Friday, May 30, 2014


I made
My day


It was no big thing.

In fact, it was only a two-inch "thing."

But repairing that two-inch "thing" was not something I learned in my formative years.

But, having seen it done once (thank you Eli Maroz), and reading what seemed to be simple directions from the Reader's Digest Fix It Yourself Manual, 1979 printing, the repair was made.

And THAT made my day.

I have an underground sprinkler system. Normally it's "out of sight, out of mind." But there have been problems. Some I attempted to fix (change a timer motor) and some I watched others do (repair - twice - a 2-inch PVC pipe that a was punctured by a grass cutter's string trimmer).

I would have done the second PVC repair but my pal, ibid., won't allow it. Some pal.

ANYWAY, the other day I was trying to water the south 40 (as in 40 centimeters, not acres) and - no pressure.

Walking around the postage stamp lot I saw why: water was shooting skyward like Old Faithful on a good day.

Ah ha, thought I, one of the sprinkler heads must have blown off. Replacing a sprinkler is something I can do and have done. Heck, I've even installed several rotators that actually work as desired. (I'd pat myself on the back but I'd hurt my arm.)

I shut off the pump and went back to the site of the gusher, so confident that the problem was a sprinkler than I carried a spare with me.

Surprise - the problem was a hole in the PVC.

HOW the PVC was holed I don't know. I do know the pipe was barely covered with dirt and the hole looked as if it was the result of a high velocity rock hit.

The problem

OK, I can fix this.

With my trusty hack saw I cut out the section of pipe that hosted the hole (above, in case you missed it). True, my cut's straightness was less than perfect, but . . .

That left me with two pieces of PVC that needed to be joined.

I remembered from the first time some PVC needed repair - a simple job necessitated when a different grass cutter lopped off the top of a vent pipe - I went to a plumbing store and got the pipe and preassembled coupling I needed. (That job still holds, by the by.)

So, back to the plumbing supply house I go. I explained - or tried to explain - to the counter guy what I needed. He brought out what I DID NOT need and said that was all he had. I knew better, but there was a Big Box hardware store in the same area.

Armed with the piece I'd cut out I wandered around the store's plumbing section until I found something I thought would work. PVC. Designed to join to 1-inch diameter PVC pipe and just slightly larger than the pipe I cut out.

Just to be sure, I stuck the old pipe into each end of the joint section. Perfect.

In addition to the PVC to join the two parts in the ground I also bought primer and PVC cement.

$20 later I was ready to FIX A PIPE.

After roughing the ends of the existing pipe and the insides of the connector with sandpaper, I was ready to go to work.

At least I thought I was ready.

Turned out I had to expose some more pipe on both sides in order to maneuver the joint into place, but in the end, even without any expletives to be deleted, the primer was applied then the PVC cement (one end at a time if you please) and the joint and the pipe joined.

>Not pretty, but it works

To my pal Eli Maroz, what I did is no big thing.

But I've never had success with plumbing. Leaks I fix often leak worse than before I "fixed" them.

I am many things, but a plumber I am not. (Nor an electrician, or auto mechanic, or 100 other things.)

So to have actually fixed something, even something as simple as connecting two pieces of 1-inch PVC, that makes my day.

It's the little things that count with me.

In this case, a 2-inch little thing.

I made my own day.

Thursday, May 29, 2014




The current administration is a prime example of "pantywaist."

Civil conflicts continue in "liberated" Libya, conflicts stemming from the highly touted - and grossly misunderstood - "Arab Spring."

In light of those conflicts, the Navy has stationed the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship with about 1000 marines and several helicopters the off the coast of Libya in case the US embassy has to be evacuated, New Zealand's tv Channel 3 reports.

One ship.

Several helicopters.

Stationed off Tripoli.

Backup resources stationed at NAS Sigonella, Italy.


  1. The number of Americans in Libya, including dependents (if any remain).
  2. The location of the Americans in Libya.
  3. Why is there only one (1) LHD stationed off the coast of Tripoli; why not a similar vessel off the coast of Benghazi? Was the consulate in Benghazi closed after the murder of 4 Americans in the consulate compound?
  4. Have the Americans been told to congregate in specific locations to expedite evacuation?
  5. How long will it take to get backup resources from NAS Sigonella to various locations in Libya?

We know - sadly - that the Marines guarding the embassy in Tripoli - and any government troops stationed outside the U.S. compound cannot or, in the case of the Libyan "protectors," will not be able to repel an assault on the compound. Benghazi proved that. (Were the Marines at Benghazi even allowed to load live ammunition into their weapons? Are the Marines at Tripoli allowed to load live ammunition into their weapons?)

The administration encouraged the Arab Spring. It wanted to look good to the Muslim Brotherhood and similar organizations.

