Donald's Blog

  This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.

«Jun 2013»

In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever, and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc. to:


June 6, 2013

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Turkey is a secular democracy. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a clever politician and has been credited with a lot of economic growth (though it is not without problems -- there is too much debt). But Erdogan is an autocrat by nature, and clearly wants to be president for life, like Putin in Russia, and the Turks are not having it. The recent civil unrest was touched off by plans to destroy an historic public park for commercial purposes, the project being steamrollered, Erdogan style. It used to be the Army in Turkey that kept an eye on would-be autocrats, but the Army has allowed itself to be emasculated; now it will have to be the people.

But Rachel Marsden, whoever she is, syndicated by Tribune Services, thinks that Syria, or Russia, or probably Iran (she's not sure) is behind the unrest. Too much paranoia isn't good for a part of the world that already has enough problems; Marsden should shut up. 


June 6, 2013

Iowa pals forever

Iowa pals forever

Last weekend we had houseguests, two of our buddies from Iowa, Mark Holub and Wes Hunsberger. It was great fun seeing them and catching up on all the gossip from Des Moines. We showed them one of Allentown's lovely parks and went wading with the dog. Among the gifties they brought us was a book by their friend, Joe Gioia, called The Guitar and the New World: A Fugitive History, which turns out to be be more than meets the eye, a very good read on which I will report in due course. We do miss our Iowa pals!


June 6, 2013

It's nice to get through a thicket

After my surgery ten weeks ago, Capital BlueCross called Ethne in her office, and sent me a letter, telling us about their Case Management Program: if I had any problems there was a phone number I could call. I thought this made a lot of sense. If a patient recovering at home had any problems, and if these could be rectified asap, this might save everybody discomfort and money down the line. The letter was signed by Amy Schraden. I did have a question: I needed a fax number, because the doctor was prescribing Viagra for me, not for my erectile dysfunction, which is a lost cause, but because Viagra encourages blood flow, which will aid in recovery from the trauma of surgery. And Viagra costs a lot of money, and Dr. Eric Mayer's excellent nurse wanted a fax number so that she could send an appeal to the insurance company.

I had to call a couple of times, because Amy is evidently the only person answering the phone; one afternoon I left a message, and the next morning she was so swamped she could not call me back right away. When I finally got her on the phone I was very pleasantly surprised. She found the fax number for me, and told me that she doubted that any insurance company ever paid for Viagra (exactly right, it turned out), but her voice, her telephone manner and her expertise were everything that could have been hoped for: I could understand every word, she knew exactly what I had been through and what I was talking about... She even told me that Viagra is sometimes given to babies that are born with heart defects.

That kind of service is rare nowadays; some people who are paid to answer the phone sound like they have a mouthful of mashed potatoes. I could not remember encountering such a completely competent operative in an office. And this morning in the detritus on my desk I found the original letter, and decided to tell Capital BlueCross that they are lucky to have Amy. So I went to their website and emailed their customer service. After an hour or two, back came an email saying that I had a secure email reply waiting for me, and all I had to do was register to see it, looking up the ID number on the insurance card and the group number and all of Ethne's information... So I just clicked on reply, saying that if they could just send me the email that would be fine, that it didn't have to be secure, that I wasn't the member but only the spouse, and that the message I had sent them earlier was the antithesis of all this rigmarole.

Somebody got the point. Back almost immediately came their message in an ordinary email: "Thank you very much for your comments on the service you received from Amy Schraden.  We appreciate the time you took to let us know about your experience...Your comments are being forwarded to her supervisor..."

That was all I wanted. And I got the chance to use the words "antithesis" and "rigmarole".