Thanks for the reminder!

Just received a copy of my “Valuable Personal Property” floater for my renter’s insurance. Included with it was this:


As for question C? Well, obviously “YES!” to all – who hasn’t? Though I mostly acquired furs and guns. Just lots and lots of furs and guns. So many furs and guns… FURS AND GUNS!

Screw you, Curascript. And as for Blue Cross? Inhumane, greedy, disgusting.

Obluecrossnce again, Blue Cross has created a new “tier” of pharmacy benefits – Tier 4, a.k.a. “specialty” drugs a.k.a. a long list of medications for the treatment of HIV (they’ve included a few cancer and other drugs as well – though literally every single medication used for the treatment of HIV is now Tier 4) and for which there are no alternative or generic medications.

And what is different about this tier? Well, rather than a standard co-pay (it was $30.00 per prescription in 2012), patients are required to pay 20% of the cost of the medication or $150 maximum. Since all of the medications are expensive, the bottom line is that most co-payments are $150 or close to it, i.e. a 400% increase in out-of-pocket expenses for those being treated for HIV. In other words, Blue Cross has specifically targeted their most vulnerable patients as a new source from which to wring profits. Despicable.

Oh, and that’s not all. As a user of a “specialty” medication, I am now forbidden from getting my prescriptions from Walgreens or any other pharmacy (unless I want to pay full retail price). I have to use Curascript and do all of my ordering via phone and mail – that’s right, no option to do anything online. Yes, patients are required to always speak to a pharmacy rep to deal with any transaction or issue. This seems counter-intuitive, given the expense of paying actual people to interact with customers over the phone and Express Scripts’ (Curascript’s parent, natch) focus on profits before patients – until one realizes that the frustrating and time-consuming nature of such a system is going to result in patients receiving their medications more slowly (or even giving up on Curascript altogether) thus positively impacting Curascript’s (and Blue Cross’) cash flow.

My initial sign-up took around 30 minutes – a frankly ridiculous amount of time, given that I’ve been taking the same meds daily for nearly a decade. But other than that, it was fine. But I knew better than to expect things to run smoothly…

Several days later, I received an automated voice call from Curascript advising me that my prescriptions were being processed; that they would be sent to me soon; and that no action was required on my part. Given that they’d already told me the date to expect the delivery and it was still several days hence, I have no idea what this call was for – it served only to mystify and irritate me, particularly given that it could have been sent by email. Oh, right – Curascript has no online or email functionality.

Another few days later, I received a voicemail message (UUUGGGGHHH) indicating I needed to call Curascript right away. Which I did. Apparently, the date they had promised to deliver was too soon for Blue Cross to pay, so they had to push the date out a week. No big deal – except for the fact that they kept me on the phone for 15 minutes, asking questions, putting me on hold, making me repeat information I’d provided during my first call and during the IVR when I returned their call. Absolutely infuriating – again, particularly given the fact that a simple email with the new delivery date would have been sufficient notification.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that my prescriptions were not delivered on Friday as promised. I received a voicemail from FedEx at 5:17PM, advising that my parcel would be delivered on Saturday and a signature was required. Since I’d had the package directed to my office (and had advised each Curascript rep that I spoke with of this fact), there was no one there to sign for it. Which is just a perfect way to start a three-day weekend. I did check the FedEx tracking – and despite promising to deliver on Feb 18, Curascript didn’t get the package to FedEx until the evening of Feb 18. Yeah, let me put on my surprised face again…

Oh, and then I contacted Curascript on Saturday morning. Things did not go well…

Robot: Please tell us your phone number so we can look up your account.
Me: (enters number via keypad)
Robot: You entered number 415-###-####. Is that correct?
Me: Yes.
Robot: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you.
Me: YES!
Robot: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you.
Robot: I’m sorry, let me transfer you to an agent.
Robot: Our business hours are Monday through Friday, 9AM to 7PM and Saturdays, 9AM to 1PM. Please call back during business hours.

