Monday, September 30, 2019

4503 The Medical Office

Patients patiently waiting for their 9 o’clock appointments

Patients patiently waiting for their 9 o’clock appointments
 The guy who designed the interior of the Mountainside Medical Center Building deserves a special place in hell.  The halls are twisted. They are contra intuitive. They are pedestrian unfriendly and confusing.
Mountainside is not the only medical place like that. Time was you got to sit in the doctor’s waiting room where you could catch what everyone else jammed in carried. The waiting room was right next to the exam room. Open the door, turn right or left and there you were.
Not so today. First you check in.  They ask do you have your insurance card? You say yes and wait.  Then they ask you if they may see it.  You comply. They look at it. They look at you as if to check if you’re the person in the photo ID, but there are no photo IDs on most insurance cards.  They check anyway. 
And then, they tell you to take a seat in the waiting room and “someone will be with you shortly.”  This never varies. It’s like you need to memorize the line during your first semester at Famous Medical Clerks’ Institute.
It’s like the waiters who always ask to clear your dinnerware by saying “let me get these out of your way,” and who respond to your order by saying either “no problem” (class of ’18 at Famous Table Workers’ University or “perfect!” (class of ’19.)  This provokes one of two possible questions:
1.  What WOULD be a problem? Or
2. Have you tried the Fryed Oysters and Broccoli with chocolate sauce?
Back to Mountainside.  You sit and wait. Finally someone shows up carrying paper work and calls your name. First name if you’re a woman, Mr. so-and-so if you’re a man. 
You follow her (it’s almost always a “her) through a labyrinth that leads to a maze that leads to a group of exam rooms from which, eventually, you’ll need a St. Bernard with a cask hanging from his neck to lead you out.
Then, the medical third degree.  While Kindly Old Doc had your records on a pack of dog-eared 3x5 cards, it’s now on a computer.  And there’s never a day when the nurse or aid can’t say “sorry for the delay, the computer is running slow today.”  Three by five cards never “run slow.”
“Any change in your medicines?”
You mean since two days ago when we were most recently here?”
You go through your litany of medical complaints and then the data entry clerk tells you “The doctor will be with you shortly.”  It’s plain that data entry clerks have also attended Famous Intake Clerks’ Institute.
Again, you wait. Then, there’s a knock on the door and enters… you thought I was going to say the doctor. Think again. It’s a student in the Physicians Assistant school.  Surprise! Even more of a surprise, he or she is personable, attentive, sympathetic and as thorough as any MD who ever has looked you over.
The student takes notes. That’s what students do. Then he consults with the doctor who eventually shows up, examines you – often less thoroughly than the student assistant and confirms the diagnosis.
He says “Hmmm.”  Every doctor says “hmmm.” There’s a course in hmmm at every medical school from lofty Harvard to Ace Autobody U.  He says he’s going to give you the new wonder drug Gladex that you see advertised every ten minutes on TV. Gladex is a pill to make you feel happy.  And he gives you the prescription, but not the medicine.  That, you have to pay for.
Actually, he doesn’t even give you the prescription. He sends an electronic version to your drug store.
Then you go to checkout. If you can reverse your way out of the maze and then the labyrinth.  They no longer allow St. Bernards in medical facilities.
Your parting thought is “where did I park.”
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments?  Send ‘em to
© WJR 2019

Friday, September 27, 2019

4502 Enough!

4502 Enough!

Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this ... as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.” -- Fictional olive oil importer Vito Corleone.

It’s time to impeach president trump. We’ve put up with this un-elected madman long enough. It’s going to take forever and a day to undo the damage -- if ever we can.

And, yes, yes, the Senate will never convict and remove and that doesn’t matter. Why? Because the Republicans in the Senate will expose themselves as the cowards and unindicted co-conspirators that they are.

McConnell? Enjoying the quadrupling of his net worth over the last two years? How’d THAT happen?  Someone should form an Internal Affairs Division like the cops do.  The question is how does a Senator on a salary in the $200,000 range live the kind of lifestyle Moscow Mitch does.

Romney? The supposed voice of traditional republicanism? ‘C’mon. He waffles like box of Eggos and does nothing.  The best he can do is call all this stuff “troubling.”  Mitt! Tripping over an untied shoelace is troubling.  A moderately long power failure is troubling. Psoriasis is troubling. This is not that. It’s worse.  It’s much worse.

