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Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Longer-time friends of either this blog or my wife's will be familiar with the fun and games we've encountered over the past few months with one of her health care providers and its interaction with her health insurer.  The tl;dr version of it: since mid-July, she's had a course of treatment that included periodic lab tests. It took over a month for us to realize that Blue Cross was declining to pay for several of these tests, potentially leaving us with a bill from Quest Diagnostics of close to $600 for each of as many as four rejected testings.  That's when the runaround really began in earnest.

Eleanor has spent hours going among the provider that ordered the tests (which had no idea they would not be covered and which offers an alternative version for about $15 per test for its uninsured patients), the Blue Cross people (who have ranged from kind to utterly clueless) and her patient advocacy representative. That's right- somebody who gets paid to argue with the insurance company on the patient's behalf when the insurer doesn't pay.

If this sounds suspiciously similar to a Monty Python sketch, it's because it's that absurd. Being Hit On The Head Lessons are sure to follow.

We've now become semi-proficient at the language of this field. Mind, Eleanor's got the "good insurance" among the three of us; mine, and Emily's now that she's eligible for it, are high-deductible deals that pay little or nothing until we hit fairly high annual nuts of out of pocket expense. Eleanor's $750 annual nut was stored and eaten as of March, and everything except her prescriptions should now be covered in full for the rest of the year.  Except when they're not- such as when an EOB on an OUTPT LAB/PATH gets an NG due to a finding that it is not covered by medical guidelines found under CAM 038.

WTF is a CAM? A Carolina quarterback? A commercial lease provision?  An expensive thing to break on your car?  I still don't know what the DAM thing stands for- but at least, thanks to a sympathetic BC/BS employee (overriding others who treated the definition as some kind of trade secret), we have seen wot it say.

No, I'm not telling you.  But I will point out two things about the site providing the guideline.

First: At the top of the page with the guideline, Blue Cross says:

We recently made changes to policy CAM 038.... These changes become effective July 1, 2014. The changes are in the management of chronic non-cancer pain, in the outpatient setting, for monitoring ....

well, what it monitors.  That's not the point. The point is that these changes, which became effective July 1 (conveniently about three weeks before they became relevant to any of us for the first time in our lives), were announced on June 25th.  And by "announced," I don't mean they told us, and probably not that they told the providers.  It was probably buried in a 900-page blinding-black-type bomb of data if it was promulgated to providers at all. So it's no wonder that this provider had no idea it was repeatedly, and expensively, exposing its patients to the cold hard reality of potentially uncovered lab expense.

(And it's not just medical peeps who pull this shit.  Last week, a major new piece of consumer-protection rulemaking, which will affect my practice in a big way, thankfully only in a small corner of it, took effect immediately.  I learned of it from a press release that another lawyer in my building was kind enough to post on the bulletin board by the copier.  Nothing through the dozens of emails I get from the state court system every week. Nothing from the bar association committee I participate in to learn of such changes.  I've been signal-boosting myself to let affected clients and fellow practitioners know about it, but not everybody has someone as nice as me to do the town-crier job for them, so it REALLY sucks to be them right now.)

Second: Atop the news of the policy change itself (mostly consisting of the words CAN'T, WON'T and DON'T), Blue Cross splatters its logo. Specifically, this is the Rochester-headquartered BC/BS licensee that Wegmans uses for all of its employees, known as Excellus. The EOBs all refer to BC/BS Florida, but THIS explanation of the CAM-shafting comes with this outsourced header:

CAM Shafted

Never mind the whole question of why Excellus is sending its decision-making policy decisions to the land of Obamacare haters. It's the slogan that's just rich with irony. Because it obviously doesn't matter to them how you're actually treated for the condition your condition is in, as long as they have a catchy slogan and a good customer service rating with J.D. Power to make them feel good about themselves.

At least they're better than the local BC/BS competition, which still uses this as their primary slogan (here's me wearing it before we headed out to this year's Shore Leave convention):


In fairness, they're starting to introduce a new ad campaign which is less likely to result in your death on an unknown planet's surface, but even it's a bit weird.  After spouting some promotional fact about their latest marketing effort ("Get a rebate every time you purchase fresh fruits and veggies at Tops which is fithier than the garden they were grown in!), they end with:

Independent Health.... keeping you well.... informed.

Sheesh. Even THAT's got Shatner's diction going on.

Feel free to follow this continuing storrrrreee of a lab test that's gone to the dogs, either on this blog or at the provider website. Which, and I swear I am not making this up, is  southcarolinablues.com.  Cue B.B. King:

We've got the CAM38 Blues
We've got the CAM38 Blues
Don't know which test they will choose
To send the payment or refuse
We just hate to get the news-
It makes you want to hit the booze!
-We've got the CAM38 Blues....
These here Interwebs are great- until the trolls come out from under the bridges and demand payment. All of them are annoying; almost all of them are avoidable.  There are basically three models out there:

* Paying customer only:  The site's entire content is behind a paywall, and you get nothing except, perhaps, a teaser paragraph or two until you provide your proof of payment- which may be a direct online subscription, or an offshoot of having a paper one.  My original hometown newspaper, Newsday, infamously went to this model a few years ago when the local cable company bought them up, and they got majorly mocked when, three months in, only 35 subscribers had forked over actual money for the thing. (They've since backed away from the Great Firewall model and allow at least some access.)

* Quota time!  This seems to be the most popular with old-media news sites, including the one we actually pay for here in Buffalo. If you're not a paper or online subscriber, you get a certain number of articles a month before the cookie counter kicks you out.  (When switching computers or over to a tablet, I often run into this nonsense and get a TIME'S RUNNING OUT! nag screen after the first of the ten "free looks" permitted by their software.)  Some of these can be bypassed by deleting the site's cookies (Gannett sites seem susceptible to this); others (including the New York Times) are a bit smarter but are still fooled if you click the links to their pieces using your browser's private /incognito/ anonymous mode), and still others can be spoofed through free-login combos provided by sites like bugmenot.