What is most infuriating of all is that I have no choice but to accept this level of incompetence and indifference. My only option for insurance at work is Blue Cross, so I can’t take my business elsewhere. And, to be honest, I’m one of the lucky ones – that is, I have insurance (even though it is provided by a for-profit insurer who is actively pursuing policies to prevent those with the most serious health conditions from obtaining treatment) and I have the stamina, wherewithal and persistence to demand and obtain satisfaction. But again, Blue Cross and Express Scripts surely calculate a drop-off in claims and payments (and therefore an increase in profit) by going after a population of insured that includes people who are too ill or simply too baffled to get the treatment to which they are entitled.

It’s times like this that I have some regret about being an atheist – the thought of people like John Cannon (Well Point CEO), George Paz (Express Scripts CEO) and Pam Kehaly (Anthem Blue Cross California president) spending eternity in the lake of fire is an appealing one.


“An open relationship? Yes, I know what that is…”

There’s a part of me that realizes that if two people are in a romantic relationship, they can have whatever arrangement they like as far as monogamy (or lack thereof) is concerned. And good for them for making it work.

That being said, I’m sick to fucking death that every “social” app aimed toward gay men is populated (and I’m honestly not exaggerating) by upwards of 75% of users who list their relationship status as “married,” “partnered” or “open relationship.” Don’t be so greedy, fellas! Leave some for the rest of us…

Of course, I’m also well-aware that my being both closer to 50 than 40 and unable to honestly claim to be “disease-free” are unlikely to result in suitors duking it out for my affections. But still…

“For the guy is second best to none…”

There was a marvelous tribute to Marvin Hamlisch a couple of weeks ago on Live from Lincoln Center. A particular highlight for me was hearing Audra McDonald, Megan Hilty and Kelli O’Hara (!) singing “At the Ballet” (it’s at the 1:03 mark in the show, if you want to skip forward…)What a treat – not just watching this performance, but remembering again how astounding A Chorus Line is – the music, obviously… but also the dancing and the deceptive simplicity of the staging. A true masterpiece of American musical theater.

However, I also learned a rather fascinating tidbit about Mr. Hamlisch – his first hit song, composed at age 21, was “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”! OK, OK, not exactly “The Way We Were” (so amazing) – but a pretty irresistible pop confection. Check out this performance by Lesley Gore (known lesbian – you go on with your bad self, Ms. Gore!) from Ski Party Weekend.

This is pretty much exactly like every ride I take on Muni! And I totally have that same outfit! Which I wear on Muni! And I would totally give my eyeteeth for that ‘do…

Bikes of the Netherlands

As an enthusiastic urban cyclist here at home in SF, I’m quite ashamed to admit that I never once rode a bike during my week in Amsterdam last October. This was due to a combination of not-great weather (I did actually have a bike tour scheduled on the coldest, rainiest day of my trip – cold I don’t mind, but riding in the rain is no fun, so the tour was on-foot instead) and the fact that it took me most of the week to become comfortable with my navigational skills in the city (“These canals all look alike! Where the hell am I? Oh, right, lost – again…”).

Nevertheless, it was quite fascinating to observe how integral bikes are to life in Amsterdam. There isn’t a bike subculture, as in SF – bicycles are an essential component of the culture of Amsterdam. It’s great! And when I go back (soon, I hope), I promise to ride… Well, unless I stay too late at the discotheque…

And though I didn’t ride, I did take a few photos…

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

So, sitting at home the other night, minding my own business and cuddling with my kitty, when I hear the knockety-knock from my computer – someone is messaging me on Facebook! Who could it be? And what important news have they to impart?

Here is the message I received verbatim:

This is my Facebook impression of you:

I have a cat but no sex sometimes I eat food and I went to Paris.
I have a cat.
I have a cat.
Look at my cat.

Sigh. Tempting though it might have been to protest this characterization, I really had no alternative but to respond thusly:


Fiscal Crisis? Solved!

taxesIn last Sunday’s NYTimes, there was a piece titled “Should We Tax People for Being Annoying?” Without even knowing the subject matter, the answer is, obviously, a resounding, “YES!”

