Posts Tagged ‘health’

Desperate pharmacy patients turn to desperate measures

November 1, 2011

News item: Rock Hill was hit by another pharmacy robbery Sunday when two suspects demanded pills at a CVS drugstore, then fled with police in hot pursuit. The incident follows a rash of similar stick-ups in the area.

Another news item: Workers signing up for annual enrollment in their employer’s health insurance plans are reporting sticker shock at a hefty increase in premiums, particularly for prescription coverage.

* * * * *

For those tired of an unceasing spate of bad news about health care costs, a new option is gaining popularity: robbing the local drugstore.

And it’s not just junkies, pillheads and career criminals looking for ways to juggle expenses that are committing the crimes. Increasingly, the elderly, the disabled, and just plain folk are threatening violence if they can’t get their meds at a reasonable cost.

“I have to have my flu shot. If I catch the flu, I’ll die,” said 62-year-old Sarah Johnson. “My insurance (company) says they’ll reimburse me for the $25 but there’s paperwork involved and it takes weeks. For me, it’s just easier to brandish a weapon and demand the shot. Bob is my regular pharmacist, and he knows I won’t shoot him. But obviously, he doesn’t want to take any chances.”

Johnson showed up at her neighborhood Walgreen’s to get the vaccine last week when the human resources director holding her company’s benefits meeting said it would be free. Told by store personnel it was free only as a reimbursement, Johnson became agitated and left, then returned later with a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol.

“I held that gun on them the whole time they were prepping and  injecting me,” Johnson said. “It was tough because I usually shoot with my right hand, but the chair I sat at required me to get the shot in my right arm. Good thing I didn’t have to shoot because I’m wild as hell with my left hand.”

Johnson said her pharmacist was understanding but terrified during the armed encounter.

“I’ve known Sarah for years,” said druggist Robert Henderson. “She’s a regular customer and a good friend, so I didn’t pull out the Luger I keep behind the counter and kill her.”

A 32-year-old mother of three trying a similar technique at the Rite Aid wasn’t quite so lucky.

Marianne Burns said her insurance plan used to cover the allergy medicine her triplet second-graders needed, but the formula became generic during the summer. The over-the-counter variety costs about three times as much as what her insurance used to cover, so she arrived at the pharmacy last Sunday carrying an AK-47 modified to discharge armor-piercing bullets.

“I thought I might be able to just shoplift it,” said the former teacher from York County Jail, where she’s being held on assorted terrorism charges. “But one of my girls started crying, which drew the attention of the security guard. That’s when I had to start shooting.”

Fortunately, no one was injured in the attack, which prompted Burns to say the attempt “was worth it.”

“There’s a lot less paperwork to fill out when you’re preparing a defense on federal charges than there would be if I used my flexible spending account,” she said.

John Leeman, a 76-year-old retiree, faced a particularly daunting challenge on his trip to pick up a prescription. He’s lucky enough to be covered by health insurance from his old union job, but he’s also tapping into some Medicare coverage. The conflicts and duplication between the two plans were certain to be problematic, he thought.

“I needed my diabetes medicine. I wanted the EpiPen with the measured insulin dose and I was afraid they’d make me take the bulk stuff,” Leeman said. “So I brought my sword along.”

Leeman had picked up the souvenir saber during his service in Korea in 1952. It sat unused in a closet for over half a century before he realized it could be used in an armed assault.

“Sure enough, that’s what they tried to do to me,” Leeman said. “So I pulled out my sword and ran the pharmacy tech right through. As his lifeblood poured from the gaping wound, he staggered to the shelf and got me the EpiPen.”

“It’s just a pharmacy tech. No big deal,” said head pharmacist Andy Wells. “Now if it had been a cashier, that would’ve been different. But I know John — he’s a good ol’ boy — and he was just doing what he thought needed to be done.”

Pharmacy robber presents his CVS ExtraCare card to receive extra discounts on his haul

Dentist claims that work is necessary

September 27, 2011

ROCK HILL, S.C. (Sept. 27) — In a stunning development, it was reported yesterday that I have several cavities, some of which will require a simple filling but others that could need a full root canal.

Officials at Iredell Dental Care (IDC) made the surprising announcement following a routine cleaning and exam Monday afternoon. Even though I had a clean bill of dental health at my previous visit six months ago, now the dentist claims I need work done that could cost thousands of dollars.

“Are you serious?” I asked following the 45-minute-long appointment. “How can there be such a big change in such a short period?”

“I’m not sure,” said Dr. Leena Jones, who performed an examination that included jabbing at suspicious areas with a pointy metal thing. “Sometimes, cavities can develop quite quickly.”

In a Proposed Treatment Plan issued by IDC, I reportedly need a “posterior composite – 2 surface” on tooth number 2, a “composite resin, 1 surface” on tooth number 26, and a “posterior composite – 1 surface” on several other teeth. These procedures run between $139 and $204 each.

In addition, there’s a need for a “crown, porc. fused to high nobl” as well as “endodontics, 1 canal” on teeth 3, 22 and 27. Estimates for this work range from $647 to $997.

“Let’s see what your insurance would cover,” said the helpful lady (I think her name is Jane) at the front desk. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You’ve used up your 2011 allotment already. It was only $1,000 anyway.”

I’m tempted to get a second opinion from another, more-senior doctor who works with the practice. The lady dentist who performed my exam was certainly cute and friendly enough, and I freely acknowledge she’d be welcome in another setting to put her hands in my mouth.

However, the firm’s founding dentist — a man who’s about my age, and was probably pulling teeth before young Dr. Leena was born — has the gravitas I need to confirm the extensive work will be necessary. I’ll talk to him when I get a chance.

