Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Great Sled Race (Life With Unicorns)

Me and Mr F vs. Mr Bunches:

Some men just want to watch the world burn, while others would prefer that it not burn until they’ve had a chance to suck a godless amount of profits

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Walgreens for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

That, I imagine, is what the mission statement for a company known as “Express Scripts:” Suck all the money out of people’s lives while placing their health at risk.  But they probably put it in lawyerese.

Express Scripts, in case you didn’t know, is a middleman health company.  It enters into contracts with health insurers and drug stores, getting payments from health insurers and giving the money to drugstores.

That’s all. That’s why Express Scripts exists: it’s a conduit for money that would be paid anyway. 

But as a conduit, it’s an amazingly profitable business.  Peeling those crumbs off the cake, as Sherman McCoy’s wife would say, gives Express Scripts, Profit Troll, profits that rise about double the rate of other industry companies.

But the crumbs are no longer good enough for Express Scripts: it wants the whole cake and will put your health at risk to get it, strong-arming companies into charging you more and making you go elsewhere to get your prescriptions.

Take the recent Walgreens and Express Scripts dispute.

Walgreen’s, which has been contracting with Express Scripts, offered to help keep costs down by keeping not increasing its rates, and by guaranteeing the lowest prices to military families who get their insurance through Tricare (an Express Scripts client.)

Express Scripts responded by saying “Screw people, forget the military, give us more money and more control.”  It demanded the ability to define what’s a generic drug and what’s not, and demanded Walgreen’s accept below-industry prices.  

Walgreen’s, of course, can’t make a deal that costs it money to get your prescriptions to you, and so  Express Scripts no longer has a deal with Walgreen’s, which means that military families will pay more for their medications, and you will pay more or go to a different, farther away pharmacy.  That puts you at risk because you can buy fewer medications, or you have to get them from a pharmacist who doesn’t know you.

All because Express Scripts, Profit Troll, wanted more money than it already had at your expense.

But you can do something about it (besides die, which is against Express Script’s wishes because if you die they don’t get all your money).  You could join the Prescription Savings Club at Walgreens:

If you join in January, you’ll get a discounted membership of just $10 per family in ($5 for one person), getting the option of discounts on 8,000 different brand-name medications, low prices on generics, Walgreen’s discounts on flu shots, pet scripts, nebulizers and other things. Members also get bonuses for using other Walgreen’s services, like photofinishing, so you can continue to save on medications and still do one-stop shopping at your local pharmacy.

And you can show your support for the companies that are trying to do the right thing: Pick sides, like me:  Stick up for Walgreen’s: Like Walgreens on Facebook and follow Walgreens on Twitter (@Walgreens), and help make things better.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, January 13, 2012

Honest Opinions... (What the H?)

So I have wanted and tried to upload this video because I would really like to know the opinions of people that I don't know and that don't know me. I love to sing but I have been told that I cant and that doesn't bother me but since I am passionate about singing I wanted to share my passion with as many people that I can. Here you go. Be as honest at possible. (And let me tell you that this is not the entire song by Miss Adele it is merely a small tid bit, and this video is also five or so months old.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What Scares You? (What the H?)

What makes a movie scary…?

I am probably the number one fan of scary movies and I have seen just about all of them. So I am going to make a list of my top 5 favorite scary movies. But first I would like to say some things that I think make a great scary movie.

To me a scary movie keeps me on my toes. The movie does not necessarily need to be scary as in goose bumps on my arm but if a movie has me engaged and it makes me think that something like this could actually happen. Or if I don’t see something coming and I scream (which has happened in the middle of the movie theater I may add) that is considered a great scare.

With those little tid bits in mind here is my list of scary movies;
1. Halloween
2. Blair Witch Project
3. The Strangers
4. The Decent
5. The Ring

I choose these movies for different reasons.