* Some bricks in the wall, some not:  In this model, the editors (or, just as likely, the business-side suits) choose a walled/no-walled selection of articles from each issue, and often, you can't tell which is which until you click a link to one. Probably my least favorite, even as a suscriber, because even the stories you can access with a subscription are generally coded to prevent them from being copied into blogs and such.

I bring this up now because the most famous (at least to me) of the third-model sites, The New Yorker, has decided to ditch it, in favor of an as-yet-unspecified quota of monthly reads that non-subscribers can read.  What's important for right now is that, until they finalize the process and build the new paywall, their entire current issues, and their entire almost 90 years of back content, are available online, in full, for free.  So that ridiculously long, four-week Jonathan Schell depress-o-fest from 1982 on The Fate of the Earth?  The bitingest of Pauline Kael's movie reviews? The entire cartoon collections of Chast and Booth? Get 'em now while you can:)

Or- screw that, and just read this piece from the current issue, which I'm reproducing here because I can, and because it's funny:

Because, really- how can you go wrong with Drunk Shakespeare?Collapse )

Thanks, they art here all week. Exeunt, pursued by the veal.
No, not the one in the icon. Or Iliad guy. Or the original and long-forgotten Mets mascot. No, your vitriol of the day is for this one:

THAT Homer is the lovable mascot of the Home Despot, and it's his ilk that have me working for free today on account of their stupidity.

I got my new bank debit Mastercard in the mail yesterday, ten months ahead of expiry. I got it because Homer & Co. allowed our previous bank debit Mastercard to get hacked- not just the 16 digits but the PIN, so the bank erred on the side of caution (mainly to save its own ass if the script kiddies drained my account, which the bank, not I and not Homer, would be liable for) and sent out new ones to everybody.

Am I right to complain? After all, these naughty hackers are smart, and ruthless, and can penetrate just about any level of corporate security, right?

Well, they can probably crack the 1-2-3-4-5 code to open my luggage- and that's about all Homer expected of them:

Home Depot’s in-store payment system wasn’t set up to encrypt customers’ credit- and debit-card data, a gap in its defenses that gave potential hackers a wider window to exploit, according to interviews with former members of the retailer’s security team.

It’s unclear whether that vulnerability contributed to the hack that Home Depot announced on Sept. 8. Yet five former staffers describe a work environment in which employee turnover, outdated software, and a stated preference for “C-level security” (as opposed to A-level or B-level) hampered the team’s effectiveness. The former workers, including three managers, asked that their names not be used because they fear retribution from their former employer; some now work for companies that perform security functions for Home Depot.

Although the company this year purchased a tool that would encrypt customer-payment data at the cash register, two of the former managers say current Home Depot staffers have told them that the installation isn’t complete.

Gee, THAT's reassuring. So in order to maintain profit levels, stock price and upper-level performance bonuses, look what Homer hath wraught:

* Banks, fearing liability to customers (who almost instantly started getting hacked within days of the breach), sent (and spent for) millions of new cards, plus millions of separate mailings containing the new PIN;

* Users (that's me!) have to activate the new card, instantly rendering the old one useless as a PIN-enabled card for stores or ATMs because I don't have the new PIN yet;

* Users also have to figure out which subscriptions, memberships and other accounts use the old number and then slog around, either in person or online, to change them to the new one (Eleanor's gym membership, Amazon, GOK what else).  And if any of these aren't changed? Most of these outfits will happily charge YOU an overdraft fee or its equivalent because their payment didn't go through- because it isn't their fault any more than it's yours, or your bank's.

And hey! Guess what? JPMorgan Chase just announced that IT got hacked, too, and half the credit card numbers in the flippin' country are up for bid on The Hack Is Right!  So even though I haven't had a Chase card in close to a decade or ever had them as a depository bank, I KNOW I've used one of their payment processing pads within the past week and I therefore fully expect to have to do this shiz all over again NEXT month.

Too bad there isn't technology to make this much harder.... oh wait, there is. It's called Chip-and-PIN, and Europe, even freakin America Junior to our north, have had it for years. But Mercun companies think it's too close to the Mark of the Beast or something and they won't do it (notable exception: Wegmans, which has a lot of Canadian customers and really likes taking their money as conveniently as possible).

Maybe now, guys?

go with a picture of a cute kitten, right?

One of Eleanor's customers tipped her off to this little guy yesterday. And I do mean "tipped." There's a no-kill shelter in a nearby strip mall, and a mama cat's litter got rescued for fostering after she got run over by a car. This one's lacking a paw, but is totally not lacking cute:

Initially, they were calling him "Tripod," but by the time I went over at lunchtime today, it had been changed to "Trace." Whatever. He and his littermates seem to be doing okay with bottle-feedings and a lot of attention; apparently, this place draws a lot of lookie-loo lunchtime traffic, and they encourage it even if it doesn't produce adoptions, because it helps socialize the rescues.

We couldn't, but a friend of a friend was reportedly considering it, so I went over to get the picture and boost the signal.  Here's their site link if any of these critters could find a place in your home, or if all of them inspire a donation.

Meow (he says, with one cat cradled in his typing hands and another dead asleep less than a foot away).
*Anti-climactic, in this case.

A couple of weeks ago, I'd mentioned, semi-cryptically, that I'd set a hearing date of personal significance for today. It was unintentional, but I was almost instantly aware of it. For it involved walking into an office this afternoon which, 30 years ago today, I walked into for the very first time as a freshly-minted, almost-admitted lawyer in the State of New York.

October 1, 1984. I'd finished law school, and then the bar exam, without a job or a commitment to one. Only one mid-August interview, at a small shop in Rochester, held any hope.  My lease ran out and I divided my stuff between my car and my successor tenant's storage space until I knew what was what.  Finally, I got word that the guys had hired me, and I would begin on this day.  In short order, I found an apartment, shlepped the two halves back into it, and began the long strange trip that continues today.

