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Faster, Mr Clark

When I feel embarassed is when I start to complain, I think.

In school, I was younger than everyone in my grade — I thank my parents for getting me into school earlier, but it did make me “smaller”.  nearly-last chosen for sports, last in many competitions, it was not until taking Karate in my last few years of school that I got any sense of being functional.

I’m still not allowed to run, jump, catch, or throw.  It’s unsafe for those around me.

Yeah, I’m clumsy.  Karate makes me “clumsy except in Karate things”.  Dance makes me “not so clumsy while dancing”.

I remember I used to complain while hiking (still do?).  It’s right where I start to feel inadequate that every little gear problem, rubbing pack, sweaty spot gets up my ire.

For me, having the right gear is simply removing complaints from the ordeal.  I do like the feeling, but I don’t like the feeling of having complained, sucking the joy from those around me.

I remember Basic Training: “Faster, Mr Clark, show some effort” (this while I know the hurl is coming: clammy cool cheeks, flushed look, bit dizzy, the bright-flashing-buffalo is making an appearance).  I simply could not excel.

Hiking in the Delaware Water-gap, I had been working out my legs considerably (squats and presses) but my lungs couldn’t keep up.  I remember the bright-flashes, and remember from Basic Training that when I get to 4 or 5 flashes per blink, the crash is coming, so I stopped.  She ridicules me to this day, but you know: I wasn’t complaining, I felt like my quads were singing, charging up the mountain at a crazy pace.  It was beautiful, and I think that’s what sports people feel like.

I remember “bagging 4ks” with Erick, and I remember that I was a bit bitchy.  Near the end, the gear was jelling with me, and my stubbornness kicked in: we had decided on those peaks, and I was going to do them, I just had to push a bit harder considering the way the light was fading.  With crampons in the snow, the charge up a 45-degree slope for “Avalon Peak” was beautiful.  A song in my legs, my very good friend at my back with his endless good mood.

My red/yellow hat holds those memories.  I just with there wasn’t complaining that day.

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Verified By Visa: Encumbrance

What is Verified by Visa?

No one takes responsibility: if you ask the Bank, it’s Visa’s fault; if you ask Visa, it’s your bank’s fault.  If you as the vendor, they say it’s required.  No one will tell you “I decided this”.

Once it’s there, you cannot remove it without canceling your card.

Once active, it affects all your cards.

At any point you cannot enter your password, that’s it, you have no funds.  On ALL cards.  Finished.  Happened to me in Bali, so if you’re thinking “that’s crazy”, try arriving penniless in a beautiful island for a week.  Some fun.

If there’s any fraudulent purchase made, it’s no longer Visa’s fault, nor the vendor’s fault, but we still pay the extra levy to Visa to cover the cost of the occasional fraudulent transaction.

Why do we, as customers, accept this?

Why is it still “We accept Visa” when it’s really “We accept Visa with this extra baggage only” ?

Yes, Mastercard has “seen the light” of this profit-center, and similarly absolves itself of any responsibility by passing it back to the customer.

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Healthcare Reform: Technology: Can Catch Cheaters

The very first clause of the Obama/Biden Healthcare Reform is such an obvious benefit, I really don’t see why there’s so much pushback — except that it would reveal some poor industry practices.  Let me first post a refresher for those who have been too lazy disinterested busy to read a single word of the objectives before posting arguments:

(1) INVEST IN ELECTRONIC HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS. Most medical records are still

stored on paper, which makes them difficult to use to coordinate care, measure quality, or reduce medical errors.

Processing paper claims also costs twice as much as processing electronic claims. Barack Obama and Joe

Biden will invest $10 billion a year over the next five years to move the U.S. health care system to broad

adoption of standards-based electronic health information systems, including electronic health records.  They

will also phase in requirements for full implementation of health IT and commit the necessary federal resources

to make it happen.  Barack Obama and Joe Biden will ensure that these systems are developed in coordination

with providers and frontline workers, including those in rural and underserved areas. Barack Obama and Joe

Biden will ensure that patients’ privacy is protected.  A study by the Rand Corporation found that if most

hospitals and doctors offices adopted electronic health records, up to $77 billion of savings would be realized

each year through improvements such as reduced hospital stays, avoitesting, more appropriate drug utilization, and other efficiencies.


