Monday, January 31, 2005

Avoid using USPS

I've had afew bad experiences with USPS in the last couple months, and I thought I'd share...

First, Ed's Mom sent me an Xmas present in December. I was at home the first day delivery was supposedly attempted. No one came to the door. Believe me, I would have known because the dog goes crazy when someone sets foot on our property. But, when Ed came home and got the mail there was a "delivery attempted" note in our mailbox. The second delivery attempt was made the next day, but (like most people) Ed and I were at work when the mailman came. So, our only option was to pick it up at the post office. Well, the post office closes at 5pm on weekdays, you know, when most people are just getting off of work... Yeah, we don't get home until 5:15pm so there was nothing we could do there. Option C is to pick it up on Saturday before 1pm, but it was the last remaining week before Xmas and we had shopping, wrapping, doctors appointments, dental appointments... Our weekends are always busy. So, I called them and asked if it could be delivered to my work. Nope. No can do, for security reasons it must be delievered to the address it was sent to. To top it off, it'd be returned to sender if I didn't pick it up within 10 days. So, in a mad rush before my doctor's appointment and Ed's dental appointment we ran over to pick up the gift. They didn't even ask for ID when we picked it up. All you need is the little slip they leave in your mailbox. Right... Real security there...

Second story is pretty general. Ed and I have both recently had online purchases delivered via USPS. The stores we bought from sent us a USPS tracking number, but all it said was "billing information received" until we actually took delivery of the item -then it finally updated as "delivered". Useless. You can almost tell what intersection your package is at with UPS, FedEX, or DHL. I'd pick them over USPS any day.

Last, is a story about my engagement ring and I could kill the USPS over this one. It wasn't lost or anything, but their lack of tracking information available to the receiver OR to their own customer service people... Grr.... I was hoping to get the ring on Friday so I could show it to my parents and my Grandma when I went over there on Sunday. It didn't arrive at work on Friday, so I kept watch on the tracking info to see if it'd be delivered on Saturday. If it looked like it might be delivered, I figured I'd go into work so I could receive it (there's usually no one in the office over the weekends). On Saturday morning the tracking information finally showed that the ring left Georgia on Thursday (so the tracking info is about 2 days behind!). I had no idea where the ring was currently, so I called their customer service number at 9:30am. I told the man on the phone about the situation, he pulled up the tracking info and confirmed that the package left Georgia on Thursday. He had no more information than I did about where the package was currently. So, I asked him, in his opinion, if the package left Georgia on Thursday via Express mail, could it be delivered today? He said "it looks like it's scheduled to be delivered on Monday or Tuesday". I hung up a bit disappointed, but figured that there wasn't much anyone could do. The rest of Saturday we spent out shopping for my brother's present (a little last minute, but I pretty much knew what I was going to get him), then we took the Laser for a run to Schaumburg to put some miles on the tranny to be sure it was working okay. Saturday night we got home at about 11pm and I pulled up the tracking info for my ring one more time. When the screen came up I almost had a fit! "Delivery attempted 11:35am". IT was delivered 2 freaking hours after their customer service told me it'd be delivered Monday or Tuesday. -That means that while I was talking to the USPS guy on the phone, the ring was on the truck for delivery. Proving that the USPS has NO CLUE where your item is at any given time. Nope. I'm doing my best to avoid EVER doing business with the USPS again.

Did I mention GRR?

EDIT: As an update I thought I'd share the fact that I complained to USPS through their online questions form about the engagement ring thing. I got a response saying that they'd refund the shipping costs if I bring in the label. I thought that was nice of them...

I got my ring, and Gram's coming on the cruise!

Well, for all the worrying about Gram's reaction to the whole cruise thing, it ended up being no big deal. I told her we were getting married and the 80+ year old lady JUMPED UP AND DOWN WITH JOY! It was so cool. I told her about the cruise, and asked her if she'd come with and she just said "yes". I couldn't believe it! She said she'd go anywhere, she just wants to be there. After Aunt Dolores got over a bit of shock over the fact that we were going to pay their way, they got all giggly and looked over all the information we had. They're both really excited. It turned out better than I could have ever expected.

