Have Cats Been Playing the Met?

May 30, 2008

By Fred

Thanks to mice who snuck in for free, the Metropolitan Opera House in New York racked up 13 health code violations in April. Who ever knew vermin are into opera? Imagine what notes a soprano could hit if a mouse ran up her leg onstage.

A rodent’s home is his castle – literally.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found signs of rodents in both food and non-food areas. But to put this in perspective, they say the average NYC restaurant earns 15 points. So the mice must have shown at least some class in their posh surroundings by not leaving crap on everything.

A spokesman for the company that runs the Met’s Grand Tier Restaurant said “procedures were put in place” to deal with the little visitors, but no one knows what they are.

If they were smart, they hired cats instead of Terminex® for the job. We’re clean, quiet, odorless (at least, the non-sprayers), and use no harmful chemicals. If in the mood for a nosh, we’ll throw in carcass disposal for free.

Often, all it takes is the presence of a few cats in a place to send the little pests packing. They can’t stand us because we’re bigger, smarter, adored by humans who love to hear us purr, and have nicer tails.

The building was inspected again this week and seemed rodent-free, but the Met isn’t saying how they did it. If they want to keep it that way, they need to set up a comfy bed and litterbox somewhere on the premises and bring in a resident exterminator.

Learning the Healthcare Claim Game

May 29, 2008

By Karen

What you don’t know about claims coding could cost you.

I had a long-delayed bone scan a few weeks ago, which was $220 on the spot if my insurance didn’t cover it. So I called my insurer, Anthem, to see if it was covered.

Anthem told me that routine bone scans aren’t subject to my deductible and are covered at 80 percent. I’d be responsible for the $40 co-pay plus 20 percent.

This week, Anthem’s “Explanation of Benefits” denied the claim, but knocked $80 off the original price, leaving me on the hook for $140. I’d have paid this if I hadn’t talked to Anthem before the scan, just assuming that everyone involved knew their job and had done it right.

Instead, I decided to find out what gives.

Anthem told me the doctor’s office coded the claim as a “diagnostic” scan for a “disorder of bone and cartilage unspecified.” That isn’t covered, but goes toward my deductible. However, “routine” scans are covered, as I was originally told.

I next phoned the doctor’s office. They said, “Unless you tell us to submit it as routine, we always make these claims diagnostic because that’s what most insurance companies will pay for.”

So now I’m supposed to know how to code claim forms and coach the doctor.

But they did readily agree to recode the claim and resubmit, which should save me $128 after I pay 20 percent.

The lessons here are 1) that you should question every charge because you could be paying big bucks for nothing, and 2) that most physicians will cooperate when it comes to getting insurers to pay up because there’s no love lost there.

And after the wringer Anthem Underwriting just put me through, the last thing I want in my file is an “unspecified bone or cartilage disorder” when my policy renews.

Hillary’s Plot to Kill Obama

May 28, 2008

By Adele

I think Hillary using Robert Kennedy’s assassination to justify her continued campaigning was a Freudian slip revealing her “kill Obama” fantasy.

A gun probably wouldn’t be her weapon of choice, but then again, you never know what the Clintons might do, especially if they think they can get away with it.

A burning desire to destroy Obama is the only logical explanation for Hillary’s refusal to accept the math. According to Tim Russert and many others, she can’t win enough remaining delegates to cinch the nomination. So she must be expecting some career-ending “accident” to take out Obama, allowing her to step in and “save” the Democrats.

We’ve seen Hillary getting misty-eyed for women (she fooled me with that one), chugging boilermakers with the boys and, most recently, telling Puerto Rican churchgoers that faith fuels her impossible quest.

About the only thing we haven’t seen is Hillary on her knees servicing superdelegates – à la Monica Lewinsky – to earn their support.

She obviously hates Obama so much, she’ll do anything to stop him. Why else would she continue to dog him so John McCain can play the dignified elder statesman watching two pigs mud-wrestle?

Russert says the race is over next Tuesday, when Obama will have enough delegates. That is, unless Hillary ups the ante by pulling the fifth ace out of her sleeve and somehow getting her rule-breaking Michigan and Florida delegates fully reinstated.

Hillary’s core supporters are older white woman and – let’s put it bluntly – stupid people. According to her, they should be the deciders. Forget Obama’s more educated supporters and all the progressive-thinking, less judgmental young people he’s attracted into politics for the first time.

Since Hillary’s grip on reality is growing more tenuous every day and no one knows when she might snap and try to act out her fantasy, Obama should consider beefing up security and getting a restraining order.

Sex & the City Suspense is Killing Me

May 27, 2008

By Karen

Harry Potter trained the media to stay pretty mum about Sex and the City: The Movie, so I’ve been stewing over this bit I found in this interview with Sarah Jessica Parker:

But some of her scenes in the film were difficult to handle as well, because before it ends, Carrie is plunged into a life crisis far more intense than anything in the television series. Parker was unprepared for the personal stress these sequences caused her.

