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Saturday, March 31, 2012

WUMF: March 2012 Edition

March is at an end and that means, WUMF time.

Mega Loser
The lottery fever that swept the country for the better part of two weeks is now over.  I didn't win, so I will be back at work on Monday.   Think of it.  Had no one won last night, the potential jackpot could have been close to $975 million by end of business on Tuesday.  Almost a billion dollars for a lottery.  Unreal.  Now, at work, I coordinated our early retirement efforts and bought $176 worth of tickets.  The split for Friday's jackpot would have ended up split 44 ways resulting in around $8 million each.   A far cry from $640 million, but still appreciated. 

My own efforts with my family resulted in a few Mega Number hits but no jackpot.   I even played Hurley's numbers from LOST and got this as a fortune from dinner on Friday night.

"Money will come to you when you are doing the right thing."

Craft Beer Swap 2012
It's happening again, our first beer swap at the year.  Plenty of craft beer to drown our lottery sorrows in since we lost.  My contribution was Southern Tier Eurotrash Pilz.  Other selections are Victory Whirlwind, Breckenridge Pandora's Bock, Anchor Bock, Draai Laag Simon Girty, Blue Point Spring Ale, Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema, Penn Marzen, Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock, Dogfish Head Aprihop, and Victory Headwaters Pale Ale.

So far, I've had my own and the Whirlwind Wit Bier.  Wasn't a big fan of the Eurotrash Pilz, but the Whirlwind Wit was not too bad.  

Non Runner Sticker Takes Off... Running
Awhile back, I released a sticker on my stores celebrating the fact that not everyone can run a marathon.  Hell, not everyone WANTS to run a marathon.  As I sat in traffic, I noticed cars with those 26.2 and 13.1 stickers on them.   It didn't take long to figure out the owner was a marathon or a half marathon runner.   Personally, I have no interest in puking and chafed nipples.   So, the lazy entrepreneur strikes again.
0.0 Non Runner zazzle_sticker
0.0 Non Runner Pack of four stickers

Don't laugh.  It's become my best selling item recently.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Return of Fitty Cent

A few years back I was pulled over for doing 21 in a 15mph school zone which resulted in a poorly written carbon copy of a ticket, which resulted in me shorting my fine payment by $0.50, which resulted in a bench warrant out for my arrest upon failure to pay, which resulted in my wife mailing fifty pennies to the magistrate with a scathing letter. Since then, I’ve tried to stay on the straight and narrow.

It only took six years to fall off the wagon.

Friday, I was driving home from work and immediately jumped onto 79 South because traffic was stacked from Robinson. Now, the “back way” as I call it is a 70 mile stretch of highway that follows 79 South to Washington where I jump onto 70 East towards New Stanton and then finish up with the Turnpike to Irwin. This takes about an hour, which is usually how long it takes me to go 35 miles from Robinson to Irwin by way of 376, 22, and any number of back roads to my house.

Driving on 79 isn’t bad, but 70 is like driving the DC Beltway during rush hour. Once I get to the turnpike, I find my happy place and just kind of cruise home. Unfortunately, I was apparently cruising a little too much and the State Trooper parked about a mile away from the Irwin exit pulled me over.

Now, I must preface this by saying I am currently driving a 2005 Malibu Maxx wagon with 80,000+ miles on it. I could see myself doing 75 mph in it, easily. That’s pretty standard. However, the officer stated I was doing 90.

“90!?!?!?” I asked.

“Yes.” He replied.

“90!?!?!?” I asked again.

"Would you like to look at it on the dash cam?” He offered.

“May I?”

I got out of the car and walked back to him while he collected my ID and registration. “See there, the number on the left represents all of the cars passing by.” It read 60, 62, 61, etc. Well, of course it did. Everyone sees the flashing lights and has slowed down under the speed limit. “The number on the right is you.”  It showed 90.

He also said, because I was out there all alone, I was the only one being clocked at that instant. "Had you been driving alongside someone, I probably wouldn't have bothered." (paraphrased) This goes along with some old advice I got from a State Trooper in 1995 who informed me that he wouldn't have pulled me over for doing between 1-15mph over the speed limit. I was doing 71 in a 55 at the time. I was also driving an 84 Pontiac Firebird, a far cry from the family truckster I drive now.

