Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tone Deaf or Dog Whistle?

Is  Trump just tone deaf or is he dog-whistling the far-right?

A lot of ink has been spilled about how Trump handled - or more precisely, mishandled - the protests and violence in Charlottesville.   The Police mishandled it as well - allowing people to show up at a rally carrying weapons.   Boston showed us how free speech and personal safety can go hand in hand - and no, carrying an axe handle to a protest is not "protected speech" under the constitution.   And no, that was not a question - nor an invitation to discussion, but a statement of fact.

The problem is, of course, that whatever crazy shit Trump says, always has some nugget of truth behind it, which often gets lost because he is the most inarticulate President we've had.   Ronald Reagan was "the great communicator" and even if you disagreed with his policies, you could understand what he was saying.   George W. Bush lowered the bar considerably, speaking in sentence fragments and inventing new words.

Our Reality Television President speaks in the 140-character lexicon of Twitter, and thus doesn't get even his half-assed points across.   And as a result, his message is muddled.   As I noted in an earlier posting, folks who attend protests carrying weapons are just plain wrong, and it doesn't matter if they are alt.right or "antifa" or anarchists or whatever.  Trump called that out as wrong, and then one mentally disturbed white supremacist decided to use his car as a weapon, and all hell broke loose.

Trump's refusal to disavow white supremacists and nazis right away was viewed by many as a dog-whistle to the far-right.   The KKK certainly thought so - that Trump was giving them a nod and a wink and saying "job well done, boys!"   His later comments about confederate statutes and equating Confederate terrorists (e.g., Nathan Forrest)  with our founding fathers further muddied the waters.

Again, there is a nugget - a slim nugget - of truth here.  If we take down statues of slave owners, not only Confederate generals but also founders of Harvard (which has happened already) then where do we stop?  Statues glorifying Jefferson, Washington, and the rest of the gang - who all owned slaves - could be seen in the same light.

Of course, what Trump fails to realize is that these Confederate statues were erected years later, often during periods where the KKK was resurgent, or during periods of de-segregation.   It is like the "In God We Trust" motto, which replaced "E Pluibus Unim" during the height of the civil rights era and the height of the "prayer in school" debate.   The words "One Nation, Under God" were also added to the pledge of allegiance at about the same time.  And yet many people would think these things trace their roots back to 1776.

The message of the Confederate statue in a public place is clear - it is asserting that the government is endorsing the "lost cause" of slavery and honoring the "heroism" of people fighting to subjugate an entire race.   And no, their heroism is no cause for celebration, any more than the heroics of those who fought for the Nazi cause are to be honored.  In fact, in Germany today, it is illegal to "honor their legacy" and there are no discussions there about "heritage, not hate".

The Civil War was a slaughter of human beings - the most vicious and deadly war America has ever fought in, killing more people than all our other wars combined.   And it was fought over a principle so vile it defies explanation.   The people who claim a connection with this "heritage" are using it as a smoke-screen to advance their cause of racism.   My Great-great-great Grandfather Robert S. Thompson fought as a Colonel for the Confederacy.  He also owned slaves.   I am neither proud of his "heritage" or ashamed of it, because genealogy is pure bunk and I have little or no connection to him, other than a few stories of only three sentences long, told to me by my racist Grandmother, many, many years ago.

People who tell you they have some deep spiritual connection with their "rebel" ancestors are basically lying.   Unless they are historical re-enactors (who are largely harmless, if not a little creepy and boring) odds are, their display of rebel paraphernalia is a smokescreen for advancing racist views. 

We are in rural Ohio right now, following the Ohio river up past one abandoned factory after another (and a few still in business).  This is Trump country, and we've laughed at how many cars and pickup trucks we've seen with Ohio tags and Confederate flag stickers on them.   "Heritage, not hate" - right?   But these history buffs seem to have forgotten which side of the Civil War that Ohioans fought for.

As for Trump?   I just assume he isn't smart enough to dog-whistle the right.  He's just an horrific communicator with muddled ideas.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Why Does the Mainstream Media Act Afraid of a Website?

