Thursday, 26 December 2019 17:43

Gene's Technology Corner: $60,000 and counting ...

It was 1989. After using Macs at the office for a couple of years, I decided that I needed one at home since I had begun to take outside assignment. So I went shopping.

To be sure, a Mac was pretty expensive in 1989 dollars. There were no budget models, but I shopped around and found a good deal from the same dealer who sold Macs to my employer.

After an afternoon’s consultation, I weighed my options, and I decided to take a chance, expecting that the freelance work would cover the costs. So I made a lease deal for a complete system. I acquired the Macintosh IIcx, an “affordable” alternative to the Macintosh IIx. It was maxed out with 8MB of RAM and a 100MB hard drive. Add to that a 14-inch Apple color display (later referred to as a “13-inch display,”, a LaserWriter NT PostScript printer, and several productivity apps, including QuarkXPress and Microsoft Word. The bill came to $14,000.

But don’t forget that my choice of a computer system 30 years ago covered, in large part, the middle of the pack. My budget would not cover the top-up-the-line.

As we close out 2019, that original investment explodes to $29,039.61. For that figure, using Apple’s current lineup, you can buy an iMac Pro, a 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, an iPhone 11 Pro Max and an Apple Watch Series 5, all fully outfitted and still have nearly $5,000 left to cover sales tax, software, backup drives for the Macs, and some leftover cash for productivity apps.

Not that I have that much spare cash around, but it’s fun to wish.

In essence, the price of Apple gear today is actually lower, in proportion to today’s buying power, than it was then.

And then there’s the 2019 Mac Pro, where you can double that $29,039.61 price tag and still not quite get there to a maxed out system and display. In pricing this ultimate system, I checked every option, including wheels for the Mac Pro and a Pro Stand for the Pro Display XDR. It came to $60,797, again plus sales tax.

To put that figure in perspective, I can order a Tesla Model 3 Performance for $50,815 and a well-equipped BMW Model 3 sedan for $47,341.

Well, you get the picture.

But a Mac Pro is not strictly a plaything for the rich and the famous. For a subset of users, it’s the ideal workstation designed for high-end use, say for scientists and movie special effects artists. A director working on a $300 million superhero extravaganza would not mind at all having a network of $60,000 systems. If they went to other major vendors, such as Dell or HP, they’d likely pay more and still not get all the goodies Apple offers, such as the $2,000 Apple Afterburner card.

We’re talking of a flagship machine here, something designed to showcase the best of Apple’s technology, along with the best hardware from AMD and Intel. Other than the SSD, which has to be tuned to the T2 chip and thus must be changed by an Apple authorized repairperson, upgrades are dead simple. This is quite unlike any other Macs nowadays, where upgrades are impossible on notebooks, and of varying degrees of complexity depending on which desktop machine you pick.

Of course, for folks who hoped for something priced in the range if the original Mac Pro tower, only the entry-level model fits the bill. In other words, Apple has reached heights never before attempted. That, and the pro-level features included in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, clearly demonstrates Apple’s renewed commitment to the professional market.

Regardless, I can feel the ardor of Apple’s critics in criticizing the company for gouging its customers. That has been a typical argument for years, and the fact that Apple earns high profits from selling its gear only buttresses that point of view.

The attacks aren’t just focused on the final price, but on Apple’s alleged exorbitant price for upgrades. While you can easily acquire third-party RAM for the desktops, it’s soldered onto the logic boards for notebooks. Sure, Apple may be able to justify that decision on the basis of increased reliability and the fact that only a tiny percentage of buyers really want to do those upgrades.

Of course, nobody outside of Apple and its partners really has access to such statistics. On the surface, it looks credible. I speak with lots of people using Macs, and rarely hear complaints about the inability to do upgrades. Even with desktops, the RAM upgrade schemes may be hostile to the user, particularly with the Mac mini, the 21.5-inch iMac, and the iMac Pro.

I’m particularly disappointed with the decisions made about the latter, since it’s supposed to cater to professional users who want the simplicity of an all-in-one computer and may not be able to afford, or need, the pricy and more powerful components of a Mac Pro. With the iMac Pro, you have to basically remove the display, an annoying and delicate process, to add or replace RAM.

With the regular 27-inch iMac, it’s dead simple, and can be done in less than five minutes. Maybe it’s a compromise made to encompass the improved cooling scheme for the high-powered components? Perhaps, since I can’t believe that Apple would have made the process so difficult for any other reason.

And when it comes to the price offacgtory upgrades, I’ve done comparisons with gear from Dell and HP, and the costs aren’t altogether different. Third-party alternatives, particularly RAM, can be had for far more reasonable prices.

And one more thing: Even if I had the spare cash, and chose to invest it in a computer rather than a luxury car, I wouldn’t go so far. In fact, I can’t conceive of ever requiring the level of performance achieved by the Mac Pro. It’s not designed for me or most of you. Indeed, if someone offered me the equivalent of $60,000 in purchasing power, I’d get a more affordable car, say for up to $35,000, and allocate the rest for my dream collection of Apple gear, the one described above.