“What, do they think I just have thousands of dollars laying around to be spent on dental work?” I asked myself following yesterday’s visit. “They don’t even hurt. Why can’t I just wait till they hurt?”

According to WebMD, a delay in treatment could cause teeth which otherwise might be fixed with fillings to instead require the more-expensive root canal.

“Maybe I could just check a different online source,” I proposed.

Unfortunately, both and a guy I play Farmville with confirm this likely scenario.

Dr. Leena did say that I might be able to prevent further cavities by improving my brushing stroke. She asked the dental hygienist to show me how to make a circular motion on the gum, then move the brush over the teeth “in the direction they grow.”

“You brush up for the bottom teeth and down for the top teeth,” said Angela Davis, hygienist and former vice-presidential candidate for the American Communist Party. “Like this. And make sure you do it every night before you go to bed.”

“What am I, some kind of child?” I wondered. “I know how to brush my own damn teeth.”

Dr. Leena also gave me a script for “prescription toothpaste,” marketed under the name “Prevident 5000.” Like I’m going to show up at some pharmacy and ask for prescription toothpaste.

“Maybe I can alter the script to get Vicodin,” I speculated.

IHC said I could study the Proposed Treatment Plan and get back to them about what I wanted to do. However, according to the fine print at the bottom of the page, “the above services and fees are valid for 90 days.”

“I don’t have $3,576 now, and I’m not likely to find it in the next three months,” I countered. “It’d be cheaper to hire someone to chew for me, then feed me like a baby bird.”

This could be me, unless I come up with thousands of dollars

An editorial: Is it really a seven-layer burrito?

September 23, 2011

The seven-layer burrito, as created and sold by Taco Bell, is a wondrous thing.

Available at most locations of the popular fast-food outlet for as little as $1.49, it’s practically a meal in itself. A soft flour tortilla wraps around rice, beans, a blend of three cheeses, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole, like a protective mother wraps her arms around her children. Spicy scamps that they are, the ingredients try to ooze free as you eat the burrito. But they are doomed instead to satisfy even the heartiest hunger, except maybe for that glob that landed on your shirt.

There is little that one can editorialize against in this marvel of Mexican cuisine. Oh, sure, the food police will tell you that it’s got too much fat or sodium or cholesterol or insect parts-per-million. What they neglect to note, however, is that by ordering it “fresco-style” — with salsa serving as an able replacement for the cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella cheese sauce — you can cut the fat content by 25%. Also, it has 12 grams of dietary fiber, which sounds like a lot of grams.

Where the editorial board here at DavisW’s blog has a bit of a quibble is with the marketing of the product as “seven layers.” The dictionary defines a layer as “a single thickness of something that lies over or under something or between other similar thicknesses.” Once compressed into its cylindrical casing, the true meaning of “layer” is lost. What arrives through the window of your car at the drive-through is more a mish-mash of ingredients, randomly swirled about by the whims of the burrito’s creator, and by how it is jostled during its journey from the warming tray to your open maw.

Also, the use of the number “seven” to describe the quantity of components is a little misleading. If you count the three different cheeses as separate entities, what you’re actually getting is a ten-layer burrito. One could even make the argument that the tortilla itself should count as a layer, bringing the constituent total to eleven. Why, then, is it not named after a larger and presumably more desirable number?

This probably has to do with the storied history of the meal itself. As far back as the Aztecs, the number seven held mystical properties. When they sacrificed virgins to their primitive gods, all the girls had to be at least seven years old (something to do with what we now know as child labor laws). The ancients measured their year as consisting of seven months of 52 days each. When they slew their enemies in war, they ate the defeated heads as the original seven-layer burrito, oddly counting the nostrils of the nose as two separate ingredients while both the eyes and the ears counted as one item each. The tongue was the original “al fresco” option — warriors could choose to omit it if they were watching their weight.

What concerns those of us who reside in the 21st century is how to order the seven-layer burrito when we want to omit an item or two. Should we ask for a seven-layer burrito without the cheese and sour cream, even though such an omission makes it a less-than-seven-layer burrito? Would it be better to characterize this order as a five-layer burrito, or would that be too confusing for the marginally educated counter staff? Why not start instead from the bottom up, requesting a “zero-layer burrito” with rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole? Or might this prompt them to leave out the tortilla entirely, instead handing you a ball of soggy starches and vegetables unrestrained by an outer casing?

We call on Taco Bell to clarify their position on this issue. Consider an a la carte menu option. Allow us to enter the food preparation area and construct the mass ourselves. Remove any number from the name of the product, and call it simply the “layered burrito.”

Just don’t make us do math — especially subtraction — when all we’re interested in is satisfying a hunger as primal and demanding as those Mesoamerican civilizations of centuries past.

Oh, if only I could blink …

September 12, 2011

I was almost home after work Friday as I prepared to exit the interstate. I inched into the right lane and immediately had to slam on the brakes to avoid rear-ending the truck in front of me.

Farther ahead, I could see other cars swerving and skidding to rapidly slow down. About a quarter-mile up the road, leading the column of about two dozen vehicles like a mother duck leading her brood across a meadow, was a white minivan, flashers blinking as it chugged along at about 30 m.p.h.

The posted minimum speed on the interstate is 45 m.p.h. However, it seems there is an unwritten rule of the road that, as long as you turn on your flashers, you can get away with anything.

Parking in a handicapped spot? Okay, if you activate the emergency lights.

Stopped in the middle of your neighborhood to chat with a passing friend? Just make sure your rear-end lights are blinking.

Speeding to the hospital to deliver your cousin and his sprained ankle to the emergency room? No faster than 140, if you don’t mind — just be sure you have your flashers on.

