New Way to Get a Job

So… Facebook makes its money by selling ads; targeted ads.  Ads that target.

Here is a targeted ad I saw today:

Talk about a non traditional way to get a job!  Not that I have any hiring power in Cisco sales, but surely someone who works in Cisco’s sales is on Facebook and will view this ad.  Maybe the guy’s money isn’t super-well spent, but hey – when nothing else has worked for long enough – why not this?

Beckapalooza had a good article today giving a full background of tomorrow’s Glenn Beck event for those of us who are too cheap to buy cable and who haven’t been following the unfolding of the event planning.

This article just reinforces my wife’s feelings about Beck – Beck is a brand, and he does whatever he can to build his brand.  Love him or hate him, he’s a genius at self-marketing.  It’ll be interesting to see how ‘apolitical’ this rally (errr fundraiser) is…

I saw some other articles, though, from folks wanting to make hay out of the fact that he’s co-opting the National Mall on the anniversary of the MLK rally.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, other than the fact that those who might make a pilgrimage to the national park (yes, the Mall is a national park) will find hoards of people, giant screens, and a lot of loud conservative propaganda — not exactly the reflective environment that one would want to honor King and the legacy of the civil rights movement.

But hey – it’s a new day – and it’s as good a day as any other for a little free speech in Washington.

Have fun out there , MIL and FIL.  If nothing else, you should have plenty of good ‘people watching’ to do.

A whole ‘nother level..

There was a time when this blog was a well, kept, thriving garden of entertainment and thought.  It might have looked like this:

After months of neglect and half-heartedness, the blog is looking more like this:

I can’t guarantee the blog will get a whole lot better, though.  But I can at least update you on some of the happenings in the collapsed universe of WhiteEyebrows.

1. New Job

August first, I started a new job.  I still work for the same company, but I am reporting to a new boss and have had my job responsibilities expanded and changed pretty dramatically.  The decision to take the job was a little difficult, because I really had nestled into a groove with my team.  We worked in a pretty tight-knit, small group of developers in a highly iterative and collaborative way.  It took us quite a while to get that engine really humming, but we finally hit a good stride.  I was even starting to do more real programming, not just designing.  It was a great growth time for me, and I really appreciated my manager and my teammates.

Now to try and explain my job…

In my old job, I was a designer for a specific product we’ve been developing for about a year now.  So what do I mean by designer?  I was the visual designer (the guy who made it look the way it did) and also an interaction designer (the guy who makes it work the way it works).  So I worked with programmers to make the thing look and act like it should (and like customers would like).  We kind of call this “user experience” – the sum total of all the decisions and designs that create what a product looks and feels like to a user.

The new job is in the same vein.  I’m still in “user experience”, but rather than being focused on one project I will now be ‘influencing’ a lot of projects and products.  In my new role, the scope has changed as well.  Before, I was looking at my project – one component of a complex product or system.  In my new role, I’m to be looking at the experience our customers are having with the entire company – end to end.  Everything from pre-sales, sales, installation and configuration all the way through to support and end of life.  My current focus will still be on products themselves (I have some great peers who are focused on other parts of the experience), but the vision has expanded to include much more.

In a way it’s exciting, because there is so much work to do – and I kind of have carte blanche to go work on whatever I want.  I don’t see how I can go wrong – there is so much work to be done.  If I do anything, it will look like I’ve done something.  I also feel a huge buy in from upper management, and have had great support from my old boss and my new boss as I make the transition.  So… so far, so good.

2. Starting School

Yesterday, I also started the Arts and Technology program at the University of Texas at Dallas.  The current plan is to get a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.  I’ll be focusing a lot on the things I was talking about above – user experience, user research, and trends/topics in technology.  The program itself is a fusion of humanities and technology.  They have a very aggressive program in animation, motion capture, and other cutting edge technologies; which draw a lot of interest on their own.

Now if I could just find a trapper keeper…

The first class yesterday was a little goofy.  We spent 1:45 just introducing all 42 students in the class.  Since I was first (the curse of having an “A” last name), I just stood up and gave the standard 3 sentence introduction – where I did my bachelor’s work, where I work now, and what my interest was is in the program.  After a few other people, though, it became apparent that this was becoming more of a life history/bragging session.  I had to hear about every project some people did since the fourth grade.  It became disturbingly apparent that many people were there because they couldn’t find jobs or were going through job transition.  I was surprised at how many people outwardly admitted they just wanted to teach and become a professor.  Are there really that many professorships available?  Is higher education a rapidly expanding career field and I never knew it?

Some of the students are a little gross.  Thankfully, I sat in the corner of the room with the nice smelling people, but when we went to go to break and dismiss, I passed a few individuals who smelled like they hadn’t taken a shower in weeks.  There was a lot of poorly trimmed beards and moustaches as well, and a lot of kind of self-important comments from people – you know the type – the ones who want to talk on the first day of class to set themselves out there as a vocal know-it-all in the class.

The oddity of the participants notwithstanding, I hope to gain a few things from the next 2 years in this program.  Hopefully, if I can keep a 9-credits-per-semester schedule, I’ll be done in 7 semesters.  If I go through the summers, that’s only 2 and 1/3 years.  Either that, or my brain will explode.

3. Conclusion

I’m tired and busy.  I’m trying to kick my focus and energy back up another level.  I’ve decided that if I’m going to succeed in my new job, school, church calling, infinite side projects, and as a husband – I’m going to have to make excellent use of my time and energy.  I guess, for the next few years at least, I’m done with the relaxation and enjoyment of a slower lifestyle.  So the back half of 2010 is going to be taken to a WHOLE ‘NOTHER LEVEL!

