It’s Called The Hastert Rule

Denny Hastert, formerly House Speaker Denny Hastert, is a pretty disgusting man who went to prison for his deeds, both fiscal and physical. This isn’t about that. The Hastert Rule guides Congress. It’s not a real rule, but a custom which is followed. Here’s Wikipedia’s tl:dr.

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Helaine hates when I write about politics. I beg her forgiveness. This is a subject that’s crazily important and little known. It’s called the Hastert Rule.

Denny Hastert, formerly House Speaker Denny Hastert, is a pretty disgusting man who went to prison for his deeds, both fiscal and physical. This isn’t about that.

The Hastert Rule guides Congress. It’s not a real rule, but a custom which is followed. Here’s Wikipedia’s tl:dr.

The Hastert Rule, also known as the “majority of the majority” rule, is an informal governing principle used in the United States by Republican Speakers of the House of Representatives since the mid-1990s to maintain their speakerships and limit the power of the minority party to bring bills up for a vote on the floor of the House. Under the doctrine, the Speaker will not allow a floor vote on a bill unless a majority of the majority party supports the bill

That means a bill which could pass the House with a consensus of Republicans and Democrats doesn’t reach the floor unless it has support of 51% of the Republican congressmen. It’s why the 35ish members of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus can stall something that could find 35, or more, Democratic replacement votes.

The practical effect is to move the ruling party (I assume the Dems would do the same or similar) farther from consensus, farther from the middle, farther to the right. The acronyms you’re hearing about today: DACA and CHIP could be solved quickly by a majority that already exists! It just seems crazy.

This is politics at its worst because it elevates party over country.

H, don’t be angry.

Look What Stef Found

My first paying job on TV was hosting a one-time special on Channel 48 in Philly, “Popeye’s 50th Birthday Party.” The station went off-the-air not long after. As far as I know there is no tape.

In fact until a few minutes ago I thought I had no remembrance at all. And then Stef found this!

Can you believe I was skinny enough to wear this?

The jacket is 38 years old and vintage now. Stef will be stylish.

The Cost Of Staying Alive

I’ve got the $400 a year. Not everyone does. This is the 21st Century version of being nickel and dimed to death… literally, not figuratively.

Lantus Solostar. I shoot 26 units of this 300 unit pen every day.

I am insured on a Medicare Advantage Plan. I pay for Medicare, but the additional “Advantage” coverage from Blue Shield of California is free to me.

For 2018 they changed their formulary, the list of drugs covered. It’s really got me upset. $400 a year they used to pay for insulin I now pay.

This is a drug I’ll probably be taking until the end of time!

A little background first. My cancer is gone, but there is collateral damage. Whipple surgery removed half my pancreas and left me with Type 2 diabetes.

It’s easily treatable. I take a pill and shoot insulin every day¹. My blood sugar levels (which I check every morning) are in the range I want.

My insulin, Lantus, was a Tier 1 drug, meaning minimal cost. As of January 1 it’s Tier 3. Now it’s $100 every 90 days.

I’ve got the $400 a year. Not everyone does. This is the 21st Century version of being nickel and dimed to death… literally, not figuratively.

“This is why some people have to choose between medicine and food,” Helaine noted.

You would figure insulin, which has been around since the 1920s, would be off patent and cheap. Guess again.

A generic version of insulin, the lifesaving diabetes drug used by 6 million people in the United States, has never been available in this country because drug companies have made incremental improvements that kept insulin under patent from 1923 to 2014. As a result, say two Johns Hopkins internist-researchers, many who need insulin to control diabetes can’t afford it, and some end up hospitalized with life-threatening complications, such as kidney failure and diabetic coma. – Johns Hopkins Medicine

So, the system gets gamed and people who are too ‘rich’ for assistance but too poor to have this extra cash lying around suffer.

Left untreated diabetes will kill you a little bit at a time. Fingers, toes, limbs, eyesight — it’s a shitty disease. No one who needs insulin should be deprived. Insulin is not an option.

We need to find a way to rein in prescription costs, meaning we need laws. That a system exists today which allows drug companies to do this hanky panky is reprehensible. Must every business decision in life and death drugs be totally profit driven?

It’s time for insurance for all, just as we have education, police and fire protection for all. This is what modern nations do in 2018.

¹ – This is not like the shot you get at the doctor’s office. It only needs break the skin, not find a vein. I use needles so tiny, some nights I don’t feel it going in!

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

Before long nearly everyone was putting their photos in the album. Google automatically adds tags with the shooter’s name then organizes everything. You can sort by chronological order or just ask for shots with a specific person seen (this is the love part of my love/hate relationship with facial recognition).