Of course, there have been demands, or requests, for Apple to deliver cheaper gear. But as has been said many many times by many analysts and journalists, there’s no profit in commodity gear. Apple has carved out for itself a profitable market niche.

There’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t want to pay the price — or settle for a refurbished or used Apple product — there are plenty of alternatives if you are prepared to desert the macOS, iOS, iPadOS and watchOS.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

 
Published in Technology

Google is universally well known as a search and advertising company. Now Google is tapping into the $3.5 trillion healthcare market. To compete with the Apple Watch, Google acquired FitBit, the wearable exercise, heart rate, and sleep tracking device. Data is king.

Voluntarily worn fitness tracking devices are one thing, but Google has entered the realm of the brave new world.A government inquiry has brought to light Google’s “Nightingale Project” that collected private medical data from Ascension Health’s 2,600 sites of care across 20 states and D.C., unbeknownst to the patients. Dozens of Google employees had access to the data which included lab results, physician diagnoses, hospitalization records, and health histories, complete with patient names and dates of birth. Google claims that the project complies with the Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act (HIPAA) because it is a qualified business associate of Ascension Health. And unlike the ads for socks that appear on your computer a nanosecond after you purchased some tennis shoes, Google promises that the data won’t be combined with consumer data. Fat chance.

Amazon, which already knows our every thought, was not satisfied with merely creating software that can read medical records. Now they’ve created Transcribe Medical, a system that transcribes confidential patient-doctor conversations and uploads them directly into the electronic health record. Doctors would relinquish all control over “private” patient records. Google also has been working on its own automatic speech recognition “digital scribe” to upload multiple speaker conversations.

Not only is there a problem with inaccuracies that could lead to a patient receiving the wrong treatment, but we all know the ubiquitous problem of hacking—even in the Department of Defense and the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Disturbingly, certain circles oohed and aahed over the revelation that Google, using electronic health records (EHR), created an artificial intelligence program that could predict death better than doctors. Fortunately for humanity, many others found the thought of leaving doctors out of the equation horrifying. The cheerleaders crowed that it would decrease work for the doctors; they wouldn’t have to waste their time going through those pesky medical records to arrive at a conclusion. Using an artificial neural network to predict the death of a human being is a far cry from having a computer interpret an inanimate x-ray who is not a daughter, mother, sister, wife, or grandmother.

 If you put it all together, it adds up to a death panel of one. Google’s software would decide that there is not a high likelihood of walking out of the hospital, no treatment would be given. We are becoming witness to the devolution of humanity.

Moreover, the government is incentivizing workforce development in palliative care through the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act. Perhaps this is why the hospice team seems to greet the patient at the hospital door. Of note, once a person has signed on to the Medicare hospice program, Medicare will not pay for any curative treatment or medications. Medicare will not pay for an emergency room visit unless the hospice team arranged it or someone decides it is not related to the hospice diagnosis.

The number of hospice agencies participating in the Medicare program nearly doubled between 2000 and 2016, for a total of some 4,382 providers. In 2000, about 30 percent of hospice agencies were for-profit, compared to about 67 percent in 2016. In that same period, Medicare payments grew from $3 billion to $16.8 billion.

Hospice care is lucrative. The minimum Medicare payment is $196 per day regardless of the quantity or quality of services provided on that day. A July 2019 report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services found that more than 80 percent of end-of-life facilities in the United States had at least one deficiency, and nearly 20 percent were poor performers with serious problems that jeopardized patient health and safety. It seems the compassionate medical service to care for suffering patients has turned into a heartless cash cow.

Is this what we want for our loved ones and eventually, ourselves? Medicare for All promises every type of medical care under the sun, including long-term care. Long-term care is expensive and if done properly, labor intensive. What better way to save money than to promote a computer program that convinces doctors that the patient is going to die no matter what they do. So the hospital tells the family that treatment or home care will drain their finances. For what? I’ll tell you for what. My parents died at home only after they were tired of doctors and ready to go. They strolled into heaven. They were not shoved in with a giant government backhoe.

 

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Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Her opinions are her own. This is an edited column that originally appeared at www.pennypressnv.com, reprinted with permission. 

 

 

Published in Technology

News of trucks bringing weapons-grade plutonium into Southern Nevada earlier this year drew a glitz of gasps from Las Vegas residents and legislators who knew nothing of the shipments.

The radioactive material came from South Carolina and was authorized by the Department of Energy to be stored at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) 65 miles (per its site) northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

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Legal attempts to remove the plutonium and stop future shipments have met with resistance as the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 allows the US government to control the development, regulation, and disposal of nuclear materials and facilities in the United States (Wikipedia).

