Monday, October 30, 2006

Fill It To The Rim With Brim

In addition to my job with the school district I work part time as a server for a catering company. It is a fairly high end company focusing on weddings, corporate events and private parties. We also specialize in Kosher food. I am the guy in the white shirt and bowtie pouring your wine and clearing your plates.

Over the weekend we worked a fairly small wedding (only about 200 guests) at the Wiseman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota Campus. The meal consisted of a buffet of chicken stroganoff, beef tenderloin, boiled potatoes, roasted vegetables and three different salads. For dessert we offered a choice of pumpkin pie or apple cake. For some reason I was stuck with the table full of college friends. You know, the people who don’t know anyone other than themselves and spend most of the time drinking and amusing each other.

I sat at that table many times.

After dessert, as I was pouring coffee, I approached my table full of revelers, many of whom had made more than their share of visits to the open bar. I asked one young guy (he couldn’t have been more than 22) if he wanted coffee.

“Just half-a-cup”, he replied.

“Only half-a-cup, don’t you like my coffee?” I asked, proud of my obscure pop culture reference.

Apparently it was a bit more obscure than I thought. This guy looked at me for nearly 30 seconds, with the blankest of stares before responding, “I..uh…it’s just that’t want that much…” He may have actually thought I was offended.

Am I the only one who remembers Brim coffee?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

Due to certain circumstances, today's regularly scheduled Gasbag Review will not appear. Instead Omninaif has agreed to fill in with his take on Most Haunted. A truly "scary" show. Check it out.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006

How About That!!

It seems that my screed on Michele Bachmann caught the eye of Tim O'Brien, Letters Editor for the Enemy Paper. He referenced it in a commentary written a couple of days ago.

Blogger's video pulls back the curtain on Bachmann

The thousands, even millions, of dollars spent on television advertising trying to create a public persona for a candidate is no match for a blogger with a video camera. Michele Bachmann found that out this week.

The Republican candidate for the Sixth District U.S. House seat had done a remarkable -- one might even say deceptive -- job presenting herself as a moderate tax-cutter to voters until her appearance on Sunday at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park. While the media have focused on the complaint filed with the IRS by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which claimed that, for endorsing Bachmann, the church's tax-exempt status should be revoked, bloggers focused more on the content of Bachmann's "sermon"...

Sven of Sven's Personal Memos had some questions about Bachmann's powwows with the almighty. "Did God tell you to hate gay people? ... Did God tell you to legislate against a minimum wage? Did God tell you to claim [that] education is your #1 issue and yet center your efforts on destroying public schools? ... Did God tell you we should consider nuking Iran? If God had told you not to run would you have listened?"...

He even spelled my name right.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

This week Jod{i} at Looking Through The Cracked Window savages one of her own with her review of Wolf Creek. Gives new meaning to a horrific movie.

Think you have what it takes to blow The Sunday Trumpet? Join the Sporadic Gasbag Roundtable today!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Opinions Are Like...

Girl: Sounds like a subdural hematoma to me.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: Oh, it does, does it? Well, it's not your job to diagnose.
Girl: But I thought...
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: You thought, you thought. Just go. Three years of nursery school and you think you know it all. Well, you're still wet behind the ears. It's not a subdural hematoma. It's *epidural*. Ha.

This is Chapter Four in the tale of FrankenKristin’s brain. Below is a brief summary of the saga so far. If you would like to read the each installment please visit:

Chapter 1: That's Fronkensteen!!
Chapter 1.5: Point Of Clarification
Chapter 2: You Know I'm A Rather Brilliant Surgeon
Chapter 3: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!

Let’s recap.

In January 2005, my wife was involved in a car accident leaving her with severe whiplash and a newly diagnosed Arnold Chiari Malformation, which up to this point we did not know it existed. As symptoms worsened she began to focus on the ACM as the primary source of the problem. Since she was unable to find any direction from her chiropractor, nurse practitioner or physical therapist she turned to the internet and found a support group dedicated to assisting people afflicted with this disorder. They directed her to a reputable local neurosurgeon who conducted the most basic of evaluations and determined the ACM asymptomatic.

Finding no one else in Minnesota who specialized in this area, we went The Chiari Institute (TCI) for a definitive second opinion. After determining the ACM to be the cause of her problems and identifying surgery as the only treatment she scheduled an appointment and began to wait the 3 months until her date. During this time we were involved in another car accident which significantly worsened her symptoms and made the need for surgery even more pressing.

With the pain nearly unbearable and the surgery still several weeks off we began the still continuing battle with the insurance companies. At this point the auto insurance company representing the driver in the first accident denied responsibility and his position was supported by a third-party arbitrator.

The driver in the second accident was uninsured so we were unable to go after him for much more than a cost of a doughnut. And since he was not in custody we didn’t know whether we would ever see him again. Furthermore we were quite certain she would exhaust her no-fault benefits through our own carrier and thus began to cut back on acupuncture and massage in order to save up for what we anticipated would be a $100Kplus medical bill. Since TCI was not covered by our health care provider she began the process to request in-network benefits for non-network services.

This is where we pick-up the story.


