I Can See Clearly Now

When I told him he said that was entirely unacceptable. “You can’t wear lenses without a fitting.” The fact that I could see with these and not with the ones that were “fitted” was not the point.

I can see clearly now, but he doesn’t care…

It happened about a year ago. A visit to the eye doctor got me to discover what I’ve been missing. My eyes have always been affected by multiple problems that are not typical for a person my age. I am farsighted. I have astigmatism. I have had to wear glasses since I was in kindergarten. It seemed like I will never see clearly without glasses again.

Still it hasn’t stopped me from trying to wear contact lenses. My first try was in college. I had limited success. Contacts have trouble with astigmatism. Then came the Astigmatic lens also known as Toric. This lens was supposed to conquer astigmatism but it was still of marginal improvement and expensive. As I got older, I developed the “older eye” problem and now I needed bifocals.

Clearly my eyewear was getting more expensive and I believe that in an effort to minimize the cost to me, my optometrist was not showing me the possible solutions. A recent change at my eyecare center has had me seeing a new doctor. This doctor is very confident. When I told him that I was having limited success with contacts…he gave me the option to try a lens made for astigmatism and multifocal. I agreed.

The “fitting” is one of the options for my optical insurance plan. It won’t pay for all of it but it does get some of it. He ordered the lens and a few weeks later it arrived and I went back in to pick them up. The whole process was fouled up when the intake person treated me as a regular checkup person and numbed my eyes. Even with glasses, my world was a blur. I couldn’t put the contacts in my eyes because the feeling wasn’t there. I couldn’t tell whether my vision was improved because my world was a blur. It was at this moment that the doctor went from confident to arrogant as he and the assistant were dismissive of my feelings and my condition as they assured me that this would wear off in a matter of minutes. An hour later, I took my sample lenses and went on my way.

During the week, I had limited success but with my experience with other lenses, I figured that I would get used to it. He ordered the lenses and used up the rest of my insurance. As the week went by, I sought out some other pricing on the lenses on the Internet and found my brand and several others as well. I found a national brand that used to be the one name in contact lenses. I figured that they would be the most expensive. They weren’t. Since he sent me with measurements as well, I plugged in his numbers into the new brand. When they arrived…wow! I can see clearly now!! Also, they went in and out so easily and I could wear them for about 8 to 10 hours a day. The ones that were “fitted” were of no value whatsoever and have never touched my eyes again. (Sometimes, I didn’t know that they were there because they were huge and the edges disappeared and I would be digging at my cornea to access them.)

Fast forward about a year. I got the message from my eye doctor that it was time for my annual eye checkup. (Doctor speak for annual insurance money for the taking.) I hemmed and hawed privately about this…but I certainly wanted to let the doctor know that he was the one who turned me on to this lens technology and were it not for the fitting snafu…I never would have discovered the lenses that I have now.

When I told him he said that was entirely unacceptable. “You can’t wear lenses without a fitting.” The fact that I could see with these and not with the ones that were “fitted” was not the point. When he stated, “I don’t make the rules, I just have to follow them,” I then determined that I fall in 3rd or 4th place when it comes to my health.

Here is my perceived order of priority.

  1. Insurance Company
    • Optical Insurance comes almost exclusively with a group plan. Here, the company gets an enormous amount of money that the consumer doesn’t see so that they can be “placated” by perceived benefits.
  2. Vision Correction Vendor
    • This is the limited amount of vendors allowed to offer products through a particular doctor or group plan. The prices for these items are fixed at a significantly higher rate than what you can find online.
  3. The Optometry Practice
    • Every January, I get the important notification that my vision is important and needs to be monitored. When I get in I am run through a series of tests by persons in blue medical scrubs using machines. Their repetitive practice to these processes is what ultimately led to my “useless fitting” last year as a quick question to the patient as to “why are you here?” would have stopped the problem from happening.
  4. The Patient (Me)

My vision insurance has their own “in house” supplier of eyewear and contact lenses. My brand was not on the list. (It wasn’t on the optometrist list either as I heard him tell his administrator who orders and schedules the fittings that it would not be found on the drop down list.) SHOCKER. This “company store” scenario allows them to take the brand that could be shopped for best price and build in extra cost so there wouldn’t be an insurance loss to them.

Insurance companies should be there to stop you from having a devastating financial event linked to a medical issue. Instead, they charge huge amounts of money and placate us with these “perceived” benefits and then rope in the very institutions that are supposed to be there for the patient but grind all the money that they can from our little placations.

When I had my trouble last year, I decided that my “new patient” experiences would be a me first and it has worked well as I have had several instances where I have had success.