Foiled Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was well aware of this loophole in traffic law. When he tried in 2009 to blow up his Pathfinder after filling it with explosives and abandoning it on Broadway, he was careful to activate the hazard lights. Police initially dismissed the threat because the flashers throbbed so rhythmically and vibrantly. However, when smoke began to pour from the passenger compartment, they called in the bomb squad and averted what would have been a major attack.

“But I had the flashers on,” Shahzad later testified during his trial on terror charges.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” responded federal judge Arthur Cox.

Cox almost threw out the case at that point, until prosecutors reminded him that the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11, gave authorities extraordinary powers to halt car-bombers even if they had their blinkers on.

The folly of granting immunity to all kinds of offenses just because someone pushed a button on their dashboard is becoming more widely acknowledged. While I objected strenuously to the slow-poke minivan I encountered Friday, part of me wishes to see the concept not only maintained but expanded.

What if we could wear flashing lights on either hip which we could activate every time we found ourselves in a period of stress or uncertainty? We could warn those around us that we we’re momentarily unstable and should be given wide berth.

Think how marvelous it would be to easily publicize that we shouldn’t be approached while heading to the breakroom at work. To warn our child’s teacher that the parent conference they’ve requested will not erupt into a screaming match as long as they treat us gingerly. To urge those in front of us at Starbucks to make way and let us place our order first.

Some of this automotive-inspired technology is already entering general use. A few weeks back, I encountered one of those motorized shopping carts used by our inordinately massive citizens in the grocery store. The lady was attempting to make a three-point turn in the middle of the frozen food aisle. Whenever she threw the vehicle into reverse, a loud beep emanated from the chair.

As the maneuver progressed, other shoppers clogged the row waiting for the opportunity to pass. Most were polite enough to pretend to be looking for Hot Pockets while they waited. Eventually, the beeping stopped and the normal traffic flow was able to resume. The humongous fat lady didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of explaining to all who waited that she deserved their sympathy and, if they wouldn’t mind, that pack of frozen french fries in our cart as well.

I’d like to propose some other ideas we can borrow from our Auto-American friends to use as we amble through our daily lives.

Spoilers — These aerodynamic devices on the back trunk of sports cars could also be affixed just above human butts, so that runners and fast walkers can maintain stability as they proceed. (I, for one, often fear my speedy jogging pace will lift me right off the pavement without the downforce provided by a spoiler.)

Turn signals — Sure, most drivers don’t use these properly to begin with, either ignoring them completely or leaving them on long after the urge to turn has passed. (I’m looking at you, grandma). But think how effective they’d be on the sidewalks of Manhattan, as a way for busy businesspeople and befuddled tourists to signal their intent to make a sharp right into the subway without being killed by a passing bike messenger.

Horn — If someone walking ahead of you isn’t moving fast enough, give them either a brief beep or a full-throated “ah-ooo-ga” to urge them out of the way. (I know what some of you will say: “Wouldn’t saying ‘excuse me’ be more polite?” To which I would respond: “Why does that shuffling quartet from Iowa who’s never seen anything taller than a grain elevator deserve civility?”)

Headlights — Only cars and cats have the ability to emit a high-beam light out their “eyes” to illuminate the way in front of them. Why couldn’t humans be surgically altered, perhaps as part of their annual eye exam, so that photons come shooting out of our face, allowing us to pee more effectively in the dark?

Grill — This idea already has foothold among the hip-hoppier portions of our population, and could rapidly be expanded to others. Have all your low-tech natural teeth pulled and replaced with a shiny metallic grill. This will save on dental bills as well as improve your visibility as you swerve in and out of pedestrian traffic.

Trunk — Again, we can turn to our urban friends — who have long trumpeted the value of “junk in the trunk” — for guidance on how to give us more storage capacity than pockets and purses could ever hope to offer. If we could hollow out our too-ample rumps and use the space to keep gum, cellphones, checkbooks, cash, tissue, cigarettes, etc., our hands become more free to open doors, adjust our shorts and attack innocent bystanders with knives.

Computer diagnostics — I’d love to have a “check intestines” light come on every time I over-ate, or a heart symbol illuminate on the end of my nose to indicate I might be in need of an angioplasty. Cars have it so easy; just hook them up to the computer in the service bay and you immediately know what’s wrong. Health care costs would plummet if a simple stop at Pep Boys might head off a major cardiac event.

I call on Detroit and the medical establishment to join forces in this effort to bring humanity “up to spec.” With our manufacturing sector in the doldrums as our healthcare system booms uncontrollably, maybe President Obama can include these ideas in his jobs push.

And if they need the help, I’d be happy to write the owner’s manual. As long as I can beep, honk, screech or flash while I’m doing it.

Local government to fund sludge fight

August 11, 2011

After the recent debacle in Washington surrounding the deficit and the debt ceiling, it’s easy to think that all government is ineffective and/or corrupt and/or run by spineless chuckleheads.

But the passage of a measure Monday night by my hometown’s city council demonstrates that some agencies survive, even thrive, wading in the knee-deep muck and grime that is the people’s business.

Months of preliminary work by a Rock Hill official has resulted in the “Fats, Oils and Grease Initiative,” passed by a vote of 5-1 at this week’s meeting. The measure will guarantee that the city inspects grease traps at the area’s food-service establishments to make sure gunk is stopped before it invades the sewer.

Assistant city manager Jimmy Bagley has spent much of 2011 working with utilities and other departments on the project. He presented his findings to the council during a workshop in April, then followed up with weeks of heavy lobbying to drum up support for the new regulation.