The family

My sister and brother-in-law are in town from Milwaukee. So were two of their kids, their spouses and four children¹. They’re renting a house near Disneyland for the week. That’s ten plus the three of us.

Judah and Gabby at MKE
Because Jess and fam were leaving early, much of the ‘big’ stuff was shotgunned into the first few days. By yesterday the remaining visitors were in tail drag mode. What good is vacation if you come home worn out?

Exhibit A: Jessie and Evan’s kids at Milwaukee Airport. See what I mean?

One thing that’s changed on family vacations is the number of photos taken. Everyone totes a smartphone picture taking machine–probably the best camera they’ve ever owned. On this trip five of us took the bulk of the shots.

Software automatically backs up my photos to Google. I clicked a few buttons and put the vaca photos in their own album then shared a link with everyone. Before long nearly everyone was putting their photos and videos in the album.

Nearly everyone! Will this be enough to spark the remaining two?

Google automatically adds tags with the shooter’s name then organizes everything. You can sort by chronological order or just ask for shots with a specific person seen (this is the love part of my love/hate relationship with facial recognition). The photos remain private only to those with the very long and unguessable link.

Jessie, Stef and Melissa

Every day my dad gets to look and see what’s going on. He likes this a lot. We like that too.

There are other places to do albums like we’ve done, but Google is ubiquitous (all of us have Gmail accounts), are the database kings and have a very good track record on security.

Having this album makes all our pictures a whole lot better. This is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And now, fireworks.

¹ – Alas, work has taken my niece Jessie and her family back to Wisconsin. Boo for adult obligations.

My Buddy Kevin In Scotland Has Disappeared

Every day or two I see an automated message showing he’s gained or lost Twitter followers, but no Kevin. Creepy. For most pancreatic cancer patients, even Whipple graduates, the result is death — sooner, not later.

Kevin Lyon
I’ve met lots of people during my journey through pancreatic cancer. Kevin Lyon was one. Kevin lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. We met on Twitter.

Like me Kevin had gone through a Whipple and was doing well. And then he wasn’t.

We spoke last the first week in November. He’s disappeared since then.

Every day or two I see an automated message showing he’s gained or lost Twitter followers, but no Kevin. Creepy.

For most pancreatic cancer patients, even Whipple graduates, the result is death — sooner, not later. My outcome is rare. I am very lucky. I was hoping Kevin’s would be too.

In the fairy tale ending Kevin writes to say reports of his death are premature.

Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright

I was in deep sleep when the phone rang. 6:00 o’clock. It was my dad.

I had lunch with a friend in Laguna Beach yesterday. We walked a lot. Steep inclines. Going down nearly as much effort as going up!

It was nap time when I got home.

I was in deep sleep when the phone rang. 6:00 o’clock. It was my dad.

“Why are you calling now?” I asked. “It’s 3:00 AM there.”

See what I did? I subtracted three hours instead of adding two. And I thought it was 6:00 AM. Dysfunction, thy name is Sleepy Geoff.

My father was upset. “I hate calling when you don’t call first.” He was upset he woke me.

“No.”

I don’t want him to feel that way. His calls are too important and I get back to sleep very quickly.

I proved that within ninety seconds of hanging up.

The Day I Pissed Off Cher’s Fans

As much as any straight man in America, I love Cher. Her career speaks for itself. Her eulogy for Sonny Bono was among the most poignant speeches I’ve ever heard and said as much about her as him.

I follow Cher on Twitter along with 3.53 million others. Sunday afternoon (not an NFL fan) she posted:

Would anyone like to play around with a Logo for…
“The Cher Show”
Focus is on letters,
Intricate Designs take attention away from from point

This is a sensitive subject to anyone who makes a living as an artist. It is the stuff memes are made of! For a variety of reasons you shouldn’t ask people to work without offering to compensate them.

I saw Cher’s tweet as it entered the system. I responded quickly enough that it was noted by her fans.

Cher — Please don’t do this. Of course your fans will provide you with designs, but isn’t this something you should be paying for to help support the increasingly difficult job of being a designer? I know you mean no harm.

Let the flames begin!

My reply to Cher was liked 103 times, an astronomical amount for one of my Twitter posts. It was also disliked in a bunch of comments.

Lmao wouldn’t the publicity an upcoming designer receive from something like this be way more valuable in the long run? Think outside the box of monetary compensation

That’s a pretty typical gut level reaction. The designers who responded said, “No.” A lot of people overvalue working for publicity alone.

In the end I hope Cher heeds my message. The best way to encourage artists is to pay them fairly.

