Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On AOL's CEO preemie shaming

Here's the latest news about heartless corporations, if you missed it:

CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong, lacks the compassion gene. AOL's financial performance has been suffering since Armstrong joined the company, so he decided to change AOL's 401(k) plan to save money and make it more difficult to receive an employee match. When asked to explain this decision, he had two targets to blame: President Obama (and the Affordable Care Act) and...premature babies:
"We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general. And those are the things that add up into our benefits cost..."
Deanna Fei's daughter, who was born weighing 1 lb, 9 oz.
Yes, that's right...he placed the blame of this unfair benefit change on "distressed babies." Armstrong has since apologized and backtracked on the 401(k) policy change, but that doesn't help much.

One of the mothers of these babies, Deanna Fei, came forward to write about the premature birth of her daughter and Tim Armstrong's hurtful comment:
"I take issue with how he reduced my daughter to a 'distressed baby' who cost the company too much money. How he blamed the saving of her life for his decision to scale back employee benefits. How he exposed the most searing experience of our lives, one that my husband and I still struggle to discuss with anyone but each other, for no other purpose than an absurd justification for corporate cost-cutting...
[T]here was nothing high-risk about my pregnancy. I never had a single risk factor for a preterm birth, let alone one as extreme as this one. Until the morning I woke up in labor, every exam indicated that our daughter was perfectly healthy. ... In other words, we experienced exactly the kind of unforeseeable, unpreventable medical crisis that any health plan is supposed to cover. Isn't that the whole point of health insurance?"
A lot of medical emergencies can result in astronomical costs, and Fei acknowledges that her daughter's NICU stay did as well. But here are some fascinating numbers: 

  • The Affordable Care Act will cost AOL $7.1 million. 
  • AOL lost $33 million because of Armstrong's investments in the news-focused part of the company.
  • Medical care for the "distressed babies" cost approximately $1 million each, a typical figure for micropreemies.
  • Armstrong made $12 million in 2012. 
AOL's business case is completely outdated now, based on subscriber revenue in a world where people can get their email accounts for free. In the five years he's been there, Armstrong has not done anything to change this business model. The company is failing because of his lack of leadership. 

Not because of sick babies. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Portland's Snowmageddon 2014

After a mostly mild winter, Portland has seen a record snowfall in the past few days. It started on Thursday, when Mike convinced me to consider working from home instead of going into the office (as they were forecasting snow midday) and the kids were sent home early. The snow began falling around 12:30 p.m. after Mike had retrieved the kids from school and Chris had been picked up and dropped off by a friend.  

I had been planning to go to a work happy hour with a coworker who was home from a project in the Middle East, but we all wimped out. Traffic was snarled for hours during rush hour, and no one wanted to wade into that.

Friday morning I had planned to meet a friend for coffee, but instead we had our partners join us for breakfast. Mike and I walked into Multnomah Village. It reminded us of 1990, when we were housesitting near the village and we had a freak snowstorm on Valentine's Day. We walked into the village to have dinner at the Mexican restaurant.

Walking into the village
February seems to be a peak snow month for Portland. We remembered moving to our first house in February 1993, during a snowstorm, and transporting a visiting Japanese student to NE Portland for a homestay in 1995 in the addition to the last big February snow storm in 2008.
On the way to the village

Walking in the snow--had to dig out my hiking boots, which hadn't been used for years, for some traction
After breakfast at Marco's--our dear friends Lynn and Jolie
With my honey before going out in the school again
 Friday afternoon the snow started coming on again, and the boys went back into it:

 And Friday night:

I'm a bit of a snow scrooge, and by today I was ready for the snow to melt. I don't like it when things have to get cancelled--which they do in our snow-challenged Portland! We were supposed to go to a birthday party this afternoon for a three-year-old, a dinner party tonight, and church tomorrow. Kieran was supposed to have Kids Company NW rehearsals and see "Charlotte's Web" at Oregon Children's Theater with a friend. Tomorrow afternoon I was planning to do some crafting with a friend. Chris was supposed to have a call-back for another play and also have Shrek rehearsals. Everything has been cancelled, and this morning I was feeling a bit grumpy.

So I decided to reclaim the day and do some crafting. I made 11 Valentines and 22 thank you cards--as Mike's supply was diminishing (the king of the thank you cards). Tomorrow I will dive into some beading and collage. I stayed in my PJs all day long! I'm trying to make the best of things, but I will be happy when things warm back up so we can get back to normal.