Now, he says the machine is calibrated. Of course it is. My car is calibrated, too. When I get up over 80mph, it shakes. Therefore, if I am cruising along on the highway and doing 90mph, I would not be able to drive with one hand on the wheel, which is what I was doing.  Still, I conceded that he had a calibrated radar and I maintained that my car does not drive smoothly at 90mph. I agreed to disagree.

I dropped my payment in the mail. I sent a check this time…not 11100 pennies.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Final Chapter in the Medical Billing Saga

At long last there is closure… maybe.

If you’ve been reading on a regular basis, you’ve heard me gripe about my medical billing woes. The recap is this:

My wife went in for a routine exam last July. Lab work was sent by Provider A, West Penn Allegheny Health System. The next day she had another appointment for something else. Scans were done by Provider B, Excela Health.

The breakdown:
Provider A  billed us $71.50 but never filed a claim.
Provider B billed us $250.00 and filed a claim.
We have an individual $250 deductible.

The result:
I paid Provider A for the full amount of $71.50.
I paid Provider B for the difference of $178.50, the difference of our deductible.
I went to collections over $71.50 with Provider B.

A couple weeks ago I called Provider A to get an explanation of which there was none. I called the Insurance company, of which we are no longer policy holders, and got no explanation. I called the collection agent and told them I had nothing to offer them as an explanation as that I didn’t know who should have been owed the money.  They provided me proof of the debt owed to Provider B, but since the insurance company had no record of a claim from Provider A, I could not be sure that Provider B should have been owed anything.

I finally got through to someone at Provider A and they said, “Oh yeah, our bad.” They filed the claim which had been languishing in some limbo for who knows how long.  I know it was more than six months, because I called them last year and said, "Hey, the insurance company never saw a claim."  And they said, "Oh yeah, we'll file one." 

Seven days later I called the Insurer to see if they received anything. They had not. I spoke to a supervisor who followed up with Provider A, which had done nothing yet. The Insurer got some traction and the claim was finally filed.

And the conclusion is…

I should never had been charged the $71.50 by Provider A.  It was part of a wellness visit and they screwed up the billing.  I guess they figured, "We got paid.  Who cares if it was from the insurance company or the member?"

So, now I owe $71.50 to Provider B. Unfortunately, I have to wait ANOTHER WEEK to get reimbursed. Why can’t they just issue the check to the collector. It won’t take as long. I sure as hell am not cutting a check to them without the reimbursement in my hand.

There are some of you just shaking your heads, I get that. Here’s the thing. Even though $71.50 is not the end of my world, it impacts my finances a hell of a lot more than it impacts Excela Health or this collector. The principle of the matter is that I didn’t screw up. Provider A did when they billed me for something they never should have. I am simply acting the way any other business does when it comes to appeals and reimbursements.

How long does it usually take for you to get a rebate… if you get one? Something along the lines of four to six weeks, right? Why is that? Volume? Maybe.

So, I should just jump right in and pay because someone claims that I owe them something. A business has to sign a form, provide proof of being owed and wait for the payment to be processed, just like individuals.

If we are going to live in a world where we recognize corporations as people, then they can be treated just as shitty way we are. Therefore, I am a corporation. I’ve just decided. I am a corporation of me and I employ my wife and child. I provide them health care and I pay for it from my own pocket. I pay taxes on their existence in my corporation.

Don’t hate the player. Change the game.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring 2012 Giveaway

Wanted to let you know I'm holding a giveaway for the T-Shirt side of Mongo...  Come on over and get entered to win some prizes..
DVD of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version with Gene Wilder… not Johnny Depp)
Peep Show shirt in your size
Box of peeps
0.0   Non Runner Sticker (for all you who don’t feel like working off the candy you’ve consumed)
Lent Is For Quitters Magnet
And a couple of other surprises

Three ways to enter.   Facebook, Twitter and on posting comments here.