Plutonium is a man-made radioactive element created by the destruction of uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive element. Both have been used as fuel sources and to make nuclear weapons.

Plutonium is known as an “unstable” element, in that it will decay until it eventually reduces to a stable element. During this decay, radiation is emitted.  The radiation particles (specifically alpha and beta) will usually not penetrate the skin, however if ingested, absorbed or inhaled, could enter the human body and deposit in organs, affecting nearby tissues. Since its half-life, or rate of decay, can take years, organs in the body, such as lungs, liver, and bones can be exposed chronically to the radiation. This may result in radiation illness, cancer or death.

Signs of radiation illness include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sores/skin burns
  • Frequent infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Weakness
  • Internal Bleeding
  • and more….

Currently there have been no reports of illness due to its storage in Nevada and the US government has assured the state that the storage facility is safe. However, potential seismic activity or an act of terrorism could lead to a potential leak and/or contamination, and with the infamous desert winds, radioactive material could be blown to nearby towns and inhaled or ingested by residents.

Per the NNSS site:

THE DAF (DEVICE ASSEMBLY FACILITY) IS A COLLECTION OF MORE THAN 30 INDIVIDUAL STEEL-REINFORCED CONCRETE BUILDINGS CONNECTED BY A RECTANGULAR COMMON CORRIDOR. THE ENTIRE COMPLEX, COVERED BY COMPACTED EARTH, SPANS AN AREA OF 100,000 SQUARE FEET.
SAFETY SYSTEMS INCLUDE FIRE DETECTION AND SUPPRESSION, ELECTRICAL GROUNDING, INDEPENDENT HEATING, VENTILATION AND AIR-CONDITIONING SYSTEMS WITH HIGH-EFFICIENCY PARTICULATE AIR FILTERS, ALARM SYSTEMS, AND WARNING LIGHTS. IN OPERATIONAL AREAS, PAIRS OF BLAST DOORS, DESIGNED TO MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF AN EXPLOSION, ARE INTERLOCKED SO THAT ONLY ONE DOOR MAY OPEN AT A TIME.

And some reports say the plutonium may be shipped out of state to nearby facilities and not remain in Nevada.

I won’t hold my breath ...oh wait…maybe I should…..

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in Health
Thursday, 19 December 2019 00:19

Christmas through the years

When I was seven, I got a cowboy hat and dual-holster gun belt, plus twin cap pistols for Christmas.  That’s what little boys were into in the mid-1950s.  My uncle challenged me to quick draw contests and won every one.  There may be a life lesson there, but I’m not sure what it is.

Three years later, my brother and I got matching red bicycles with 26-inch wheels.  That opened up many new experiences to us – whole new worlds, in fact.  Bikes are a blessing to children and adults.

Two years on, in seventh grade I welcomed the modern era, high tech and access to music with a top-end transistor radio the size of a pack of regular cigarettes.  In 1961, the cigarette reference was cool to boy of twelve.  So, it didn’t matter that I got nothing else that Christmas because that item was all we could afford.

As these anecdotes illustrate, to children Christmas is much about receiving gifts.  That’s not a bad thing, for it brings them joy and the gifts sometimes open up great new experiences for them.  As well as showing them the love their parents and others feel for them.

In the next few years, I remember the three TV stations – yes, there were only three then, even in markets like St. Louis – broadcasting keep Christ in Christmas ads and even a program on the subject.  Imagine that!  Today, thanks to snowflakes and progressives, those stations may wish you happy holidays, but dare not utter the word “Christmas” in any approving way.

In the mid-70s, I recall driving my MGB on Christmas Eves from Urbana to Belleville, each time assessing the year passed and what progress I was making professionally and personally.  Some of those years, I took my sister’s horse out for a bracing Christmas morning ride in an inch or two of snow along country roads and across fields.

Also, I sent Christmas poinsettias to my girlfriend in Atlanta.  She said Christmas didn’t really begin until they arrived.  When I flew to visit her, the tradition of traveling at Christmas took root.

In the 1976 movie Nashville, the presidential candidate asked college students offbeat questions like: “Does the smell of oranges remind you of Christmas morning?”  It does for me, because our mother always prepared each of us a stocking with nuts, chocolates, other treats and a large apple and orange.  And she fixed eggnog.  Today, my sainted wife Kathy continues this tradition in our family.

In the 1980s, when I became a yuppie in San Francisco’s Marina District, Christmas was often about ski trips.  The slopes were delightfully uncrowded on Christmas day and we were blessed often with blue skies, bright sun and great snow.

In the 1990s, I secured a center box each year for the San Francisco Ballet’s annual performance of The Nutcracker.  I prepared a feast for eight at my apartment and then we left for the ballet.  Until I left the Bay Area in 2001, that event was the official beginning of Christmas.

By then, Christmas was about a season, experiences with friends and family, and giving – not receiving.  People become difficult to buy for as they get older.  Moreover, the satisfaction of giving and seeing the happiness in the faces of others beats receiving.

