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[conventions|travel] The high cost of cancellation

As I mentioned yesterday, I am having issues with United Airlines. This first cropped up a while back, as discussed here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

This all goes back to my troubles trying to get to this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. (I have discussed some of this previously here on the blog.) Last summer, I tried to book plane tickets for me and Lisa Costello to fly there. The $700 per person UK arrival fees for a free mileage award ticket were impossible for us to meet. At the time, I checked out simply paying for a fare, and even the cheapest was far higher, because those $700 fees were embedded in any trans-Atlantic airfare to London.

Unnamed Benefactors stepped forward and offered to fund our airfare if we would pay our own on-the-ground expenses. I very gratefully said yes, and proceeded to arrange a low-cost European vacation for myself by couch surfing in London and Paris, spending money only on the Eurostar train to get between the cities. Except for the convention hotel itself, my only expenses otherwise were going to be food and incidentals, as my Unnamed Benefactors provided tickets for the two of us on United Airlines. Lisa was planning to fly out the day before the convention and join me.

Three days before my scheduled departure, Lisa’s father suffered a massive stroke. Other relatives stepped forward to respond with immediate help, but Lisa needed to fly to Maryland at the end of that week to help with the necessary but difficult lifestyle transitions now underway.

That meant (and still means) that Lisa was now juggling my life-ending terminal illness and the life-changing illness of one of her parents. I could not leave her alone with this. So with great reluctance, we cancelled our trip to Europe. We also severely truncated a post-trip engagement with my agent, and cancelled the visit of another friend who was due after Orycon, both of these to great regret.

The financial aspects of this situation have turned into a severe mess.

In order to cover the expenses incurred by my Unnamed Benefactors, I also sought a compassionate medical emergency refund from @UnitedAirlines, which states on their Web site that they provide such consideration. Unfortunately, since our tickets were purchased as nonrefundable airfares, United Airlines also does not offer any refund. Their response to me did not even acknowledge the nature of my request, simply stating that my tickets were nonrefundable, but that I did retain an airfare credit. Which isn’t even my money, as the Unnamed Benefactors paid for it. And it’s not like I’m going back to Europe anytime in the rest of my drastically foreshortened life.

At the same time, my Unnamed Benefactors wrote me asking me to pay them £1,295.90 (approx. USD 2,073), as we would not be attending WFC.

This absolutely floored me. If I had $2,073 to spend on airfare, I would have bought the damned tickets myself in the first place. What I thought had been an act of kindness and charity towards me turned into me being expected to pay $2,000 for the privilege of not attending WFC so I could help Lisa care for her stricken father.

The books do in fact balance somewhat. Were I to directly pay back my Unnamed Benefactors, I would get to keep the airfare credit, less change fees and penalties. But I don’t have $2,000 sitting in a travel budget to give them. If I did, I would have bought my own tickets in the first place. If United were going to refund the tickets, the whole business would just be a wash.

But after multiple rounds of discussion, United has flatly refused to refund the airfare. Apparently a sudden life-threatening illness on the part of my partner’s father does not constitute a medical emergency in their eyes. Which makes me wonder what the hell does? I’m pretty damned irritated about this, most especially about the amount of time I have already spent focusing on this issue. My life is running out of time — between the shocking and insensitive demand from my Unnamed Benefactors and United Airlines’ refusal to honor their own compassionate exemption policy, I have been expending significant amounts of that finite time and energy on things I should never have had to deal with.

All to no avail thus far.

I’m honestly not sure what to do here. Had I known the original offer of tickets to WFC required a complete payback in the event of cancellation, I almost certainly would not have accepted it. My own health is too precarious, quite frankly, which is why all plane tickets I buy and pay for these days are purchased with trip insurance. While I have enough money sitting in my bank account to pay back my Unnamed Benefactors, that’s not what it is for. And I cannot spend a United Airlines airfare credit to pay my bills or help Lisa help her parents. The budget isn’t there, especially to pay for a trip I am not even able to take.

