Saturday, April 28, 2007

“Nuts to Mr. Goodwrench”, or “This week I solve the nation’s healthcare crisis”

This week I figured out how to solve America’s healthcare financial crisis. Maybe the world’s. Thank you, very much. Aw shucks, tweren’t nothin’.

But first a little story:

One phrase you don’t want to hear from your doctor while he’s cupping your nutsack: “How long has it been like this?” Another is: “This is really quite big”. And: “You need to see a specialist.” And: “I wouldn’t wait if I were you.”

I looked down to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough my left sack was probably ten times the volume of the right one. Maybe 20. (Rational measurement of dimensions is difficult in that region of a man’s own body.)

He asked, “Have you had an injury down there?”

I thought back and couldn’t remember any particular injury. In retrospect, it had been uncomfortable and occasionally a little painful for a while. But, thinking back, I couldn’t remember any particular moment of injury. “Not that I can remember,” I said.

So I went to see the man who specializes in nutsacks, whom I’ll call Dr. Goodwrench. (Nuts. Dr. Goodwrench. Get it?) First he had a technician with warm hands and warmer oils (should have got her phone number) do an ultrasound. He studied those results, then took a look at the Problem Area for himself. “Some good news and some bad news. First, the good news: It’s not the Big C.”
…by “Big C” Dr. Goodwrench was of course referring to the most terrible news any man fears when there’s a nutsack issue. Big C refers, of course, to Clitoris-at-forty-four, that tragic and very confusing medical ailment that sometimes strikes men at precisely my age. Good news indeed!…
“and now the bad news. It’s not the Big C, but it is Big. Too big for a simple operation. We need to schedule a time when you have some weeks to recover. This type of problem usually follows an injury of some kind. Do you remember any kind of injury, could be from a year or two back?”

I’d already been thinking about this from visiting the first doctor. But still I had no memory of a time when I’d injured my balls very bad. “Gee, no. I don’t remember anything.”

So we scheduled the surgery, it went OK, hurt a little less than was expected, and I got to lay around the house for a while watching videos and downing vicodin.
…I know, I know, I said that I solved the healthcare crisis. I’m getting to that. patience…
A week or so later I went back to the hospital where I’d had the operation. In entering the hospital I flashed back to about two years earlier when I suddenly remember that I had been there before. Two years earlier I had been in that very hospital to get a colonoscopy. Because of a family history of colon cancer a colonoscopy was a recommended procedure. I’ve known two people with colon cancer and they both assured me that getting through it was a total “pain in the ass” (can you believe they both came up with the same extremely clever pun?) and the colonoscopy was worth it just to be sure.

During the colonoscopy they shove a small camera on a flexible tube up your ass and through the plumbing there looking for any problems. Because it’s not a particularly pleasant procedure it involves, at least in my case, the administration of a very interesting drug that does not make you unconscious at all, but it does make you unable to form a memory. It was such a weird moment in my life. I looked at the clock and it was 11:00. The nurse told me to roll onto my side, and then a few seconds later she told me that they were finished and that I could roll onto my back again. I couldn’t believe they’d done the procedure in just a few seconds, but I looked at the clock and is said 11:45. Either (A) they had lied to me and simply moved the minute hand up by 45 minutes, or (B) they had done the colonoscopy and their drug made me forget anything that had happened for 45 minutes, or possibly (C) I had been abducted by aliens who probed me analy and force me to forget, but that amounts to the same thing as (B) which is only slightly more plausible.

Then, as I was entering the hospital last week, remembering the colonoscopy weirdness, it hit me. Consider:

  1. Some injury had happened to my nutsack in the previous couple of years, but I couldn’t remember it.
  2. I’d been in that hospital for 45 minutes during which, because of the anti-memory-forming drug, they could have done ANYTHING to me and I wouldn’t remember it.
  3. I have good insurance, which will pay that hospital for any operations I need.
  4. The only ones who would benefit from me having a nutsack injury were likely to be the hospital, to which I’d be returning in the future for an operation.
The only bloggable conclusion: Someone in the hospital had used that 45 minutes to inflict an injury to my nutsack that would lead to me coming back to that hospital in the future for another profitable operation.

