Sardonic nit witticism

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Location: Fort Myers, Florida, United States

People tell me that my sarcasm and cynicism will get me into trouble some day. We'll see.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another $#!+ Clock?!

We got a new toaster the other day. The one we had lasted about ten years - a good life for a toaster. So we went out and got another one - just a cheap model - after all, we just want to make toast, not end world hunger.

I take the unit out of the box and the cellophane bag inside and turn the unit to different views to inspect my purchase. Suddenly, it hit me. There it was, staring at me like an evil green eye. My heart raced as I considered the consequences.

What was this menacing object that started my blood boiling? Yet another LCD clock, that's what! This ubiquitous device has literally taken over all our small and large appliances. Soon there will be no appliance left that does not have a timepiece attached, adding to an ever growing list of clocks that need to be reset during the twice a year Daylight Saving change.

And don't even get me started about resetting clocks after a power outage.

Clocks, clocks, and even more clocks

I imagine there are some fancy refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers that have built-in clocks. We may eventually have clocks on vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, lawn mowers, electric fans, and garage door openers.

I have at least the following devices that contain a clock:

  • The VCR (yes, we still have one of those.)
  • The telephone answering machine
  • Two microwave ovens
  • The range
  • The coffeemaker
  • The thermostat
  • The sprinkler system

Now granted, these devices usually need a clock, specially if they are programmed to perform some sort of scheduled task. But we never use the clocks on the microwaves nor the range. In fact, we have black tape over the clock on the range because we never use the LCD display for anything on that appliance. Can't do that for the microwaves, though.

In addition to appliances, we also have two cellphones, two computers, two wristwatches, two clock-radios, two digital cameras, and about eight wall clocks as well as the clocks in our vehicles.

Of course some of these devices have automatic scheduling for Daylight saving Time, and spring forward or fall back by themselves at the appropriate time, but most don't.

This causes me to scramble around the house trying to set all the clocks to the right time. In the old days, I used to be able to set the handful of clocks we had in about a minute.

Today, if I set the first clock at 8:00, it would take me until about 8:06 to get to them all, so I can't just set them to a single time. One could argue, Couldn't you just set the clock one hour ahead or behind what it says at the time you reach it? However, as clocks do drift, I take the opportunity at DST changes to sync them up.

In the Spring it's not too bad setting clocks ahead. But in the Fall, when clocks go back, some sadistic clock manufacturers force you to hold a button down for several minutes while you wait and watch the numbers click ahead at a dreadfully slow rate until they reach the desired hour, because their time settings only go one way - forward. Once I got so bored waiting, I skipped right past the hour I needed.

You might ask, Well why not just ignore clocks you don't use? We tried that, but there's something about a clock that shows the wrong time that draws your eyes like a magnet. "There's something wrong in this room ... I can feel it. Yes! The clock's wrong."

The Reason

The reason LCD clocks seem to reproduce asexually is because they are so easy to incorporate into a product. If a device already has an LCD display for any use conceivable under the sun, it's only a matter of adding a chip or a few lines of programming code and voila, yet another function. After all, it seems to be every manufacturer's goal to cram as much function into each and every device, no matter whether it makes sense or not.

A Solution Needed

My solution to the length of time it takes to go all around the house setting clocks is to carry my cellphone with me and to just set everything to what that says at the time. However, a better solution is needed.

Since it is so easy to add a clock to a device, I'd like to see the manufacturers add a programming feature that lets you turn off the clock. For example, if you set the clock to 00:00, the unit would know you were saying, "Look, you idiotic device, I have 23 clocks in this house and I use four," and turn itself off. By the way, I tried this on one of our microwaves. It beeped and said Error, but the clock indeed stayed at 00:00. However, it also locked out the microwave, forcing me to set a time on the clock in order to work. As if to say to ME, "Look, you idiotic user, don't you know how to tell time?"

So now I have yet another clock. Just one thing I'd like to know. Why do I need a clock on a TOASTER??

Friday, April 20, 2007

Watch Your Step

Woman sues after falling into open grave

HIGHLANDS, N.C. (AP) An elderly woman who broke her hip when she fell into an open grave as she tried to place flowers on a friend's casket is suing the town and the funeral home.

A federal judge recently allowed Marian May's case to proceed. In court documents, she claims the site was not safe for the June 2004 service, arguing that workers neither dug the grave to the proper size nor covered the opening with plywood.

She also said people weren't warned of the danger.

Oh, brother . . . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Have You Seen This Man?

In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, newspapers are reporting increases in school lockdowns:

IN BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICH., police attributed a 30-minute lock-down at the Cranbrook Schools complex in response to jittery nerves after the Virginia slayings.

School officials called police after parents and students reported spotting a 6-foot-tall man in a skirt, high heels, lipstick and a blond wig near a school drop-off area outside Cranbrook's Kingswood Upper School, Lt. Paul Myszenski said. Police were unable to find anyone meeting that description.

Hard to believe such a person would be difficult to spot.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I don't care for Imus

Please see this post for an interesting perspective regarding a popular "solution" proposed if you don't care for "Imus."