What the administration in its "wisdom" - mostly provided by the U.S. State Department then headed up by presidential want-to-be Hillary Clinton - failed to understand that most Arab nations are comprised of multiple tribes, many of which don't like other tribes in the region.

Strong dictatorial leaders, such as Muammar al-Qaddafi', Bashar al-Assad, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saddam Hussein al-Majid, Anwar Sadat, and Mohammed VI of Morocco managed to maintain, if not "peace" than at least a truce among tribes in their countries. Sadat achieved a peace agreement with Israel's Menachem Begin while Mohammed VI's Morocco is one of the few Arab countries that welcomes Israeli tourists (and there are many).

For another look at the Arab Spring, consider reading Re-Examining the Arab Spring.

The U.S. is unique in that it is one of only a handful of countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel are others that come to mind) built on immigration from countries around the world. People immigrated to these countries because they wanted to live in these countries. People of the Arab countries belong to tribes that have lived on the land - without political borders - for centuries. The country borders are a European invention drawn for European convenience and failed to consider tribal territories and loyalties.

As in the former Soviet Union and its satellites, it was a strong - often despotic - hand that kept one group (tribe) from killing another group. (Bosnia, Ukraine come to mind.)

In its zeal to "democratize" the Arab states, to force upon them a U.S.-like democracy, the administration failed to understand the people whose lives it was attempting to restructure.

Because of this political blindness, the USS Bataan sits off the coast of Tripoli to rescue Americans endangered by people who once would not have dreamed of attacking a U.S. outpost.

The administration has opened a Pandora's Box and it too much of a pantywaist to slam down the lid.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Korea, 'Nam
All over again?


An Associated Press/Israel HaYom article under the hed US may decide to train Syrian rebels claims that U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing sending a limited number of troops to Jordan as part of a regional training mission to instruct carefully vetted members of the Free Syrian Army, according to U.S. officials gives me pause.

The U.S. got involved in Korea and in Vietnam by sending in "advisors" to help the local militaries.

We STILL have troops in Korea.

We were chased out of Vietnam (just like the French before us).

As the Pete Seeger/Joe Hickson song went, "When will they ever learn?" (The full lyrics are found at

Granted, Syria is neither Korea nor Vietnam.

It is more like Afghanistan.

But there are similarities to all three "involvements."

First, for the U.S. it is a no-win situation,

Even if the U.S. troops never enter Syrian territory, it will be a political fiasco.

Question (and I don't have the answer): Are the Russians sending in "advisors" to support the government and Hezbollah? Russia, in Putin's attempt to recreate a Russia of the cold war days, may be providing weapons and it may be providing training outside the region, but are there Russian "boots on the ground" or pilots in the air?

There is general agreement that Iran's ayatollahs' heavy hands are involved, but the U.S., particularly under the current administration, is not going to war with an Islamic country; it has proven that repeatedly by the "red lines" the ayatollahs cross as fast as Washington can draw them.

Second, the enemy doesn't wear uniforms. Nor do the "friends." Perhaps Syria's regular military wears uniforms, but neither Hezbollah nor the rebels wear uniforms identifying their political positions.

That should sound like Vietnam and Afghanistan. Who is the enemy? The one trying to kill you- a child? A "pregnant" woman? An old man? Ask Israelis what the enemy looks like; they know the threat can look innocent.

Third, the ability of the U.S. to "vet" people is at best questionable. Consider all the "friends" vetted in places such as Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, and elsewhere around the globe. The success rate is dismal.

Still, according to the article, U.S. troops will stay in Jordan to train rebel soldiers.

Until Syrian government troops - or Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists - cross into Jordan to attack the rebels-in-training. If an American is wounded or killed, the U.S. troops might cross into Syria chasing the attackers. (That would be an improvement over Korea when American troops were forbidden from cross the Yalu/Amrok River* to chase retreating North Koreans and Chinese troops.)

Although Israel and Jordan have peaceful, albeit often tense, relations today, there is no guarantee this status hold given Israel's problem with the so-called Palestinians and the Moslem Waqf that controls the Temple Mount, a site once under Jordanian control and still of interest to Jordan. A suggestion that U.S. troops train Jordanian troops to train Syrians would make the U.S.' strongest ally in the region - Israel - nervous.

One thing the administration should consider: How many Muslim states, from Morocco in the west to Oman in the east have sent troops to support either side? Aside from Iran.

What have the Arab states done to end the Syrian civil war?


* The Yalu/Amrok River is the border between North Korea and China.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Invisible people


I have, since childhood, been a fan of the comics, the "funnies."

Very often, the cartoons have buried within them a large measure of wisdom.

Some comics more than others, but for those with eyes to see, there is much to behold.

I am not referring to the political cartoons such as Doonesbury, or editorial cartoons that are decidedly drawn to make a statement; no, I'm thinking of the sometimes silly 'toons.

Case in point: Dilbert for Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

In the strip - you can view it at; click on the small calendar icon and select May 27, 2014 - Dilbert and his Pointy Hair Boss (PHB) are discussing disposal of dead batteries.