Counting me, there were four lawyers (a fifth, mostly retired, occupied a small corner office), one paralegal, and three support staff (still known as secretaries then). I learned to draft bankruptcy petitions in pencil on drafts of the actual forms, which were then hand-typed onto self-carboning "originals." There was one computer in the office, with a bitchin' 10-megabyte hard drive; two of the secretaries also had Xerox Memorywriters to cut down on the rote.  I knew the law (more or less), comma, but now, comma, I had to learn how to read into a dictaphone, comma, which I hated. Period.

Two months in, I learned I'd passed the bar; not quite two later, I was sworn in (and, from time to time, at). I took over a high-flying level of practice the following May when the senior partner died at the age of 47, and stayed at it there until just over 20 years ago. My then-partners wanted me to be someone I wasn't, and wasn't willing to become.  It led me out of the firm, and out of town for the opportunity that brought us to Buffalo and the home we still have.

In those 20 years since leaving, I've been through three other employment situations (plus working for myself, now, for over eight years), I've improved the technology quite a bit (although I'm rarely cutting-edge with anything), but I'm largely the same attorney and person I used to be.

Them? Not so much.


The firm moved on up in the same downtown building not too many years after I left, where they now have a full floor plus, I learned today, some additional back-office space further down.  I've been in maybe one hand's worth of times in the 20 years, most recently about two years ago, but today was when the sheer foreign-ness of it really hit.

The client was in a difficult situation, and was late in arriving. When we got up to their office for the 2:00 hearing, we saw a receptionist encased behind bank-teller-style reinforced glass. We were asked to sign in.  And we were given, I kid you not,.... identification badges.

(Oops, forgot to return that. Bet it'll make a nice cat toy, though.)

Forty minutes later, our business, and a tentative deal, were both done.  Their conference room view, albeit seven floors higher, was almost exactly the same as the one I had from my own desk there all those years. Not a soul was in the building who knew me way back when; the other lawyers from the time had died, left, retired or, in the case of the one lawyer I was closest to (and who was both the biggest cause  of and biggest disappointment after my departure), simply wasn't there today.

I doubt it would've mattered if he had been there. When we were colleagues, even friends, the idea of a place so sterile and secured would've made us both uncomfortable.  Now, he's the head honcho and that's the way he likes it now.

The two-ish hours since then, I've spent at my newer part-time office near Rochester.  No sign-in sheet. No lanyard to wear or fob to open doors. (I do need to remember to lock the front door, though.)  One of our legal assistants is having a baby and everyone's excited rather than repelled by it. 

On balance? I'm happy that the path began at that office when it did- without it, I likely would never have met Eleanor, or the people I now work with- but I'm even happier that I got off that path before I turned into someone who I was never meant to be.
Yesterday, I wrote about how organized bands of atheists are taking over the Sunday morning institutions of my childhood memories. Today, I learned that the Merry Melodies Memories of my Saturday mornings are now, effectively, gone:

Saturday morning cartoons are officially a thing of the past.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (As Porky Pig) That's all, folks.


No, really - that's it.


MARTIN: Since the 1990s, TV networks have been pulling the plug on the cartoon block. The CW Network had been the only one hanging on, until this weekend. Now you'll have to pass down to your children the stories of the good old days - waking at the crack of dawn, pouring yourself a bowl of frosted flakes and waiting anxiously through the commercials to see if Poppa Smurf would once again outsmart that wily Gargamel.

This being an NPR story, its comments of course brought out, not just the memories of these shows, but more than a few snarky condemnations of those Chocolate-Frosted-Sugar-Bomb-pushing, mind-controlling network capitalists that ruined America's kids by not exposing them to enough serious commentary from Eric Sevareid.

(He was a serious news reporter. You could look it up.)

Me? I rotted many a tooth and a brain cell on those mornings. As a virtual only child with older and generally indifferent parents, these shows were my early escapes into imagination, humor and a lot of very good music that I never would have been exposed to otherwise. By the end of the 60s, those aspects began to fade, the music becoming more four-four eight-bar pop, the messages becoming more adult-guided and "pro-social," but where the network new releases failed me, syndication on the local New York stations kept Bugs Bunny and Rocky the Flying Squirrel and a treasure trove of historical animation on the air and, to this day still much of it, in my head.

As for the ones I can't still remember by heart (and it's frightening how many I can), there's Youtube, which I find myself turning to every now and then for another sight of Bugs promising to "paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch," or Bullwinkle solving the eternal mystery of the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam. Most of these early cartoons were shown in cinemas, or on television in prime time, reaching adult intellect and not just feeding PC Captain Planet bullshit to the masses. (In at least the early days, the cartoon stars were as likely to be hawking cigarettes as Cheerios.)

Done in by "children's television" activists, but finally, more likely, by alternative video options from cable to games and by the soccer-mob socialization of kids' free time, the last outpost of these toons is now abandoned- and probably just as well, because the final-era episodes likely sucked. Fortunately, we got to share a lot of these memories with Emily, and I suspect there were at least a few classic moments from them that led her to her chosen career field in animation.

So even if we can't say that "We'll always have Paris," we CAN always remember, however regretfully, that we shoulda toined left at Albakoikie:

Church here yesterday was highly ordinary. Songs and a sermon series. A few people I really cared to be with there, a bulletin insert reporting a projected $22,000 annual deficit, and not much else to write home (or here) about.

Yet roughly 60 miles away, a different congregation formed- one of 30 different places around the world where new fellowships began yesterday- all the music, all the inspiration, all the connectedness, just none of that-thar God stuff:

On Sunday morning — while sermons were beginning in churches throughout the city — Rochester ushered in its first godless congregation.

The Sunday Assembly, more commonly known as the atheist church, did not have a pastor or a traditional church choir; instead, the assembly held its first local service with an upbeat, rock band rendition of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror."

Nearly 50 people attended the service at the the Rochester Academy of Science auditorium.