After Kathy and I married and moved to Carson City, for a while we had a tradition of Christmas Eve here and Christmas morning flights – Kathy, our Awesome daughter Karyn, Kathy’s mom (the best mom-in-law ever) and I – to Belleville for time with my family.  Both sides of my family always made me the luckiest boy in town.

Because we could no longer attend the SF Ballet, our new start of Christmas became the annual dinner at our home and showing of It’s A Wonderful Life.  That film is quite spiritual, of course.  It’s about salvation and also reminds us that one of the beauties of Christianity is that it’s a religion of forgiveness, not harsh justice.  And about choice, not domination.

 

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Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." His views and opinions are his own. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column which has been reprinted with permission. 

 

Published in Opinion
Wednesday, 18 December 2019 23:57

Disrespect for Nadler and Schiff is NOT impeachable.

Before I get into how I think We the People of America should view the perverted version of the Ed Sullivan (or the Jerry Springer, your choice) show in the House of Representatives, I want to give you an update from my subject of last week, the Kabbage company.

 

After my column appeared, I got a phone call from an executive there and they very graciously acknowledged my point, that as a lender to small business, America’s largest employer, when they make an adverse decision, human beings should be involved.  Ultimately, they were operating on bad artificial intelligence and they fixed it.

 

That is the hallmark of how good business people operate.  Consider that as you see what the Democrat majority in the House is trying to do to our first businessman President.

 

And, on that note, let’s talk about Jerry Nadler’s inquisition against the President.

 

Now, keep in mind, that Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee should have been the committee to pursue the “impeachment” investigation as opposed to Adam Schiff’s House “Intelligence” Committee.

 

Basically, the Democrats have been thwarted at every turn in their jihad against the President—whose only impeachable offense was to actually win the 2016 election and threaten the status quo of the permanent establishment—and this is just a continuation of their effort to get rid of a threat which has put the establishment of both parties on Defcon Two.

 

They think that this…businessman…may be the President but he’s certainly not really the …President…and he can’t really make his own foreign policy.  

 

Folks, what it gets down to is that people like Schiff, Nadler and the diplocrats I mentioned above think we’re stupid.  Just like Hillary Clinton did.

 

They think—and sometimes actually come out and say—that we simply cannot be entrusted with the election of a President.  That’s why they want to get rid of the Electoral College—so our votes would mean nothing.

 

Fortunately, the Republicans control the Senate.  And when this show gets to the Senate, it will be like a little league baseball team taking on the Yankees.

 

Since Watergate, we have always known that the impeachment process is completely political.  But, even in the Clinton mess, at least there was a violation of the law, even though it was a mistake on the part of the Republicans to use it as a political cudgel.  Lying about your sex life is no more an impeachable offense than having no respect for Nadler.  Or Schiff.

 

If, as the President has said, impeachment is simply going to become a part of the tool box for the most vicious of the elements of both parties, then we need to give them the political scare of their lives—kind of like Boris Johnson just gave the Labour party in Britain.  

 

There is a classic example of what happens when you use political tricks to ignore the will of the people.  Three years ago, the people in Great Britain voted to get out of the European Union.  The Parliament screwed around for three years.  Finally, the people had enough and in the recent election gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson a massive majority with instructions to get-r-done as Larry the Cable Guy would say it.

 

If the morons I wrote of above keep it up here, what do you think might happen in November of 2020?

 

Fred Weinberg is a guest columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column, reprinted with permission. 

 
Published in Opinion

Holiday shopping is very exciting but, unfortunately always underestimated.  Buying gifts for your family is a given, but what about relatives, friends, coworkers, bosses, teachers, neighbors, nurse, and the list goes on!  So buying for everyone can cost a fortune.

On top of that, you don’t want your gift to blend in with the rest.  Baskets, ornaments, and treats can, once graciously accepted, be thrown on the table with the rest of the goodies.  So how do you get the biggest bang for your buck?

When choosing a gift, it must be creative, useful and have longevity. Let’s start by categorizing our gift recipients.

Office workers/coworkers – under $50

If your company does not participate in  a Secret Santa gift exchange, you’re on the hook for a lot of gifts.  Here’s some cool ideas:

  1.  Basket of $2-5 Gift Cards – Buy an inexpensive basket from a hobby store (or reuse last year’s), line it with tissue paper and decorative filler, place 10 gift cards (coffee house or donut shop would work pretty well at that price point), and throw some candy in the basket as well.
  2. Basket of Tools – Hammers, nuts and bolts from your nearby hardware store can be inexpensive and could make an awesome basket for those who could use an extra tool around the house.  And as long as they don’t lose it, it may last for years
  3. Basket of Scented Soaps – many bath and beauty shops sell these for $5 a piece, so make a basket with these and candy and let everyone grab one. Again, some longevity with this gift.
  4. Online Spanish (or language) course – many offices need bilingual staff and those who aren’t would love to learn.  Que bueno!