A grease trap is a plumbing device used to intercept most greases and other repulsive semi-solids before they enter the wastewater system. When traps are not properly maintained, fats and oils get into the sewer lines. Pipes that were once 8 inches in diameter can rapidly be clogged to only 4 inches.

“The cold grease begins to clog and get hard,” Bagley told the council. “As soon as it hits a pipe or anything in the line that’s an obstruction, it stops up. Then you get a back-up, or manholes overflow, or it goes back into people’s homes.”

While elsewhere the nation’s infrastructure crumbles in the face of Tea Party-inspired frugality, South Carolina’s fifth-largest city is tackling needed maintenance head-on.

But not before several of the council’s conservatives asked some tough questions.

Council member Kevin Sutton reluctantly agreed to vote for the ordinance, despite the government intrusion it might mean for local businesses. Councilman John Black could not be convinced that keeping revolting sludge out of citizens’ homes was a priority, and cast the sole vote against the proposal.

The state Department of Health requires any establishment generating wastewater containing fats, oils or grease to have and maintain a grease trap. However, there is no enforcement provision.

It’s a bit like having laws against murder, but no police force to enforce them. Except that rotting, coagulated lard smells slightly worse than the decomposing bodies that would litter the landscape under a small-government system of law enforcement.

During the April session, several members expressed concern about the cost to businesses of the grease traps. Assistant manager Bagley pointed out that all local businesses already have the traps; they would just have to be working.

“Oh,” said one councilman at the time.

The new ordinance goes into effect in five months (if all Rock Hillians haven’t abandoned their increasingly repellent hometown by then). It will place fines on non-complying restaurants; a first re-inspection would cost $250 and a second one would run $500.

A full-time staff member will be hired to conduct up to 25 inspections a week, eventually getting to all 400 city establishments. No word yet if this job opening has been posted, nor if any of the county’s 20% unemployed work force will step forward to take a job as sickening as this one.

Conservatives surprisingly opted not to allow free-market forces to clean up the grease traps. Some libertarians may have suggested that diners not patronize offending restaurants until they made their own individual inspections and were assured that organic mire was being kept in check. Only then would they return to their seats and enjoy their appetizers.

Bagley said he hoped the ordinance would achieve three goals: education, inspection and enforcement.

“It allows us to participate in programs to let folks know that on a residential level, they can do their part as well,” Bagley said.

One of the main suggestions he had for residents is that they too refrain from pouring grease down their sinks.

“If everybody does their part, hopefully it’ll all fall into place,” he said.

“They’re asking private citizens to be responsible by not dumping shit into the city sewers?” a local Tea Party representative was expected to ask. “Americans should have the freedom to behave like animals in their own homes if they want to. As long as it doesn’t involve extramarital sex.”

Sludge and shit

Revisited Website Review:

July 15, 2011

No no no no no no no no no no,
no no no no no no no no no no no no no no
Nobody can do the shake like I do
Nobody can do the boogaloo like I do
–”Nobody But Me” by The Human Beinz (1968)

We’re at an awkward moment in the long history of humankind. We’ve mastered the land, inventing agriculture to free us from all that tedious hunting and gathering. We safely harvest critical resources from the sea (sort of). We fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the rocketpacks and balloons and zeppelins and superheroes nearly blotting out the sun at times.

And yet we still face this issue of unwanted hair. Fashion magazines have made it abundantly clear that hair is to exist only in a luxuriant and lustrous state flowing out of the top of our heads, and in smaller strips in and around the eye, on the brow and lash. Our ancestors from millennia past needed all kinds of body hair for protection from the elements, but now that we have condos and ballcaps and the cutest tops from TJ Maxx, the remaining fur is vestigial and has almost left our bodies entirely. Except for some embarrassing patches that we hope evolution will eventually get to, though frankly we have a date at 7 tonight and can’t wait much longer.

For these people, commerce has developed a number of caustic solutions and tiny gouging devices that will remove unwanted hair, if you don’t mind unbearable pain and a moderate fee. They work pretty well, as do most torture regimens eventually. However, the modern consumer longs for a more high-tech approach, i.e., one they can order over the internet.

So in today’s Website Review, I’m going to tell you about a product called the “no!no!’. Deliberately lower-cased to distinguish it from the industrial-strength “NO!NO!” being used at secret CIA rendition centers, the no!no! is a small machine offering “professional hair removal at home … finally, a pain-free long-term solution for hair removal!” Offering no hair and no pain, it virtually named itself.

Using the Thermicon™, a thermodynamic wire to transmit heat to each individual hair, the shaft becomes superheated, basically crystallizing the follicle. This both pulverizes the part of the hair that shows above the surface and cripples the cell communication below the skin that grew the hair in the first place. A buff, which comes “free” with your $284.40 purchase, then turns your skin from a bombed-out Dresden to a soft, barren desert. Self-tasering has never been so easy.

The home page of is packed with moving graphics, pink backgrounds and a spray of bullet points that would make an armed and disgruntled former employee proud. The “smart skin solutions” people at parent company Radiancy tout the no!no! as “•cordless and convenient,” “•cord-free operation,”  ”•removes embarrassing facial hair too!” and  ”•great for men and women.” It’s InStyle magazine’s 2008 beauty product of the year, and has also been seen in Vogue, Shape and Self magazines, because that’s what happens when you pay them money to run your ads. There’s also a tease of some of the other heartfelt testimonials to follow elsewhere in the site:

“As someone who struggled with unwanted hair, it is so wonderful to sit here proud and hairless,” writes one satisfied customer. “Thank you no!no! for coming into my life!”

