Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Nice peoples

My friend Mass Marrier has been known to rant a little on bicycles. His comments are generally right, particularly when he speaks of two things: the purblind idiocy of most American public policy toward bicycles as transportation, not children's toys; and how the existence of anything human-powered on two wheels brings out the asshole in the majority of Massachusetts drivers.
(I wasn't born here either, so I don't think that asshole is very deeply buried.)

Now that I'm back on the bike for commuting, I've been reminded that there is another form of idiocy afflicting adults on bicycles: the nice people.

The obverse of the coin of disdain for cyclists is represented by the asshole effect. The nice people are the reverse. Like the assholes, the nice people assume that if you are on a bicycle you, not they, are lacking something in the upper storey. The nice people offer a new spin on Richard Ballantine's hypothesis that you on a bicycle are invisible to drivers. The nice people can see you, but they cannot figure you out. This is sometimes true of the assholes, too, but the assholes project and figure that if they don't have a clue, it's your fault. Being innocent of the law, the nice people think: "bicycle: mind of a ten-year-old. Treat the cyclist like a child."

At one point on my route, I leave a bike path and immediately execute a 90 degree turn right to get to the street crossing, then execute a 90 degree left. This slows one down, especially on fat tyres. The nice people, meanwhile, stop as soon as I exit the bike path. They hold up two lanes of traffic until I've completed my gymkhana maneuver and regain forward motion. The nice people certainly don't understand my scowl as I get underway.

Lest one think this is an argument against bike paths, much the same happens in traffic. When I want to make a left turn, I signal left, hog my lane, and put a foot down to stand if necessary. I expect... demand... that traffic in the opposite lane should keep moving until it's clear for me. Noo! The nice people arrive and stop dead as my bracing foot hits the ground, then don't understand that I don't exactly do 0-60 in 3.2 seconds.

I think I'll resort to a tactic that served me well in my younger cycling days: wait. You, nice person, have the right of way. I am a vehicle obligated by the laws of the Commonwealth to yield the right of way. I'll wait until hell freezes over to see if you get the point.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Worn, Part Deux

I don't suppose anyone else is losing sleep over this, but I passed the CPC exam, and so have my first instalment of medical alphabet soup.

In my august establishment, two of the four who sat the exam passed.

I admit I am thinking about ways to beef up my alphabetic credentials. My offspring can boast "PT, DPT, CCI" and a some others I can't remember. It would not do for dad to be a slacker in this department.

Where are the fricken witnesses?

First, I've returned to a point in life where I can take alcoholic refreshment.
Second, it may be the weeks of deprivation, but I'm branching out. Last week it was May bock.
This week, when I visited my favourite Salem bistro even sans spouse, it was wheat bock. A very creditable bock it was, too.

And there is no one to record my adventures in bock-land but Michael the principal barkeep.

Oh, the humanity!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bad Dreams

Once again, I drift into the perilous waters of politics.

The other night, I had one of those annoying nightmares that one cannot dismiss simply by waking up. When one falls asleep again, there's the nightmare again, in full flower.

Now, I find out it isn't a nightmare. Mitt Romney is really on McCain's Vice Presidential list

I wonder how many times I have to awaken and fall asleep again before this vapid nightmare goes away.

We can hope for two things: First, that someone can convince both Clintons that it isn't 1992 anymore. Second, that McCain remembers why it was that his previous attitude toward Mitt was based in a detestation that was (to borrow from Churchill) "spontaneous, unaffected, and sincere."

I am earnestly hoping for a Republican Vice-Presidential candidate who would even be a tough sell to Moses. There appear to be some genuine candidates. If you give Mitt an hour, though, he'll out-wingnut them all.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

My spouse has long had this quest to turn our yard into a natural New England habitat. The best part of this is that the natural habitat keeps the lawn part to a minimum, manageable with a human-powered motor. Next, she insists on doing the mowing. I gave up with an appropriate struggle. It's still an unequal division of labour: I can't persuade her to take up exterior painting, roofing, carpentry or masonry.

A few years ago, she began to nurture genuine New England back lot brush piles. We have what passes for a large lot in this town, so we have room for such luxuries, along with a small barn and a couple of sheds. The previous owner did the junk car part of the habitat to perfection, and I haven't had the nerve to suggest that our own '65 Dart on blocks, or a rusty tractor, would complete the picture.

