stars hail from the city too.
    • One such musician is a man named Buddy Bolden (also known as King Bolden) who played the cornet in the late 1890s and early 1900s. He had some sort of mental troubles (possibly schizophrenia) and he was admitted to an insane asylum in 1907 where he eventually died in 1931. He was a huge influence on the music form that ultimately became jazz.
      • I grew up in New Orleans and its suburbs and I had never even heard of this guy (no known recordings of him exist)! But I just purchased Hugh Laurie's two jazz albums and one of the songs is called "Buddy Bolden's Blues". It sounded familiar to another song on my iPod and it turns out I have another version of that song by Jellyroll Morton from the "Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" CD set I own. I just figured it was about some fictional character. You learn something new every day!
    • In any case, what with the violence and drug dealing in the neighborhood the author and his wife eventually leave earlier than planned. And then the hurricane came.
  • The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall
    • This book focuses on the following shows: The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.
    • The preface starts off talking about the earlier dramas who broke new ground in their time like Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and St. Elsewhere. But these newer shows, especially those from HBO's foray into the original drama programming arena, changed the way we looked at the main characters or heroes.
    • I have only seen three of these shows (Buffy, Lost and Mad Men). We didn't have HBO until about 5 or 6 years ago so I missed those earlier dramas. (Now I watch True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, Veep, and Game of Thrones. We have access to the entire HBO library but I just haven't had the time or interest to go back and watch any of them. Maybe someday. Or not.)
    • I have to admit that I skipped the chapter on Friday Night Lights. I'm sure it was a fine show and a fine chapter but I just had no interest in it.
  • Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn
    • Along with British history, I like books about mass killers. I am always fascinated by how people like Manson get these devoted followers. (I don't get it though.)
    • Having read Helter Skelter I knew much of the gist of this book but it adds more about Manson's background and brings everything up to date.
  • Seven American Deaths and Disasters by Kenneth Goldsmith
    • This isn't a book written in the normal sense. Rather Goldsmith edits and presents transcriptions of the audio from radio and television broadcasts that occurred during seven events in America: the assassinations of both JFK and RFK, The Challenger shuttle explosion, the Columbine shootings, the fall of the Twin Towers, the murder of John Lennon and the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett (they died the same day).
    • It's really interesting to see that things in the news world haven't changed much. A lot of the reporting is wrong and speculative just like that of breaking events on CNN or Fox news today.
FICTION
  • The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge
    • A rare young adult fantasy book that is self-contained in one book!
    • I enjoyed it while I read and liked it but I find it isn't having much "sticking power" in my mind.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
    • An odd bookstore, even odder customers, a mystical code and the possible secret to eternal life: what's not to enjoy?!
    • A fun book that might make a good movie as so much of it seems visual.
  • The Touch by Colleen McCullough
    • The last book I read by this author was one I DESPISED. But I had bought it eons ago and figured I might as well take a stab at it. It was okay but I am so over Colleen McCullough at this point.
  • Garden of Lies by Eileen Goudge
    • A woman has a baby girl fathered by her lover rather than her husband. Due to a hospital fire she's able to switch her daughter with another baby girl who looks more like the child she might have had with her husband. Then the story follows the two girls from there. This was pretty interesting (despite all the crazy coincidences that make stories like this possible) and has a sequel (which I'm reading now).
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Long Way Home Volume 1
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, No Future for You, Volume 2
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wolves at the Gate, Volume 3
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Time of Your Life, Volume 4
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Predators and Prey, Volume 5
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Retreat, Volume 6
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Twilight, Volume 7
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Last Gleaming, Volume 8
    • These are compilations of 6 comic book issues each of the so-called "Eighth Season" of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer".
    • Thank goodness for the library. This is the way to read these kind of things.
    • I had to read them all to conclude the storyline but I am not compelled enough to start Season Nine.
  • Angel After the Fall, Volume 1
  • Angel: First Night, Volume 2
  • Angel: After the Fall, Volume 3
  • Angel: After the Fall, Volume 4
  • Angel: Aftermath, Volume 5
  • Angel: Last Angel in Hell, Volume 6
    • These are the compilations of 6 comic book issues each of the "Sixth Season" of "Angel". 
    • Similar to the Buffy comics, this was enough and I am done with them all. Comics just aren't the same as TV in this case.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Anniversaries of September

CPA Boy and I had our 22nd wedding anniversary yesterday. We celebrated by having a late lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, watching a little TV and having the thermocouple (or something like that) replaced on our water heater. Yes, we know how to live it up, lemme tell ya!

My best friend Lady Chardonnay and I first met on September 21, 1980 so we have been friends for 33 years. In January we will reach the milestone of 1/3 of a century as best friends.

Meanwhile, she and her honey, aka Mr. Lady Chardonnay, will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow. Hmm, as a blog nickname, "The Professor" might be better but then it makes it seem as though he's a cast member of "Gilligan's Island" so we'll stick with Mr. Lady C. (Wait, shouldn't it be Dr. Mr. Lady C?!)

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Jazz Singer


Over the weekend I watched "The Jazz Singer" (starring Al Jolson) for the very first time.


Turner Classic Movies started showing the documentary "The Story of Film" (it will run for about 15 weeks on Monday nights) last week and as part of it they are showing some of the movies discuss in that week's installment.

Hasn't everyone heard of "The Jazz Singer"? The first feature-length "talkie" and all that? Or have seen clips of one of the songs, probably "My Mammy"?

And for the record I actually saw the Neil Diamond-Lucia Arnaz version in 1980 or 1981. In those college days we saw movies all the time. The movie is nothing to blog about but the songs from the film were all hits for Neil Diamond: "America", "Hello Again" and "Love on the Rocks".

The Jolson version is basically a silent film --- lots of title cards standing in for dialogue like other silent films of the era. There is a musical score throughout and some sound effects are included. Then there are sound sequences whenever there is a song. Some songs take place in the synagogue and some are pop songs of the day.

The movie itself is surprisingly compelling. Jolson's dad is portrayed by Warner Oland, the Swedish actor who spent his career playing Asian characters (most notably Charlie Chan). Will Jack Robin (the former Jakie Rabinowitz) sing in his father's place for Yom Kippur services or will he make his Broadway debut?

The acting is much as you'd expect from a silent film. To our modern eyes it's even kind of terrible! But overall I think it is pretty good for its time.

It's still kind of hard to understand --- again, to my modern eyes --- how Al Jolson was such a HUGE star in those days. But star he was even though he is mainly forgotten today except for this film. Fame is fleeting indeed.