The PHB tells Dilbert that discarded batteries must be put into a special container. The container, PHB continues, will be emptied by the janitor into the regular trash and taken to the landfill.

Dilbert suggests that perhaps someone could ask the janitor NOT to mix the batteries with the regular trash and NOT to take them to the landfill, a/k/a "dump*."

The PHB replies that this can't be done because "no one knows what language he speaks."

The thing that got my attention was not the environmental issue, batteries in the dump. Rather it was the fact that apparently no one ever bothered to talk to the janitor.

I know that Dilbert frequently talks to the janitor so Dilbert wouold know, but the janitor apparently is "beneath" the PHB - as janitors are to so many people. Much like trash collectors - excuse me, "sanitary engineers" who hang onto the back of compactor trucks - or ditch diggers, or elevator operators (do they still have elevator operators?), or the folks behind the check out counter at the local Publix, Safeway, Giant, or similar supermarket, even when they wear a name tag.

We ignore people who are "beneath" us; we ignore people on whom we depend for every day services and common courtsey - the receptionist, the letter carrier among others.

We either ignore or we are rude to others we havn't taken the time to get to know.

I love it when somcone dials my number by mistake and demands, in a language other than English, to speak to someone I don't know. Worse, when the person, learning their mistake, hangs up sans a "Sorry," or "Perdon," or "Excusez-moi," or - in my neighborhood, מצטער or סליחה. Even if the dialer of a wrong number speaks no English, the effort in the speaker's language would be appreciated. Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but I was bought up to be polite and to "own up" to my errors.

While we are ignoring people, we also are missing an opportunity to learn about those people and what they do.

As a reporter I interviewed people from all walks of life; blue collar, white collar, and no collar. With only one exception - a charity manager - I came away with respect for the people I interviewed, and a passing knowledge of what they did on a day-to-day basis.

When I first started reporting in Peru IN Tribune I was assigned to interview a fellow who picked up trash along the Wabash River to keep the area near his mobile home presentable.

I was reluctant to "invade the man's privacy," but my boss said either do the interview or start looking for a new job. I did the interview, discovered the guy was delightful and from then on I never hesitated to interview almost anyone at almost anytime. (I never got accustomed to interviewing bereaved relatives.)

I try to get the names of all the people I see on a more or less regular basis, and I try to call cashiers, waitresses, and others with name tags by the name on the tag.

It's a small thing, but it goes a long way in making a person's day - mine and theirs.

And the price is right.


* When I worked at the Trenton (NJ) Times Advertiser many years ago I had an editor, Sam Graff, who insisted, correctly I believe, that a "landfill" was just a "dump" with a politically correct name. In fact, a "landfill" is a "dump" that is (supposed to be) covered over with dirt. Virginia Beach VA calls its former landfill "Trash Mountain"; it now is a recreation area.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Do Doctors learn
Arrogance @ school


My former PCP is former largely because of his arrogance. (The fact that he messed up some critical prescriptions and forced me to wait more than a hour an a half simply added insult to injury.)
I read of a more egregious case today on the New York Times Now web site heded Woman Sues a New York Hospital for Forcing a C-Section. Can Doctors Do That?

I know not all physicians are guilty of such chutzpah. I have a vascular surgeon - Jeffery Hertz - and an orthopedic surgeon - J. Sudler Hood - who, despite being tops in their fields, are anything but arrogant.
According to the NYT, Though the doctor claims he did not force the woman to have a C-section, her hospital record included a note signed by the hospital’s director of maternal and fetal medicine that said, “I have decided to override her refusal to have a C-section.” Per the Times, the note added that the hospital lawyer had agreed.
The Times went on to note that The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is crystal clear about how they feel about forced C-sections: Their ethics committee says it simply “cannot currently imagine” a situation in which any pregnant woman should be forced by the judicial system or her doctors to have surgery she does not want.* It doesn’t matter if the doctors believe a C-section is in the best interest of the fetus—the mother’s autonomy trumps that.
I find that interesting because when I requested my now-former PCP to add a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test to my lab order, he refused citing it as having no value.
At the same time, my Medicare Advantage provider promotes the test in its mailings to its customers.
I know that the practice is very cautious to avoid "unnecessary" charges that might anger my Advantage plan provider (which seems to be the practice's primary source of income, certainly its preferred insurer), but to refuse to order a test the plan provider considers necessary is, to my mind, penny wise and pound foolish.
At least my (now former) PCP is not a surgeon; the worst damage he can do is to screw up my prescriptions and order changes I know to ignore.
The state of medicine in America.

Friday, May 23, 2014


PC run amuck


Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in a tv interview, said two things, among others:

Thing 1: “If I see a black kid in a hoodie at night on the same side of the street, I’m probably going to walk to the other side of the street.”

