1,000 Places to See Before You Die – Augh! So Annoying.

I watched a bit of a DVD of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, and there’s this WASP Ken and Barbie couple traveling the world on honeymoon seeing them all. First off:

1. I’m totally jealous – what the heck did they do to get this opportunity? Someone’s PAYING for their trip all around the world? It’s so unfair.

2. Why couldn’t they pick a couple with personality? These two don’t say anything funny, interesting, or memorable. They are polite and nice to everyone – super boring.  They are even polite and nice with each other. I’m not looking for a Survior episode, but a bit of animation would be nice.

3. Why did they pick a couple who look like they are used to getting everything they want? Why not pick someone who’s an artist or professional triathlete or business owner (yeah, a business owner who knows the value of a dollar, importance of motivating staff, interacting with customers, how to market a service or product). People who don’t dress and talk like they went to prep school and got their own car from their parents when they turned 16, spend thousands on clothes each year…Hmmpf.

4. I lived in France for almost 8 years, based in Paris. I traveled a lot. Watching the French part was terribly annoying.  Taillevent is NOT the best restaurant in town, though it’s been there forever and overlooks Notre Dame. And why have them eating alone in the restaurant? Why not have the real experience, which includes other diners around you, looking out at the sparkling lights and the Seine at night, having a rather snooty waiter serve you (I remember being afraid of making a mistake in front of our waiter).

I suppose it makes sense that they pick the most historic, well-known Paris sights.

But frankly, traveling is best when you go beyond looking at the buildings and learning about what happened there in the 1400’s. It’s about the people you meet!  Travel can be incredibly lonely and isolating if the only interactions with people you have are locals selling you tickets and serving you food.  And after a few churches or museums, they all blend together into one big mass that you can’t recall later.

I think that my “don’t-tell-me-what-t0-do” gene has fired up about this one!

Oh man, I’d LOVE to go back exploring through Europe. And Turkey. And Vietnam. And Peru…

HIPPA Breach!

I ran across this photo in a friend’s facebook album and almost fell out of my chair!  She’d taken a shot of someone’s funny last name on an IV bag. And posted the thing, with name, patient ID, on FACEBOOK!!  Is this a HIPPA breach?  

I’ve been working with a lot of hospitals, and have a basic understanding of the importance of keeping patient info confidential.

Now let’s hope I’ve doctored the image correctly to hide names! I wouldn’t want to be put in jail myself (after the recent case of the teenager convicted as a sex offender for sending nude photos of his girlfriend that SHE SENT HIM, I’m sure someone would be happy to convict me).

Let’s Create Salt Ration Cards While We’re at it…Why Stop at Production?

I read this morning about the recommendation to further regulate/limit salt in the food industry as well as the proposed New York ban on salt in restaurants (!).

Let’s create a salt ration card system while we’re at it. If you want to save people from themselves, don’t be shy about it, for heaven’s sake.

I think that the salt ban doesn’t go far enough, frankly. Us poor, poor folk making bad choices need to be saved from ourselves. Here are some ideas on great ways to make people choose carrots and edamame over french fries and hot dogs.

1. Salt and Sugar ration cards – each household only gets so many units. Grocery stores and restaurants have to register units consumed, and once they’re gone, you are not allowed to buy any more food that contains salt for that week.

2. Regulate all recipes put out in cookbooks, cooking magazines, TV shows and online – make sure they pass FDA standards for healthy eating before we can see them or use them. Let’s keep the dangerous information out of the hands of the masses who can’t handle it.

SERIOUSLY: The last time I checked, no one was holding me at gunpoint, forcing me to buy salty processed foods or forcing me to eat out and choose onion rings rather than a side salad.  Are we going to stop holding individuals to account for their own free choice behaviors entirely? It’s getting insane.

Regulation is not necessary, regulation is harmful, regulation is too costly to implement.

Healthy eating is a powerful trend right now that’s gaining momentum – can you deny it?

  1. Jamie Oliver (in the UK) and the Biggest Loser have done more to change perspectives and individual actions than any government program.
  2. 15 years ago, organic/healthfoodsections in grocery stores hardly existed.
  3. Local Farmers Markets did not exist (now we have four or five during the week)
  4. Chain restaurant menus – they mark healthy options on the menu. They have 500-calorie options!
  5. Frozen yogurt didn’t exist. Egg substitute didn’t exist. Edamame probably existed, but no one in the US knew about it. Heirloom tomatoes were unknown. Egg white omelets were never on a menu. Veggie omelets-no cheese, for that matter, were never on a menu.
  6. The only apples you could buy were granny smith, golden delicious or those mealy red ones…
  7. We can all identify heart-attack-on-a-plate. We know that greasy, salty food is bad for us and that if we actually ate one of those meals Paula Dean cooks on her t.v. show we’d gain 5 lbs overnight.
  8. Gourmet cooking mags now actually have a healthy eating section with healthy recipes (at least they’re trying)

Why won’t we trust PRIVATE individuals, non-profits, for-profits, and media to help fulfill the demand for healthier choices?

What healthy trends have you noticed over the past couple of decades ? Add to my list!

Don’t Start our Relationship with a Lie

I’ve needed to call a few contact centers lately, mostly for some type of tech support. One ISP I called several times always has reps with Indian accents answering the phone, so I’m convinced their call center is outsourced overseas.

The thing is they all have Western names – Eddie, Dave, Sam.  When the rep answers the call with “Hello, my name is Jim, how may I help you?” and their name is clearly not Jim, my thought is – what else are they going to lie to me about?

So the Contact Center has set up a mood of distrust with their customers – way to shoot yourselves in the foot before 10 words are spoken. 
It’s worth noting that this has nothing to do with them being foreigners or local (I’ve got nothing against outsourcing call centers – if people in India can do it well for half the price, they should be free to do so).