Those are two Senators whose names everyone knows. But kick over any rock and you’ll find some worm you haven’t heard of but whose support empowers, enables and facilitates the damage that’s done to America and to American values with every breath the president takes and with every Twitter tweet.

As with Nixon, the corruption is in the coverup. In this case, trump is said to have frozen promised aid to Ukraine.  Later, he and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone and Mr. art of the deal at the very least allowed him to infer that the funds wouldn’t thaw until Ukraine investigated Joe Biden and his son Hunter and came up with some dirt.

Biden is the opposition candidate trump most fears. And with good reason.  For all his flaws, he’s likely the most electable of the possible Democratic candidates.

So, what, here is an impeachable offense?  Let all those people with law degrees figure it out.

Enough of this madness.  Enough of embracing our enemies and screwing our allies.  Enough of embracing people with enough money to buy their own countries and screwing the working man and women that live in yours and mine.

Enough of breaking up families and caging the children.

Enough of the nominator of incompetent and unqualified cabinet secretaries.

Enough of nominating Supreme Court Justices who can’t keep their pants on.

Enough woman bashing.

Enough payoffs.

Enough lies.

Enough self enrichment extracted from anyone who wants an audience with his holiness.

Enough multimillion-dollar golf weekends.

Enough of the birther, the caller of names, he who rallies and riles the brain dead.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments?  Send ‘em here:
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

4501 A Lesson from Venus

4501 A Lesson from Venus

And a message.  Here’s the message: Screw with the environment and it will screw you back.  According to new reports, Venus, described as “hellishly hot,” may once have been able to support life as we know it.  

The authoritative website reports this finding based on information gathered by NASA explorations.  There once “may have been” water.  There “once may have been” air.  And since all this supposedly lasted for several billion years, it’s possible life was formed.

No one knows what happened, but today Venus’ daytime temperature is pretty steady at almost 900 degrees F.  That’s hot enough to incinerate that layer cake in your oven in about two seconds.  Pretty easy to work up a sweat.  If you live long enough. Say five minutes.

Today, human beings would expire faster than fruit flies on earth.  Venus is the second rock from the sun and the brightest thing in the heavens you can see with the naked eye.  

So change happens over time.  Over LONG time. So what are we worried about here on earth, after all, the icecaps may be melting, the ocean rising and the sun getting hotter.  But … well… it takes a long time to change. 

But what if “now” is late in our remaining time.  What if we’re in the spot Venus was in a few billion years ago when it turned into the Rock of Hell?

This space has long advocated prospective rich people to buy land in and around Cincinnati where we expect the Atlantic coast to be located sooner or later.  That’s half-joking. But only half.

Note to readers: we’ll have plenty to say about impeachment on Friday, 9/27.  Meantime, thanks for waking up, Ms. Pelosi.  And let the real republicans jump ship. The rest of America welcomes you home from that cruise to oblivion.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments?  Send ‘em here:
© WJR 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019

4500 The Analog Revolution

Attention, music lovers. Clicks, pops and skips are back along with a whole new world of vinyl records.  So are portable typewriters.  Vacuum tubes.  Even carburetors could be making a comeback, although that’s uncertain.  And that old adding machine or cash register in your attic or basement might be worth big bucks.

No one has yet reissued that little 45 RPM record changer. Granted, it’s a niche item, but it does something few other analog devices do… lets you assemble your own playlist.

You pick the records, stack ‘em in the order you want to hear them, pull the little start switch and… voila! Your playlist plays. No commercials. No free trials. No complicated websites.  You don’t even have to tune a radio.

Here’s another analog device that no one’s thought of reviving yet, the icebox.

Every convenience store and supermarket sells ice by the bag.  You become your own Iceman Cometh. You get cold food, a fridge that’s more energy smart than any plug-in refrigerator. Your electric bill and carbon footprint reduce.  You don’t need a mechanical ice cube dispenser because you already have the cubes.  You can always stash a (glass) bottle of water in the box, so you don’t need a cold water dispenser. And there are no moving parts to wear out.  Remember, Sears will be out of business before you know it, and who’s left to fix your old Kenmore two-door? You won’t be able to get the parts and neither will Bob’s Appliance Repair around the corner.

Eggbeaters, meat grinders, washboards and percolators are all available.  So are Zippo lighters and box cameras that use (gulp!) film. 

There’s a growing market for vintage analog office supplies: USA-made Swingline staplers, thumbtacks, file cabinets, real folders made of real paper.

