Monday, March 31, 2008

Child dies from abscessed tooth.

How can anyone say that we have no need for universal health coverage when children die or become ill from abscessed teeth?

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care.... could total more than $250,000....

from The Washington Post; full story at link.

As a country, we should be ashamed that even one person dies from a treatable bacterial infection. As a country, we should be on our knees begging God's forgiveness that a child died of a bacterial infection caused by an abscessed tooth.

That child could be yours or mine; that parent could be you or me. It takes so little to be kicked out of the privileged land of the insured and into the ranks of the serfs who have to wait for their handout from the feudal lord. One job loss. One extended illness. One financial hardship.

Deamonte Driver could be any of us, or any of ours.

Think really hard about this when you go to the polls.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I have Roses!

I've got blooms already on my roses. I'm pretty happy with them, and also with the photos (which I took myself). Photos were all taken in my bedroom, which has an interesting wall colour on it -- it's grey-green sometimes, and slate blue sometimes.

First up, the double-delight rosas (left). They're a hardy, short shrub that area at least partly crossed with wild "beach roses" in the area. They're fairly small blooms in this age of Grandifloras, but they are very pretty and last well. And I haven't managed to kill them!

I like this pic (below) -- it's my beach roses in their spot, on great-great-grandma's dresser, sitting next to carnival glass (including the one I keep my everyday jewelry in):

Next up is a Grandiflora called Cary Grant. It's said that his wife was involved with developing it. The photo doesn't capture the lovely variations of colour within the flower -- it ranges from a pale peach through deep coral. It also has a lovely spicy-fruity smell.

I love this photo -- the slate blue wall makes the color of the roses just pop.

On Sunday I'll be back in the garden, keeping away from renegade spiders and snakes. Last year I had a centipede bite and a spider bite; I don't want to start this year with a snake bite. Even a "harmless" garden snake will get you sent to the hospital and put on drugs. Oh, and snakes are oogie. Mammals are fine, but not snakes:

Badger, badger, badger, badger, A SNAKE! A snake!, Ooooh, it's snaaaaake! Oh no, a SNAAAAKE!

Actually, I have to go to the garden center on Sunday. I'm looking for a few more roses, and will let my eye and nose guide me. But...I wonder how many women they've seen in there wearing denim shorts and wellies? Wellies aren't worn much here in Florida. I guess everyone is okay with wet, muddy shoes. Go figure. I may have to make a fashion statement there. Green wellies, denim shorts, and my Irish rugby team t-shirt. Yeah.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home from Iraq

Today, I got the best email I've had in a long time. My cousin emailed me and said that she's coming home from Iraq in less than a month.

I'm so happy. I've been really worried for her. She's a little younger than I, and since I still feel about 23 I think of her as 18 or 20. Too young. Plus, she's a blonde American female in a part of the world that doesn't like Americans or women in positions of power (or with large automatic weapons). Her job doesn't allow her to be on the back lines -- not that there are any in this war. She's been out there with the guys. And that scared the crap out of me.

But she's in a pretty good place now, fairly safe, and it sounds like she is on base most of the time.

And she's coming home to her husband and daughter. This really is the best news I've had for ages.

*happy dance*

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hoppy Easter

You know, there were a few things I wanted in my Easter basket this year, and they didn't include chocolate. Example:

John Barrowman. It's Torchwood's fault. For one, he drives a cool black SUV. And Torchwood has a truly neato underground bunker/office/alien jail. As Captain Jack Harkness, he saves the world, he battles aliens, and he gets to use really, really big guns. And he does it while wearing a WWII-era officer's greatcoat:

Now, I'd also take David Tennant in his "tenth Doctor" role on Doctor Who:

I mean, really. How can you not go "nummeh!"? The one is as swashbuckling as they come, and the other is every geeky girl's dream smart-save-the-day guy.

But, no. I got a rosebush and some Cadbury eggs instead. *sigh*

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Unemployment, Part Deux

You know, I've been applying for every single job out there that I'm qualified for. I'm considering interviewing for a job with a company that I don't like too much, so I have a damn job. (The company isn't horrible, I just didn't like them much when I temped there.)

But I'll tell you, Florida's unemployment people don't make it any easier.

First, I had to attend a seminar where they could discuss all the great things they have for the unemployed. Which is great, except that it's really geared toward non-"professional"-level people. They asked how many of us have a resume, for God's sake.