Halloween: I choose Halloween just merely for the idea behind it. I think that if I had a brother that was stalking me and trying to kill me I may piss my pants and then die of being scared before he got to. I also think that the way that the movie was filmed (it was a long time ago which helps a lot with it being even more scary) where Michael Meyers stands in the middle of the street just starring at Jamie Lee Curtis freaks me out. It makes me grab the pillow or blanket or nearest arm and cover my face watching what happens with one eye.

Blair Witch Project: It took a while for the shaking camera to not make me nauseous but I got use to it. I really thought that documentary part added to the scare factor because it only had three characters in it but one person is always filming so there are usually always only two people on camera. I think the scariest part of the film for me was that they were stranded in the woods and the noises that they hear at night are scary. The word cackling still sends chills up my spine.

The Strangers: What I like about this movie is that I think that something like this can actually happen. I mean two people are in the middle of nowhere and then three people come out of nowhere and starting torturing and these innocent people. There are people out in this world that would do something like this because they are bored and they want to make their lives better (in their eyes).

The Decent: I don’t think that this particular movie did well in the theaters but I bought the movie and it is one of my top five because it is so insanely weird that I literally freak out and have nightmares about the creatures that are in this movie. A group of girls wanting to go and explore caves and then they each start to disappear and are killed by these “man-creatures” that have been living in this cave for hundreds of years. The girls start to think that they may not be making it out but if they do they will be the first ones to make it out alive.

The Ring: OMG! Do I need to explain? I will anyways. I will mention crawling out of a well and that is where I will leave it.

What is your top 5?

what is 'the After'?

the After is...

... everything you want it to be.

...a trap

...where all your friends and family wait for you

...frighteningly perfect

the After is my latest book: four years in the making, the After tells what happens to Saoirse following a plane crash that leaves her standing in her perfect kitchen with her perfect family in a perfect world that she cannot stand. Told by William Howard Taft -- yes, that William Howard Taft, who appears on her doorstep -- that she can leave, Saoirse sets off on her own travels through a world almost entirely of her making, trying to find out how to leave and to decide if she wants to.

If you ever wondered what comes next, the After is a must-read. Buy it on your Kindle for $0.99 or in paperback on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

only a few more days until you find out what this is about...

She hated take-off. She hated the lifting, the run-up, the noise, the ear-popping...

“What happens, do you think, when we die?”

"I couldn’t tell if it was burnt down or torn down or just… crumbled away. I didn’t know how it had ended.”

You clicked that link, right?

What Mr Bunches Is Watching, 1 (Life With Unicorns)

Mr Bunches is crazy for Youtube, and since we managed to scrape up enough money to get an iPad for Mr F and him to share, he's even more able to find stuff that he wants to watch.

This is his current favorite video:

He calls that "Jumping Spider" and watches it in breathless anticipation each time, warning the bee to look out and gleefully celebrating when the jumping spider catches the bee.

(Oh, and SPOILER ALERT! if you hadn't yet watched the video.)

Here's this about that: I can't stand spiders, as I've made clear before. (On numerous occasions, in fact.)

So I'm not exactly crazy about watching that video, but here's what's worse.

Mr Bunches kisses the spider.

Kisses it.

When this screen comes on:

He kisses the spider.

My skin is crawling just typing that.

Monday, January 09, 2012

I'm not going to call her that. (What the H?)

When Middle first told me the title of her post, I had to ask her who the reference was.

You can just call me Stanley Yelnats!

So for those of you who are unaware of who this “Stanley Yelnats” character is then I will take a brief moment to enlighten you: Stanley Yelnats is the main character in the book Holes by Louis Sachar. In the book Stanley claims that his life changed when he stumbled upon a pair of shoes. These “shoes” that changed his life fell from the sky and he was accused of stealing them, so he was sent to a juvenile facility in the middle of nowhere where their punishment is to dig holes demanded by the warden of the facility. There Stanley meets new friends and other people that have become his family. (If you want to know more I recommend reading the book.)

Anywho, I also have found a pair of shoes that have changed my life as well as given me the confidence to get on a treadmill again.

I will first start by telling you why I have not gone on a treadmill in years.