...Sunday Assembly Rochester, one of 30 new chapters to launch worldwide on Sunday, is part of the rapidly expanding movement of godless churches. The organization, which was founded in London in early 2013, now has 58 assemblies.

Local organizer Leslie Hannon said the congregation aimed to be "radically inclusive" and give the secular part of the community an opportunity to be acknowledged.

The article goes on to identify the movement's version of small group connectedness- something our denomination has always encouraged and our minister has always called for (and expressed frustration at the lack of overall interest in):

Hannon said small interest groups — which they call smoops — will meet in between the monthly services to give back to the community and foster camaraderie within the congregation. The Sunday Assembly Rochester's first smoop will be a photography walk thorough Mt. Hope Cemetery in October. Hannon said community service projects are also in early planning stages.

Antonio Cruz, 54, of Rochester had not been to church in 40 years, but was happy and at-ease during Sunday's service.

"Everyone here is so friendly," he said. "I've never experienced anything like this before."

I'm sure the movement will attract its share of nuts, both inside and out, with the Spaghetti Monstrous trying to co-opt the values and the Fundies trying to save souls on the way into the heathen pit.  Also, it's yet to hit Buffalo (although Canadians have a few outposts just over the bridges), where more conservative and set-in-ways values seem to prevail.

Still. If I or we wind up shopping for more opportunities than are coming from the current deity in the current vestments, I see no reason to rule this out. In fact, I see a whole lot of reason here.

Three seasons of sport essentially ended today. As for two of them, the less said, the better.

The Bills lost. While they are only a quarter done with their season, the past two weeks have produced ugliness that portends yet another quiet January in our local lives, and probably yet another rebuilding campaign beginning in 2015.

Derek Jeter played his final game today, on the road in Boston. His final days in the Bronx were so over-the-top, I envisioned the Yankees providing him with a chariot of fire and horses of fire that would take him to heaven in a whirlwind and then return him for the final three at Fenway.  He was a good guy, but I'm just happy we won't get a third straight year of overpriced adulation from Team Steinbrenner next year.

Which brings us to the final finale- the meaningless Mets win today, which ends an eighth straight year with them going (in this case, staying) home at the end of the regular season with no Games That Count for more than half a calendar. The past six of those seasons- all of them under their new Citi Field umbrella- have been sub-.500 years, although this time they came their closest and wound up tied for second in their division, way behind even the one-and-done wildcard contenders.  I will not bore you with the reasons for their demise or the made-up (or Madoff, depending on who you believe) reasons for their lack of any real hope of improvement next year.

Rather, I want to talk about the group of fans, the group of friends, who make it all worthwhile to keep this team on my radar, and favorites list, and once-annual pilgrimage list, despite all of that.

"My Summer Family" is what a blogger friend Taryn called them, back when her rels had real and regular Shea Stadium season ticket seats.  These posts came as the demise was already under way, and ended not long after the move to pricier quarters next door broke up the assemblage.  But the term still holds, for me at least, even from this distance.

To put it in perspective: the Bills have already played two home games 15 miles from my home. I know dozens of people, in real life and/or online, who attended, or could easily have attended, those contests. Not a one of them ever asked me if I was going, or wanted to go. For the product, or the pre-game experience? Erm, no- both involve substantial risks of regurgitation.  But for the camaraderie, the shared experience? Yeah, I'd risk the loss of voice (if not the loss of cookies, as I would not drink during tailgating) to be with people I care about.

On the other hand? In the week prior to today's final Mets game, 400 miles from my doorstep, no fewer than four fellow fans specifically sought me out and asked if I'd be there.  (I held out remote hope through as recently as yesterday morning, but the funds to justify it did not arrive, and thus neither did I.) We'd have been holding down separate sections- from bleacherish to beaucoup-buck- but we'd all meet during the game, usually on the Shea Bridge connecting the first-and-third-base sides of the stadium, and reminisce about the better times behind and ones we hope will lie ahead despite the prognostications.

We're professionals and creative types, moms and dads of everything from college graduates to cats to stuffed bears. We all detest our team's owners, tolerate its frustrated managers of general and field, and live and die with the ragtag band of, mostly, the Very Very Old (one of whom won the final game today) and the Very Very Young.  We are blessed with the two best play-by-play men in the business not named Vin Scully and marvel at how they can make even the most pedestrian of this team's losses seem far more magical than they really are. We manage to have a good time confined to the Emperor's Club sections of the ballpark, yet somehow do just as well if not better when staring in from the cheap seats.  We mock the opposing teams and fans but do not hurt them.

I went an entire season without posting a single entry on my Met-oriented blog, despite following the outcomes of all of them, watching more than a few of them, and attending one of them not quite two months ago. As with the game itself, there's a rhythm you have to get into, and the injuries to so many players during the year, the absence of farmhands from Western New York, and the general stupidity of ownership all contributed to that silence.  Yet through all of it, the connections to those who make up that Family have meant as much to me as ever, if not more as we go through these times together. To our blogger contingent- Greg and Jason, Taryn and Ed, Jason and John, Susan and Andrew (I'd better stop before I name all twelve disciples;), I thank you whether you've made me smile every morning or just once or twice. To the fellow sufferers from East Meadow- another Susan, a returning Bill, and of course Dennis- I thank you for being there. And to those who maybe just posted a photo of a moment where you declared your love for this disease I cannot cure myself of- thank you for trying us.  We have cookies:)

Next year, the Mets open on the road, and the promise of a new season will not return to Flushing until April 13. We're hoping it will be a Harvey Day- something unseen in 2014 but full of a prospect of hope that was also rarely seen this year.  Yet we still laughed, and yelled, and tweeted, and threw out first pitches and called out "play ball!"- and when any one of us did it, we all did.

For we are Met fans. And we're stupid that way.
And we all thought Canadians were so polite.

