Monday, October 31, 2011


I wore this to work today since it's Halloween.
Them: "Hey Remarkable Monkey, nice halloween hat. What's the B stand for?"

Me: "I'm a witch with a capital B... duh."

Them: "How is that different from any other day?"

Me: "Today I'm wearing a hat."

Them: "Where's your broom?"

Me: "I shoved it up someone's ass for asking stupid questions and making snarky remarks."

(Previous conversation happened only in good fun.)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guess They've Never Seen a Pink Ribbon...

So... my funbags continue to provide me with hours of "entertainment". Get this... the benefits summary of my health insurance plan states that it covers "Preventive Mammography (within recognized standard guidelines)" at 100% with no deductible. And yet, they are denying coverage of the annual mammogram I had in July because it was a "diagnostic" mammogram and not a "screening" mammogram. WTF???? Seriously? Damn insurance company bastards!

Nowhere in any of the materials that I can find does it say diagnostic mammograms are not included. Any reasonable person would infer that one annual mammogram, regardless of how it's coded when billed, would be covered, right? Every annual mammogram I've had until now has always been covered as part of the 100% pre-deductible preventive care stuff, and they've been "diagnostic" for at least the past five or six years thanks to my dense breast tissue, cysts and family history. This is the first time I've run into this situation, and it stinks.

This is a new insurance company for me since my employer seems to change plans almost every year trying to save money. Fortunately, although I have $5,000 deductible, my employer generously covers a large percentage of it, so this mammogram will ultimately end up on their dime. But what about women who's employers don't help out with deductible costs? What happens when they go in for their annual mammogram, thinking it's covered under their preventive package, and then get stuck with a $400+ bill? If their budget is much tighter than mine, it would be difficult for them to come up with the funds to pay it. And it would probably lead to many women skipping this life-saving preventive tool! It's just not right, I tell ya. I won't mention this craptacular insurance company's name, but I will tell you that it rhymes with "oven tree".

The billing department at the facility where I had my mammogram done said they're seeing this situation more often. I did some quick Google research this afternoon, and learned that some companies do not make a distinction between "diagnostic" and "screening" mammograms... both are covered at 100% pre-deductible as part of their preventive packages. Kudos to those companies! That's the way it SHOULD be done. A mammogram is preventive regardless of whether it's diagnostic or simple screening, and it should be covered as part of any pre-deductible preventive package that includes mammography.

I've gotten nowhere arguing this point with my S.O.B. insurance company, but a customer service manager there DID suggest that I file a grievance/appeal, which I will do. I also contacted every local network media outlet today and suggested they look into this situation, since October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to a close in a week. I doubt any of them actually will, but I hope they do because I really think women need to be aware of it.

It's wrong, wrong WRONG! Well, I think so anyway. But maybe it's just me.

Ladies, don't let it keep you from getting your annual mammogram... most of you won't be getting the "diagnostic" version anyway, but just be aware of it. Check your benefits coverage, and work with your healthcare provider to try and avoid these *%&@# insurance issues. Take care of your boobies!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pack 'Em Like Sardines...

I traveled by air recently, which is never much fun these days. All things considered, this trip wasn't too bad, with two flight legs each way. Aside from a slight delay from our point of origin (both going AND on our return trip), everything was pretty much on schedule. The planes on all four flights were packed though, and as we boarded each one, I had to wonder why the hell the airlines insist on boarding from front to back.

If you've flown recently, you know the drill... They begin the boarding process by allowing first class passengers and those who need assistance to board first. Then they call each "zone" one by one, starting with the front of the plane and working toward the back of the plane. This is what doesn't make sense, and I'll tell you why: Boarding front to back causes slow boarding and uncomfortable passengers.

Think about it... as passengers seated near the front get on the plane, they pause to put their carry-on luggage in the racks before sitting. Meanwhile, the passengers behind them are forced to stop and wait until they're done and sit down. So now you have people standing in the narrow aisle of the plane with their luggage, waiting for the aisle to clear so they can move along. As the plane slowly fills, the passengers already seated in the front are in peril of getting banged around by other boarding passengers as they struggle down the aisle toward the rear of the plane with their luggage.

Seems like it would be a whole lot easier and quicker to load the plane from back to front. Sure, go ahead and let your high-dollar first class fares on first if you want, but then board the rest of the lemmings back to front. Once the rearmost passengers from, say, Zone 5 are on board, Zone 4 passengers could board without having to wait for Zone 5 passengers to get their luggage into the bins and sit down. Then Zone 3 could board faster, etc. etc. Don't you think that would help prevent passengers from having to stand in the aisles waiting to get to their seat location?

I think it would be a better, more efficient, more comfortable way to do it. But maybe it's just me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Treats for the Ta-Tas...

Pink Ribbon Pink Lemonade Bars
I'm well on my way to meeting my fundraising goal for the upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, but I'm still a little short. So I recently made some lemon bars to take to work to try and coax some donations out of my coworkers. But in honor of the reason behind them, I decided to tint 'em pink. Then I had an idea to REALLY tie it all together with the purpose... I masked off part of the surface with ribbon cutouts before sprinkling the powdered sugar on top, and voila! Pink Ribbon Pink Lemonade Bars!