One small complaint is that Jolson was kinda old for the role of the kid who left home to make good in show business. But this is a fact of Hollywood that still exists today. I looked up his age; he was born in 1886 and the movie was made in 1927 so he was about 41 at the time. But one thing about the early 20th Century is that people always seem to look so much older than their actual ages.

Here's a still from the movie:
It's a scene of Jack (Al's character) and his mother. The actress (Eugenie Besserer) was born in 1868 so she was about 59. Al Jolson looks at least that old too!

Think about it. Here are a few actors around 41 and 42 years old now: Matt Damon, Jeremy Renner, Nathan Fillion, Vince Vaughn, and Ethan Hawke. Freaky. Even the guys in their 50s look pretty good: George Clooney, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Tom Cruise and so on.

The one part of "The Jazz Singer" that's controversial is the fact that part of it is performed by Jolson in blackface. He performs "My Mammy" in blackface (though he's directing his performance to his own mother) and acts in one sequence in his dressing room after he's made up. Some critics contend that Jolson used blackface as a "metaphor of mutual suffering" of both blacks and Jews.

You can find many articles on the Internet about this subject so I won't go into it further than to say that you can find many examples of blackface in classic movies, usually in some musical number. There's nothing like watching a wholesome Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney film and all of a sudden, there they are, performing in blackface!

I still have so many other movies recorded on the DVR! But at least I filled in another brick of my classic film education!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cleaning the Kitchen Cupboards

I have a grocery shopping problem. I plan meals and buy the ingredients but then get too lazy to actually make the meal. This leads to expired food and comments like, "Wow, I didn't know we had that!"

CPA Boy and I went through the freezer in the garage, the refrigerator and the cupboards today. We weeded out the expired items and I made a list of everything else. For now I can plan meals with what ingredients I have and only buy milk and other fresh items as needed.

Yes, some things had expired in 2010. (And 2011. And 2012. And 2013.) Since we moved to this house in 2009 there was nothing earlier than that, thank goodness. But still, there were some pretty hideous things to toss. The chicken broth was the color of beef broth, ugh. The lemon and lime juices were vile in color and smell.

CPA Boy just kept laughing (to keep from crying I think) when he picked something up and read off the date.

I keep the cupboards relatively neat but since they are quite deep I have stuff in the front and stuff in the back. Things get lost in the shuffle.

I had NO IDEA that I had both a box AND a bag and a half of large elbow macaroni!

I had NO IDEA that I had manicotti shells!

I had NO IDEA that I had fettuccine noodles!

I had NO IDEA that I had rigatoni!

[Are you sensing a theme here? Yep, pasta is kept in the back section. (We also have spaghetti and orzo but I was aware of those!)]

I had NO IDEA we had a jar of bread and butter pickles. Yum!

I had NO IDEA how much popcorn I had! This will be my go-to snack for the next few months.

I had NO IDEA that I already had 2 large jars of Grey Poupon mustard when I bought 2 MORE jars at Costco a couple of months ago! Lots of Chicken Diane in the next months, maybe??

I had NO IDEA that I had two bags of frozen salmon filets! These have gotten very expensive, even at Costco, so I'm actually thrilled about this! We LOVE salmon.

Anyway, it's all part of my overall simplification plan. In general we are buying less stuff. Now that I know what foodstuffs we have I can plan some meals and shop less for a while. THEN I will try to get into the habit of making a weekly meal plan and then buying what I need for that week.

I can document that process when I get to it but for now we plan around the items on the list!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Catching Up with Books

These are the books I read over the last couple of months:

Non-Fiction
  • VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave by Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn and Alan Hunter
    • This is an oral history of MTV which began airing in 1981. I didn't watch MTV from the beginning as we didn't have access to cable TV at UC Santa Cruz (where I lived from 1980 to 1983). Any television we watched was on a 13-inch black-and-white set with a LOT of snow. We were too far from San Francisco as well as blocked by the Santa Cruz Mountains for good reception. When a bunch of us gathered to watch the series finale of M*A*S*H we could hear the dialogue but didn't see much of the picture!
    • Anyway, I only really got to watch MTV when I would stay at my parents' house during Winter breaks so I remember some of those early years and the original VJs.
  • Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
    • This was about the digestive process. Interesting.
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    • I thought this book was fascinating but then books about disease fascinate me. It is amazing to see how far things have come in cancer research and treatment in the last century. Excellent book. 
  • Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos
    • The story of how she and her husband Ian Gomez suffered through infertility and how they ended up becoming parents via adoption. Good memoir.
  • London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd
    • I realize it's a publishing decision but I feel books like this should have tons more pictures! 
  • MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic by Art Spiegelman
    • An oral history of how Spiegelman came to write and illustrate his graphic novel Maus, which is based on his parents' experiences of internment at Auschwitz during World War II.
Fiction
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
    • This book has a plot that is difficult to explain in a sentence! A baby is born and immediately dies. Then she is born again and lives. Until she dies again at some later date. She is basically reincarnated over and over again but is always born on the same day in 1910. Excellent book.
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
    • This is a young adult novel by the author of the Lemony Snicket books. A girl named Min writes a letter to Ed to go with the box of mementos she is returning to him explaining (duh) why they broke up. I loved this book. A little quirky but sweet. 
  • The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
    • In 1914 a woman is part of a shipwreck and ends up in one of the lifeboats. Most of the story takes place in the lifeboat with some flashbacks. I wasn't thrilled by the ending but I liked the book overall.
  • Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
    • A sweet book, first published in 1950, that reminds me of the works of Elizabeth Gaskell (like Cranford) or Flora Thompson (Lark Rise to Candleford). There isn't much of a plot but you come to know the various people who live in the village where it takes place.
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
    • I have also read A Thousand Splendid Suns by this author (most famous for The Kite Runner, which I haven't read) which I liked. In this one an Afghan father basically sells his 3-year-old daughter to a rich family to adopt. She forgets her real family while her older brother is heartbroken at the loss of his sister. Excellent.
  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis
    • A new book series for kids by the writer of the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine". Timmy Failure is the main character who runs a detective agency. Timmy thinks everyone is an idiot except himself and of course it's Timmy who's the real idiot. Since he's the narrator of the story it's very funny. Definitely an unreliable narrator!
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
    • A woman falls and hits her head thereby forgetting the last 10 years of her life. She wakes up thinking she is 29 and pregnant with her first child. She's actually 39, has 3 children and is in the midst of divorce proceedings. And then the story begins. Interesting premise. I liked it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Get Me Off This Carousel!

Ugh. I watched "Carousel" the other night. What a terrible movie! (Spoilers ahead!)

The film is lovely to look at and I like a couple of the songs very much. (I am not a big fan of "You'll Never Walk Alone" though and most people love it so obviously I am an aberration!)