 

Relatives – under $20

Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews …how do you not go broke?

  1. For the Chef – Grab a cookbook, some spices, and a tool and put it in a decorative bag or basket.
  2. For the Gardner – Grab some packets of seeds, small bag of soil and put in in a pot filled with decorative filler
  3. For the Auto Enthusiast – Grab some turtle wax, cloth, air freshener – you know the drill
  4. For the Coffee Drinker – Grab two mugs, a rich coffee bag, and add sweets to the basket
  5. For the Tea Drinker – Find as many flavors as you can and throw some honey in the basket…or a decorative mug
  1. Gift cards – movies, restaurants, can’t go wrong with these
  2. Books – not an easy pick since you need to do some detective work ensuring they hadn’t read your choice yet, but great price point
  3. Bottle of wine, goblets, candles, these can be flexible and creative
  4. Pedicure gift card
  5. For the pet lover – a how to book, toys, treats for their pet.
  6. For the one who loves to laugh – funny desk calendar, book of jokes, fart machine
  7. Cuddly blanket – make sure its not an obnoxious color, or better yet…why not? 

and the list goes on……

Acquaintances/buddies

There are many people in our lives who we want to recognize during the holidays (Postal Worker, Sanitation team, Security Guard, etc) so here are some ideas that can accompany a warm Holiday message:

  1. Stocking of goodies (sunscreen, treats, phone case)
  2. Scarf or sport’s team hat
  3. Cool car accessory
  4. Box of treats, warm even better
  5. Gift card, etc.

The holidays are a time of giving, and the joy it brings to both the recipient and you is priceless. Fortunately, creative and worthwhile gifts don’t have to be too costly.

Good luck shopping this year and have a wonderful holiday season!

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

Published in Money

This year’s flu season has claimed the lives of at least 6 children and many more adults.  It’s widespread in many states, and we are told to brace ourselves for yet another severe flu season as we enter the peak.

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CDC

 

However, the number one cause of death when it comes to the flu is pneumonia.  And the respiratory depression that appears to come on with these otherwise healthy individuals, appears to affect them within hours. Which raises the question…. Should we be entertaining the possibility that a severe pneumonia strain is affecting us this “flu season” and should we be encouraging pneumonia vaccines as well as the flu vaccine?

Most children are vaccinated against pneumonia

The vaccine schedule for children in the US includes the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13) given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 – 15 months of age.  Over 2 years of a child, one can get the PPSV23 if they did not receive the PCV13.

Not all young adults get the pneumonia vaccine, however if one if over 65, the CDC recommends the pneumococcal vaccines receiving a dose of PCV13 first, followed by a dose of PPSV23, at least 1 year later.

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CDC

 

Now a variety of pathogens can be responsible for pneumonia, including viruses’, fungi, and bacteria other than pneumococcus, but streptococcal pneumonia is the most common cause.  If those affected by pneumonia this year were vaccinated, we need to know the strain, meaning specifically what pathogen was responsible for their pneumonia.

Not all pneumonia presents with a cough

Although pneumonia presents with symptoms such as fever, body aches, cough, shortness of breath and sputum production, some individuals may not present with these symptoms when they have pneumonia. Some of the tragic “flu death” cases this year were in adults who initially had a “mild cough”. Since flu symptoms are similar, some may never know if they have pneumonia.

As a result we are telling patients who have the flu to return immediately to the doctor’s office/urgent care/emergency room if they have any of the below symptoms:

  • Recurring fever
  • Fever that won’t subside after 2 days
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Productive cough
  • Blood in sputum
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Chest pain

and speak with your medical provider regarding other symptoms they may want you to watch out for.

How to tell when your flu is turning deadly

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

SECOND TIME IS A…

Unlike my previous columns, this article has taken more than a month to write. But it’s not because of fine-tuning the prose. It’s more about events that hadn’t yet reached a successful conclusion.

But let me start at the beginning…

Once upon a time, I would buy a brand new Mac every other year or so. Beginning in the mid-1990s, I added a PowerBook to the mix. In order to help finance the purchase, I would routinely sell my old hardware, and even in the dog days of Apple’s existence, they held their value pretty well.

That was then, this is now. I no longer see the value in upgrading so frequently. Most of the time, the new model is only slightly different — and slightly faster — than its predecessor. I also think of all the money I save by keeping 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro and a 2014 27-inch Retina iMac. When I had a weekly tech radio show, I was even able to trade out radio spots for a new Mac.

These days, I’d have to pay full price (or seek out a small discount), and I’ve grown to appreciate the longevity of Apple gear. Indeed one of the factors hurting sales these days is that people prefer to hang onto their existing devices far longer. So once upon a time, it was common for many people to upgrade to a new smartphone after two years, particularly in the U.S. This was the duration of the usual carrier subsidized deal, after which you could start all over again.