A website run out of someone's basement is not a "powerhouse" of journalism.

The New York Times and the Washington Post are at it again - trying to get us all confused and scared and to keep us clicking on their pages so they can sell ad space.   Trump is good for their Business, and so is Steve Bannon.  What they are selling is fear, and fear, as I have noted time and time again, is never an emotion to be trusted.

The latest gag in fear-mongering is Steve Bannon.   Now ousted as White House Strategist, he is "declared war!" on the Trump Administration, and everyone is waiting with bated breath as to what he will say next.  Behind the desk of his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful Breitbart News, he can control the news cycle for years to come.   Petty newsletters like the Times and Post cannot possibly compete!

Or can they?   What people fail to realize is that Breitbart is nothing more than a website, that until recently, was operating out of Steve Bannon's old townhouse basement near Capital Hill - and moved to a new location only because of zoning restrictions (operating a business in a residential area).   Their staff is very limited, which is by design - coming up with crackpot "news" stories doesn't require a staff of investigative journalists, just a few people with creative imaginations, lead by a paranoid.

That is reality.   Breitbart is a very small megaphone, that talks only to a small "base" of people who are presupposed to listen to nonsense anyway.   Nothing much will change with Bannon back at the helm, declaring "War" or not.   Mainstream journalism still predominates.  Breitbart and The Druge Report are still in the margins and always will be.

So why does The New York Times and The Washington Post make so much of a website run out of someone's basement?   Well, the short answer is, they need a bogeyman to wave in front of their readers, to convince them that somehow lunatic fringe websites - and that is all they are is websites - are a threat to their readers.   That somehow a website run by three people in a townhouse basement is going to take down the grey lady and that Democracy will Die in the Darkness.

In a way, it is like Twitter.  No one actually uses Twitter except media types, which is why Twitter is losing money.   I've never been on Twitter, but I've been forced to read hundreds of "Tweets" as journalists think that Tweets are News.   Similarly, I've never read an article on Breitbart, but have been exposed to dozens of them by The Times, The Post and other mainstream media outlets which report on stories published on fringe websites.

Maybe - and this is just another one of my wild crazy ideas - if the mainstream media stopped re-posting crap from Breitbart, it would not seem to have as much impact or credibility as the media seems to think it does.   Breitbart is not a megaphone for the alt-right, the New York Times is, when they report on Breitbart as if it were relevant.

Bitcoin Versus Real Estate

When people start building condos in cornfields, the market is overheated.

Within my lifetime there have been two major real estate bubbles, the latter being far more serious than the former.  What happened was that people started buying houses and thinking they were made of gold.  Pretty soon people start to think that any house was worth a lot of money regardless of how well it was built or where it was located.  As a result, builders started building in places where no one really wanted to own a home, such as in the middle of a cornfield, two hours from major city.

A friend of mine bought such a place in 1988.  It was a long, long way from work, but on the weekend when he went out to look at it, it seemed like a short drive in the light weekend traffic.  Besides, everyone was getting in on this Real Estate deal, so why not him?   When the market collapsed in 1989, he had to cash in $10,000 from his 401(k) to bring to the closing to unload the condo, which no one wanted to buy at that point.

Housing bubbles collapse.  I experienced this first in 1989 and then again in 2009, neatly 20 years apart.  People never learn from experience, as their economic memory is only about 18 months old as I have noted time and time again.  I was fortunate in that the free-standing house we bought in 1988, within commuting distance of the city, largely held its value during those lean years.   The entire Real Estate market went down from 1989 to about 1994, but some properties fared better than others, and the condos-in-cornfields did the worst.

Many prognosticators have noted that there appears to be a similar bubble taking place in cryptocurrencies.  It is not that Bitcoin has heated up to an unsustainable level necessarily, but that there are so many other cryptocurrencies hitting the market at once, as everyone wants to get in on this "cryptocurrency" deal.