But the storyline? Ye gods.

Billy Bigelow (as played by Gordon MacRae) is a horrible person with no redeeming qualities that I can see (besides his good looks which are really those of Mr. MacRae). His job is a carnival barker. He loses that job and never gets another because he has "no skills" according to his wife. The one job offer he gets he turns down flat. And his big plan to make money is to participate in a robbery and then move to San Francisco.

It does not go well. We know this from the start because Billy is shown polishing stars in a Heaven-like place so you know he'll die at some point during his flashback story.

You have to wonder what Julie Jordan (as portrayed by Shirley Jones) sees in him besides a physical attraction. Once they get married it's revealed that Billy has hit Julie because he was angry. Supposedly this only happened once but everyone refers to Billy beating his wife.

So Billy is a big ass and Julie looks just like you'd expect a downtrodden wife to look. It's a shame because Shirley Jones is so young and pretty that you want her Julie to smile and laugh rather than brood and be afraid of Billy.

Then when Billy comes down from Heaven to spend a day helping his 15-year-old daughter Louise he ends up hitting her too!

But she tells her mother it felt like a kiss, not a slap. Here's the exchange between them:

"But is it possible, Mother, for someone to hit you hard like that - real loud and hard, and it not hurt you at all?"
"It is possible dear, for someone to hit you, hit you hard, and it not hurt at all."

Ugh, again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting for Results

I had a mammogram last Friday. While the procedure is not what I'd call enjoyable, I don't mind the discomfort involved.

What I mind is the wait for the results!

In the old days you had to wait about a week for a postcard to arrive before you could breathe that sigh of relief. (Or curse your luck and start in on the extra rounds of mammogram closeups, sonograms and biopsies for one boob or the other. Fun.)

I wonder if they still do this. Privacy laws for health-related things are fairly strict. They must have switched to an envelope system rather than a postcard. Because your mail deliverer doesn't need to see your results before you do! "Good morning, Mrs. Smith! I see your boobs are still cancer-free!"

Luckily, my results are all available online within a couple of days --- no more postcards or envelopes arriving a week later! --- as long as I go through the Sutter doctors. (When I have lost weight I always like to log in and look at the graph with the line going down!)

Anyway, my results are in and I can breathe a sigh of relief for another year! Yay!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Searching for the Perfect House

Turns out, there really is no such thing. Too expensive. Needs too much work. Too old. Weird layout. Doesn't get cable. So many possibilities to pooh pooh!

We went to three open houses on Sunday and each one was just a bit odd.

The first was a one-story, five bedroom place in Rohnert Park. There were three bedrooms down one hall and the other two bedrooms were on the other side of the house. It turns out they were added on. The hallway was barely wider than my hips. (Yeah, yeah, keep your snotty comments to yourself!)

So that was kind of odd. But then there was the laundry room. It was a small rectangular room with a sink (a fun feature we've never had in a house and would come in handy for rat cage cleaning day) and a counter and shelves.

The thing is, if you actually put a washer and dryer into the room there would be maybe two feet between the appliances and the counter! There would be no actual room for a (wide hipped) person to get laundry in or out of the dryer! And you'd have to lift the washer and dryer OVER the sink and the counter. (Obviously the counter would need to be removed for the laundry room to even become functional!)

The other two house had issues too but the one that stuck out the most to me were the ovens. They were so small the Keebler Elves would disdain them! What always cracks me up about these small ovens is how the realtor always tells you how much fun it will be to go shopping for new ovenware!

SERIOUSLY?!!! I already have a collection of ovenware that I have no desire to downsize! Including the turkey roasting pan I bought a couple of years ago. Which will not fit into those wee ovens. CPA Boy may be Keebler Elf size (CPA Boy says, "Hey! Wait a minute now!") but we want a regular size oven! Or two!

We actually have two normal-size ovens in our current home. The people who sold us our house had replaced all the appliances and they replaced the microwave/oven combo for an oven/oven combo. We had to purchase our own microwave. Except for the counterspace the microwave takes up we love having the double ovens.

Of course the question is, you have a perfectly nice house, why do you want to move?

Well, we don't WANT to, really, but we think it would be better to have a one-story house and a place where there's NO homeowners' association!

CPA Boy does not go up stairs easily so that's the main reason. But I hate the HOA. That's the other reason.

When you buy a home in an HOA you get disclosures informing you of all the rules and regulations you will need to follow once you move in. So it's not like I didn't know any of this going in but reading about something and living with it are two different things!

We cannot park a car on the street from midnight to 7 am. Why? It's the rule. When we first lived here we only had two cars and a two-car garage. Now we have three cars and the same two-car garage. The Boy parks behind me every night. When I go out I need to move his car first so I can get mine out of the garage.

And now one of the board members of the HOA is on a mission to keep cars from parking in DRIVEWAYS overnight. Until The Boy moves out --- insert huge laugh here! --- we will always have 3 cars and a two-car garage. I'm not sure what the board member plans to make us do about this.

We can't plant anything in the front or back yards without getting permission first. We can only select from a tiny selection of colors when we paint our house. We need to get a parking permit for overnight guests which costs $25 and is only good for 2 weeks. (An issue when CPA Boy's sister was staying here while her husband was in the hospital for several weeks.)

What we'd really like to do is buy the large dinosaur sculpture and put it in the corner of our yard so it looks down on the golfers who pass by on the golf path next to our house. But it's not allowed. Nothing should be visible over your fence in case anybody might see it. Or something.

When we first moved in there was a very large tree out front that had a large branch failure which hit our garage and driveway. It was pure hell trying to get permission to remove the tree which our arborist (yes, we have an arborist. Doesn't everyone?!) said would only have more branch failures. The tree was a 15-year-old ornamental pear, not a protected redwood or anything. (We were actually supposed to replace it with another tree but I haven't decided which kind of tree to plant. It will take a few more years of deliberating I fear.)

And the latest thing the HOA wants to do is put homes in groups of 6 or 8 and make us all responsible for each other in case of an emergency. They will let us know what supplies we are supposed to have on hand and so on. (I have nothing against helping my fellow neighbors in an emergency, by the way.)

Nobody likes a nanny state. We live in a nanny HOA.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do We Even NEED Pinkie Fingers?

Yes. Yes, we do. Not that you'd know from my actions over the last couple of years.

Almost two years ago I badly sliced my left pinkie finger while pitting an avocado. And I mean badly: Four stitches and some nerve damage.

The worst part: it cost just over $3,000! (Insurance doesn't kick in until we pay large deductibles.)