Here’s  how:
1.  Go here and comment...
2.  Tweet "I just entered the @AngryMongo Spring Giveaway for a chance to win some great prizes #MongoSpring2012"
3.  Go to my facebook page and tell me what's the best thing to find in your basket. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Do Not Welcome Death

Do you ever wonder why we do what we do? We get up every morning. Go to work. Come home. Rinse. Repeat. For what? Is it a sense of pride? Duty? Faith? Why do we feel that we have to do all of these things just to clarify our existence?

I have been relatively lucky in my life. I have no major health problems. My wife and child are healthy. My family is fine. Yet, I get that “Why me?” mentality over something stupid like traffic being backed up because people choose to gawk at an accident on the opposite side of the road. Some are not so lucky.

My next door neighbor’s grandson, all of a whopping 15, just got an expiration date. He has Huntington’s Disease. His mother had it and died when he was five, about two years before we moved in next door. As a child of someone with HD, he has a 50% chance of being diagnosed with it and there is no cure. Most people with HD die of pneumonia while some die of heart disease and some by suicide. Either they choose to take their own life, rather than suffer the terminal effects, or the psychiatric symptoms lead to suicidal tendencies. To this end, this boy has about 15 years left according to a timeline established by doctors who diagnosed him. His life is half over in other words.

To make matters, worse he is currently in a facility for juvenile offenders. His life has not been the greatest, prior to being diagnosed with HD. Trouble with anger, authority, drugs, and vandalism have led him to be a risk to others and being in this facility mandates that he be treated for whatever he’s going through. I don’t know much about that situation but from what I was told, he refused treatment while he was still living at home because of the effects.

Think about it. This kid is in a correctional facility, probably until he turns 18 and pretty much has no plans to walk the straight and narrow after that. He’ll most likely end up back in the system for a majority of his life. I’m not even sure if he knows his life expectancy, yet. Would you want to know?

If you were given five years to live and your life is pretty much screwed anyway, given your history, what would you do? Get a job? Pay taxes? Obey the rules? What’s to say you don’t just decide to go balls deep and rob a bank with a year left to live. Go somewhere and just live out the last year with nothing but id satisfying actions. Why not?

And people wonder why I question things the way I do.

I’ve seen an 11 year old girl fight with everything she has to beat bone cancer, only to die a year later when it came back to knock her ass to the mat.

I’ve seen my mother-in-law endure 12 years of renal cell cancer survival, have a brain tumor removed, part of her pancreas, reproductive system, and go through chemo therapy to beat cancer. Then die of a brain hemorrhage a month after she was given a clean bill of health.

And now this. And I’m not going to get all prolific and prophetic about Rocky Mountain climbing and going 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. What’s the point of that? Not everyone wants to be cheery and Zen about dying. Some want to be bitter and angry and self satisfying. And you know what? They have every right to feel that way. Do I think they should do whatever they want at the expense of others’ safety and quality of life? No. If you want to feel that way, fine. Stick to your own path. I would. It serves no purpose to drag everyone else down with you but by all means, I totally agree with the sentiment of feeling lost and betrayed by some sort of higher power.

To those that say, “This is a test” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, I say, “This WILL kill me, so why bother fighting the way you want me to fight.” There’s no faith or belief strong enough to justify, in my mind, that this is something that is planned or expected. This is flat out life being a dick.

At 15 he has no hope to have a family. They usually discourage people with HD from having kids because of the 50/50 shot of passing it to a child. He has two half siblings, one of which has it, full blown. I couldn’t imagine my life without my kid in it, but to think that I could be responsible for passing a debilitating and terminal illness to them is horrific.

But I still have a shot. I’m a big coward that values life too much. Of course, it doesn’t help when you push almost 280lbs at 37. I’m trying. When your kid draws a picture of your family and you take up half the drawing, you know it’s time to do something. Granted, I’m still lazy as f**k, so it’s slow going but I don’t plan on checking out anytime soon. I hope I never get to a point in my life where I say, “I welcome death. I’m ready.” If I have to tangle with Death, I hope he plans on a fight. He’ll be a couple of bones short when he gets done with me. I’m making him work for my soul. Count on that, the Reaper ought to fear me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PAXBurgh: Pittsburgh, Make It So!