But even after you paid off the device, if you didn’t acquire a new one from the carrier, you’d still pay the same amount. Not such a good deal!

Now customers do buy their gear outright, so there is no compelling reason to replace it so long as it continues to operate. Indeed, with the end of subsidy deals in the U.S., largely because of T-Mobile’s “Un-Carrier” promotion that started in 2013, there are other ways to acquire your device without a big upfront payment. Indeed, some of those plans, such as AT&T Next, allow you to upgrade every year or every two years; you just have to return the old unit after receiving its replacement. Oh, and, typical of leases, you pay the sales tax up front for your fancy new iPhone.

Despite the alternative facts spewed by some cyberbullies, I do not continue to boast about all the brand new gadgets I have. As I wrote in the last issue, my wife has an iPhone 6S, circa 2015, and an iPad Air 2, circa 2014. She isn’t asking about the new models even though she’s not so pleased with the sound quality of her iPad’s speakers..

As you probably know, my MacBook Pro is stuck with maOS High Sierra, 13.3. Fitted with a 500GB SSD some years ago, it is fast enough in handling files, but its Geekbench scores are about a third of what current models can deliver.

It doesn’t sound very promising, but it does get the job done, since so much activity on your Mac is drive-related. Well, such actions as converting an AIFF audio file to MP3 take twice as long as on my iMac, but that’s still acceptable.

But I had to use it as my sole computer for a week recently when the iMac’s hard drive failed. It wasn’t a hard failure at first, just random bouts of spinning cursors, and some performance glitches. But one day, after a restart, it never made it past the startup process.

I couldn’t even get it to start from an external clone backup drive, because the system froze trying to load the internal disk. Apple’s built-in hardware test, however, reported that everything was working, but it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as an Apple repair person would run. I still suspected the hard drive.

After nearly five years of heavy use, it made perfect sense.

Now the current iMac form factor, which debuted in 2012, is, as many of you know, extremely hostile to home tinkerers. While RAM upgrades are quick, replacing anything else inside requires removing the display. The prior version required suction cups and care, but it was a workable process. But in its endless quest for thinner, at least at the edges, Apple’s designers opted to seal the display to the chassis with adhesive strips.

Yes, it’s possible to remove it, and you can even buy new adhesive to seal the unit, but enough was enough. Knowing I’d have to pay the piper for this one, I redirected some cash for less-urgent bills. I took the iMac to an Apple Genius at the nearest Apple Store, located in the Santan Village shopping center in Gilbert, AZ.

The “Genius” ran a more extended hardware test, and it came out OK, but he then ran a test that exercised the hard drive. Within a few minutes, the truth was displayed on the screen. Yes, the drive had failed.

Since it was part of a Fusion drive configuration, the hard drive was maybe twice as expensive as a plain old internal drive. But it was still much cheaper than an internal SSD of similar size. Performance would be noticeably faster than the Fusion Drive, which uses a small SSD for the system and frequently used apps and documents, and the hard drive for the rest. Unless you work with positively huge files, it’s good enough.

I told the Genius that I needed to think about my options for a few minutes, so he went to serve another customer while I pondered my situation. I contacted two authorized independent dealers to get a quote, figuring it should be cheaper.

But it wasn’t, by a long shot. Labor charges were between $125-$150, depending on whether the replacement adhesive strips were part of the price. But Apple exacts a flat rate of $79 plus parts. No wonder independent service shops are complaining.

So you can see which choice I made.

Unfortunately, I had to wait a week for the repair. The store didn’t have replacement drives in stock, and had to order one. They were able to check the inventories of other dealers, and the nearest one that had them in stock was located in Tucson, over 100 miles away. And Apple evidently doesn’t exchange parts with other dealers, well at least one that far away, so I gave the go ahead.

Since I haven’t done much traveling in the last few years, that MacBook Pro hadn’t been used very much. When arriving at the home office, I took it out, and plugged in the accessories that I used on the iMac, including the clone drive. I didn’t connect the Time Machine backup drive, because I wanted to keep the files intact when restoring the repaired iMac.

I also had to download and install the last updates to High Sierra, and then install some apps.

Fortunately, most of the ones I use, including Audio Hijack, were fully compatible with 10.13.

The one good sign: The Levelator, a key utility I use for post-production, actually ran perfectly. On my iMac, running macOS Catalina, I had to run it from a Parallels Desktop Windows installation.

Overall, it took a few hours to fine-tune the setup for my workflow. I was able to manage with the smaller display and fuzzier text; the Retina MacBook Pro didn’t arrive until 2012.

After a week, and on schedule, Apple called me to tell me my iMac was ready. The unit was give an extensive test after the installation, and passed with flying colors. They also cleaned up the smudges on the screen, and vacuumed the dust from the interior. Per my request, the new drive came with Catalina preinstalled. Since I had multiple backups, it wasn’t necessary for Apple to waste time attempting to recover data from the broken drive.