It was one of those really stupid things. We had just purchased some new knives and I was used to my old, dull knives. Not a good combo.

I still make guacamole from scratch but I tend to order it in restaurants more frequently. WAY cheaper than an emergency room visit.

And did I mention that the numbing shots before the stitches hurt worse than the cut itself?

Add in the embarrassment of showing up at the ER in my "around the house, don't go out in public" clothes and then actually running into people you know in the waiting room.

Classic.

But that was then. This is now.

Monday night I was slicing cucumbers into the salad bowl using the mandolin slicer. I hadn't used it before and I was trying to gauge cucumber slice thickness and was reaching for the device that holds the food while you slice it. But something went wrong and I sliced  my RIGHT pinkie finger quite badly on the mandolin blade.

This was not a situation that called for stitches so no emergency room visit this time. (I really should get dressed up when I make dinner. Just in case. Apparently.) But it bled for hours. I'm still nauseous at the thought.

I decided to visit one of the nurse practitioners at my doctor's office to get it checked out yesterday. (We have long since reached our insurance deductible this year so there should be no extra cost for this office visit.)

I made her laugh with my litany of body parts I like about myself and how each one has let me down and that obviously my life lesson this month is to stop being vain about my youthful-looking hands.

(See? It's an illness: Hand vanity, a.k.a. Kelly Syndrome!)

She said it was akin to a burn and would heal fine. I got some antibiotic cream to use. And I keep my pinkie delicately extended so I don't hit the bandage (it's still pretty sore).

Luckily I've run out of pinkie fingers to scar. Two major wounds in two years is plenty.

And one last story: I did a search on the Internet about treating the injury. I found one message board where the husband was describing his wife's injury which was just like mine (pinkie, mandolin) and he included a link to the YouTube video of the injury! There was a warning about "lots of blood". Ya think?

Because when you are bleeding and in pain, nothing helps like whipping out the smart phone to record the whole thing. I need to remember that next time. Guh.

And my favorite quote from the search? "I bought a mandolin --- but they didn't say there'd be blood!"

Monday, July 8, 2013

Twitchy

Ugh! Every once in a while I get a twitchy eyelid. And it lasts for DAYS. So irritating. I'm pretty sure it's some sort of a stress-related issue (likely due to a possible house sale and purchase). Gotta say it's better than a stress-related migraine!

CPA Boy and I looked at three houses on Friday. One we ruled out pretty quickly: a small house on an acre of property. The house itself is cute (real estate speak for small) but they are asking $850,000 for it! And it's a modular home which means you order the pieces and it all gets put together on site. (Manuafactured homes are those on wheels like you'd find in trailer parks, modular homes are pre-fab.) Seems a little pricey!

Another one we looked at had a pool and a poolhouse that obviously served as an apartment for a teenage daughter. It was a mess! The house itself was nice but unfortunately was a two-story where the garage was on the ground level and most of the living quarters on the upper level. Sorry, CPA Boy, no pool for you!

The third house we visited was huge with a great backyard. Lots of deck, little yard maintenance. And a grape arbor! With grapes! The inside needs some work as it was built in 1987; the kitchen looks it. But it has possibilities.

Tomorrow we look at a few more houses, two in Novato which is about 15 miles south of here. I guess we'll see.

Next week CPA Boy is flying to audit a client in Maryland.

No wonder my eyelid is twitchy!

And PS: My best friend Lady Chardonnay made me a Kelly avatar a while ago which I FINALLY uploaded to my blog site. Isn't it cute?! (She's holding an Oscar award while standing next to a pile of books.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Teenager

The Boy just turned 20 a couple of days ago. His dad and I were out looking at houses and when when we got back our son came out of his room, said goodbye and left for the whole day. He hung out with his best friend Red Beard (and Red Beard's parents).

We didn't do anything for The Boy's birthday because there was no boy around.

(Okay, we wallowed just a little bit about the fact that we have a 20-year-old son but that's it.)

(Okay, we also had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen.)

Our son is in the phase of his life where hanging out with his parents is anathema. He'd rather hang out with his friend's parents. Sigh.

I have heard from other parents of boys that they break away and then come back around and appreciate their parents again. I look forward to that day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

And the Heat Goes On...

Ugh. It has been HOT for over a week now. This is the longest heat wave I can remember around here.

Our weather in Petaluma is generally wonderful during the summers. We have cool nights in the 50s and warm days, usually in the 70s and 80s. And lots of fog too.

As for high heat, we experience several heat waves during the summer usually lasting about 3 to 4 days where temperatures reach into the 90s and occasional low 100s. But the nights are still generally cool and give you and your house a chance to recover from the heat of the day.

THIS heat wave has included very warm nights. This makes a difference to the temperature in the house because the heat just builds and builds. (We really need to install some attic vents because it's so well insulated up there the heat never escapes.)

The only real comfort comes in staying directly under a ceiling fan and when you feel you can't take it anymore, there's air conditioning!

In order for the upstairs to be remotely comfortable the air condition needs to stay on for HOURS. I am way too cheap to do that! So I have avoided my office for a week. Hence, the lack of blog posting.

Today is supposed to get to a high in the low 90s and last night was definitely cooler thanks to a wonderful ocean breeze (we are about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean).

Yesterday Pops and I did our usual shopping but we started at 8 instead of 10. It was actually really nice to be in stores because they were practically empty. We think earlier shopping may be the way to go.

Meanwhile we are still looking at houses and seeing very little to excite us. We are going to look at a couple of places on Friday though. We have already looked at one of them during an open house but the owner was also the realtor and he followed us around like a bad smell. So we glanced about and left. I'm not sure if he thought we'd steal something or if he was just trying to be "helpful". This time either he won't be there or our agent can keep him occupied while we look around.

I'm off to get a few more upstairs things done before it gets too hot up here!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Drowning in Paperwork

Because CPA Boy has had so many procedures in the hospital this year we have many medical bills. And the thing is this: every single bill means at least 3 to 5 sheets of paper to sort through.

You get a pacemaker. The hospital sends you a statement with the words "THIS IS NOT A BILL" on top. It tells you the full cost of the procedure and that they have submitted the charge to insurance. They send these monthly until the insurance company pays so you sometimes end up with 2 or more of the "not a bills".

Then insurance pays and an explanation of benefits (EOB) is generated. I log into the insurance website and print them out to match to the hospital (not a) bill.

And I also have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything! Each EOB is logged and I can tell at a glance where we are on meeting the deductible or whether I've paid a bill yet.

The hospital will finally get around to sending a statement with the words "THIS IS A BILL" on it.

And each of these statements, whether a bill or not, includes a pay envelope which go right into the recycling because I pay on-line or over the phone with a credit card.