I’m feeling very pushed around right now, and looking at a lot of expense well beyond anything planned or budgeted at a time when our expenses have skyrocketed due to both my own illness the problems in Lisa’s family. I’m also much more wary of accepting offers of assistance in the future, as I never foresaw hidden strings like this and do not know how to foresee them going forward.

There’s a strong temptation to tell my Unnamed Benefactors to take a hike, but that’s hardly ethical as I’m apparently inheriting the airfare credit regardless, given the intransigence of United Airlines. I’m tempted to hold a small fundraiser to pay this off, but that also hardly seems fair to people who might want to support me. If United Airlines honored their own compassionate refund policy, the problem would essentially not exist, but that road has now been closed.

This situation frustrates me immensely. At this extremely difficult time in my life, I am left with yet another large, unbudgeted expense for which I have nothing to show but trouble and a waste of my precious, waning days.

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[personal] Busy, busy

You know it’s been a tough couple of weeks when a transcontinental flight followed by a 180-mile nighttime automobile drive seems like a relaxing day.

For example, on Monday I did the following, roughly in this order:

  • Oncology consult to discuss the new scan results
  • Bank deposit and pick up held packages on the way back from the clinic (yes, on Veteran’s Day, thanks to ATMs and a friendly business that does my receiving)
  • Sort out birthday presents for the family party I am missing this coming weekend due to being out of town
  • Clear a substantial email backlog from Orycon weekend
  • Telephone meeting with financial planner
  • Multiple followup calls and emails to meeting
  • Review documents and email responses to estate planning attorney
  • Pack for return trip to Maryland to help Lisa Costello settle her parents’ affairs there
  • Telephone meeting with disability attorney
  • Fill out additional forms for disability carrier
  • Followup call and email to disability carrier
  • Photo shoot for John Picacio art project
  • Therapist appointment

That’s what my life is like these days. While I am sick and unfocused and on long term disability because I can no longer work. So, yeah.

On the plus side, our long drive last night was so we could spend part of the day in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, one of Lisa’s favorite old haunts. A little time to relax before we jump into the logistics of dismantling her parents’ lives here.

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[conventions] Orycon, day two

Had quite a nice day here at Orycon yesterday. Good breakfast with my dear friend [info]bravado111. Did a panel on political systems in SF (and fantasy) which was ably moderated by Brenda Cooper. Enjoyed a lovely lunch with con com chair Lea Rush and Jacob E—. Spent my afternoon visiting in the lobby bar and crashing out in my room, with an eventual touch of the party circuit. About the speed I move at these days, so it all worked out well. Saw lots of old friends and new, and got some nice one-on-one time with a few folks.

Today, the Lakeside movie is showing, then I have a panel on reprints. Lisa Costello is coming to fetch me about 2:30 so we can load out, then we’re off to the Powell’s Authorfest at the Cedar Hills store.

See some, all or none of you around the joint today.

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[conventions] Orycon, day one

My Orycon day one was rather abbreviated by medical and legal/disability activities, and compounded by the trailing edge of jet lag due to our Wednesday return from Maryland. I did manage to greet a few folks, and attend my panel on living with late stage cancer. (Which was ironic, given the fairly horrid day I’d had.) I then went out to dinner with my agent and her associate, a sumptuous repast at a place called Little Bird Bistro.

See some, all or none of you around the joint today and tomorrow.

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[conventions] My Orycon programming schedule

My Orycon programming schedule, for them what wants it.

Friday, November 8

5:00pm – Panel: Living With Late Stage Cancer

Saturday, November 9

11:00am – Panel: Political Systems in SF

Sunday, November 10

10:00am – A showing of the film: Lakeside
12:00pm – Panel: Reprints

I will be arriving at the convention in the mid- to late afternoon, due to medical and legal appointments today. I’m booked for dinner tonight, but will otherwise be around tomorrow and Sunday to the degree my physical energy and GI issues permit. Sunday afternoon, I’ll be joining many other writers at the Powell’s Authorfest over at the Cedar Hills store.