Too Many People?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, we’ve got too many people. Have you seen the robot video?

This robot wasn’t designed to do the work of other robots. He’s our competition.

Ditto Elon Musk’s announcement of a new electric semi-truck. It will be able to drive semi-autonomously in convoys. They’re our competition.

Recently a convolutional neural network (just think computer) was trained on 100,000+ diagnosed and annotated chest x-rays. Now it does a better job spotting diseases than a radiologist. It’s our competition.

I run my own TV studio. I do a half dozen jobs, maybe more. I’m your competition.

We’ve lost elevator and switchboard operators, receptionists, three person flight crews and more. Fewer people are needed for nearly everything we do.

Have we become too efficient? Efficiency is a nice way to say “fewer people.”

Do we benefit as shopping continues to move online and retail jobs disappear?

We are about to have too many people. Maybe we’re already there.

How do we handle that? Will we be a nation of poverty and wealth with no in between. We seem to be on that road.

The Sophistication Of The Russians

It’s not like TV where we’re all seeing the same Chevy spot. There were thousands of different ads nearly all aimed at getting people angrier. They wanted us to fight. They wanted us to scream. They wanted us to distrust each other and our electoral process. Their efforts were successful.

Washington Post graphic

I’m waiting for a call back from Mike Sechrist. Bad cell service where he’s walking. We only spoke for a few seconds, but he answered the question I called with.

“Do TV stations and others advertising on the Internet do it with the sophistication of the Russians?”

Mike’s the one to ask. He was the news director who hired me at WTNH in 1984. He went on to be a TV station general manager and now runs an Internet oriented agency.

“No,” he said. That was my guess.

The Russian’s were very sophisticated in their 2016 buys–much more than normal for a businesses. Their goal was to cheapen democracy. Getting Donald Trump elected was an unexpected bonus.

The cost was far more than the Facebook and Twitter ad buys imply. The ads Russian content farms placed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were intricately targeted. It’s not like TV where we’re all seeing the same Chevy spot. There were thousands of different ads nearly all aimed at getting people angrier.

They wanted us to fight. They wanted us to scream. They wanted us to distrust each other and our electoral process. Their efforts were successful. We were gamed.

Here’s an example from Texas.

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time. – TexasTribune.com

What’s obvious today is the artificial intelligence systems running the ad programs for these Internet behemoths aren’t sophisticated enough to see these attacks. Did they even care?

Of course the problem goes beyond the Russian’s. Last week I noticed a Facebook friend had posted a meme about pensions and the military — very political and totally based on made up numbers.

I told her it was wrong, which she acknowledged, but she didn’t seem to care. And the meme is probably still there on her wall inciting anger in like minded others.

We need to return to a truth based society.

The One Year Checkup

Let’s pause here for a second. My threshold for concern has been raised through experience. This kind of repair job instills no fear in me. I’ve been scoped before. No big deal. And, in a hospital setting my port will be used for IVs.

Up early (for me) today for a 9:30 AM appointment with one of the surgeons who performed my Whipple surgery. This is like bringing your car in for scheduled service. My one year check-up.

Dr. Selby walked into the room wearing a suit. I’d never seen him in one before. He’s from Missouri farm country. It’s probable doctor came first, suits second.

With the doctor was his assistant, Shelley. She is the master sergeant of this operation. Call Shelley, stuff gets done.

Dr. Selby brightened as he walked in. He seemed extremely pleased with my outward physical appearance. “You’ve put the weight back on,” he said.

Not all of it, thankfully.

He looked at my scar and seemed pleased by his work. Then I told him about a puffy patch of skin not far from the base of the incision. No pain, but it’s probably a hernia. They get worse with time. It needs to be fixed.

Let’s pause here for a second. My threshold for concern has been raised through experience. This kind of repair job instills no fear in me. I’ve been scoped before. No big deal. And, in a hospital setting my port will be used for IVs.

Even when it’s gone cancer is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Purple Stride for Pancreatic Cancer is coming up in November. Helaine and I will walk with the folks from the office.

Outside It’s A Different Story

It’s so dry the first thing your body asks is, “What’s going on?” Don’t think of sweating on a day like this. It evaporates as it forms! My potted plants were watered yesterday midday then late night and again this morning

Looking down my street toward the Loma Ridge, part of the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.

If all you did was look out the window this would qualify as another spectacular SoCal day. The sky is a brilliant blue and cloud free.

Take one step out the door and it’s a different story. You’re struck by the heat first, then the lack of humidity. It is windy, making the lack of humidity even more noticeable.

It’s noon as I type and we’re around 100°. It doesn’t feel like any hot day I’ve experienced east of the Rockies. This is a totally different animal.