The extra effort was worth it. I think they turned out looking fabulous, if I do say so myself. And thanks to my generous co-workers, they got me $23 closer to my goal! Not too shabby.

I sent some pink tinted Rice Krispies treats to work with my husband this morning... here's hoping his coworkers are as generous as mine!

We're nearly halfway through October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Don't forget to schedule your annual mammogram and breast exam ladies, and be sure to support anyone you know who is fundraising for the cause this month if you can! Even small donations make a difference... they add up!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Lost Our Jobs

The world lost a true visionary yesterday when Steve Jobs, the co-founder and public face of Apple, apparently succumbed to pancreatic cancer. The world as we know it is a vastly different place than it would have been without his contributions. Think about it:

Macintosh computers changed the way we work, and made home computers friendly and accessible to the common man.

Pixar Studios, which Steve Jobs got involved with after his temporary ouster from Apple, changed the way animated movies are made, creating new programs to improve computer graphic animation (and they continue to innovate).

iPod changed the way we listen to and store music.

iTunes changed the way we purchase music and video.

iPhone changed pretty much everything about mobile phones.

As a graphic designer, I'm not sure I'd still be doing what I do for a living if not for Steve Jobs and the innovations that Apple brought to the industry. Twenty-five or so years ago, there was a dynamic shift in the graphic design world due to the arrival of the Macintosh computer on the scene. A few years later, at my first job in the business, I was lucky enough to work for a company that embraced the new technology of the Mac. Even so, we still had to produce a lot of paste-up mechanicals, which included cutting rubylith and amberlith for simple separations, calculating cropping and resizing of photographs, and shooting and developing stats on the big stat camera in the darkroom. Creating "camera-ready art" actually included a camera! And a huge one at that... not the kind we'd all be carrying in our mobile phones a couple decades later.

The Macintosh changed all that. Creating a layout became a fluid task, with the ability to change things like size and position on the fly. The whole process became exponentially faster and easier. It kinda seems that making tasks exponentially faster and easier is a common theme with all Apple products. And those products keep on spawning copycats and imitators, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I'll freely admit I'm a staunch Macophile and Apple fan.

It was only 10 years ago, on October 23, 2001, that Apple launched the iPod. Can you remember life without a portable music library and player? The first iPhone debuted just four years ago. Most people today can't live without one, or at least some kind of smart phone.

The Mac. The iPod. The iPhone. They changed everything. As my husband said, Steve Jobs was a world shaker. I don't know what the world will be like without him in it, but I'm guessing it will probably shake a lot less.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

20 Years? Nevermind!

It was September 24, 1991 when Nirvana's Nevermind was released. Has it really been 20 years? I've been enjoying listening to the tracks and some great covers on Minnesota Public Radio's The Current this past week, in celebration of the anniversary of its release. For some reason, I haven't listened to the CD in ages. Maybe because for some reason it never got imported to my iPod. And you know what? With the possible exception of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which was played to death on commercial radio, all the tracks still sound fresh and relevant.

I remember the day I got the record 20 years ago. I used to frequently stop by a great little indie record shop on my way home from work, the now defunct Vinyl Fever (R.I.P.). I can't remember what prompted me to buy it... I think I may have heard it playing in the shop. It was right around the release date, and it was the freshest, coolest sound I'd heard in a long time. It so raw, and honest, and so... rock n' roll.

I remember playing the CD for my then-bandmate, now-husband. I said, "You've gotta hear this band!" He listened, and said that all the songs sounded the same. (I will never let him live that comment down, by the way!) But within a week or two, he was playing that CD every single day when I got home from work. Every single day. We ended up covering a couple of the songs with our band, and Nirvana really influenced Mr. Remarkable Monkey's songwriting. That record was a game changer not just for us, but for the entire music world. It ushered in the "Seattle sound" of the time, later known as "grunge". Unfortunately, as with all musical genres, commercial success brought with it scores of mediocre copycats. Grunge eventually became a watered-down shadow of itself. But dust off that old Nevermind CD, or listen to it for the first time... it still shines!

While you're at it, pull out your copy of Pearl Jam's Ten, another great frontrunner of the grunge sound and 20 years old this year, released about a month before Nirvana's Nevermind. It was also played to death on commercial radio in the early 90's, but if you haven't heard it in a while, you'll be surprised at how great it still sounds.

Want to explore the original Seattle sound a little more? Try these:
- Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger
- Mudhoney's SuperFuzz BigMuff EP
- Mother Love Bone's Apple

Or pick up an old SubPop Records compilation CD if you can find one. And don't forget Nirvana's earlier release Bleach, and subsequent CDs, Incesticide and In Utero. Explore some other non-Seattle alternative bands of the time, like Dinasaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Check out some early Jane's Addiction, early Smashing Pumpkins, early 90s Red Hot Chili Peppers, maybe even a little early Radiohead. That music was a big part of the soundtrack of my somewhat misspent youth, back in the days of my early adulthood, when the world was still wide open in front of me and my youthful dreams were still a possibility. And after all this time, they're still damn fun to listen to!