Some of my products today

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Guilty pleasures (Monday Listicles)

I haven't participated in Monday Listicles since I posted my "10 fabulous plans for 2014--the unresolutions," but I'm back this week with my guilty pleasures, or actually many of them are innocent pleasures! Here they are in no particular order:

1. Reading

Proud bibliophile here--my #1 addiction. Just check out my book blog. If I am in between books (forcing myself to read the magazines stacked up), I feel out of sorts. Two of my favorite places are the library and the bookstore.

2. Red wine and dark chocolate

'Nuff said.

3. Season tickets to the theater, a guaranteed date night with my hubby!

We've been season ticket holders at Portland Center Stage for nearly 20 years now. When the theater moved to the Portland Armory, they started producing shows in the mainstage as well as a downstairs, smaller, and more intimate theater. We typically have gone to mostly mainstage shows, but I discovered last year that if we go to previews, it would cost us less to buy the entire season (nine shows) than just see the mainstage during the regular season. So we are going to the theater every month now. It's a regular date, which is good! The plays are always highly entertaining and often edgy, which I like.

Happy hour with my friend April and my sister-in-law Kath
4. Lunch, happy hour, or dinner dates with great friends

I feel incredibly blessed with wonderful friends, and one of my favorite things is to spend time with them. No guilt here at all!

5. Book group

See #4. I have a great book group; I couldn't imagine a better group of bright, witty, and fun women!

Book Group Gathering

6. Craft supplies

Yes, I have too many. But I can't help it. Must create more and use up what I have, so I can buy more! ;)

7. Travel

As I wrote in "10 fabulous plans for 2014--the unresolutions," I like to "spend money on things that are worth more than money." What better use for money than travel? I'm scheming for spring break (inexpensive) and my 50th birthday already. 

With my sis in San Francisco in August

8. Facebook

Totally a guilty pleasure. But I love being able to keep up with people and get to know others better through Facebook.

9. Blogging

I wish I had more time to blog, but life takes priority. It's fun and my creative outlet.

With my sister and mom last Mother's Day weekend
10. Girls' nights away

Well, a tiny amount of guilt here. I adore going away with my close women friends or family members; it's something I need because of living with all males. In December I had a fun getaway with my sister-in-law and in February I have another girls' getaway to look forward to. I am ever-so-grateful to my wonderful husband for indulging me in this guilty pleasure, which I can never get enough of!

Hope you liked my guilty (or not-guilty) pleasures. Read the others at The Good Life by Stasha!

Happy birthday to my favorite groundhog!

Today my longtime friend Jeannette (Jette) turns 50!!! 

It's going to be a year of 50th birthdays this year. This is what I wrote about Jette, my "palanca pal," in 2010:

When I was a senior in high school I heard about Episcopal Youth Encounter, somewhere. I remember my nervousness going off to a beautiful old lodge in the Columbia Gorge for a weekend, not knowing a soul. I was scared and nervous but compelled to go. This is how I am. :)

Fortunately I had an inspiring, amazing experience and I became immediate friends with another brunette guitar-playing high school senior from Corvallis. One of the most memorable things about Youth Encounter was receiving a paper bag of palanca: letters and cards from family and friends, expressing their love and prayers. I will never forget that amazing experience of receiving palanca for the first time. 

Me, Amila, and Jette--senior year
Now it is 32+ years later, and our friendship has been full of palanca over the years. At the next few Youth Encounters we served on the leadership team together and spent time visiting each other, along with Jeannette's sweet Sri Lankan exchange sister Amila. 
My high school graduation--with my close friends and Nadine
Our life paths are very different--Jeannette and her husband Jon run a boat charter business in the San Juan islands and spend most of the charter season with their adult clients. Couldn't be more different from our crazy life with chaos and three children! Jette whips up gourmet meals for their guests and writes newsy update emails at the end of each week, entertaining us with funny details about each charter (including how much wildlife they've spotted). She's an active runner and hiker and plays guitar, reads, and plays games in the evenings after all the cleanup is done. I have no doubt that she and Jon are charming, engaging hosts! Maybe someday, after the kids are college educated, we can go on one of their charters...if they haven't retired by then! 
Jon and Jeannette in 1986, after they started their business
We don't see each other very often--the last time was 2010 after several years' absence. For many years, Jette and I communicated regularly via long, newsy letters, including through college and my years in Japan. She also read at our wedding. I miss the days of letters sometimes...somehow a palanca e-mail just doesn't cut it.
With Jette the last time I saw her, in 2010, in Bellingham

I hope, someday during our 50th birthday year, to be able to jam with Jette again as we made music together 32 years ago! Happy birthday, Jeannette! Sending you hugs and a song!