The habitat duly began to attract flora--in the form of native plants moving back in--and fauna, ranging from a pleasing variety of bird life, lots of squirrels, the occasional skunk and possum, and numerous woodchucks. It amazed me that all these critters could make a living in a densely-populated suburb. When the woodchucks arrived, my wife was thrilled.

She forgot the part of nature that says, "when you create habitat for prey, you create opportunities for predators."

Enter the fox: I should say, the Fox family. We now have Ms. Fox and, I believe, five kits, all making a living in our neighbourhood. Close observation suggests the foxes are all quite normal and healthy, but there's motivation to keeping cats and smaller dogs indoors. (A large cat or small dog could probably hold off a fox, but not without being badly damaged. To mess with a fox you need something at least the size of, say, a foxhound.)

Today, Wild Kingdom arrived at our doorstep. My spouse arrived home from work to surprise the fox at dinner on our neighbour's lawn. Dinner was one of the woodchucks. After we broke off a prolonged staring contest, the fox finally got a firm grip on the remainder of the woodchuck and slipped off someplace quiet in our natural New England habitat. That's a big kill for a fox. Ms Fox and kits could den up and eat for a couple of days, or just stash the kill until it's good and ripe. The same neighbour keeps an open compost heap. The indications are that the foxes enjoy vegetables or salad with their entree, dug from the compost heap.

As long as we can maintain a buffer zone and keep off the Myopia Hunt Club in full panoply, I'll watch the show with interest.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Geezer peeve du jour

Department of easy deductions. The genius responsible for designing those clever wobbly letters that one is supposed to key in here (and elsewhere) for comments et al is about 19 with 20-20 vision.

I am 61 with far from 20-20 vision. These things are fuckin hard to read!

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A nod to Bike Week

It really wasn't a plan. It's just that I'm well enough, and the weather is decent enough, that I can ride to work at last.

So it's not a perfect score to date. Three days last week. So far this week one day walking and one riding, plus one in the Vibemobile because of an out-of-town meeting. I should get one more ride in tomorrow before the clouds close in.

It's no huge ride, but it gets me started. The story goes that the company will move to someplace 5-6 miles away in a couple of years. That would be fine. By then, I'd be ready to get on the road machine and do a real daily ride: it's something to look forward to.

Tired of this

I am what you might call a social fan of the NFL. I watch the games to spend quality time with my spouse, who has an inexplicable interest in pro football. It also gives me an added topic of conversation at work when there is no baseball.

Know what? I'm fucking tired of all of the alleged taping scandal. What we have here is a practice that was, until this year, at least licit for any NFL team. The one team that broke the rules, once, after the rule was changed, has been rightly stomped. It happens to have been the local franchise. The story should be over, over, over.

This would not be any deal at all if they had not won so much in the preceding several years.

We also have the spectacle of a possibly demented, possibly bought, Pennsylvania senator who pitifully keeps trying to beat a dead horse. The people who allegedly bought him, the cable sports media, keep shoveling money at this fool. I don't think they believe any of this crap, either. They are just too lazy or stupid to find their stories ethically. They will keep buying the spectre until he is too comatose to be bought, just to make noise.

Besides the senile senator and the lazy, stupid media, we have the critical mass of NFL fans, most of whom can't be trusted to tie their own shoelaces. They will keep drooling about a story like this as long as there is an ESPN to encourage them.

Let us imagine for a moment what would be going on if it had been either the Pittsburgh Steelers (who did tape) or the Philadelphia Eagles (who probably did) who had been caught at this foolishness. It is hard to imagine the spectre being so self-righteous.

Thanks very much, but I'm reserving my fall attention for college football. It has its own set of mistakes, but most of them (save the BCS idiocy) are human ones. And if the spectre doesn't shut up, and if he is still alive to run for re-election, I'll contribute to his opponent.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One down, one to go

Long before Julio Lugo darkened the doors of Fenway Park, there was Julian Tavares. I grant that the unlamented Heathcliff Slocumb was in a class by himself as dismal pitchers go, but Julia(n) seemed determined to give him a run for his money. No talent, and an overall appearance that suggested the Red Sox had resorted to grave-robbing to fill out the pitching roster.

And as a starter, for far too long: what were they thinking?

