Saturday, June 27, 2009

the King of Poop the 24 hour a day news coverage of Micheal Jackson's continued death I start wondering: just what is it we are so upset about?

I see all these crowds of adults bawling over his passing... and flashbacks to said adults in orgasmic ecstasy just seeing this guy walk down the street under his eunuch's umbrella... or dancing on a car roof. Now, my musical tastes are so cemented in the '70s that I just never connected to this guy musically. Sorry. It just doesn't do anything for me. Outside his top 40 bubblegum pop, he was an (alleged) drug addict and (alleged) child molester. Financially he is someone that made $20 million annually and managed to still be continually broke and bankrupt. I'm no psychologist, but I think it's pretty easy to say from a distance that he had some serious problems that led to (minimally) anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder and the previously mentioned (alleged) substance abuse. He was beloved by the black community... yet continually seemed to show his hatred of his own race by trying to become white.

Now, I didn't necessarily want to see ill come to him, but still... remind me: why are we so upset?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If superheroes really existed...

Clickificate to Embigenify

What's up with Docs?

[Editorial note: my one professional critic would tell me "it's too long" (if she's still reading this). Yeah, sorry.
And it might be a little... over emotional. Yeah, sorry.
As these things often do, this ball of bile built up from a Facebook discussion on socialized medicine .... oops, I mean Universal Health Care. They're different. Really. No, really. Hey, look, a bird.]