Thing 2: “If I see a white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos, I’m going back to the other side of the street.”

Guess which comment made the headlines.

Guess which comment caused the PC Police to scream "racist."

If you guessed the "hoodie" remark you win the gold star (assuming that's not offensive to either the colors or stars).

The New York Post, in an article heded Cuban: I’d cross the street to get away from a black kid in a hoodie, grudgingly stuck in a paragraph in its story between Cuban's two comments: As if to balance that stunning statement, Cuban said a white person looking like a skinhead would also force him to the other side of the road.

Would it have been OK if Cuban had said he would fear a white person in a hoodie or a black skinhead with tat(toos)? How about if he just said he had a problem with hoodies? The tats remark would cause the tattoo parlors and those who frequent them to raise up in artistic arms. Should I take umbrage on behalf of those who shave their heads (thinking it a better option than displaying a growing bald spot)?

Cuban was simply expressing his level of discomfort based on the reputation, deserved or otherwise, of people wearing hoodies - especially when the temperature is high - or people with shaved heads and tattoos.

I'm uncomfortable with people who walk around with their trousers around their knees. Does that make me a racist? How could it - people of all shades are fashion deficient.

Maybe I make young people feel ill at ease; I'm a geezer with a beard and, oft-times, a hard continence. Does that make the young folk "ageists?" Shall I go whining to the local press and the Civil Rights Commission? Spare me.

I know that not everyone who has colorful "sleeves" (arm tattoos) is a threat. When I lived in Clearwater we had a guy at the area post office that that "sleeves." Hard to ask for a nicer guy. He even took time to explain each image to my curious, then teenage, son.

While all generalities are lies is a truism, when something has developed a reputation - deserved or not - then a reasonable person has a reason to be concerned.

Pit bulls.

Banned in Dade County and many other locales.

Dangerous. Attack without warning. All pits are bad dogs.

Put a skinhead with a pit bull and Katie, bar the door.

In the photo above, the only thing that would make either the skinhead or the pit bull angry is if someone upset the little girl.

Truth on blogging. The skinhead is my son-in-law and the pit, one of two, is one my grand-daughter's guardian playmates. As my daughter repeatedly points out, dogs are what we make them.

My son-in-law and Mango (the pit in the picture, the one not shown is Kiwi, obviously vicious names for vicious dogs) are not exceptions to the rule but there are enough people and pits with dispositions to make "awareness" appropriate.

But back to Mr. Cuban.

Why do the PC Police seem to focus solely on a black kid in a hoodie - the headline, after all, shouted the comment in 48 point typeface - compare that to the 10 point body typeface.

Where was the outcry against the equally bigoted - assuming there is no justification for the opinion - “If I see a white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos, I’m going back to the other side of the street? Silence.

Seems the PC Police are selective in their condemnation.

That's wrong.

It's time we retired the PC Police, or at least relegated them to their place.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Contractor disconnects
Phone, WWW services


On my way to the house this morning my Spouse - on her way out - stopped me and complained that we had neither internet nor telephone service.

Our DSL is from the phone company.

I called the phone company about 7:45 a.m. using my cell phone.

When I finally got a real person I was told that the phone company didn't know why I lacked service but it would send someone out between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. tomorrow. WHY I lacked service was unknown; only that there was a "busy" signal on my line.

It turns out a contractor working on preparing ground for a new housing development accidently cut a fibre cable that connected my telephone and computer to "the world."


Most areas have a buried utility locator service, and in most cases, it's FREE, gratis.

Call a local or toll-free number and the service alerts the utility companies that have buried facilities in the area of the potential dig. Here iT is "Sunshine 811"

Call on Monday and by Wednesday, flags of many colors are popping up all over the place.

Each color has a specific meaning.

(Information compliments of Florida Power & Light)

Now that the housing market is recovering - albeit slowly in my neck o' the woods - development plans shelved "for the duration" are being dusted off. There are three development sites close to my house that are being prepared for new construction.

I've noticed for several weeks red (power related) flags near the area where, I'm told, the fibre was cut.

Why I never saw any orange flags - communications lines - is beyond my ken.

In the "old days" of copper wire, cutting a cable might have put maybe 50 to 100 phones out of service. Now, with fibre the number can be multiplied by 10 or more.

For me, it was an inconvenience; for my Spouse it was enough to ruin her day - she normally Skypes - can "Skype" be made into a verb? - with our daughter and grand-daughter in the morning, and of course Skype requires internet connectivity which, since we currently have telco DSL means no Skype.

Cable connectivity is no safer; perhaps dish/satellite connectivity is the only "safe" way, although even that has its drawbacks.

Bottom line: For want of a phone call - or perhaps for lack of phone company follow up - I was disconnected from the world for most of the day.

I'm glad I had my cell phone (via a different provider).

