Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday

Clinto is 25!On my fire escape in 2007.

Going to the Statue of Liberty.

Clinton at Fort Clinton.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twinkie for the first time

So after I read the book "Twinkie Deconstructed" (see review below) there was quite a bit of discussion and debate about it in my office. I recall Twinkies fondly, with a bologna sandwich at my mom-moms house. Someone confirm this is a true memory and not something I imagined. But I was always a little more partial to the HoHo, or the Little Debbie version, the Swiss Cake Roll (aka Drake's Yodel). I never really differentiated the brands until this discussion about the Twinkie, but all the big bakers have essentially the same cakes, with slightly different names, and I am sure ingredients and recipes. But debate about processed foods aside (I think hey in moderation it won't kill me, I've gotten this far, others say you should avoid at all costs) I was astonished at the number of people in the office who had NEVER tasted a Twinkie. WHAT! Maureen is from Taiwan, Arava from Isreal, Robert from Germany, and a couple of deprived Americans. Apparently my love of junk food, and snack cakes like the Twinkie is an American convention. (Side note: Marla has never had a McDonald's hamburger!) So we discuss and debate the virture of processed foods, and how some of these things are in your kitchen, and yeah some are probably just plain bad for you. But then yesterday, arava brought in a box of Twinkies. Determined to understand what all the fuss was about. Robert hated it. Arava was taken aback by the sweetness (she also had a yodel and some other cake to try). And I closed my eyes and took a bite - and it was delicious. I realized I haven't actually eaten a Twinkie in at least 5 years, and althoguh it wasn't quite like I remembered it was so worth it. I still prefer the HoHo though. (Those I had last month, when I was really craving a treat, and Rob surprized me with a box)
What's your favorite snack cake? And how long has it been since you had one?
Leave me a comment, then go relive your childhood.

Book Review "Twinkie Deconstructed"

There is this book out "Twinkie Deconsructed." It is enlightening, although I did not find it life altering. Yes there are some crazy ingredients in industrial baked goods, and yes some of those ingredients are used in things, like rocket fuel, and explosives, and weed killer, but really they won't harm you. I mean anytime you sit and eat a box of something full of sugar it isn't good for you, and there are some things worse for you than others, but indulging in a Twinkie, or in my case a HoHo (they're my favorite), every so often won't kill you.

What I found most surprising in the book is the number of ingredients that are found in your kitchen. Sulferic acid is one of the main ingredients in Ferrous Sulfate, which is used to fortify white flour. I almost always have a five pound bag in my kitchen. They say the acids that make up the ingredients of the ingredients won't hurt you - I choose to not think about it too much. Yes, whole wheat unbleached flour (and yes white flour is bleached with that bleach) would be better, but I've gone this long, I'll take my chances for the time being.

Then there are the crazy sounding names, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate, and sodium acid pyrophosphate. These rocks and chemicals combined are baking powder. And I find it better than the alternative - people used to use ashes. And we eat salt, that's a rock too.

The only ingredient that really makes me worry a little is the High Fructose Corn Syrup, and that is mostly due to the many articles out, and the heightened awareness made by the first lady. It's not good for you. But the process of actually making the HFCS, that isn't all that different from the numerous other corn and soy products. I do find it amusing though that there are, I think, nine ingredients made from corn on a Twinkie label. Why not just add corn?

So read the book if your interested in knowing what you eat. Don't take it too seriously, and really, sugar and baked goods aren't all that awesome for you, even though I wish they were. Fruits and veggies are the best.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Insurace Woes Update

If you remember in an earlier post I talked about an outstanding insurance claim and what to do about insurance.

Well I still haven't claimed that check. But the very lovely HR Red from MTV is helping me now. I spoke with the insurance last week and was told they sent me a $970 check that had been cashed - I told them that they had the wrong person, because I would have remembered that. Then she found me, and said my address change was still pending. I submitted this address change August 25, 2008 - can you explain to me how it is still pending six months later? Then today I was told that since my address had recently changed it would be at least 15 days before a check could be sent. What @#$#%! Anyhow I think I am getting close to reclaiming this. That will make my grand total for reclaiming this year $605! But it sure is a lot more work than it should be to get money that is already rightfully yours.

As for our actual insurance - We got our COBRA information packet last week. Unfortunately it only lists Rob as an individual, so now I have to find out if I ever actually got added to his plan, which I should have as we have been paying for it. If I did, the COBRA monthly pay for employee and spouse comes to $1029.00 per month. That's A LOT of money when you don't have full time jobs (it's a lot of money when you do, but at least then you have a steady income)

The new stimulus bill that covers 65% of COBRA went into effect on March 1. But they are still writing the language for eligibility. If we are eligible for this break then we will owe $360 a month - this is kind of a lot, but totally doable. If we aren't eligible then we are going the no insurance route and will pray for no sickness or injuries.