I was fifteen years old when my mother and I decided to go and work out at the athletic club. I thought I would run a little maybe do a little power walking but ten minutes into my light jog I became the most embarrassed girl in the world. I am not a huge fan of running because I am not the most in shape person and running makes me look like a giraffe doing ballet. So, I am doing a little jog and I thought to myself that the time may go by a little faster if I ran with my eyes closed.

(Yep I attempted to run on a treadmill with my eyes closed because I am the world’s dumbest person.)

I closed my eyes and started running. I thought that everything was going peachy and fine until my headphones were ripped out of the headphone plug so I couldn’t hear the television program that I was listening to anymore. I opened my eyes and I saw that I was falling off the back of the treadmill.

I attempted to catch myself, which made things worse because then people had the vision of me crawling like an animal trying to get back onto the treadmill. I finally got back on the treadmill and I looked at my mother who was laughing hysterically.

(Yeah, nice, thanks for the warning, Mother!)

Since then, until now, I have not got onto a treadmill for any reason because I have not been able to get past that moment.

Then, about three weeks ago I went online with the purpose of purchasing a new pair of work out shoes. Not just any pair of athletic shoes but one pair in mind:

And I do not care what anyone thinks of them because like Stanley Yelnats these shoes have changed my life.

Although, mine look a little different than that pair. Mine look like this:

Because of these new shoes that are the most comfortable running shoes that I have ever owned (just like I thought they would be, which was why I specifically looked for them) I have been working out three of four times a week. And not just working out; I have been running on the treadmill three or four times a week for thirty minutes. Yes, I am finally back on the treadmill and I have been running.

I would recommend these shoes to anyone looking to get back into working out and keeping in shape. They are like wearing your own feet. Light as feather.

One more look for good measure…

Ahh don’t you just love them :D

Sunday, January 08, 2012

My toaster is still insufficiently cool, but now it's also mocking me. (Quote Of The Day)(Thinking The Lions)

"We're just a couple of toasting fools."

It has been an exciting and confusing morning for us here, as we try out our brand new toaster, the second of the year for us.

2012 promises to be The Year Of The Toast, and also promises to prove that you can have 737 years of college education and still not be able to work a machine that has exactly three controls, leading you to accuse your wife (Sweetie) of wanting toast that is so lightly toasted that it's just warm bread, and also trying to institute a rule in your household that the toaster dial never be moved.

Yes, when I flex my "head of household" muscles, it is over important things.

I don't ordinarily give much thought to a toaster, other than to ponder why some, but not all, have a marking on it that says "One Slice Use This Side" or something similar, a marking that's always made me want to say "oh, yeah? I'm going to do what I want. You're not the Toast Boss of Me," but then I don't want any trouble before breakfast, or before lunch, or at any of the other times of the day that I'm having toast, because toast is not necessarily just a breakfast food. It's delicious anytime, and you don't have to go all fancy with your marmalades and whatnot: Classic Toast, with butter, is where it's at.

Toast-wise, I mean.

But our toaster has become something of a thorn in our side in recent months, beginning with our decision to replace the lopsided toaster that we'd been struggling with for a couple of months since I dropped it on the floor and didn't tell Sweetie that I'd dropped it but opted, instead, to just act as though our toaster had always had one end sort of wedged a little off-center so that the toaster, when it sat on the counter, looked as though the back-end had been jacked up like a hot-rod.

("Hot Rod Toaster" being a great idea for a kids' cartoon: A toaster dreams of joining the drag-racing circuit like his dad used to do, but finds his way stymied by... um... an angry bunch of adverbs? I'll get back to you on that.)

That happened when, one morning, I dropped the toaster, an accident I blame on not having an automatic coffeepot that would make my coffee before I got up in the morning. I used to have an automatic coffeepot that had a timer and I could set it for, say, 5:45 a.m., and then when I got up at 6 a.m. I'd have coffee ready, but that coffeepot died because we live in some sort of weird electromagnetic zone that destroys any electric appliance that enters it for too long: Coffeepots, popcorn makers, vacuum cleaners, toasters: if it is a simple electrical device, upon entering our household it will be zapped through with cosmic rays of the kind that don't turn one into a superhero but instead mean that eventually your toaster is going to throw off ball lightning.

