25 April 2008

full circle...

This is where it all started. Yes sir, I started blogging here in 2005 during my final semester of college. I didn't have a lot to say, so I just posted a bunch of pictures. I quickly decided the process of posting pictures to blogger was time consuming and searched for another way. That led me over to MSN spaces, which became MSN Live. They introduced a Java tool for accessing your folders easily and being able to see thumbnails of your photos, select a bunch of them, create a folder in your blog for them and walk away while the transfer takes place automatically.

Finally, at some point in the coming year or two I found it necessary (largely through peer pressure) to finally establish a Myspace account so I could check out pictures of young women who would respond to posts on Craigslist in my evernending quest for love. This proved to largely be a waste of time, which is how I would come to feel about Myspace in general, but not for a while. Still, maintaining multiple blogs seemed too time consuming so I transfered my ramblings to Myspace and stuck with it for quite a while.

Nevertheless, eventually someone would respond to one of my periodic Craigslist posts that would catch my eye enough to ring up on the phone; enough to meet for Thai food; enough to get a few drinks at Paddy's; enough to call up again to see a movie at the Grand; enough to check out the art museum with; enough to endure a long-distance relationship for a whole freaking year! Oh, this is about blogging, sorry about that.

Anyway, it was pointed out to me that Myspace blogs are an after-thought for the folks at Myspace and serious blogging happens at places like Google's Blogspot and Wordpress to drop a couple names. Myspace blogs don't "feed" properly into readers, so I remembered I had a blogger account and resurrected this page.

Having been away a long time, I've also noticed several things have changed while I was away. The biggest change is that it is now owned by Google, which wasn't the case when I started it. The Google acquisition has led to more than a few innovations that makes this process all the easier, the one I like the most being live spell-checking. Over at Myspace I had to cut-n-paste my posts into Word so I could check the spelling, then paste them back into the webpage for final editing and publishing (slightly annoying). Blogger is a little easier to customize than Myspace, but that isn't a very big deal. I was able to figure both out fairly easily thanks to the wealth of information you can get from the internet with a simple engine search. Finally, Google offers a free analytics tool that you can use to track your traffic patterns. So far I have no idea who is reading and how often, but I should get a better sense of that soon. Myspace did track hits, but you didn't necessarily know who they were from.

So that was the river, this is the sea...



ps... I have no intention of making this a Music Blog, I have so much more interesting things to say than just ramble about music. Still, I'm going to try to post a song for your aural pleasure while reading (right-click and open in a new tab to listen while you read).

This is the Sea
The Waterboys

24 April 2008

this is only a test...

I have yet again tweaked the layout a little bit for my blog. I need to get feedback how it shows up on different computers and different browsers.

You should see a background photo (which might look like two different photos) framing the text in the center, if not please let me know! I don't mind if it spills off the edge of the page a little on smaller desktops as long as it doesn't obscure the text at all (assuming the text doesn't spill over as well).

Also, what do you think of the image itself? Did it load properly? I might have to host it somewhere else but it needs to be a site that wont compress or resize it at all. It loaded for me but I'm also signed into the website that I posted it on.

As always, feel free to post comments here or email me.



23 April 2008

...keew lla daer ev'i gniht tsegnarts eht

This is a best of, sort of. It's the most interesting things I've read in some of the blog's I'm tracking, only instead of simply sharing them in the column on the right, I'm going to sum it all up in a posting of my own.

First, the new Gnarls Barkley album is great but I just found out Danger Mouse has posted the entire thing backwards as a single download on their own site. I'm sure there is software out there that can reverse it back, so obviously I'm going to download it for my personal collection, check out the sdrawkcab version to enjoy on it's merits until I hear about a way to screw with it.

Generally speaking, listening to an album backwards is undesirable because the instrumentally generated sounds usually start strong and fade fast. So when you listen backward the sounds sneak up on you and then just at their most intense moment, they suddenly disappear. elpuoC ddO ehT holds up surprisingly well in reverse--perhaps a testimony to the production talent at play. Of course I don't have any drugs to take, so I'm not sure I can go a full 38 minutes before I hear some vocals in a language I can understand or at least pretend to understand!

Also new to the internet is a brand new board game you can download, print and create yourself. It is called Colbopoly and you can learn more about it at the creator's website.

Essentially, Stephen Colbert made a crack about Hasbro's custom monopoly versions and asked why they haven't made one for him yet--so a fan of the show did just that. It looks interesting, anyone want to come over and test it out?