…this type of make-future-work business trick is often used in many fields of service. Take, for instance, the auto mechanic who loosens a nut (how appropriate!) during your oil change to make sure that something bad happens to your car soon for a bigger repair bill. Or the dentist who, during a cleaning, makes a few nicks (a.k.a. future cavities) in your teeth. Or, to bring it back to the healthcare industry now that I’m starting to realize they’re no more moral in business than anyone else, the philandering abortionist. But I digress…
So there I was with my suspicions that the hospital injured me during my first visit just to make future business for themselves. But how could I prove it? I wondered: I have no memory of those 45 minutes. If only I’d had some recording of what happened during those forty….

Then I figured it out. A HA! Eureka! That’s it! During those 45 minutes they claimed they were filming my colon. Maybe they saved a recording of that colonoscopy. It’s quite possible that in that recording, with a clever CSI-like processing of the film, we could determine and prove that some impact to a nearby part of my anatomy (to wit: my nutsack) took place. There, in that movie of my colonoscopy, would be my proof!

And at that moment I realized how to save the healthcare industry. You see, with growing high expectations, high lawsuits, high costs of education, and the requirement to treat too many uninsured, healthcare costs have just grown too high. Many hospitals have had to close in recent years because of financial problems. You can hardly blame the hospitals if a few of them resort to the make-future-work practices that I have just about proven here.

But hospitals have a huge untapped source of revenue. Consider all the money made out of web 2.0, socially-networked, user-generated, ad-revenued content. What the hospitals need to do is to take all those movies of colonoscopies and put them on the web. Who wouldn’t want to watch a colonoscopy of the day, or of the hour, or of celebrities or politicians, or rated by their peers for class- or racially-linked uncleanliness or signs or gerbility, even if they do have to put up with a few revenue-generating advertisements? Hell, many companies will probably pay the hospital, who could share revenue with patients, to swallow tiny billboards the day before the procedure.

The hospitals are sitting on a gold mine! Healthcare crisis solved!.

Oh, the name of this new health-care-crisis-saving web site: YourTube

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bad investment in a hostile takeover, and a proposed exit plan

For years I’ve been investing a huge percentage of my income into a single stock. It hasn’t been going well. Some years ago the 9-person board appointed a new CEO, over the complaints of a majority of activist shareholders, and that CEO has turned out to be a major idiot. There have been an amazing number of missed investment opportunities, squandered chances at strategic partnerships, overspending; I could go on and on but all of those problems are overwhelmed by a single humongous error: Early in his term this new CEO initiated a hostile takeover of a smaller organization that he had convinced his top staff was a threat, and they in turn initiated a PR campaign to convince most of the shareholders of this threat, and that the only solution was a hostile takeover.

The hostile takeover was expensive, but at first it went well. The stock price of both organizations rose in the first few weeks. United Storage Associates (symbol: USA), in whom I invest about 1/3 of my money, was at a new high for the decade, and the stock price for International Rocks And Quarries (symbol: IRAQ), the takeover target, was through the roof.

That bubble didn’t last long. Fortunes of USA and IRAQ (now a wholly owned subsidiary of USA) have plummeted. The whole thing has been a money pit, and personnel have been lost in the hundreds of thousands.

It’s not unusual for a hostile takeover to go badly. So we shouldn’t be surprised. And we shouldn’t waste time complaining about the past. This is business. We need only look at the future and ask, How do we take this bad investment and turn it into an opportunity? We need to explore strategic alternatives. To anyone with an iota of wall-street savvy, “explore strategic alternatives” translates into: time to broker an acquisition for this failed investment. In other words, USA needs to sell IRAQ, cut its losses, and run.

But who would want to acquire IRAQ from USA?

It’s worth noting that the stock value of International Rocks And Nuggets (symbol: IRAN) has been rising lately, as they’ve recently been showing results of their innovation programs in the field of energy research. IRAN has recently been a tempting takeover target for USA, but IRAN has made it clear that they will violently fight any such attempts. Due to past hostilities between the two organizations (IRAN was aligning with USA’s competitors, USA forced a CEO on IRAN, IRAN was overly aggressive in recruiting and maintaining some of USA’s top workers, USA locked assets and broke contracts, and so on….), USA has stated that it is not willing to negotiate with IRAN.

But I say that it’s a terrible mistake for the USA not to negotiate with IRAN in this matter. Over the years IRAN has often expressed interest in acquiring IRAQ, and their interest has not waned. It’s in USA’s interest to get rid of the entire IRAQ division, and admit that sometimes hostile takeovers just don’t work. Negotiate already! Let’s make this deal happen.