See, I’m thinking here. I’m thinking how to make things awesomer…? More awesome-y? whatever. Suck it, haters.

Anyway, a friend of mine is going to PAX in Boston this year and I thought, “How cool would it be if Pittsburgh hosted it?”

First of all, it has to be better than getting Anthrocon. I’m sure guest services at the Wyndham would rather hear, “I need ample room for my XBoxes” instead of “I need ample room for my litter boxes.”

Second of all, think of the tie ins you could have. We have the biggest Pinball museum just west of the city. Another perfect tie in, Mario Lemieux. He’s called “Super Mario” after all. And…. We could use his TV outside the Consol for streaming of games. Also, why not have the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust book PLAY! A Video Game Symphony for the same week just after or before the convention as to not cripple the downtown area or take away from either. They’ve done it here before.

Pittsburgh is lacking a viable gaming scene yet we are a burgeoning film location. With Batman, One Shot, and countless other films being done in the area we have our own film studio in 31st Street Studios. Why not leverage them for motion capture work on video games. Fallout 3 had an addon that was set in Pittsburgh. The highly anticipated Story of Us takes place in Pittsburgh. It’s time. You could tie in a live Angry Birds demonstration sponsored by The Carnegie Science Center with launching Penguins at what’s left of the Civic Arena. Set up a Mario Kart tourney in Schenley Park ala Pittsburgh Gran Prix. Blue Shell takes you out at Phipps, right into the Columbus statue.  Bazinga!

With The Art Institute and CMU in the area there should be enough of a video game demographic to warrant this from both the designer and player side. We’re bent on being the best at everything on every list. Why not go full tilt Technophile Video Game Geek? We pull this off and we’re not just telling Portland to suck. We’re telling Seattle to suck it. [Credit goes to That’s Church for that phrase.]

Now, Pittsburgh make it so. PAXBurgh! I’m available for a planning job. Just promise me a nominal pay and all access to the event.

PAXBurgh. Come on! It’s there for the taking, like a shiny coin sprung from a question mark block. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

More Medical Billing Woes: The Saga Continues

Awhile back I shared my woes with a year old tale of how one simple screw up with a service provider led me into a world of fail that continues to plague me.

Brief recap… My wife had a doctor visit on one day with Provider A and on the next day had some additional tests done by Provider B. Having a deductible of $250 to fulfill, we were billed $71.50 by Provider A. Provider B billed us for $250 for their services.

Never getting the full disclosure of what we were being billed for in an Explanation of Benefits, I opted to hold off on paying Provider A and B because there was a discrepancy in the amount being billed.

Long story short, I eventually paid Provider A for $71.50 and then $178.50 to Provider B, thus fulfilling her individual deductible of $250.

Then, Provider B continued to bill us for the remaining $71.50. I disputed it and they didn’t care. I contacted Provider A and they could not provide me with an answer. I contacted the Insurance Provider and they could not find any claim other than the initial co-pay of $20 for Provider A’s visit.

We were sent to collections. And when the collection agent called last week, I explained all of this and then had to make another round of calls to Provider A, Provider B, and the Insurance Provider.

Provider A is not open for inquiries beyond 5pm. 4pm for Provider B. Calling them after work is not really an option. Hell, it’s hard to get through to them during my lunch, because I’ve sat in the hold queue for well over 20 minutes and this issue takes time to re-explaining.

So, I called yesterday after going through my training class and needing to decompress… Of course, I attempted to apply what I learned about Service Management to the CSR over the phone. It didn’t go well. This is a paraphrased conversation.

“How did this happen?”
  “No claim was filed for this service.”
“Yet you billed me for it.”
“And I paid for it.”
“OK, well, I’m into collections with another provider over this, so re-file the claim.”
  “It will take 7-10 days to do this because we have to pull it from collections.”
“Seriously? 7-10 days?”
“But you billed me for it and didn’t file a claim with the insurance. Why do you think I didn’t pay it? Because no claim was filed and no EOB was sent out for it. What if I had already met my $250 deductible before this? How would you know that I owed anything? You billed me before filing a claim.”
  “I understand that sir. It will take 7-10 days to file it because we have to pull it from collections.”
“OK, well, I called last year and went over this with someone and they said they would re-file it. They obviously didn’t do it. So, what kind of assurance do I have that it will get done this time? Can you send me something or copy me on the statement.”
  “No, sir, I cannot do that. You can call the Insurance Provider in 7-10 days to see that it was filed.”
Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of confidence that this will get done. The last time I called they said they had to get a hold of a supervisor and call me back.

