Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Medical wait times in Ontario

Ontario has a problem and the London area has the same problem but bigger: hospital wait times. The London Free Press has been running an excellent series looking at the lengthy wait times endured by patients awaiting hip replacement surgery.

But as bad as the problem is, and it is bad, I would not be too quick to toss the entire Canadian system and embrace the U.S. model. In 2010 my wife and I crossed the States by car. We stayed in bed and breakfasts and we chatted with a lot of Americans. One lady we met had been waiting more than a year for her joint replacement/repair surgery and she saw no end to the wait time. The boondoggle? Her insurance company.

On that same trip I had a heart event that put me in the hospital in Marin County, California. I spent less than 48 hours under medical care but I ran up a bill of about $30,000 U.S. And all that money, all the sophisticated tests, didn't find the cause of my heart problem. I was given some pills, metoprolol, and discharged to drive thousands of miles back to my home in Canada.

Here at home the doctors discovered the cause of my heart problem and an ICD/pacemaker was inserted into my chest. My direct cost in Canada: essentially nothing. My cost for treatment in the States? This too was essentially nothing but it took some eight months, or more, of back and forth with the insurance company and a U.S. based collection agency before all was settled. I had to take some long, difficult phone calls and I had to listen as I heard our retirement security threatened.

If I had been an American, even with insurance, it is possible the source of my heart problem would never have been discovered. I might have fallen through the cracks, as they say. The insurance folk would almost certainly have fought to find a way to drop me from any health plan and with no money there would have been no solution.

To go full circle, let's return to the problem of wait times and hip replacement surgery. In London, Ontario, the wait time has become indefensible. But as bad as our system is when it comes to this surgery, I wouldn't be too fast to hold the much-faster-on-paper U.S. system up as a gold standard.

Please, follow the link to Free Money for All: A Basic Income Guarantee Solution for the Twenty-First Century by Mark Walker. (If the link fails, google the book and do a search on the word "infinite". You are looking for page 38.)

Walker points out that a sizable percentage of Americans are unable to access the fine U.S. health care system. Being neither rich nor insured, they find themselves unable to pay when it comes to elective surgery. They are trapped outside the Amercian health care system suffering indefinitely. These people sit on what I have heard Americans refer to as the infinite wait-list. They will never get that much needed hip-replacement surgery. Never. The wait times endured by these people is not measured in months, the times are not even measured in years. The wait is infinite.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Working on recipe using Bonachia spinach fettuccine

The picture doesn't do tonight's dinner justice. I don't see any walnuts in the picture, and there were lots, and the Bonachia spinach fettuccine can only be seen poking around the tomato and spinach. I'm working on this recipe, fine tuning it you might say, and when I get it right I'll try and take a picture that does it justice.

I'm trying to come up with a relatively inexpensive but very healthy dinner. The Bonachia spinach fettuccine is the most expensive item in the meal. I'm going to try and find some on sale.

The spinach doesn't cost two dollars for two meals. The feta cheese comes from a giant block purchased at Costco. It is mild for a feta made from goat and sheep milk but then it is only Greet style. It comes from Stratford, Ontario. And it when used in small amounts, a few ounces at a time, it is inexpensive. There are not too many tomatoes, nor too many mushrooms, but enough of both to make a tasty, simple sauce.

The next time I'm going to hold some of the feta and some of the pan-roasted walnuts back in order to sprinkle them on the top of each serving. There really are a lot more walnuts and far more feta than it appears in this picture.

The fresh corn was an afterthought. It was only a buck at Remark and may be the last local corn of the year that I buy. It was fresh, sweet and delicious.

Do not tamper with reality.

There was a time when tampering with reality was questionable at papers.

Back when I worked at The London Free Press I was asked to shoot a quick picture of strawberries to illustrate an article on the ripening local crop. I deked out for some berries; they were from California. I told myself that berries are berries. Sue Greer disagreed. Sue rejected my picture. The berries were not from Heeman's, the berry farm mentioned in the story. I drove across town to Heeman's for some berries before reshooting the picture.

In the early days of my career in the newspaper industry, faked and doctored images were always 'questionable'. I use the word questionable carefully. The pictures might make it into the paper or they might not. Such pictures always raised questions. No more.

Today pictures are all too often filler, page art, illustrations. The idea that pictures are simply shims on a  page has never been more true. I have tried to broach this subject with local journalists but have found they completely ignore my comments.

When I got into the newspaper business there was a distrust of those with degrees in journalism. The editors at the first paper at which I worked believed many graduates had picked up bad habits at school along with big egos. It was difficult and time consuming retraining them on the job. A graduate with an English degree was preferred over one with a journalism degree.

The clown image that accompanied a local news story.
Today fake pictures abound in our papers and online and our university trained journalists see no problem with illustrating their stories with stock photography.

Recently in London, Ontario, high schools were threatened with trouble from clowns. The police arrested two kids too young to even attend high school. The paper should have seen this coming; kids not clowns are often the source of such threats.

