Friday, March 24, 2017

Speaking Of Modern Medicine...

     There's a little bit of medical folderol in store for me today: I'll be getting an echocardiogram later today.  Screamin' early today, so perhaps I won't miss too much work -- I'd better not, since my out-of-pocket for this procedure will be a bit north of $1000, or about a replaced left-rear side light and really serious tuneup on the old RX300 Urban Assault Personnel Carrier.  Guess what's not happening?  Yeah.

     Minimal information from my doctor, so I don't know if this will be basic imaging, or if I'll get to walk on a treadmill or whatever to push my pulse up to 167 or whatever heathen level they want for a stress test.

     Worried?  Me?  --Darned right.

     On the good-news front, the hospital got my Mom stabilized, happy and feeling good, and sent her back home yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Mom's Back In The Hospital

     Looks like it was a bobble in her ongoing health issues and the most recent information I have is that she is responding well to treatment: supplemental oxygen and drugs to deal with fluid balance.  Anything readers could do along the lines of prayers and/or positive thoughts would be appreciated.

     My own health has been such that I haven't yet visited: she doesn't need to be exposed to my intractable sinus bug (the floodgates if which seem to have been unlocked as of yesterday, a thoroughly unpleasant yet positive development) and unpredictable digestion is not conducive to long walks through unfamiliar corridors where the public washrooms are few and far between.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Night Manager

     Last night, I finished the BBC miniseries of John le CarrĂ©'s The Night Manager. It is everything you'd like to see in a modern spy thriller, just to the realistic side of James Bond: exotic scenery, good-looking people, a genuine villain pitted against plucky, honest heroes, plus some insider treachery and -- lo! -- a genuinely satisfying ending.

     The main hero is Tom Hiddelston's night manager himself, who becomes an operative very much in the style of Keith Laumer's Jame Retief more than 007, though there is nothing of parody about him and quite a lot of quiet British competence.  While there are plenty of moments for anyone with much of an inkling about modern intelligence work to mutter, "No, that's not how it works," it's a cracking good story and will carry you along with just a little suspension of disbelief.  Hugh Laurie is chillingly effective as wicked arms dealer Richard Roper, who the script makes clear isn't just pushing guns and shoulder-fired rockets but poison gas and worse.

     My favorite little bit of nuanced business is a quick scene between a pair of UK and U.S.intelligence types, desk-jockeys pushed by expedience into field wok.  The Brit is about to go do something dangerous and her CIA counterpart makes to hand her his Beretta, to which she replies, "Don't be silly, I'm British; I'll call you if I get into any trouble."  Like Chekov's gun, this one does have a role to play a little later.

     Six episodes is about right for a novel; the story gets told with a consistent, worrying tension, punctuated by exciting action.  It's worth watching.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Walk Right In, Sit Right Down, Baby Try Some...Bathtub Gin?

     White lightnin', more likely--

     See, I don't suffer earworms, I hunt 'em down.  With chains and elephant guns.*

     So when the early-Sixties folk-pop Walk Right In, Sit Right Down popped up on my mental playlist, I figured on a short hunt: gotta be some of that beatnikesque forgettable-folk stuff that was duking it out on the charts with early rock'n'roll, right?  Very much of the time, pre-hippie lyrics and all....

     ...Not exactly.  Oh, the song absolutely was a hit for the Rooftop Singers, two weeks at #1 in 1963, and they even get a little songwriting credit for their sparkling-clean version--

     But the original was old even then: in 1929, Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers recorded Walk Right In with considerably more complexity -- and a kazoo solo!

     Wikipedia tells me by the time the Rooftop Singers hit the chart, Gus Cannon had already pawned his banjo to pay the heating bill.  His share of the songwriting royalties -- and a new recording contract -- was a welcome and well-deserved surprise.

     Seriously, I almost missed out on a world-class kazoo solo?  Gotta hunt those earworms! 
* Oh, the gun is the easy part, just a wearable rig with sideways-periscope sights, though you would not believe the size of a trunk-adapted trigger guard.  It's the earplugs that are difficult, and they refuse to shoot without them.

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's Pilot Season

     It's pilot season at Amazon, anyway -- be vewy, vewy quiet!  I'm hunting piwuts!

     Two of them appealed to me and I'll describe them here so you can take a look, if you like.

     Oasis is an interesting SF thriller, in which the leader of Earth's first -- and barely-established -- colony on a planet orbiting a distant star abruptly and unexpectedly calls for a clergyman, a job their resources can scarcely support.  Why?  Only the leader knows -- and he's missing when the "ecumenical priest" arrives.  The setting is akin to Zelazny's A Rose For Ecclesiastes (only without the ancient Martians) and the general mystery is reminiscent of Stanslaw Lem's Solaris, with more than a hint of James Blish's more-philosophical work.  I think it's promising.