In terms of a real estate analogy, perhaps Bitcoin represents the prime condominium development located near the center of the city, which was sold out early on and which is still highly desirable, if not overpriced.  Many of these newer Johnny-come-lately cryptocurrencies represent the condominiums built in the cornfields hours away from the center of the city.  People think these later developments are worth as much as the former, but they are mere shadows of the original idea.

In the Real Estate venue, when the market collapsed, the condo-in-a-cornfield depreciated in value very quickly, while the more desirable properties fared better.  However, the entire market was affected as the result of the crash.  Similarly, when stock markets decline, even premier equities decrease in value, as we saw in the stock market crash of early 2009.  The real gems recover quickly, but the real stinkers go bankrupt.

If you apply this analogy to cryptocurrencies - at it is a valid analogy, I think - you can see a similar thing may take place.  A lot of these Johnny-come-lately cryptocurrencies will be like those condos-in-a-cornfield.  They will depreciate rapidly and end up going bankrupt.  But the major players the market will also be affected, and their value will decrease accordingly.  Bitcoin, being the premier cryptocurrency, will be severely affected by the ultimate crash of these other "crap-to currencies" but may recover where others fail.  People will still lose money, however.

There can be too much of a good thing in any Market.  And the market cannot support an infinite number of cryptocurrencies, or condos in cornfields.

Why Staring At The Sun Is Idiotic

Mormon missionaries prepare to view the eclipse.

The media loves to hype things, and for some reason, this year, a relatively routine event - the periodic eclipse of the sun by the moon - is being hyped as the end-all to humanity.   I am not sure why, because we no longer live in the middle ages, and things like comets and eclipses are no longer viewed as signs of God's wrath, witchcraft, or whatever.

We are told that we "must" go to some place to view the eclipse - an event that is over in a matter of minutes - and spend thousands of dollars booking hotel rooms, flights, etc. to see this "once in a lifetime event" - which I have seen at least twice in my lifetime.

What really irks me is that the media has accompanying stock photos with most of these stories, showing grinning yuppies staring at the sun, wearing nothing but sunglasses.   Only one media outlet that I could find actually had an article about the dangers of staring at the sun (it can blind you for life) and a testimonial from a oldster who nearly did just that.

I remember the total eclipse of 1970, and back then, people were advised not to look at the sun, but rather to construct a shadow-box.   Crazy ideas like looking through exposed film were discouraged.  The media was a little more responsible back then, interested less in capturing eyeballs (no pun intended) and more in real journalism.

I am sure there will be plenty of "Eclipse Apocalypse" stories tomorrow, about all the traffic and crowds, and people visiting emergency rooms with eye damage.  And the media will wring its hands and say, "who knew that staring into the sun could be dangerous?   Who knew???"

And we will set ourselves up for the next eclipse mania, which is only a few short years from now.....

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tourists, not Terrorists

Is tourism destroying Barcelona?   Why did terrorists target the tourism industry there?

A recent article on the BBC profiles a young man who is part of a leftist effort to destroy tourism in Barcelona.  These leftists argue that tourism is destroying the city as it is raising rents and making it harder for locals to find a place to live.  Of course, what they fail to consider is that tourism is a huge part of the local economy, and many of them cannot afford to live there at all if there were no jobs and income generated by tourism.

The recent attacks by terrorists on the tourism district underscore that this is not just a cause of the far left, but also the Islamic right. Islamic Terrorists have systematically attacked tourist destinations worldwide, in Islamic leaning countries and elsewhere, where westerners like to vacation.

Many people assume wrongly that their goal is to decrease the influence of decadent foreigners on Islamic societies.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Their goal is to destroy the underlying economy, so that people become so desperate they will embrace radical Islam.

Fascists have known this for decades.  If people become so desperate they are starving, they will embrace fringe ideologies as a means of solving the economic problems.   This is how the Taliban took over Afghanistan and was welcomed as liberating heros at the time.  If conditions are not desperate, then what you need to do is make them desperate.  This is why many on the far left were happy to see Donald Trump elected, as they knew that Bernie Sanders and his ilk could not be elected to public office outside of Vermont, unless conditions became desperate.