  • 7/1 Ganglion Cyst. Great Podiatrist. We planned the remedy together. Reworked my whole supplementation plan that day.
  • 11/13 Broken Arm. Great Orthopedists. They listened to me and told me to decide if follow up appointments were necessary. (They weren’t)
  • 3/29 Cardiologist for preventative concern. Family history and reading had me concerned about Calcium buildup in my arteries. I sought out a Cardiologist and he ordered a scan that I had read about and is often not covered by insurance…surprise surprise. Amazingly, the test happened yesterday and the results came in as I am typing this. Now we, my doctor and me, can move forward in developing a plan to take care of this before it becomes a problem.
  • 4/12 Optomotrist. Looks like he might have to go.

AI Insipiration

But personal initiative is not just about individual success. It is also about contributing to the greater good. It is about recognizing that we are all part of a larger community, and that our actions can have a ripple effect that extends far beyond ourselves.

I was born in 1962. I was far too young to be personally affected by John F. Kennedy. I have heard many of his speeches on video. Sometimes you just need to be exposed to them on a personal level. I have been playing with ChatGPT and here is my response I got when I asked for a speech on personal initiative in the style of John F. Kennedy. Enjoy!

My fellow citizens,

Let me begin by saying that our success as a nation depends not only on the actions of our government, but also on the actions of each and every one of us as individuals. It is through personal initiative that we can create a better future for ourselves, our communities, and our nation.

As I look out upon this great country, I see a nation of individuals who are capable of great things. I see people who are willing to work hard, to take risks, and to pursue their dreams with passion and determination. But I also see individuals who are afraid to take the first step, who doubt their own abilities, and who feel trapped by circumstances beyond their control.

To those individuals, I say this: do not let fear hold you back. Do not wait for someone else to take the lead. You have the power to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. You have the power to create change.

Personal initiative is not just about taking action, it is about taking responsibility. It is about recognizing that you have the power to shape your own destiny, and that your actions can have a positive impact on the world around you. It is about setting goals, making plans, and taking steps towards achieving those goals.

But personal initiative is not just about individual success. It is also about contributing to the greater good. It is about recognizing that we are all part of a larger community, and that our actions can have a ripple effect that extends far beyond ourselves.

So I urge you, my fellow citizens, to embrace your personal initiative. Take the first step towards your dreams, no matter how small that step may be. Believe in yourself and your abilities. And most importantly, remember that you are not alone. We are all in this together, and by working together, we can create a brighter future for ourselves and for generations to come.

Thank you, and God bless America.

The Need for Security

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Have you found that there are a few more barriers to your normal Internet experiences these days.  It seems like everyone thinks that you may be a criminal and you have to prove who you are…all the time.  Well, there is a reason for that and we are going to talk about it right here.

As more and more of our life moves online we have become inundated with little quizzes and text messages and exercises that we feel are useless just to do what we have been doing for years.  Well, things have really changed.  There are a lot more conveniences that come with our connected world, but there are also threats that we never seem to have been concerned with before.  I am going to relate just a little story here to you and hopefully convey the seriousness of the situation. 

On this website where you are reading this post or viewing this slideshow, there is a little store.  It contains a few things that I created and a lot of things that my wife has created.  I worked on it after I retired from public education so I could see if I could do it.  It turns out that I could and before you know it, I had a store where people could find my stuff and buy it.

Well, one day in January…early on the morning my phone began to buzz…a lot.  It turns out that I had a sale…and another…and another…and another.  As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes I could see that a lot of the sales didn’t go though.  As a matter of fact…most didn’t.  I panicked.  I was being hacked.  Setting up the store was hard enough…stopping it was something I didn’t know that I was supposed to know how to do quickly.

I was able to suspend the store activity and then I researched what happened.  Here are some slides of the day.  These pages represent a fraction of the stolen credit cards that were run through my store for the express purpose of finding those that hadn’t been canceled yet.  Every failed transaction had several credit card attempts on the individual sale as evidenced by my credit card processing company.

On this first page you can see the orders that had failed but there are also several that went through.  One of them had a calendar date from the day before, but all of these purchases were made during the day…in India. 

By the time it was done, over $78,000 of fraudulent charges were run through my account.  Only three went through and I refunded those transactions.  Additionally, I worked with the credit card processor and my experts at Word Fence to lock down my site and store and this has never happened again.

At this point, I attributed this to the fact that I was naive and I just needed to have my own ducks in a row.  Well, again…I had a lot to learn.

Bank of America taught me a lesson.  Full disclosure…I am a current Bank of America Customer and account holder.  Coincidentally, they are also a contracted agency for the distribution of unemployment benefits for those persons affected by the pandemic.  My daughter, who is no longer a BOA customer, was one of those affected.  It was temporary and so the account was set up and then used and then she went back full time.  She left the money there on the card that they gave her as her own little emergency fund.  She didn’t have to worry…after all it was Bank of America.  The spend millions on security for their bank.