See some, all or none of you there.

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[personal] Flying home this morning, a troubling and busy weekend

We’re flying back to Oregon this morning. We’re having a family part for my agent tonight. My CT is tomorrow morning (and Lisa Costello has a medical appointment as well), then I’m a special guest at Orycon over the weekend, and I have my oncology followup on Monday. Tuesday we hop right back out here to the East Coast to (hopefully) wrap up the key in-person bits of family business.

I’m pretty worried about today’s flight. I took so much Imodium and Lomotil yesterday that I made myself nauseous. My GI never really stopped, even with about 3 days worth of dosage between 10 am and 8 pm. I’ve already started dosing myself this morning. There are too many periods of time during air travel where I simply cannot access a restroom. Even if I get through today with no major difficulty, I’ll spend the weekend being pretty miserable as my body tries to clear the drugs.

So yeah, GI misery and existential terror are terrific combination. Woo hoo.

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[personal|travel] Wrapping up (for now) here in Maryland

We’re flying home tomorrow, as I have my CT scan on Friday. That means Lisa Costello and I are wrapping our current round of business with her parents today, so we can move to an airport hotel tonight in order to facilitate our early flight in the morning. We’ll be back next week to finalize, or at least complete next steps, on getting the sale of the house moving as well as some smaller issues of property disposition.

Her dad is doing quite well, given the severity of his stroke. Everything has been going far smoother than we’d feared. A trip which might have been very, very difficult has mere been difficult.

Also, as today is my brother’s birthday, and he lives in the DC suburbs of Virginia, we’ll be having dinner with him tonight.

Me, taking my GI pills to get through today and tomorrow.

See some, all or none of you at Orycon this weekend.

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[links] Link salad knows the cider’s laced with acid

Report: 1 in 3 adults aren’t screened for colorectal cancer — I’m here to tell you, if you’re one of those unscreened adults, get your ass into the doctor. A colonoscopy may be annoying, embarrassing or expensive, but dying of colon cancer as I am now doing is far, far worse.

Drug Combination Therapy Causes Cancer Cells to ‘Eat Themselves’ — Interesting. A story about a combination therapy involving my current primary cancer medication, Regorafenib. (Via Dennis Keim.)

BOOK REVIEW: The Year’s Best Science Fiction #30 Edited by Gardner DozoisSF Signal with a very favorable mention of my award-nominated novella, “The Stars Do Not Lie”.

Sci-Fi Fans Gather at OryCon 35 — Check out the photo…

Just the two of us — As my tipster says, is it still cosplay when you’re at home? These are pretty cool photos. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

The Women and the Thrones — A fascinating essay on Game of Thrones (both the book and series), somewhat marred by the ‘bringing fire to the natives’ tone of a mainstream reviewer smiling tolerantly at the ghetto of fantasy. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Sneaky Burger Wrapper Lets Women Eat with Their Mouths Open — This is just creepy. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

The Internet Killed Distance. Mobile Computing Brought It Back. Here’s why location matters again in e-commerce.

Google’s nod to industrial designer Raymond Loewy

Pinchcliffe Grand Prix — I want to see this film.

Chinese used ice-path sleds to move Forbidden City’s stonesIce slides moved more mass per man than any other method available at the time.

Life might have Evolved in Clay, Researchers Find

Earth-Sized Planets in Habitable Zone Common — Warp nine, ensign.

No, We Are NOT in a Climate “Pause” — Debunking another zombie lie from the angry white men party.

Do NOT Clench Your Buttocks in Deming, New Mexico — This story would be almost funny if it were not a horrible example of law enforcement gone badly out of control.

“Burka Avenger”: Pakistan’s Middle Class Gets a Feminist Cartoon — Ok, this is cool. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Who Wants a Christian America?Republicans tend to be Second Amendment absolutists. That whole First Amendment establishment clause, on the other hand, is just so much liberal garbage. Ask any Republican.