Under the “How It Works” section, there are more details about the three distinct processes involved in permanently mutating your pores. During “First Contact” (not to be confused with the 1996 Star Trek movie), a super-heated wire separates the hair shaft at the point of contact. At the “Crystallization” stage, the uppermost part of the hair becomes coarse and prickly, and you can stop at this point if you’re into that. Most, though, want to proceed to the “Disruption” phase, where the actual “miscommunication between bulge and root” takes place, slowing future hair growth. A phase four, as-yet undiscovered but certain to be announced in the next year or so, gives you fatal melanoma.

The overly punctuated “Why no!no!?” pulldown uses an easy-to-read spreadsheet to dissect the problem women everywhere face about what methods to use on their face. Current techniques all have their shortcomings. Short-term solutions like razors, depilatory creams and electric shavers get a “no” in the pain column but a “daily” in the frequency column and all kinds of nasty stuff in the “side effects” column including razor burn, cuts, odor and allergic reactions. For mid-term remedies like “epilation (rotary)” and the tasty-sounding “wax-sugaring,” you can trade painlessness for bi-monthly convenience, though now you’re also looking at burn potential, a mess, and a lot of time and money. The long-term effects of the laser include pain, skin inflammation, odor and a costly, long-term commitment, but on the plus side you’ll be recognized by most grocery store bar-code scanners.

The no!no! option is not a miracle cure and does require commitment. For your effort, you’ll “make the dream of less unwanted hair a reality.” The simple and pain-free technique involves “no pulling, tearing or scraping, just a slow, smooth slide”. There is something called the “hot blade” involved but it’s encased in a cate little handheld device (comes in pink or silver) that you can take with you almost anywhere. And, that convenience means you can no!no! “at home or wherever,” sitting on the side of your bed, after a workout at the gym, or while running for statewide office in California.

There are some Testimonials included in one section. Frankly, they’re rather lackluster. “I will definitely recommend this to girlfriends with thick, stubborn hair,” says one woman, about to find herself seriously defriended on Facebook. “I first saw no!no! in a magazine, then heard rave reviews from a friend,” says Kennedy of Omaha. “I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a whirl. The no!no! did not disappoint. I love my no!no!” (Imagine this woman’s poor dog, trying to be a good boy but constantly hearing “no!no!”)

The best testimonial of all comes in a video format from “celebrity” Kassie DePaiva, a daytime TV star who loves her no!no! She prattles through about a dozen different 30-second clips showing her compensated enthusiasm for the product. “I’ve got a great body, it’s just the hair I don’t like,” she says. “I might’ve shaved in the morning but by 5 o’clock I’m doing a love scene and the actor says ‘gee, Kassie, do you ever shave your legs?’ I was mortified,” she confides. “It’s taken care of a huge issue in my life, a universal problem that people don’t want to talk about,” she adds. “The pain (before no!no!) stopped me from living,” she says. “I was tired of being the hairy girl I’ve been all my life.”

Finally, Kassie DePaiva has been liberated to pursue a Hollywood career that has her IMBD STARmeter rating up 22% in just the last week. After a long career on “One Life to Live,” she got her own show called “Knit & Crochet Today,” thanks in no small measure to her reduced bushiness. After being universally panned by critics — “she asks silly questions and makes comments I would expect from a ditsy teenager,” wrote one — she was canned, but not because wool-knit scarves and afghans didn’t glide smoothly across her skin.

The last piece I’ll cover is the standard “Frequently Asked Questions” section. “Does it really work?” is answered “Yes, it really works.” The question “Is the no!no! treatment safe?” brings the confusing but definitive response “Yes, no!no! is safe.” Someone asks “Can I use it with other hair removal products at the same time?” It seems you can throw the whole inventory of procedures at your upper lip if you want to — lasers, tweezers, waxes, acids, a make-out session with Zach Galifianakis — but these could interfere with no!no! benefits, so don’t come asking for your money back.

There’s a handy online order form for a deal that’s only available through June, so try to claw your way out of your hirsute prison and type on a computer if you can. They accept all major credit cards and you can make three easy payments. Obviously, certain billing information is also required but they’re polite enough to exclude a pulldown requiring you to categorize your hairiness on a scale that ranges from Alec Baldwin to Robin Williams to the Wolfman.

One final important point about the no!no! that’s contained in the fine print at the bottom of the website. “The no!no! is not recommended for use on the genitals.” I myself can’t imagine that possibility even entering my mind, though I understand that desperate people may consider desperate measures. My response to the thought, however, is much like those timeless words from the Human Beinz — “No no no no no no no no no no!”

Revisited Website Review:

July 12, 2011


I am taking my summer vacation this week. (Not really — I’ll explain more next week). Please enjoy this “best-of” series from my Website Reviews over the next four days.

“IN PAIN CALL TODAY” reads the unpunctuated sign outside Access Chiropractic Center, a small practice in my hometown of Rock Hill.

I’ve been in a few “pain calls” myself.

I remember the conference calls I used to have to join on a weekly basis as part of my membership in a company-wide “task force.” A group of us from several cities across the country were forced to tackle a variety of tasks in supposed betterment of corporate quality. One of these tasks was participation in an hour-long call each Wednesday.

Most of the session I’d sit there with the speakerphone on and a crossword puzzle in front of me, as the team leader prattled through an agenda of hare-brained but fortunately never-to-be-completed schemes. In some ways, it was not unlike working the night shift at a convenience store — long stretches of boredom relieved occasionally by the terror of being robbed or, in my case, having my name called for a response.

“Opera?” I’d reply, which was correct as a five-letter word for “musical play,” though not usually the answer the facilitator was looking for.