Why are we not getting the major medical coverage? Well the cheapest I can find is $320 for a not so great plan with crazy rules and super-high deductible. I'm ok with paying that for good insurance, but not catastrophic. And the amount we pay for annual check-ups and teeth cleaning is nowhere near hitting that deductible.

Maybe we'll take our chances anyway. We have until April 20 or so to decide.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Importance of Checking and Double Checking Checks

So I learned a thing or two last week about watching out for my pay. I did some freelance for Nick Jr. a couple of weeks ago, and got my pay check. I was examining it for the number of hours worked because I filled out the invoice by hand, and didn't have a copy to compare to. As I was doing this I noticed that I paid medical and dental insurance. Now, my insurance was stopped November 21 of last year - but you know how HR is. But I had a feeling, and checked the two freelance checks from December and sure enough - insurance was deducted.

So I got on the phone and let the Production Manager know. He shook his head (I couldn't see this obviously as we were on the phone, but I imagine he did) and said he would contact the payroll company to change my statue (which should have already been changed) and get me a refund. Unfortunately since tax info has already been sent out, he couldn't do anything about last year. Oh well.

But then to satisfy my curiosity that HR is a winding labrynth of taking forever to make changes I took a look at one of Rob's recent checks. In his severance package he got half with continued insurance coverage and half without. And sure enough in the checks after our coverage was discontinued insurance was still being deducted.

So I called our very helpful HR rep, who has to be tired of hearing from me. I guess this because she recognized me instantly - this is not a good sign in a company as big as MTV Networks. Anyhow she said she would contact the payroll and have them correct this - and also look into getting me a refund for my pay last December.

All in all - if we recover all of the over pay it is just over $200 - that's quite a chunk of change to loose out on all because I'm usually not so vigilant about checking my pay stubs.

The other thing I learned is that you should always calculate hours by hand in addition to your excel formula on an invoice. Due to a minor formula error I was billing and getting approved for my Monday hours, but they weren't showing up in the total pay. This I caught by complete chance, as I only worked two days last week for the job I invoice on, so it was glaringly obvious half the pay wasn't calculated - but when it's 20% or less of the total, it's much easier to say my mental math was off than the formula. Luckily this only happened for two weeks, so it won't be too much extra work for them to cross reference my last invoice amounts with what I was owed. From now on I ALWAYS add with a calculator in addition to the formula.

The moral is that due to careless mistakes and not checking stubs - I could have lost out on $475, that I will be reclaiming.

Know what your deductions are - and make sure that is all that is being taken out.
Double check your invoices.
Make sure your checks and invoices add up - if there are unapproved hours find out why (this one hasn't happened to me yet)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Someone's Going to be a Doctor

And that someone is me. I got my acceptance into the Graduate Center CUNY's doctoral program for Developmental Psychology. I guess the suit paid off.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Birthday

To someone special...
(wedding August 10, 2008)

Today is my cousin Haley's 7th Birthday. I can't believe she's 7! In my family there are kind of two groups of kids. My brother, sister, and I, and three (male) cousins who are our age. And then there is a gap of about 10 years to the little boys (who are hitting their teenage years) and the kids (Haley and Grant.)

Haley has the distinction of being my only female cousin. We were so excited that she was a girl. I was 20 when she was born, and almost the exact age my mom was when I was born. That was an interesting thought. I love the special relationship I have with Haley, and cherish the time I get to see her, especially because I live so far away. Once when I was home visiting Haley asked if I lived on the airplane. It made sense though, I always stayed at her house on my way to and from the airport.

So here are some pictures of Haley as a baby and toddler and kid, and from when she took on the role in my wedding as the flower girl and ring carrier.


(first picture together, one week old, 2002)

(first birthday party, 2003)

(my college graduation, May 2004)


(summer 2006)

(Christmas 2006)

(Christmas 2007)

(wedding, 2008)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Robots Revisited

Robots have entered my life again. If you remember the posts here and here, the living room was taken over by a robot cockpit. This time it is a cute little tin toy robot, two actually that were delivered by mail this week. They are for the same music video as before. The music video that is soon to reach completion. This is very exciting news.
This robot, when batteries are inserted, walks and shoots sparks, just like the box says. The sparks are really lights that flash to robot spark noises, and he spins in a circle, then he walks again. The most amusing part: upon closer inspection of the box, the toy robot isn't a toy at all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Suiting Up

So last week I had my grad school interview. I think it went well. I'll find out in a couple of weeks if I get in. But before the interview I needed to buy a suit. I actually do own one - but have never worn it, and it wasn't an option as it was procured when I was a size smaller than I am today. Luckily I have the best husband in the world who too me shopping last Saturday. Since my interview was on Wednesday there was no time for tailoring, so we went with the skirt option. Here I am looking all corporate.Really, the material is so nice and silky feeling I don't know why I haven't been wearing suits for years. Oh yeah...I work in animation. Dress code: casual.