The paper illustrated the story with a cliché image of a horror story clown and my guess is that neither the award-winning, degree carrying, journalist, nor the local university that once granted MAs in journalism saw any problem.

And why is the clown image so wrong? Because it illustrates not just a story but an attitude. And that attitude leads to stuff like the stock art photo used on the left. It's certainly not a news picture. I think it's soft porn.

And once the ability to question has been blunted the next logical step is faking pictures in-house.

When a Sun Media paper couldn't find topless sunbathers at the local beach to illustrate a story, the paper simply hired a couple of models. 

The models took turns being posed topless but it was all very tasteful. When topless, the two models were shot from the back. The resulting pictures got wide play. One even ran in The New York Times.

And some at newspapers wonder why more and more readers are questioning the decisions being made by our newsrooms. Heck, if the folk in the media won't ask the questions, some readers will.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Send in the clowns

The news picture depicts a clown, a terrifying clown with a white face streaked with blood and a smile marred by long and pointed teeth. One tooth is blood stained. It would be a great piece of photojournalism if it actually was journalism. But it's not. It's photographic clip art.

Clowns have been in the news lately. Well, at least talk of clowns. It seems clowns, in fact, haven't actually done all that much that's news worthy. It's often kids that are being arrested, if anyone is arrested at all.

For instance, in London, Ontario, after online threats to kill teachers and kidnap students were made, police arrested two kids not yet old enough to be in high school.

So, the London clowns were kids. A picture of a couple of kids laughing and texting on an iPhone would have been a more accurate image than one shown but, as it wouldn't have been the actual kids, it still wouldn't be journalism.

I decided to google this recent clown craze. I found a Slate article titled: The Wave of Evil Clown Sightings Is Nothing to Worry About. It Happens Every Few Years. I learned:

  • May 1981, Brookline, Massachusetts: Elementary school children report two clowns driving a black van offering them candy. A rash of  sightings follows but no clowns are found.
  • March 1988, Louisville, Kentucky: Across a three-county area, children suddenly begin calling police with stories of a malevolent clown offering rides and, in one case, pursuing a child on foot. No arrests are made. The clown vanishes without a trace.
  • Oct. 1991, Chicago: The city police are overwhelmed with reports from  schoolchildren of a man dressed as Homey D. Clown from In Living Color. The clown offers them candy to ride in his van. Children variously report the van to be blue, white, or red, an eighth-grader claims to have punched the clown in the nose and an adult reports seeing a clown abduct a girl. Before the epidemic subsides, clowns are reported in Evanston and Joliet as well as Chicago.  As the panic over clowns drew to a close, not one clown had been placed behind bars.
  • Sept. 1992, Rock Hill, South Carolina: A wave of terrifying clown sightings comes to an end when four teenage boys are arrested. The boys aren’t charged; authorities cannot find a law that has been broken.
  • Oct. 1992, Galveston, Texas: An evil clown reportedly attempted to kidnap a little girl. The police and media are flooded with sightings. A police investigation leads to no arrests.

Yes, I have been selective. And, yes there have been cases of evil doers dressed as clowns. But, if an evil clown is sighted, I would not bet on its veracity too quickly. I'd let the paper to that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Courtiers and the Tyrants: Chris Hedges

The Courtiers and the Tyrants: Chris Hedges: We must not confuse the political elites who function as courtiers to corporate power with the tyrannical leaders who actually drive corporatism. Our real enemy, lurking behind the curtain, is usually faceless and anonymous.
- 2016/09/18

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My best fruit fly trap.

This trap is easy and quick to make, costs nothing and is easily disposed of. At which point, make another.

I have made a number of fruit fly traps following instructions found on the net. All traps had problems. I was not satisfied. Now, I've made my own and so far it seems to be working very well. I may have a winner.

  • I took a 2 litre pop bottle and cut it in two.
  • I poked a hole in the attached cap. It was easily done with the point of an open pair of scissors.
  • I poured a little cider vinegar into the bottom half and dumped the peel from one apple in as well.
  • I flipped the top over and wedged it into the bottom.
  • Finally, I used masking tape to secure the top edge to prevent the escape of any small flies or tiny larvae (maggots). Yes, fruit fly eggs hatch and miniature maggots appear. Ugh.

After the pop-bottle-fruit-fly-trap had been in use for only a few minutes, it contained half a dozen fruit flies. When I checked after dinner, I found no sign that the little critters were finding their way out. I may be a little quick on this announcement, but I believe I have a winner in this fruit fly trap design.

Why is this so important to me? Well, I have had it with fruit flies. Thanks to all the fruit sitting on my kitchen counter at this time of year, I have a veritable fruit fly invasion on my hands . . . and on the kitchen counter. Ugh. If the fruit is fresh and firm with unbroken skin, the flies won't burrow into the fruit. But they will lay eggs on the surface of the fruit and on surrounding surfaces. Ugh. This is one reason to wash fruit before eating.