There’s more to tell, but I’m just plain out of time, out of room, and out of will power to write about it.  I could tell you about how it is to have my brother living with us.  I could tell you how A2 is the #1 auditor at her work.  I could tell you how we are really looking forward to our upcoming vacation to Italy… and more!  Maybe if you comment and ask me some pressing questions, I’ll feel compelled to post again.

Or not.

What your copay was hiding all those years…

A public rant began on an large, campus-wide email alias at work today.  Those are just too fun not to jump right in the middle of!

Apparently, a coworker wore a contact with a tear in it, and it majorly irritated his eye.  It was bad enough for him to feel like he needed to go to his eyecare professional to have his eye examined.  His rant was that they charged him for a full office visit.  It ended up costing him $80 to sit in the chair for 15 minutes while the doctor looked into his eye and determined that there was nothing wrong.

He finished his rant with the question: “Is this normal [the charge associated with the office visit] and I’m overreacting?”

My short answer to him:

Yes, it’s normal and yes you’re overreacting.

But there was a long answer as well…

Here is some background, for those who don’t know the situation.

Last year, our company made some radical changes to its health insurance offerings.  Up until now, we have only had traditional In Network/Out of Network coverage offered, with the standard premiums and co-pays.  Last year, though, a “Health Savings Plus” plan was introduced.  It featured a low premium, high deductible ($3000) insurance policy coupled with a tax-free Health Savings Account (HSA).  The company seeded the HSA with $750 as well as offered health incentives for employees to earn up to $1200 more for the account.  This plan saves the company a lot of money by shifting the first $3000 of health care expense to the employee and banking on their laziness to not accomplish the health incentives.  The company really pushed this plan to the employees, though they continued to offer the traditional plans at a higher cost.  Of course, many employees jumped at the lower cost plan.

My coworker was clearly one of these guys who got onto HSP+ without understanding how it was going to work.  He balked at playing an $80 bill for an office visit to an optometrist!  That’s usually where you START for a doctor’s office visit.  That doesn’t include any labs or imaging you might have done, which can eclipse the doctor’s office visits in costs.

Really, this just goes to show that the beloved copay has been obfuscating the cost of health care to the general public.  This guy was outraged that he was “charged that much because that’s the most that UHC will allow them to charge for such a procedure, otherwise they would charge even more (that’s what they told me to try to make me feel better about this charge.)”  He was too used to going in and paying $10 or $20 out of his pocket for an office visit, a charge he felt was reasonable for the 15 minutes he sat in the chair.  What he never bothered to find out was that his insurance company was paying 3x that price to cover the rest of the office visit.  (Also, in what universe do you think you’re going to get an office visit for just $15… especially when you’re seeing an array of nurses and doctors using expensive equipment to diagnose and treat you… but this guy’s ignorance notwithstanding…)

My advice to him, if you can’t bear to see the cost of your health care, go back to the old PPO/EPO plans.

With copays, we never saw the expenses the insurance companies were shelling out.  We never saw a true cost of health care consumption.  This is (my theory) one of the major contributors to the run-up in health care costs in America.  No one is looking at their bills, and even after they do, no one is getting upset at these industries for charging so much because their insurance is covering it.  Insurance has significantly enabled the run up of health care costs in America.  There is no downward pressure being put on prices because of the wonky payer system we have now.

Even though I think this guy is being a pansy, I kind of like how upset he’s gotten.  Should you have to go see an eye specialist every time you just want them to make sure nothing’s stuck in your eye?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps the market could come up with a lower cost way for him to get the care he needs.

To do so, though, a lot more people are going to have to get angry at the current fee-for-service policy.

For the record, here was my long answer to the whole alias (who, in proper North Texas fashion, had already blamed the whole thing on Obama).

To answer your original question, yes – it is customary for an optometrist or ophthalmologist to charge you for a full office visit as you’ve described your last visit. You had a problem with your eye. They brought you back, sat you down in the chair and examined it and determined there was no immediate health issue (that the eye was recovering from a previous trauma). It is “reasonable and customary” (an important phrase in medical billing) for this Dr to charge you, even if he didn’t prescribe any medication or pull any contact fragment from your eye.

If you didn’t like the Doctor’s bedside manner, or the way in which he told you there wasn’t a problem, I would suggest you get a new doctor. Sure, he might have given you some ideas of drops that might have relieved the discomfort in the meantime. But you can’t fault him for charging for an office visit, though, just because there didn’t end up being anything wrong with your eye.

Really (and I hear you here) it just stings more because we’re paying 100% up to the high deductible. (If you’re on the Health Savings Plus plan, that is.)

As for the politics, this is the way it’s been since Medicare was instituted (the 1960’s), which created the fee-for-service health care system we enjoy now. This is not a direct result of the recently passed health care legislation, though you could argue (and I would) that Cisco’s recent cutbacks in subsidy to our health plans are a result of the failure of industry AND government (the recent legislation) to reign in the out-of-control rise in health care costs we’re experiencing. Everyone talks about bending the cost curve down, but no one knows how to actually do it. Insurers, medical supply companies, drug companies, and the like are riding as high on the hog as they possibly can for as long as we’ll tolerate at the expense of the taxpayer and insurance policy holder.

I actually think the HSP+ plan is pretty good. Now that some of the cost they’ve been hiding for years behind “copays” is being passed on to people like us, perhaps the market will change and offer different solutions.