Libertarians, ‘moralism’ and the ‘Corrosive Politics of Virtue’Moralism is about drawing lines and assigning blame. It’s about separating the “deserving” from the “undeserving.” And, above all, it’s about identifying the immoral Other who can be blamed for all the ills of society. (This is what distinguishes moral-ism from simple morality. Morality is concerned with justice and fairness. Moralism is concerned with blame and punishment and self-congratulation.)

How “ObamaCare Cancelled Your Plan” is really an Insurance Co Scam to Rip You Off — Not that this will make any difference to the low-information, FOX News crowd that consistently votes against their own interests by being loyal Republicans. (Via David Goldman.)

Can expanding Social Security solve the retirement crisis? asked a financial services executive recently how our retirement saving system can be considered a success, considering that all but the highest-income households are approaching retirement with next to nothing saved. His reply: “They don’t have any money while they’re working, so why would they have any money in retirement?” That, America, is your Republican party’s politicians, major donors and pundits, in a nutshell. Too bad for you. That’s what every angry white man who’s been conned into voting to protect his guns from Kenyan Muslim socialists is really voting for. Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

Boehner says his anti-gay bigotry isn’t “new.” It is however getting old.So Speaker Boehner is wrong when he says that “this” is covered by existing law. It’s not. It is however a handy talking point for reinforcing the public’s existing confusion about the law. And as I always say, Republicans learned long ago that the truth usually doesn’t win them many fights. So they tend to embrace the alternative. Are you proud of your Republican party standing firm to deny civil rights to your fellow Americans?

?otD: Is that the Holy Spirit crying ‘Where’s the beef?’


11/6/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.25 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (traveling)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block forcing children to learn critical thinking skills: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

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[links] Link salad is like a bridge over troubled waters

The lights go out and I can’t be saved, tides that I tried to swim against Lisa Costello talks about her end of what’s been going on in our life lately, including parts of the story I have not been free to recount.

Hanging out with Jay Lake (figuratively) — My friend [info]soon_lee talks about my collection, The River Knows Its Own.

My Orycon programming schedule — For them what wants it.

and straight on ’til morning… — John G. Hartness looks to start a nonprofit focused on supporting writers and artists with severe illness. (Thanks to Marta Murvosh.)

So frenchy, so touchy, about the English languageMichel Serres’ call for France to strike over the march of English words is as daft as his nation’s daily massacre of the language. (Via Daily Idioms, Annotated.)

German Officials Provide Details on Looted Art Trove

Fighting Over the Width of Airline Seats — Hmm.

Alligator found under escalator at Chicago airport‘‘We don’t know where it came from or how long it’d been residing in the airport facilities,’’ Estrada said. ‘‘It’s one of those random incidents.’’ Wow…

Lasers Zap Heads of Flies to Expose Brains — Zombie lasers?

Fossil of largest platypus ever is discovered in Australia

This may be the ocean’s most horrifying monster (and you’ve probably never heard of it) — (Thanks, I think, to Ellen Eades.)

New Kepler analysis finds many Earth-like planets; total 3,500 exoplanetsEarth-like planets are common around Sun-like stars, too.

Oglaf nails religion in seven panels — Hahahahahah. As always with Oglaf, not precisely work-safe.

Don’t tell Muslim women what to wear — This is what comes of following God’s law. And far too many Christian conservatives want to implement such ‘standards’ in this country.

Belief in biblical end-times stifling climate change action in U.S. — We make national policy based on the self-valorizing eschatonic narratives of one narrow-minded and willfully ignorant group of religious sects who are a small minority in this country. Yep, that sounds like a free and democratic society to me. Either that or Republican electoral politics. History will be severely unkind to the contemporary GOP. (Via Steve Buchheit.)

Climate change is already affecting food suppliesRising temps will help in some places, but global productivity will decrease. Now the liberals are raiding farms and warehouses to keep their climate change hoax going. Thank God for Rush Limbaugh and the Republican party, or we might have had to do something about this.