"Gosh, I turned off my radio, but little boys are still disrespecting me. I wonder why this 'advice' didn't work ..."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Singing the Worker's Compensation Blues

Have you ever had to deal with Worker's Compensation? Specifically, medical benefits? My wife and I have had to work with Worker's Comp a few times over the years, and it has ALWAYS been a hassle.

Here's our typical circumstance. Say I have an injury at work - usually nothing major - a small puncture wound for example. Nothing like being beaned by a falling pallet or something. Boss sends me to the Emergency Room. Typical fare on that - wait three hours, finally see the doctor, some routine procedure and a Band-Aid fifteen minutes later and I am back to work.

Now the fun begins. Though I had specifically instructed the E.R. to point to my employer's Worker's Compensation insurance provider, supplied by my employer, sooner or later I have come to expect getting a bill from the hospital for services rendered.

The story's always the same. The hospital had forwarded my claim to my employer's insurer, but they never paid. Therefore, the balance due becomes MY responsibility. Now I know, once again, that I will be facing a six month painstaking dialog among myself, the insurer and the hospital.

The insurer will invariably claim that there is missing information - be it a signature from my boss, or some form from the hospital, or what have you. It then becomes MY responsibility to track down and acquire this missing link - and in the mean time, the hospital keeps sending me past due notices and death threats if I don't send them some sort of payment within the next thirty days. Well maybe death threats is a little exaggerated, or maybe not.

Eventually, the hospital claim is settled and the threats cease. Right around then is when one of us gets another injury.

The last straw

Something happened recently that made our previous excursions with Worker's Comp seem like a walk in the park. My wife injured herself at work a while back - nothing serious - just a nicked hand. Boss says, Why don't you go to the Emergency Room? Nah - it's not that bad, she said. No, really! We insist. So off to the ER she goes. No big deal - she was in and out in about ten minutes, (well, in and out of the examination room - she was in the waiting room for two hours.) The doctor trimmed away the exposed tissue and sent her back to work with a Band-Aid.

Though she never gave her home address, and had only given the provider information from her employer, she got a bill from the hospital anyway. Turns out they found her address from her medical records, as she had visited that hospital in the past for routine work. Anyway, the bill was for one thousand and seventy five dollars.

We had the usual runaround we have come to expect, but eventually we were "told" the bill had finally been paid. That is, until last week, when yet another bill arrives for two hundred and thirty eight dollars. Here we go again, we said. She submits the bill to her boss, and he calls the insurer. Later, he reports that the insurer investigated the statement and had determined that the amount was the difference between the total hospital charges and the negotiated rate the Worker's Comp insurer pays for the services provided. She was also told that the hospital will "write off" this charge, and the bill will be considered Paid in Full.

Normally this is where the average person would be relieved - I mean after all, no more bills, right? But in my mind, I thought it a bit aggravating that the hospital, who KNOWS they have negotiated a special rate with Worker's Comp, should be trying to squeak that last amount from the patient, (who technically should be responsible for NO amount - given that the coverage is supposed to be totally provided by Worker's Comp.)

So basically they are trying to convince the patient that there is still an amount owed, when in fact, there is none. The best analogy I can come up with is a car dealer who offers a construction company fleet rates for their trucks, and then tries to collect the difference from the truck drivers.

Though we ended up having the luxury of ignoring the bill for $238, because we started an investigation, I cannot help but to think of the times where a teacher or a single mother of three took food away from their families in order to pay a bill that was not even the hospital's to collect, in order to avoid late night calls from collection agencies and bad credit ratings. (I can hardly imagine a hospital calling a collection agency for a past due payment on amounts not even legitimately owed - oh wait - I can.)

The practice of trying to recoup the difference between standard and negotiated rates is not limited to Worker's Comp claims. I had similar beefs with some hospitals while dealing with claims through my employer's medical insurance which also utilized negotiated rates.


Worker's Compensation is an important benefit that has its place in the American workplace. However, as a government program, there are plenty of opportunities for abuse, in this case from the hospitals. I suspect there are two driving forces behind the hassle we see whenever we find ourselves facing a claim. One, the Worker's Comp insurer your employer chooses hopes that you will get so sick and tired of the hassle that you will submit the bills through your existing health insurance policy, or better yet, out of pocket. Some health insurers allow that, but others force you to go through Worker's Comp if the injury happened on the job. And two, I think hospitals know this and have found themselves getting nowhere if they only deal directly with the insurers, so the hospitals have found that if they get the patient involved, and threaten collection and credit exposures, then the patient will work to resolve the issues to preserve their good credit.

There's even a theory that these entities are plotting against the employee to make him more responsible at work so as not to get injured and have to deal with all this. Yeah, that's right. We're just clumsy and looking to get time off of work.

But why does it have to be that way? I'm all for reform that can ease the process of recovering from job injuries (the financial recovery, not the physical.) And I am certainly in favor of any change we can see in keeping hospitals honest enough to stop trying to collect from the patients differences they have agreed upon with the insurance companies and are not actually owed by anybody.