Which is what happened to our toaster, the one I dropped: When I dropped it, the one side that didn't have the lever-and-temperature controls on it got knocked off-kilter, and I went without toast that day (bravely deciding that I'd let Sweetie make the first toast with the now-potentially-life-threatening-Toaster-of-Death), and the bottom wedged in so that you couldn't empty the crumbs out of it (which is fine because I never did that anyway, because not everything has to be superhigh maintenance, you know. We all, in 2012, effectively work a second job as tech support already, constantly trouble-shooting our supposed-miracle devices, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be a slave to a toaster, which is one of the lowest classes of household devices.)(Household devices being one of the last remnants of the class system.)

That toaster continued to toast bread, which, really, how hard is that? You're just warming it up, rather more quickly than the sun will. (In fact, I'm surprised there's not some eco-nerd group of people out there making sun toast the way my father-in-law makes sun tea, which sounds grosser to me than regular tea, which is saying something, because tea is disgusting, but making it via the sun means making it via nature and we all know my feelings about nature: it's repulsive and ought to have nothing to do with our food chain.)

We lived with the Offset Toaster for a few months, but around Christmas, it got a little worse, and by "worse" I mean "more burny-smelling," which is worrisome when you're cooking a breakfast treat and trying to read the morning headlines but you have to also wonder whether your kitchen cabinets are on fire and, if so, whether Sweetie will catch it before you do so you can finish reading the headlines (in reality, you are reading the comics in that scenario, but Sweetie does not need to know that.)

Then the Offset Toaster began to not just smell burny, but also began to seem burny, in the sense that it got hot and seemed to use all its heat not for toasting things, but for warming itself and its environs up, alarmingly.

That caused Sweetie to unilaterally make the decision to get a new toaster, which she did by going to Walgreen's, which is of course where you'd want to get an electric device, at the same store where they sell you cotton swabs and other things that nobody knows what to do with them.

It doesn't seem right to buy an appliance, even an appliance that's just an electric circuit of the kind we used to make out of tinfoil in Mr Karsten's class in the 6th grade, at a drug store, because... well, just because. There's an order to things and sometimes that order can be monkeyed with (pizza for breakfast) and sometimes it cannot, and buying appliances that use deadly forces at a drugstore is like buying nasal spray at Sears: it's just wrong.

(I don't use nasal spray, and I try to avoid people who do.)

I didn't say anything about Sweetie's ill-advised purchase, except for mentioning about 150 times the first morning she used it that it "smelled plastic-y," and then that it "smelled burning-plastic-y," both of which I said in a very neutral voice that in no way implied that I was better than Sweetie because I would not have bought a toaster at a drugstore.

(I might have bought one at the Dollar Store, but can you blame me?)

That toaster lasted about two weeks in our house, each day smelling more plastic-y and more burn-y, until Thursday, when I tried to make some toast for breakfast. I put in two slices of bread, and set the level of toastiness, which, frankly, I ought not to have to do. You know how in sitcoms all the time but not in real life ever women are always complaining about men leaving the toilet seat up? That fake complaint pales in comparison to the very real complaint I have about living in a household of people who don't actually toast their toast.

Sweetie, Oldest Daughter, Middle Daughter, and The Boy, all like their toast, essentially, raw. They put the bread in the slot, then turn the little toastometer all the way to the left, to its lowest possible setting. Then they unplug the toaster. Then they put the toaster in the freezer. Then they ship the freezer to the farthest reaches of outer space so that the molecular activity in the bread slows almost to absolute zero. Then, after letting that cool off for a while, they eat it.

That's not toast, although it is the worst sci-fi story ever. Toast has to be brown and hot and nobody but me has ever in this household made what I consider toast. (Mr F and Mr Bunches do not, yet, eat toast. They regard toast the way they regard almost every food that isn't a cheese puff, banana, or mac-and-cheese: with a vague sense of distrust and a sly smile, like you're trying to trick them into eating a mousetrap.)