Well, sure... we should totally regulate medicine. It's just a bunch of money grubbing, Porsche driving bastards that hold us hostage for our own health and close their office 2 days a week so we can pay them to play golf. Socialize the bastards...
...not so fast there, Bub. This seems to be the general consensus. But -- as someone that grew up in a doctor's house, if you feel this way, you might just be... wrong. And I don't mean a little wrong.
Let me give you a character sketch of the guy in the white coat. You probably see him one time for 15 minutes... and you're already crabby because the magazines in the lobby are 14 months old and are were not a subject matter that is in the least bit interesting. You're sitting there naked under a rustly paper smock and you aren't feeling good in the first place or you wouldn't be here. So let's meet Dr. Joe Average, shall we?
A doctor is the ultimate small businessman. He's like an electrician or a plumber -- except maybe not quite as wealthy.[1] He runs a very small business. In the old days it was just Dr. Average and one sidekick that played the role of receptionist, secretary, nurse and billing department. Now with the complexities of insurance, government rules, FDA, HIPAA, Medicare, Medicaid.... Now it's more likely that the small business has dedicated salaried positions for each of those roles. It's just more complicated.... Not the actual healing part, but the business of healing. And unfortunately that adds tremendously to the cost of health care. But I am sure some sort of Presidential edict or some nice Congressional reform will somehow regulate the business in a way that will allow those 4 positions to go away to reduce costs, right? Or maybe the reform is part of that "job creation" we are always hearing about and we'll get 4 more dedicated resources.
...But we're getting ahead of ourselves. If you want to know Dr. Average, you'll need to go back a ways. Like many of us, Dr. Average went to college. You know all those science courses you hated and bitched about? You remember changing your major just so you didn't have to take so many? Well, Dr. Average had to take lots of them. They were hard. Some so hard that he barely squeaked by... but he squeaked. Those that didn't were weeded out, which was the intent. Following that, he applied to medical school, which is damned hard to get into. He did 4 years there, working some on the side to try to cash flow the whole operation. Next was a year as an intern. He then applies for a residency program where he spends 3 years specializing in surgery. Note that each of these steps is a weed out... and not everyone makes it. People wash out at every step of the way.
During much of that training, he is technically a doctor, but not paid like one. He is paid $25 a month -- yes, per month.[2] For that paltry sum, he works 36 hours on and 12 hours off -- with most weeks being 100+ hour weeks.[3] He is a proud guy and totally against any such nonsense as government sponsored public housing.... Yet, unfortunately that's the only place he can afford to live. Gunshots outside were a regular occurrence. You learn the only way to safely dry clothes is to hang them up inside -- otherwise they'll just get stolen.
Once the hell of the training is over, real doctoring begins... and to be honest, the schedule is pretty similar. A normal week is probably 70 hours. A rough week is 80-100. There is no such thing as night and day. Things happen. The phone rings. He goes. Weekends... well he might get every other one off if he's lucky. But 7 day weeks are pretty normal. People will laugh and poke fun and talk about how his office is closed on Thursdays so he can play golf. But Dr. Average never corrects them. The office is closed so he can schedule surgeries starting at 6 am and lasting until well after his supper is cold.
And lets not forget Emergency Room on call rotation. This is in addition to his regular patients, who pretty much feel they can call him any time of the day or night and he will cheerfully help them. ER on call is another level of hell... another layer of hours that come at odd times and interrupt an already filled schedule. And while we're on the topic of ER on call, I'd like you to think back to all those child rearing memories... to all those family gathering times: Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Easter, 4th of July. There will be none of those memories for Dr. Average. For the first 20 years of his career he will almost always find himself holding the on call pager during traditional holidays. In fact, this is the supreme sacrifice Dr. A faces. Many of these interruptions are normal everyday folks that are super grateful for his work, but they are just as likely to be drunks, prison inmates, wife beaters and drug addicts. But it doesn't really matter if they are a drug addict or the mayor -- they all trump the holiday.
Due to the life and death nature of his work, he never gets the time he wants with his wife and kids. And by the time he has enough seniority to pull a few strings and try to spend the time, the kids will invariably be sullen, snotty, difficult teenagers that don't appreciate him. And he'll just smile and swallow it. They'll be in their mid 20s before they realize what a heroic, hard working, honest man he really is.
On the odd night, he will finally get time away from his super stressful work. Most of us would vegetate in front of a television. But Dr. Average will go and sit in a big overstuffed yellow chair and worry and fret and contemplate on every patient he has in his little black book and when he's done with that he will beat himself up for every patient he couldn't help. Sure, he comes across as sort of quiet and stern, but when no one is looking he sheds tears for those losses, too.
Government sponsored Medicaid for the indigent? Dr. A. really doesn't need that. He gets lots of patients that can't pay at all or maybe just can't pay the full price. He just lets them pay what they can... or nothing at all. Some of them bring him produce or meat they grow themselves. And the bill is marked as paid because that's just the right thing to do. Making people better is a passion. He'd do it for free. Getting paid is just a nice benefit when it works out. This sort of stupid, silly, backwards way of thinking will eventually be impossible. Between tax laws and Medicare and Medicaid and various regulations too numerous to list, this sort of "Just fix them" attitude will become a thing of the past. In fact, at some point folks will start telling him exactly what he can charge for each and every procedure. His desire to fix folks that just can't afford it will prompt him to take trips to places with awful conditions in Africa and Central/South America. Here folks will walk an entire day for his treatment and pay him with nothing but a smile -- a payment he is more than willing to accept.
In fact, government regulation will turn that one man/one jack-of-all-trades secretary shop into a huge paperwork factory that requires 2 additional workers to handle. And the current over-litigious society we live in doesn't mean he possibly will be sued. It means he most probably will be sued some day. You see: people die. Some people die no matter what you do. There might be 5 right choices for treating someone... and all 5 might still not fix them. It's just how it is. We are mortal. And some folks just won't understand that. The real cost of this is that no hospital is going to let Dr. Average walk in their super secret doctors-only back door unless he is fully insured. And that insurance will cost him more than $100,000 a year. Don't you bitch and moan to me that you cannot afford $1000 a month for health insurance. That guy that's treating you is paying 100 times that amount of money just for the right to treat you.
Sure, you see some stereotypical doctor driving a red Ferrari and living in a 42 room villa. And you think "He's gotten rich off of my ills." But I really don't think so. You'd be awfully surprised at just how little he's making after expenses:
  • office space rent in probably one of the higher cost parts of town
  • salaries and benefits for all the office staff
  • equipment for the office
  • malpractice insurance and various and sundry legal fees
And while there are doctors that live that way -- more than likely they either shrewd businessmen with side business ventures or they are living well above their means.[4] Dr. Average has a nice house, but it's not off the scale or opulent. And he's lived there 45 years now that he can afford to live outside government housing. His "BMW" is a squeaky GMC truck that is over 20 years old. He's never played golf in his life. His retirement portfolio is adequate, but it's no more than Joe the retiring plumber or Mike the retiring electrician.
So now, there you sit in your crinkly paper gown, hating this rich son of a bitch for making money off your sickness. You want to regulate his life some more. You want to stick it to him and those awful insurance companies. And I'm here to tell you the saddest news of all: He'll let you. He'll let you because unlike you or I, he doesn't have a job. He has a passion. He can't NOT do what he does. Doctoring is what he is. It's his identity. It's the reason he wakes up in the morning. He'd do it for free and he'd do it for a loss.
This is the guy you want to enslave.