Exclusive: Feds confiscate investigative reporter’s confidential files during raid — Yeah, that whole freedom of the press thing? Not so much anymore. (Via [info]danjite.)

To Flatten A Heroine: Artist Puts Disney Princess Filter On 10 Real Life Female Role Models — Wow. Just wow. A thoughtful wow, not a happy wow. (Thanks to [info]scarlettina.)

Southern National Guards ignore Hagel order on gay troop spouse IDs — Once again conservatives express their dedication to the Constitution and their deep respect for law and order.

NIST to Review Standards After Cryptographers Cry Foul Over NSA Meddling

White Terrorist is “Gunman,” “Alleged Shooter,” no Mention of Wingnut ‘New World Order’ BeefUltimately, Ciancia is depicted as a quiet and troubled loner, probably mentally unbalanced, and his right wing political commitments and conspiracy theories are not even mentioned. That put-upon “whites” in an America becoming majority multi-ethnic and multi-cultural have developed an extremist ideology centering on their betrayal at the hands of a government subordinating itself to a world dominated by non-whites is not deemed worthy of being part of the analysis. Your Liberal Media, enabling the conservative narrative since forever.

Study Links White Racism With Opposition to Gun ControlResearchers report white Americans who hold implicitly anti-black attitudes are more likely to have a gun in the house, and to oppose gun-control measures. I was especially struck by this passage: ”U.S. whites oppose strong gun reform more than all other racial groups, despite a much greater likelihood that whites will kill themselves with their own guns (suicide) than be killed by someone else.” See? Don’t you feel safer when everyone exercises their Second Amendment rights? I know the 30,000 people killed by firearms in this country every surely did feel safer, too.

Doctors’ role in enhanced military interrogation ‘clearly violates’ ethics — Ya think? Welcome to the security state. Which Obama has continued and strengthened. Sigh.

?otD: Will you lay you down?


11/5/2013
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (traveling)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block forcing children to learn critical thinking skills: 0
Currently reading: n/a (chemo brain)

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[family|travel] The high cost of personal disaster

This past Sunday, one of Lisa’s elderly parents had a serious medical emergency. Not life-threatening as it turns out, but absolutely life-changing in the way of difficult eldering. Other relatives stepped forward to respond with immediate help, but Lisa needs to fly to Maryland next week to help with the necessary but difficult lifestyle transitions currently underway.

Lisa is now juggling my life-ending terminal illness and the life-changing illness of one of her parents. I cannot leave her alone with this.

Therefore I am flying with her to Maryland next week. She needs my support. We are both flying back to Portland on November 7th for my bimonthly CT scan on November 8th, followed by my oncology appointment on November 11th, then returning to Maryland on November 12th to further assist her parents. As Orycon falls on that weekend, I will still be in attendance there.

So with great reluctance, we cancelled our trip to Europe. We also severely truncated a post-trip engagement with my agent, and cancelled the visit of another friend who was due after Orycon, both of these to great regret.

The financial aspects of this situation have turned into a severe mess.

My $319.00 Eurostar ticket is non-refundable, and there is no compassionate exemption for medical emergencies. @Eurostar has offered an exchange for a future train fare, but as I am dying of cancer, the likelihood of me making it back to Europe to make use of such a ticket is virtually nil.

So there’s $300. I can afford it, but it’s irksome and unpleasant.

I have also sought a compassionate medical emergency refund from United Airlines which states on their Web site that they provide such consideration. Their response turning my request down flatly did not even acknowledge the nature of my situation, simply stating that my tickets were nonrefundable, but that I did retain an airfare credit.

I have since appealed this issue, and @UnitedAirlines is working to help me resolve this. It remains to be seen if there will be a refund.

This situation frustrates me immensely. At this extremely difficult time in my life, I am left with yet another large, unnecessary and expensive problem that I have to spend precious time and mental energy dealing with.

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