This is why the New York Times and the Washington Post report with glee every the mis-step of the Trump Administration.  Every stupid thing that Donald Trump says or does is one more paving brick on the road to an  Elizabeth Warren presidency.

Leftists and Catalonian separatists in Barcelona have the same goal.  If they can destroy the lucrative tourism industry, people become desperate and vote to secede from Spain and institute more far-leftist policies.  When everyone is making money, no one wants to rock the boat. When people are starving, they're willing to try anything.

It seems odd that Islamic radicals and Spanish leftists both have the same goal - to destroy the tourism industry of Barcelona.  But when you think about it, they really have the same goal - to disrupt and destroy in order to promote their own radical agendas.

Maybe what Spain needs - what the world needs -  is more tourists and fewer terrorists.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why Robotics Are A Sign Of Our Failure

 Are robots the ultimate sign of humanity's defeat?
Many people have held that robotics are a sign of the advances of our society.  However, it has occurred to me that the implementation of robotic devices is not a sign of humankind's advance, but rather an admission of its ultimate defeat.

We are traveling in our camper and driving on the highway.  And it's not hard to see why the Federal Highway Administration has been pushing for self-driving cars for several decades now.  People drive horribly.  And by this I don't just mean the people who are inattentive or make mistakes, as we all do on occasion, but the people who intentionally drive badly because they feel they need to get ahead.

If there is even a slight backup, such as when a truck passes a truck, people start racing around each other trying to get advantage.  It is human nature at its worst.  "Out of my way, I'm a motorist!" they seem to say, as if nobody else needs to get anywhere but them.

Self-driving cars, while being a technological advance, are an admission that we no longer have the ability to drive.  Even over-the-road truckers, professionals who were once the "Knights of the Road" swerve in and out of their lanes as they look at their phones and texting devices will driving 50,000 lb rigs.

We stopped at a rest area in South Carolina, and a plaque probably proclaims the restrooms are "fully automated" - everything from the toilets, to the urinals, to the soap dispenser, to the faucets, to the hand dryers, and the paper towel dispensers are automated and only you need only wave your hand to be served with a flush or a wipe or a dollop of soap.

Again, this is an advance in technology that would amaze our ancestors of only a few decades ago.  But the reason for these automated devices has a dark side.  In the past, people would wad up rolls of paper towel and shove them in the toilets and sinks and leave the faucets on or flush the toilet repeatedly in order to flood the restroom in and act of petty vandalism.  And judging by the signs I'm seeing in various public restrooms - imploring people not to flush paper towels down the toilet - this activity still occurs regularly.

Automated soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers are not only convenient and sanitary, they also regulate and control the amount of product dispensed.  People are greedy and selfish, and gladly grab for more paper towels or soap than they really need, not thinking about the cost or the inconvenience to others when the dispensers run out.

The same is true with manufacturing and even retail.  People are concerned that minimum wage jobs in fast food restaurants may go away as kiosks replace order takers, and automated machines flip the burgers and make the french fries.  And indeed, part of this is to save money and in an era where minimum wage unskilled workers are demanding $15 an hour - another sign of our greed and selfishness. We all believe we are due a certain amount of income regardless of our lack of skills or incentive to work.   Where did you think the idea of "guaranteed minimum income" comes from?

But from the customer side of  the equation, we all quietly applaud these moves toward robotics.  The order-taking kiosk is more accurate and easier to use than talking to a person behind the counter who may be heavily accented or barely speak English.  Not only that, the kiosk is faster, as we don't have to wait behind some self-entitled fellow citizen who feels that since they're at the head of the line it's their turn to make everyone else wait.  Again, the baseness of human nature rears its ugly head.

And granted, fast food is bad and poorly made, but most of this is because the people making it don't do a very good job.  I've noted before how in may fast food restaurants, there's a passive-aggressive game with a french fry machine, as nobody likes to put down the fries or take them up because they get splattered with hot grease.  As a result, nobody actually makes the fries until there's a backlog of people in the parking lot, at which point they hastily make several orders of fries which are not cooked sufficiently enough.