Rob Ford has turned out to be such a rude, obnoxious crackhead, not even his recent cancer diagnosis has gotten him any sympathy. Government officials in BC are a bunch of asshats, as several readers of this page have recently attested. Yet none of them have brought out the vitriol like the douchebag on a bus who's become known in the past few days as the TTC Leprechaun.

That's him, on an all-full #72 bus at the end of a workday earlier this week, when a fellow commuter asked him if he would mind moving his (appropriately named) Bag from the seat on his left so she could sit down at the end of a long day.

"No, my bag is there," he told her.

From there, it escalated into namecalling, F-bombing and some rather unpleasant Canadian Sign Language:

Security cams were unable to help with identification, but the Internet is mighty pissed at Hipster Dude. Already a fake #ttcLeprechaun Twitter feed has begun to try to shame him-


- and polite vigilantes are on the lookoot for his true identity. One of the reports above quoted a source claiming that he works at a downtown TO call centre and didn't show up for work yesterday; probably because he wouldn't have very happy to assist anybody:P

Seems simple enough to me to catch him: stake out the Air Canada Centre on a Leafs game night. Because anybody that douchey has to be a fan, if not an actual member of the team.
We marked our 27th anniversary today, having dinner right here in our 20th year in this home. Among other things, we both had long days today (mine not nearly as productive as Eleanor's, given my having a meeting last-minute-canceled on me while she did an amazing job fixing a store computer), and it was a perfect early fall evening for burgers on the grill, jazz on the Bluetooth and memories in our hearts.

We celebrate the 27th as I near the end of the year following my 54th birthday. If you count the time we lived together before this day in 1987, that's more than half my life sharing a roof, a family and a future with my best friend ever.

We ended the evening watching the season premiere of Key & Peele- something she's watched more of in the past than I have, but which I found to be far more fun than their all-too-brief appearance in Fargo.

We also, almost, got each other the same anniversary card. Granted, we're both insufferable Wegmans honks, but they did have more selection than just the one;)

That's a lot of paragraphs beginning with "we," I know- but you can't commemorate "wedding" without starting there.

I love you, Eleanor:)

And Bristol, Connecticut is best when ESPN leaves editorial control in the hands of its creative people. Such as this simply wonderful short-subject done in its 30 for 30 series.  This one's only half that, but it's more a story of the mind than it is about sports:

It's all the more touching on this end because it's about a player who became most famous for his days with the Mets. Even Eleanor remembers him, if only for his memorable name- Mackey Sasser. This team has always had great names on the roster- from Hobie and Choo Choo and Marvelous Marv at the beginning; to Butch Huskey, the Best Baseball Name Ever in the 90s; and in their in-between glory years, a crop of characters including Doc, Straw, Mex, Mookie, The Kid behind the plate, and, yes, Kid's backup:


That's how my friend Dennis's oldest child pronounced it as a toddler, and it translated to us and eventually to Emily as Mackey's skills began to crumble.

They called it a version of the golf malady known as "the yips," only in his case it became "the taps"- because Mackey would repeatedly tap his mitt while trying to get the ball back barely 60 feet from behind the plate back to the mound. He could still throw quickly and accurately twice that distance to throw runners out at second, but that was reflex action; throwing back to the pitcher was too routine, and he thought about it too much, and that's what did him in as a fielder.

The Mets tried to fix the condition, strictly as a matter of physical therapy and it never worked, but it took decades after his mid-90s retirement before sports psychologists finally succeeded in fixing the person. It's a remarkable study of how fragile the mind-body connection is, and how delicate a process it is to fix it when it breaks down.

Good job, ESPN.


Now hold the rest of the applause, for when the networks's suits rather than its talents are calling the shots, ESPN can be horridly, horridly bad in its judgment.

One of its on-air personalities, Bill Simmons, did an offsite podcast for a site called Grantland, on which he out-and-out called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar for his handling of the Ray Rice suspension. I learned today that ESPN suspended Simmons from all of its platforms for three weeks for daring to criticize the spokesperson for one of its billion-dollar content providers. That's 50 percent longer than the wrist-slap of a punishment that Rice himself got before the dirty laundry from the elevator came out.

The network has kowtowed to the Shield before, particularly in its coverage of concussion-symptom issues being faced by current and retired players. ESPN had co-produced a PBS documentary on the subject, but it mysteriously wiped its logo and credits from the finished product when it ran on Frontline last year. Once again, the wall between the "editorial side" and the "business side" has become as thin and stinky as a piece of toilet paper.

I wonder what one of the 30-for-30 directors would do if Bristol tried to censor their content in this same way. One thing I'm almost certain of: I'd never see the finished product on Cable Channel 26.
Honest, I could make a full-time blog out of these stories- and you'd run away in terror, so I won't. Today, though, you get four, count'em FOUR, different tales of my brethren making all sorts of bad decisions:

* Still no acknowledgement in the Buffalo News coverage about the reasons behind my law school dean's sudden resignation amid charges of perjury.  It's been two days since the alt-weekly broke the story, years since the student newspaper has been covering it.  I can't wait for the next fundraising call from the Law School Development Office; maybe I'll make a big pledge and then tell them later I was lying about it.

* The bigger legal story of the week, though, is that once again, Dear Leader Party Chairmen got together over the weekend and essentially rigged the ballot for the five judges who will be added to our region's trial-level bench come January.  Republican and Democratic delegates have anointed four of a crop of potential nominees through "cross-endorsement," virtually ensuring their election.  The fifth seat will be contested by one from each party, the Republican being a 14-year incumbent with an "outstanding" rating from the local bar association. I have no idea how they're going to spin his exclusion from the back-room deal, and it makes me wish more than ever that both I and my colleagues had taken the idea of challenging this nonsense more seriously back in the spring.

* On the non-judicial side of the local Bar, we have our local hero from 2010, who rode to Tea Party prominence in challenging Andrew Cuomo for governor (and lost in a landslide), and who has since become a member of the Buffalo School Board in addition to his previous private roles as a lawyer, real estate developer and genuine meshugenah. Crazy Carl was at it again last night, where he introduced one of this area's most prominent political pundits as a "worm" (from the microphone) and as an "asshole" (off-mike, but to the man's face).  Stay classy, Horse Boy.