  1. Seriously. You should read The Millionaire Next Door. The author was interviewing the wealthiest folk in America. He expected a bunch of slick doctors, lawyers and investment bankers... and found out the average millionaire was an average Joe that lived within his means.
  2. Oh, sure, you'll say "but that was back then... there's been a whole lot of inflation." Okay, if you do the math then that's $200 a month or $0.50/hour in present dollars. You live on that!
  3. People will argue that this is lunacy. Why would we want them sleep deprived? Well, because they need to figure out that this is how they are going to live for the next 20 years. Sure you can say "just hire more doctors" but if you turn around and bitch about the cost of health care, I'll punch you in the crotch.
  4. If you live in a 3 million dollar house with 100% mortgage your net worth in this venture is still zero.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Ok, first let me say: I know nothing about the folks that write these. But for some reason I have found them to be extremely off beat and funny. I'm not getting a free house or 0.0001 cents a click or anything. Basically this is just a sign that I've had too much time to spend giggling at other people.
  • Your Inbox Is Full Of It - snarky replies to the load of crap well meaning do-gooders are always sending you. Snopes, it is not. This one is new, but it started off just fine.
  • The Problem With Young People Today Is... - I don't know why, but I find this blog to be absolutely hilarious. Maybe it will fade with time, but it's damn funny. Oh, and if you for a minute start taking anything here seriously then ... well, oops.
  • Bad Questions for Yahoo Answers - Whoever said "there are no stupid questions" surely was underestimating the depth of the ocean we call stupid. This is one of those blogs that writes themselves.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quitting the quitting

Even as a quitter I am a quitter.

I officially accepted an offer today. Don't ask me who with -- I just sort of like to keep names and, you know, facts, out of my rantacious musings. Things are much easier when you deal with loose conjecture, rambling, lampoonery and much less subpoenable items. If your curiosity is killing you, look me up in linkedin under less pseudonymous nomenclature. Obviously my geeky interview skills are at least semi passable... or I was the only applicant -- a possibility that is extremely plausible given the narrow scope of my experience and the job description.

I must say it is seriously weird to think of returning to work after almost 3 years of vacation. I know Ellie doesn't necessarily view it as vacation, but I certainly did. I fully expect to think back of the days living in a toolshed as "good times." But life has been on hold for a while -- no significant investment, no house, limited entertainment and toys, hillbilly bifocals... It will be nice to get back on the road to retirement (though my supercool cacti retirement graphs have come really close at times to hitting the target.)

That probably means fewer rants here... and maybe, just maybe -- more entries on house building.

And a big "thanks" to those of you that may have given references -- whether they called you or not. I'll assume they did and you and you alone were the sole reason I got the job. How's that?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who's watching TARP?

...and what the hell is her agenda?