Then I make piles of each item and match them up. And because a pacemaker doesn't insert itself, the doctor bills you, the anesthesiologist bills you and there are sometimes separate hospital bills for lab work.

This year our insurance has a deductible of $5,650. So we pay 100% of every bill that comes through up to that amount. But then we have what is called "out-of-pocket" costs of $11,000.

After we reach the $5,650 insurance starts paying 70% and we pay 30% until we reach $11,000 (5,650 deductible + 5,350 out-of-pocket). This only happens in years when we have some sort of surgery. Most years we just pay for a few visits to the doctors, prescriptions and flu shots and never even reach the deductible.

And that doesn't even count how much we pay in insurance premiums every year! That's another $10,000!

But without insurance the doctors and hospital would make us pay 100% of their bills. That amount so far is just over $105,000. Obviously paying $21,000 is better than paying $105,000 (and that will go up as the year progresses).

What's really interesting is the comparison to how much is billed and how much insurance lowers with "patient savings" (this is the deal each insurance company works out with medical providers).

For example, the angiogram at the hospital was billed for $28,543.40. Insurance deducted $19,057.40 so the hospital only gets a total of $9,846 (part from the insurance company and part from us).

For the pacemaker, the charge from the hospital was $61,828.36 and the savings was $41,146.03 meaning they will receive $20,682.33 (again, part from insurance and part from us).

You have to wonder how much things really cost! Does an angiogram really cost $28,000 or is it really closer to $9,800? Does a pacemaker procedure cost $62,000 or $21,000?

Presumably the hospital would not be willing to accept an amount lower than the actual costs but I'm not sure that's the case. Perhaps there are people without insurance who are struggling to pay the full amount. Maybe it averages out.

Time Magazine had an amazing cover story a few weeks ago about this very subject. One of its points is that there needs to be greater transparency in medical pricing.

People can't really shop around because hospitals don't offer pricing guides for comparison and then many people need hospital services on an emergency basis and don't have the luxury to compare prices.

So this is where our money goes this year. (Our last big medical expense year was 2010 when I had some female surgery and The Boy had a procedure on his leg.)

(I'm completely ignoring the entire political healthcare debate. I don't believe this is a partisan problem. It would be nice if there were bi-partisan solutions though!)

And that's why I'm drowning in paperwork!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Big Ten

Down, CPA Boy. This is NOT any kind of college football related post. Well, except for this amazingly STUPID fact:

The Big Ten has TWELVE teams in it!

And corresponding to this, the Big 12 has TEN teams.

Huh?!

THIS is one of the many reasons college football is stupid. I am so very glad I went to a college that eschewed football.

I'm guessing I will get an explanation for this Big Ten/Big 12 situation at dinner tonight. Joy. 

But back to the regularly scheduled post about BOOKS.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I read the following ten books over the last six weeks:

  • Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan
    • Vampires, werewolves, the minotaur, Medusa, Charibdys, dragons, etc...
    • The author delves into history and comes up with some pretty good scientific explanations for the creatures that have terrified humanity over the ages. Rabies, a scourge for much of human history, explains a lot of the vampire and werewolf hallmarks. Earthquakes help explain the underground rumbling of the minotaur in its labyrinth. Earthquakes and tsunamis can explain the whirlpool of Charibdys. A really interesting book.
  • Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary by Denis Kitchen & Michael Schumacher
    • Capp wrote one of the classic comic strips, "Li'l Abner" (which ran from 1934 to 1977). Turns out the guy was an absolute asshole. He cheated heavily on his wife, took petty vengeance on fellow cartoonists, lied about everything, and, worst of all, was a sexual predator. He made many appearances on college campuses and when he got some co-ed alone he would sexually assault her. In his day he one of the most famous men in America so he was able to get away with it for a while. 
    • It's funny how famous Al Capp was and how popular "Li'l Abner" was (the strip generated tons of merchandizing, movies and plays) and yet he's largely forgotten today. 
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
    • I really enjoyed this book. I love fonts even though I am terrible at identifying most of them. 
    • My favorite font is called Comic Sans. It's a simple font based on the lettering style of comic books which probably explains why I like it so much, says the woman with 6 boxes of comic books in her closet. Apparently most people HATE Comic Sans. I had no idea! The whole first chapter of this book details this hate. Here's what it looks like:
    • ComicSansSpec3.svg 
    • I don't care; I still love it.
    • The book also includes an overview of the history of typography which was fascinating.
  • Mary & Lou & Rhoda & Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Armstrong
    • This book was a quick, fun read. I grew up watching CBS on Saturday nights in the 1970s. The Fall season in 1973 lineup was All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show.  This is widely considered to be the best lineup ever.
    • My favorite fact was that Georgia Engel, who played Georgette, was only 24 years old when she started on the show! (At the time Ted Knight, who played her love interest, was about 50.)
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    • LOVED this book! It had an unusual structure which made its final twist shocking and heartbreaking. It's categorized as a young adult novel but this is historical fiction for any age. A British woman is caught in Nazi-occupied France and imprisoned and tortured as a spy. She is given the option to write out her confession. No spoilers here! 
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
    • I was intrigued when I read the synopsis for this book: the daughter of a prostitute in 1950 New Orleans tries to rise above her beginnings. The book was fine but I don't remember much about it. 
    • So many novels set in New Orleans seem to take place in the French Quarter. I never knew anyone that actually LIVED in the French Quarter (except, I think, my Uncle Al stayed there briefly at some point). Most of my family members and family friends lived Uptown or in the suburbs. I think the French Quarter was a combination of too decrepit or too expensive so either really poor people lived there or really rich people had homes there. In any case, I am kinda tired of French Quarter novels
  • Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick
    • The final volume of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. A perfectly fine ending with all the main characters ending up at some sort of pinnacle. As one reviewer on Good Reads noted: "all the girls are apparently astoundingly gifted in their individual talent areas (by the end of the book we have a fashion designer getting bites in Paris, a published author, a national hockey champion, and a national singing contest finalist)." It's nice to see characters you like succeed but this really was a little over the top! 
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
    • The first of 13 Sookie Stackhouse novels. Quick, fun read. I also watched the first season of "True Blood" the TV series based on these books. I like the show better so I will stick with that instead of reading books 2-13.
  • Locke & Key: Volume 5: Clockworks by Joe Hill
    • The second to last compilation of a comic book miniseries. The final volume should be out this summer and I can't wait to see how it all ends.
  • Joyland by Stephen King
    • An interesting story built around a murder mystery. The action takes place at a North Carolina amusement park in 1973. I enjoyed it because I generally like Stephen King's work but also because I worked at an amusement park in 1982. I only worked there for 2 months but the memory of it looms so much larger in my mind. We had no murder mystery at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk though. (But we had polyester uniforms!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Would You Do Without Best Friends?