The same is true-ish about construction equipment and accessories like low-power walkie talkies, manual post-hole-diggers, hammers, screwdrivers and brace-and-bit drills.

Analog! It’s not just for old folks and record collectors anymore.

-“I haven’t had a cellphone in two years.” -- Simon Cowell

Price of a pretty good smartphone: between $300 and $500.
Price of the latest/greatest smartphone $1,000 give or take.
Price of a flip phone: $50.
Price of a budget level point & shoot digital camera: between $20 and about $200.
Price of a 1950s RCA 45 rpm record changer:  Under $200 when available.
Price of an icebox: Give or take $500.

So, if you skip the smartphone and go for a flip phone, buy a budget camera and a 45 rpm record changer you’ll have enough money left over for the icebox and a good night out at the corner diner. And best of all, you’ll be sticking it to the tech-for-tech’s-sake crowd.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send ‘em here:
© WJR 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mini 008 Random Numbers

Looking back over the past few months, we find our number system bollixed to the point of complete confusion.  

Hence, we’re going to start over from scratch starting Monday.
That post will be marked #4500.  The number was picked at random from the graphic above.  There’s no real reason for it, but it’s going to be easier to keep things in order.

The numbering committee first wanted “Vol.2 No. 0001.” That’s too complicated and it was overruled by the Deputy Managing Editor who was on a power trip when some fool left him in charge.  But he probably was right.

Numbering is just a housekeeping help, anyway. And as we all know, it’s tough to find good help these days. (We’ll also be looking for a new Deputy Managing Editor. The current guy is going to be promoted to his level of incompetence where he’ll probably self-destruct.  He’s going to become Director of Facilities Management, a job for which he is singularly unqualified.)

© WJR 2019 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

2030 Shoot at the Clouds but Expect Only a Drizzle

2030 Shoot at the Clouds but Accept only a Drizzle
 \Can anyone figure out the meaning of a medical bill?  Patient A was billed 76-thousand dollars as of the end of last month.  Blue Cross paid 14-thousand. The patient paid 16-hundred.

You’d think this would be for fixing every bone in the body… or excising a cancerous brain tumor.  Nope. Just routine stuff. Fixing this or that which moved out of place or removing easily reached faulty tissue.

Remember the TV series and the movies, “The Six Million Dollar Man?”  They ran in the 1970s.  Colonel Austin, the lead character had six million dollars’ worth of replacement parts. Six million in today’s money?  They’d have to rename the series “The 380-Million Dollar Man,” and that’s with an average annual inflation rate of under two percent a year.

If the Six Million dollar guy went into the hospital this year, parts providers would add an extra 22 million.  So maybe the name should be the 402-million dollar man.

That’s the bad news.  The good news is that no one pays list price, even though it seems we do. The sticker price is fiction.

Except for things like aspirin at 50 cents a pill that sells in MegaMart for two bucks per hundred.  And TV rental.  If Dish or Cablevision charged you at hospital rates, your $100 a month bill would range in the low four figures.

It’s a wonder that they don’t charge you for every push of the emergency call button.  There have been reports that if it’s a routine nursing need you will be charged one fee.  Urgent would be available at a higher price and impending death would cost even more.   They don’t do this yet, but it’s only because they haven’t figured out how to make the call button multitask.  The airlines are working on a similar device for calling the flight attendant. 

Then there’s coding.  Coding is what determines what the insurance company will pay for getting you repaired.  Every tiny procedure has a code number… a secret code number.  The data entry clerk knows what they mean or can look them up in The Random House Dictionary of Secret Medical Codes (also available via subscription on the internet.)

You don’t have one of those books or websites. Sometimes the information leaks, though.  Here’s one example. The medical code 408B-63554a is a new travel pack of generic paper tissues. 408N-63554b is one that’s been opened by someone else. “A” costs $15.00. “B” is available for $13.50 if it’s no more than half used.

So billing is a combination of secret codes, manual data entry, enormous prices no one expects to be paid and the at-cost delivery of an itemized bill that runs more than ten pages, as many do.

By now you may be asking “isn’t there a way around this? Something simple to follow and to question?” Of course not. They’ll keep seeding the clouds and take what they get. If you’re lucky.
But like so much else these days, don’t be surprised if people are staying up nights to think of something worse.

