Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Love Letter to Government Health Insurance

I don't plan to get too much into political issues very often on here, but since it's sort of the end of an era, I thought I'd share a little story about why profit-based health insurance just plain sucks.

My fiance recently added me to his company's insurance, which (I hope, at least) will be better than the coverage I've had since coming out to Boston.

Back in the Spring of 2009, I went to the doctor with a sore throat.  Turned out to be strep throat, and not a big deal at all.  But that wasn't all that the doctor found.

He also found a lump on the front of my neck that I never would have noticed.  Who knows how long it had been there.  After determining that it was definitely abnormal, he sent me to get a needle biopsy (and as someone who has a really serious phobia of needles... Ick..).

The biopsy determined that it was, in fact, a tumor on the right lobe of my thyroid.  Luckily, it seemed to be benign, but they wouldn't know for sure until they took it out.  And since they couldn't determine how long it had been there, they didn't know if it would continue to grow if we left it there, eventually restricting my breathing.

So, into surgery I went.

The surgery went well.  My surgeon, and all of the doctors and nurses involved were brilliant and everything was fine.

Until a month or two later, when I got a letter from my insurance company saying they would not be covering the surgery.

Because it wasn't "medically necessary."

Now, I'm sure there are some spin-doctors who could argue that breathing isn't "medically necessary."  No more medically necessary than being alive, I suppose.

Luckily, my surgeon wanted to get paid.  After I called him and explained the letter I'd gotten, he had me fax the info over to him, and I never heard another word about it from the insurance company.

I'm glad to be moving up to a slightly higher tier of health insurance for a little while...

But you know what I'm really looking forward to?  Government healthcare in Denmark.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

On the English Accent

We've spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in my home town, and managed to catch up with an old high school friend of mine last night.  He's one of these friends who is always wonderful to talk to because he's always honest and always asks thought provoking questions.

Last night, one of our many lines on conversation turned toward the English accent and why on earth it has such an effect on Americans.

It's hilarious to watch people react to my fiance when he starts talking.  The women, especially, will often get all giggly.  Even my friend last night asked him to say "Oxford" and "hot wings" again.

Indeed, that accent once got us a table at a completely packed restaurant.  A table that very conspicuously had a "reserved" sign on it when we first walked in.

Two of the theories that we discussed:

1. It's all about the movies.  In the movies, English guys are almost always the most charming, suave, and educated of the characters, even when they're playing the baddies.

2.  The key is in the tone of voice.  We Americans get a lot more across with our tone.  The highs and lows of sound that get across more of the feeling of what we're trying to say.  Indeed, the first time my fiance and I spoke, he remarked on how enthusiastic Americans are when we speak.  In England, on the other hand, with their centuries-long history playwriting and literature and poetry, and their appreciation for much dryer humor, they rely more on the actual words to express what they're trying to say.  And perhaps that's part of why the English just seem to have a more colorful way with words.

Then again, I think we'd all react the same way even if he weren't using such colorful language.

It's that accent.  We can't help ourselves.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Time That I Walked Out

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from my mother.  The subject line said "You have to see this..."

In the email was this link.

You may have heard the story on the news or read about it in the New York Times, where it originally broke.  Or maybe you even saw it mentioned on The Daily Show.  Pictures from a Halloween party at a foreclosure law firm outside of Buffalo, NY where the employees are dressed up as homeless people and mocking people who are going through foreclosure. 

It was a horrifying story, but that wasn't the only reason I was sent that article. 

The truth is, I used to work at that law firm.  Back in 2003 and 2004, I worked in their reinstatement and payoff department.  For a while, I was able to convince myself that since I was ultimately working to help people bring their homes out of foreclosure, that I somehow wasn't as involved in ruining the lives of so many people.

But that lie only lasted so long.  In December of 2004, I walked out.

I've never once regretted it.

Now it turns out that banks all over New York are pulling their business from the firm, and the firm is issuing layoff notices and shutting down.

I don't wish ill on any of the people laid off, as it's tough enough to find work as it is, let alone in Buffalo these days.  And having that job on their resume isn't likely to do them any favors.

But at the same time, there is a level of justice in having it end the way that it did.

Sometimes, instead of helping you rise to the top, being horrible to people will ruin your career.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We're Seriously Smart When We're Drunk

My fiance and I are always having really intellectual conversations about the Danish language and language learning in general...

...While drinking...

Which is to say that we think we have really intellectual conversations on the topic.