Courtesy Mesowest/Utah State

It’s dry. Dew points are ~60° lower than the thermometer temperature. Relative humidity is in the low teens.

It’s so dry the first thing your body asks is, “What’s going on?” Don’t think of sweating on a day like this. It evaporates as it forms!

My potted plants were watered yesterday midday then late night and again this morning. Potted flowers can be desiccated in under a day. That freaked me out when it happened a few years ago. So fast.

Sandy headphones after a night on the patio.

Sandy headphones after a night on the patio.[/caption]Because it’s so dry and winds are out of the east (actually north northeast at the moment) they bring in desert sand. I leave these headphones on the patio. That’s grit just from overnight! It’s on everything.

What we’ve got going on are Santa Ana winds. These are downslope winds from our nearby mo.ntains. As they compress they heat up. The effect is so thorough we’re warmer today than the desert areas just to our east!

This is fire weather. It won’t take much for one to start and with these atmospheric conditions, spread fast.

The are special protocols in place for area fire departments. No blaze is considered small, no call routine, until the winds shift and paradise returns to the Southland.

One more day. Things get back to normal Thursday.

I Can’t Relate To That

When I found out I had cancer and thought I was going to die I was surprised little changed. All I wanted to do was live the life I was already living. I was happy with my life and (most of) the decisions I’d made.

There’s an article in the NY Times about Senator John McCain. The article makes the argument McCain’s changed since his diagnosis of what’s incurable brain cancer.

  • the 81-year-old senator has found a new voice.
  • “Do I hear in his voice a little bit more expression of grander ideals? I do,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.
  • in a dramatic return to Congress after surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, he delivered a harsh critique of the Senate as he called for Democrats and Republicans to work together.

You get the idea.

It’s possible McCain’s cancer was a sobering moment that changed his attitude. It’s just not something I can vaguely relate to.

When I found out I had cancer and thought I was going to die I was surprised little changed. All I wanted to do was live the life I was already living. I was happy with my life and (most of) the decisions I’d made.

I am saddened by his terrible illness, but if McCain really does have to make radical shifts, I’m also disappointed.

None of us are going to be here forever. Be a good person today.

Twenty Two Trips To The Treatment Center

This was my 22nd IV drip here. Who in their craziest dream could imagine that? It’s not something you prep for. Like most tasks the more you do it the easier it gets. Other than the needle penetrating the skin over my port, I feel nothing.

At the Keck USC Norris Treatment Center in Newport Beach. I don’t think photos are allowed.

I’m told my days at the treatment center are over. We’ll see. I’ve been told I was done twice before, once after chemo and then after my first round of iron.

Surprise!

This was my 22nd IV drip here. Who in their craziest dream could imagine that? It’s not something you prep for.

Like most tasks the more you do it the easier it gets. Other than the needle penetrating the skin over my port, I feel nothing. Even the needle only hurts for a second and only hurts a little.

In two weeks I’ll have blood drawn then visit my oncologist’s physician assistant for the readback. My cancer numbers are perfect. My iron is still suspect.

All the nurses were gathered together today as I left. I stopped by to tell them how important their caring was. Seriously, I can imagine this being a hellish experience without a caring staff.

I know most of their names. They all know mine. Twenty two visits is an awful lot.

It’s Nice To Have Nice Neighbors

Sandra is Bob Vila-like! My question had to do with our door latch. She told me. Then she did it.

Helaine and I are the only empty nesters on our block It was a decision we made before we moved to SoCal. We love having kids around. We’re hoping it keeps us young.

Sandra, Michael and their three kids live at the end of our block. I’d offered to give a weather talk at kids’ school and walked over this afternoon to try and firm it up… and get some advice.

Sandra is Bob Vila-like! My question had to do with our door latch.

She told me. Then she did it.

We entertained the kids by giving them Doppler and some jerky treats. Perfect.

No more banging my shoulder against the door to open it. Thanks neighbor!

When Is The Time Right, Las Vegas Edition

Courtesy: NBC News www.nbcnews.com

I just tried to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue on the Las Vegas massacre. After a few seconds I had to stop. With me he’s preaching to the choir. It’s too painful to be reminded we let this to happen. We choose not to stop it.

How can anyone hear the audio from the shooting and not wonder why this level of death machine is allowable? I just don’t get it.

I have friends who are sportsmen. I don’t want to restrict their fun, but I do ask they allow themselves to be inconvenienced for the common good.

This is the time to talk about gun control. Right now while we’re angry. Right now while we’re grieving. Right now while we can close our eyes and hear that sound.