An entire Subreddit exists of people posting pictures of what their fast food sandwich is supposed to look like from the pictures on the menu, versus the mashed up piece of crap they actually get in the box or package.  Automation would fix this problem, and the food would be prepared consistently and perfectly every time, something that humans no longer seem interested in doing, but were once capable of.

Of course, the excuse given by the people working at such places is, that since the pay is poor they should do a shitty job.  However pay in restaurants and diners has always been shitty throughout history and yet we have often been able to get very good food from such places in the past, but not today.  As a result, today, we tend to accept shoddy service and poor products.

Even when pay is high, humans no longer seem to be interested in doing good work.  Robotics have already taken over in many industries.  Automobile production today is largely automated, mostly by necessity.  In the past, cars were largely handmade, even if they were made on an assembly line.  If you look at old videos of automobile assembly plants, you'll notice there's dozens of people at each station and thousands of workers overall.  And back then, those were top-paying jobs in the community.

Like the fast-food workers today, auto workers by the 1970s decided been doing a shitty job is all they were paid for, and quality of American automobiles plummeted, mostly because of poor assembly.  Today, we have robots paint cars which come out consistently even and perfect.  Critical and essential elements are assembled by robotics and bolts are no longer missing from cars as they go down the line. Today, no one would accept the build quality of automobiles for the 1970s or should they be expected to.

Robotics represents a failure of American management, failure of the American worker, and the failure of our society as a whole.  The impetus for robotic technology is not necessarily the availability of it, reducing labor, or reducing costs, but the fact that human-based labor has such a poor track record, which is the fault of both labor and management.

Perhaps in the brave new world of robotics, our robot overlords will finally get us straightened out as human beings and put us back to work - this time, not allowing for mistakes and slacking-off.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Deli Meats? Kentucky Legend!

Deli Meats are probably not very good for you.  They can also be expensive.  There are alternatives, however.

Usually when we make a trip to the grocery store, we stop  by the deli to get some deli meats and cheeses to make sandwiches fo r lunch during the week.   Wal-Mart has good prices - many deli meats are around $6.99 a pound (versus over $10 a pound at Publix) and cheese are fairly cheap, too - about $7 to $8 a pound.   They even have a "deal" where if you buy one pound of deli meat, you get a half-pound of cheese for "free" - all for $9.  This is a good deal if you buy Pastrami at $10.99 a pound and basically get the cheese for free - but that shit's not kosher (mixing meat and cheese).

But the hassle of waiting at the deli and the cost have forced us to look elsewhere.   You can buy pre-sliced swiss at the wholesale club for under $6 a pound, sometimes a lot less.  And recently, we found something called "Kentucky Legend" pre-sliced Turkey and Ham in the meat department (NOT the deli department)  for $5.22 a pound (or less!), which is far less than the $6.99 a pound. they charge in the deli department.

The quality is better, too.  First of all, it is thick sliced which is easier when you are making sandwiches or adding meat to a salad or whatever.  Most delis slice meat razor thin, or worse, cheese razor thin, and it ends up as a massive blob than you cannot pick apart later at home.

 But is it fresh?  Well, it comes in a shrink pack of about 3-5 pounds, and it is the same shrink pack that the ham and turkey comes in at the deli department.  So in terms of "freshness" it is a wash - in fact, deli meats are generally preserved meats anyway - how do you think Ham was invented in the first place?

So today, we skip by the deli department and buy the Kentucky Legend pre-sliced turkey and ham, as well as pre-sliced swiss cheese from the wholesale club or Wal-Mart (often priced less than the deli as well!).   The thicker slices are easier to deal with, and also cheaper in terms of price per pound, sometimes (in the case of the ham) almost half-price.

Sliced some up this morning and made a ham and swiss omelet!   Yea, I know, a real heart-healthy meal.  At least it was affordable!

UPDATE:   A reader notes that these types of foods are not "heart healthy" (actually several readers noted this.   I agree.   But once in a while.... )

Another reader asks if I am being paid by Wal-Mart or being given free product, as apparently a number of blog sites mention this product and also mention they were given free product in exchange for a review.