Aside from the differences in the port layout between this iMac and the latest model, it otherwise looked identical.

With fingers crossed, I ran through the startup, and selected a Time Machine backup to transfer my files. It may just be that the external 2TB Toshiba drive was very slow, but it took nearly 10 hours to migrate my stuff.

CHAPTER TWO

For a few days, everything was all right, until a similar problem appeared. I was able to restart, but it ran dog slow.

So it was back to the Genius Bar on a rush basis. But rush to them meant a nearly one-hour wait since no appointments were available until the following day.

This time the diagnosis runs reported a defective SATA cable, so I turned it in for repair.

My request for a “rush repair” reduced the wait time by two days; so much for rushing. When I was notified that the iMac was ready to pick up, the repair person who called told me that they also had to replace the other half of the Fusion drive, the flash drive, in addition to the cable. Well at least they didn’t charge me for labor.

Yes, I did ask the obvious question: Is it possible that the entire problem was caused by the failure of the cable and the flash drive, that there was nothing wrong with the hard drive?  They insisted it wasn’t. Even more curious is the fact that my iMac was supposedly given a thorough test after the first repair, and no problems appeared.

But the excitement didn’t end there. When I got my iMac back, I discovered that they had it loaded with macOS Mojave, against my instructions to use Catalina. As a precaution, I wiped the drive, and used the Internet Recovery feature to get the latest version of Catalina to install, after which I restored my data from a cloned hard drive.

When I called to complain, the repair people gave me some gibberish as to why they felt I was running Mohave. They got it right on the first repair, so I assume they just screwed up but wouldn’t admit it.

So far, my iMac appears to be working normally, but I not happy with Apple. There is no excuse for their failures to get it right the firsts time. It’s not that defective storage devices should be difficult to diagnose. All told, I lost use of my iMac for 12 days between two repairs, and spent hours more doing my own troubleshooting before bringing it in for Apple to each repair.

Now that the storage system is brand new, I hope I’ll be free of hardware problems for another couple of years. Wish me luck.

 

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Gene Steinberg is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Gene hosts The Paracast - broadcast on Sunday from 3:00am - 6:00am (CST) and is the former host of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, which was on the network for ten years. The Paracast is still nationally syndicated through GCNlive. Gene’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc. -- Copyright © 1999-2019. Click here to subscribe to Tech Night Owl Newsletter. This article was originally published at Technightowl.com -- reprinted with permission.

Published in Technology
Thursday, 12 December 2019 19:06

Medicare for all facelift: The ugly is still there

Medicare for All (M4A) retained its prominent place on the stage at the latest Democratic debate. In its purest Bernie Sanders form, concurrent with abolishing private health insurance, U.S. residents would be enrolled in “Medicare.” The program would pay for unlimited “medically necessary” health expenses, including pharmaceuticals, mental health and substance abuse treatment, vision, dental, and hearing services, and long-term care with no out-of-pocket costs. Some supporters were scared off by the $32 trillion over 10 years price tag. Not to be outdone, Elizabeth Warren’s “I’m with Bernie” plan comes with a $52 trillion over 10 years price tag including up to $34 trillion in new government spending. Our country’s entire yearly budget is a mere $3.5 trillion. For perspective, if your salary is $40,000 per year it would take 25 million years to earn 1 trillion dollars. As M4A’s dark side emerged, the candidates distanced themselves from Bernie-care.

Elimination of private insurance? Whoa, Nellie! Over 156 million Americans —half the country—are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans and another 23 million have private individual policies. And most of these folks like that arrangement. Then there was pushback from some unions who had excellent health insurance policies for which they had bargained and given up other perks.

In the June debate the candidates raised their hands indicating they would abolish private health insurance. Now Mayor Buttigieg wants to “unify the American people around, creating a version of Medicare, making it available to anybody who wants it, but without the divisive step of ordering people onto it whether they want to or not.” Vice president Biden, noting his desire to keep patient choice stated, “we should build on Obamacare … adding a Medicare option in that plan, and not make people choose.” Of course, Obamacare caused a rise in premiums, a decrease in choice of insurance coverage, and like any large government-run program was prone to mismanagement and waste.

Possible financing mechanisms were screaming for a deep dive. One analysis concluded that most Americans would suffer financially if M4A were implemented as proposed. An analysis by a bipartisan think tank estimated a 32 per cent increase in payroll taxes would be needed to fund M4A. Everyone—even the working poor—would have more payroll taxes extracted from their paycheck. The analysis concluded that most households would pay more in new taxes than they would save by eliminating their current spending on private health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Senator Warren tries to hide the ugly truth by railing about the evil rich who would be taxed down to their underwear. Take the deceptively worded “2-cent” annual tax for households with more than $50 million in assets. If you have $51 million in assets, most probably tied up in your business, you’d have to cough up (.02)($1,000,000) or $20,000, not 2 cents. The devil’s spawn, aka our 535 billionaires, would be subject to a 6 percent annual tax on their assets. Who will be the next target when the government has driven the assets to a sunny island in the Caribbean? Finally, raising the corporate income tax back up to 35 percent likely would result in businesses paying lower wages to current employees or cutting back on hiring to compensate for the increased tax burden.