The Boy broke up with The Girl last night. He is sad but said he is strong and will "recover and rebound." Poor baby.

After the sad event last night, his best friend Red Beard was waiting for him across the street at the 7-11. He gave The Boy a ride home and also bought him a lottery ticket and a Playboy magazine. ("I didn't win," says my son.) 

But he obviously won in the best friend department! They have been best pals since kindergarten. Red Beard is one of the good guys. (As is my son of course!)

So a special shout out to my own BF, Lady Chardonnay! She has always been there whenever I had man trouble. Which was a constant state of affairs --- pun intended --- during our college years.

I should mention too that our motto back then was "Men are scum." (And "Cows are killers." Don't ask.) 

But The Boy and Red Beard aren't scum! I am glad they have each other for support.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Start and Stop

Lately I have been starting books that I end up not finishing for one reason or another. A far cry from my younger days when I would plow through until the bitter end on almost every book I picked up. 

(Exceptions include The Celestine Prophecy, The Bridges of Madison County and Lord of the Flies.)

I got a book called The 5th Wave from the library which is another post-apocalyptic young adult novel. I was really enjoying it and was wondering if it was a complete-in-one-novel story or the start of another series. Turns out to be book one in a trilogy. This means the next two books won't be published until (probably) 2014 and 2015. So I set it aside to take back to the library.

I had read the first two books of another young adult trilogy earlier this year: Lauren Oliver's Delirium novels. The final book was released recently and I got it at the library. When I went to pick it up and start reading I realized that I had no memory of the first two books! So I figured that there was no point wasting time on a book whose first two volumes failed to instill excitement about the third! Back to the library it went!

The latest Dan Brown novel just came out. It's called Inferno. I'm in line for it at the library but in the meantime I thought I'd pick up a couple other of his books I hadn't read yet: Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. I read The Da Vinci Code years ago (but never saw the movie). As I got into Angels and Demons I realized it was very similar to The Da Vinci Code. Secret society causes mayhem, puzzles abound, Robert Langdon saves the day. Yep, back into the "return to library" basket.

And for the record, I have an actual plastic basket (it's red!) that I use to keep the books in so they are all in one safe spot. I go to the library about once a week so I almost always have something to return. I really do wish the people at the library were nicer though. No one ever chats with me when I'm checking out. They just scan my books and hand me the receipt. Oh well. 

Because the media was covering the fact that the last Sookie Stackhouse book was coming out --- oh, happy day! a completed series! --- I picked up the first book of the series. The name escapes me; they all have the word "dead" in the title. The book was fine and I watched a few episodes of the HBO series, which was really good, much better than the book.

Then I requested the next two books in the series. And realized quickly that this was a 13 book series. I really don't want to read 12 more books about Sookie. And I think the TV show seems more interesting. So those 2 books went into the red basket.

What's left? I have a zillion other books to choose from thanks to my long membership in Paperback Swap. It's funny though: I have the first 2 books of Justin Cronin who has written a horror trilogy (The Passage and The Twelve). They will stay on my shelf until the final book gets published! I read the first book in Deborah Harkness' series, A Discovery of Witches. I have the next book on my shelf but I will wait until the final book is out before reading the second book.

I am getting harder to please and/or I am no longer willing to waste my time.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Garage Sale and Other "Fun" Things

I have been so BUSY! We had a garage sale yesterday (made about $550) and the prep work took hours.

The house is still a riotous mess:
  • piles of books everywhere that I have warned CPA Boy to LEAVE ALONE because they are organized: 
    • some to Goodwill
    • some to the shelf where I keep my books for trading on Paperback Swap
    • some to go back on the bookcase
    • some to go to the "to-be-read" bookcase
So every time I pass by CPA Boy (right now he's watching a hockey playoff game) he says, "I moved your books!" Guh.

And I bought a new vacuum cleaner over a month ago and it's still in the box.

We are very tentatively thinking about buying a different house for myriad reasons: I hate the homeowners' association, for one thing.

Anyway, I need to fix a couple of things around the house in the next couple of weeks. Or at least call and schedule the proper people to do it for us. For example, the bathroom mirror in The Boy's bathroom slid down the back splash tiles onto the counter and needs to get re-affixed to the wall properly. Otherwise you can see a 4-inch swath of the previous wallpaper (it has sailboats and baskets of apples, two things that really don't go together). The current wallpaper is a cream and burgundy vertical stripe.

The day the mirror slid down we heard a huge BOOM noise and had no idea what it was until later that night when The Boy came downstairs and said, "You might want to look at this." Thankfully, it held in place and didn't tumble forward over the counter.

Then CPA Boy has another heart-related procedure scheduled on Thursday. We think this should be the last one for this for a while. Then there's the whole leg pain issue which the doctor's now think is completely unrelated to the heart issues.

CPA Boy had a muscle and nerve study done a couple of weeks ago. The nerve portion involved a device (kind of shaped like a taser) sending electrical signals and taking readings. He has no nerve damage which is good. The muscle study involved poking his legs in various spots with an acupuncture-type needle and taking readings. He definitely has some sort of muscle issue. So we will get referred to the next specialist (probably at UC San Francisco) presumably sometime in June.

The pacemaker is working as it should so that's good. Since CPA BOY was asymptomatic before he got the pacemaker he really feels no different since he got it. The doctors keep asking, "Do you feel more energetic? Have you noticed a change?" Nope, still the same. The muscle/nerve doctor called him a zebra. Most patients are horses and their health issues fall into a normal range. Zebras are medical mysteries and the doctors LOVE them.

Kind of a scattered post today but that's what's going on here. Another busy week coming up so we'll see if I get back here any time soon. I hope so!
  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Bionic Husband

Sorry for not writing a post updating the situation with CPA Boy. We have been so very tired this week that we took lots of naps and watched lots of TV, things that took no brain activity. Everything's fine but we just needed to decompress a bit!

We got to the hospital early on Monday morning and were on our way home by noon. (I believe we were both napping by 2 pm!)

Here he is before the procedure:
"The nurses love me!"

And after, with new pacemaker in place (the blob of bandages just above the sling):
"I went to the hospital and all I got is a souvenir pacemaker!"

The pacemaker itself is just below the surface of the skin but there was a large gauze pad over the top. That came off before his first shower a couple of days later and now there are steri-strips keeping everything together for healing.