Oh, it's not an actual question -- more of a metaphorical question. I know who's watching TARP. Officially, it's Elizabeth Warren. If you're not familiar with her from the talk show circuits, let me give you the Spork's eye view: She's a Haaavad Law professor that goes on all the talk shows. She comes across as approachable and homey and then goes on to tell us how all the debt we have is just not our fault. It's those wicked credit card companies and marketers and advertisers and banks and all those awful people asking us to spend money and we cannot help ourselves, boo hoo hoo. It just costs sooooo much today as compared to our parents, who had it so good with their backbreaking labor, 1200 square foot houses, 3 fuzzy TV stations and total lack of iPhones. Oh, the humanity. In the richest country in the world, we just cannot earn enough to pay for our poor sad lives. It's not our fault. Someone needs to save us.

Oh, please. And she is the one now chairing the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel. When I've heard her talk about THAT she's livid (of course) trying to find out where the money went. (I'm sure the problem is with the evil companies that got the money, not with the idiots that were dishing it out with a big soup ladle.)

Anyway, the semi-point of this semi-rant is that she's written a new study on bankruptcy due to increased medical expenses in the US. Oh my god, if you read it, you'll find out medical bankruptcies have increased to 70% of all bankruptcies. And oh my god, we're all going to die. We're all going to go broke and it isn't our fault. Someone help us please. Now, I must remind you again: She's a Haaavad Law professor, specializing in bankruptcy. And she's put out previous boo hoo medical bankruptcy studies that have been criticized because the statistics included bankruptcies of which only $1000 were medical expenses.

Her agenda is clearly that the government owes us free health care. So before you swallow any of her bait or shed any tears from her boo hooing, check out this article exposing her ability to lie with statistics. Sure, while medical bankruptcies might now account for 70% of bankruptcies... the actual numbers of medical bankruptcies in the studied period are half -- yes half -- of what they were in previously studies.

Oh, but I'm sure that was an honest mistake, right?

I can't wait to see what her oversight committee will come up with.

[Later edit: a second followup article by the same author.]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Our 6000 year old planet is getting hotter all the time

[Editorial note: I am not actually taking sides on either of the following issues. And I am not really interested in arguing the specifics of either. And, in fact, I am not necessarily even presenting my own arguments here. If that's what you come away with, I didn't get my point across.]

This is a tale of two subgroups. Group number one is extremely right wing politically. And extremely religious. They think anthropomorphic global warming is bullshit. And they have a whole list of reasons:

  • AGW takes an extremely complex climate model with millions of variables and makes finite predictions based on very small fluctuations in a single gas (CO2)
  • AGW is generally politicized science -- and government involvement in science is bad for government and bad for science
  • AGW proponents spout: whether we know if this is real or not, we should do something about it. It cannot hurt. (Pascal's wager)
  • AWG proponents pretend to be science by using the word "theory" in a scientific context when they really mean "hypothesis". Theories, in a scientific context are "reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of that class. ... In general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena." (from Wikipedia). AGW is does not meet these baseline requirements... and is certainly not the simplest explanation.
  • AGW proponents ignore theories of cyclical cooling/warming, sun/oceanic cycles, even though these ideas seem to successfully explain past events and have successfully predicted future changes
  • AGW proponents present a whole list of facts that are, well, not facts. This list is long but examples include: Arctic passage is open now for the first time in history, Greenland has always been an arctic climate and is dangerously melting, polar bears are in decline and are going to become extinct, glaciers everywhere are all melting and getting smaller, etc.
  • One of AGW's biggest hurdles isn't a problem with AGW at all. It is that it is represented by hucksters -- like Al Gore -- who obviously do not believe in AGW as they live a lifestyle that is incompatible with their own teachings and seem to be in the game for their own profit.