“The harder stuff, the emotional stuff Carrie has never experienced before, was just very painful,” she admits. “It was surprisingly upsetting. But it was the role of a lifetime – I wouldn’t have run from it. I ran toward it completely, but it was very sad to see this happen to her. I was so proud and shocked and relieved that a studio let us tell that story. But it wasn’t easy.”

Screenwriter Michael Patrick King swears all the rumors of a death are untrue.

SJP can’t be talking about some trauma with Big, because she got plenty of practice breaking up or getting dumped by him during the series.

Is she just being melodramatic? Or could she at last be sprouting a family and a past that comes back to haunt her in a horrible way?

The movie premieres in New York tonight and opens all over Europe tomorrow, but American fans must wait until Friday to have this burning question answered.

Then once it is, what will I do with the rest of my summer?

Vista SP1: Another Scourge from Microsoft

May 26, 2008

By Karen

Once again, Microsoft offers the fix to launch a thousand problems. If you see Service Pack 1 coming, take your PC and RUN the other way.

My mother wanted a laptop to check e-mail while away on vacation. While helping her find a deal, I noticed Vista SP1 came standard on everything.

(Cue to the Jaws theme here.)

Ten hours later, I’m still trying to get her new Acer Extensa to run Office 2007, Norton 360, and a few games right.

Of course, the biggest snag is Office 2007. It keeps saying “version doesn’t match.” Yesterday I tried to download a 218-MB “Office SP1” update that failed midway.

But hope springs eternal. As I type this, I’m downloading 300 MB of Microsoft updates, praying they’ll fix something.

In my book, Bill Gates stands right behind Bush and Cheney as the world’s most evil influences.

Microsoft’s motto should be “Bend over.” Their products are always so bloated and buggy, they sustain a vast third-party support industry that troubleshoots, works around, and documents their infinite deficiencies.

And now after bilking the world out of billions of dollars – partially our own fault because we let his inferior, execrable operating systems become the “standard” – Gates has turned philanthropic.

I hope he’s establishing a large foundation to rehabilitate the hapless souls being driven mad trying to get a Vista PC up and running.

I endured similar agony last August without SP1 when I replaced my own desktop system and laptop. Switching from XP to Vista meant rebuying every software application. Some that were supposedly “Vista-ready” still don’t work right.

And now that I’ve seen Vista’s first major “fix,” I know my next computer will be a Mac.

Has Success Spoiled Anthony Bourdain?

May 23, 2008

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s turn as head judge in the “Restaurant Wars” episode of Top Chef left me scratching my head.

I first noticed a difference in him on David Letterman in March. He was there with Ottavia, and his interview and demeanor seemed so subdued, I wondered if they’d been fighting.

Now after Top Chef, I’m sure he’s off his game. Describing Lisa’s Mango Sticky Rice as “baby vomit garnished with potpourri” was classic, but the best he could do with Dale’s Butterscotch Miso Scallops was that the plate looked like a “melted candy bar?”

Dale and Lisa had the poor judgment to go with an Asian theme, knowing Tony, an expert on Asian cuisine, could rip them to shreds. But Tony really didn’t take the bait, even though all their dishes were bad. And then he sent Dale packing, even though Lisa’s shown at least twice that’s she incapable of cooking rice but always blames it on sabotage.

What was he thinking?

To answer my own question, I don’t think success has spoiled Anthony Bourdain. I think it’s his new, kinder, gentler lifestyle. Becoming the patriarch of a very young family may be killing him – on several levels.

People have written nasty comments here about Tony’s former wife, Nancy. But I wish she were still around. Married to Nancy, he wrote the scintillating, hilarious Kitchen Confidential, A Cook’s Tour, and several novels, and earned his reputation as a snarky adventurer on TV.

Post-Nancy, he wrote The Nasty Bits, which wasn’t as well received. And with Ottavia, he basically produced photo captions for No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, a book that would have greatly benefited from more text.

For better or worse, something about his relationship with Nancy seemed to give him the edge that made him famous. Now I’m wondering if he has – deliberately or not – put his best days behind him.

A Tale of Two Parrots

May 22, 2008

By Fred

As a cat, my interest in birds is purely sporting, but I do admire one smart parrot who refused to crack under police interrogation when he got nabbed after 2 weeks loose in the ‘hood in Nagareyama, Japan.

The red-tailed African Grey parrot had committed no crimes, so he was transferred to a veterinary hospital. After a few days there, he started singing like a canary – literally – serenading the hospital staff with children’s songs.

Then he casually told the vet, “I’m Mr. Yosuke Nakamura,” and gave a full address. Looking it up, the staff discovered Nakamuras really lived there.

Yosuke’s owners had spent about 2 years teaching their bird his name and address. Apparently they didn’t realize microchipping him would have been a lot faster.

On another perch, Charlie is a parrot in Benijofar, Costa Blanca, Spain, who was dropped off for boarding at a pet store 5 months ago. His owner was supposedly taking a 9-day trip to the UK, but never reclaimed his bird.

Last month, the owner called the store and said he was coming for Charlie, but didn’t show up. The store left voicemail messages on his cell phone until the number went dead.

Charlie will only say his name and that he’s a “pretty boy.”

