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Archive for July, 2013

Low Walkability = Fewer Panhandlers?

July 28th, 2013 at 05:54 pm

In the seating/Starbucks Coffee area of the nearest supermarket a man asked me for help getting him something to eat. I don't know why he singled me out when there were food workers right in front of him. Outside the parking lot was a panhandler. Outside an exit from the adjacent vehicle lubrication place was another panhandler. And on the northeast corner of an arterial, still on the same block with the three men I just described, was a person who held a Stranded sign. This person has been Stranded at that corner since May (I bet I could make some decent distance with 2.5 months of walking) but comes out once a month.

Do I live in a bad area, or an area with some nearby drug dealers, or is everyone in a residential neighborhood of an American city witnessing multiple panhandlers in one block within 0.25 miles of where they live?

Are there peak days and times for panhandlers? I hate thinking I have to plan my errands and paths to avoid them. The Safeway ten blocks up from me has no panhandlers, only shoplifters. The supermarket near me has both.

I have lived in Canadian cities and the panhandling was only bad in the downtown - just east of downtown areas, or by the liquor stores in the high-density parts of the city.

Under $130000 in debt

July 18th, 2013 at 06:48 pm

Thankfully it is asset debt, not credit card debt. This is my silver lining for July, my finance freakout month: auto insurance, big water bill, utilities due at the end of the month. Oh yeah, and I owe 45% less on my mortgage than I did when I bought, the principal portion is now over twice the interest portion.

How is it that I can easily calculate the densest and cheapest protein sources, but be in a quandary about what to do with the few dollars remaining from our bank accounts, or how to properly monitor our budget and discipline ourselves to have delayed gratification. I am probably overwhelmed by too many choices and my unwillingness to extend the amortization terms to pay even more cumulative interest.

Visit to optometrist went much better than orthodontist. I did some things differently: I had a bill from last week's visit I announced my intention to pay. I had my Health Spending Account debit card with me and asked if I could pay that way. When there was a discrepancy between what the front desk person heard and what I heard for my next scheduled visit, she offered to double-check. I was proven correct. And the optometrist told me he'd waive his personal services fee as I have a high-deductible Health Savings Account. Plus he gave me four free bottles of artificial tears to hydrate my eyes, so they don't burn when I put in my medication. So glad my assertiveness has improved. It also helps that the number of employees is smaller.

I'm also a little down on how hard 10-year mortgages are to find these days. I'm not into paying so much interest up front anymore.

I do feel like a mental defective with budgeting after reading CNN's collection of McDonald's workers budgets: I should be able to outsave these people, some of whom have large children to feed. Our housing is about 3-4x what the profiled workers pay though.

Refunded for Ortho Fiasco - yay

July 11th, 2013 at 06:30 pm

What I learned:
- question all charges that seem incorrect. Do not assume that the orthodontist tells the assistant attending the appointment what to mark down on the charge sheet.

- my contribution to seeing this does not happen again is to ask for a statement I can pay in 15 or 30 days, and not pay immediately after appointment before orthodontist reviews day's billings.

Most peeved as my semi-annual auto insurance had just been deducted from my chequing account, and I have been very attentive to the remaining balance, which is under $60. It's a new car so my insurance is over $1100 per year. All it would take for us to go under would be a grocery visit from me and a $40 for lunch and gas and whatever money withdrawal from the spouse.
(He does this without asking. I have to tell him what the balance in our account is so he can choose either to go without or use a credit card.)

I removed my factual, indisputable Yelp review after an explanation and an apology from the orthodontist. I am glad I wrote it though, and let the staff beyond the financial coordinator read it, as now the office has discussed improvements to billing routines and the orthodontist has explained to her new hires how preservation of her top reputation she worked thirteen years for helps the office and is important, and perhaps that patients tend to assume the orthodontist directs the assistant what line item with fee to check off at the end of the appointment. I certainly assumed this.

Children + Orthodontics = $$$$$ + Tears

July 9th, 2013 at 10:19 pm

$150 for six minutes the orthodontist spent sitting in her chair, three of them adjusting my child's retainer. Replacing it, with moulds, would have cost $300. I am so livid I could eat nails. Did they tell me in advance what I could be looking at for cost? No. Do automotive mechanics, widely maligned, give an estimate before going ahead with work? Yes. Do automotive mechanics charge $50/minute to play with a plastic and wire apparatus? No.

This is worse than when my dentist charged me $77 to spend five minutes with him, in which I asked a question he could not answer. That's it: no investigation of the mouth, no rinse, fluoride, X-rays.

The three bright spots to my day: chocolates to end our gruelling Puzzled Pint night, crab pasta, and I did not spontaneously combust.

Update: The orthodontist called to apologize and reiterated I should not have been charged at ALL. I told her the assistant who attended her session with my son witnessed all the work and filled out the charge sheet, so without being told by any staff I had no idea this was a no-fee visit. I'd paid $3200 three years ago to cover work, and although they prepared me for the possibility of paying for a new mould and a new retainer, this was NOT what happened. But they billed me for that anyway.

At the end of the day when the orthodontist reviewed her appointments and charges, she saw the billing error. The financial coordinator e-mailed me about the apologies, but that does not excuse the fact that the cheque was deposited immediately upon payment and not at the end of the day, when the orthodontists have approved the charges for procedures performed that day.

Refund from Pediatric Clinic One Year Later

July 6th, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Surprised, but then again medical billing makes no sense to me, unless it is single-payer. $117. It seems paltry somehow: coffee for a year, one fifth of my semi-annual car insurance payment, not even one week's worth of groceries. It'll probably go to the tot's "fishing camp." Don't laugh: halibut, salmon, clams, mussels and oysters hang out here. That's good eating.

The Spotted Pony is no more, so I shan't be seeing baselle there anymore, alas.

Holiday Treat Time

July 4th, 2013 at 04:37 pm

Have fun with Independence Day.
Great Men Repeat Themselves.
Back when the US had better things to do than to spy on its citizens and tax-paying foreign nationals, a love letter from a Canadian. And one from Albert Brooks.

If you're worried about these offerings from a ferner, they're tame and pro-American.

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Lost 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) and am now under 160 lbs! I'm beginning to think I can get back to 140...