Today, I got a form letter asking for additional information. It doesn't really say what additional information they want beyond "the reason for the job seperation [sic] (include the individual who informed you of your seperation [sic], and the reason that was given to you)". I called, and I got the Unemployment employee's voice mail -- it seems that she only works Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 8 until 4.

Must. Be. Nice.

To add to it, in one part of the form letter, they say they must hear from me within five days (which makes my deadline the 24th). In another part of the letter, they say the deadline is 3/26.

And, not only did they misspell "separation" throughout the document, but there is no city, state, or ZIP code on the letterhead. If one of my staff sent a letter like that out, I'd have their head on a pike.

I'm pissed off about this "we want more information." I'm playing the game according to rules. I'm looking for work and documenting it. I'm going to unemployment's stupid seminars. So just pay out my biweekly pittance to help keep things afloat, okay? I've paid taxes at a depressingly high rate since I was fourteen years old, and only once did I use any kind of social service -- and that after being fired illegally in 2006. So they can just kiss my fat, white ass.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We really like you...but not for this job.

I've been job-hunting since the middle of January, and it's been a less-than-satisfying experience.

First, my industry is health insurance, which is having its own problems right now. Second, my most marketable skillset is intimate knowledge with the ANSI X12N transaction sets. It's a fairly small sub-group, but it's important. HIPAA law required that all but the smallest healthcare providers submit claims electronically, and those claims must be in an approved ANSI X12N format. Essentially, I can look at a file and see the paper claim the doctor intended. I know a bunch of other boring technical stuff involving remittance advice, claims status, and so on, but I figure you get the picture. It's not really a hot industry.

I do like it, though. It appeals to some weird geek gene I have, some love of puzzle-solving. If something fails, I can obsessively go through the process to find the problem. I enjoy it.

So, I was up for a job locally as well as on just outside of Boston. I interviewed for the local job and thought I blew it. But today my recruiter called and said, "They loved you. However, for the job they were hiring for they were looking for someone who had experience with multiple huge projects, and they didn't think you could ramp up as quickly as they needed. BUT, they really like you and heard great things about you, so they want to keep your resume on file and bring you in again. They are waiting to get approval for several other positions in the company."


This afternoon, I was struck by a need to shop. This happens rarely, so I went on out to shop. Ended up in the store Tuesday Morning (knockdown prices on expensive crap for your house) and was just wandering around to see what they had. They had a LOT of stuff. As I was wandering through, looking for a vanity tray, my cell rang. It was Bob, my recruiter from New England. I might add that he is the ONLY recruiter in New England who doesn't think I'm a lunatic for wanting to leave Florida. (I told him the truth; I'm tired of feeling overheated from May until December.)

The company in New England with the position that was PERFECT for me is losing its senior guy, so now they want all of the stuff from the job description, plus ten years' experience!

People don't stay in ANSI for ten years. They either move on to something like project management or they go bonkers and their friends can visit them twice a week in the nice asylum.

That was pretty much what Bob said, so he's keeping my resume to the fore for when they realize that there aren't many ANSI geeks with ten years' experience under their belt (helloooo, I have, what is it now, six?). Bob's also going to keep an eye out for other stuff that he can send me over for.

But, really. Two rejections in on day? Come on, cut me some slack here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Effexor --- "Satan's Tic-Tacs"

The blog entries below were originally posted elsewhere, but since Effexor XR is becoming more and more prescribed, I wanted to post them here, as well. Effexor withdrawal syndrome -- aka "why don't you take a lower dose?" -- sucks sweaty donkey balls. Effexor is a great drug. It does the job. It saved my life. But coming off Effexor is like coming off smack or cocaine (I have this from people with firsthand knowledge of this -- don't I know all the best people?), and the manufacturer doesn't mention this, and a lot of physicians don't know about it. These posts only cover the first drop off my Effexor dose -- the standard 75-mg drop. I'm doing my second 75-mg drop right now, and it sucks the aforementioned sweaty donkey balls just as much as the first time through. So, for your entertainment and information, my saga of "Stopping Satan's Tic-Tacs"!