All the nurses thought he was adorable (which he is of course!). The whole pacemaker procedure only took about 20 minutes. Since he only had a local anesthetic he was much more alert afterwards than with the angiogram where he was much groggier and slept for several hours before we went home. The doctor apparently likes his pacemaker patients to hang out for three hours after the procedure. We did that and then stopped to get some sandwiches to eat at home. Then the aforementioned naps began...

CPA Boy's heart rate is now a much more normal 60 beats per minute rather than the 30-35 it was before. He gets to wear the sling mainly to keep him from using his arm unnecessarily and when we go out in public it's a good way to let people know to keep from jostling him accidentally.

This coming week is filled with 3 different doctor appointments wherein we find out what's next in the chain of events leading to long-lasting good health for CPA Boy.

This journey is not over yet --- we still need to address the painful leg issue and the rest of the heart trouble --- but we finally feel we have moved along the path. Up until Monday morning everything was one diagnostic test or another. The pacemaker is an actual treatment course.

I hope to post something more frivolous soon. Medical stuff is SO stressful and serious!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tomorrow, Tomorrow??

Okay, the pacemaker for CPA Boy is scheduled again for tomorrow. We need to be at the hospital by 6:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the MRI results came back and the vascular surgeon went over them with us. It's a very odd situation, where fatty tissue has taken up the place where muscle tissue should be located in his thighs and back. The term for this is "muscular dystrophy" but whether it has anything to do with the childhood disease (the one with the telethon) is unknown at this time. I think the plan is to see a specialist sometime after the heart issues are corrected.

CPA Boy's legs, like those of a lot of men, are little skinny toothpicks. The lack of musculature may be connected to the heart trouble; it may not. It's always frustrating when you don't have answers.

Every single doctor is stunned that a low-risk patient is having these troubles. No smoking, no drinking, regular exerciser (swimming 3 to 5 hours a week), not overweight. Crazy.

So if the procedure is not postponed again, tomorrow CPA Boy will be on his way to becoming a bionic man...but for significantly less than $6 million.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Always More Than I Remember

I haven't made a book list post since early March. I really thought I had read only one or two books but when I went to check it turned out to be 11. Not bad.

  • Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties by Lucy Moore
    • I had high hopes for this book. I watch "Boardwalk Empire" and I watched the Ken Burns documentary about Prohibition so I had a certain familiarity with the topic.
    • This is one of those books that is not newly researched but rather a narrative based on other sources. I hate these kind of books. (I know I read one a few months back that used Wikipedia as a source!)
    • Lots of mistakes too. One quick example: In the narrative body an actress is referred to as "Mary Miles Minton" but in the index at the end she is named correctly as "Mary Miles Minter".
  • The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean
    • Fun fact: the author's parents are named Gene and Jean Kean!
    • Interesting book about DNA by the same author of The Disappearing Spoon, another fun book about the chemical elements.
  • I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies by Jeanine Basinger
    • Really interesting when you have seen the movie she's referring to but not so interesting when you haven't seen it.
  • Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik & Monica Murphy
    • Totally fascinating book about rabies. The book posits that werewolves, vampires and zombies in literature all sprang from the terror of rabies, a horrifying and incurable disease for almost all of its history.
  • The Wonderful Future That Never Was: Flying Cars, Mail Delivery by Parachute and Other Predictions from the Past by the Editors of "Popular Science" Magazine
    • A compilation of pictures and articles from "Popular Science" through the 1960s.
  • What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
    • A compilation of articles Gladwell wrote for "The New Yorker".
    • My favorite articles were about ketchup versus mustard and the history of hair dye and advertising.
  • The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
    • Hmm, in hindsight, I am not even sure I finished this book: I remember NOTHING about it.
  • The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
    • Takes place in New York City in the 1870s in the slums and brothels of the time. Supposedly there was a belief that a man could be cured of syphilis (or whatever ailment) if he had sex with a virgin. This book is about the girls in a brothel that specializes in this. The ending kind of fizzles out so I ended up disappointed with it.
  • Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
    • This might be the start of a book series. It's about a society where people die and are soon reincarnated in a newborn. They grow up with all memories of their prior lives and have done so for thousands of years. Then someone dies but the baby born is a brand new soul. Society freaks out.
  • Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
    • This is the first book in a new young adult series about a Victorian era finishing school where the girls are taught, um, etiquette and espionage. LOVED IT! I really enjoyed the author's other series The Parasol Protectorate.
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
    • Time travel story where a man goes back to 1958 and plans to stop Oswald from assassinating Kennedy 5 years later. Really enjoyed this one despite the heft of the book. My wrists are still sore from holding it up; THIS is what Kindles are for!
I started --- but didn't finish --- The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend and 1493: Uncovering the new World Columbus Created. They were actually both extremely interesting and I will pick them up again at a future time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Maybe Next Week?

CPA Boy got no pacemaker today.

It took several attempts trying to explain our concerns before the two nice gentlemen from Medtronic finally GOT it and got us the answers we needed.

The Medtronic company makes the pacemaker that CPA Boy will eventually get: the "Revo" model. You CAN get an MRI once you have this particular pacemaker --- but only 6 weeks after its installation. One nurse had said, "You can have an MRI the next day!" Um, no.

Anyway, the surgeon called off the surgery and sent us home but we made a detour and stopped by the primary care doctor's office --- we'll call him Dr. Jan --- to see about scheduling the damn MRI.

Dr. Jan was very kind and apologetic about our frustrating search for answers. Then he pretty much spent his lunch hour with us, going over EVERY test result and explaining the problems and putting all the puzzle pieces together.

By this time a fasting CPA Boy was hungry so we went to our favorite fish and chips restaurant for a late lunch. After lunch we got a call from Dr. Jan's office saying the MRI was scheduled for 4:30. At this point it was only 3:30 so we just went and sat in the waiting room. Which turned out to be a good thing because....

....One small complication: the MRI questionnaire tries to ascertain if you have any metal in your body. One question was, "Have you ever done any welding?" The answer was yes because CPA Boy used to work summers at his uncle's welding shop during his high school years.

A quick eye x-ray was needed to make sure no metal shards existed. Who knew that a welding job 30 years earlier could have possible repercussions?!

The MRI itself only took about 20 minutes. Then we stopped by the mall in Santa Rosa so I could get a phone case from the Apple Store (it's pink!) and CPA Boy could get some Mrs. Fields cookies to treat himself. We got home after 6.

So my husband is not yet on his way to becoming the bionic man. Maybe later this week or next week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hearts, Moons, Stars and Clovers

We have been having a crazy month. Blogging has not been on the radar. So a little catch up is in order...