OK, by now the more astute among have you realized that I’m not really talking about corporations, and that USA, IRAN, & IRAQ are not really NYSE stock symbols but are really the names of countries.

The less astute (symbol: DUMB) may now re-read the above and marvel at how clever I was at using the powers of metaphor to recast a familiar enigma in a new light, thus making the solution obvious. And what is that solution? The USA should sell Iraq to Iran. This gets rid of USA’s problems, transfers those problems to Iran, which will keep Iran busy for so long that they won’t give USA any more problems for years. The USA can also benefit by getting some of its hundreds of billions dollars back on this deal if they can get Iraq to pay enough--hint, skip the United Nations (symbol:UN) and go directly to Ebay, with England and Australia entering fake bids to drive the price up.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Doesn’t take a genius to make correct change

I had a couple of strange dinners this week, catching up with old friends at restaurants. The meals themselves weren’t all that unusual, but paying for them was.

On Monday I ate at a nice restaurant with my old buddy Schrödinger. When the check came we calculated that, with tip, the total should be $100. We agreed to pay $50 each. It so happens that each of us had loaded up at the ATM on our respective ways to the restaurant, and all that either of us found in our wallets was $20s. Schrödinger is not as patient as I am, and wasn’t willing to wait for the waiter to bring back any change, so he said “you put in $60, I’ll put in $40. That’s $100 and we’re out of here. I’ll owe you $10. Don’t worry; I’m good for it. In fact, I’ll pay you the $10 right now.” Saying this, Schrödinger put another $20 on the table. “We’ll split this $20 right here and now.”

In the next instant Schrödinger grabbed the twenty, shuffled it in his hands behind his back, then held out both of his fists before me, saying “You may want to think that one of these hands holds a $20 and the other hand is empty, and so the $20 bill has an equal probability of being in either hand. But the correct way to view it, dear observer and student of my equation, is that the $20 is neither in my left hand nor my right hand, yet it is simultaneously in both my left hand and my right hand. It is a superposition of states that you cannot directly observe. You may quite correctly interpret my equation as showing that each hand is holding $10. All you have to do is pick one of the two equivalent $10 hands and you will be repaid.”

I was staring at his hands, carefully thinking it over: This behavior is weird. How much had we had to drink? Let’s see, we’d each ordered a beer when we sat at the table. I’d had a second, and I thought he’d had the same. But you know those Germans and their beer, maybe he’d ordered a lot more. Wait, was he German? Austrian maybe? I wonder if he knew the Von Trapp family. Do all Austrian’s know Edelweiss? Are all Austrian nannies as hot as Julie Andrews? Does he know Julie… Wow, his fists are starting to squeeze really tight; look how red and shaky they’re getting—and his knuckles are getting whiter…

He must have been growing impatient with me. He nearly yelled “Collapse the system into an eigenstate!”


“Pick a damn fist already!!!”

“You don’t have to yell. This isn’t going to turn into the Monty Hall question, is it? I don’t understand that Monty Hall question. OK, OK, I’ll take the left one. ”

He threw the $20 that was in his left fist (crumpled, but still legal tender) at me. And stood up in a huff.

“Sweet!” I said. “I win. In the end this meal cost me $40 and you $60” (I’m no dummy; I can do the math”) “You paid more so you can have the leftovers to bring home to your cat. If you still have a cat.” (Honestly, I’m glad it turned out that he paid more than I did. The meal wasn’t really worth more than $40, and he’d picked the damn overpriced restaurant. I don’t see why piling salmon on top of the starch, rather than next to the starch, and dribbling a thin string of black goo around the edges, adds at least $10 to the tab.)

A couple of nights later I went to a different restaurant with my friend Occam. After a very nice meal, and a carafe of the house wine, sure enough the bill (with tip) came to $100, and both of us had only twenties. We each owed $50 and each had only $20s.

Now it was my turn to look smart. “No problem,” I said “you put in $60, I’ll put in $40. That’s $100 and we’re out of here. I’ll owe you $10. Don’t worry; I’m good for it. In fact, I’ll pay you the $10 right now.” I put another $20 on the table. “We’ll split this $20 right here and now.”

