Saturday, April 23, 2011

Days Off

In keeping with our recent tradition of using our days off to spend money we don't have on medical procedures, we hung out at the ghetto dentist for several hours Friday. Also in keeping with tradition, I was taken back 20 minutes after my appointment even though I was the second person of the day. Luckily, my cleaning only took half an hour, which put the hygienist back on schedule. Unluckily, there was another person between my appointment and Debbie's. Luckily, he got done on time and Debbie didn't take very long as they were only doing half her mouth. (Long story that ends with, "Yet another scam to milk extra fees in any way imaginable.") Now they want me back in a couple weeks for a follow-up. It was a cleaning! What the frack is there to follow up on?!?!

Anyway, when we got home I had two letters from the ghetto lab where I had blood and urine tests done last week. The first letter informed me that my urine was completely normal and there was no need to schedule a follow-up appointment. Thank the gods; I can still pee straight. The second letter informed me my blood results were in and I needed to schedule an appointment ASAP. I'm guessing the news isn't so good. I was hoping to get the results without paying for an additional office visit. While I was out to the ghetto clinic to visit the ghetto pharmacy to see if we was po' 'nough to get a discount on my insulin, I asked if there was any way I could get my lab results. The answer was an emphatic, "NO! Someone has to explain them to you!" I started to say that maybe there wouldn't have to be so much splainin' to us simple po' folk if they would stop printing everything in the Windows Wingdings font, but after 12 years working in healthcare, I knew it was pointless. A priesthood maintains its power through obscurity; hence the persistence of the Latin Mass, speaking in tongues, and medical paperwork written in pure gibberish.

Ran across this video of Cookie the Ticklish Penguin:

I note that our lease allows us to keep a bird. Might have to crank the AC a bit, though. And I want that sound he makes as a ringtone.

While we were out and about in Lake Mary, we cruised around collecting phone numbers in the windows of empty offices. We found a couple promising ones. Given that it was Good Friday, I didn't have a lot of luck getting in touch with people, but I was able to get a few figures. They ranged from the reasonable ($.80 to $1 per sq ft including trash and all utilities) to the silly ($3 per sq ft not including anything) to the sublimely ridiculous ($15 per sq ft; couldn't stop laughing long enough to asked if that included a weekly massage with a happy ending). This may yet work out. I'm certainly not going to jump into anything just yet. I'm still looking for that perfect place that can we can live in, have an office in, and have room to get our stuff out of the U-Haul locker. We had one that looked promising from the outside, but I don't think we can live in it due to zoning.

Florida is a weird place. More precisely, Florida is full of deeply weird people. The number of times a resident of the state of Florida is featured on Lowering the Bar (a blog devoted to bizarre court cases) should be disturbing to those in charge. But it most likely isn't:

Workforce Central Florida spent more than $14,000 on the red capes as part of its "Cape-A-Bility Challenge" public relations campaign. The campaign featured a cartoon character, "Dr. Evil Unemployment," who needs to be vanquished.

That's just... um... wow. I have no words.

We've all known the Fourth Amendment is dead, buried, forgotten and rotted away to dust. But yet-another story to just hammer that home:

The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

..."Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags," a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device's capabilities. "The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps."

And just in case you think you only need fear the government:

Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised.

Follow-up stories have Apple claiming the whole thing was just a bug. Yah. Uh huh. And my name is Kate Middleton and I'm off to jolly ol' England to shag Prince William.


The U.S. government plans to sell a significant share of its remaining stake in General Motors Co. this summer despite the disappointing performance of the auto maker's stock, people familiar with the matter said. 

Never mind the $10 billion in taxpayer money flushed down yet-another rat hole. That's loose change swept up by the night janitors in the Senate chamber these days. The simple fact that the federal government of these United States owns shares of General Motors is astounding. That not one WTF has been forthcoming from... well... anyone, ought to be terrifying.

Generally, I don't pay much attention when someone on the internet starts screaming that something people have been consuming for decades is somehow magically responsible for everything from cancer to bad breath. (The aspartame hoax e-mails, for example). When I started reading this New York Times article with the unfortunate title Is Sugar Toxic, my first thought was, "Great; here we go again." But instead of yet-another no-nothing running around screaming like their hair was on fire, the author lays out a pretty good case that it is possible that ingesting too much fructose does more than make you fat, that there is some research into that possibility but it isn't conclusive either way, and that follow-up studies are badly needed. In the meantime, good luck cutting out all sources of fructose outside what occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. I read this article Thursday night, so I paid attention to what I consumed all day Friday. It was a little frightening. Other than beverages (water, unsweetened ice tea, Diet Coke) and some grapes (which naturally contain fructose), everything I stuffed in my pie hole had added fructose. I'm not sure how we would even go about avoiding the stuff. It's not like we can grow our own food or even make food from scratch living in our little ghetto apartment.

Because gas prices are getting up to the level that people are starting to squawk, energy is a hot topic. The typical conversation starts with "Well, if we'd just [insert impractical idea], we could go on consuming energy as if the earth were infinite," then goes downhill from there. One problem is that it's difficult to wrap your head around just how much energy we use and how it gets used. A second problem is understanding how inefficient our methods of energy use are. Here's a picture that helps:

You will need to click on that to view the full-sized image unless you're big into eye-strain. There are two things to note: all renewable sources amount to 8% of energy consumption. If you limit that to wind and solar, it's .8%. We cannot continue business as usual on renewable energy. The second thing to note is the amount of energy we consume that drifts off into space as waste heat without doing anything useful on the way. Nearly 58% of the our energy use goes up the chimney. Maybe instead of spending billions flying politicians to climate conferences for free food, booze and whores, or subsidizing energy sources that will never contribute anything meaningful, could we work on nudging that percentage down? I'm aware that most of that is the inevitable result of converting energy from one form to another and can't be eliminated any more than we can save energy by eliminating gravity. But can we do better? Are there inefficiencies that can be eliminated? Can we remove some of the conversions?

Or maybe we need to use less energy?

Nah! What am I thinking? This is America! It's a basic human right to leave lights on when we're not home, drive around in circles, hop on an airplane at the drop of a hat, and annoy the neighbors with our giant, lighted plastic Santa heads. We just need to drill baby, drill!

And speaking of which, we're off to visit Mickey again today while we have some time off.

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