They didn’t.

Once this gets resolved, I want a friggin’ apology from Provider A.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Accidentally The Everything

I’ve been in certification training this week which isn’t an excuse for not posting but the homework I’ve been given at night is.

Anyway, I caused a bit of a moment of panic and disorientation at the beginning of day two. All I did was one simple thing. I changed seats.

We are creature of habits and when we walk into a situation that requires us to live and work in a particular environment, for an extended period of time, we tend to carve out our own space for the duration. We mark our territory. We post up signs, in the form of name card tents and materials that we’ve been given. We huddle in our little bunkers and wait for rescue, or at least a bathroom break.

This past week was no exception and the universe broke, twice.

It started out on Monday. We had training for a certification class and I wandered in at the last minute. Those I know and work with were already flanked by other people, so I was forced to take an end seat next to someone I did not know. At the end of the first day, all was well.

The next morning, I got an Instant Message from a coworker I spend a significant amount of time working with on documentation and other stuff. They asked me to sit by them and I said, “Doesn’t that inherently break some kind of universal law about seating in multiple day meetings?” They felt I was silly, so I complied with the request. It wasn’t like we were dividing by zero or anything, right?

When the guy that was sitting next to my coworker came in and saw the situation it was like ants off the path. There was discussion about the switching between the two of us and the person that I was sitting next to the previous day. It was like an awkward moment. I felt like I had to reinforce the fact that I wasn’t moving because of the person I was next to but because I was asked by the person who I was going to sit next to. It came off like some bad Dear John letter and here I was almost apologetic to a complete stranger.

Then it became a sense of awkwardness for the person who now took my old seat because I inadvertently said, “Oh, she asked me to come sit over here.” I threw my coworker under the bus which then makes it seem like the person, who was there previously, was somehow an undesirable element in the seating scheme. Now, we’ve got two people’s lives in upheaval all because “I accidentally the everything”.  So, after awhile I felt as if it was no longer an issue and went on about my way.

Yesterday was the final day, which included testing. Our once happy outpost of sanctuary was thrown into flux as we turned the tables to face another wall to give us a better spatial format, conducive to a testing environment. Now, in a 90 degree angle difference, everyone ended up choosing different seats and the entire world came crashing down around us. Now, 100 monkeys at 100 calculators were dividing by zero.

And that is why I probably failed the test miserably. I angered the seating Gods with my initial blasphemy of switching seats. By day three, they went all Noah and the flood on us and said, “Throw their world into chaos and have the proctor turn the tables on them!”

OK, so that’s probably reaching a bit. However, when I read that first question and could actually hear a pin drop in the back of my brain, complete with an unending echo, I knew this was going to be a long hour. I don’t want to be the only schmuck who fails the certification. I just want to test in my safe little meeting room compound, under my name card table tent, secure and ignorant of the dangers out there. That scary world where people stab at you with highlighters and mechanical pencils, emblazoned with the logo of whatever company you have there to train you.

Death by schwag!

Never change seats.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Goonies 25th Anniversary Soundtrack

Holy Crap! Look at that! It’s the actual score to The Goonies without all of the pop songs that were in the only version I had, growing up. Still, $46 is a bit much. When Napster first came out, I was all over downloading every bit of Dave Grusin’s soundtrack I could.

The Goonies is a HUGE part of my pop culture obsessed childhood. So were orchestral soundtracks. I was a John Williams junkie and Alan Silvestri, Michael Kamen, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith all adorned my geek CD case.

I bought the DVD version back around 2000 and it was pretty sweet. Of course, that was back when DVD menu animation was a big deal. But the DVD had a great set of extras that I’m hoping are all on the Blu-Ray. I want the picture in picture commentary with the cast reunion. I want the dual Cyndi Lauper music videos (Part 1 and 2). And I want the deleted scenes.