This was a pitcher capable of defeating the Red Sox if the other team didn't even bother to show up. The welcome news of his release has finally come. Oh Frabjous joy!

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More Unkindness for Julie

It is unseemly of me to poke fun at signs of brain injury, but hey, this is Julio Lugo we're talking about. That he's out of the lineup for a concussion would be a source of deep concern were we discussing anyone else, however:
  • the probable injury is rare evidence that Julie has a brain
  • second, Jed Lowrie gets to show off
With all respect to Mr. Lowrie, I have a cat who could play shortstop better than Julie.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I spent the larger part of the daylight hours today sitting a certification exam for medical coding. This is a piece of my educational puzzle that I've put off for three years. Now I have an employer who will actually pay for me to do this. That's a trip, along with having an employer who values technical skills of any kind.

I sure as hell hope I passed, because I'd rather not do it again.

I have friends who have somehow convinced themselves that medical coders are some kind of low-end bookkeepers snapping gum to keep themselves awake, and that it's an occupation about equal to a Wendy's fry cook in complexity.


Medical coders are the only data analysts I know of who have to tackle the business at both ends. Rather than just auditing and decyphering data, they have to create the data itself from abstruse (at best) to incoherent (at worst) clinical narratives. They get the delightful privilege of kicking the godlike physicians in the shins and reminding them that if they can't make a case for what they said they did to the coders, they are sure as hell not going to convince the data analysts and auditors at Blue Cross or Medicare. This means they won't get paid.

Oh, it's as easy as cooking fries, all right. To turn that narrative into information that billers can use, coders need to be familiar with two entirely different data systems. The hard-copy version of one comes in two volumes totaling the size of the Boston yellow pages. The other is in four volumes, altogether larger than the New York City yellow pages. The two systems combined include, as I recall, over15,000 individual codes. Imagine for a moment the number of mathematically possible combinations: Uh-huh. Did I mention that the smaller one gets updated four times a year? And that in a year or two, a major update of the larger one is due, which will be twice as large? Even coding software is hard put to keep up with this. The best products are in a state of permanent upgrade that makes even my anti-virus software look comparatively staid.

In the big book (called ICD-9), the codes related to diabetes alone fill almost an entire page, two columns of exceedingly fine print. It is no good being nearly right, because the people who pay the bills, here and in other countries, don't shell out for nearly right. In the smaller set (called CPT or HCPCS), coding options for pacemakers fill over three pages. Ever go to the doctor to have a skin lesion removed? Integumentary lesion codes have the better part of a large chapter all to themselves.

All this explains why I'm a bit worn and cranky tonight, having spent five hours unraveling 150 of these brain teasers with one five-minute break*. It takes a certain twist of the grey matter to like this, and I suppose I have it: it's cryptography with ka-ching at the end. In a normal day's work, one gets coffee breaks, trips to the head, lunch and chit-chat. Even the most absorbing work can come in overdoses.

*Disclaimer. People taking this exam (the CPC) have the option of two breaks up to a total of 20 minutes. I was so slow getting my momentum back after the first break (like Wakefield on an off night) that I decided to skip the second and work until I finished or dropped. It was close.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Don't be kind just yet

Some unnamed people of my acquaintance have been waffling and about to cut Julio Lugo some slack.

Then we have performance's like last night's. Granted he didn't screw things up on his own (Wild Thing!! What happened?) but at certain moments this guy sets the tone.

Oh Julie!!! Want to try softball? (Right...they'll kill ya.)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not ready for the Tour de France

So here we are. It's the moment I've awaited for years, when I can get on the bike to commute again. Determined, yes. Fast? Not so much.

My style. already rusty, has been cramped by one of those absurd injuries that come with advancing years. I would like to tell the world that I strained my trapezoid whilst training for something like the International Co-ed wrestling competition.

Alas, I strained it reading in bed.

It's edjumacational, or it would be for the various sorts of sports snobs who sneer that bicycling is "just a lower-body workout." Uh-huh. That would explain why my first act on getting to work these past couple of mornings is to reach for the ibuprofen and swallow a handful. Sorry, you can't ride without involving a good part of your body (including the trap) which is why I've missed commuting this way.

Stop? Hell no. I am cutting out my proposed decent-length routes in favour of the direct, 12 minute quickie until this gets under control. I appreciate the company ibuprofen, but I'd rather have a massage break.