CPA Boy started having pains in his legs starting several months ago. At first the pain was just annoying, like when you pull a muscle. But the pulled muscle eventually heals. This pain got worse. So painful that even swimming was too difficult.

This caused CPA Boy's first doctor's appointment in more than 15 years!

The doc checked him out and scheduled an ultrasound of his legs. At the follow-up appointment we learned that CPA Boy had some sort of blockages in the veins (or arteries? or both?). This was almost two months ago and we still aren't really clear about the cause or nature of the blockages.

Except this: blockages = bad.

CPA Boy was referred to a vascular surgeon for the next step. But before he left his doc's office the nurse ran an EKG and sent the doc back in. Since CPA Boy was getting ready to fly to the East Coast for an audit (and a hockey game in Philadelphia) he was IMMEDIATELY referred to a cardiologist so they could clear him to travel the following Monday.

He was NOT cleared and the trip was cancelled.

After having a few more tests --- ultrasound (no blockages in the carotid arteries, which is good), angiogram (which showed no heart blockages, which is good) and a chest x-ray --- we have learned that CPA Boy suffers from atrial fibrillation and he also has a very low heart ejection fraction.

For a-fib cardiologists generally prescribe meds to lower the heart rate and the blood pressure since most cases of it cause fast heart rate and higher blood pressure. Since CPA Boy is the opposite --- very low heart rate and low blood pressure --- they can't treat him with meds.

As for the ejection fraction, healthy people generally have a rate of 60 to 70. Between 50-60 they keep an eye on you. Between 40-50 they may start some sort of treatment. Between 30-40 is VERY serious.

CPA Boy has an ejection fraction of 25.

He also had a CAT scan this past Monday. We have no idea what it showed (the appointment to get the results from the vascular surgeon is scheduled for next Wednesday) but it did prompt his regular doctor to schedule an MRI due to leg "muscle atrophy" (we don't know if this is serious or minor).

Meanwhile, based on the other tests, the cardiologist had recommended that CPA Boy get a pacemaker to help some of the heart issues because there is nothing they can do with meds to treat him for a-fib or the ejection fraction. It seems an extreme step --- CPA Boy is only 48 --- and you need to get then replaced every 5-10 years as long as you live. But it seems to be the best option.

All of this has converged to this past Friday. The pacemaker is scheduled for Monday morning but we don't know if the MRI is a critical test that must be performed first or if it can wait for a few weeks. No doctor was available Friday to answer any questions leaving us confused.

Nowadays you can get pacemakers that are safe in case you need an MRI but you need to wait several weeks after its insertion first.

So we will go to the hospital on Monday morning and the nurse in the cardiac department said she would coordinate with the doctors to see what needs to be done. MRI first, then pacemaker the following week? Pacemaker Monday and MRI somewhere down the line?

And to complicate issues, insurance needs to approve any procedures first. We just got pacemaker approval but don't have MRI approval yet.

And CPA Boy has to have blood work done each time he has a procedure. He feels like a human pin cushion.

The crazy thing is, ignoring all the leg and MRI stuff, there is still one more heart procedure that needs to happen AFTER the pacemaker is implanted: a trans-esophageal echo-cardiogram (aka TEE). That is supposed to take place a week after the pacemaker.

We will know more on Monday. We hope. I guess that's one of the issues when you have several doctors working on your case; they don't always coordinate with each other.

So pull out all of your lucky charms and think good thoughts for CPA Boy's health!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

(Anti-) Social Networks

There are so many social networks these days. I belong to some of them but I don't think I really get much use out of most of them.

I belong to these networks:

Facebook: Once you have an account you can connect to other people you know. Search their name and send a friend request. Facebook uses "status updates" where you can post any comment, picture, video or link to another website. You can update your status never, rarely, daily or every minute. I am a rare status updater, maybe once every other month. Some of the people I connect to post several times a day. Everyone does what works for them.

One issue I have with Facebook is this: to do certain things on the site you need to "allow" the third party apps access to your info. I don't allow any other apps because I think many of them tend to be spam generators.  The birthday app is especially insidious. In other words, you may receive a birthday greeting from someone who used the birthday app and it then accesses all of your friends' information and starts sending birthday greetings on your behalf. And so on.

Twitter: Once you belong to Twitter you can "tweet" thoughts and comments up to 140 characters. You can also follow other tweeters. I really think this is a platform tailor made for people who have smart phones (I do not have one).

I could use Twitter to do things like ask celebrities questions or vote for my favorite couple on Dancing with the Stars. I have no real desire to ask anyone anything and while I do vote for DWTS I just go to the ABC website to do it. And I don't know anyone personally who tweets so there's no one to read my comments if I make any! I mainly use it to follow a handful of celebs. Overall it's not my thing.

Pinterest: This is a virtual bulletin board. If you are browsing the Internet and come across something you want to buy or make you can "pin" it. That way you don't need to remember every website you visit. Say you find a really great recipe on a blog. Instead of bookmarking the blog or trying to find it again later you just pin it to your recipes board on your Pinterest account. Now all of your recipes will be in the same place.

But for some people Pinterest is so much more. You can just pin pretty pictures if you want. I used it briefly for a few food items and some things I wanted to purchase. I can see the appeal but I just wasn't interested in pinning things. If I see a recipe I like I print it out and put it into my recipe binder in the kitchen!

Google+: Another site like Facebook but I don't use it. My account exists but I rarely look at it.

(Can you see that the Internet is wasted on me?!)

Blogger: The website I use for blogging purposes. (Other blogging site include Blogspot and Live Journal.)


There are so many more I don't use!

Linkedin is a business networking site. Since I don't work in the corporate world anymore there is no need for me to be a part of it (CPA Boy probably belongs to it). Some woman named Kim Gordon keeps sending me a request to join her network but I think it's spam so I just delete her e-mails.

Instagram looks pretty interesting. This is another one where a smart phone would be necessary. Apparently you take pictures with your phone's camera and upload them to Instagram via an app. I might seriously consider using this if I ever get a smart phone.

Flickr and Tumblr are two sites that apparently eschew the letter E. Flickr appears to be an image-hosting site for bloggers. Tumblr is a microblogging site that seems to feature mainly images and short videos.

Foursquare and GetGlue are "check-in" based sites. With Foursquare you are basically letting everyone know your location ("Bob checked in at Applebee's!") and earn points (sorry, I don't care enough to look up what the points are good for!). GetGlue is used to let people know what entertainment you are watching ("Bob watched The Walking Dead!") and you earn virtual stickers when you watch certain programs.

But even though I belong to a few social networks I still like to keep most aspects of my life private. If you really use social networks to the fullest you have to willingly give up so much of your privacy!

I am satisfied with my current level of engagement.