Today has been a treasure. Yesterday I got to work, had one project that consumed most of my day, and got it done. This morning I got to work and had nine things on my desk, all of which had to be done rightthisminute.
Now, I had slated two of them to be done when I got to work, and one of them to start the following day when the data arrived, but the data arrived a day early, I had a project from the previous week ask for more information, a project from the last month ask for additional data, a "quick side task that should only take ten minutes" show up on my plate, a request for QC checks and documentation for a make-or-break task due Friday, and then my ongoing Death-March project of file-loading into Moloch Mk III hovering over my head.

I got a bit snippy with my project manager when she called me to ask me if I had room on my plate to handle something. I wonder why.

Later I did apologize to her for it, but she said she totally understood when she went back and looked at my workload. One problem this company has—and which we are desperately trying to fix"is a severe project tracking deficiency. We're improving steadily, but it's still very easy to overwhelm one person and leave others bored. We've also got enough work outstanding to keep a good half-dozen folks busy, but the tools we're using aren't up to the needs of a "generic user" yet, and it's not cost-effective to employ six trained professionals to do the work that any generic user should be able to handle.

We've got a new project lead for Moloch Mk III, apparently, as well as a UI designer, so hopefully that will improve.

I have actually decided as of this moment to christen our big in-house software tool "Moloch Mk III", for the following reasons:

  1. In the movie Metropolis, when Freder hallucinates in the Worker's City and visualizes one of the Great Machines as a demon eating rows upon rows of chained workers, he cries out the name "Moloch".
  2. Some people may remember the name Moloch from the old D&D books as one of the Lords of Hell. I think he ruled over the sixth Hell, but don't hold me accountable to that.</geek> 
  3. We're currently coding v3.0 of the software, hence the Mk designation.

Can you tell how much I love this piece of software? In order to use it properly as it stands, one must not only know perl (to write "expressions", which is a euphemism for arbitrary subroutines), but one must understand something of the underlying mechanisms by which the tool operates and have a good idea of how the programmers think about the tool, because nothing in the interface is intuitive from a process-flow perspective.

To give you an idea of how bad this thing is, the UI designer we hired to fix its "idiosyncracies" stopped taking notes and just started laughing about fifteen mintues into the hour-long demonstration I gave on how to load files. She put down her pen, shook her head, and laughed. Loudly. Repeatedly. It went from being a lecture to being a game of "how much worse could it get."

The only reason I know as much about it as I do is because I use it every day, and I'm good at rote memorization. I can only hope in the long run she can tame this beast, 'cause nobody else has managed.

All of this, and it's only Tuesday.

I've been dallying in the stock market for a while now—a little over three years—and I've tried some various strategies in the past for "making money" that, for the most part, didn't work. The Motley Fool was an invaluable research source when I first started, but I haven't looked at their site in over a year. It's not that I'm any sort of expert. Far from it. If I were an expert, I wouldn't be as far in debt as I am and as stressed over money as I get. I'm just someone trying to start saving for retirement with an idea towards what it would take.

My father always used to hound me on the power of saving money, and I never really listened to him, but now I'm starting to see it. I just wish I had more money to save. I spent another two-hundred dollars today putting fuel oil in our sparkly-new oil tank for the first time, so the workmen at the house could get some heat back into the house and see how badly damaged the plumbing system is. We know at least one toilet needs to be repaired. Hopefully that's the extent of the problem, but I doubt it.

Little by little I'm coming into the idea of putting together something in the project area of the site dedicated to my endeavors in the stock market. I could probably put together something similar to my weight chart, only it would need to read a configuration file to determine what stock I own, how much I paid, and what my return so far is.

I should get a rather nice chunk of change from the insurance company for last month's electricity bill and next month's rent. After that the real fun begins, 'cause Wissahickon doesn't do month-to-month, only short-term leases, and I'm not locking myself into another three months in this place, even if it is on somebody else's dime. It's just not worth it. The repair company said it should be "four to six weeks from the start of repairs" to be ready to move into the house, so I'm hoping it's closer to the four end of that so we can have two weeks to get into the house.

Wouldn't you know that'd put us almost square on top of moving offices at work, too?

As soon as we're moved into the house, I'll be ready to start the process of getting a debt consolidation loan to put all the past debt into a single source and make a plan for getting rid of it once and for all. It may be five years of pain, but that'll be better than paying the insurance companies through the ears in finance charges. Once that's secure, I can maybe get rid of one of my cards, now that Jessie has a copy of the debit card, and start getting back into an even financial keel.

It feels weird, worrying about stock dalliances while so far up to my ears in debt, but if there's one thing I know about the market that I've heard every professional say without hesitation, it's that time in the game matters more
than the rules by which you play, simply by the nature of the beast, so I'm trying to get my paws wet now so that when I can afford more I know more or less what I'm doing.