So what’s the big deal of making things efficient?

HIPAA defines the patient-confidentiality regulations, so there’s nothing new.

How about drug/drug conflicts?  This enables an automation that is a second/third set of eyes to support the overworked staff pharmacists who routinely catch drug conflicts in prescriptions.  When they don’t, it’s the patient’s family members who often see what the pharmacist hadn’t seen — too busy, or they had a human moment.  Even as the pharmacy experts to support doctors and nurses who already know a considerable amount of their craft, pharmacists make errors too.

No, it’s the habit that the family members tend to catch that will be stopped: double-booking.  A friend of mine was helping her mother in the hospital, and in addition to the occasional drug conflict she would recognize, she also found that the hospital had booked her mother into three beds at once, or into intensive care but had never moved her nor changed the level of attention that she received.

I have a lot of respect for medical-care professionals be they physical or mental, pre-op, post-op, avoiding-op, OB/Gyn, pediatrician, etc.  Even Bob Bloom, the massive psych nurse, whose size/power and chill nature both helped calm psych patients when they got excited.

I don’t have respect for the little lies that get swept under the rug because no one cross-checks.

…and I don’t respect those who protect liars.

I’m sure that’s a component of the push-back on what’s obviously a good thing, this dragging of the medical information systems into the 20th century, even if we’re now in the 21st.

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Global Affinity

My company is growing quickly, so we were discussing sales countries.

So we discussed Germany, and I remarked that my Passport is accepted in Germany.

We discussed Japan, and of course, my passport works in Japan.

We discussed Brazil, I mentioned that I would gladly learn some portugese and adopt a largely-carnivourous diet.

Is it bad that I seem willing to go anywhere but home?  🙂

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Skittish Visa

May 31 this year, I arrived at Dallas/FortWorth airport, went to the rental agency, and was hoping to get a rental car and go to the hotel to sleep.  The desk agent passed me the phone form a Visa rep, who asked me what county I had lived in 6 years ago (refresher: US has counties, but people think in terms of city and state).  As you can guess, I didn’t know.  All my visa cards were locked at that point.  The woman from Visa said someone would call me real soon; on calling back in a few hours, I spoke to a guy who let me know that “real soon” would be “within 2 days”, but took pity on me stuck in a strange town, and unlocked one card for me to get to the hotel.

What got them so skittish?  I made a purchase in UK, then flew (air tickets purchased on Visa) to Dallas, and tried to rent a car.

They never did called me, I called them back, and I had Google already open.  If you listen to the recording on the call, you hear me say “google.com… one sec… what county is Jersey City in… Hudson.  Hudson county?” to the rep on the phone.  I had fast bandwidth, so my card was unlocked.  He then explained that Visa decided not to call me back because I had a letter in my mail that would prompt me to call Visa when I got home.  I felt that was less than polite, considering I wasn’t going to be home for a another week or so.  How owuls Visa know?  They cannot; it would be nice if they didn’t assume though.

Fast-forward to today: a notice from Apple let me know that my card was blocked sometime last week.  Apparently, Visa tried to call me, twice; they used  a number I have not had on my file for quite a while (nearly as far back as when I lived in Hudson county), or so the eighth person at Visa claims — I spoke to seven people to get to her.  She proceeded to chastise me for speaking to seven other people before her — as if it was my choice.

The security people asked me about Birmingham again — a street in Birmingham or Bellingham.  I’m not sure where that is, but it might be like Illinois, where I lived in Greyslake or Gages Lake or a third name depending on where you look.  Maybe Bellingham is the third name, or the second name for Hudson county.

I do appreciate speaking to George, George, Grace, and Catherine — Visa and Chase have some nice people.  The first person who actually unlocked my cards, I didn’t collect her name, but she had the sweetest Filipino accent, and she was really, really nice.  The other seven was me trying to ask about SMS or email notification of issues, and they kept passing me back and forth because none were really sure, and perhaps it was a (JPMorgan) Chase thing, or perhaps a Visa thing, or perhaps a website thing.