The article itself was about Pigovian taxes – namely, taxes levied on “the things we do that affect others and that the market is unable to price.” A good example is congestion pricing in London, in which those who choose to drive private automobiles into the city must pay a fee to do so; or very high taxes on gasoline to ameliorate not just the negative effects of its use (pollution, congestion, etc.) but also to discourage its consumption in the first place.

Clearly, I would embrace such a system of taxes (particularly given that my primary modes of transportation are bicycle and public transit, resulting in a delightfully smug sense of self-satisfaction as I judge the destroyers of the planet in their cars. Of course, the benefits of not driving a car are more than wiped out by the many airline trips I take each year – not that this diminishes my self-righteousness by one whit. But I digress…). The article, however, reveals the mere tip of the iceberg – there is a potential windfall of tax income for the government available through Pigovian taxes. Here then is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of activities that shall henceforth be taxed.

  • Attempting to board a bus, train, subway, streetcar, metro, motor coach, jitney, shuttle, monorail, ferry, vaporetto, hydrofoil, elevator, funicular or other public conveyance before all alighting passengers have disembarked.
  • Wearing, rather than carrying, one’s backpack on any crowded public conveyance.
  • Being unduly tan.
  • Attempting to strike up a conversation or make eye contact with a stranger in any public place of which the primary purpose is not the serving of alcoholic beverages.
  • Stating, mentioning, implying or alluding to the fact that one wears size 28 jeans and/or a size 0 dress.
  • Using two-dollar words without understanding how to pronounce them properly. For example, oxymoron pronounced as “ox cimarron.” (Yes, that actually happened.)
  • Using “I” as an object instead of “me.”
  • Ordering a “gin martini.”
  • Reading 50 Shades of Grey.
  • Walking three or more abreast on a city sidewalk.
  • Walking in any city center in a manner that could be described as ambling, meandering or strolling.
  • Seeing that one has 3 or fewer seconds on the walk signal, running halfway across the intersection and then sauntering the remaining distance.
  • Putting more than one carry-on item in the overheard bin.
  • Using terms such as “socialism,” “communism” or “fascism” without being able to accurately define them.
  • Being, and therefore presumably driving like, a BMW owner.
  • Being a fan of the New York Yankees.
  • Wearing hats indoors unless one is a lady attending a wedding or a fancy luncheon. (N.B.: The term “lady” in this instance is not gender specific.)
  • Failing to répondez s’il vous plaît.
  • Honking one’s horn while sitting motionless in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  • Disliking cats.
  • Complaining about how all the people who’ve moved into one’s previously undiscovered, semi-sketchy but charming and reasonably-priced neighborhood have ruined it when one has actually only lived there for a year-and-a-half and is originally from Tustin.
  • Failing to respond to emails, texts or instant messages in a sufficiently timely manner. (N.B.: Timeliness shall be determined by the composer of the email, text or IM to which one is responding.)
  • Leaving voicemail messages (not applicable to persons age 60 or older).
  • Blogging.

Xbox – Not for Me

FAIL_BOX_360Just got my very first Xbox last Thursday – the 360 with Kinect. And, after spending Friday evening setting it up, on Saturday morning I boxed it back up and returned it to Amazon.

It’s a shame, really, since the Kinect sensor seemed to work quite well and made for some fun games – but by itself, it’s not enough to justify the $250 price tag for the console.

Now, I should point out that I’m not a gamer (and I’m a long-time and generally satisfied user of the various Windows operating systems). However, I’ve had my PlayStation 3 for several years now and have been frankly amazed at everything it can do. I don’t play games too often, but Rock Band, SingStar and Little Big Planet are all great fun and I still play them every now and again. The PS3 also replaced my old DVD player and it does an excellent job with upscaling standard DVDs. Of course, it also plays BluRay and those disks look freakin’ great – especially since I got my big plasma TV. Oh, and it streams Netflix, Hulu, Amazon – pretty much everything – via WiFi or Ethernet connection.