Reducing the Dose of "Satan's Tic-Tacs"
Originally posted 2008-02-18

Coming off of Effexor is notoriously horrible -- people have fired their docs because they weren't told how bad the withdrawal can be. It's really amazingly sucky, and someone on a website devoted to "crazy meds" has named Effexor "Satan's Tic-Tacs." It's pretty accurate, though I'd like to think that if Satan were involved in its creation, Effexor would've made me thin and gorgeous in that "girl-with-buttery-highlights who does yoga and pilates and has $10,000 in perfect teeth" way. But I digress.

I've taken the stuff since late 2005. It saved my life, or at least my sanity. But the side effects are really too much now since I'm not depressed, so I've decided to reduce my Effexor XR dose (with my doc's ok and direction). The worst side effect for me is that the drug really messes with one's heat tolerance -- as in, I don't have any. I live in Florida. This is a problem.

I decided to go ahead and do the reduction now since I'm not working, and I've heard that coming off Effexor is tough. Well, hell, I thought. I'm tough! I can handle this!

On the 10th, I went from 300 mg to 225 mg. Since then, I have spent nine solid days with a migraine and/or general headache, nausea/vomiting, and lower GI problems. I've been sleeping a lot, too, and waking up feeling like I had to move around right then. I have no ability to concentrate and I'm a bit irritable (probably because my head fucking hurts!). I am dizzy and don't dare turn around too quickly.

Deciding to reduce the dose while I'm not working seems to have been a Very Good Idea.

Everything described is common with Effexor withdrawal, and many people have far worse effects ("brain shocks" -- I don't even want to contemplate those).

What really pisses me off is that the company making Effexor has not been terribly forthcoming about the withdrawal symptoms or how to taper off without feeling like utter shit. Tapering off Effexor is far worse than any other antidepressant I've ever used, and I've used several of them. Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Serzone -- none of them had this effect on me when it came time to reduce the doses.

I'm hoping to get down to 150, 75, or even 37.5 mg for maintenance, but I have a feeling that it'll be a long ride.

Second blog entry on the subject:

Better Today -- Satan's Tic-Tacs Losing Their Grip?
Originally Posted 2-19-2008

It’s day ten in the "Reduce the dose of Satan's Tic-Tacs" saga, and it's better than the previous nine days. I woke up with a relatively mild headache, and haven't been as tired. I don't feel queasy or anything. This is all very good indeed. Right now, I'm glad that the worst of the side effects seem to be gone or greatly reduced.

Third blog entry on the subject:

Whoops, Spoke Too Soon
Originally Posted 2-20-2008

Oh, this is a joy. I'm back to sleeping and all the other fun stuff because of the Effexor withdrawal.

I'm amazingly stupid. I can't concentrate on what I would've considered "light" reading in college. Last night, I tried to read something moderately complex and my brain rebelled, so now I'm reading historical fiction. Handy, because I already know what's going to happen, so it doesn't require my entire brain.

But this Effexor withdrawal thing is evil. My brain is PISSED OFF that it isn't getting its usual amounts of seretonin, norepinepherine, dopamine, and what-have-you. (I probably misspelled all of those science words, but I can't be arsed to look them up.)

The only up side is a lack of desire for sugary sweet foods. I don't seem to be craving sugar like I did before. I hope this keeps up; I could use the weight loss.

Anyone want to get a class action lawsuit going against the Effexor manufacturers? I don't really want money -- I just want all of them to experience the withdrawal syndrome firsthand.

*very evil grin*

Fourth blog entry on the subject:

Satan's Tic-Tacs IV, or 'I Snogged David Tennant!'
Originally posted 2008-02-23

I really like this vivid dreams side effect of Effexor withdrawal. During my nap, I dreamed I was snogging David Tennant. If you're going to snog someone in your dreams, might as well be David Tennant in his “tenth Doctor” mode. Yay, Doctor Who!

I'll be posting more as it happens. Dropping from 225 mg to either 37.5 mg or nothing is going to be a long ride, I think. While I'm at this, I think I'll call my friend, Judge Roscoe, to see if I can get a "freebie" to smack around whomever at Wyeth decided to sit on the withdrawal syndrome info. I'm sure it would hold water much better than the infamous "twinkie defense," and it would be in a much better cause.

Finally, a hat tip to the member of who coined the term "Satan's Tic-Tacs" (for Effexor). It's perfect.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

One Bad Apple

I'm a member of several websites and moderate on a couple of them. It's fun, and it's a fun way to meet up with people you'd otherwise never get the chance to exchange ideas with.