I’ve been putting off on posting my take on what I would accept if they ever did a sequel. I’m kind of hoping they won’t. Dan Aykroyd finally gave up the ghost on GB3 since Bill Murray said no to the script. Hollywood is still looking to release a Top Gun sequel [headdesk] Let it go, folks.

So, I may just have to pick this up... or...  I'll just save the playlist from YouTube.

WUMF: February 2012 Edition

Weight and See
A couple years back I made this commitment to losing some weight. And when I say some I mean 80 lbs. I managed to get 20 out of the way in a couple of months and then the Winter set in and the holidays and the sleepiness and… Yeah, I failed, miserably.

Not only did I gain that 20 lbs. back I added another ten last year. So, I got a shaming from my doctor and my pants screamed at me when I would put them on, “Why?!?!? Why do you try? You know it won’t end well! The button’s going to go and someone is going to lose an eye.”  Still, the holidays came and I was a bad, bad donkey to quote my favorite King Prawn.

But I saw a picture of me from 1996, when I was 177 lbs. Sickly, but svelte. I was suffering through a three month bout with walking pneumonia while working at Cedar Point and I weighed less than I did in high school. That made me a little sad. Then, I started to notice that my daughter was drawing all these pictures of her family and I took up most of the page. That made me really sad.

Now, it’s not that I have any grand schemes to be 177 lbs., but I do plan on hitting that 200 lb. goal. I think what will make it better is that I started this in the late Winter, so the chance for exercise will be better as the weather gets warmer.

Oscar Night 2012
I was sick over the weekend. I think more so because of the antibiotics I was taking. I remember being on something like them when I had that bout with walking pneumonia I mentioned above. I managed to watch an hour and a half before crashing for some much needed sleep to help with the sickness. I DVR’d them and plan on watching them, just because.

Yeah, I already know who won and that doesn’t bother me. I’ve gotten a little disenchanted with the Oscars, anymore. The rules regarding best picture is a little bit like the rules over hits in the NFL. Can we just stick to five? How about this, the top five pictures that earned over 5% of first-places votes. This crap about anywhere between 5 and ten was stupid. Take all the votes and pick the top five based on percentage. If there is a tie, then include it. We’re rewarding campaign strategies, not films.

Was Moneyball really THAT great of a film compared to The Help or The Artist? Midnight in Paris?

Not to mention, how about The Muppets snagging a best song? I loved it. However, they had a 50/50 chance of winning against Rio? Rio? Best song is quickly becoming a category that is either neglected or well represented anymore. It’s like hit or miss each year with nominees. Looking back it’s been; 2, 4, 5, 3, 5, 5, 3. Somebody call Sting or Bruce or Bryan Adams and get that shit fixed.

As far as hosting goes, I think Billy Crystal was in Oscar mode. It was a return to the good hosting that has been missing since… well, probably the last time Billy hosted. And why did the Sammy Davis Jr. bit draw criticism? Because The Help was a multiple nominated movie? Billy Crystal has been doing the Sammy impression for years and considering the context of the scene, it was the only Billy impression usable.

And can we please deport Sacha Baron Cohen?  His shit isn't funny anymore.  I don't know if it ever was.   Showing up on the red carpet as The Dictator from his movie... The Dictator holding an urn with the supposed ashes of Kim Jong Il.  Did we not see how that was going down before he even spoke?  That joke was is decades old. 

“Who’s XXXXXX?” Twitter trends
Again, The youth of America need to have their Twitter accounts taken away from them until they start to actually learn something about life. During the Grammy’s it was “Who’s Paul McCartney?” and that got my blood boiling. During the Oscars it happened again, and this time those damn kids need to smarten up.

“Who is Billy Crystal?” Come on, half of you in the 18-24 crowd should recognize him as Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. You are the Pixar generation. If you don’t, go back and watch Monsters, Inc., The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Analyze This, and Running Scared (1986, not 200X) and find out what Soap is. I don’t want to burden you with the other stuff.

Come to think of it, perhaps this is a meme and people think it’s cool to not know anything. I wonder if kids asked Siri who these people were? Siri should slap them. Really.

Shredded Tweets