Friday, June 27, 2014


“Philosophy is a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” – Ambrose Bierce

“If you’re famous and on Twitter, you’re a moron.” – George Clooney

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” - C. S. Lewis

"One of the most important things you learn from the Internet is that there is no "them" out there. It's just an awful lot of "us" - Douglas Adams

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.– Winston Churchill

“You should always leave the party 10 minutes before you actually do so.” – Gary Larson

“Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry.” – Bill Cosby

"Elijah Whiting, now nearing one hundred, had not succeeded in killing his wife with the shovel, nor had he recovered from the disappointment." - Richard Russo (from Empire Falls)

“Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way” – C.S. Lewis

"The best time to add insult to injury is when signing someone's cast." - Demetri Martin

"Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes" - E.M. Forster

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. - Blaise Pascal

Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God’s final word on where your lips end.” - Jerry Seinfeld

 There is no off position on the genius switch.” – David Letterman

“Jesus is our God come looking for us” – Von W Unruh

You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.– George W. Bush

“Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – James Hollingworth

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. – Erma Brombeck

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams

“Parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur.” – Alvin Toffler

“Teaching is the only vocation where one consistently steals supplies from home to take to work.” - Unknown

“Never trust an animal that’s surprised by its own farts.” – Frank Skinner

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dr. Z

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article detailing the alleged misdeeds of Seattle resident Arthur Zilberstein. Like countless Americans, Art often found himself distracted by his smartphone while at work. Unlike most Americans, Art works as an anesthesiologist. Dr. Zilberstein was recently suspended by the Washington State Department of Health pending the outcome of an investigation  
Dr. Z
He has been accused of exchanging personal (and often sexually explicit) text messages during 23 different operations while he was serving as the responsible anesthesiologist. For instance, while arranging a booty-call during the birth of someone’s child he explained to his paramour that he was “hella busy with C-sections.”  In addition to keeping the honeys on standby during multiple births, he is also accused of sexting his way through a pediatric appendectomy and a foot reconstruction.

As if this was not enough, the lengthy complaint against him also cites improperly prescribing narcotics, having sex at the hospital with one of the patients to whom he had improperly prescribed narcotics, and texting a picture of his genitals (next to his hospital ID) to a patient. For good measure, he is also accused of improperly accessing patient records.

As is the case in many hospitals, Dr. Zilberstein was a contract employee. Perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that the hospital itself was unaware of any of this until after his license had been suspended. They issued the following statement:

“Once we learned that the State had suspended this physician's medical license, the physician's Medical Staff membership and privileges were immediately suspended. We just recently learned of these allegations and are conducting our own internal review of the physician…”

When I first heard the story, I naturally assumed the hospital had been an active participant in building the case against him. After all, it appears that many of the infractions occurred on their property to individuals they classified as their patients. However, their press release makes it seem like the only reason Dr. Z isn’t currently taking a pants-less selfie in operating theater 4C is because an observant nurse with The Huffington Post app came running out of the break room announcing, 

“Guys! I think I know why Art didn’t answer his pages!”

I did appreciate both the professionalism and grammatical prowess he displayed while the life of a woman and her unborn child hung in the balance. A lesser anesthesiologist might have simply ignored an ill-timed text without taking the time to explain that he was “hella busy” but Dr. Z certainly has enough integrity to communicate with all of his patients in a timely manner. Especially the ones with whom he has a pre-existing controlled-substances-for-conjugal-visits arrangement.

It was also a nice touch that he included his hospital ID badge in the picture with his man bits. I assume the purpose of this was twofold:

1.      To provide irrefutable proof that he was both in possession of both male reproductive organs AND a full-time job.
2.      To prevent confusion in the event that the message’s recipient frequently received photos of a Caucasian phallus protruding from hospital scrubs.    

Either way, I am sure the nature of the photo will make it somewhat difficult to deny his involvement. I can see the cross-examination now:

“Dr. Zilberstein. Are we to understand that you believe someone, without your knowledge, absconded with both your cell phone and ID badge and preceded to text a picture of their tally-whacker to one of your patients whom you just happened to be prescribing large amounts of narcotics to and then managed to return these items to you undetected?”