* But we have to leave our friendly confines for perhaps the weirdest legal tale of the week with perhaps the biggest gaffe. A county legislator from my old home town dropped out of the race for New York State Senate after it was revealed that he'd been sued by his former law firm for phony-billing a client of theirs for millions of dollars and bilking them for bonuses he wasn't really entitled to. (He remains in his county legislature seat, which seems right, since it may be a job qualification in Nausea County to be indicted at least once in order to hold public office.) The piece about the kerfuffle in Newsday was paywalled, but they did allow access to a Scribd copy of the state-court summons and complaint against him- and it's a scream. Not only because the allegations and the legal writing about are so completely over-the-top, but because the plaintiff law firm makes a Really Big Deal in the complaint about not naming the allegedly defrauded client- "At the request of the Client, it shall currently remain nameless. Denenberg is well aware of the identity of the Client, having been so informed in discussions with DHC"- and it then attaches an exhibit that NAMES THE CLIENT.

This is one of those things that happens to us more often than you'd think- the more you call attention to your attempt to conceal details, the more likely it is that you'll screw it up. Years ago, one of the judges near here published a decision involving attorneys fees- and he went out of his way to redact the name of the debtor from the dozens of  times he mentioned it in the decision. Yet at or near the beginning of the decision, he generically identified the debtor as being "a publicly owned hospital in X County, New York." There is only one publicly owned hospital in X County, New York, so that went well.

That's enough for one day, I guess- time to upload this, if I can only remember my LJ password....

[Spoiler (click to open)] MADE YA LOOK!
Here we go again. Another professional athlete is charged with domestic violence against family members and both team and league officials give it a pass in the name of "due process."  Only this time, the game is soccer and the athlete is white and female- and there's little outcry about Hope Solo continuing to play while the charges of violence are investigated.

Well, except for this:

Why Hope Solo Should Be Suspended From Team USA -- Immediately

Hope Solo should not be playing right now for the U.S. Women's National soccer team.

Earlier this year, the star keeper was arrested for allegedly attacking her sister and 17-year-old nephew. The police report said Solo was "intoxicated and upset," and she allegedly called her nephew "too fat" to be an athlete. Also according to the report, the boy had blood on his shirt, and his mother (Solo's sister) was visibly injured.

After a flurry of media reports directly after the June altercation -- Solo has a court date set for November -- very little has been said or written in the media about the pending case. After a brief hiatus, Solo quietly went back to playing with her club team, the Seattle Reign, as well as with the national team, which is in the final stages of qualifying for the 2015 Women's World Cup.

To me, that last bit sounds awfully like what we condemned the Minnesota Vikings for, when they tried to reactivate Adrian Peterson after a 30-7 drubbing by New England. "Well, we deplore domestic violence, but we need the wins more!" Only the ensuing outcry led to him going on double-secret-probation status (during which he's still being paid) and the same treatment going to at least one other NFLer with pending charges.

Why is soccer different? The quote from the national team's governing body puts it in virtualy the same terms:

Neil Buethe, director of communications for U.S. Soccer, offered this explanation to USA Today for why Solo is still on the field: "We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at this moment. At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the National Team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way." (Solo recently broke the women's national team record for shutouts.)

So is Buethe saying that if Solo weren't close to breaking a record, perhaps she wouldn't be playing? Is he insinuating that Solo notching that last shutout is more important than sending a message to young soccer fans that actions have consequences, even if you're this close to setting a record? Finally, the euphemism of "personal situation" downplays the reality of what is happening, which is that Solo is facing charges of domestic violence against two family members, including a minor.

Anger knows no gender, nor does domestic violence.

U.S. Soccer needs to suspend Solo, and it needs to do so immediately.

Personally, I Hope they do.
Earlier today, I saw a completely innoucuous little article in this town's daily newspaper of record that got a hmmm out of me: the dean of my law school was resigning effective December 19, but would remain on the faculty.

But that hmmm turned into an ohhhh myyyy just now- when, while looking for a book review on the local alt-weekly's website, I found this much more detailed version of the resignation story, which suggests that the dean may have committed perjury in a pending case in federal court (links in the excerpt below are Artvoice's):

The UB News Center reports today that Makau Mutua will be stepping down as Dean of UB’s Law School effective December 19. He’ll then return to the law school faculty as SUNY Distinguished Professor and Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar.

From the press release:

UB President Satish K. Tripathi said that through Mutua’s leadership the UB Law School is “well positioned to achieve even greater prominence in legal education and scholarship.”

“I want to express my heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation to Makau for his leadership and service to our university during his tenure as dean,” Tripathi said.

Mutua was educated at the University of Nairobi, the University of Dar-es-Salaam and Harvard Law School. But the statement from UB doesn’t mention anything that was reported last month in The Star newspaper based in Nairobi, Kenya.

From The Star:
A Kenyan law professor based in US has been accused of committing perjury in an American court, his co-accused now wants the cases separated.

Makau Mutua, a human and civil rights activist, has been accused of lying in court.

He is sued for allegedly irregularly laying off Jeffrey Malkan, a lecturer at Buffalo Law School where Mutua is a Dean.

Evidence against Mutua is said to include sworn deposition testimony and sworn affidavits from seven tenured faculty members.

How embarrassing to all us local media outlets that this hometown story was broken over a month ago by a paper in Nairobi.

I then went back and read the earlier story from the News, and noticed several things I'd missed earlier. One, no mention of the "why" of the resignation- not even the obligatory "spend more time with his family" dodge. Two, the article did not carry a by-line- highly unusual for a piece about a leading executive officer at one of the region's largest employers. And, no mention at all of this case (which has been pending since 2012) or of the involvement in it of another famed member of the Law School faculty, Professor Charles Ewing.