Group number two is extremely left wing politically. And generally buys into anthropomorphic global warming. They think intelligent design and religion are bullshit. And they have a whole list of reasons:

  • ID takes an extremely complex model of how we got here with millions of variables and makes a finite conclusion based on one or two things it deems "irreducibly complex."
  • ID is generally associated with politicized religion -- and government involvement in religion is bad for government and bad for religion
  • religious proponents spout: whether or not you believe in god or not, you should try to believe. It cannot hurt. (Pascal's wager)
  • ID proponents pretend to be science by using the word "theory" in a scientific context when they really mean "hypothesis". Theories, in a scientific context are "reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of that class. ... In general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena." (from Wikipedia). ID is does not meet these baseline requirements... and is certainly not the simplest explanation.
  • ID proponents ignore theories of evolution even though these ideas seem to successfully explain past events and have led to further scientific discoveries.
  • Religious proponents present a whole list of facts that are, well, not facts. This list is long but examples include: the world is only 6000 years old, the entire world was destroyed by a flood that covered the entire land mass, radiocarbon dating is inaccurate by billions of years, evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics, etc.
  • One of religion's biggest hurdles isn't a problem with religion at all. It is that it is represented by hucksters -- like Benny Hinn -- who obviously do not believe in religion as they live a lifestyle that is incompatible with their own teachings and seem to be in the game for their own profit.

The failure to generalize will one day make your head asplode.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oh bother

Probably nearing a year ago I noticed was changing... and not necessarily for the better. As I actually use that as a free hosting spot for miscellany -- files and a few scripts -- I figured I might ought to look at the details.

Oh cwap. It appears it is changing so much as to be unusable... and it appears the urls will not seamlessly forward/rewrite forever (if at all when it comes to the seamless part.)

It's odd that the world's leader in internet technology can't figure out you might want a static url that lasts from now until eternity. Or that you might want to use google map API inside some other google web application. (Oh, there are workarounds, but... being a cranky old bastard, I don't like change.)

Anyway, the short bit of this is that bits and pieces will probably be broken here as I move some of the static and some of the very old bits off of googlepages and onto... well, I'll figure that out when I get to it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Geek Interview

I suck at the job interview. I truly mean that from the bottom of my blackened and shriveled heart. And it's my fault, really it is. Self promotion does not come naturally to me... and generally when I see others do their self promotion, my eyes roll back into my head and a little remote control in my head changes the channel to something more interesting.

I also just have, over the years, found absolutely no use for storing detailed, cataloged memories of stuff I have done. From a geek point of view, that data is stored on tape.... and not in one of those tape silos where a mechanized robot hand can grab it and spin it up. No, it is stored off site in a cardboard box in a warehouse on the bad side of town in my brain. And while the tape is probably labeled properly, the box isn't -- and it's on a big ass shelf with about 8000 other unlabeled boxes. And the tape isn't some fancy schmancy reads-almost-as-fast-as-a-disk-drive tape. It is some old 2.5G 8mm Sony video tape that you have to shove into a sometimes flakey Exabyte tape drive.

It's the same reason I do piss poor when fighting with a spouse or girlfriend (and no, dear, I do not mean to imply I have both.) I don't have all my transgressions indexed neatly in an optimized sql database either. It just never seemed that important. Never you mind the fact that the lyrics from every single song I ever heard in the 1970's -- even the ones I didn't like -- are filed neatly in cache and are indexed by artist, title, subject and album cover. I might need that data. Really. I might.

So I don't do well with "You have never been supportive in this relationship" and I don't do well with "Tell me about a time when you overcame conflict in a workplace situation." I don't freaking know. I really don't. I could probably take that as an essay question, take it home, mull it over for a week and write up some long ass bullshit answer and ... it would probably give a 4 out of 5 or better. I mean: that's what school taught me -- if you can write a 5 paragraph BS answer that vaguely dances around the question asked, you get an A+.

Take that philosophy of how school works, let 20 plus years go by without any practice, add a nearly 3 year resume gap, a razor thin area of expertise and 4 cups of introverted[1] and that's where I am now.

Someone needs to sort out a proper method for interviewing geeks. The behavioral interview style just doesn't work. The best interviews I ever participated in involved beer. One was by the pool with a beer... and I worked with him for over 15 years. The other was a weekend kegger in Austin with barbecue, beer and 4 hours of in depth technical screening.[2] Both of these worked for me... and both landed me a job.

  1. Oh crap, the recipe only called for 1 cup. Ooops.
  2. Truth in lending laws require me to mention I worked here one day and quit, but my point was about the interview style, not the job itself.