I'm impressed, but obviously there are a lot of episodes I have missed. I don't "get" all of the squares. Maybe that's part of the fun.

I'm off for another week but this time I have a few things scattered throughout. I might not get much time to vegetate. Oh well, I'm sure Rachel prefers vegetate take on a new meaning in my case.



19 April 2008

not-for-profit customer-service...

Yes I work for a non-profit and generally that is said to be a "thing" with white people (and I'm about as white as we come, freakishly pale in fact). Still, my employer which I will spare naming here, has recently begun a campaign to refocus our customer service effort into creating the ideal experience, hoping to win kudos and elevate our organizations status among it's peers (most of which are also non-profits). OK, it might be unfair to assume they don't also want to provide the ideal experience simply in order to improve outcomes and generally live up to the expectations the community has of us, but the way the program is oriented, improving outcomes is a part of the ideal experience rather than the other way around. If I were part of those who built this program I might have made improving outcomes the umbrella under which all the other tools hide away from rust.

I really don't want to pick on my employer too much here so I'm going to start off by pointing out that I've worked for other organizations that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their client's money buying into really stupid programs to try to improve their image all the while continuing to neglect the harder work of establishing meaningful benchmarks that can be objectively and fairly measured internally to ensure a consistent emphasis on quality is the highest priority within the organization. I've also seen other such organizations essentially buy a ranking from what is really just a marketing company so they can flaunt it in their own marketing efforts that they are a top performer in their field of service. Of course news gathering organizations, government agencies and non-profit watch-dog groups already provide such rankings in most of our important fields of service using truly objective criteria which is continually audited and for which the organizations ranked do not have to reimburse them for.

So I am refreshed that this time, I find myself a part of an organization that is at least making the effort to go through this process of quality improvement and customer service without outsourcing the job to someone else! What's more, they are actually taking (and spending the money) to bring all of us into interactive training sessions focused on this goal. I give them kudos for that, it at least demonstrates that this is not simply something we are paying lip-service to, but at least from an organization level perspective they are taking this seriously.

It kind of reminds me of the story recently about Starbucks closing down for a day to retrain their barista's how to make the ideal cup-o-joe. I'm not sure I really care how good the coffee is at these places, but for those willing to pay several dollars for what used to cost less than 50 cents in most diners, I'm sure the extra effort on quality improvement and improving the overall customer experience is greatly appreciated (unless you really needed a cup of coffee during the 2 hour window they closed all the stores)!

So I work in healthcare (for those of you just passing through) and in our little seminars various stories were told of patients who had both good and bad experiences in hospitals and we looked at what made the experiences good and what made the others unfortunate. One thing that really struck me as common in all of the bad experiences was that the patient (or relative; in some cases the actual patient had died) felt ignored and unimportant to their caregivers. Generally it seemed to be a culture rather than the actions of just one employee with a bad attitude. Even when things go wrong, the patients that felt their caregivers cared and were willing to spend the extra time to keep the patient informed and instill a little confidence that their needs are important will always rave about the way they were taken care of. The patients that do not feel the staff is interested in their wellbeing will generally complain about even minor inconveniences which might even be a necessary part of their care.

As someone not directly involved in patient care I find it easy to come to such conclusions, easy to point them out to those around the table who do have direct patient contact consistently, but also realize that I don't know the whole story about staffing concerns in individual patient care environments in our organization and the specifics of how best to address them.

Still, I was able to identify what efforts we bring to the table from the ancillary arts that do contribute to creating ideal outcomes. Overall they are not new concepts to us. We look out for mislabeled specimens, changes in lab values that could be erroneous, orders that are strange or confusing and communicate those problems to those directly responsible for the patient's care for clarification or simply to inform.

What I came away with was a sense of hope that there will be more focus in our organization on quality improvement and hope that this emphasis will trickle into my department hopefully so I feel less frustrated by the current stresses that hinder my ability to focus on the quality of my own work.

On that note, it is official, I have a new boss. Look forward to meeting the guy and hopefully eventually having a chat about what I see and what I would like to see in our part of our wonderful not-for-profit organization :)



much anticipated...

When was the last time you picked up an album a little late into it's dropping onto the scene, then within the next six months you find suddenly you've collected that artists entire back catalog? Well I haven't posted a true "music blog" in a long time, so it is fitting that I dedicate this one to the long awaited next release from one of my new favorite artists (not favorite new artists since I discovered they've been at it for about a decade already).