The big selling point to me for the Xbox was the Kinect – and when I used it with Kinect Adventures and Dance Central, it was impressive. What was not impressive? Other than the Kinect, the Xbox offers a markedly subpar selection of features. For example, like the PS3, it offers streaming Netflix et al. – but only if you get a pay subscription to Xbox Live . Now granted, it’s only (“only”) $60 a year – but since I’m already paying Netflix for my subscription and my ISP for bandwidth, why should I also have to pay Microsoft to use the equipment I own in order to stream movies?

What was even more shocking to me? I attempted to use the pre-installed Internet Explorer browser on the Xbox to look something up online – only to be given a message that the browser was only available to Xbox Live paid subscribers! This was a potentially golden opportunity for MS to get me reengaged in using Internet Explorer, a browser I gave up years ago in favor of Firefox and Chrome. Instead, they prevented me from using their browser. Really incredibly stupid from a marketing perspective.

I had also imagined a really tight integration between Xbox and Windows 8, which I’d recently upgraded to at home (I won’t digress too far re. Windows 8, other than to say that it’s Windows 7 with an extra Start screen. All of the various “tiles” in the Metro app have, for me, not added any functionality – or more typically, as with Skype, provide less functionality along with undesirable and unexpected behavior within a somewhat more visually pleasing interface). This, too, was not the case – and was probably the most frustrating experience of my Xbox installation.

While the Xbox was downloading some system updates during set-up, I added the Xbox app to Windows 8 and signed up for the free version of Xbox Live. When I attempted to set up my profile on Xbox, using this same ID (which is also my Windows ID), I got an error that it was already in use and I could not set up a profile. So, I had to create another profile using another email address – a not desirable set-up, since I was anticipating a seamless experience across all Windows platforms with a single ID.

I did find the solution to the specific error message I was getting on the Xbox support site. Here it is and apparently it is not a joke:


My favorite bit is the 30-day wait period between steps 3 and 4. Well, that and the fact that you have to create a THIRD account just to get your one account set up properly.

Oh and did I mention that a gamer tag is assigned to you during Xbox Live set up? That’s right – you don’t get an option to create your own user ID, the name that everyone else using Xbox Live will see. You can do this once the profile is set up – but apparently only once every 30 days? Or else (surprise!) for a fee? I have no idea. It was, without hyperbole, the most ridiculous, user-unfriendly, non-intuitive method of creating a profile I’ve ever encountered.

I did eventually straighten things out after 30 minutes on the phone with Xbox support (and having to reset my Windows password, since apparently despite my answering all of the security questions correctly regarding the Windows account I’ve had for years was insufficient to determine that I was the owner of the account. Ridiculous.) But it really painted a sad picture of Microsoft’s ability to integrate their products. I’ve already seen this with MS’s recently-acquired Skype, but was truly surprised that the company can’t provide a decent (let along great) experience for users of their two biggest platforms, both of which have been around for years and years.

The Xbox interface itself is a mess – confusing, unintuitive, filled with ads, options buried deep within sub-menus. Plus, every selection seemed to require the user to answer several questions or confirmations before the task was executed.

Oh, and did I mention that the Xbox doesn’t play BluRay disks? And that the controller comes with a pair of AA batteries rather than being rechargeable? Lame.

Anyway, so long Xbox – I can’t imagine you’ll be welcomed back again. And I just ordered Child of Eden and the PS3 Move controller bundle with Little Big Planet 2 – for just around $100. The $150 I saved versus Xbox can go into my 2013 vacation fund.

Though I’m the Funnier One

Today’s unexpected work email included the following message:

How is it that Eddie Murphy looks so much like a black Eric?

Well, my first response, of course, was to point out to the sender that she is a huge racist.

But when I clicked the link and saw this GIF, I totally got it.


from Whilst in SF