Lynn, however, will someday get what she deserves: a job as a prosecutor in very, very small claims court, where she can Judge-Judy her way through the day.

The good news is that by chastising me for speaking to too many people, Lynn implies that a service exists whereby I can speak to one person, so I’ve asked about that.  I doubt it’s there, but if it is, then I can speak to seven fewer people.

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No, I Don’t Think I’ll Add “Giggles Wilkinson” as a Friend

I don’t think that’s your real name, and although your location/home is “Earth”, I have faith in you, oh anonymous person, that you can be a bit more specific.  And I don’t think the photo of the dog is really you, although your social network profile has scant other details.

…like a friggin clue as to who you are.

The “ignore” button is very near the “accept friend” button.  Your mission is to help sway the mouse pointer.  Think for a moment about achieving your goal.

Perhaps you’ve been given this URL to look at; please read it in entirety, I wrote it for a reason.

I get “Add me as a Friend” pokes and prods daily, and I have the memory of a goldfish.  If I cannot look at the information there and see a reason we know each other, there’s a good chance your social networking ambitions will not be met this time.

Remember: you’re asking me.  For some reason, you think you’ll get enjoyment from interacting with me.  I’m particular, peculiar, and unnerving.  I ask the sideline questions that mainstream is overly afraid or under-ly concerned to ask, and I check your math.

If you really want a piece of that, to interact, then give me a clue as to who you are, where we met, or how we know each other.

Remember: the “cancel” or “ignore” buttons are very near the “accept friend” button.  Your mission is to help sway the mouse pointer to the button you want me to click.  Think for a moment about achieving your goal.

Consider what your profile looks like to an anonymous stranger.  Consider whether there are clues and hints as to who you are, or — contrariwise — whether you appear to be a twitter bug looking for followers at whom they can spam adverts, or a WebCam Girl looking for viewers who have strong credit scores and a brace of credit cards.  Which do you think you appear to be?

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Loose Lips Sink Productivity

Innocent questions can be expensive.

If a person walked into certain tax offices and started making noise, with the travel I’ve done, I’d probably have a long, expensive process of proving that I have indeed paid customs tariffs, taxes, and fees necessary for each country.  There exists considerable risk that each country will lay claim to the same incomes (as the USA does for foreign income) and there will be disagreement on who gets paid on what amount.  That would be expensive.

If you look through your life, there are probably many things you do that look a bit questionable (I love the British term “dodgy”)

I just transferred $11k to the UK; this exceeded the USA $10k limit, so it is into the awareness of some searching computer somewhere.  The IRS probably has an “event” flagged onto my National ID (err.. I mean my Social Security Number).  This will probably flag me to ensure my taxes are checked, if not audited.

If the right risky questions are asked, you might not be able to explain cheaply.

I’ve carried a sword on the street in NYC; this would make me look like a psycho.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand; this would make me look like a sex tourist.

Who were you going with to France?  I see two tickets booked to France… (Wargames, 1983)

As the USA Famous-Person-Suing lawsuits prove, suspicion can be almost as expensive as actually doing something wrong.  The collection of multiple suspicious things, innocent as they might actually be, combine to make one’s life difficult.

Sometimes, my brother’s habit of splitting social groups and barring them from communicating has benefits, but even that habit is suspicious (communication barriers are where two halves of a lie are split).

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Sharing for Most Utilization

The more people who use my stuff, the more used and efficient that stuff becomes.

When I had an apartment in NYC at which I was seldom staying (I was in Beijing often), I told my friends “look, use the place, clean up after, and you must take 24 colour digital photos to show me the fun my apartment is having without me”.  The whole idea is that while I’m out of town, I am getting no use from my place, so why can’t my friends enjoy it?  Besides, strange things (pests, snakes, birds, alligators) move into quiet places, but a well-used apartment gets leaks detected, holes fixed, and enough noise to keep oddness at-bay.  Some friends started calling it “their place” (Hi Rose, Ruth, miss youze) which made me really quite pleased.  My goal was fulfilled even if the 24 photos didn’t always (ever) show up.