Death Cab for Cutie is fronted by one Ben Gibbard who is from the northwest (I heard his mom call the radio station for some reason several months back) and also is the impetus behind Postal Service as well as various collaborations and solo projects. Busy guy from everything I hear, and certainly an indie-alt-rock icon if being one enables you to still consider yourself really independent? My greatest regret of the past couple years is not having a chance to catch these guys live yet. We can hold out hope, the summer is long and they will be supporting this album, but so far, no dates in Seattle itself. Maybe we can persuade them to hold court with us in Tacoma?

I haven't checked out the whole album yet as I am temporarily poor, so I'm just going on this and another track I've found on the bloggosphere. This is the long version which is the original way the video was meant to be seen, but I read elsewhere that MTV is only showing the short version (Did I read that right? Does MTV actually show music videos on television?). You can find the video on YouTube to be sure or Google The Music Slut and it should be in a recent post there also. Good video.

I Will Possess Your Heart

Death Cab for Cutie
Narrow Stairs
Barsuk Records

16 April 2008

into whose sphere i am venturing...

There is no other relation between human beings which makes such demands on one's ideality as does love, and yet love is never seen to have it. For this reason alone I would be afraid of love; for I fear that it might have the power to make me too talk vaguely about a bliss which I did not feel and a sorrow I did not have. I say this here since I am bidden to speak on love, though unacquainted with it I say this in surroundings which appeal to me like a Greek symposion; for I should otherwise not care to speak on this subject as I do not wish to disturb any one's happiness but, rather, am content with my own thoughts. Who knows but these thoughts are sheer imbecilities and vain imaginings perhaps my ignorance is explicable from the fact that I never have learned, nor have wished to learn, from any one, how one comes to love; or from the fact that I have never yet challenged a woman with a glance which is supposed to be smart but have always lowered my eyes, unwilling to yield to an impression before having fully made sure about the nature of the power into whose sphere I am venturing.
--Kierkegaard, In Vino Veritas (The Banquet) an excerpt from "The Young Person's Speech"
So much of the past thirty years seem to be in one way or another about becoming, and occasionally being, my self. "A self is always becoming. Being does mean becoming, but we run so fast that it is only when we seem to stop... that we are aware of our isness, of being" (L'Engle more from her later). Nothing earth-shattering in there, it just seemed appropriate for where I am going with this. Where am I going with this, anyway?

At some point in the not-to-distant past, I came to see I had become caught up in a kind of culture shock, realizing I am now another's other. Yet not knowing exactly what that ought to mean I occasionally find myself forced to pause on this notion of being an other while allowing another to be my other.

Tonight a thought came to me about clay. I imagined a lump of wet clay, certainly capable of being molded, shaped, changed from one form into another. Yet in itself, the clay has no animation at all. This makes clay an excellent way to contrast two forms of ontology: one which takes it's shape, form, isness entirely from it's creator, but implies another type of ontology which is much more animated, much richer because the form begins to take a life of it's own. L'Engle insists that "a bush certainly doesn't have the opportunity for prideful and selfish choices, for self-destruction, that we human beings do. It is." She calls this pure ontology, but in relating it to the human experience she insists "if I try self-consciously to become a person, I will never be one."

The people I know who are most concerned about their individuality, who probe constantly into motives, who are always turned inward toward their own reactions, usually become less and less individual, less and less spontaneous, more and more afraid of the consequences of giving themselves away.
--L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet
I think this is the most damning statement for me. I think I am constantly guilty of spending too much time examining myself, which she seems to insist is a form of hubris. I am reassured that she is also guilty, reminding herself that her intellect "is a stumbling block to much that makes life worth living: laughter; love; a willing acceptance of being created."

So if I transfer this self-examination to the notion of being an other (and of accepting the other as well), the paradox becomes all the more paralyzing. Should I be more as a lump of clay entirely at the whim of the artist or perhaps L'Engle's bush, only slightly more animated, but otherwise following a script of sorts and merely reacting to environmental stimulus, or am I to be more animated, more my own--and what effect does this have on the other? L'Engle offers this suggestion:

When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves.
I like the first image most (perhaps because I relate to it much easier) in that we often forget how liberating it was to be a child. The other day I helped a small child dig ditches in the muddy road and enjoyed being silly for a change. I lament that I could not be entirely as he was, fully immersed in this project of sorts and the wonders that accompanied it. I was never completely unaware of how silly I looked playing in the mud as he must have been.

I think in childhood and through adolescence we are constantly becoming aware of the foolishness of yesterdays. We are hard on our not-far-removed selves and often it takes years--if not decades--to really have a sense of humor about the foolish things we did in our formative years (which of course never end... until perhaps death rescues us). Still, it is easy to make light of the foolish or silly acts or sayings of a child because we can forgive their ignorance--but is it really their ignorance we must forgive, or our own hubris? Our insistence on knowing all we can and analyzing everything to death! (literally)

Where was I going? Oh, full circle (which by the way, none of the L'Engle quotes are in the same order they would appear in her book, odd the way that worked!). I wanted to leave you with this (in other words, form your own conclusions!):

The deeper and richer a personality is, the more full it is of paradox and contradiction.

Why do you let me stay here? She & Him

15 April 2008

feels like it's going to be a long season...

Tonight marks yet another loss for the Mariners. I tuned out early so I'm not going to recap it. I think in general I am frustrated that while most of the core players from 2007 remain, several of my favorites from last year have moved on and some of the new Mariners in 08 have yet to gain my confidence that they have the talent, experience and drive to make this team stand out among the rest of the league.

Maybe the bright spot is that very few teams seem to be dominating in either league. Surprisingly Oakland (9-5) has the best record in the the American League currently and guess who the Mariners will see tomorrow? It's a short series, but Seattle shows Oakland their best and beats them on their own turf, perhaps doubts about this years staff would be put to rest? Nah, it's still very early!

Cautiously optimistic,


12 April 2008

a ghost is born...

Yet another dream post. I was fading in and out of sleep this morning not really needing to get up or anything and had some very vivid dreams. One of which I was a ghost that could choose when I am visible or not sort of the way Peter Petrelli can now that he's spent a little time with HRG's old partner.

Somehow I am moving around inside some old cathedral that was empty when I got there but where some people were starting to gather. I needed to move around without being noticed, so I became invisible and then as I am exploring ways to get around I find two new ghosts who don't quite know how to be ghosts just yet. I need to get them out of the building so I have to show them how to hide themselves and then I see that I can move through walls as well. So now I'm on the outside of the building looking in through a small crack.

Other than trying to help these ghosts get out without being seen, I'm not sure why I am a ghost or can be invisible or pass through walls, but I can. Pretty cool huh?



11 April 2008

mariners are alive at last....

One look at tonight's box score and you know it was a good game, but just how good it was is only something those who watched it happen could tell you. First you need to know the back story. The Angels are last year's division leaders and even though the 2007 Seattle Mariners were an excellent team in their own rite, the Angels ran away with the division early and never let up all year long. Every winning streak the Mariners put up, the Angels held on with one of their own. What's more, they always seemed to have Seattle's number when it came to direct match-ups, generally winning 2 out of 3 or sweeping.

Then there is the pitching match-up. The Mariners ace, Felix Hernandez always seemed to get put up against Jared Weaver and no matter how well he pitched, Weaver pitched better. You just can't be too hard on a guy for allowing one run when the other pitcher shuts down your entire all-star packed offense for 7 or 8 innings.

So who did we see facing off for tonight's game? Weaver and Hernandez of course! Would the two teams repeat last season's story tonight? Not if Raul Ibanez has anything to say about it. As of right now he is 3 for 3 with 2 solo home runs and a timely RBI accounting for 3 runs all by himself. Then there is Hernandez's pitching performance. There were a couple solo home runs to answer for both of Ibanez's early runs. Then Hernandez allowed a single run to come in on a shattered bat infield fly that he nearly caught. From what I saw, he did catch it but lost it in the grass while sliding past the white line. Would have been a beautiful play if it held, but the effort showed a lot of heart and he shut down the Angels offense quickly soon after.

There was some more give-and-take with the starters eventually leaving the game. In the eighth inning the Mariners bats came alive in a big way, putting an insurance run in early on with a double by Johjima followed by a triple by Betancourt. The Mariners went into the 9th inning with an 8-5 lead and Mark Lowe earned his first career save.

What makes the story even sweeter is the Mariners pulled this win off against the Angels ace without their own closing ace (JJ Putz) who is still nursing his injury. I didn't even mention some of the fantastic defensive plays by both teams. Beltre managed to put a tag on a runner between second and third and still found time to get the ball to first base in time to force the hitter out. The Angels' short stop ran down a ball that nearly made it straight into the outfield and backhanded it to second base almost without looking to force out the base runner in the nick of time. You just can't complain about an out they had to work that hard to get! I hope the rest of this series is as entertaining and certainly hope the home team can keep the edge on their division rivals all season long!