Life in the construction zone.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The problem
With surveys


I have a problem with surveys, questionnaires. Even when the results agree with my well-considered opinions I am suspicious of the reports.

I was an honest reporter for a number of years (and then I stopped being a reporter; I'm still honest) and plied my trade around the Several States.

As a reporter I asked people in all manner of work to answer my carefully crafted questions, knowing that how I framed my question often determined how the question would be answered.

Do you still beat your spouse?

Another ruse I could use was to carefully select the people to be surveyed. If, for example, I wanted a positive response to the question "Should we build more jails to house the people driving up the area crime rate?" I would ask people in high income areas who fear for their possessions.

On the other hand, if I wanted a negative answer, I would add a few words to the query: "Should we build more jails IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD to house the people driving up the area crime rate?" It seems no one wants a prison next door.

I could limit my "research" to areas where I knew the majority of answers would align with my opinion.

As an aside: Have you ever been asked you opinion for anything? Were the response options limited, e.g., "Are you still beating your spouse? Yes or No.

Recently there was a survey sponsored by The Daily Tip, a pro-Israel organization. The survey asked several questions relating to the Israel-PA impasse.

The survey questions were included in the report (which, incidentally - surprise - placed most of the blame for the two entities inability to coexist peacefully on the PA).

The poll, according to the report, was Of 1595 likely voters was conducted by Paragon Insights, and released by TIP, a non-partisan educational organization that provides factual information about Israel and the Middle East to press, policy makers and the public.

Voters’ views were consistent regardless of party affiliation and age.

The poll does not identify the respondents as Jewish or non-Jewish.

According to the polling organization's methodology, the poll was conducted on-line from May 2-4 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) among a national sample of 1595 likely 2014 voters. The interviews were conducted online by Survey Sampling International.

The 88-page poll (the "Israel-PA" questions begin on page 23) leads off with general U.S. government questions, e.g., Now, generally speaking, would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

A poll report page is shown below.

Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, May 12, 2014


On being "politically correct"
Don't ever say what you think


Lately there has been a lot of talk - and censure - of people who made politically incorrect remarks. Some were made in what the speaker thought was a private, two-person moment, others were broadcast to the world via (anti?) social media.

Have we taken political correctness too far, so far it can limit free expression?

I expect this diatribe will be lumped into the politically INcorrect category. So be it.

Perhaps I have a reason to dislike left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June.

Perhaps I tell my neighbor that I think people who are left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June lack manners, dress badly, and eat like animals and I would prefer that my kin do not associate with these people.

That's my opinion, and even if I broadcast it on "social" media, that's still my opinion.

It may be offensive to left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June, but that does not eliminate my opinion or my right to express it.

Unless some Amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been abrogated, have been erased from our history, my speech, even if offensive to left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June and the bleeding heart liberals who, more than the people cited, take umbrage to my words, I still have the right to express myself.

I lack the right to yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater (or theatre) nor do I have the right to incite others to do violence to people or property.

I might get beat up if I call a black guy a "nigger," although blacks use that term to describe each other. That doesn't make my use of the word illegal anymore than calling a Jew a "kike" or "Hebe" is illegal. Stupid, maybe, and calling me a derogatory name might get someone a lesson the speaker won't soon forget, but those words are not illegal.

The other day a Miami Dolphins football player said he didn't like the idea of a gay being drafted into the NFL (on another team). Or perhaps the Dolphin was upset seeing the draftee and his boyfriend kissing for the camera. The Miami player - who was immediately suspended by the team management - expressed his feeling on "social media."

The Dolphin somehow, when he signed a contract with the Fish apparently also waived his right to think and express his thoughts. Much like the military, players - and owners of professional sports franchises - are allowed to say only what is permitted by the Powers-That-Be.

Say the wrong things, and even the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will chime in with his opinion. Never mind that he is guilty of slandering a person who is not the president's "color." And never mind his well documented snug or a friendly, albeit non-Muslim, head of state.

If I happen to have a problem with left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June and I express my opinion are the PC Police going to swoop down and either arrest me or demand that I apologize to all the left-handed multi-nationals born under a full moon north of the Arctic Circle in the month of June?

There is a limit to free speech.

But there also needs to be a limit to "political correctness" as defined by the easily offended.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


1 + 1 + 1 = 0


In search of a decent medical practice


I'm beginning to think finding a decent Medicare Advantage plan with decent practitioners AND office staff is an impossibility.

For a number of years I had what I considered a good general practitioner, a/k/a PCP. The doctor was great and I credit him with saving my life (by correctly diagnosing a 7-cm abdominal aortic aneurysm or "Triple A" and quickly getting me into the hands of a surgeon to fix the problem).

Unfortunately, his office staff is clueless; a total disaster. Complaints, even repeated complaints, fall on deaf ears.
Despite the office staff's absolute incompetency my Spouse, on a different insurance plan, won’t abandon the doctor.