I've never met, or had any dealing with, Dean Matua- he was after my time. But Chuck Ewing arrived in my final year and has become a recognized expert nationwide on juvenile crime- often testifying, or at least opining in public, on the social and other factors that go into why kids sometimes do bad things that get the attention of the courts.

I've read the memorandum in support of the Ewing motion mentioned in the Nairobi newspaper piece (some days it's good to be the lawyer with an electronic-filing account). It tells an all-too-familiar tale of modern academia, where the new-guy faculty goes up against the entrenched old guard who keep him out of their Tenure Club. I read the names of the promotion committee which New Guy had to pass in order to get in: at least eight of the eighteen were on faculty when I was there more than 30 years ago, and many of them are pushing closer to 40 years of tenure. (At least one of those eight, I've seen several times off-campus in the ensuing decades, who married one of the students in the class behind me and their kid went to our local high school with Emily.)

Did they promote him? And if so, who voted to do so? Those are among the contentions in the civil case later brought by New Guy, and the accusation is that the dean lied on the record of New Guy's employee-relations hearing following his decision not to renew his contract- and that he did it again in the course of the civil case brought thereafter.

This is about as powerful as shit gets between a bunch of academics, and both the university and the region's newspaper of record elected not to mention a word of it in announcing the resignation. There are, at present, no criminal charges in federal court on account of any of it, and the accusation is just that and no more at this point- but to sweep it under the rug is an outright embarrassment to the standards of truth that both a university and a newspaper should be upholding.

And the final irony? The governor of Our Fair State named the UB SUNY Buffalo Law School* dean to his crimefighting political corruption committee last year- which the Guv then promptly and unilaterally dissolved once it started investigating political corruption among some of Cuomo's own political cronies. A United States Attorney from downstate is now investigating whether anyone or everyone in the Executive Mansion can be charged with federal crimes over THAT.


* Although the Buffalo News article, such as it was, refers to the "University at Buffalo Law School," the school itself has rebranded itself in most of its own pitches to alumni as "SUNY Buffalo School of Law," to emphasize its statewide standing as the state university's only law school. I've written before, to them and in here, about my displeasure with the school acting ashamed of its 125-year roots in Western New York, and noting that my other state-supported alma mater, Cornell University, has somehow resisted the need to rechristen itself "SUNY Ithaca."

Woke up for slopping the hogs around 5, deleted all the music on my phone.  Still not enough room for the iOS 7 install.

Deleted a bunch of pictures that had already been Clouded. That was enough. Started the download and went back to sleep.

Woke again to the new white-background iWorld. Went to sync to get everything back. Found they've moved podcasts to a separate app. Downloaded it.

Started the sync. With the extra app and the extra 7 bits, I needed to purge some tunes. Did.

Then noticed a butt-ton of old podcasts, not specified for sync, had downloaded themselves and were clogging the series of tubes.  Apparently, the Podcasts app is factory-set to "download every available podcast on your list whether you want it to or not."

Fixed that. Found sudden amounts of room.

Got all wanted music on, plus OneDrive, which will, hopefully, make this easier next time.

Which, apparently, will be in like a week, because now that I've finally conquered iOS 7, they've gone and come out with iOS 8.

Just iShoot me now.
The Geeks of the world have their new toy now; the iPhone 6 has been out for more than a day. There's no real breakthrough like with previous upgrades, such as Siri or the first-ever bigger screen that came with the 5. Still, it's the Next Big Thing, and everyone and his bro wanted to be in line for one.

Rather, everyone and his indentured servant. If you've got an iPhone 6 minutes to spare, watch this mini-documentary of how the black market took over the launch date in New York City in Friday's wee hours:

This may not be quite as bad as the guy in LA who rounded up homeless people to stake his claim to iPhone 5s last time, paying them each only 20 bucks and plying them with cigarettes for their trouble (and then abandoning them 10 miles from their shelter when the Geniuses figured out what was going on and refused to sell to them); the folks in yesterday's video did get their phones (every one buying the two-phone maximum, every one paying in cash), and they look to be making meaningful money for their trouble. But there's still something wrong with a market that is so dependent on scarcity and regional restrictions to make these late-night purchases worth so much more overseas than they are where they're intended to be sold.

It wasn't my first second-hand experience with this today. During a midday workout, my trainer's husband came into the gym, as he usually does. This time, he came with a story about his recent purchase of a Mercedes. It was used, and he bought it from a business named (not exactly, but close) "Spectacular Motorcars." Last week, Kirk needed some warranty work done on it, and Mr. Spectacular sent it to the dealer for him. But not to the authorized Mercedes dealership two miles from the gym (where Iggy also goes for his Smartening-ups), but to one in Erie, Pennsylvania, a good 90 miles away.

Hmmmm, I speculated. Sounds like Mr. S. hasn't been paying his bills with Herr Benz on Main Street. To which Kirk replied, Worse.

Apparently, Spectacular ordered and paid for a brand-new Benz from the local dealership, only to turn around and sell it, brand-new, to a buyer in Dubai for quite a few more euros. Neither the manufacturer nor the government is keen on this sort of thing, and both Mr. S and the local dealership got fined $10,000 apiece for this transaction, which the dealer didn't even know about. So while Kirk is welcome to bring his car in there directly, Mr. S and his business are personas N.G. there for as long as he owns it.

It did remind me of one of the truisms gained from almost 30 years of collections litigation, more than a few against car dealers: the more prestigious a name is put on a car business, the likelier it is that they're going to turn out to be a bunch of sleazeballs. High End Automotive is painting a fake picture that Joe's Car Lot doesn't have to.


Back to the other kind of phone-y-ness:

There is no iPhone 6 in my future, even if I had the time to wait through the line. I'm trying to avoid upgrading altogether, but I'm still finding my old 4 to be in need of some help. Just now, I thought I'd found some, from the unlikeliest of places:


This laptop has This Thing called OneDrive. It's Redmond's version of the Cloud, and a few programs on Tobor seem to want to default-store stuff up there. So Microsoft, feeling left out of all the hubbub, took the opportunity to announce that they would make 30 gigs of OneDrive space available to all users, including those using the OneDrive app on the iPhone, to help with the installation of the new phone's large and complicated software needs.

