Saturday, December 14, 2013

3810 Estate sale

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Well, I have medical insurance for 2014.  I suspect I'm not going to be happy with it, but, we'll see.  The cost is low, but it's a Medicare Advantage plan, and it's an HMO.  I always swore I'd never go into an HMO, but there it is.  The only plan of any type that I was eligible for that allowed me to choose my own doctors was extremely costly.  So.  At least that's done.


The country house is under storm alert this weekend.  10" of snow and then sleet.  Since the house is higher up, I suppose there will be at least 12" of snow.  We always got about 20% more than lower down.  Or more.  Temps in the low 20s.  I am worried about losing power there.  Sigh.  Another week I won't be going north.


I got an email a few days ago from my old auctioneer, George, saying he was going to be on a show on the Travel Channel, so I watched it.  It was another of those stupid shows that seem to be so popular recently --- you know, where we follow some "experts" while they buy unseen storage facility contents, or race through antique centers looking for bargains, or poke around mountains looking for gold.

This time, we had three "expert bidders" at George's auction.  It was very obvious the whole thing was staged.  He had a full room of bidders, but no one else bid on any of the boxes that were obviously solely for these "experts" to battle over.

It was so stupid.  THEY were so stupid.  They were bidding on unopened boxes and bags, no idea what was in them.  Number one, George never sells unopened stuff.  Number two, these "experts" didn't do their research.  One idiot kept saying "There's lots of mansions in [this village].  Huge estates. This is an estate auction so these boxes are coming from the attics and basements of these wealthy mansions.  You KNOW it has to be good stuff!"

First of all, the statement that there are lots of mansions in [the village].  Yeah, that general wider area is full of mansions, yeah, but most of them are run as tourist destinations by the national park service, like the Vanderbilt, Astor, and Roosevelt places, and a few other piles of marble with names and history.  There are a few private mansions around, but these days almost all of them are empty, like the place where Chelsea Clinton's wedding reception was held. (It's for sale and the owner volunteered it hoping for free advertising.) So, there's no good stuff coming from mansion attics!  Do your research, you fool!

Second, the "expert" doesn't even know what an estate auction is!

"Estate" in this sense doesn't mean mansions and land, anyway.  It means somebody's Aunt Sally died and left all her worldly goods to somebody who is now selling off the excess.  "Estate" in the sense of the disposals of a legal will.  Sheesh.  And these folks are "experts"?

(Sometimes George does sell items from a mansion, but when he does, he tells you where it came from,  "Sale of the Contents of Blah Blah Mansion", and the auction is exclusively those items.  In 10 years, I've seen only two of those auctions - one being Larry (Hustler) Flynt's place.  Usually George's estate sale stuff is bits from hither and yon all over the northeast.)

Third, one of the "experts" attempted to figure out what was in a locked duffel bag by SITTING ON IT!  Well, there goes that Faberge egg, eh!  How stupid is that.  The other guy was shaking boxes violently.  Duh.

It got to where I was yelling at the TV.

I will never watch any of those things again.  Bleck.  I will not miss cable.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

3809 One thing I did do right

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Among all the things I've screwed up over the past week, I think I did do one thing right.  Or as right as I know how, anyway.

I am paying $168 a month for TV cable, internet, and a stupid house phone I didn't want and don't use.

I watch maybe 5 to 7 hours of TV a week, max.  And I almost never watch any of the 400 or more channels other than some basic broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS).  In fact, it's almost exclusively CBS and a little PBS.  I don't watch sports, the comedy package, the movie package, any of that other stuff.

Why am I paying for stuff I don't use?

So I called.  The first rep could cut it down to $158 per month for basic cable. $10?  Big whoop.  I made disappointed shop-around noises, so she passed me to another rep who "might know of some discounts".

It's now basic local cable and the internet will be twice as fast without all those channels, and I'm down to less than $90 a month.  Because it's just local broadcast channels, I don't need the four set-top (stupid design - how many sets have room for anything on the top these days?) boxes, either. I gotta keep the stupid useless phone because it's part of "the package".

You know what's really disgusting?  That's still ridiculously high.  When I first signed up for this entire package, it was $99 for the whole shebang, including four DVD(Tivo?) boxes.  In three years it has gone up 68%.

3808 Maybe I can see Jasper's vet? He makes house calls....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A week, already?  Egads!

I didn't go north last week.  I didn't get everything finished that I had to do before I left, and, in fact, I'm not finished YET.