In any event, AvMed, for many years my Medicare Advantage provider, cancelled the practice. In talking with other practices, the opinion is that AvMed was "bleeding money" in my county and had to cancel practitioners who were failing to contribute as much to AvMed's ROI as it desired/required. Part of the blame might be laid to AvMed's allowing patients to self-refer to specialists. The was a two edged sword for the patient: On one edge, the patient could see an AvMed-listed specialist without waiting for authorization. The other edge is that the PCP and the specialist might never connect, and that is to the patient's disadvantage.

AvMed has since eliminated self-referrals and now is in line with most other Medicare Advantage HMO plans.

For whatever reason, AvMed cancelled my PCP. (It previously cancelled my long-time ophthalmologist. He was "reinstated" the following year.

AvMed's cavalier cancellations tend to prevent any long-term patient/doctor relationship, and even AvMed admits that relationship is critical for it's client's well-being.


Good bye AvMed, hello Humana

In a fit of pique, I went looking for a Medicare Advantage provider to replace AvMed. I looked at several and settled for Humana

Once I settled on Humana I went in search of a new PCP.

I found one who seemed agreeable and seemed to have a decent office staff; I notified Humana that when the 2014 calendar year rolled around, this gentleman would be my PCP.

January arrives and I visit the new PCP. During the course of the appointment I ask for referrals to my AAA surgeon (annual follow-up) and to my ophthalmologist. Both specialists are on Humana's provider list so there should be no problem.

But there was a problem.

The new PCP told me I had a choice: I could go to the ophthalmologist he preferred or I could find a new PCP.

No contest. I looked for a new PCP.

I was told that the reason the first Humana PCP would refer me only to someone on his personal list was due to "capitation." "Capitation" somehow relates to the PCP's bottom line. The truth of that is beyond my ken.

So I went searching for a new PCP - again.


New PCP Number 2

I checked out several and settled on one with what seemed to be a knowledgeable office staff. I thought this was a multi-physician practice; I was disabused of that idea today when I was told the person I thought was an MD/DO was actually a PA, albeit, the office staff told me, a "really good PA."

I made an appointment to see the MD and he seemed "OK"; off-shore degree, but conservative in his approach to medicine. So-so sign (off-shore degree) with positive sign (conservative approach).

My follow-up visit was pushed back two weeks - no reason given.

Meanwhile, I visited the local medical lab for blood work. The triglyceride results were off the charts.

I get a call from someone at the practice - not the doctor - who tells me to double a certain medicine. No one asked me for my history or if an anomaly occurred. Since I have had this test performed four times a year for many years, I knew the off-the-charts results were a fluke.


Strike 1

When I finally got to see the doctor, I tried to tell him that the lab results were not accurate and that I would like to retake the test. He arrogantly informed me that HE would decide if I could retake the test. The patient be damned. Even my surgeons are not that arrogant! It turned out his concern was not for my results but for an impact on Humana's and the practice's bottom line.

I did walk out with scripts for my four meds.


Strikes 2 and 3

Unfortunately, despite telling him I take two tablets-a-day of one med and four capsules-a-day of another, his prescriptions called for one tablet-a-day and two capsules-a-day.

I discovered this situation the other day when I started running low on the two-a-day pills. My first thought was that Publix, where I get most of my meds, shorted me. Then I looked at the script and saw that my now "previous PCP #2" ordered 30 pills for 30 days. Publix was fine; the now former PCP was not.

The the four-a-day meds arrived (they come from a mail order pharmacy). I received two (2) bottles of 120 capsules/bottle (and was charged for three bottles). If you do the math. 120 capsules divided by 4 (capsules-a-day), you have 30 days' worth of medicine. The delivery of 240 capsules would last 120 days (four 30-day months) on a two-a-day consumption.

I take my health seriously, but doctors and office staffs have put it in jeopardy for too long.

I hope the PA that works with a good office staff and who can refer me to my specialists "prn" (as needed) will work out. If not, I will be interviewing PCP candidates again.

Just for the record, both of my former Humana-listed PCPs also are listed with AvMed.

Time will tell.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Why are the Moslems
Silent on kidnappings?


Where is the AU to battle Islamists?


Headlines around the civilized world scream in outrage over the Boko Haram's kidnapping and murder of young people in Nigeria.

People, mostly - but hardly exclusively - blacks, are marching with signs reading #BringBackOurGirls .

Has anyone heard that

 *  ANY of the 57 Moslem nations in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has condemned Boko Haram?

 *  ANY of the 25 nations of the African Unity (AU) offer to aid Nigeria in its effort to eliminate the Islamist Boko Haram? (The AU is the successor to the Organisation for African Unity {AU}).


Now the U.S. - not a member of either the OIC or AU - is sending "personnel" to Nigeria to help its government.

Do we have "personnel" in the Sudan where Islamists enslave and murder non-Islamists?