In the next instant Occam grabbed the twenty, whipped out his ever-present razor, and sliced the bill right down the center, saying “once again, the simplest solution—in this case, how to split a twenty—tends to be the best one.”

Sheesh! I tell you, that is the last time I ever go to a restaurant with Occam. The last time! It always turns out poorly with him and that stupid razor he uses for everything. It gives me the creeps. This week wasn’t even the worst restaurant experience with Occam. One time I went to a steak house with Occam and some friend of his named Zeno (or maybe it was Xeno, or some friend from Reno—I’m not sure.) Zeno took great interest in the extremely sharp razor Occam was using to cut his steak, and Zeno insisted—insisted!—that Occam always cut his remaining piece of steak exactly in half. We were there all night! By the time they threw us out I ended up paying the entire $120 bill myself (with only $20s, of course) while Occam and Zeno fought with the manager because Occam wasn’t done eating yet.

My new rules of dining: 1) Bring bills in all denominations. 2) No more eating with frickin’ geniuses.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

It's ALL Free Now

Hey, all, this is Future Brent, from 2017. Some dude in Nairobi just invented backblogging and I’m trying it out to see if it really works. Blogging has needed a good kick in the pants to make it interesting again. Google (motto: “Don’t want to be evil, but we’re a public company”) will probably claim to invent backblogging a few years from now, and so maybe you’ve already heard all about it, but for now I want to be the first on the block to give backblogging a try.

This has been a significant day here in 2017. I’ve blogged a lot over the past ten years (as you will know) about the death of the rights of capitalism (now accepted commonly in 2017 as Brent’s Theory of the Death of the Rights of Capitalism, for which I was happy to receive the Nobel prize in Economics). Over the years I’ve often cried foul as direct financial exchange has been replaced by advertising-supported this or that, which by early 2017 had grown to take over almost every single aspect of our lives to the point that the only two products anyone actually paid money for were cans of Coke or Pepsi.

For example, a typical person’s sapcar (Solar Assisted Pedal Car) carries advertising throughout the seats, dashboard, windshield, starter, cup-holder, etc., for every product imaginable, which is ultimately ad-supported by either Coke or Pepsi. For example, while I’m driving down the road listening to my radio(1), I may notice that my rearview mirror is mostly an ad for Coppertone sunscreen (the mirror itself is hard to find). If I go to the store for that Coppertone sunscreen it is free to purchase because the entire Coppertone label is an ad for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and so B&J reimburse the grocer directly for my sunscreen. B&J ice cream is fully ad-supported, through carton art and writing directly on the cherries and chips, by Six Flags theme parks whose entrance fees and rides are ad-supported by NBC, which is supported either by Pepsi commercials directly or by products that are (one way or another down the chain) supported by Pepsi ads. In the end, by early 2017 the only products that one can every actually pay cash money for are either Coke or Pepsi.

Until today, that is. In a remarkable event (but not unexpected by those who’ve read my blogs over the last ten years), Pepsi and Coke today announced that they would be cross-ad-supporting each other’s products. Coke will now be free, supported by the Pepsi ads that will now cover Coke cans, and vice versa.

So, as of today, there is no longer any legal product that can be purchased; cash is now defunct and will not longer be printed(2). There is no longer a reason to carry a wallet, except to carry pictures of the kids—but no one likes looking at pictures much anymore ever since every developing house started covering their free pictures with watermark ads behind which it is difficult to see the kid’s images.


(1) You in 2007 may not recognize the radio of today. There are no more commercials in pop music radio, so our pure enjoyment of song never needs to be interrupted by crass commercialism. The recording industry never did figure out how to get people to pay for music, once the internet made copying so easy. Nowadays, every song is free and is itself a commercial for a product, usually Coke or Pepsi. Example: “Jenny, ooh ooh, let’s hump hump, aiiigh, hump our slump pumps, ooh ooh, work up a sweat, ooh ooh, so hot right now that I’ll need a refreshing Coca Cola, ooh baby baby”

(2) Due to lobbying by both the criminal and law-enforcement interests (both represented by the same lobbying agencies) cash will continue to be printed but only in 100 Dollar and 500 Euro denominations. Crime and crime-fighting interests argued, successfully, that they could not operate without cash, and that without their favored denominations the crime and crime-fighting industries would collapse and burden the already-weak economy with a huge influx of newly-unemployed workers.