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User Journal

Journal Journal: asking for a car insurance quote can harm your credit rating

Now this is just WEIRD! I simply wanted to know what kind of rate GEICO could give me on car insurance so I went to their web site, punched in some info, and got their quote. Sounds harmless enough, doesn't it? Everything seemed so transparent, too.

A few hours later, I get this email from them:

As a result of your recent rate quote or renewal, we obtained information about you from the consumer reporting agency listed below. That information was used in combination with other factors to determine the rate that you were provided.
Since we may have been able to offer you a lower rate had the report been more favorable, we treat our decision as an adverse action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The specific information provided by Trans Union that may have influenced our decision is:
-Insufficient length of credit history (-)
-Too many recent credit checks (-)

Get this, not only they did not warn me that they would pull my report, they treat this as an adverse action - because, according to them, they might have offered me a better rate had my credit been better (isn't that always the case??) duh! Well if that's how they want to do business, I will make sure they don't do any with me.

Not that they seriously harmed me in any way, I just think that this whole thing is exceptionally rude. If you can, stay away from GEICO. My current insurance company certainly never did anything like that.

User Journal

Journal Journal: more on pertussis (whooping cough)

Just read this news article which essentially says that now USA is going to start vaccinating older children against whooping cough. It is clear that the fact that our family had it was not a freak accident. Outbreaks of pertussis have become very common, and immunizations are often wearing off after just a few years.
User Journal

Journal Journal: social bookmarking

I heard the buzz about tagging, or social bookmarking for a while, but that mostly concetrated around sites like del.icio.us and del.irio.us and after visiting them I felt they were really poorly made and basicly useless.

Recently however, I heard more buzz about this, in fact I heard that Google bought out del.icio.us which surprised me. So I went to that site again, got disgusted again, but this time I did some more research and looked at other services. And, surprisingly, one of them - Simpy (http://www.simpy.com/) - seems to offer something that is actually useful. You can import/export your existing browser bookmarks, you can mark them as private, you can have a sidebar/RSS feed, and most importantly the site name is easy to remember :) So I am starting to use it to see what comes out of it. Sounds like a nice tool to get your bookmarks no matter where you are. Visit my links here

In other news, Valida and Maria went to Baku to visit Valida's parents.In fact they just got back last week, tired but happy :) Maria managed the flights surprisingly well for a 9 months old. She got a little bit sick in Baku but recovered quickly.

Anyway, now that they are back it's not lonely anymore :) I am trying to finish up my thesis, it looks like I will be able to graduate soon, finally (crosses fingers). About time, too, money is getting very tight, I had to transfer balances again recently. I got a nice 2.99 APR for life of the balance this time, which feels too good to be true. Wonder what credit card companies will do if inflation goes up. I bet they will dig out some clause somewhere that says they can raise APR if they feel like it. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: geek "games"

hm recently looked again at World of Warcraft's site. Looks like it will be a nice game but when will the MMORPG companies realize their pricing policy has major flaws? I for one don't want to pay 16$ per month every month - I don't play games 40 hours a week like many MMORPG players do, why should I pay as much as they do? Sometimes I don't play at all for weeks at a time. They really should add pay-by-the-hour plan so if I play only 4 hours this month I will only pay like 2$.

But this is only a half-hearted rant for me as it looks like I am really growing out of the games and play less and less these days. Instead I caught myself playing "games" with gadgets and simular things. Like getting an excellent karma on Slashdot was a game in itself :)

Recently I also got a Gmail account... not because I really need it but because it's cool to have one... and same goes for my own domain which I also got for free, albeit only for a year.
Not to mention me ever toying with my Debian box, changing this and that, recompiling kernel every now and then...

I realized doing all these things was more like a game in itself for me, trying to find out what "cool" things there are out there and playing with them. What's next for me? Getting into Orkut? ;)
Wonder what "games" other people out there found for themselves.

I know some of them spend time better than I do and make cool maps like this: http://www.ooblick.com/text/tomordor/

User Journal

Journal Journal: and I thought one couldn't find a cheap UPS for home

Bought a pretty cool UPS(Uninterruptible Power Supply) for our computers from Belkin. Only costs 40$ and still good enough to have 15mins backup power on 4 slots. It's also very small, like a surge protector (well, almost). Power in our apartment has been pretty unstable in the last several months - recently almost everyday we had "outages" of a second or so. I thought that our comps were doomed to break, but then just in case I did a search on Froogle and among all these huge scary 1000$ UPSs I found this one for 40$! So far it's been 3 days and it works perfectly ;) We'll wait and see, but for now, I am happy ;)
User Journal

Journal Journal: foreign PhD students' wives are not supposed to drive?

It's finally happening. Illinois has passed and is about to implement a law allowing foreign nationals without Social Security number to obtain driver license in Illinois.
Means Valida will finally be able to get her driver license in January. Well, we only had to wait a couple years for it. Some states are passing similar laws, some aren't. But in general after September 11th it became even harder for foreign nationals to study in USA - if you are married, your wife will have F2 visa, so she cannot get SSN and she cannot drive. At least that's the federal government's position. Are states smarter than the Feds?
So if you are like us, and are also living in a place where you can't get anywhere without a car, your wife is under a house arrest. It probably won't deter anyone from applying for PhD program in US, but it sure makes the students less productive.
User Journal

Journal Journal: about medical insurance and life as a graduate student

hm I said I'd post about how medical insurance companies are bad, but I realized I could just copy/paste an email that I wrote to my professor a bit ago. Here goes:

as we discussed, here is the situation I am in regarding the medical insurance. Penn Student Insurance Plan (PSIP) for 2004-2005 costs $8207 for a family with a child, as can be seen from this webpage at Student Health Services: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/shs/PSIP0405vs0304_1.html