My friend’s cousin came by to visit when he was at a customer’s site.  His cousin got a cheap place to stay, made it easier to see the city, and he had an extra guest for dinner.  The world is more fun to see as a group, and cheaper when you can share costs.  This resource — the room — was better-utilized by two.

The “right” or “correct” feeling of reusing something, it’s hard to explain if you don’t feel it.

I used to leave my car keys in easy reach for the people around me.  When I was younger, it was my brother; later, it was housemates, girlfriends, whatever.  A car is very personal to some, but to me, it’s a machine to be well-used (so long as the driver understands the peculiarities of that machine).  My brother scares me a little about the speeds and things he’s done to my car, but it did get more usage, if “rented” or “borrowed” much longer than bargained.

“No, Rick, I didn’t know that my car does 105 mph (169 Km/h) on the Pulaski Skyway (limit: 45 mph), good to hear”

Surprises aside, the most usage we can get from the devices we have, the more efficient that purchase.  I also prefer to pass on my stuff rather than sell, for the recipient might truly want or need that item, but might not have the finances on that day to repay the cost.  Salvage is always half, but the value of friendship and cooperation, and the “right” feeling of sharing and re-use, outweighs lost salvage in laterally-passing an item as gift.

Often, gifts come back when you need them.

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Clusterphobia

I hate stuff.

I don’t have claustrophobia, or agoraphobia, but I do get uneasy when I’m over deep water without SCUBA gear.  I also get pretty unsettled when I have too much stuff to pack around.

We didn’t want for too much as children, our parents provided for us.  We didn’t have the luxuries our friends have, but our envy wasn’t too significant.  Aug 23, 1987, we had a housefire, most of the things I valued went away.  The remainder of my needful things live in a plastic tote in Canada.  I have a 4×8 locker in NYC, but there’s not too much I really need in there.  I have two totes at a very good friend’s house, and that stuff would suck to lose.

In London, I have two suitcases, and a backpack, and an armoured suitcase for carrying crazy-expensive gear.  Seriously, that case can hold $100k of gear.  I also have a dead-ass Dell laptop, which is paired my its replacement that I have carefully left turned off lest it follow its stepbrother into the grave.  A lot of Dell-extras in my baggage, I need so much stuff just to make it go.

I’m kinda at my limit.  It’s nearly too much.  I feel myself getting easily angry about “This Crap”, I find myself saying “I don’t even want this stuff” the same as I do when I pack up my house to move (and begin throwing away things I didn’t use the week previous, so mustn’t need).

I need to get a printer/scanner.  I don’t want more stuff.  Seriously, it’s too much to pack around already.

Too much stuff clustered around, I feel like a shark with a thousand pilot-fish globbed on and dragging me back.

Maybe I’ll torch the Dell.  It’s not doing anything anyhow.

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Hello world!

Yes, this blog was also a victim of the death of the backup.  …all my history is gone.  Is that a clear slate?  no no no … I remember what I have to write, and what I’ve written, but I think I’ll now make errors when I think I’ve written something and haven’t.  Let’s see…

I considered joining the blogs again and making each into a view of the content — so that all my tech thoughts, miscellaneous thoughts, travel are in the same source, but feed out to views based on categories.  That’s almost cool, but it’s not quite enough.

Why do I split them?  The Friendster Rule:  Your friends friends are not friends, nor are all your friends.  We have circles of friends, polarized based on immiscible groups (techies and technophiles, Swing Kiddies and the Non, etc).  Just because you know two people, that doesn’t ensure they want to know each other.

In the same vein, your communiques are often geared to one group or another (often both, which is why the split-blogs fails).  My family often doesn’t care about my tech stuff, and the tech people don’t care if I hate turnips or have recently learned to juggle.  Neither are true at this time, but they don’t care.

The Tech side is geared towards “what do I have that you can use TODAY?”, whereas this blog is “what’s new in my life?” …travel is just checking in, signs of life, a backbone for additional discussion.