Do we have "personnel" in Syria to side with the insurgents or government?

Do we have "personnel" any more in Lebanon to protect that country from the spillover of Syria's civil war?

As much as I wish for people such as those who make up the Boko Haram and similar organizations to be sent to an early death - and their bodies burned to deprive them of the promised 70 virgins - I don't want U.S. "personnel" on the ground.

If the Muslims want to prove to the world that they are truly a peaceful people, let the OIC organize a military to attack the Islamists who sully the good name of Islam.

If the Africans want to root out the Islamists from their midst, while perhaps recalling that it was Arab Muslim invaders who sold black Africans into slavery, let the AU states form a joint military to eliminate the Islamist scourge.

The problem with U.S. "personnel" on the ground in Nigeria - or Sudan or anyplace else for that matter - is that we will once again be sucked into a Korea or Vietnam situation. In both cases, the U.S. sent only a few "personnel" to advise the local governments. Korea cost the U.S. 33,686 killed and 128,650 wounded; Vietnam's body county was 47,424 with 211,650 injured. (Source: United States military casualties of war)

Apparently the U.S. has had an interest in Boko Haram going back at least to the time presidential want-to-be Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

According to a Daily Beast article dated May 7, 2014 and heded Hillary's State Department Refused to Brand Boko Haram as Terrorists, Clinton "fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years. And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls."

A May 8, 2014 article on the ThinkProgress site titled Here’s Why Hillary Clinton Resisted Designating Boko Haram As A Terrorist Organization apologizes for Clinton, reporting " there were multiple valid reasons for the State Department to disagree with the Justice Department and other agencies dealing with counterterrorism — such as the FBI and CIA — who urged State to place Boko Haram on the Foreign Terrorists Organization (FTO) list. “Designation is an important tool, it’s not the only tool,” a former State Department official told the Beast. “There are a lot of other things you can do in counterterrorism that doesn’t require a designation.” This includes boosting development aid to undercut the causes of unrest and deploying the FBI to assist in tracking down Boko Haram, both of which the U.S. actually did.

The article continued: In addition, Clinton didn’t act in a vacuum to determine not to designate Boko Haram back in 2011. Scholars on Twitter who focus on the region, terrorism broadly, and Islamist groups in particular were quick to point out that not only were there few benefits and many possible costs to designation, many of them had argued against listing Boko Haram several years ago. In a letter to the State Department dated May 2012, twenty prominent African studies scholars wrote Clinton to implore her to hold off on placing Boko Haram on the FTO list. Acknowledging the violence Boko Haram had perpetrated, the academics argued that “an FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram, legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region.”

I'm hearing echoes of Neville Chamberlain's Peace in our time speech, this time coming from the mouths of "prominent African studies scholars ."

Back to the main questions:

Has anyone heard any OIC member state condemning the Boko Haram?

Has anyone heard any AU member state offer military support to Nigeria to eliminate the Boko Haram?

Silence reigned.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Bottom line


Medicare Advantage programs - and they all seem similar in this respect - allow customers roughly US$115/year toward corrective lenses, with frames, or contact lenses.

The lenses are "plain vanilla," no polycarbonate, no line-less bifocals, no tints, no, no, no.

Installed in a pair of Chinese frames.

One pair. $115.

Compare this to non-Advantage plan glasses.

In my area, there are at least two chains offering two pair for $69.

Same plain vanilla lenses.

Same made-in-China frames (albeit with a wider selection that I saw at two Advantage-approved vendors).

And a "free" eye exam in thrown in.

Even Sears has a two-for-$75 offer on tv. (Whatever happened to Roebuck?)

I'm curious.

If I can get TWO - count'em, 2 - pair of plain vanilla lenses in made-in-China frames for $69, why do Medicare Advantage providers charge $115 for a pair of glasses AND pay more for an eye exam?

Medicare claims to be on the outlook for fraud.

Medicare claims to be on the outlook for cost savings.

I pay slightly more than $100/month for Medicare. That money is then paid to the Advantage plans.

IN ADDITION to my monthly payment, Medicare pays ADDITIONAL MONEY to the Advantage plan based on several variables, including the Medicare (geezer) population served by the Advantage plan.

Like newspapers that make their money on advertising with rates based on circulation, Advantage plans make their money by head count, not on an individual's monthly payment to Medicare.

Consider the competition for customers in geezer-heavy geographic areas, both in terms of advertising and in rates. In South Florida, the competition is fierce and the rates available to customers ranges from zero additional dollars to whatever the market will bear; elsewhere - in rural Maryland, for example - rates start with an added cost to the covered geezer of from about $50/month to whatever the market will bear.

Why, then, don't the Advantage providers contract with the "discount" companies? There are several that are nationwide, or nearly nationwide. It seems that the Advantage providers could negotiate a discounted price - say $50 in lieu of $69 - and still make their profits, albeit with only a slightly reduced margin. Medicare, likewise, could reduce its payments to the Advantage providers.