The other good news is that I got my ring today. I overnighted the diamond to Boone of last Tuesday, and it got here (to Hinsdale, IL) on Saturday via Express Mail (USPS, not the fastest option). It looks great, some quick shots of it can be found here for now. Better pics will be posted when I have time. I gotta get the invitations sent out tonight! The only problem with the ring is that it's about a half size too big I think. I'll wear it for 24 hours or so to be sure, but I think I might have to get it remade in a smaller size.

Friday, January 28, 2005

False Security

About 6 months ago the people who manage the office building where I work decided to put locks on the bathroom doors. It's a common practice, I know, but there are many things wrong with this idea and it's implementation in this particular case.

See, a female employee of ours (about 2 years ago) was in the middle of... doing her business... when she looked up and discovered a man watching her. Gross, I know. The situation was taken care of, the cops called, the guy taken into custody, etc, but the woman was pretty shook up about it. I don't know if the locks were a (very late) response to that incident or what, but let's imagine if the man wanted to hurt her instead of just watch her? Once that door closed behind her she'd be locked in the bathroom and help would be, at a minimum, delayed. (What if someone heard her scream, but didn't have a key!) I think we're all much safer WITHOUT the locks.!

That leads me to the implementation stuff:
  • The bathrooms on the other side of the hall do not require a key.
  • The locks on the doors to the Men's room and the Woman's room are the same.
  • The keys for the bathrooms are the same as the key to get in the front door of the building.
So, I'm really confused about what they think they're accomplishing here. Anyone who can persuede the receptionist at the doctor's office down the hall for a key can use it to get into either bathroom or can pocket it and enter the building whenever they want (there's no alarm). Basically the building is less secure because of this locked bathroom idea. More proof that people in general are stupid. QED.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

US using banned weapons in Iraq

Why is it that the reputation of the United States is rapidly deteriorating? How about the fact that we invaded a country to rid them of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" that they didn't have and during the course of the war WE OURSELVES used illegal weapons (Napalm):

Hello!?! How do people not know about this? How do people still stand in support of Mr. Bush? We should all be outraged, but instead we're all singing "America... F#ck yeah..." It sickens me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Another reason I don't trust our current government

Apparently in 2002 Rumsfeld was frustrated with the legal constraints of the CIA, so the Pentagon re-interpreted the law and bypassed the CIA to create a secret unit called the SSB (Strategic Support Branch). The stuff of movies? I wish:

Monday, January 24, 2005

Prescription Coverage

More problems with medical stuff. ..
I got an email Wednesday from our HR guy/Accounting Manager saying that :
In late December or early January you should have received notification from Great West that they were changing prescription plan carriers – from Advance PCS to Express Scripts. Following the notification you should have received a new prescription card – you will be required to present this each time to have a prescription filled. If you have NOT received a new prescription card, please call 800-663-8081, follow the prompts for prescription information and request a new card(s). Please know that your old card will no longer be accepted by your pharmacy.
Well, I was pretty sure I hadn't received this card, but I went home and looked for it on Friday. Nope, no card. So I called the number today and literally here's the phone tree I had to go through:
  • Press 1 for English
  • Press 1 if you are a Member
  • Press 2 for Pharmacy questions
  • Press 2 for Pharmacy benefits questions
  • Wait while your call is being transfered
  • Press 1 for English
  • Press 3 for Benefits information
  • Enter your Member ID followed by the # sign:
  • Repeats Member ID
  • Press 1 if this is correct
  • Enter your birth date followed by the # sign:
  • Press 1 if this is correct
  • Wait while we process your request
  • The last name associated with this Member ID is Steeve
  • Press 1 if this is correct
  • Press 1 for pharmacy benefits
  • Press 2 for a different benefit type
  • Press 0 to speak with patient care advocate
She tells me that I need to request a new pharmacy card through my insurance company. It's okay, though, she'll transfer me. To the phone tree at Great West!
  • Press 1 for English
  • Press 1 if you are a Member
  • Press 2 for Pharmacy questions
  • Press 2 for Pharmacy benefit questions
Then I finally get someone on the phone who can help me. She says she'll get the card out to me ASAP. How long is that? 7 to 10 business days. I'm out of my prescription as of this Wednesday! She says the pharmacy can call my insurance and verify my coverage. I'm sure that'll be fun.