As I mentioned, the driver in the first accident had denied responsibility and his position was supported by a third party arbitrator. Because of this we had pretty much given up hope getting a settlement. So we had to rely on our own auto insurance company until we were able to come to some sort of arrangement with our health care provider.

Since Minnesota is a no-fault state we were entitled to $20,000 in medical expenses, to be used for whatever we felt was necessary. After the second accident our auto insurance company closed the first claim and opened a new one focusing on the facts of the new case. What we found out later was that although she had not exhausted the original $20,000, all of her treatment from this point on was attributed to the second accident and was deducted from a new pot of money.

This is when the insurance company started to panic.

Because fault in the first accident had been attributed to Kristin and the second was caused by an uninsured driver, there was nowhere for them to go in order to recover their costs. And since it was clear that, due to the pending surgery we would certainly max out our limit, they hoped to avoid the possibility that they might have to continue to pay for her care.

So a few weeks after the second accident, our auto insurance informed us that they had stopped all payment and were demanding that Kristin undergo an Independent Medical Exam. Apparently they were questioning whether the symptoms were really brought on by the car accidents and if so how much should apportioned to each accident.

Don’t let the name fool you, an Independent Medical Exam is anything but independent. In fact, the only choice she had in the matter was what to wear. We were given a date, told when and where to show up and instructed not to contact them for anything other than directions.

The doctor, also a neurosurgeon, began by documenting the facts regarding the accidents and then reviewed her medical history. Later he conducted a neurological exam and while he tried to be accommodating, forced her to do things that caused her significant pain. He asked about our visit to New York and inquired as to whether we were serious about surgery. He of course took a conservative approach and cautioned us against making any hasty decisions.

While he was a nice guy he most certainly did not have our interest in mind. Nor was he truly attempting to form an independent opinion. In fact he made every effort to suggest that Kristin’s Chiari-related symptoms pre-dated the accident and attributed the remainder to the first accident thereby resolving the insurance company of anything other than what was owed us under our no-fault benefits.

But not before he suggested that we get a 3rd opinion. Although he tried to present the suggestion in a diplomatic fashion it was clear that he was simply trying to avoid having to contradict the opinion of Dr. Bolognese, one of the foremost experts in the field of Chiari Malformation. If they could find someone who would say that the situation was not accident related, they might not have to cover anything.

The ironic twist is that the official request for a 3rd opinion was mailed to our house the day after Kristin’s surgery. We were in NY at the time so we didn’t get the letter until I came home a week later. After returning home and speaking with a claims representative, we informed them that we would NOT be seeking a 3rd opinion as Kristin had already undergone surgery. Our claim rep. put Kristin on hold and went to discuss the situation with her supervisor. After asking whether the surgery had been successful, she stated that they would cover up to the limit of no fault benefits, and that then our case would be closed. Although it was only a small protion of total bill it was the first piece of good news we had received so far.

At this point we had gone as far as we could with the car insurance company and now set our sights on obtaining network coverage for The Chiari Institute. This was a whole different battle.

* Dialogue courtesy of The Man With Two Brains.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Pity The Fool

I know, I know, every community has their political crackpots. One of the most notorious in our area is Minneapolis City Council Member Phyllis Kahn. She is known for suggesting that the right to vote be granted to 12-year olds and that the MN State Legislature pay the salary of MN Twins pitcher Brad Radke. A nutball to be sure. But no politician anywhere in the country, not even Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave comes close to the lunacy that is 6th district Republican candidate Michele Bachmann.

For those who aren't up on MN politics Michele Bachmann currently holds a seat in the MN State Senate, in a very conservative and very "Christian" portion of the Twin Cities metro area. Her support is based largely on people who identify themselves as values voters. Unfortunately for her, the wheels seem to be coming off the "values voters" train.

The most recent incident took place over the weekend at a local evangelical church where she was introduced from the pulpit by Reverend Mac Hammond and offered the opportunity to disguise a campaign speech as a sermon, even though the practice is a violation of the law. But that didn't stop her from stumping for votes anyway. And she did so in true Michele Bachmann style, by catering to her audience's lowest common denominator. Rather than discuss the issues of the day she simply spoke the code language of Evangelical Christians in an effort to lull them in to supporting her otherwise vacuous campaign. Here is a sample of her speech:

God called me to run for the Unite States Congress...And I thought...who in their right mind would spend two years to run for a job that lasts two years? You'd have to be absolutely a fool to do that. You are now looking at a fool for Christ.

So God speaks to Michele Bachmann, fine. And perhaps she does indeed see her candidacy as a calling, that's fine too. But I have to wonder if she ever stopped to ask why God chose her and what he told her she should do with her time in office. Based on her record in the Minnesota State Legislature I have few questions of my own:

* Did God tell you to hate gay people? Even your own family member?

* Did God tell you that you should spy on your political adversaries? And then lie about your intentions?

* Did God tell you demonize the entire judicial system by labeling jurists with whom you disagree, "activist judges".

* Did God tell you to legislate against a minimum wage?

* Did God tell you to claim the education is your #1 issue and yet center your efforts on destroying public schools?