As of this writing, he has not responded to the board’s accusations. Although I suspect that if he did respond it would probably be issued on his Twitter account:

Haters gonna’ hate!  #Dr.Feelgood   #PrescriptionMeds4CompliantCoeds

This is a sad state of affairs. Both the public and the hospital are fortunate he was stopped before his negligence resulted in a fatality. While I realize that we are all human, these are some of the most generously-compensated staff involved in modern medicine. I don’t think that it is too much to ask that they update their Facebook status after they make sure I wake up from my hernia operation. I certainly do not consider myself a prude and if you got it you got it; all I ask is that you don’t remove it from your scrubs, open your camera app, and document it while giving my wife an epidural.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cheap Vacations

Occasionally our office fax will receive an unsolicited message from a nameless corporation wishing to sell us cheap health insurance, cheap vacations, or cheap roof work. Normally these are quickly fed into the paper deconstruction machine we keep nearby, but for some reason I felt the urge to follow up on one particular item titled “Super Savings on Fantastic Vacations.” It advertised a $300, 7 nights, all inclusive trip to Hawaii. The flyer indicated that this exceptional price included meals, accommodations, and roundtrip airfare to Oahu for one adult. It also warned me that this offer would only last until “Thursday.”  Even though it was already a Friday, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the call.

I dialed the toll-free number that appeared and the bottom of the information sheet and was given a recorded message advising me that “all circuits were busy” and that I should try back. Not only does this give the consumer a sense of urgency, but also serves to weed out the curious from the determined. I, being the latter, was more than willing to call back until I was patched through to “Chase.” Wary of revealing personal details over the phone, I gave him the name of a co-worker who had it coming and told Chase that I was interested in the $300 trip to Hawaii. Before I could finish my sentence, he was compelled to inform me that the Hawaii deal would be sold out in the next hour.

Continuing to express his relief at my fortuitous timing, he also informed me that there were some taxes and fees that I would be responsible for. Unfortunately, this brought my price up to $600 per person. Somewhat dismayed that the price of my dream vacation had doubled in the first thirty-seconds of our conversation, I asked Chase if there was a discount for children as well. I was told that while they could stay in my room for free, I would be responsible for their airfare to Hawaii.I responded that the added cost would give me a good reason to leave the ungrateful brat at the house. I then asked if there would be a compulsory sales pitch or mandatory colonoscopy as part of the trip. He responded that a reputable firm like theirs needn’t stoop to such things as they simply re-purposed unclaimed business trips at substantial savings.  

He again implored me that time was of the essence and that he could not guarantee my spot if I remained indecisive past the quarter hour. He restated the price (which somehow had increased another $20) and I explained that I would need to discuss this with my wife to confirm that these dates would not work for her as I was planning on taking my mistress and needed a plausible reason to leave her at home with my aforementioned ungrateful offspring.

To Chase’s credit (or discredit depending on your views on marital ethics) he quickly responded that he “had been there before” and could empathize with my dilemma. I assured him that I would attempt to get an answer as soon as possible and call back. Oddly enough, it appeared that he had been authorized to extend the deal until Monday because I could call back next week and be shoehorned in.

I did not inquire about the $190 trip to Aruba, but I have to wonder how many people book their international vacations through unsolicited faxes. I then have to wonder how many of those people arrive to find that their “accommodations” turn out to be a futon in an opium den and the included “airfare” is Delta steerage. I suppose these are truly all-or-nothing propositions. If it turns out to be exactly what it says, your friends and family will never hear the end of your $84 2-week trip to Cancun. If things go wrong, you will just tell everyone it was exactly what it said while privately Googling “life with one kidney” once you get back to your house.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Net Neutrality

It is unfathomable that we are on the precipice of destroying Internet equality. Allowing larger, established corporations to “purchase” faster and more reliable connectivity to their servers (which relegates their competitors to a second-class tier) flies in the face of the entrepreneurial spirit we as Americans claim to embrace. We like to believe that a business’s success is greatly predicated on the merit of its ideas and the dedication of their staff in bringing those ideas to fruition, but the truth is that the greatest Internet business model in the world is useless without an impartial medium to operate on.
The reason we have companies like Google today is because consumers were allowed to compare their interface and algorithm with their more established competitors in a neutral environment. What if Webcrawler had been allowed to pay large amounts of money to ISPs to artificially create a discernable latency gaps between themselves and those who threatened their market share? In a consumer environment where our patience is measure in milliseconds, it is disingenuous to insist that any paradigm that allowed one corporation to underwrite the inefficiency of their competitor’s ability to communicate with their own customers would not stifle innovation and entrepreneurship.