At best, I’d be able to transform the drudgery into a bit of amusement by turning the phone onto “mute” mode and making sarcastic remarks about the proceedings with a co-worker in the same room with me. That worked okay until one afternoon when we misread the “mute” indicator.

“So Davis, can you tell us all how me being a ‘raving lunatic’ will impact our project deadline?” Lana asked from her office in California.

Quickly I fixed the mute button and responded, “Maybe we’d finish faster if you were distracted by a shiny object?”

Or there was the time I was leading a call myself, with the object being to train a room full of Sri Lankans, listening from the other side of the world to my discourse on how to markup a financial document. They were a quiet, respectful group of students who rarely interrupted my monologue with any questions. Though it would’ve been nice if one of them had called back when the line went dead 15 minutes into my hour-long spiel.

I’m distracted into misreading Access Chiropractic’s sign as a way to pad this week’s Website Review of Dr. Jeffrey M. Muschik’s internet presence. It’s a site with only a few pages of pulldowns, which I’ll begin mocking in just a moment. I chose to include the sign in front of their Celanese Road storefront as part of their new-media promotional push just to flesh things out a little.

The home page for includes a nice picture of Dr. Muschik, a generic photo of him or somebody yanking on a small child’s hand under the heading “Affordable Family Care”, and some attractive credit card logos. (It’s not clear whether the hand-holding picture is meant to convey a general sense of caring, or represents an actual chiropractic manipulation). The introductory copy says the doctor provides Rock Hill residents with “safe, gentle and effective” chiropractic care, a revision of his earlier business plan for dangerous, rough and permanently paralyzing treatment that didn’t attract too many patients.

There’s a bulleted list of the services available from this office: neck pain, headaches, back pain, auto accidents, etc. Why anyone would want to contract for the acquisition of any of these afflictions is beyond me, but I’ve never been much of a believer in chiropractics anyway. In addition to decompression treatments, you can also obtain “pregnant patients, sports injuries and children” from this menu of products and services.

The backbone of the website is a page dedicated to details of the office operation. In addition to chiropractic treatment, the doctor also offers rehabilitation and massage. He keeps office hours Monday through Friday, which include a prolonged lunch break from noon to 3:30 p.m. during which I imagine Dr. Muschik goes home and lies down. Next to a photograph of the doctor rubbing the lower back of a prone but fully clothed man is the practice’s 11-point “no wait policy”. This has little to do with how long you’ll be leafing through Adjustments Today magazines in the waiting room. It’s more about automobile injuries, attorney referrals, car accidents and how close to the hospital the office is located (almost within walking distance – good for patients but not so great for the collision-obsessed doctor).

A biography of Dr. Muschik indicates that he’s a nice enough guy. He’s board-certified and licensed in South Carolina, a reassuring thing except for the South Carolina part. He was trained at the National University of Health Sciences in Illinois in the treatment and rehabilitation of physical injuries and advanced neurological diseases, as well as back and neck pain. He’s certified in CPR (in other words, he can press down on the front of your chest as well as on the back), he teaches youth coaches tactics in sports injury prevention, and is the official chiropractor for the Winthrop University soccer team. He is “consistently active within the community,” perhaps more than you can say about his hobbled patients whose activity levels are more subdued.

There’s a section about what to expect at your first appointment. After filling out some paperwork, your consultation with the doctor will begin. “In order to determine what your actual problem is, the doctor will ask you various questions related to your condition,” reads the page. I’m not sure if Dr. Muschik has shared this ground-breaking diagnostic innovation with others in the medical community, but I hope he can write a paper on the topic, perhaps during his extended lunch break. You may be given x-rays and you may receive same-day treatment, if the doctor can figure out which parts of your body to pummel, knead and squeeze. Prior to leaving, you’ll be given home-care instructions that may include ice or heat application and avoidance of certain activities.

Activities to be avoided do not include, not surprisingly, a follow-up appointment for another session. “Generally speaking, patients are seen again within 1-2 days” and, as I understand is the general pattern for chiropractic care, for every one to two weeks after that until the second coming of Christ. It’s easy to schedule another meeting with the doctor: “the fastest way is to contact our office,” advises the copywriter. I’m guessing he gave up doing this telepathically when the fortune teller that shared his duplex finally got that job with the census that she was angling for.

The only other feature worth noting on the website is a “limited time” coupon good for a free consultation. First-time patients can print this online offer to receive an evaluation “that’s a $50 value”. In our bargain-obsessed culture, I can understand showing up at the Bi-Lo grocery store with a “buy-one-get-one-free” offer on watermelons, or perhaps a dollar off the number 8 combo on Tuesdays only at Chick-fil-A (if your car has an cow-head antenna topper). But coming to the office of a medical professional with a coupon in hand just doesn’t seem quite right to me.

Lastly, I want to make an additional smart remark about the office sign in the photo at the top of this post. If you look closely in the upper left-hand corner, you’ll see the Access logo — a family of four that’s either very close to each other or else congenitally conjoined. I thought such a rare condition as the latter could only be repaired by 20-hour-long separation surgery, but if it’s something that chiropractics can take care of, I’m all in favor of the less-traumatic course of treatment.

Wonder if there’s a coupon for that. Buy one get three free, perhaps?

New warning labels could apply to candidates

June 23, 2011

Following the lead of the FDA, which announced this week that graphic images would have to appear on cigarette packages warning of the dangers of smoking, the Federal Election Commission is considering a similar rule.

The FEC proposal would require presidential candidates to alter their physical appearance to show what effects their proposals would have on the nation.

“Showing the ravages of smoking so vividly may well deter people from starting to smoke,” said FEC chairwoman Cynthia Bauerly. “We hope the same principle can be applied to politicians. If their policies will cause the nation to become a ghostly shell of its former self, it’s only fair advertising that they present a similar image.”