No, Virginia, I wasn't given free food.  Because I am too stupid to think of such things.  Also, I ain't selling out for a bag of chips!  If I mention a product on this blog, it is because I bought it with my own money and liked it.

My monetezation experiment is reaching the six month mark, and I am not sure I will continue it past one year.   Yes, it generates about $200 a month in income.  No, that isn't the price of integrity.

There's A Light....

You can have a lot of fun with cheap Chinese LED lighting strips!

I installed these lights on our golf cart and they are a lot of fun - plus they make the cart more visible to other motorists at night!   I added two strips to the Casita under the "beltline" and it looks pretty cool.   Cheap fun on a budget, to say the least.

The lighting strips come packaged on old reel-to-reel tape deck reels.   Instructions are minimal, so be prepared to figure out things for yourself....

Buy this crap from China while you can, before Trump shuts down all international commerce by imposing tariffs.   It is 1929 all over again, and Trump is the new Hoover!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Glorifying Terrorism

Say hello to your friendly neighborhood Nazi!

Or your neighborhood Anarchist!

Two recent articles, one in USA Today and one in The Washington Post are, in my opinion, a little too cozy with their subjects.  They seem to be normalizing radical thinking as "the boy next door" and making violent political protest seem like a new norm.  Both articles made me throw up.

President Trump is getting a lot of flack for a statement he made before that loser from Ohio (lived with his mom, had a cat instead of a girlfriend, flunked out of basic training) drove a car into the crowd.   Trump noted that there was violence from "many sides" which, while we might not like to think about it, was actually true.  Of course only one side ended up killing anyone, and only one side started the entire melee.

The horrific pictures from this weekend include those of "antifa" protesters wielding clubs and beating people, as well as Nazis and KKK folks doing the same thing.   When you show up at a protest wearing helmets, carrying shields, and brandishing clubs and firearms, you are not there for a peaceful protest.   It doesn't matter what "side" you are on, it is wrong.

Why the Police allow this is beyond me.   When I was a kid, if you brought a sign on a stick, you were turned away from a protest, as the sticks could be easily detached from the signs and used as weapons.

Today, we let people bring guns to protests.  It makes no sense.

And then the media glorifies these idiots, with nice articles and accompanying photos, instead of denouncing these fringe lunatics with the strongest language possible.

I don't want to "meet the anarchist next door" - I want him put in jail for the rest of his life, and ditto for the Nazi Neighbor.   Toss 'em in lockup and throw away the key.  They can work out their political beliefs behind bars while the rest of us get on with real life.

But the media loves this shit - it generates clicks and generates eyeballs for advertisers.  "Protest violence videos coming right up!  But first, a message from your local Chevrolet dealer!  Chevrolet, as American as Basball (bats), Hot Dogs, and Apple Pie!  Drive one through your next protest rally!"

That seems to be where we are going with this...

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Heart Disease and You

Medical history made yesterday when a doctor discovered a heart inside a lawyer!

I'm happy to report that I emerged from my heart catheterization virtually unscathed.  The good news is I didn't need a stent or serious heart surgery.  The bad news is I do have some very mild build up in my arteries and will probably have to be on statins for the rest of my life.

The funny thing is, living on retirement island, when I mentioned I was having this procedure done, nearly everyone I knew recounted how they had the similar or same procedure done in the past or even more extensive procedures.  It seems that everybody I know is on statins at the very least, has been through one or more stress tests, perhaps a heart catheterization, and some have had open heart surgery, pacemakers, and built-in defibrillators just like former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Heart disease isn't some far-off possibility for most of us, but rather a foregone conclusion, if you live long enough.  As I noted in earlier posting, it is a function of diet and exercise, but also heredity.  If heart disease runs in your family, you have a very good chance of getting it.

And as I noted in earlier posting, poor Jim Fixx, the jogging Guru, died of heart disease even after he tried to turn his life around through jogging, exercise, and eating right.  Unfortunately, he failed to address the third leg of the heart disease triangle, that is family visiting a cardiologist and having your heart tested.

