You Live the Faster You Will

As the machine released, the tech wrapped her arms around me and urged, “Don’t faint! Don’t faint!” I said, “I’m not a fainting kind of girl. I’m a whining and complaining kind of girl.” She laughed but guided me to a chair. I stopped there. She urged me forward and sat me down. “Don’t faint!” she repeated. I did not faint. I hate mammograms.

My insurance company used to send postcards reminding me to schedule a mammogram. I would’ve been happier to receive Blue Cross’s gloating pictures of a drunken Cancun adventure, but no. Shitty test. Next, I had to get a prescription for the test from the gynecologist, which by the by involved also holding still for a pap smear, and then making an appointment with the radiology people. Last time I went, the receptionist was angry I didn’t have an authorization number from the insurance company. I said, “Why would I need authorization when I’m getting pushy bulk mail insisting I show up and parade around topless in a clinical setting?” Then I spent half an hour on the office phone, getting that number before taking an eight-picture test that turned into ten, then twelve. I should’ve fainted that time. Instead, I started leaning on the gynecologist to write prescriptions for MRIs instead. Rumor has had it for a long time that MRIs are the future of breast cancer detection, and when the cost comes down, women will have painless tests. The gynecologist wouldn’t do it. He said my insurance company wouldn’t allow it. So I showed him: I didn’t make another appointment for three years. I bet he’s red-faced!

Some of the women in my office line up their medical tests over the summer because then parking is easier in a college town. This year, I gritted my teeth, followed their example and got a prescription for the mammogram. I called the insurance company for the authorization number.

Tata: I need an authorization number.
Rep: No ya don’t.
Tata: I do! Last time, I had to call you from the office, where they were very perturbed.
Rep: That was a couple of years ago, right?
Tata: Uh. Yeah.
Rep: You changed insurance companies!
Tata: I didn’t. You changed your name and pretended to be someone else. You didn’t even change your phone number or try talking with a funny voice.
Rep: And you don’t need an authorization number.
Tata: I’ll give it a try, but I think perturbed receptionists are in both our futures.

Nevertheless, I made an appointment and went yesterday. Have you been to the doctor lately? They have a new demand: photo ID. I’d forgotten my prescription because weeks had passed, so I felt a twinge of guilt when this happened:

Receptionist: I need to scan your driver’s license.
Tata: You what? What would you need that for?
R: We need to verify your address.
Tata: To repeat, why would you need to do that?
R: Well, we don’t have to do that.
Tata: And you’re not going to, because I am who I say I am, and live where your records say I do. Which you just asked me and I confirmed.

I didn’t say anything else, because last year the State of New Jersey was prepared to take away my license if Motor Vehicle Services, the IRS and Homeland Security couldn’t agree on what my name was, so I had no doubt that my medical records now have to match my passport. Then the receptionist called my doctor’s office across the street, where the doctor mysteriously wanted to look at my old report before faxing a replacement scrip. I waited half an hour and the scrip still hadn’t come, probably because my doctor is one of the few I’ve seen who actually listens to his patients. Then the tech took me anyway, because the scrip was bound to come sometime. I’m sure it did, but I was probably already at home, snacking nervously. I can’t wait until next year.

Images courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger?

And Throw Them In the Lake

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.

As the Republicans openly advocate for armed insurrection and the assassination of the president, I wonder why the lack of response to Hurricane Katrina doesn’t disqualify them from leadership positions of any kind, and from discussion of the general welfare.

That degree of selfishness ought to be a black mark on a person ever after. There can be no redemption – not after corpses floated in the streets, not after the dying begged for help and none came. We talk about the message discipline of the noise machine, but we – by which I mean anyone and everyone else – can do it too.

Thug: ….healthcare is socialism scaaaaaaary –
You: Dude, Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: …national security bugaboo –
You: Sorry, Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: …gift certificate Black president –
You: Wanker, you lost me at Hurricane Katrina.
Thug: …forgetting 9/11 –
You: You forgot Hurricane Katrina. So forget you.

This is how you deal with failure and fools.

Bats Have Left the Bell Tower

Working in an academic library, I see some exciting shit, like the current issue of Tax Notes.

Executive Compensation Under TARP:
Big Paydays Are Back!

Gimme strength! On a related theme, if nobody else has said this, let me be the first: I do not care one whit about health insurance reform, but I care a great deal about health care reform. Insurance companies are parasites. Insurance companies should be dismantled and their executives publicly shamed.

If necessary, we should be able to pay doctors with chickens again. Kids: ask your grandparents.

Games Played Once Too Often

Recently, Pete joined a credit union and closed his account at Bank of America. It started out as a sensible if exotic maneuver to outrun galloping bank fees but quickly became a floodlit escape. The bank assessed fee after fee until finally Pete got the account closed in the nick of time. Ever since, I’ve been preaching the gospel of credit unions. Feel free to sing along! Let’s start with an uplifting chorus. What is a credit union?

Credit unions are financial institutions formed by an organized group of people with a common bond. Members of credit unions pool their assets to provide loans and other financial services to each other.