To which I responded, YAY! I can download this app and use the OneDrive space to store enough stuff to get my long-overdue IOS 7 upgrade onto the phone!

Except I can't: you need IOS 7 to be ON the damn phone in order to install the OneDrive app:P

So I'm going for broke here, charging the phone in preparation to delete my entire music collection, which should leave just enough room for the upgrade to install. From there, hopefully, I can restore it all next time it syncs with my iTunes once there's room again.

Or maybe I'll just mail the thing to Dubai and see if something good will sheik out.
The Scots decided to stay in the Union, by a much wider margin than anyone had anticipated. The leader of the independence movement has fallen on his haggis bowl and resigned, and we will now see whether Westminster follows through with its promises of more autonomy Oop North- and whether they will also lead to changes to the west and across the Irish Sea.

Meanwhile, back here, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally came out of his hiding place and saw the shadow of his shame. He took the usual corporate approach to problems- forming a committee, which, he hopes, will have new and better policies in place by the beginning of February. (He must've been upset during that part of the announcement because he flubbed the words "Super Bowl," which is the single most sacred cow in the Pigskin Pantheon.)

Maybe if the Conduct Committee can't solve this problem, the Competition Committee can- just cut the size of the onfield roster to 10 players per side and get rid of the running back position. For whatever reason, it's the source of all of these crazed individuals going through the legal wringer right now (not to mention our own beloved Orenthal James Simpson, back when he was trim enough to run through an o-line or an airport).

I'm done with deciding things for the week- Day Five of court went okay, and I have only brief appearances on two days next week, so I'm hoping to catch up with lots of things.
Began my day (more or less) with the sight of this guy at my early-morning gas-up:

Cut for the squeamishCollapse )

Ol' Rizzo there was positively stylin' on the pavement, rolling round in the early-morning sunshine. I wondered if it was some kind of weird Genesee County variant on Groundhog Day, where if this varmint sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of summer.  (Not bloody likely; it looked downright wintry driving home late this afternoon.)

Then, I ended my day (more or less) with the same species: Eleanor moved up the Farrelly Brothers' Three Stooges reimagining to the top of our Netflix queue, so we got to see Curly's pal, Nippy the Rat, working his way among the totally ridiculous plots. Still, I'll be nyuk-nyuking for a week now.

In between? Knocked off Day Four of my 5-for-5 court stretch, finished my 39th read of 2014, and finally got a copy of Cameron's speeding ticket which may, or may not, be scheduled for hearing on the afternoon of October 15th.  I also set  rather memorable date for something else for week after next, which I'll report on once I get to it.

And with that, goodnight, knuckleheads:P
The Vote in Scotland is tomorrow, and the No's seem to be pulling ahead- thanks, in large part, to the fearmongering of recent weeks coming from many sources that come up online.  Most of the fearmongeriest of them seem to be coming from the Telegraph, which doesn't surprise me. When I lived there for a summer in Maggie's days, people called it the Torygraph.

In fact, I remember being taught an entire catalog of how to understand the slants coming through the British press at the time.  This is a quote of it from a 1987 episode of Yes, Prime Minister, but I'd heard the bit long before that:

Humphrey: "The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers' prejudices."

Hacker: Don't tell me about the press, I know exactly who reads the papers: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

(Not responsible for the linkage; Wikipedia put those in).

Now, some of these may have changed over time; Rupert Murdoch had only recently purchased The Times when I was over there, so it may have since gone more off the right deep end (and/or toward more tits).  What say you there? Are these publications covering the vote in the ways these old-line stereotypes would predict?  And what effect is it having?

Enquiring minds and all that....

The other day, I used this space to rip Amazon a new one. I guess the next place to go in the Pantheon of Puter, alphabetically anyway, is Apple.

There's a new iPhone 6 on the way. Yay! It'd be nice, though, if they did a better job supporting my poor old 4. It's had a software update stuck in it for months, if not years, which I can never install. Every time I try, I get this:


In turn, "Usage Settings" tells me I'm down under a gig on the phone itself, but that I have over 4 gig available on the cloud- but I can't move music to the cloud without buying an extra storage plan.  So I'm stuck.

I did move a lot of music to somebody else's cloud- yes, Amazon's. I don't like their physical shipping and receiving department, but every book and record I order from them shows up instantly on my tablet or phone, respectively.  So I do have room to add new music and podcasts to the phone that I hadn't had recently- except Apple is getting slow in delivering them.  Over the weekend, This American Life posted a link to an interesting story about local politics in a New York school district: I thought it was about a local imbroglio, but it's actually about one closer to New York City. Still, I wanted to hear it. Wasn't available Sunday; not available Monday (when the Store says it's uploaded), and, at least as far as my iTunes is concerned, not available now.  I was able to get it from the TAL site, but it had to be manually playlisted and downloaded into the phone, and it doesn't have the +15, -15 and pausing functions you get when iTunes downloads it as a podcast. But I was driving and got to hear it all in a shot, so no harm no foul- except for the inconvenience of it all.

Music, you say? I'd read about the free download U2 began offering last week, and just for giggles I decided to try it.  A click on the Store button showed a banner advertising the "gift"- but clicking it said I'd already "purchased" it and the download link didn't work.  It wasn't in my library, on my phone or even on Eleanor's computer (we share a single iTunes account), and it took a side trip to CNET to figure out how to get the bloody thing.

I know, First World Problems. And that these are all free and I should be lucky to have them. (Some people, indeed, are bitching about Apple auto-downloading the U2 album to their devices without even being asked and they've now had to post instructions on how to get rid of it.)  Still, I'm finding the actual technology coming from Cupertino isn't quite up to the cachet they've got us all imagining about it.
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