I know this is America, and everyone's free to eat whatever level of toast they can afford to eat (with the 1% in particular eating toast made of equal parts platinum and little kids' souls), but this being America, people (Sweetie, the kids, et al) should also remember that their toast preferences are weird and completely untoasty, and so when they're done making their Not-Toast, they should re-set the toaster levels to "actual toast" so that those of us who are still suffering with a coffee maker that doesn't make coffee on its own ahead of time don't also have to remember to re-set the toaster.

On Thursday, I reset the toastometer and pushed the lever down and went to turn on the computer, and heard my toast pop up.

I went to the kitchen and checked the little dial and pushed the toast down again and walked away, and heard it pop up again. This time, one slice of toast was toast -- browned already. The other slice of toast was bread, toast's lame forefather.

So I pushed the lever down again, this time paying attention, which I don't like to do to things, and saw a flash of ball lightning appear on the untoasting side.

"Fzzrtt!" it went.

(That's a direct quote.)

(That's the sound ball lightning makes.)

I shrugged and went back to work on restarting our computer, as we have to do every morning because, again, we are all tech support now.

After a few minutes, I began to wonder if the toaster was going to ever pop up and I went back out to find that the toaster hadn't popped up but wasn't cooking anymore, so I manually popped it up because my life is impossibly hard and noted that now one piece of toast was burnt and the other was uncooked.

I popped it down again, saw more ball lightning, and had Rice Krispies instead. I did mention to Sweetie that the toaster was acting up:

"The toaster is throwing off sparks," I said, causing Sweetie to try to toast her own bread via the freezer, Deep Space 9, etc.

Later that day, she agreed with me: The toaster was dead, and so yesterday, Saturday, we made a special trip to Target to get a new new toaster, because we'd already gone more than 24 hours without a toaster and frankly, it was killing us.

Sing it with me: "Don't it always seem as though/you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. They paved paradise... and we didn't have a toaster either."
To avoid spending too much money, it was decided that we'd send Sweetie in alone; we had Mr F and Mr Bunches with us, but taking them into a store with us often means that we end up not just getting what we're there to get, but also a lot of other things we happen to see along the way, like the other night when I went to the store to get a couple of things that didn't include "an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter" but when I left the store, I had a couple of things and "an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter," which will be, I'm sure, helpful when we are foreclosed on because we can't pay our mortgage.

"But we have an aircraft carrier with six jets and a helicopter," we'll tell the bankers, who will be twirling their moustache and tying Sweetie to the railroad tracks they have installed the local branch office for just that purpose.

"Tell it to the bank!" the bankers will say, confusingly.

Okay, I'm back.

I sent Sweetie in with express instructions:

"Do not go over $20," I said. "But if you can, try to get one of those cool toasters that we saw at Christmas."

"What cool toasters?" Sweetie said, and so I had to pull out my phone and show her the picture of the toasters I keep on my phone, just in case:

(They're really cool and sometimes I just like to look at them and imagine a life in which I have a cool toaster, with the kind of lifestyle that implies.)

"Okay," she said.

"But don't go over $20," I said, because we live on a budget and we hadn't sufficiently budgeted for the incredible amount of toaster-related expenses 2012 was obviously going to throw at us.

"Okay," she said.

"But don't go too cheap, either," I reminded her. "We already know what a ten-dollar toaster does."

"That toaster cost us $12," said Sweetie, who knows these things, and into Target she went. Mr Bunches and Mr F and I killed the few minutes she was gone via this actual conversation:

Me: "So, are you having a fun day?"

Mr F: [Looks out the window, doesn't answer.]

Mr Bunches: "Please, don't sing."

And soon, Sweetie returned with our new new toaster, shown here in action this morning, cooking my toast

Which, don't be fooled by the shiny black exterior and cool-looking purple glow; those are tricks of the light. This toaster is nowhere near as cool as the ones I wanted, but it is more difficult to operate, because if you look closely, it's got not one, not two, but three controls: the lever, which anyone even me can work, and then two others.