One of the most frustrating things to me is when someone joins a site, repeatedly violates "no flaming" rules, and repeatedly gets away with it. To my mind, allowing someone multiple second chances cheapens how it appears site administration feels about the rest of the site members. In other words, when the rules are extended for someone who's an ongoing asshat and a drain on resources, it is an insult to the site members who don't act that way and whose use of the site is negatively affected by the asshat.

If you've got someone in your life who yells at you, demeans you, calls you names, tells you you're stupid, says you're fat, and calls you ugly -- what do you do? If you are at all psychologically healthy, you cut that person out of your life. The same rules should apply online. Don't make everyone else smell the rotting apple. Throw it out.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dancing With the Stars

Ok, I don't really like the show. The one currently playing on BBC America should be called "Dancing With....Some People" because I haven't heard of most of the so-called "stars" on the show. And they aren't really doing the dances they're given, either. They might do the actual steps four times during a song, and the rest is all add-on-foo-foo stuff. Not really the rumba or cha-cha or waltz or whatever it's supposed to be.

But most disturbing of all was finding out that the sixth season of the show will include.....Penn Jillette. Now I have to tune in, if only to see if he sticks a fork in his partner's eye or makes her disappear during the tango, or something equally Penn-ish. It would certainly liven up the show.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Strange Interview Questions, Strange Interview Indeed

I've been job-hunting since mid-January, after getting let go from a contracting position because of budget cuts. Contracting is a cool gig, but the downside is that when the budget gets cut, the contractors are first to go.

And I'd forgotten how weird interviewing is.

It's bad enough to have one person interview you, but the trend seems to be to have four or five people in the interview, all rotating asking really general "behavioral" questions and asking for further clarification.

Some of these questions are just plain strange, and my interview today hit a new level of weirdness in interview questions.

"Describe your understanding of databases." Two or three questions like this. Really, really general questions, and I couldn't get them to be specific towards a direction. What I wanted to say was, "Well, if it's broke, your website won't work for shit. In fact, if it's broke, anything running off it won't work for shit." It didn't seem appropriate, but I kind of felt it was. You see, nowhere on my resume does it say anything about me using Access or other database, other than a brief testing stint. And honestly, a monkey could've done that testing.

"What do you think the future of the healthcare industry is?" Ah-hah! I have an answer! I started off with "The 47 million uninsured Americans will obtain some level of subsidized or mandated insurance...."and then they said, no, from a technology standpoint. So I said, well, that's another group for an RFP....

....and tacked on that a single-package solution would become the norm for housing patient medical information, insurance payments, medical costing, E-prescriptions, E-claims filing, yadda yadda....Mayo Clinic and U of F are using these kinds of programs...." SAVE!

"How do you go about analysis and decision-making?" There were three questions that were variations on this theme. I've yet to come up with a response to this that's broad, yet specific. I mean, my "methodology" is to get an understanding of what the client wants/needs, read everything on the subject I can get my hands on, look at the specs and deadlines, and promise the developer beer. It's worked so far.

"How do you handle changes in scheduling?" I lie down on the floor and kick my feet and scream and say it's not fair. Waaah! What do you think?

"What is the worst decision you've made?" The ones that first came to mind ("I didn't opt to file an EEOC complaint against a discriminatory employer"; "Telling the 'Employee Advocate' twat in HR that she obviously couldn't discern the difference between FMLA and the ADA any more than she could tell her ass from her elbow"; and "I took my ex back and wasted four more years of my life.") all seemed like bad choices. So I was puzzled.

I know what they're looking for when they ask question. They want to hear, "I made such-and-such [relatively minor but noticeable] mistake and here's how I learned from it and then we all went and had tea and scones with jam." I know. But as a question, it only tells the interviewer that I know how to spin words.

And here's another problem. The worst work thing I have done was when a Public Health Clinic advisory went out, and the word "Public" in the headline was missing the "l". A lot hangs on that "l" in the word "public." Especially at 42-point. Bold. But I'm never really sure how people will take it when I say that -- and worse, I've had interviewers not get it.

But the all-time winner dipshit question du jour was, "What is your personal motto?" Who the hell has a personal motto, much less one at their fingertips that isn't overtly religious, or so utterly misanthropic that it causes HR people to run screaming out of the conference room?

I muddled through, but today's was seriously the weirdest interview I've been on in a while. Most peculiar.