My goal is to be making as much on my stocks as I could at my day job by the time I'm sixty. I don't think that's an unreasonable goal.

Only time will tell.


Today's actually a fairly big day for me. I've finally done something I've wanted to do for a long time. I've put something I wrote up for sale.

I keep wanting to describe it here as vanity, but it's more than that. It's my writing. It's for sale. It's my writing for sale. Anyone who's an artist can describe this feeling. Few outside those who sell what they create can. There's something incredibly empowering in the idea of making a living on the fruit's of one's creative endeavors. It's powerful. This is in no way "making a living" on it, but if even one person pays money to read it, then I've accomplished a goal. I've written something I wanted to write, and had someone give me money for it.
I'll have sold my creative writing.

One dollar, in that context, seems pretty lousy. Professional rates for authors when I was growing up was three cents a word. At three-thousand, four-hundred-seventy-three words, three cents a word is over a hundred
dollars. Most people will not pay a hundred dollars for five pages of written text. Even I wouldn't pay that much. I would love it people did, but they don't.

The price-point's actually probably about right. It's little enough to seem like a pittance to most people, and enough to actually be worth my time. I only see eighty cents out of that buck, but that's more than zero which is
what I'd get if I just put it online on my website. I do intend to keep writing and giving stuff away, because I enjoy writing, but I do want to at least focus some amount of my time towards writing for payment. I'd like to see some kind of positive return on my investment, and I think I'm good enough to get it, if I can just get my name out there.

Jessie actually quipped while I was writing Lateral Promotion that I'd never make it as a porn-writer because I take too much pride in my work. I can't crank it out fast enough and I spend too much time worrying about plot and character and setting and not enough time worry about which tab fits into whose slot. I'm hoping I can prove her wrong, but it'd be nice to sell more than just smut.

That's where Child of Man fits into the picture.

I've been working on this novel for the better part of two years now. I won't say it's become all-engrossing because I am writing things other than that—Lateral Promotion, for example—but it is sucking away large amounts of my brain power trying to keep the thing moving. I'm already at thirty-two thousand words and counting. I know, I know. NaNoWriMo people crank out more than that in way less time, but few of them try to sell the products of their effort. This is something I think I can actually market if I put some effort into it.

Now I just have to see if anybody bites the hook.

This week, actually, has been quite good overall. Tanya came out for a visit, and it's always good to see her. I picked up some fresh cosmetics for Jessie that should do what her concealer wand wasn't handling. I got word that the repairs on the house have finally started. The previous owner of the house has contacted me and confirmed that he's going to finish siding the garage. There've been a few big dips, but right now they seem pretty
inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

It's always nice to feel like things are getting better.


Right now, I am livid. I use that word a lot when this sort of thing happens, but I know of no better word for it. I feel an impotent anger directed at a faceless system whose representatives are trying their hardest to accomodate
an unexpected situation within a broken paradigm.

Jessie got her legal gender fixed on Saturday. Great. Wonderful. She's a chick now as far as the state of Pennsylvania and the Social Security Authority are concerned. Excellent. This means that we're now in a legally-married same-sex relationship. I am apparently the source, or at least a source, of the downfall of Western civilization.

I've chosen to start with Independence Blue Cross.

I called my benefits rep to get Jessie's information fixed on Friday, in anticipation of the success at the DMV—a success, mind you, which went far beyond either of our expectations, and for which I'm inordinately proud of her—and she said at first that there shouldn't be any problems, then later called me back to tell me she'd hit a snag with updating Jessie's information in the computer system.

It seems that IBX has their software set up such that when two people are entered into the system as a married couple, the sex of the one listed as "spouse" is instantiated as a dependent field, linked to the sex of the one listed as "applicant". This is there to prevent typos, but it also locks out updates if one member of the married couple should happen to have zir sex legally changed. There isn't even a "try it and see" option. The field is locked. It can't be changed.

Their software will allow same-sex couples into the system, but not as a married couple. It calls them "domestic partnerships" and simply refuses to acknowledge them as anything but. That option then is forced into a different category of insurance. They're no longer married as far as IBX is concerned. They're "partnered" and it's a whole
different ball of wax as to whether or not we're covered.

Now, the benefits rep told me all of this on the phone and later again in an email, and she said to me that I needed to call IBX and ask them for an exception or an override in their system so that the claims that came back that had Jessie listed as female wouldn't get rejected. I know they can do this because they did it for her prescriptions so her premarin wouldn't get rejected. That took a doctor's note, so I called IBX to find out how to get this override put into the computer.

They told me on the phone that no such option exists.

Now, to their credit, they did tell me that I had options. I could contact my company and ask them to have domestic partnerships added to our insurance options, or I could have Jessie removed from my policy and added as a separate single enrollee not linked to my entry in the database. Neither of these reflect the actual legal status of our relationship, but while they acknowledged that verbally on the phone they also seemed totally oblivious to
it. It was amazing.