Remembering two fine reporters who passed away Monday. Sander Vanocur, 91 and Cokie Roberts, 75. He of the effects of dementia, she of complications of cancer.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Comments?  Send ‘em to
© WJR 2019

Monday, September 16, 2019

2929 Honest Abe, Moscow Mitch and Rudy

You’d like to die rich, right?  One of the best ways to do that is to retire as a successful politician.  Can you name many recent ones who died poor? If you can, it’s probably because they squandered the loot they got after leaving office.

Of course, some rake in the money while still in office.  But let’s discount those because we want to count only the honest Abes, not the Moscow Mitches.

The best real job in the world is ex-president of the United States.  You get retirement bucks, get to charge a lot for giving speeches, write books which don’t often sell but you get to keep the inflated advances.  The Secret Service protects you and yours.  Where else can you legally be treated like that except maybe in the witness protection program?

Members of congress often turn into lobbyists, often for causes they claimed to oppose while in office.  Of course, they can’t just jump ship and start lobbying.  They are legally required to ease into things.  One noted defeated US Senator from an important eastern state formed a strategic consultancy.  He’s rolling in dough. Perfectly legal. And he went right from the Senate to the new job.

And then there’s America’s Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, the pretend New Yorker now working on yet another divorce… from a woman he’s been married to for 16 years.  

When Garden City-raised Rudy made the previous divorce announcement at a news conference, he was still married to his previous wife who hadn’t yet gotten the memo.

The current battle is being fought in public, because if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be Rudy, early on described by Jimmy Breslin as “A small man in search of a balcony.”

The guy is up to his nose in dollars.  To the point, says the NY Times, that he’s working hard to reduce his income so as to pay lower alimony.  His target figure is somewhere between three and six million dollars, down from about three times that only a few years ago.

What does he do for all that money? Sorry… that’s classified.  But he did serve trump without pay which is okay because trump often doesn’t pay even people who do charge for their service.

But back to Rudy. Of course, we all believe that his current “very good friend” is just, well, a very good friend. Can’t be any hanky panky, right? After all, the woman is the mother of one of his employees.  At least he’s dating in his own demographic. Oh, wait! Did I say “dating.” My mistake.

--A man burned down a 117-year-old synagogue in Duluth, MN. Nothing left. The police say it wasn’t a hate crime.

-In solidarity with our worker brothers and sisters at GM.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

2028 Bolton Unbolted

Can you imagine anyone in public life who’s more of a Cuckoo clock than the cuckoo-in-chief? Well, even as our collective national intellect contracts there’s a glimmer of hope. Or to paraphrase 21st Century philosopher Stephen Colbert put it -- A stupid president has saved us from a very smart warmonger.

But don’t get all happy just yet. We still have trump and probably still have John Bolton, too.  Probably sooner than you think he’ll pop up on Fox news, hammer in hand, mustache akimbo. Rupert and his sons have issued an ultimatum: “If you want this guy back on the air, wand him for metal before you let him past the lobby desk.”

The man of a thousand fuses is sparkling and ready to get back into the fray.

This is not a new topic for this space. We’ve long been a fan of Bolton’s. Here’s an example from March of 2011:  

--Nutcase former UN Ambassador and possible Presidential candidate John Bolton says the US should kill Gaddafi.  Good thinking, John.  Any decent hit men on your payroll these days, or did you want to do this job yourself?

Another from April of this year
“We’ll be talking to John Bolton in a different capacity.” -- President Trump explaining why he chose respected general H.R. McMaster as national security adviser over the scary former UN ambassador who 
might as well re-polish his resume because the quote translates into “hit the road, Jack.”

How did we think that was going to be the president’s durable thought?

 That’s a mere two examples. There have been at least nine mentions or full length stories since 2009.

Get out the wrench and un-bolt him.

“There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the UN… Building lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a difference.” (He was UN Ambassador at the time.)
“I think the international criminal court could be a threat to American security interests.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I would love to be President.”
“I am not a neo-conservative.”
“To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”
“We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction.” (He was W. Bush’s arms control guy at the time.)

--The Democratic Presidential debate put ten of the “leading” candidates in the televised spotlight.  Some called it a ten-way tie. At least Biden looked mostly like the front runner the polls say he is.

--The one liner of the night goes to businessman Andy Chang, who in discussing healthcare said “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” It went over everyone’s head including the Wise Men and Woman of ABC News who were running the show.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please send comments to
© WJR 2019

4745 An Ounce of Cure

  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...