Getting Married

I've never been one to dream of the flowing white dress, the church full of people... I don't like being the center of attention. The fact that there's books and magazines dedicated to the "art" of planning a wedding intimidates me. And I've seen how stressful the planning can be. Nope. I didn't want any of it. Luckily I found a guy who's not into all that either.

Plans are being made, however...
We decided to get married on a cruise. It'll eliminate the problem of where to hold it since my family's in the Chicago area, and his is in Canada. Also, they have these packages -you just pick one and they do everything else. No decisions on flowers, food, seating -none of that. All we have to come up with is what to wear. I'm thinking Ed will wear a plain suit, and I'll find a simple white dress at Marshall Field's or something.

By Tuesday, January 18th we had it narrowed down to Royal Caribbean's Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Navigator of the Seas, so I emailed the travel agent that we used for our last cruise (Fran of Beemster Travel). She's a little pushy, but she got us a free upgrade to a room with a window last time, and I really want to offload some of the organization for this cruise. I'm hoping to get a block of rooms so everyone's close by, and we have some coordinating to do with my Grandma and Ed's Mom as they have special needs.

Fran called me back shortly after I had sent the email. She confirmed the info I gave her and told me she'd call Royal Caribbean and get back to me with the info I requested. She called me back on Wednesday and gave me a price of $819 per person with taxes and port charges, and told me that for every 8 cabins booked we'd get one free. She said she'd send me information on the wedding packages and pricing, and that she was still looking into the medical equipment we'd need to rent in Miami, etc.

On Thursday Fran sent me a proof of a "flyer" that she'd be mailing me (on wedding paper) to give to anyone we were going to invite on the cruise with us. It was just a regular signup sheet with "Steeve/Marshall Wedding Cruise" written on it, but hey -it'd work. When she called about the flyer I told her that we were a little unhappy with the price. $819 sounded really high, and I was afraid that some people may not be able to go at that price. She called back later that day and said she could knock $50 off per person bringing the price down to about $770 which is more in line I think.

Saturday Ed called his Mom to tell her about the cruise. We had told her before that this is what we were going to do, but he wanted to tell her we had it all picked out and we gave her pricing to pass onto the rest of the family. We also needed addresses for the family so we can send out the invites when we get them from Fran. Ed's Mom said she'd mail us the addresses. :-P It's going to take awhile for them to get here...

Sunday, January 23rd my brother called and asked for links about the cruise, the ship, the ports, etc. I figured other people would want to know too, and it'd be nice to email Ed's family with the details about the cruise (including pricing) so they could start figuring out if they'd be able to make it or not (without relying on Ed's Mom to pass the information along). So, I sat down and composed a generic email for everyone and sent it to anyone who's email address Ed or I had. It turns out we don't have email addresses for hardly any of my family...

Now it's all a waiting game. February 18th is the deadline to get people's first $75 deposit for the cruise in, so that's when I'll know how many people will be coming. After that's figured out I gotta try to forget about it until next January. That'll be tough. I wanna go RIGHT NOW! It's 30 degrees here, 80 in San Juan and St Thomas, 66 in Nassau, and 84 in St Maarten.

Oh and the ring... I'm waiting for that too. I have the diamond. We should be getting Ed's cheap ring today so we can verify his ring size, then we'll send the diamond out for setting and get our bands. I can't wait to get the ring. The diamond is beautiful!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

President George W. Bush's inaugural address:

Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:

On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country. I am grateful for the honor of this hour, mindful of the consequential times in which we live, and determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed.

At this second gathering, our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together. For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.

Are we sure this man isn't a preacher? "Sabbatical"? "Day of fire"? What's with all the drama?

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

Let's see... " Ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder". I personally believe that most ideologies feed hatred and excuse murder, but that's my personal opinion. I assume you meant Muslims, but I'll remind you that your statement could also apply to Christianity with this quote from Adolf Hitler: "The work that Christ started but could not finish, I -- Adolf Hitler -- will conclude." (Hitler regarded himself as a Catholic until he died.)

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

Did Bush just outright say that we should conquer the world with our freedom? OMG!

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

From the day of our founding in July of 1776 until 1920 women were not allowed to vote. From our founding in 1976 until the 1960's there was legal racial segregation in our great land! We are not the moral leaders of this world. There is, right now, a push to ban gay marriages. How can we ask other countries to see us as an example?

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Restating his desire to take over the world. It's almost ironic that Bush wants to force freedom on people...

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

This paragraph starts out well. Hooray! He's not talking about taking over the world. He's advocating that oppressed people rise up and fight for freedom themselves! Now this is a message I can support! But, if we look back on Iraq I have my doubts that he's not, in fact, talking about conquering non-democratic governments, choosing his supporters for an interim government, and then having them "make their own way". Hopefully we're not too naive to believe that Iraqi's are choosing their new form of government when the people making those decisions, running the elections, etc are all people hand-selected by our government!

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.

Back to conquering, I mean "persueding", other countries to conform to "freedom". Why do I hear Bush in a back room saying "We'll give 'em an offer they can't refuse"?

My most solemn duty is to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats. Some have unwisely chosen to test America's resolve, and have found it firm.

I have no doubts that we are well protected, but are we not also inviting more trouble by marching into countries -first to seek out weapons of mass destruction, but when they weren't found to "free the Iraqi people". Look what we've done to their land. Sure, Hussein is in jail -no one will say that's a bad thing, but at what cost? Could it have been less destruction and fewer casulties if we hadn't rushed in under false pretenses? We've fueled their hatred towards us instead of "winning their hearts and minds". How can they be thankful to the US for "freeing" them, when they've lost the little that they had in the process?

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

Interesting words coming from the man who bypassed the protections of our constitutions and decided to hold people (without charges) in Cuba for an indeterminate amount of time (so far, 3 years).

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Let's solve our problems at home before we start "fixing" the rest of the world, shall we?

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

When Bush steps down from the Presidency in four years, I predict he'll start a cult. The "Freedom Cult".

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

* Offer does not apply to those in Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

And all the allies of the United States can know: we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel, and we depend on your help. Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat.

They'd be inspiring words if they came from someone else's mouth. And as for the rally cry for our allies -who pushed them away in the first place? "You're either with us or against us"?

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon. Yet because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.

"The great liberating tradition of this nation". The nation may have a tradition of liberation, but we've lost freedom during Bush's term in office. I don't know how we're supposed to rally behind him in his crusade to "free" the peoples of other nations while our rights are being taken one-by-one.

A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause - in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy … the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments … the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies. Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives - and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice.

Those people all put their lives on the line for whatever duty you deem fit to have them serve. I hope you really do understand the sacrifices they make, and never lead them into harms without weighing that first.

All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.

This sounds like something Bin Laden would say to recruit new martyrs! Bush must be noting the lack of new recruits for the armed services. Actually, the lack of new recruits is kind of suprising given the huge rise in patriotism following 9/11. The effects are still seen today with "Support our troops" bumper stickers on every other car. My own interpretation is that generally people support the troops, but not the war. No one wants to hand their kid over to Bush. I don't blame them.

America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home - the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty.

At least he admits that we ourselves need work. Too bad his definition of freedom is the Patriot Act and Constitutional Amendments banning gay marriage...

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance - preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

The above is a grand way of saying that he wants to offload Social Security and health care (Medicare, etc) back onto the people of the United States. It's well documented by independant watch dogs like that the Bush administration is using scare tactics ( article1, article2 ) to push his privatization of Social Security on the American people. I'll admit, I'm interested in the idea of being in control of my own money for retirement, but I don't like the President's tactics. It makes me think twice about supporting the issue...

In America's ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character - on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before - ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Tolerance toward others, huh? But not giving gays the right to visit each other in the hospital, share insurance, have the same inheritance rights as committed heterosexual couples. Empty words. Doesn't he know actions speak louder than words?

And the required mentioning of the Koran so no one can claim he's anti-Muslim...

In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

Who would have ever thought that a Republican President would utter the words "surround the lost with love"? Republicans can rest easy though, what he really meant was "bomb those Middle-Eastern f#ckers right outta the dessert!".

From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?

My question is: Is it our countries duty to "advance the cause of freedom"? I say no.

These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes - and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.

There's no doubt that the American people feel united in the face of attack, and will act together to lend a hand to victims of disaster here or abroad. And, luckily, we are judged as a whole at such times. Perhaps this will help heal the animosity that's directed at us because of Bush's rush to war with Iraq. The people on AppologiesAccepted seem to understand that at least half of this country's citizenship don't agree with our President's actions. I thank them heartily as I'm not quite as forgiving. -I just don't see how half of the country could cast their vote for another 4 years of this man's crusade....

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Allow me to paraphrase this one for you: Freedom will eventually triumph, but it's not inevitable. Freedom requires wars, messy ones. Liberty is inevitable. (?)

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

Um. The Declaration of Indepenence seperated us from England's power. It did NOT promise liberty for "the world", it declared freedom for The United States. - Sometimes I wonder if Bush knows the difference between "the world" (which he does NOT control), "America" (which is our CONTINENT, not our country -remember Mexico and Canada Mr Bush?), and "The United States" (this is the one Buch controls, unfortunately.) Can someone go over this with him again, please?

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.
This article sums my feelings on the above quite nicely: "Where in GOD’S name is the separation of church and state?"

Monday, January 10, 2005

Customer Service in the Medical Profession?

Saturday I went to the doctor (Dr. Fred Lim in Naperville, IL) for a follow-up appointment about a problem I've been having with my hands. He did some blood tests, and one came back slightly elevated and indicated that I may have rheumatoid arthritis, but another test that should have also been elevated was not. In the end he said he was uncomfortable making a diagnosis since the tests were so borderline (understandable). Instead, he wrote down the name and phone number of a specialist on his prescription pad and handed it to me. Since my last visit I had done some research and had some questions about the disease and the medication he had prescribed for me (Celebrex). The answers were prefaced with "because I'm not prepared to make a diagnosis", or were otherwise elementary and unhelpful and I left with no more information than I came in with -just a slip of paper with a name on it. It was clear he wanted to get on to the next patient, so my last question was: Where is this rheumatologist you are referring me to? His answer: "His last known address was somewhere in Naperville I think". Lovely.

So, today I lookup the phone number and it's still registered to the name Dr. Lim had given me -a good sign. It looks like this doctor works out of Edward Hospital in Naperville. Bonus. I try to make an appointment and the lady asks what insurance I have. "Great West" I say. Turns out they only take Blue Cross/Blue Shield or Medicare. Great.

So I call my insurance company and get the name of a specialist I can go to. There's 2 in the area, I call the one in Edwards Hospital. The first available appointment is February 11th. I'll run out of medication by then, but I schedule it -Dr. Lim said to call if I need a refill. The woman who scheduled the appointment asks me to bring in copies of any tests that my doctor performed and that reminds me -I need to call St. James Hospital, Dr. Lim hadn't received my records from my old doctor yet (it's been over a month since I faxed them the request for records transfer).

So I call St. James, press 1 for English, press 4 for records and get... Voicemail. I left a message. They'll get back to me within 24 hours. Bleh.

Next I call Dr. Lim's office to see what kind of hoops I'll have to jump through to get a copy of my tests for the specialist. I go through 5 minutes of "if this is an emergency hang up and dial 9-1-1", then press 1 for making an appointment, yada, yada. In the end none of the extensions fit, so I dial "0". She says I need to talk to a nurse, she'll put me back into the system where I should press "4". Okay, fine. I press "4", and what do I get? Voicemail. I left a message. They'll get back to me within 24 hours. I can't believe this.

I remember hearing an option on the phone for "refilling a prescription", which I need to do, but it says to call the pharmacy and have them request a refill. What if I want to go to a different pharmacy? (See last post about Osco.) I guess I'll ask the nurse when she calls me back.

UPDATE: St. James says that they were having problems finding my records, but they've been located and will be sent to my current doctor within the week.

Also, Dr. Lim's office called and said they could mail me my records, but that they only have the x-rays for my right hand. She called and asked Edward's hospital for the pictures of the left hand, but Edward's claimed they only had the right. If I have to go get nuked again so they have pics of the left hand I'll scream!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Apparently Osco hasn't quite caught up to the computer age yet.

I got a prescription filled a month ago at the Osco near my work. It was the most convenient place to go at the time because I was in a lot of pain and needed to start the medication ASAP. It never occurred to me that this would be a problem, but today I went to the Osco near my house to get a refill and they were unable to do it. To be fair, they could have filled the prescription if I remembered the city that the Osco I originally went to was, and the woman at the counter was nice enough to call a few to see if she could find the one, but in the end she was unable to find it and I had to drive almost an hour away to pick it up. What a pain. I think I'll go to Walgreens next time.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Bush Plans Fair Elections For Iraq

Bush insists that the Iraqi vote stay on schedule for Jan 30th, even if every citizen who wants to cast a ballot can't be guaranteed the ability to.

If he's patterning Iraq's election after ours, perhaps he's on the right track *cough* Ohio *cough*.

Friday, January 07, 2005

It was just a little torture!

The position of the highest law enforcement office in our (formally) great country is up for grabs, and the nominee (Alberto Gonzales) is a known loyalist of a largely untrusted President (49% approval rating, 56% disapproving of the war in Iraq), and he's documented to be at least permissive of torture if not a promoter of it (we'll never know because the White House isn't releasing the requested documents).

So, where are the Democrats at? I would expect them to be outraged and to lobby against Mr. Gonzales' approval. Instead, it seems, they asked their questions and Mr. Gonzales skillfully dodged them: From the Washington Post:

Hours go by and little gets clarified. Gonzales did not author or even conceive of the infamous Aug. 1, 2002, "torture memo." It was drafted by Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, and neither of them are in the room. When seeking their advice, did Gonzales press them to be "forward-leaning," as some news reports have suggested?

"I don't recall ever using the term 'lean forward,' " he tells Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the first of a string of deflections.

Kennedy loses his focus and moves on to ask about civil rights.
So much for our politicians. Our forefathers would say that this is a time when the people must take matters into their own hands. We must demonstrate our disapproval of Alberto Gonzales' nomination for Attorney General. But alas! We are a lazy bunch. Or perhaps we've just surrendered to the corruption we see in Washington. Maybe we're too busy with our (average) 46 hour work week, and we want to spend the rest of our time with our families and friends -there's simply no time to follow politics? Whatever the reason, only 20 people showed up to protest the inevitable approval of Mr. Gonzales.

From Alberto's testmony we did, however get some insight into this current administrations views about the Geneva Conventions. Here is an exerpt from an article in the Houston Chronicle:
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass says: "The legal positions that you have supported have been used by the administration, the military and the CIA to justify torture and Geneva Convention violations by military and civilian personnel."

Gonzales replies: "The president has made clear that he condemns this conduct and that these activities are inconsistent with his policies," (referring to mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo). "He has also made clear that America stands against and will not tolerate torture under any circumstances. I share his resolve that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration."