Last night is a prime example.  I remember sitting there thinking "This is a great conversation!  I'll have to blog about this in the morning!"

And upon waking I found myself asking him... "What was that conversation we were having last night?"

Neither of us can remember.

Highlights that we have remembered so far:
- The frustration with the lack of versions 3 and 4 for Danish from Rosetta Stone, as they apparently tell you if you're pronouncing the words correctly.
- The tendency to start translating everything you say into the language you're learning in your head.
- Where the stresses/accents are put on words in Danish, compared to English and Spanish.

It was all fascinating.

You'll have to take my word for it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Informal Formal Danish Class vs. Sanity

Something had to give.

Either the Danish classes, my job, or the wedding.  Something had to give.

For the sake of my sanity.

And since the latter two are not actually on the table, I regret to say that it looks like I'll have to stop going to Danish classes for now.

Plan B... or... is it C?  I've asked for Rosetta Stone for Christmas.

Hopefully that'll allow me to get through the holidays without completely losing my mind, and then I can start again in earnest in January.

Now, here's the deal with the Rosetta Stone for learning Danish...  Since there isn't really much of a market for folks who aren't Danish to learn the language, the folks at Rosetta Stone never updated beyond version 2 (more widely learned languages go up to version 4).  So, the technology isn't as good, but it's still pretty good.  They've also only made the most basic level of Danish in version 2 for Danish.  Luckily, that's the level I'm at, so it's not an issue.

And if I can become decent at beginning level Danish by the time I get there, I'll feel more confident in the state-provided Danish classes I'll be taking there.

I'm trying not to think of myself as a quitter right now.

It's not easy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pardon Me While I Get a Little Mushy

I'll try to make this brief, I promise.

A year ago today, my fiance and I started dating.

It's been one of those stories that I was sure was going to end in heartbreak.  At the time, I was 29 and recently out of a seriously complicated relationship.  When I met my fiance, he was clearly too perfect to ever be interested in me.

A charming British scientist who looked like a movie star and constantly made me laugh?  After the first time we met, I remember thinking "I can't tell if he was flirting... or just British..."

I guess he must have been flirting, because we're getting married in May.

So as not to go on with this mushiness any longer, I'll just finish by saying this:

Happy anniversary, babe.  You're my hero and I love you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Danish Singer-Songwriters

This is a follow-up to my recent post about the great folky singer-songwriters coming out of Sweden lately.

With the help of some of the expat community in Denmark, I was able to find a few great Danish artists and groups that I'm very excited to see live when we get there.

Let's start with Ida Gard.  I'm really loving her voice:

Next up is Agnes Obel.  She was just recently won all kinds of Danish Music Awards.  This song is really beautiful:

And finally, I do love a folk group with great voices and great harmonies, and these guys have both.  The high tenor is just stunning:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Thank You

Let's get a little meta on this thing, shall we?

It's tough to know where to draw the line when it comes to sharing personal information on a blog like this.  The blog is, of course, viewable by anyone.  Deciding what is valuable to whoever might read it, while at the same time keeping my private life private... it's a thin line that I'm constantly questioning.

I was able to get away from reality for a bit to spend the weekend with my best friends.  It was a much needed respite during a really difficult time.

This week, I'm choosing to keep my personal life to myself, but I will say this:

It's almost harder to be hit with bad news after a really wonderful few days with amazing friends.

That 180 degree flip... It's rough.

At the same time, it's good to have a reminder of the wonderful people in my life who are always supportive.  My fiance, my best friends, my family... They all keep me sane.

Maybe only by a hair, but they do manage it.

So, in the spirit if the upcoming holiday, I want to say thank you to everyone in my life who has stuck around through my rants.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Informal Formal Danish Class #5 - I Didn't Cry!


We arrived at the class a few minutes early, and I took the time to be as honest as possible with the instructor.  "I'll be honest," I said. "I haven't even looked at this stuff in two weeks."

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

And this made for an extraordinarily taxing first half of the class.  We started by trying to invert sentences.  Where we can say either "I went to the store yesterday" or "Yesterday, I went to the store," in Danish the sentence structure looks more like "Yesterday went I to the store."

That's all well and good.  I have a decent understanding of that grammatical rule.  What I don't have is the vocabulary committed to memory yet.  So, while I should be able to build a sentence well enough, I don't have the words with which to do so.

It made for a very frustrating first hour or so.

After that, though, we worked on an exercise where we tried to determine which vowel sounds we were hearing when the instructor pronounced various words.

And we were all equally awful at that, so I felt much better.