During the latest debate, Senator Warren retreated from her “all-in” approach, asserting she would first provide Medicare at no cost to “everybody under the age of 18, everybody who has a family of four income less than $50,000”—about 135 million people. Second, she would lower the Medicare age to 50 and expand Medicare coverage to include vision, dental, and long-term care. In the third year, “when people have had a chance to feel it and taste it and live with it, we’re going to vote and we’re going to want Medicare for all.”

Senator Sanders owns that payroll taxes would be doubled or tripled and proposes a 4 percent surtax on families earning more than $29,000. So if you earn $60,000, you’d have to pay (.04)($31,000) or $1,240, enough for a whole year’s membership in a private Direct Primary Care plan. Senator Sanders, staying true to his principles, is sticking with unadulterated Medicare for All with its financial warts.

Even those who are numb to government over-spending can see the broader problem of inviting Uncle Sam into their lives in exchange for a Medicare card in their wallet. Any remaining privacy is erased. Our medical records would be furnished to the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Physicians and patients would be robbed of their autonomy and choice by medical care policies set by the government monopoly. Lack of competition leads to lower quality and fewer services. Coverage becomes an illusion.

Medicare for All’s beauty is only skin deep and its ugly goes to the bone.

 

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Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist. She is Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Her opinions are her own. This is an edited column that originally appeared at www.pennypressnv.com, reprinted with permission. 

 

 

Published in Opinion

For a long time, I have mostly written in this space about the ridiculous Democrats in the House who, tilting at left-wing partisan windmills, are heading in the direction of impeaching President Trump thus almost guaranteeing his re-election in 2020 since there is no chance the Senate will remove him.

 

This week, however, I have stumbled into an equally ridicules situation which has no relationship with what is currently happening in Washington but could have a serious impact on America’s largest employer—small business.

 

You may have seen some TV commercials for a non-bank lender named Kabbage.  It features actor Gary Cole playing a spokesman from 10 minutes in the future talking to some small business people.  After they get the funding they needed, Cole pops in as even further in the future after they got the Gundelfinger Account.

 

My company has used Kabbage for something like three years.

 

It’s not a huge credit line but we have made every payment on a timely basis and they have never had any problem with us.

 

On December 2, we made our normal monthly payment.  A few days later, I checked to make sure it was recorded properly.  It was.  But there was a note on the app screen which said, “You are not currently eligible to take a loan.  Call us at 88xx-xxxx to fix this issue.”

 

So I did.

 

What they told me was that there was a 60 day hold on our account, the computer makes these decisions and there is no appeal because they don’t know the reason that the computer made the decision.

 

I asked to speak to an executive who authorized the computer to make that decision.

 

“Sir,” said the young lady, “That team is not customer facing.”

 

Seriously?

 

Not customer facing?

 

Now I need to make two points here. Nobody is obligated to lend you money any more that anybody is obligated to borrow money.  This is a business transaction.  You lend me money and I pay it back with interest.

 

But good business practice dictates that if you make a decision like that—which, by the way, you have every right to make—you pick up the phone and FACE THE CUSTOMER!  Maybe your precious computer got the wrong—or no—information.

 

Kabbage is part of a new group of financial institutions called fintech.

 

It’s the latest new thing.

 

They have a proprietary algorithm so they can evaluate risk and make loans fast.

 

That’s all well and good.  And, as welcome as that may be to help fund America’s largest employer, a lender you cannot talk to is nobody you want to do business with.

 

Suppose, as an example, you are coming up on a payroll and are just a bit short—something which is not unusual in the wide world of small business.  You know you have that available in your Kabbage line.  Only, when you go to use it, there’s a note, placed there by a computer for a reason nobody knows that you cannot use the money.  That’s the sort of thing that can break a small business.

 

What was point number two that I was going to make?

 

Only that I made it clear that I was not mad at the nice young customer facing lady.  I was mad at her company and then only because information is as important as cash in small business and if Kabbage can’t tell you why, it’s very difficult to want to continue to do business with them—even after the 60 day hold is over.  Resigning the Gundelfinger account is a real possibility.

 

Now, we can get back to politics.  But I’ll bet that Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein will see the logic in fixing this problem long before the Democrat morons in the House figure out that they are hamsters making the wheel go around.  And I mean no insult to hamsters.

 

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Fred Weinberg is a guest columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. This is an edited version of his column, reprinted with permission. 

Published in Opinion
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