Author Archive

Blue Shield CA Sucks

June 21st, 2022 Comments off

Of all the health insurance companies we’ve had in the past several years, Blue Shield of California has already made it to the top of my shit list.

I don’t know if it’s because Joe’s company is based in California, therefore making choices in Illinois limited, but I’ve spent HOURS trying to find a facility that is NOT a hospital that will cover an ultrasound he needs for a lump under his left arm and they just do not exist in their shitty network. Their list is so outdated, it would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly infuriating. Not a single free-standing facility on their list is viable. If they aren’t closed, have a disconnected number, or are an actual residence (how did that even happen?), they don’t actually do ultrasounds. It’s nothing short of absolutely ridiculous how much time I’ve spent trying to find a place with no success.

I guess we have to go through the hospital and hope it won’t cost a fortune. What other choice is there? I wouldn’t be surprised if they neglect their other facility list on purpose to force you to deal with the hospital because it probably makes everyone more money that way (except us, of course, who will have to pay a higher price).

To make matters worse, they straight up told me they can’t provide a price quote for any services. Why not? Aetna and Cigna had no problems doing it, and they were extremely accurate too! WTF, Blue Cross? You suck, and I hope we never have to deal with you via another employer ever again.

Gotta love living in a capitalist society where it costs tons of money just to live while companies keep raising prices to make an even bigger profit while simultaneously gaslighting everyone into thinking the president is to blame for “inflation”. Meanwhile companies give little to no cost of living raises and people wonder why the economy suffers? I call bullshit on this entire system. It only benefits the ultra rich. No wonder people retire to other countries. I’ve about had it with this one, that’s for sure.

Categories: Health, Rants & Observations Tags:

Craving A New Camera

June 14th, 2022 Comments off

Over the past 3-4 years I’ve rarely picked up my DSLR camera. I kinda lost my passion for photography and defaulted to using my iPhone to take photos. It actually does a great job for closeups and wide angle shots, but where if falls short is wildlife photography. You need an actual camera with a long telephoto lens for that.

With my growing interest in birding this year, I’m feeling unfulfilled with my camera equipment. My DSRL is 14 years old and my newest/largest telephoto lens is 7 years old and not the best piece of glass. I think it’s time to upgrade to something more robust. Cameras have come a long way and I’ve been drooling over the idea of having more than 9 auto-focus points. The newer Canons have an animal tracking feature that would really be helpful as well.

Here’s the problem – I don’t even know whether I should stick to DSLR or go for the newer mirrorless cameras which are quieter, but go through batteries far quicker. The shutter on my current camera scares the hummingbirds so a mirrorless camera is tempting, but I’d need to buy an adapter if I want to still make use of my current lenses. That’s assuming I stick with Canon and don’t move to an entirely different system. It also doesn’t solve the issue that I want a better telephoto lens anyway.

On top of that, there are too many choices! Canon’s site alone lists too many camera bodies and even when comparing them I’m having a hard time figuring out the differences that would matter to me. I’ve been perusing DP Review but it’s not been helping much. Information overload!

Another problem is I don’t want to spend a lot of money. The older I get, the harder it is to spend money. Which is ironic, because thanks to saving & investing, we have more money now than we did back when I was buying $1000+ cameras every few years. To get the kind of shots I crave, I’d probably have to spend $4000 between a camera body, high quality telephoto lens (the ones I’m interested in are in the $2000 range), and a better tripod. I could save money buying used, but even then I’d still be looking at $1000 or more depending on the lens.

Another drawback besides money is the big lenses are heavy! Like 4 lbs before you even add the camera. It can get annoying real quick.

I feel like I’m at an impasse here. I’d like to visit a camera shop to take a look at inventory in person, and speak to an expert who might be able to steer me in the right direction, but the local ones have very limited hours. I wish they were open on the weekends since Joe is at work during the week. One shop in particular even lets you rent cameras and lenses, and while it’s not cheap, it could potentially save me money if I were to find out I didn’t like something before investing in it.

Categories: Shopping, Tech Tags:

Spring Nature Fun

June 14th, 2022 Comments off

We’ve been trying to maximize our free time the past month by getting out and doing as much in nature as possible before the extreme heat hits (which it did yesterday).

Sunday 05/22 we hit up Armstrong Park & Fountain View Park because it was such a beautiful day out. I neglected to bring my camera to the first park, so I didn’t make the same mistake when we went out later that afternoon.

We went back to Armstrong Park the following Sunday (05/29) with my camera and spotted some cute baby ducks.

Saturday 06/04 we ventured a little further from home to check out a new to us nature center in St. Charles called Hickory Knolls. It was pretty crowded between the native plant sale and all the kid soccer games nearby. We’d love to go back at a quieter time to explore more.