I really screwed some stuff up.  For the past 19 years, along about October, I'd get the package from IBM about the medical insurance coverage for the next year.  Choices/changes had to be made by the end of December (earlier, if you wanted the new medical cards by January 1).  If there was nothing you wanted to change, you did nothing, and you got the same coverage continued.  For 19 years, IBM taught me that the package could be safely ignored.

So I ignored it.

I should have known better.  IBM is (surprise) no longer offering the group packages.  They have seized the opportunity to dump all the retirees and "allow" us to get individual coverage through an exchange.  After all these years of experience with IBM, why am I surprised?  I should have expected that. 

They are being so gracious about it, they have contracted with a company to discuss our needs with us, and help us choose what works best for us.  In other words, they hired people to navigate the government website for us. 

So I freaked out last week and started studying the materials.  I will still have Medicare, of course, but I still will need a medical supplement, and something for prescriptions, and of course I don't know what I'll do for dental and vision.  (Oddly enough, dental and vision insurance coverage is the ONLY advertising junk mail that hasn't been arriving.)  And if I don't have the prescription thing nailed down by 12/31 and then find out I have to go with Medicare part D, I will have to pay a penalty for the rest of my life.

So, I read all the materials and went to the recommended we-will-help-you website and tried to set up my profile.  Yeah, sure.  It wouldn't accept it because "You must provide a number greater than 0" --- but I had filled in every space, and all numbers were greater than 0, and the site wouldn't tell me where I went wrong. Nothing was flagged.  I tried everything, including starting over from scratch, and after four hours I gave up.

So I called the we-will-help-you folks, the option for people without computer access.  There was only an hour and a half wait.  The woman asked me if I had my Medicare card in hand.  Well, I said no (I can be stupidly honest.  I can't find it, haven't seen it since my hospital stay last January), but I have all the information from the card.  She informed me she couldn't help me until I had the actual card, and, in effect, hung up on me.

I called Social Security and asked for a replacement card, was told ok, we'll mail it, but it will take 4 to 6 weeks to arrive!  No, they can't expedite it.  Yes, if I don't sign up for Part D by 12/31 and it turns out I need it, I will pay the penalty rate every year for the rest of my life.

I freaked out.  Then I remembered that my doctor's office had made a copy of my Medicare card, so I called there, and I now have a copy.  Not the original, but I'm not going to tell anybody that.  Turns out Medicare had screwed up my name slightly on the card, and if I don't use the exact same name nobody can accept it, and I had naively thought they'd used my real name.  (I'm beginning to hate the world.)

So tomorrow, I call again, and try again.


In the meantime, cash flow is a problem.  I'm waiting for a large check from my investments, but my car insurance and the insurance on the country house were due, so I went to their websites and put those payments on a credit card.

I have only two credit cards, by choice.  Also by choice, one of them has a very high limit, and the other has a very low limit, also by choice.  I use the low limit card for all low-trust online business and anytime anyone wants to walk away with it so that if anyone "steals" it, they can't get much.

Yup.  I screwed up.  I used the low limit card for both, and together they are going to blow the limit, so ONE of them will "bounce", but I don't know which.

I spent several hours today on calls to the insurance companies, the credit card company (I had them transfer cash from one of my checking accounts to the credit card, THEN found out that will take 4 to 6 days!)  So I tried to have the limit raised, but was told I had to go to the issuing bank to have that done.  So, I call the issuing bank.  They need to send me an application to raise the limit, which I have to have notarized and send back.  (I call B.S. on that!  They used to send me letters telling me they'd raised my limit, isn't that wonderful, and then I'd have to call them and say no, I WANT to keep that low.) That's not going to help.

So, one of my insurance policies is in jeopardy, and I don't know which.  I guess when I get the cancellation letter, I'll just call and switch it to the other credit card.


On top of all that.............................................


Let's just say I've been running flat out for more than a week, I'm tired, I still have to get the van inspected, there's four inches of snow out there, the van is covered in ice, the BMW has ANOTHER tire losing air, and we can expect below freezing temperatures (way below average for this time of the year) for the foreseeable future.  I haven't made it to the country house yet, so I haven't put antifreeze in the toilets and drains yet (I think I did at least leave the water turned off after the last visit), so if the house loses power, well, I don't want to think about it.  Especially if it's that insurance that might get temporarily cancelled.

I am way way behind on correspondence.

I think I'll go to bed now.