Credit unions differ from other banks in several ways:

Credit Unions
Not-for-profit cooperatives
Owned by members
Operated by mostly volunteer boards

Other Financial Institutions
Owned by outside stockholders
Owned by outside stockholders
Controlled by paid boards

These factors allow credit unions to pay dividends to their members (not shareholders) and offer them lower loan rates, higher savings rates and fewer service fees.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn’t know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there’s another for students and alumni, and if you’re an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up – mostly for Miss Sasha’s tuition, but I’ve stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union’s services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There’s no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn’t trying to fuck you over?

Give it a whirl.

Chance Is Giving Up the Fight

We have a new toy.

Mulcher and helpful friend.

Our house stands under very tall trees on a tree-lined avenue, all of which is lovely and keeps us cool in all but the highest temperatures but makes autumn a stone bitch. Pete estimates that each year he fills about thirty-five of those giant leaf bags that the tiny town then hauls off. The amount of fossil fuel we’re burning up for no good reason is appalling and our yard is too small for an annual composting job of this size. Thus, we are going to try out chopping up approximately thirty-five bags of leaves, turning them under the pulverized shale that passes for soil here and mulching on top to protect roots in winter. Our new toy is in for a workout; the dump truck: not so much.

Drusy says, “Talk to the paw.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the pros and cons. I’d prefer to mulch – yes, we’re using that as a verb now – without using electricity. Georg suggested some time ago that we use the lawn mower, but our yard is so small Pete mows with the old fashioned kind of mower without an engine. That pretty much swoooshes! the leaves around the yard but chops up next to nothing. Online reviews of the new toy are all or nothing, love or hate. Everybody within twenty feet should wear bomb squad suits or It’s a frigging miracle! I’m for giving it a try. I mean, today I was picking tomatoes, spit out something wet and my upper lip swelled alarmingly for no reason I understood. Life is short. And next spring we could have better soil.

I’ve Got Mine She Got Latin Roots

The other day, I was packing up to ride home when I realized the holes next to my back pockets had gone from glamorously threadbare to thrillingly gaping. Fortunately, the temperature was in the nineties and I didn’t have a jacket, so I pedaled two miles with an exciting rear view, and now I have a pair of jeans I can’t wear without plaid body makeup. According to, anyone with an exposed flank could strip down and step up.

The COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive is a call-to-action to donate denim and give it “new life” by converting it to UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation. The insulation is then provided to communities in need to assist with building efforts. UltraTouch™ is composed of 85% recycled cotton fibers and is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. It provides exceptional thermal performance and acoustically provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contains an active mold/mildew inhibitor.

Currently, 75,000 sq. ft. of insulation is being manufactured from the 2008 collections. Habitat for Humanity affiliates will be receiving insulation in the spring of 2009. Cotton Incorporated its and partners will participate in installing the insulation in approximately 75 houses as a means of providing much needed housing for areas of the country affected by natural disasters. Since the start of the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive in 2006, the program has received a total of 89,799 pieces of denim and provided over 185,000 sq. ft. of UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation to help build 180 homes at Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the Gulf Coast Region.

Got scouts? Got sophomores with a community service requirement? Got ennui? Consider holding a denim drive! Contact these able do-gooders and talk it over.

An addendum: on Sunday, I found myself sulking in the Sears Levi’s section. Buying clothes is a horror show, especially when a person now needs a decoder ring, a friend to read the tag on her butt and a compass to find the right fit, and the Sears employee putting hangers in order points to a rack of sweatpants. It is impossible to feel badass in misses stretch jeans.

That River Twisting Through A Dusty

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

I will say one thing about journalists collectively: we will never, ever change people’s minds about the media except by practicing good journalism. So arguing – and even apologizing – is kind of useless and counterproductive.

I still think that some journalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters at the time. I think that some journalists were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at.

I believe I can be of assistance here.

Speaking for myself, it was simple to conclude that the Bush junta was lying about something.

First, I listened. I listened to the words and how they were strung together. I listened to who was talking and what was being said. I listened to a lot of spokespersons saying the same things over and over, knowing that people who try to persuade are doing something completely different than people describing facts. Salesmen and sociopaths persuade.

Second, I thought over what I’d heard. This is a crucial step in the process of forming an opinion, often overlooked. I mulled over not just what was said but what wasn’t. I considered what it would mean if what I heard were true, and what it would mean if it weren’t. I pondered what would be the possible actions, probable outcomes and who might benefit from them. I thought over what I was intended to conclude and why anyone would want me to conclude that. I even wondered why someone seemed so desperate for me to agree and fall in line. That, to me, is usually a tip off that someone’s getting his or her prevarication on.

Then, because I had the luxury of distance, time and no pressure, I did some further mullin’, ponderin’ and considerin’. It further helped that after 9/11, I didn’t piss my pants, develop a pathological fear of olive skin or take a paycheck from a conservative source, so I was free to surmise without ideological interference or goosebumps. I listeneded and I thinked. Then I decided the Bush people were lying.

Funny: during that entire presidency, this process never failed me.

Cross-posted at Brilliant @ Breakfast.