Instead we headed over to Peck Farm Park to walk around and bird watch.

I got a photo of a common yellowthroat, which was exciting since I never knew this bird even existed!

We decided against checking out the butterfly tent this visit since it was overcast and they weren’t terribly active.

After snapping plenty of photos, we drove over to Fabyan Forest Preserve since it had been years since our last visit. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get any photos of the barn swallows that call this preserve home. They move too much and are too far away for even my longest telephoto lens to capture.

By this point it was threatening to rain, so we decided to get over the Windy Acres Farm to check out the strawberry festival I heard about. The place was a madhouse and there was a huge line to get into the festival grounds so we noped right out of there. I’m glad we did because I later emailed them to ask if you had to pay the $12 fee just to get access to the festival food and was told yes. WTF?!? I understand having to pay to go on rides, but not just to get to the food booths. Sorry, but no. It’s too bad as I wanted to try the strawberry donuts.

Sunday (06/05) we visited Northside Park in Wheaton.

We visit this park often because it has so much wildlife to watch. I was able to get a close-up picture of a killdeer on this particular visit!

They are more prevalent in the area than I originally thought. They are just very good at going about their business undetected because they blend in with the landscape. If you do spot one, they usually run off if you get too close. This one was standing its ground, so I suspect it was a female protecting her camouflaged eggs.

On our way back to the car I captured a few shots of this cute fox squirrel.

This past Saturday (06/11) we took a picnic lunch over to Ray Franzen Bird Sanctuary in Itasca.

We didn’t see any good birds (mostly just red-winged blackbirds which are a dime a dozen), but we did spot this cute baby bunny hiding along the trail.

We also saw a dead squirrel. He looked like he had climbed on a tree branch, laid down, and passed. Poor little thing. I want to go back either early morning or closer to dusk when birds tend to be more active.

I really want to buy a new camera and lens to up my photography game. More on that in my next post…

Categories: Animals, Excursions, Photos Tags: , ,

Flora & Fauna

May 19th, 2022 Comments off

The weather has been very frustrating so far this spring. It’s either been really cold (like 40s-50s) or super hot (90s). We finally got some more spring like weather recently, so we took full advantage.

Saturday (05/14) we hit up a local place called Murphy’s Farm to buy petunias and a few other flowers for our patio garden.

New Flowers

Their prices were pretty reasonable, so we might go back as we have a few more pots to fill. We also planted zinnias since the butterflies, hummingbirds, and finches love them.

Speaking of hummers, we put out the feeder on May 7th and saw our first hummingbird on the 11th, so that wasn’t a bad wait at all. Unfortunately all the birds visiting this year are very shy so I’ve yet to get a picture of any of them. The second I move, they fly away. I even sat on the patio on the 17th for a half hour completely still with my camera pointed toward the feeder and got absolutely nothing.

Sunday (05/15) we made our semi-annual visit to Lilacia Park to see the lilacs and tulips.

Lilacia Park

Despite the fact that the lilacs were listed as reaching full bloom mere days before our visit, they didn’t look their best and the tulips were on their way out because they only last a few weeks in peak shape. I guess next year we need to get our butts out there twice to see them each on separate days. I am glad we waited until Sunday to visit, however, because the temperature was much cooler than Friday evening which was our original planned date. There were hardly any people in the park at 8 am either, which was nice. We both are crowd adverse, which is why we always try to get to places early.

The highlight of our trip though, was the chipmunk we came across.

Isn’t it adorable??!? I felt so lucky for the opportunity to photograph it because they’re usually quick to run away.

After the park we decided to visit Churchill Woods forest preserve because I heard it’s peak migration season for many birds.

While I wasn’t really able to get any photos, we did hear a huge variety of birds, identified with my Merlin Bird ID app.

Here’s a list of everything we heard (the asterisk means we also saw the bird).

Baltimore Oriole *
Barn Swallow *
Blackpoll Warbler
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue Jay *
Brown-headed Cowbird
Cedar Waxwing
Downy Woodpecker
Gray Catbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Indigo Bunting
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-Winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Warbling Vireo

Categories: Animals, Excursions, House & Home Tags:

McDonald’s Iced Coffee

April 26th, 2022 Comments off

As I wrote a few months ago, Dunkin iced coffees suck these days. I’m convinced they’ve changed the way they pump in the flavors so you’re getting less syrup than before. I recently discovered that McDonald’s has a french vanilla iced coffee and you can get a large for only $1 at any time through the deals section of their app.

I got one on Sunday and nursed it through this morning. Not only is it way less than a Dunkin drink, but I don’t have to wait until 2 pm to get it at a decent price. I won’t be ordering it often, but it’s a nice treat, and it tastes very much like the Dunkin iced coffees when they used to be good.

Categories: Food Tags: