Me and Colin Hanks and Tower Records

At a Q and A after Sacramento’s Tower Theater weekend premiere of Sacramento-based Tower Records documentary “All Things Must Pass” last week:

I asked director Colin Hanks, a native Sacramentan,  about his own Tower memories and experiences that stood out. So many of course. Deconstructing CD long boxes to put on his bedroom wall. Buying Tom Petty tickets at Tower Broadway in 1990.

I worked for Tower Records from 1992 – 1998. First for six months as a clerk at Tower Books Watt Ave during a down time in my life when I couldn’t do much else. Then back into IT, eventually designing and developing Tower’s supply chain management systems for the company’s new brand of superstores, which combined Records, Books and Video.

Best times of my career; I only left because Tower wouldn’t pay techies more than their lower-tier VP’s, which was around 50k a year back then. Except for Russ Solomon and Senior VP’s, no one was ever paid much working at Tower. It was a labor of love and loyalty, going both ways. In my case, those only went so far. I immediately made six figures elsewhere.

My favorite memories are of road trips opening new Tower stores. Corporate employees who were also specialists in their fields travelled as the “A Team” to set up new stores. Trips during my spell at Tower were to New York City, Nashville, Washington DC and Chicago, among others. One of the Tower mantras was work hard and play harder. Great times in great cities.

Like Colin, I also shopped at Tower from when I first had spending money (in my case the 70’s), until its closure in 2006.

Nothing has come close to replacing the communal shopping experience of buying music, books and video during the latter half of the 20th Century.

Azealia Banks is a star!

Girl has ar-rived.

LOUD and CLEAR

Child Abuse. Rape. Male domination and violence against women, children, the powerless. This shit has been going on for centuries.
Finally, finally it is surfacing like a breaching whale. On video.
Sick brutal behavior being called out.
LOUD and CLEAR

The Cost of Cosmopolitan Living

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is refusing to pay a U.S. tax bill. Turns out Johnson holds dual UK/US citizenship having been born in New York, and therefore is required to file U.S. tax returns. The IRS is demanding he pay capital gains tax on the sale of his primary residence in London, because the UK does not tax capital gains on the sale of first residences.

I’m no fan of Boris, yet another elite who is out of touch and/or uncaring about most people’s lives, but in this case he does have a point.

It iis< "very difficult" to give up U.S. citizenship, as he claims (multiple forms, fees and in-person pass/fail interviews with consular officials). And through no fault of his own he was born a U.S. citizen because his parents flitted between countries on socio-financial whims.

So he can blame Mummy and Daddy for his predicament. Or the over-encompassing new law (FATCA) intended to prevent American tax evaders from hiding money overseas, but which now affects every U.S. citizen living abroad.

Life is not always fair. Sometimes it takes considerable effort to deal with injustice while maintaining some measure of integrity. Rarely there are nightmare stories where lives are practically ruined by injustice, though one might think it is more common because the press gravitates towards these tragic stories – or questionably propagates them – as did the recent Guardian headline for an article about FATCA – "I was terrified we'd lose all our money."

Heaven forbid Bombastic Boris would ever come out and acknowledge his true place in all of this.

Hope is Dead. Long Live Hope.

I just drove past where my friend Hope died in 2002. We met in rehab in 1998 when I was 36 and she was 38. When she died she was 53. I never had the chance to ask her, but she probably chose that age so we would have one more thing to bond over in rehab.

Her car veered off the freeway into a tree. We didn’t know if it was suicide or accident. Nor if she was extra-opiated. Her conservative Catholic parents would not acknowledge the truth. We did know, as only fellow deep sufferers can, how sad and unhappy she was. Mercifully that ended. Hope Dominguez was a lovely, considerate and deeply thoughtful person. She lives on in those of us who knew and cared about her.

Knowledge is….

Power to the People!

Just made my donation to Wikimedia.

The Future of Healthcare

Imagine a time…

…when consumers can use instant comparison shopping for health insurance, medical procedures and medications – much like they can now with internet price comparisons and consumer reviews for hotels, travel fares and home electronics.

…when patients can quickly compare scientifically proven results for different types of treatments and medications.

…when doctors can make “house calls” using video technology and home medical devices.
This is the future of healthcare – a future made possible by the “other” revolution in healthcare.

While mandatory health insurance and the specter of ObamaCare have gotten the lion’s share of political and media attention, passing almost unnoticed are changes which will substantially affect how healthcare is delivered and how costs are determined.
Over the last 20-30 years, the evolution of healthcare has been a strange study in contrasts. On the plus side, medical breakthroughs have occurred so quickly it is hard to keep track of them. Improvements in treating heart disease and cancer, minimally-invasive surgery and improved diagnostics (MRI and other scans), to name just a few. Thanks to healthier lifestyles and improved patient care, more than 50% of babies born today in America will live to 100.

Even though there have been great medical advances over the last few decades, healthcare administration has remained mired in archaic and inefficient practices, including a staggering lack of computerization. The cost of healthcare has spiraled out of control. Americans now spend more than twice as much per capita than any other country, yet many are unable to obtain proper healthcare.

Though much of ObamaCare has been caught up in political maneuvering, one aspect of healthcare reform – computerization – has mostly escaped controversy. Many Americans are surprised that in this day and age healthcare in America is largely not computerized. The most commonly cited reasons are cost, complexity, lack of standardization, and uncertainty about the path forward. The inefficiencies and costs tied to lack of computerization have grown so much that America’s largest healthcare consumer – the U.S. Government by dint of the fact it reimburses hundreds of billions of dollars annually to providers for Medicare and other government-subsidized programs – has decided to stop waiting.

The HITECH Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, gave impetus and direction for computerization of healthcare across America by earmarking $20 billion to reimburse providers (hospitals, clinics, doctors, etc.) for the one-time cost of computerizing. Additional incentive was given by setting penalties for providers who did not computerize by 2015. Much of the computerization has already taken place, with the rest scheduled for completion by 2015 so that providers can avoid being penalized.

The pace and scope of this undertaking is unprecedented in the history of business. Computerization is not just a matter of installing software. Workflows for patient visits, from scheduling and check-ins, to administering tests and procedures – all must be changed to utilize medical software. And implementing new systems is just the first stage of the revolution.

Once the systems have been in place for a few years, and data banks have had time to grow, clearinghouses will be created for comparisons of treatments and cures, insurance shopping, and other related industries. Medical research and development will explode with the vast amounts of data becoming available.

Government has provided the impetus; the healthcare industry has responded. In this age of internet and mobile devices, it will be consumers who ultimately drive the market.

Interesting times indeed.