31 December 2021
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Is it Time For "Me" to Retire?

Oh Noooooo!

(Should I Make a Stab at Suspense?)

Nah. Not to worry; I'm not retiring, but "Me" may be. I began this exercise in bloggery about 15 years ago with an entry entitled "Me." Ten years to the day I took the liberty of updating it, and found that the changes weren't that great. They might be lesser still were I to wait for the beginning of a third decade of scribbling, and the IRS tables give me hope of achieving that and possibly another one beyond. But the IRS isn't infallible, so I just took a look at the most recent "Me" to see if it needed an update right now. Here are the changes:

  • Another five years, another age increment! I must be 75 or more! And, notwithstanding my medical interaction, below, remain robust with visible toes.
  • "Tom Clancy," still 100% life-free, continues to augment my library. I'm four probably-not-great books behind as of this moment.
  • I've stopped my faux-competition on Jeopardy. Without Alex Trebek it's not the same.
  • I haven't run out of fuchsia phosphor yet, but only because these changes are so brief and inconsequential.

Not a whole lot for five years! Maybe I'll assay a new "Me" blogitem five years hence, if able. I surely hope I am!

Winston The Puppy has developed a newish habit: He keeps a schedule for me and demands playtime when he has finished his breakfast. He turned nine this summer and remains remarkably energetic.

Friends of My Youth

2021 hasn't, on average, been a good year for my oldest friends, i.e., those roughly my age and whom I have known for 60 years, plus or minus. Several have developed or had worsened serious medical conditions. Only one was related to Covid, and he is the one most likely to completely recover. It's all very sad. (My own personal medical ex-issue, recounted at some length below, enjoys a wry risibility with no apparent consequence beyond the terminally bureaucratic.)

Entertainers of My Early Alleged Adulthood

It's been a bad year for the Mary Tyler Moore show, too. That's one of the few television shows I used to make an effort to watch. Betty White, who played Sue Ann Nivens on the show, died today, just a few weeks short of her 100th birthday. I think that makes it a clean System Sweep, all the other regulars having died previously. A few of them had something of a nexus with Sedona and our International Film Festival. Ed Asner (2021), Cloris Leachman (2021), and Valerie Harper (2019) all visited and provided some insight into their characters in our Performing Arts Center. Gavin Mcleod (2021) and Georgia Engel (2019) also died very recently, presumably without ever having been here.

It's Been a Bad Year For Trade Shows

A bad two years, actually. The last real trade show I attended was CES, the Consumer Electronic Show, at which I did or didn't contract my own case of Covid. The 2022 CES edition purportedly begins in a few days, but already they have canceled the final day for reasons of "safety." Fortunately Las Vegas is driving distance and if the show is canceled at the last minute it will be a disappointment, but that's all.

My Runs-in With the Medical Establishment

This year was the first in which I personally experienced the preposterous silliness of how the healthcare business is committed in this country. I should start by saying that the actual healthcare I received was entirely satisfactory, without inappropriate difficulty, excessive waiting, or questionable medical practice. But the bureaucracy surrounding my experiences makes me despair of the sanity of the healthcare and insurance establishment. Before relating my tales of semi-woe, I must emphasize that:

  • Most people of post-parental dependency probably have it much worse.
  • All of these experiences are as nothing compared to those who are truly suffering.

But OMG how stupid it all is! Really! How did we end up with such a goofy system? Probably has a lot to do with the G-word, but I'm hardly an expert.

Why and How I Interacted with the Medical System

It all started with Winston the Puppy and this blogger, a person of average (at best) gracefulness. I was on a tile deck when WtP got underfoot. The Prime Household Directive is "Don't Crush the Puppy" and, in compliance, I managed to fall down and twist my leg to avoid the aforementioned damage. I originally thought I had sustained a minor sprain of some internal leg component, but after a number of months (six) it hadn't completely healed. I decided that the damage warranted medical attention. This turned out to be a bad idea, but I didn't know that at the time.

  • I went to my doctor and explained that, although Winston remained uncrushed, my leg hurt. After a bit of laying on of hands without adducing a precise diagnosis, he decided I should get an MRI. His office would make an appointment for me.
  • His office notified me that the insurance company wouldn't approve an MRI unless I first obtained an X-Ray.
  • I got an X-Ray, which showed nothing. My doctor told me that of course it didn't, because X-Rays don't show "soft tissue damage" and that I should get an MRI. His office would make an appointment for me.
  • This time, X-Ray uselessly accomplished, the insurance company approved the MRI. I went to the MRI location and they asked me if I had insurance. "Yes" I averred, truly believing that I did. The MRI was a remarkably not-unpleasant experience. The operator gave me a pair of headphones and asked me what music I would like to listen to. Fifteen minutes of Grateful Dead later, the MRI was complete.
  • I went to a doctor at the MRI facility—a nearby hospital—who told me that the MRI revealed that I had suffered a "torn lateral meniscus" in the leg in question. It wasn't a bad tear, and if I were to have surgery, it probably wouldn't improve since my leg looked about what it would normally look like after successful surgery. In other words, do nothing, and live with the minor pain you continue to suffer. Which I did, until the pain after a number of months (another six) went away entirely.

OK! So, not such a big deal. Except when I got the bills, of which there were many. The X-Ray, the X-Ray reader, the MRI, the MRI reader, the doctor who interpreted the MRI reader, and the copyright payment to the Grateful Dead*. Did I put a handful of checks in the mail and forget about the whole thing? Not I! The first thing I did was wonder why my so-called "insurance" was paying less than I was! The next thing was to wonder why it was all so expensive. The last thing I did was nothing, knowing that eventually when the bills and credits all got reconciled, I would receive a call from the "billing department." At that point I could get my questions answered.

And now begins the fun, to which the above was a somewhat lengthy preamble to...

A Short and Unsatisfactory Denouement

The "billing department" finally called me and wanted their money. I asked how much the MRI would have cost had I NOT had insurance, and was told that it would be about HALF of the bill I received after the insurance company paid their pittance. And the X-Ray, which was unproductive and done only at the insurance company's request, would have been entirely unnecessary. Being too polite to ask the "billing department" if they knew how to whistle, I made a counter-offer: How about I just pay what it would have cost without insurance? I was told that, no, I must pay it all. I explained "No." And there it stands, another five months later. Will they write it off? Will I get sued? Will my credit rating be ruined? Will I be denied a transfusion if I ever need one? Will the Hospital Police come and take away my meniscus? Who knows? The medical system, almost every aspect of it, makes no sense.

You've Been Spared

After seeing how long this diatribe has been, I've decided to spare you the ridiculous story of the partially filled prescription.

Winston the Puppy remains uncrushed, my leg is OK, and given that I'm writing this on New Year's Eve and most likely you're reading it in 2022 or later, it will have worked out OK until at least early 2022. The Hospital Police have New Year's Eve off.

* Of course that's a lie. I'm sure it was incorporated in the MRI bill.

Richard Factor


"I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain"

Tim Buckley





This is a T-shirt I obtained in 1992, possibly from the artist, possibly at random as often happens. I know it was '92 because the date is written next to the artist's signature. What I don't know is anything about the artist Juli Moon. Which is sad because it's a really interesting shirt.

I looked her up on the internet. I found one Juli Moon Studio with a great astronomical photo on the home page. It seems they do tattoos!

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