Most Republican candidates who’ve already declared their intentions to run in 2012 immediately objected to what they called unnecessary government regulation. Surprisingly, however, one who did not object is the most libertarian candidate in the race, Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Ron Paul

 “‘A ghostly shell of its former self’?” Paul said. “That’s me! I plan to abolish about half of the current federal departments, gutting the government so that it is doddering and ineffectual. I think I look the part of someone who would do that.”

Paul has been judged the most conservative member of Congress among the 3,320 people who have served since 1937. He opposes all foreign intervention as well as global trade agreements. He believes private property rights are more important than environmental legislation. He supports the abolition of all drug laws. He’s even against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, considered the foundation for over 50 years of improved race relations.

“I’m disheveled and old and white, and I often talk like someone who’s been smoking crack,” Paul said. “I love this new proposal.”

The only real change he says he’d have to make in his look would be to appear slightly more stupid. Removing federal assistance to education would make the population even dumber than it is now, and Paul — trained as a medical doctor — still appears to have at least half his marbles.

“What if I put those marbles in my mouth while making speeches?” he said. “That might just be the finishing touch for the truth-in-advertising that my image needs.”

Another Republican candidate who appears already poised to be in compliance is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich

“I envision an America that is bitter and mean-spirited. We should do little if anything to help those who are less better off,” Gingrich said. “And I’m fat. Let’s not forget that. All those guidelines for improving the diets of obese citizens are out the door if I’m elected. Even the most healthy among us would look like me.”

Gingrich said he hoped the FEC’s proposal would only cover the candidates themselves, and not their spouses.

“My wife is a beautiful woman, but she’s also a strong woman,” the Georgia conservative said. “That doesn’t mean I support other women being strong. They need to be subservient to their husbands, not have abortions, and not demand expensive jewelry.”

“She will not agree to look like a trailer-park floozy, tramp-stamped and toothless,” he said. “Even if that is what my economic policy would do to the middle class.”

Yay! It’s naptime!

June 22, 2011

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …

Huh? Whuh? No, no … I’m awake, I’m awake.

Just catching a quick “desk nap” here at work. If I put a couple of number-filled pages on the proofreading easel in front of me, no one even notices if I doze off for a few minutes. In fact, I challenge anyone — even the most alert, meth-addled reader out there — to stay awake while perusing column after column of financial numbers.

It’s a technique that anesthesiologists and executioners could learn a lot from.

At this stage in my life, I’ve pretty much mastered the art of the power nap. I’ve discovered over the years that even as little as five minutes of unconsciousness can prove to be quite refreshing. Somehow, I always manage to catch myself almost as soon as the sleep has done its rejuvenating job, and snap awake before my head flops back and my mouth starts leaking.

I first developed this useful practice back when I was in college. Several times a semester, I’d make the 480-mile drive from Tallahassee, Fla., to Miami to visit my parents. Anyone who’s ever driven on the Florida Turnpike for almost 250 miles of that journey can testify how dull it is. You almost wish giant, fire-breathing alligators would emerge from the Everglades and start consuming motorists whole, just to provide enough stimulation to keep you awake.

Since most of these mega-gators have become threatened due to encroachment on their habitats, I started refreshing myself with mini-naps while barreling down the highway at 70 m.p.h. Sounds dangerous, I know, but I was always able to catch myself in time to avoid a side-trip into the canal.

Those were good times.

Today, I’m in the same boat as most other hard-working Americans, and it’s a boat that’s likely going to run aground soon because everyone is so drowsy. We’ve packed so many activities into our busy schedules that, in order to make room for it all, we steal from the time we should be sleeping.

Stories of the consequences of this trend are all over the news. A bus driver heading from North Carolina to New York tries to catch 40 winks, and around the 35th one — oops — his motorcoach goes off a bridge, killing four. Airline pilots headed for Minneapolis end up halfway to the North Pole before realizing their passenger jet was on autopilot while they snoozed.

Even Vice President Biden was caught napping during a presidential address to Congress. Had al-Qaeda chosen to attack the U.S. during that vulnerable moment, Biden’s slumber would likely have been disturbed, rendering him grouchy and out-of-sorts for the rest of the afternoon.

On a typical day, following what is a typical night of about five hours sleep, I’ll take two planned naps. First comes the one I take in my car during what is supposed to be my lunch break. I’ll turn on the air-conditioning, drive to the back of our office park, recline my seat and crank up the NPR. Within moments, the soothing voice of Terry Gross and her “Fresh Aire” guest (hopefully, a poet) have me nodding.

If I need to wake up by a predetermined time — say, to keep my job — I set my virtually fail-safe internal alarm clock and inevitably find myself jarred awake at that precise moment. Somehow, I’ve been blessed with what is arguably a super-human skill in this regard. I just have to figure out now how to use it for the good of all mankind.

The other planned nap occurs when I get home from work, about 3:30 p.m. I get to do this one in my own home, usually with two cats already snoozing in my wife’s half of the bed.

Taylor and Harriet can be a bit of a handful when they want to eat or poop or whatever else it is they contribute around the house. But at this point in my day, with the heat soaring outside and the AC going full blast inside, they provide a tremendous amount of inspiration for those who want to sleep. What a great role model the modern housecat can be! I lie down, pulling the covers tight up to my chin. I reach over and give Taylor a gentle stroke, a muttered “kitty, kitty” and — boom — I’m out like a light.

As skilled as I may claim to be in the art of the “fast sleep,” I still often have trouble embarking on longer ventures into dreamland. Never was this more apparent than during several intercontinental flights I took to Asia a few years back.