Then, the Houstan Chronicle says, he
revealed that the Bush administration was considering proposing some changes to the Geneva Conventions, rules covering detainees dating to 1949.
When the administration came up with the Patriot Act wants to now change the Geneva Conventions I quiver...

Also in the Houstan Chronicle, more dodging
At issue were two memos: One written by Gonzales found that Taliban and al-Qaida fighters captured in Afghanistan did not have legal protections under the Geneva Conventions. Another written by Justice Department lawyers at Gonzales' request said the president could legally order some forms of harsh treatment of prisoners.

He dodged efforts to make him repudiate findings that a president could ignore some anti-torture statutes if that president found them unconstitutional, saying such questions were hypothetical.

Gonzales also failed to directly answer when asked if he agreed with military lawyers who have held that a U.S. policy that refuses to grant all detainees Geneva Conventions rights puts American troops who might be captured at risk.

Gonzales stuck to his position that while torture could not be used, terrorists captured in battle did not deserve all the Geneva Conventions rights given to traditional prisoners.

Okay. Eveyone in Washington has learned to dodge questions. Why doesn't someone hold these clowns accountable for an answer? I mean, I'd expect the person asking the question to insist on an answer. Unless, of course, they really don't care. Grrr... There's really not even much recourse for the voters, I mean we so often make a choice between the lesser of two evils. This is the result. We need REAL people to run for office. People who care about how our country is perceived by the world. People who can step back and say "What are the consequences of applying the Geneva Conventions selectively?" and "What are the consequences of allowing our government to bypass the justice system and hold hundreds of people (without any charges brought against them) indefinitely without regard to the law or the Constitution?

And what was Alberto Gonzales doing before Bush brought him to Washington? Again, from the Houstan Chronicle:

Senators also delved into Gonzales' duties as then-Gov. Bush's chief lawyer in Texas. He faced questions about the Texas death penalty policies of Bush, including his habit of receiving a summary of clemency issues on the day of executions. In one such memo, noted Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Gonzales had not mentioned that the lawyer of a condemned man had fallen asleep during the trial.

Gonzales said his friendship with Bush would not affect his ability to be an independent attorney general.

Arg! I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone here. Is this really my country? In the United States a person can be put to death when his lawyer FELL ASLEEP AT HIS TRIAL!?! Why didn't the judge stop the trail and issue a new lawyer? How could Gonzales know about this and allow the man to be put to death? Wow. Just... wow.

The thing that really made my jaw drop, however was this from the Washington Post:

"Occasionally his Democratic questioners engage in long, indignant tirades, even though Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) announces early on that -- despite any appearance of hostility -- none of them actually plans to vote against Gonzales and they all know he will be confirmed."
It confirms what those of us who pay attention already know. It's all a big show. He's a shoe-in anyway. Torture or no torture, memo or no memo. If Canada wasn't so cold I'd have moved already.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Bush's Bulge

I recently ran into this webpage:
discussing a box-shaped bulge seen on various occasions on Bush's back.

It's an interesting read, and although it's all speculation the arguments that it may be a wearable heart montior/defibulator seem credible.

The debate seems to be raging on all over the internet. Some say it's a back brace:
Others think it's a wire: or
The secret service say it's a bulletproof vest:
Bush's tailor said it was just a wrinkle:

The amusing part is #1 that this is a big internet conspiracy, but hasn't shown up on mainstream news at all (a conspiracy in itself?) and #2 that the White House hasn't laid these rumors to rest. We get one reason from the Secret Service, and another from his tailor, and... (?).

Whichever theory is correct, and I don't think we'll ever know, I think this indicates rather strongly that people generally don't trust the President (and our government?) and that mainstream media is either filtering their stories to the benefit of our President, or they just aren't in line with the interests of the American people. I mean come on, it's at least an amusing story...

(Here's a nice summary article: )