     The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is far from outer space and one of the best comedies I have seen on TV in years.  Set in 1950s New York, the title character, a young woman four years into her storybook marriage to a salesman and would-be comedian, suddenly finds herself in very different circumstances.  A lot of the fun comes from just how all of that works out, with an interesting cast of characters, so I won't spoil it.  The writers don't seem to have any axes to grind, they just want to tell a good story.

     A websearch on "Amazon pilot season" will take you to their page of possible new shows.  The watching is free, at least for Amazon Prime members, and you can stream them to your TV, too.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Wow, I Had Something To Say...

     Alas, then I did a web-search on the differences between ACA and AHCA -- so-called "ObamaCare" and "TrumpCare," despite both sets of legislation largely having been drafted by insurance-company lobbyists and Congressional staffers -- and it turns out that so much as dipping a toe in that pool is like erasing your brain, even if you don't look at the comments.

     They're different to one another.  You will be unsurprised to learn that they both stink on ice.  Oh, slightly different aromas, give them that much, but both have more stick than carrot; both punish people for not having insurance. 

     And here's some secret knowledge: all systems of paying for and providing healthcare suck; all of them suck worse if you're poor and none of them are especially bad if you're rich.  There is no happy, Disney-movie solution and on many levels, the more lawmakers mess with it, the worse it gets.

     Before all this started, if you were poor and didn't have insurance, you were perfectly free to die in a ditch; if you chose not to, showing up at a hospital emergency room would get you treatment (hospitals are generally not allowed to turn away anyone who is genuinely ill or injured) and a whopping huge bill.  Under ACA, you could also die in a ditch or walk into a hospital uninsured, but you were going to be fined in addition to the big bill;* under ACHA, the uninsured get the same two choices and skip the fine, but if they choose the hospital and survive to buy insurance they will pay a 30% surcharge on their premiums -- and so will you, if you go more than two months without insurance.  This is all very interesting, but if the initial aim was to reduce the number of uninsured citizens who die in ditches, exactly how does either plan accomplish that goal?  They don't, no more than a low-flow showerhead in Seattle or Indianapolis helps droughts in California or a shrinking fossil aquifer in Arizona.

     The line I keep hearing is that "everyone has to be insured so the risk pool is large enough," which will come as a surprise to the statisticians and actuaries who work for insurance companies.  It does not take a huge pool to make the risk usefully predictable and there's a lower limit to the rule that adding more people makes the risk more predictable and therefore allows reducing the amount of "just in case" money the insurer needs to keep for off-the-prediction surprises: you do have to pay all those mathematicians, adjusters, attorneys, salesmen, managers, top brass and support staff -- and the investors are hoping for a little profit on the money they have put up to get the whole thing rolling, too.  The thing people seem to think they are saying boils down to "if everyone pitched in a dollar, we'd all be able to afford healthcare when we needed it," a charming sentiment that skips blissfully over what right the rest of us have to demand a dollar from every random stranger.

     I don't have any answers or magic plans; look around the world and all healthcare systems have downsides, some obvious and others very subtle.  "Regulatory capture" is a huge pitfall for any plan and some of the single-payer systems are Klein-bottle examples of it.  On the other hand, any system -- private insurance, single-payer or mixed -- is demonstrably better than none at all.

     Just don't look for any fairy-tale fixes.  There are none.  The basic plan is and will always be, "don't get sick."  It never works out quite that way but the closer you get to it, the better off you will be.

     Some sources, by no means unbiased: The LA Times and The Telegraph.
* The fine is (if I remember correctly) under $2500, which is just about big enough to be insulting and for the the person without two dimes to rub together, might as wlll be $25,000 or $250,000.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


     My recent and ongoing health issues -- I'm still on the antibiotic, unfortunate digestive-tract effects and all (and it comes with a long list of things you should not consume within two hours before and two hours after taking the drug, including dairy, antacids, zinc, and so on) -- find me still feeling pretty lousy, especially of an evening.  Recent dinner-time blood pressure readings have been rather higher than my usual and I'm scheduled to see my doctor Monday.

     Here's hoping my white-coat syndrome doesn't flare up!  I don't much trust doctors and often find myself unable to recall symptoms and generally just trying to get out of the place with minimum interaction; this is not the best way to ensure proper treatment, so I'll make notes in advance.

     And it appears that for now, some of my favorite foods like bacon and corn chips are going to have to become rarely-if-ever treats.  It's a good thing I like oatmeal, brown rice, beans and brassicas in general (broccoli, cauliflower, kolrabi, etc.).