It is nighttime. My body clock doesn’t believe this, however. After making a sleepless overnight flight from Charlotte to Germany, killing most of a morning in Frankfurt before boarding another nine-hour slog toward India, it really could be any time at all, including the 23rd century. It’s dark outside the plane, though only a couple of window-seat passengers have their sliding shades open.

The incessant thrum of the jet engines speed us through the high altitudes above Iran. All around the cabin, fellow passengers are sleeping blissfully. Some have blankets pulled over their faces. Some heads are held in position by inflated neck pillows. A few have collapsed onto the shoulder of the person seated next to them, who might normally object if they so weren’t comatose.

Throughout the plane, Muslims are lying down with Hindus, Hindus are lying down with Christians, Asians are lying down with Europeans, and that young couple sitting on the bulkhead are sort of lying down, but on top of each other.

And me? I’m wide awake, trying to decide whether chapter 13 of a Sandy Koufax biography or an episode of “Who’s The Boss?” translated into Hindi will make my wakefulness less painful. Even with a double-dose of Ambien coursing through my veins, I remain wide awake.

Fortunately, within a few more hours, I’m comfortably tucked into my luxurious bed at Mumbai’s Leela Hotel, and the sleep comes easily. For days at a time.

Too bad I couldn’t have stepped outside that Airbus A320 for a power nap. I feel confident the lack of oxygen at 35,000 feet would’ve put me right out.

Fake news briefs

June 14, 2011

Everyday folks are seeking help

Rehab treatment centers around the country are being flooded with troubled applicants as Americans in record numbers seek help for behavioral problems.

Whether shamed into action by revelations of wrongdoing or looking for assistance in dealing with inner demons, everyday people are admitting more and more that they may require in-patient help.

“I shorted a customer on the change I owed them,” admitted Sarah R., a grocery cashier from Arlington, Va. “It may have been a simple miscalculation, or maybe I have a streak of thievery in me that I wasn’t aware of. In any case, my boss found out so now I’m spending six weeks at Promises (Treatment Facility).”

“I gave this big presentation to my management team and — wouldn’t you know it — there was a typo in one of the PowerPoint slides,” said Arthur L., of St. Louis. “To restore my reputation, I’m going through a 12-step program that emphasizes surrender to a higher power and more frequent use of spellcheck.”

“I’m not sure what I did wrong,” observed Linda K., a nurse’s assistant in San Diego. “I was in my car, headed toward this intersection, when I put on my signal and turned right into a shopping center. The driver behind me must’ve thought I was turning right at the intersection, and he slammed on his breaks and shook his fist at me. I’m checking into Betty Ford tomorrow.”

Psychologist Peter Bergen speculated that more and more everyday people were taking their cues from celebrities and politicians.

“Just as it’s a way to get the media off of Anthony Weiner’s back, for example, it’s also an effective way for others to deal with a variety of evils, miscues and slights,” Bergen said. “I used it just this morning. My wife got on me for not taking out the garbage last night, so I just told her, ‘well, I guess it’s off to rehab for me.’ It works great.”

Yet another enemy is eliminated

It’s been a great season for taking out evil-doers around the world who intend ill will toward Americans.

On May 2, a Navy Seal operation in Pakistan killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden. On Saturday, Fazul Mohammed, mastermind behind the terrorist bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was killed in a shoot-out with Somalian security forces.

The trend continued Sunday night when the hated LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates were eliminated from the NBA Finals.

Spontaneous celebrations erupted around the country, with crowds gathering in public squares to chant “U.S.A.!” and “Fourth Quarter Dud!”, a reference to James’s poor play during crunch time of the six-game series the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks.

“The King is dead,” shouted one celebrant in New York’s Times Square. “All hail (Mavericks star forward and series MVP) Dirk (Nowitzki)!”

The missing James was thought to be hiding in the locker room or perhaps in the lawless tribal regions of the parking lot. Instead, he was found in plain sight, physically on the basketball court but nearly invisible against the Mavs 2-3 matchup zone.

“He just disappeared during key moments of the game,” said ABC analyst Chris Mullin. “Nobody seemed to know where he was. And then, all of a sudden, the series was over and there was LeBron at the post-game press conference, talking about the fans having personal problems while he still had all that money and fame.”

Just as James finished answering reporters’ questions, authorities nabbed the two-time league MVP.

“We have some questions we want to ask him, like what he was thinking with that stupid ‘The Decision’ special, and that spectacle in Miami where he was introduced to Heat fans,” said an unnamed member of the special forces team that found and captured James. “As soon as we’re done with him, it’s off to the Indian Ocean.”

Congresswoman says don’t give up on Twitter

Legislators should not fear social media outlets, despite some recent and high-profile missteps. Instead, they should continue to embrace the new technology as a way to maintain two-way communications with their constituents.

That was the message yesterday during a seminar for members of the House and Senate given by first-term California Rep. Vicky Vagina (D-Stockton).

“This is exciting stuff. You want to burrow deep into this technology to reap all its benefits,” Vagina said. “Don’t be put off by any bad first impressions you might have. Keep hammering away at it, and members of your district will be ecstatic.”

Vagina urged congresspeople who want to use Twitter and Facebook to stick to the issues in their messages, and refrain from jokes, double entendres and photographs.

“Even though written communication can be misinterpreted, it’s still very effective,” Vagina told attendees. “If you think you’re being ‘too serious,’ just add a smiley face emoticon at the end, much like this one I have tattooed on my lower abdomen.”

As reporters and others held cellphone cameras high over their heads, Vagina stood to show her audience the symbol on her pubis.

“Ha, ha,” she commented. “This better not show up on the Internet.”