* Did God tell you that some cultures are superior to others or did you make that one up on your own?

* Did God tell you we should consider nuking Iran?

* If God had told you not to run would you have listened?

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Republicans or Evangelical Christians. In fact some of my best family members fall into one or both of those categories. Just don't confuse your religious convictions for a political mandate. Keep in mind that every major world conflict throughout history had its basis in religion. In fact ever since Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 4th century, the church in all its forms, has used its power in decidedly un-Christian ways. In the words of Pastor Greg Boyd, of Woodland Hills Church, and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation, "When we pick up the sword we put down the cross."

Perhaps if more of us Christians carried crosses instead of swords we might actually begin to live the word of God. Rather than exercising power over we should instead focus on power under. Serving with love not might.

As for Reverend Hammond, it seems he is in a bit of hot water himself. During the service he announced that he, "Can't publicly endorse as a church and would not for any candidate. But I can tell you personally that I'm going to vote for Michele Bachmann." Except that he can't. You see the good Reverend lives in the 3rd district and therefore can't vote for Michelle Bachmann or her rival, child safety advocate, Patty Wetterling. Why would he lie from the pulpit unless it was to endorse a candidate? The weekend's antics have also run afoul of IRS for violating their tax exempt status.

Is that how we give Glory to God?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

Well we're at it again. And this year a whole new crop of Gasbags have planted their arses at the Round Table and their lips on the Trumpet. This week Marymurtz attempts a new staging of the Andrew Llyd Webber classic, Phantom of the Opera.

Perhaps she would prefer this adaptation. At least with Paul Williams you know what you're getting.


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Got Game

Last night I did it for the first time in 8 months.

I started out a little nervous because it had been so long. Frankly, I wasn't sure how I would perform.

I think about doing it a lot. Lately I just haven’t been that lucky. Don't get me wrong, I’ve done it occasionally by myself but it's just not the same when you’re alone. I just hoped when that when the time came I would remember what to do.

I'm not careless, so of course I wore protection. When I was younger I tended to be a bit brash, thinking mostly of myself. With experience I began to feel more confident in my technique. Although it’s a very physical activity, to perform well requires gentle hands as well as equal parts practiced finesse and blind passion.

I’ve certainly done it many times before but still, I was anxious. Will I remember what to do with my stick? What if I can’t shoot anymore? I hope I don’t say anything stupid?

As I started, my heart began to race and I could feel my face getting flush. Soon my body was glistening with sweat, every muscle tensed. The longer I kept going the heavier my breathing became. I could feel the rush of excitement building with every movement. I would not stop until I scored.

When I finally finished, my whole body went limp and I collapsed in a combination of exhaustion and relief.

Basking in the afterglow, I wondered why I waited so long and I promised myself to do it again as soon as possible.

Man, I love this game.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

B as in B*ll, S as in Sh*t

I need to get this off my chest too.

Former Rep. Mark Foley is a sick man. However, exactly what sickens him is apparently up for debate. It seems that the former congressman believes the best way to address his potentially criminal sexual behavior is to enter drug and alcohol treatment.

This is what we call b*llsh*t! Don't try to hide you obviously inappropriate sexual behavior behind the veil of a more socially acceptable drug and alcohol problem. WE ARE NOT THAT STUPID!

Thanks to local columnist Ruben Rosario for setting the record straight. His article today should be required reading.


Apparently it is not enough to blame this scandal alcohol. The talking heads and politcal apologists have amassed quite an impressive list of diversionary targets. So far they have blamed the scandal on:

- Alcohol
- Bill Clinton
- Democrats in Congress
- The Catholic Church
- The Media
- George Soros
- The entire congressional page program
- And the victim himself

Perhaps the party of presonal responsibility should consider practicing what they preach.

You Bring The Guns, I'll Bring The Roses

I'm going to get back to FrankenKristin's Tale soon but first I have to get this off my chest.


The spoiled brat is at it again.

Apparently not pleased with his status in the "Where Are They Now?" file, arrogant bastard Axl Rose recently launched a Guns and Roses tour of North American, including a stop here in the Twin Cities. Whether the show actually takes place is another matter. Mr. Rose is notorious for showing up late to performances, sometimes as much as 3-4 hours late, and canceling dates in the middle of a tour.

He also claims that the band is finally going release Chinese Democracy, the long awaited (and now mocked) follow up to Appetite for Destruction. Given that he has been putting off the release of this album for at least 5 years I won't be holding by breath.

It also seems a bit disingenuous to call themselves Guns and Roses since he is the only remaining member of the original band. Or at least the only one who contributed anything. Even Johnny Rotten had the decency to hang up the Sex Pistols name after Sid Vicous died.

Besides, history does not look kindly on bands and artists waiting this long to release a "follow-up" to a commercially successful album. Can anyone say Third Stage by Boston or Bat Out Of Hell II by Meatloaf? Both of these albums were as highly anticipated as they were disappointing. In fact they were so bad as to almost make In The Dark by the Greatful Dead listenable.


Axl, your fifteen minutes was up years ago. Do us all a favor and go away.