Of course, in Jim Fixx's day, the procedures and drugs available were far more primitive. Today, health care has advanced considerably.  When I was a kid, open heart surgery was something that was basically experimental and only for people in very dire conditions. Today, is fairly common and chances are you know somebody who has had a heart bypass operation. This may seem like humdrum commonplace practice, but it wasn't so long ago that this was considered experimental surgery.

There are other less invasive procedures also available such as the heart catheterization I had today. During the catheterization process, they can actually show you a picture of your heart (shown above) and determine whether any of the major blood vessels are clogged. During the procedure they can actually insert a stent without having to perform a second procedure or having to operate.  The stent can then expand the blood vessel and improve the functioning of the heart.

Again, it was not too long ago that these procedures were basically experimental, yet they are commonplace today.

Similarly, statins are the miracle drug for curing heart disease.  I am always very skeptical of miracle drugs, is it seems that every five years, a new miracle drug comes out that everybody claims is the cure-all for everything.  And then like clockwork five years later, bunch of class-action lawyers file suit against the company selling the drug, because people have had horrific side effects from these drugs.

I think it is good to be skeptical of the pill approach to life.  However it appears these statins can prolong the lives of many people and improve their life experience as well.

There are many things I took away from this procedure.  First, hospitals, like doctors and insurance companies, operate in this netherworld between paperwork and computerization.  Our local hospital is pretty efficiently run, with everything on the computer. When I check in, they have all my information from documents scanned in into their system including who my next of kin is, and who has my authorized medical power of attorney.  It is very efficient.

But they also have reams of paper documents for me to sign which were kept in a binder with my name on it, which I found kind of antiquated.  I presume all these documents are leader scanned in.  And it is probably we lawyers who are to blame for all of this unnecessary paperwork. I'm not sure why somebody couldn't sign on some sort of pad device instead of a photocopy of a document.

Yet other things were highly automated,including use of bar codes to keep track of patients and other types of computerized records. And of course, the actual procedure was highly technical and automated, producing real-time pictures of my heart and even providing printouts and videos.  There were more flat screens in the operating room than on the back wall of a Wal-Mart.

But it still seems like a lot has to be done to bring the medical practice into the 21st century.  One thing I find very odd is that I can go online and track down the entire history of my automobile from the first day was registered to any accidents it  has been in for over 20 years.  However my medical records are scattered among various hospitals and doctors across the country, often in paper form, and often I'm not given copies of these.

I have huge binders with copies of receipts for every nut and bolt I've ever put on my car, as well as every oil change and every document related to its purchase and operation. With regard to my personal medical records, I only have a few years worth of hastily scribbled notes.

Why we can't have a national database of medical records for individuals is beyond me - and it was one of the goals of the Obamacare system.  It would really be nice to have copies of my MRI scans of my neck for example, should that ever give me trouble in the future.  Similarly, it would be nice to have an electronic version of my heart scan for future reference by subsequent doctors if necessary.

The second observation I took away from the experience, while waiting for about two and a half hours in the recovery room, was that there are an awful lot of sick people in this world who have bigger problems than I do.

Because of size and space requirements, private rooms are very rarely used anymore in hospitals. Rather we lay in wheeled gurneys that are separated by curtains that are pulled between patients.  While this may provide visual privacy, you can hear everything that is going on, and often the conversations you here are quite interesting.

In the room next to me was a "woman" having breast implants, although her voice was awfully low and gravely to be that of a female.  The conversation between her and the nurse centered on the drugs that she would be taking as well as the drugs she already was on.  I lost track of the laundry list of drugs, but they included both Percocet and Ambien which I thought would make for an interesting cocktail.  Not only that, but the patient seemed to express a keen familiarity with many of the drugs including powerful antibiotics that were being prescribed.  This sounded an awful like a person who spent a lot of time at hospitals and a lot of time taking various drugs.

Well I was relieved that my heart problems were relatively minor, there were other people leaving the area in their gurneys who look positively grim-faced.  Some were facing open heart surgery, others were having stents installed or needed other types of long-term care.  Again, it was quite interesting to hear the laundry list of prescription medications and procedures that many people had.  Some people are very, very sick in this world.  I think others also like to take pills.