These two birds would be perfect in a parrot version of My Fair Lady – Yosuke as Henry Higgins and Charlie (in drag) as Eliza Doolittle.

Charlie and Yosuke could make show biz history singing, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain,” and Charlie’s owner will rue the day he abandoned his bird.

My Life with the Kennedys

May 21, 2008

By Karen

After growing up in Massachusetts where the Kennedys are ubiquitous, I was stunned to read of Ted Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis.

One of my earIiest memories is of driving by this huge hedge and being told, “The Kennedys live behind those bushes.”

It must have been the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, and I understood, because I futilely strained from the back seat to glimpse a real Kennedy.

I still have the framed picture of President Kennedy that hung on our wall, and bookends of his bust. When my mother bought a black wig, she said, “It’s just like Jackie Kennedy’s hairdo!”

When JFK was assassinated, I was in second grade. The principal announced only that, “President Kennedy has been shot.” After school, a boy chanted, “Kennedy’s dead! Kennedy’s dead!”

We little girls screamed back, “No he’s not!”

But when I got home, I instantly knew the truth. My father wasn’t at work and my mother was crying – even though it was her birthday.

Later, when the funeral coverage dominated TV, I complained about missing my cartoons and got slapped.

When Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, we were living in Ohio. I have no special memories except thinking that someone was out to kill all the Kennedys.

I was 14 in 1969 when Teddy had his fateful car accident with Mary Jo Kopechne on Chappaquiddick. I remember watching Teddy’s explanation to the voters. I wanted to believe him, but his story just didn’t add up.

Several years later, a friend and I ferried bicycles from Martha’s Vineyard to Chappaquiddick to check Teddy’s story. The island had a single paved, deserted road. The turn-off to the Dike Bridge was beach sand so deep and soft, we couldn’t push the bikes through it. We never made it to the bridge, but concluded Teddy must have known, even drunk, that he’d taken a wrong turn driving back to the ferry.

I think Ted has spent the rest of his life atoning for that one night of fatal stupidity. He’s become the beloved father figure for his late brothers’ children and the rock of his sprawling family through a virtual soap opera of dysfunction and tragedy.

In the Senate, he has always advocated common sense and decency in the treatment of all people, even though preserving his wealth and privileges might dictate otherwise.

No one knows how much time Teddy has, or what he may yet accomplish. He deserves to rest and enjoy his family and friends now. But he may opt to fight to the end, as a flawed human being who tries to do the right thing – much more often than not.

Love him or hate him, Ted Kennedy is a profile in courage.

Tidy Cats: Ensemble Comedy at its Finest

May 20, 2008

By Adele

When it comes to being a tidy cat, I take the blue ribbon around here. I pee in perfect clumps, and I always cover my business. Yul’s good with the No. 2 – sometimes even burying Fred’s – but his idea of fun is peeing down the side of the box and making mud puddles.

And poor Fred…the less said about his litterbox etiquette, the better.

Our litterboxes are full of Fresh Step® these days, but we think Tidy Cats’® commercials are far superior. I’ve got crushes on several of the cast members. Many of them were shelter cats until they got their big break in show biz.

So, if you could use a good laugh, watch the antics of Tuck, Harley, Simon, Cairo, Newton, Squash, and Zorro. Their humans also share some hilarious behind-the-scenes “scoop.”

Would Obama Suck Up to Hitler?

May 19, 2008

By Fred

Speaking before Israel’s Knesset last week, George Bush alluded that Barack Obama’s such a wimp, he would have tried to make nice with Adolf Hitler. Back home, Bush’s Mini-Me, John McCain, quickly seconded the notion.

They both know all it takes is a hint at Hitler to upset people.

If the right people had tried talking to Hitler during his early, crazy-speech days, who knows? Maybe he could have been stopped before he wasted millions of innocent lives.

It’s called “knowing your enemy,” and I’d like to think Obama would have tried it before Hitler started conquering Europe and made military retaliation the only option.

Today, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad also makes crazy speeches, but so far he’s given no sign that he won’t listen to reason and bombs are the only answer. In fact, he tried to communicate directly with Bush by letter, only to be ignored.

I don’t get why Republicans prefer battlefields to conference rooms. It’s like they hate to complicate things by learning the other side’s true intentions and capabilities. They’d rather just start killing.

Come to think of it, that was Hitler’s approach. Kill now, ask questions…never.

And they make talking sound really perverse and nasty by calling it appeasement, bargaining, concession-making, conciliation, capitulation, weakness.

When one government dictates how the world should run, like ours is doing right now, negotiation and compromise become 4-letter words. Freedom and democracy become oxymoronic.

God forbid our leaders should look potential foes in the eye, gauge their honesty, and try to correct misunderstandings or reach agreements. Let’s just start a war over imagined wrongs or the mere possibility that verbal threats will be carried out. After all, that’s worked so well in Iraq.

I hope the next president lacks Bush and McCain’s empty, arrogant sense of superiority and isn’t above talking to anybody before the shooting starts. We’ll never win friends and influence people by killing them.

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