10 April 2008

seven nights off... night two...

Tonight marks the second night off of my first seven day stretch. What did I do with my first night off? Well, I chatted with Rachel for a little while, which made me realize I was getting really hungry. So I went out to El Gaucho's and ordered from the happy hour menu. Well, I was really craving a steak and thought I was going to have to order from the regular menu which seemed pricey for dining out alone, then I scoped out a steak sandwich on the happy hour menu and the day was saved.

Sometime around midnight I decided an empty fancy restaurant minus the piano guy who had already called it quits wasn't the scene for me, so I ordered a cheesecake to go and headed home but first I tried to go rent a few movies but the video store was closed, as was the Thriftway and the nearer Safeway. Upon returning home I realized I hadn't mailed the letter I wrote Rachel from the restaurant, so I decided I had to venture out and go ahead and find a 24 hour grocer as well. Around a quarter till 2 am I realized I still hadn't mailed the letter (and I really liked the song that was playing on the radio) so I drove back out a third time and made sure the letter would go out early the next morning.

Day two began by getting up way earlier than I wanted to, sometime around 130 pm, doing a "quickie" cleaning job on my apartment just in case the landlord wanted to see for himself why the heat isn't working in the bedroom, then going down to re-sign my lease. I decided I need some more sleep though, so I took another nap but was disappointed to wake up a little later than I wanted to. Now that I'm up, it's great. I have a house full of food, new comedies on television, some new wines chilling out above the fridge and some triple chocolate Klondike bars cozying up in the fridge just in case I don't feel like watching my figure anymore. Life is good and I think I might come to love this seven days off business. Whatever am I going to do with my first real weekend off? I mean my mom will be out of town, so I don't even have to go down and do any tinkering around on her computer! I can actually go out on the weekend and I'm pretty sure I even have my girlfriend's blessing (as long as the only strip club's I go to are gay ones).

Life is good and David Letterman is on finally (some kind of PGA update preempted it I guess). DOH! It's a rerun, the top 10 is about Spitz'. They can't all be brand new I guess.

Well, no pictures to relate to this blog unless you just have to see me lounging around my apartment ala Al Bundy. Kidding, I wouldn't bother wearing pants people! Get your mind's out of the gutter.

So I'll be sure to keep you all up-to-date about how the weekend goes.



05 April 2008

[at last], brian visits rachel at holden...

For a change I took a real vacation. Given my girlfriend lives and works in a remote mountain village which was once a mining community and now exists as a community oriented around spiritual retreats of all kinds, I had the opportunity to make my first vacation in a long time a very special one in the same breath.

We met in Chelan initially for a couple of days to give her a chance to get out of the village for the first time since arriving a couple months ago.

Chelan was lovely, the sun was out and it was just good to be together for once but the town was quiet, peaceful and we had just enough time to soak it all in before waking up Friday morning to pack up and go catch the ferry. Finding a couple inches of snow on the ground was quite the surprise though.

Thus the ferry up to Holden was uneventful. You really couldn't see either shore most of the way up there. It continued to snow part of each of the first several days. Generally it was sunny first thing in the morning, then some clouds would cross the peaks and it would snow most of the afternoon. Quite lovely to see the village completely covered in snow, just what I had hoped for!

Rachel took me on snowshoe hikes both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday we found the labyrinth which had been covered with several inches of snow and the wind had also conspired to make it nearly imperceivable where it went at any point. Others had tried to walk it after the big snowstorm initially covered it up just after Easter, but it ended up being nearly impossible until Rachel and I worked out that there were gentle shadows in the snow where the paths had been buried underneath.

The trick was that you couldn't see these shadows when you were right on top of them, so you needed a navigator to stand at a distance and tell you how far to go, when to turn, etc. So Rachel strapped on her snowshoes and I stood on the outside and navigated. Together we did it! A friend observed that it was a beautiful image that this labyrinth exists through constant effort by those who know labyrinths by heart and can create them from nothing, from those who walk in well worn paths, from those who find the paths almost extinct but through special sensitivity can recover them, and also through working with a partner who can help you see when you cannot see for yourself.

Personally, it was just fun to play in the snow, take some pictures and enjoy the sunshine while we trampled the snow down so others could return and enjoy the snow labyrinth they had come to love this winter. We snapped this picture from the side of a steep hill overlooking the ball-field where the labyrinth resides.