     Comments for this post are off, as the general tendency to become hedge-doctor for Miss Bobbi has very bad effects on my blood pressure.  I pay professionals to make those sorts of suggestions; they have some education, considerable experience and are remarkably risk-averse -- and I still have trust issues with them.  Extrapolate from that what my attitude towards lay opinions must be.*

     Perhaps I shall join Ms. Tam on her morning walks.  Even doctors think that's a good idea.
* I happen to work at a fairly abstruse trade, and encounter uninformed opinions from time to time -- usually miles off-target and demonstrating a profound lack of the necessary basics.  I can only imagine what the corresponding experience is like for medical practitioners, but it can't be good.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mental Whiplash

     If you occasionally read the blogs of both Eric S. Raymond and Charles Stross, you will indeed find some very abrupt curves between them.  Readers of my blog are most likely to see red at Stross's blog -- neither Brexit nor the U. S. Presidential election results sat very well with him -- but I caution you that he is a UK subject, the product of a very different culture (and doesn't vote in our elections).  We may share a largely-common language (or, as Twain put it, be divided by it) but cultural divergence started well before 1776 and hasn't stopped. 

     One thing is for sure, if you read widely enough, it'll knock big old holes in your mental echo chamber.  I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Still Not How That Works

     While I have been trying to avoid politics, politics is like an obtuse, friendly salesman with halitosis: it keeps showing up, all smiles and awfulness.

     The latest?  This morning, Tam observed that certain corners of the Internet are running rife with anti-Hawaiian sentiment after a 9th Circuit judge in that state put a temporary block on President Trump's travel restrictions until the courts could have a look at it.  Calls for boycotts (of pineapple, mahi-mahi and leis?) were not long in showing up, along with various flavors of negative commentary -- directed at the state, its history and its people.

     The problem with that, of course, is while Federal judges may indeed be soaking in the culture of wherever it is they're serving, the people, history, etc. of that region don't get a vote in the judge's decisions: those are based on his reading of the applicable law and judicial precedent (and, occasionally, whim).  --Which will be tested, probably most severely, as this case makes its way through the Federal court system.  That testing will be by people who do that sort of thing for a living, not by Japanese tourists, a consortium from Dole or even that nice young taxicab driver you remember from the time you vacationed there.  The White House is suggesting this Executive order may be fought all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court if necessary, a process which will quite rapidly stop having anything to do with a U. S. state on a remote Pacific island -- an island, by the way, which not only suffered the sneak attack of 7 December 1941, but which knows a little about informal immigrants and unvettable visitors making trouble, from at least the 18th Century through the 20th.

     It's a big, complicated world and very little of it actually runs on the politics of identity and grievance.  Nor on whining and ranting on the Internets.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Modern Medicine

     Modern antibiotics have gone -- have had to go -- so far down the "arms race" road against mutating bugs that the side effects have become genuinely hellacious.  I'm starting Day 4 of the renewed antibiotic regimen and it's been miserable. 

     Sure hope this helps with the sinus/lungs issues.   And the joint pain.  Kind of thinking it has but it's too early to be sure.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Sandals, Hooray!

     A year and a half ago, or maybe it was two years, I bought a replacement set of what I wear instead of house slippers: Teva sandals, which are more or less a walking/running shoe sole with a minimal arrangement of straps to hold it to your foot.  They were a little different from the previous set, but they were on sale.

     Unfortunately, I bought the wrong style; worse yet, the seller didn't have half-sizes and I bought the next size down, counting on the remarkable adjustability of the brand's designs to let me center them on my feet.  --Except the style I bought didn't have an adjustable back-of-ankle strap.  I spent the next year-plus occasionally stubbing my toes, but hey, thirty-dollar footwear.  Gotta get your money's worth.  A couple of weeks ago, I managed to opened the front door into my right foot, and my little toe caught the brunt of it.  It was time for new sandals.

     They had about given out anyway (Velcro and even a little cat hair is a high-maintenance combination, especially once the cats figure out they can smooth on it if you leave the instep strap open ).  This time, I was careful to order the right Tevas, in the right size.  They arrived yesterday and I wasted no time in trying them on.  What a difference!  Adjustable toe, instep and back-of-ankle straps let me set them to fit my feet, the sole and insole are much better then the old pair, and my toes don't hang over at all. Shopped for price once I'd found the right style, which has put me in a pair with white soles and red straps: I have ambulance feet!  But they fit and are comfortable and that's all that counts.

     These sandals are the best compromise between barefoot and shod I know of: lightweight, grippy, thick enough to provide protection.  I rarely wore shoes and socks at all around the house until I was well-grown (40s) and these are just enough footgear to suit me.