I managed after much waiting and wrangling to get someone in the Enrollments department on the phone, who cheerfully explained to me that domestic partnerships didn't cost anything(?!?!?!) to add to a group policy and that having our policy holders add that to their insurance coverage would make the whole problem simply go away on its own. When I finally got a word in edgewise, I asked why Jessie was no longer covered on my policy. The conversation went something like this:

  • $buni->say("Jessie and I are legally married, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("My group policy covers legally married couples, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("Thus, Jessie should be covered under my policy, yes?");
  • $rep->say("No.");
  • $buni->say("Why not?");
  • $rep->say("Because Jessie is now female.");
  • $buni->say("At what point in my previous two statements did I say anything about male or female?");
  • $rep->say("....");
  • $buni->say("You do acknowledge that we are legally married, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("And you acknowledge that the policy my company uses covers legally married couples, yes?");
  • $rep->say("Yes.");
  • $buni->say("So, does it not logically follow that Jessie, as my legally married spouse, should be covered under my insurance policy which covers legally married couples?");
  • $rep->say("No.");
  • $buni->say("Why not?");
  • $rep->say("Because Jessie is female.");
  • $buni->say("This sounds like a defect in your software.");
  • $rep->say("Oh, no, ma'am! This is no defect. You have to have domestic partnership coverage if you want Jessie on your policy.");
  • $buni->say("We don't have a domestic partnership. We have a legally recognized marriage according to the state of Pennsylvania. Where in this discussion did anybody mention domestic partnerships?");
  • $rep->say("Well, Jessie is female now, isn't she?");
  • $buni->say("....");

Again to her credit, she said she would call our benefits rep on my behalf and ask them to ask IBX to add domestic partnerships to their coverage package at no charge(?!?!?!) to the company, so that our situation would be resolved transparently without ever having to do any of the following: 

  • admit that IBX's software is defective because it does not take into account the concept of a legally-recognzied same-sex marriage
  • consider the possibility that the software, or the policy, should be corrected in advance of the situation surely to follow when Massachusetts, California, and New York all finish with their legal folderol, assuming the federal government doesn't FSU with its FMA
  • apologize for the insult of telling me repeatedly on the phone that my legally-sanctioned marriage is somehow "not a real marriage" because their software is not in error when it rejects the correction to
    Jessie's gender, saying that we need domestic partnership coverage for that

She could've outright refused to help me on the phone. She could've done a lot of things that would have really gotten under my collar and made me blow my stack in a very audible way, even from the front conference room. She was as helpful as I'm sure she thought she could be. That in no way mitigates the fact that I feel as though I have been verbally insulted. I tell myself I shouldn't take offense, but it's hard not to feel demeaned by the whole
experience. I didn't have this much trouble when I changed my sex, but at the time we weren't legally married; we were just fighting for recognition as a couple, and not even that actively.

I can only hope that the upside to this is that my company will add domestic partnership coverage to its policy, but doing so doesn't fix the real problem. We're not a domestic partnership. We're married, and yet they sat there on the phone and told me without malice or regret that despite being married they couldn't cover Jessie as my dependent because she's a chick now, and that wasn't marriage according to their software. The real fix
is correcting the software, but try telling that to a midlevel bureaucrat.

I should've asked to speak with a supervisor. Barring that, I should've marched my way up the chain of command. The rep with whom I spoke is supposed to call me back this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If the answer isn't "your situation has been resolved" I'm going to have no choice but to start pushing my way up the line to talk to someone who can fix this, 'cause this time the fault isn't mine. It's theirs.

Now I just have to convince them of that.

As an afterthought, what really blows my mind on this is that twice on the phone with me she said that it cost a company nothing extra to cover domestic partnerships as equal to marriage. Nothing! Not one red cent more! Not a single penny over what we currently had to pay!

So why don't more companies cover domestic partners?

Every HR rep with whom I've ever spoken about it has said that the cost of covering the extra people on the plan didn't justify the personal savings the employees who needed it would see, but here on the phone someone from the enrollment group openly and actively said to me that it didn't cost them anything to add it! This can only mean one of two things: 

  1. The woman on the phone was lying to me.
  2. The HR reps were lying to me.

I would very much like to know which it is.

I just got a call from the benefits rep, and she said basically that if I ever get a bill for anything, I'm not to call IBX and complain, or the doctor's office to challenge it. I'm to fax it to her and forget about it. This isn't supposed to be my responsibility; it's hers. This is her job. This is what she does.

I feel like I've been pardoned.

I'm still angry that the situation exists, but I'm at least relieved of the responsibility of worrying about it. This is Someone Else's Problem.

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