2 solutions I see:  

1. Don’t make them claim that it’s their real name. Have your reps say “Hello, welcome to XXX Customer Service. Please, call me Jim.” or:  “Hello, welcome to XXX Customer Service. My name’s Inderjit but please, call me Jim.”

2. Let your employees use a short version of their real names. “Hello, welcome to XXX Customer Service. I’m Nagendra but please, call me Nagi”.

What do you think? Would these work? Other ideas?

And does the initial lie bother you the way it does me?

What??? The $1 trillion is only partial estimate of costs?

Audio here: Cato Daily Podcast Dec 10 2009: Recounting the Cost of Obamacare

I listened to the Dec 10th Cato Daily Podcast on my run earlier this week.
Learned quite  a few things:

1.The Cost estimates from the CBO for the healthcare bills only look at gov’t costs, not at costs imposed/transferred to private sector.

2. Meaning for the private sector mandates in the bill, requiring private individuals and employers spend their money on health insurance – we have no estimate of what the impact/cost/savings (haha) will be.

3. 8 Democratic Caucus Senators sent an open letter to Senator Reid in October saying they didn’t want to vote/consider the healthcare reform without complete cost estimate from the CBO.  In December the Senate took it up without a complete cost estimate.  The letter seems to have been forgotten and the 8 Senators seem not to be following through.

4. The CBO did provide a complete cost estimate for the Clinton Healthcare plan in 1994. But hasn’t on the current healthcare ‘reform’ plans.

Institutional Memory

I’m on the L.A. Chapter board for a professional association – IABC. (http://la.iabc.com). At a recent leadership conference, they stated that a Chapter’s institutional memory disappeared after 5 years (for our chapter it’s more like 3 on a lot of topics). Boards are volunteer-run and people usually do several years’ service and then move on to other things. 

No matter how much gets set down on paper, you lose the history when people leave – it’s usually difficult to figure out what’s important in the data left behind, why decisions were made and ESPECIALLY what outcomes resulted.

In our chapter at one point, I asked: what about having meetings every month in our four regions?  Turns out some years ago this used to be the case – they had a lunch bunch that met to share ideas, network in the South Bay. They stopped it for a couple of reasons – it was always the same people that attended(and interest was waning) and the event organizers were overstretched.

It seems to me we have this same problem with Congresss and the Executive – institutional memory is lost. Programs have been tried before and failed (i.e. subsidies, price controls), but a few decades on, they sound fantastic, they sound new – their intent is to help certain people, right wrongs, extend opportunity – and everyone’s forgotten that in the past they didn’t work: the desired outcomes didn’t eventuate and unintended consequences create new, more difficult problems.  Or maybe they are fully aware that these things don’t work – but they sound good and since politicians won’t ever be held responsible for actual outcomes, why not?

Journalistic research only goes back a few decades – not surprising, as they’re all online and older records would be in print probably, harder to access probably. I can’t say journalists are keeping politicians honest in terms of their legislative record and factual impact on our lives (they may keep them honest when it comes to trips to the Caribbean).

And there’s a feeling that anything that happened more that 40 years ago is obsolete.

Republican Party: Get your ass in gear.

PJ O’Rourke said: 

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.

Someone show me where the Republicans have acknowledged that George Bush was their guy, a product of their party. Where have they acknowledged that they grew government power and spending while in charge and forgot all about individual liberty or freedom, real economic growth, or true free markets (meaning fair markets, not corporatism aka favors for large corporates/industries)?

Where have they explained why this wouldn’t happen again, what has changed within the party, and what in the world they stand for.  They sound like the “NO” party right now – it’s extremely difficult to see anything that they DO stand for.  Someone please show me (maybe I’ve missed it?)

Ron Paul’s the guy I’d like to see in charge of the Party. I don’t care if he’d piss off the social or religious conservatives – at least there’d be some integrity (as much as you can get from a politician) and consistent tenets for the party.

But maybe I’m asking too much. Thomas Jefferson said:

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. 

Tax Day Tea Parties

I’m going to a Tea Party because I do think it’s gone too far in terms of goverment having the ‘solution’ to all our problems. Bush and the Republicans were just as bad as Obama and the Dems if not more so – at least the Democrats tell us what they stand for, while Republicans talk about individual liberty and limited government but do the opposite.

There are a lot of people trying to claim the Tea Parties for their own (Republicans, Fox, etc) and other deriding it (sniff, sniff) as a trick (= Tina Dupuy), which is VERY annoying but it won’t stop me from going. Politicians at all levels are NOT cutting back on programs but rather desperately trying to stave off needed market adjustments.

Washington isn’t even talking about cutting out wasteful programs, reducing our overseas military involvement or paring back budgets.

I’m going to a tea party to take a stand for the private sector (non-profit and profit alike) and a free market system with sound government regulations ensuring fair honest trade can take place, rather than a market full of subsidies, industry favoritism, social engineering, fixed pricing and massive regulatory burdens that drive small/med business out and stifle innvation.

9 month old problem solved!

I can’t believe it; my ongoing problem making online payments to Anthem is solved!

I’ve called their Customer Care reps probably a dozen times over the past nine months, tried logging in on several PCs and a MAC, set up a new online account/password, trying to work out why my online payments would always derail on the last step when I hit ‘Authorize’.

Today I got a nice woman named Patty on the phone and she took the time for me to dictate the error message to her including the 40 digit reference number. She fired this off to a technical person and was able to find out in a couple of minutes that the error message is due to my EMAIL ADDRESS BEING TOO LONG  (there must be a maximum field setting somewhere).

I’m so happy! Despite the irritation and frustration this has caused me over the last months.

Hooray for a Customer Care Rep who knows what to do with technical errors.