The only reason a travesty like this is even being considered is that it preys upon the generally populace’s unfamiliarity with the infrastructure connecting all of these sites. Let me give you an example utilizing a far more understood medium: The telephone.

Let's say that you live in a small town where the only pizzeria within the city limits is a nationally-recognized franchise. While you don’t necessarily dislike said franchise’s offerings, you have always wanted to open your own pizzeria. You file the necessary paperwork, secure the required capital, and devote countless hours renovating your location and perfecting your recipes. Meanwhile, the established franchise gets wind of your venture and calls the local telecommunications provider requesting to “optimize” their telephone service above yours. While pricey, this gives priority to calls directed at their business over those directed at yours.

At first, this seemed insignificant to you. A dropped call here, a bad connection there; but soon people are getting busy signals on Friday nights and Super Bowl Sundays because when push comes to shove the telecom company will drop your calls in favor of the franchise's. The issue continues to manifest itself as poor call quality and customers’ call-in orders are almost indiscernible. As a result, the wrong pizzas are consistently being prepared and delivered. Customers begin to complain and spread the word that your staff is incompetent and although your product is superior, they are tired of waiting on hold and having to call back twice just to get a thin-crust supreme delivered to their house.

You complain to the phone company and while they are apologetic, all they offer in the way of a resolution is giving you the opportunity to become a “gold business partner” like your franchised competitor. This presents a difficult choice since you are already struggling to generate revenue and certainly cannot afford to dramatically increase your recurring monthly operating cost. However, you realize that if you do not “pay up” the fact that you offer a superior product will be nullified by potential customers’ inability to access it. So you bite the bullet and pay up.

As a direct result your phone service improves, order accuracy increases and your customer base expands. Once again, your franchised competitor goes back to the local telecom company and offers to triple their monthly bill in exchange for inclusion in an as-yet non-existent “platinum business partner” tier. The phone company complies, creates the new tier and once again their calls are prioritized over yours. Yet again you are forced to call the phone company; they apologize, and offer to triple your monthly bill in exchange for membership in the “platinum business club.” This escalation continues unabated until the local franchise has bankrolled the creation of a “triple diamond business club” and you are no longer financially able to insure you receive the same level of phone service enjoyed by your competitor.

One might argue that we already have differing levels of service concerning the Internet. After all, don’t I pay more for the privilege of a faster Internet connection? Absolutely. However if you pay for a slow connection, every website your attempt to access (whether an established multi-billion dollar corporation or a two-man operation headquarter in a garage) will come to you equally as slow. 

Conversely, if I pay more for a really fast connection every website will load equally as fast. What is looming is a day where I pay for a really fast connection and the larger businesses load at the fast connection speed while smaller business load at the slow connection speed. And because I have no way of knowing which businesses have coughed up the ransom and which haven’t (and I pay for a high speed connection) I will assume that the latency is attributable to a lack of competence and innovation rather than a difference in operating capital.

It could get even worse. Perhaps Comcast is your current service provider and you decide to check out what DirectTV offers. You type in the web address or link from Google but you keep getting a "Page could not be displayed error" because Comcast has decided that traffic to their direct competitors doesn't deserve reliability.

If you wish to prevent such a future, please go to the FCC website and follow these steps to log a comment with the FCC:
                          1.      Click 14-28 “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet”
                          2.      Enter your information, leave a brief comment, and then select confirm.

(Note: If your comment is too long they further complicate the process and request that you upload a text document. Let’s just say that it is fortunate that the FCC.GOV website doesn’t have a competitor..)