The rest of the week was a combination of puzzles, card games, weaving a mat for my kitchen counter, enjoying good food (a solid week without junk or fast food), spending evenings with Rachel and meeting her friends as well as other guests coming and going during my weeks stay.

From Tuesday on it was mostly sunny. The mountains were gorgeous and it was hard to stay inside. I saw some children playing in the mud along the main road through the village, apparently trying to divert water running down the street from melting snow all around. It might have been a futile effort, but after sitting out and attempting to finish my book I couldn't resist joining in. I came along the next day to find the youngest yearlong resident of the village, also known as the mayor, working hard again to keep the canal running and the rest of the road from flooding. I pitched in again and once it appeared the canal was doing fine on it's own I turned my shovel toward the snowbank in front of me and tried to dig a tunnel. Eventually other activities would capture the mayors attention and my empty belly and the prospect of another good dinner would conspire to keep me from getting to China, or Afghanistan as it were.

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Rachel and new friends and make the journey back to civilization. I had a blast and it was quite refreshing. I'm glad to be home, doing laundry, feeding the fish and the plant, unpacking and cleaning up the apartment. I don't even mind going back to work tomorrow night, but I'll certainly look forward to going back sometime soon.



a little rant about FSA's...

This might be considered off topic from the kinds of things I usually rant about, but today I got a letter from the administrator of my FSA account that irritated me a little bit.

To start off, let me explain what an FSA is for those that are living under a rock and don’t pay attention when their employer talks about benefits each year. Flexible Spending Accounts are pre-tax allotments you set up from your own portion of your pay. It is your money, just not taxed. You decide how much to set aside each payday and can use it for anything that would otherwise be a tax-deductable medical expense (and childcare I believe). The only difference is that you don’t need to spend more than an arbitrary minimum in order for it to be deductable. Even if you only set aside $500 that will be deducted from your taxable income regardless. I think otherwise it is 2500 or 3500. I’m not sure exactly and it is likely to change from year to year.

That aside, I decided to do it this year mostly because I have an ongoing condition that requires frequent doctors visits and expensive medications. I thought this would be a good way to spread the expense of the intial deductibles out over the whole year. If my insurance offered a copay-only option I probably wouldn’t even have bothered with this.

So I started getting letters a few weeks ago called "substantiation requests." These letters from my insurance companies’ designee asked for information about each transaction, the physician/practitioner, date of service, type of expense, etc. So I wrote a letter and broke it down for them. Obviously not all eligible items are necessarily going to require you to go see your doctor. Some of them are self-explanatory. For example a Lens Crafters purchase for over $500 is probably for glasses! Otherwise stores that sell both eligible items and non-eligible items are required to be able to separate the purchases at check out or else the card won’t work there. At least that is what their literature said when I thoroughly read through everything before signing up for this. In other words, if Safeway cannot show you your grocery and pharmacy bill separately at check out, the card will not work at Safeway at all. That should make it easy to distinguish a tax-exempt purchase from a non-tax exempt purchase, so why do we have to "substantiate" these expenses every time we use the card?

Anyway, they responded to my letter just now by saying everything was declared non-eligible and I now owe the entire balance within 30 days. Needless to say I am pissed. I gave them all the information. Now they want to see the receipts. They didn’t ask for the receipts in the first place and my guess is this is what they do to further audit certain accounts. All I can say is if they don’t expect us to use the money in these accounts they shouldn’t encourage us to create them in the first place. I’ve looked at the list of eligible expenses on the IRS website (it is the same for these FSA’s as it is for ordinary tax deductions with one or two minor exceptions, such as FSA expenses must occur this year, but you can deduct bills paid this year for services performed last year the old fashioned way). So I don’t see why I should have to substantiate to this company things I would otherwise deduct on my taxes without scrutiny. I’ve never been audited by the IRS and if I were, I would expect the experience to be much more tolerable. "Hello Mr Taxman, nice to meet you, come sit, coffee?" "Ok, here are all of my receipts, would you like a scone?" "The bathroom is down the hall." "Let me know when you are finished."

I have the receipts so it’s all good. I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the information I was signing and know that I need to keep them but it’s the principle notion of having to justify all of your medical expenses to this bank that clearly just wants to make it less convenient for you to actually use your own money that they solicited for you to set aside in their program as a convenience service. Does anyone else see the irony?