Last year our insurance for me and Valida cost $4,435 of which the university paid my part of $1,880, so I had to pay $2,555 myself. If I assume that this year university will still pay my part of the insurance, I will have to pay $6135 myself in 2004-2005. This is quite a bit of money (511$ per month) considering that my paycheck is $1708 per month (including per diem) and that I am already in debt from last year (mostly because I had to replace a decrepit car and because of the insurance payment).
I did try to avoid this expensive PSIP option by applying for cheaper medical insurance plan from UNICARE for Valida and Maria. However, none of the individual insurance plans that I researched cover pre-existing conditions, so when it became obvious that Maria was not going to recover by August 31 I had to cancel the Unicare application and add Maria and Valida to my Penn insurance plan. Otherwise none of the expenses for treatment of pertussis or its complications would be covered. So that's that.

More information about Penn insurance is available here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/shs/shi.html

The other part of my saga was about Maria's coverage from August 8 to August 31. Newborns are automatically covered for 31 day after they are born (so untill August 8 in Maria's case), after which they have to be added to the parent's plan for the remaining term (untill August 31) by filing an application.
I called Penn Insurance office sometime around July 15th and they faxed me the forms to Fermilab which I filled out and mailed back to the Penn insurance office and thought that it's all done and gone. However when I called on August 20th to notify about a hospital admission I found out that the mail has been lost and Maria wasn't insured. The people at Penn's office actually tried to be helpful about this, they were able to look at the fax log and find the log of them faxing the forms to me. They also found a recording of my original phone call where I requested the forms and listened to it. They said that the guy on the phone told me to fax the forms back. Since I mailed them instead and didn't keep a copy of them they cannot verify that I actually did anything so the mistake cannot be fixed.
The person from Penn insurance office who worked with me on this situation said she can verify this story if it's necessary.
She also told me I should say to the hospital stuff that I cannot pay the bill and to apply for financial assistance, which is what I am in the process of doing and will complete the application as soon as I receive all the medical bills. The financial advisor at the hospital said it is very likely that I will be approved and then either state or the hospital itself will cover the expenses.

That is about it. And I really do appreciate very much that you are trying to help, even if you won't be able to do anything in the end.

By the way, my professor (who is totally cool) was actually able to do something, at least at this point I think my medical insurance will be paid in full somehow. Guess there's always hope if you try. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: pertussis sucks... so do doctors... and insurance companies.

I thought I would write about we went through just one month after Maria was born. Somewhere around end of July I got severe cough that my doctor failed to diagnose; it eventually got so bad that I lost my voice for a week and some coughing spasms were so severe they wouldn't let me breathe and made me vomit a couple times. Then my wife got it and then two weeks later Maria got sick with it too. End of July was quite a bit ago, and I still cough sometimes, and Maria coughs quite a bit...

Turns out what we had is called pertussis, which is a fairly dangerous infection. A few decades ago mortality rate from pertussis was around 40% for babies under 6 months, and Maria was just 4 weeks old when she started to cough. Main danger are these coughing onsets which make it very hard to breathe, and small babies can simply suffocate. It is not nearly as lethal nowadays, but we still had to keep watch on her 24/7 all this time. She became completely blue from suffocation on several occasions and nearly died on our hands before the doctors realized this wasn't just some cold virus. Even in the hospital where they used oxygen mask and suctioned out the mucus she became blue twice.

We spent almost two weeks at the hospital in the isolation unit, although they had Maria on the oxygen for only 4 days. Maria is still coughing but the cough is no longer suffocating her to the point of danger; besides the doctors gave us the heart/breath rate monitor to keep at home so that we don't have to look at her 24/7 and wonder if she is gonna stop breathing next second. So we can get some sleep now.

But what the story really is about, doctors suck. Don't ever be too trusting to your doctors. All our pediatricians (we are in a practice of 5 doctors) completely failed to diagnose us. They also kept shuffling us from one doctor to another inside of this practice, and kept losing track of what we have been telling them. They didn't believe us that our baby was horridly sick, and kept sending us home even after Maria went blue right while the nurse was holding her. We had to fight to get admitted to the hospital, and thanks God we did, because the next night was so horrible that the entire nursing stuff got scared - Maria couldn't get through her coughing spasm without lots of help and oxygen. After that I think our doctor panicked that we might sue her for malpractice - they gave us to another doctor to treat, and our original doctor is now hiding; in fact we haven't seen her ever since. Luckily next one was better, he recognized pertussis for what it is and tried to help us (finally). But we were too far into the disease at that point, so it was beyond help and we all had to go through all the stages of this infection.

Turns out there is an outbreak of pertussis in Kane County, IL - that's where we live. Quite a few people were sick here at Fermilab as well. The hospital reported us to the County Department of Health and when they called to get the info, they told us about the epidemic. We also now know that pertussis becomes more and more common in the recent years. Even if you were immunized, your imminuty is usually completely gone 5-10 years after the last shot of the vaccine. So you can get it too... if you have strong persistent cough and little or no fever, that might be it.

Anyway, enough ranting... You might have noticed the title says insurance companies suck, too. I guess I'll write about this later.

User Journal

Journal Journal: that previous link was OLD!

um just looked at those so called news from the link I just posted, and, uh-oh, it says winter 2002-2003... Anyway, for those who didn't know for some reason, things did happen :)

Last summer my sister got married, and guess what... I got married too, and only two weeks after my sister's wedding. Ain't life fun?

And this summer, more fun :) My wife Valida gave birth to a beautiful girl Maria :) We are all happy, even if not yet quite healthy... but that's a different story that I'll maybe post later :)

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