This also could apply to Obamacare.

Advantage-contracted optometrists and opticians may take umbrage at the idea that a discount optometrist and optician may be eligible for Advantage dollars. Most discount opticians accept prescriptions from any optometrist, so Advantage-contracted optometrists would face the loss only of their related optician business. (On a personal note, I found an optometrist with whom I think I can have a good, long-term relationship.)

The "bottom line" question is: If a "discount" optician (chain or independent) can offer eye exams and TWO PAIR of glasses, albeit "plan vanilla," for $69, why is Medicare allowing Advantage providers to pay a non-competitive price for simple lenses in Chinese frames?



America's Best

Eye Lab

Sears' Optical - offer may be time-limited

Visionworks - offers vary by location

Monday, May 5, 2014


Bring back auto


I was driving around today, running self-imposed errands. For kicks, I keep an inexpensive digi-cam in the car (mostly to photograph loose animals in the complex).

Today, I was shooting vehicles with brake lights that don't illuminate.

My son the cop tells me as long as a vehicle has two (2) working brake lights, no warning citations will be issued.

All the vehicles below had two lamps that lit when the brake pedal was pressed.

Interestingly, none of the vehicles was a "clunker." One appeared to be a fairly new Mercedes sedan.

When I was younger, many states had mandatory vehicle inspections. They were a pain in the posterior and in some states the way the process was performed led to criminal behavior on the part of inspectors and garages.

We also had random stops. These backed up traffic and made some drivers unhappy, especially those sans air conditioning in summer in a warm state.

For the record, I DO check tail lights and brake lights on a daily basis; I back into the driveway and the lights reflect off the kitchen windows.

>All photos were made on 5 May 2014 in Broward County Florida

New Mercedes C230 Sedan

Ford Edge

Chevy Trail Blazer

Toyota Tacoma

Chevy Express

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Microsoft vs. ??


An article titled Microsoft in double trouble after reports by gov’t, Israeli start-up tells readers to

(A) Abandon Internet Explorer (IE) V6 through V11 and

(B) Abandon Microsoft Office applications

It suggests that rather than use Office applications (e.g., Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word), people who need a suite should look to the cloud.



According to the article, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), IE versions 6 through 11 contain a major vulnerability that could allow a remote user to execute arbitrary code on a vulnerable system.

The problem with dumping IE is that too many web pages are written specifically - and, I think, stupidly - for IE. Even though Microsoft insists on mucking about with the Graphical User Interface (GUI) with every new version, IE still has most of the bells and whistles most users think they want.

Cern contends that "By convincing a user to view a specially crafted HTML document (e.g., a web page or an HTML email message or attachment), an attacker may be able to execute arbitrary code. However, it added “we are currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem.
The simple a answer to the IE problem - at least for those who cannot or will not abandon IE, is to install software that checks requested web sights on the fly and both blocks and warns users that the desired site may be dangerous. Add some user common sense . . .

There are a number of very good software applications that can do the job; two I can recommend are AVG and Avast!. They "play together nicely" and can coexist on the same machine; unlike some better known applications that insist on exclusive access to the machine.

If replacing IE is an option, there are several worthwhile browsers available for free download: Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome to name but two.



I'll make my prejudice know up front: I don't like having applications - or data files - available only in/on/from a cloud.

There are a number of what I consider good reasons to look for cloudless skies.

    ONE: Internet connectivity is required. No internet, no applications and no retrieval of data files - word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, et al.

    TWO: No guarantee a commercial cloud will be there when you need it. Businesses - especially in the world of bits and bytes - come and go between blinks of an eye. The Apples, Microsofts, Googles, and a few others are exceptions to the rule.

    THREE: Some cloud apps have to be purchased.

There are numerous application suites that offer everything Microsoft Office offers and they are available for free. Gratis. Some even run on the free Ubuntu/Linux operating system. (Windows and Mac OS X are operating systems; an operating system is required to run applications.)

The free OpenOffice suite runs on Windows boxes, Mac machines, and GNU/Linux platforms. OpenOffice is able to import Microsoft Office files and files created in OpenOffice can be opened/edited in Microsoft Office applications. OpenOffice seems to have everything MS Office has.



If email is via a Microsoft Exchange server, there are few options, the main one being Thunderbird. Pegasus Mail won't connect to Exchange, but it is highly rated by Tech Republic as an app that will protect you from even the worst HTML-borne viruses and exploits. Both Thunderbird and Pegasus Mail are free.

The bottom line is that no one should feel wed to Microsoft products. There are alternatives. But if you are thinking cloud-based applications such as offered by Google and its Chrome machine are the answer, let me suggest that while the cloud might be OK for file backup (I still prefer an external hard drive), sans connectivity, the backup will be useless. No connectivity = no access to the cloud.