The obvious one is the toastometer, which sets the level of toastiness from 1 to 7, anything above a 7 being military-grade toast that can't be handled by us mortals.

The less-obvious one is the "Bagel Button," which is there and which led to this conversation:

Sweetie: Our toaster has a Bagel Button.

Me: What does that mean?

Sweetie: I don't know.

Me: Are you telling me we have to use an instruction manual to work our toaster?

I then noted that when Sweetie cooked her toast, she pressed the Bagel Button even though she wasn't toasting a bagel. Don't turn her in.

I then cooked my toast, pushing down the button and going back to the computer only to hear my toast pop up and, when I went to look, I found my bread slightly warmed up but still clearly bread.

"What's this?" I said. "What level is this set on?"

"Toast," Sweetie said, defensively, and I explained (again) that for something to be toast it has to change color, and then went to change the toastometer, only to find that there was no marking on it to tell me what level it was set on now, and so I had to turn it all the way counterclockwise and then slowly turn it back clockwise to set my toast level, at which point I realized that I had no real idea what the levels meant. Was "7" pitch-black toast briquettes? Was 5 where I wanted it? Did I want to go through trial-and-error to establish a new level of toast that I liked? Think of the waste!

And then there's still the question of that Bagel Button...

Sweetie told me, after she bought the "Bagel Button" toaster, that the cool toasters were on sale for $25, which I would have said was a definite must-buy even though I said not to go over $20, but I didn't say anything about it because I am an awesome husband who never would insist that his wife not go over budget no matter what only to turn around and suggest that she should go over budget anyway if it's only a little over budget and for a cool toaster. But secretly in my heart I am sad.

It's time we had a little might find this embarrassing, but it's important.

Remember that one "Friends" episode where Rachel tells Ross that she's pregnant and Ross gets mad because they used a condom and he calls the manufacturer and yells at them?

Now, granted, a sitcom isn't the best, or even in the top fifty best, ways to learn about sex, but I still thought that episode was one of the least responsible things a sitcom had said about sex since Seinfeld said pastrami was the sexiest of the salted, cured meats.

The truth is that condoms are highly effective -- a less than 2% failure rate, compared with 4% pregnancy rates for people who use "withdrawal" method, and way better than not using condoms at all.

Plus, condoms -- unlike other birth control methods -- help reduce the risk of getting a sexually-transmitted disease, and no matter how well you know or think you know the other person, you can't be sure they are disease-free until they've been tested and proven that they're trustworthy and aren't fooling around on you.

Which is why I got so upset at the Friends episode: Seemingly responsible (Ross and Rachel used a condom!) it actually was irresponsible (But they still got pregnant!) thereby continuing the idea in some people that condom use is ineffective and therefore not necessary.

That, combined with the "if you tell kids about condoms you're encouraging them to have sex" is one of the most pernicious lies around.

Saying that "telling kids how to have safe sex" encourages them to have sex is like saying "telling kids fried food isn't good for you" encourages them to eat: Sex, like eating, is a basic drive people have and they're going to do those things, whether or not you parents want them to. Nobody says anything like "we shouldn't tell kids how to eat healthy, because that will encourage them to eat more!", and the truth is that since kids will have sex in their life at some point -- 15, or 18, or 47 -- they ought to learn how to have it safely.

And emphasizing that condoms fail (rarely) would be like emphasizing that helmets fail. Some people die in accidents even though they had a helmet on; would you tell kids don't wear a helmet when you ride a bike because of that? No.

We've always been upfront about sex with our kids: We've answered their questions, and emphasized to them that sex is a big decision that's best left for when they're adults and in committed relationships -- but that whenever they have sex, they use protection like condoms.

And now condoms are easier to get than ever -- there are even companies that sell them over the Internet, delivering them discreetly and privately, so kids don't have to worry that the cashier at the grocery store will embarrass them. (The links in this post will lead you to the premiere Internet source for that.)