The third observation would be that well I am somewhat overweight, I positively look like Twiggy compared to some of the people in the waiting room in the cardio lab.  We have a saying here in Georgia that there is fat, really fat, and then there's Georgia fat.  And there are people there who weighed over 300 lb and were barely over 5 ft tall. I can only wonder how their knees and hips survive, much less their hearts. It must be painful every waking day.

What is even more amazing, but yet not all that uncommon, was how many of the nurses were overweight.  I noticed this before when I went to pick up a friend of mine who is recovering from open-heart surgery (again, this is frighteningly common where I live) and noticed that most of the nurses in the cardio rehab ward could stand to lose 50 to 75 pounds each.

I don't know if this is part of our general epidemic of obesity in this country, or a function of the job. While nurses spend a lot of time on their feet and do a lot of active physical work, they also spent a lot of time behind desks and chairs which is sedentary behavior and is not good for your physique.  Being a Patent Attorney is even worse.   Perhaps also the long hours lead to casual eating, which often means poor eating habits.  Mark went down to the hospital cafeteria to get a cup of coffee while he was waiting for my procedure to be done, and he said he was shocked to see that the cafeteria food was probably the least healthy in the world.  There was a pizza bar, fried chicken bar, and a french fry display that was 4 ft long.  I kidded him that they would have a bowl filled of statins at the end of the line much like they have mints in most restaurants.

Hi Everybody!  Hi Doctor Nick!

As for the procedure itself, it was remarkably brief.  The video above illustrates how the procedure is done, apparently narrated by Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons.  It took about an hour and a half to two hours just to prepare for the procedure, having an IV inserted, confirming my identity, signing off on various release forms, and also undressing and laying on the gurney.

The procedure itself took barely 15 minutes, once I was prepared and in the room and ready for the Doctor.  Once we had the relatively good news, there was another two to three hours of waiting in the recovery room, mostly because they had pierced my artery in my arm to do the procedure, and I would have to wait until that healed up enough to go home so I didn't bleed to death.  Also they had to make sure the calmative they gave to me had worn off enough so I didn't stumble down the steps of the hospital and sue them.  All told the time in the hospital was about a little over five hours while the procedure itself took about 15 minutes.

I haven't gotten the bill for this yet, however I feel it'll probably max out my deductible for the year. The medical technology we have in this country is amazing, but it is not cheap.  Just a simple outpatient procedure like this involves a concentrated a concerted effort on the part of about a dozen nurses, two technicians, the doctor, patient assistant, and even hospital volunteers. It was orchestrated very well and very efficiently I thought.  However I could also see that it wasn't going to be cheap. An awful lot of stuff gets thrown away by necessity during these medical procedures.

I am fortunate enough that I don't have to worry too much about paying the co-pay on my insurance. Others are less fortunate. And yet many people seem to come up with the money for medical procedures.  When I was kibitzing on the conversation with the shemale next door having her breast implants, the nurse confessed that she had implants done 30 years ago, which started leaking later on - which can be a total nightmare. What was odd was the nurse confessed that she went to the plastic surgeon's office and paged through a magazine of sample breasts she could select from.  she said she felt like she was a kid in a candy store, wondering what her insurance company would pay for or what she could afford. S he noted that she had to pay for her breast implants out of her own pocket which I imagine was probably a very expensive procedure for someone in her income range.  And sadly a procedure that went horribly wrong for her.  She noted that she would never advise anybody to have breast implants ever, after her experience. The way she put it was, they sound like a lot of fun when you're in your twenties, but 30 years later, and after four breast-fed children, it's a whole different deal.

I'm not sure what the point of this is other than I'm doing well and the other thing I realized from this experience is I want to stay the hell out of hospitals as much as I can. Even for a relatively mild procedure like this (where they jam some sort of tube up your artery and into your heart) the level anxiety is pretty high.

Changes in diet and exercise are definitely in order.