Even so…in one hour…a $1 charge was placed on the card number and paid…700 times.  Sometimes a business would charge an account $1 to verify that it was a real account before you purchase something…but not 700 times from a foreign country. 

Bank of America had they typical automated help line that had no information and by the time you got a real human…the suspicion was on you, the customer…not the fact that you were robbed.  Still Bank of America did finally respond and their caring response took several weeks.  They claimed that they were doing a thorough investigation and to prove it well, they refunded the total amount stolen…Transaction by Transaction.

So what can we do if our most protected banks are vulnerable? 

  • Play Defense!!  No football team ever won a championship unless they anticipated what an adversary was going to do and was ready for them.  First
  • Have Multiple Accounts
  • Check them everyday for charges that you didn’t authorize
  • Think before you click on links in emails, text messages, and especially Facebook Messenger
  • Think before you share any links or respond to what appears to be the most benign question.
  • Use a Credit Card and not a Debit Card.  See the Speech made by Frank Abignale to Google.  I will place the link on the Webpage here.
  • Check these credit card accounts as well.
  • Lock up your identifying information on Social Media
  • Check your data on Social Media.  See who you’re sharing stuff with.
  • Most importantly…check your emotions.  Social engineering is the most effective way scammers have to get you to give away information.
  • Security blocks are annoying but necessary in this world
  • Fraudulent Emails about purchased you never made were meant to get you angry so you respond to them
  • 2 factor authentication is necessary.
  • Change your passwords often…make them tough…lock them up.

The reason that you need to do these things is that your identity and security are not a “set it and forget it” proposition. As time went on, the “Captcha” program that I installed on my website got updated and the settings went back to “deactivated”. Once again my store was used to filter stolen credit cards.

You can also play offense.  Getting Identity protection is important.

For years, I was a public school educator.  Now, I am a teacher and a coach.  It’s time to learn about tools that help. 

Register on this website for the schedule of FREE Webinars using ZOOM.  You don’t need a paid account.  I’ve taken care of that.  The interactive nature allows you to ask and get questions answered. 

The schedule is listed under live events and please view as much of the free content on this YouTube Chanel as well.

Thanks.  See you again soon in a safer cyberspace.

Schools Need to Vaccinate Everyone

You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work.

For years, the people writing the regulations for schools have been so disconnected from the reality of education that they have created the dismal failure that exists in our schools. This only really hurts the students…and what do they know? They have to do what they are told…right? Right? Right!!!! Every teacher knows the answer to this question and now so do some parents who have been observant. The answer to that question is NO.

The pandemic and distance learning have shown clearly that we have a large number of students being left out because of lack of technology but also the lack of supervision. Sending your child to school means that you can put the teacher in charge of “keeping your child in line” in addition to teaching the child the academics mandated by the State. If you have observed a ZOOM class online you can see that many students are misbehaving during their classes in front of their computers or checking out completely. There is no intervention by the adult physically in the room.

You can quote the CDC all you want. You can have the President say it is so. You can have the doctors agree on protocols. You can do all of this and create the safest “system and physical plan,” but you cannot instill the self discipline in younger children that will make those plans and protocols work. Every teacher knows this and now many parents do as well. Those parents are demanding to remain online until there is a vaccine . Which parents do you think will demand to have their children in school? Yes, the ones with very little self discipline or any discipline at home.

Teachers are in the high risk group. The age of a teacher could be 22 or 62 or somewhere in between and comorbidities increase with age. How do you know? The truth is…you don’t. There are immunization requirements before a person starts school for diseases that have all but been eradicated. We have a killer disease in our midst and vaccines that are becoming available more and more. Why the rush? Yes, it has been tough. Yes, you are tired but the idea that one year of this type of education will “do irreparable damage” to kids is ludicrous.

If you wanted to go to school to teach or to learn you would have to get a TB test. In 2019, 1.4 million people died of TB. In 2020, over 2.4 million people died of COVID 19. Both diseases are respiratory in that they are transmitted through the air on water droplets. TB is bacterial, has an ineffective vaccine, and is monitored by employment testing all over. COVID is a virus that has many promising vaccines but is behind the intervention curve in both diagnosis and immunizations. Why the rush? Putting people back into school even part time will not do anything to improve academics and will slow the real progress of getting a normal opening for the next academic year.

The rhetoric coming from Washington even in this new administration is very Trumpesque. It is not unusual for any administration to legislate schools into institutional obsolescence whether Republican or Democrat. It is unconscionable to politicize the profession to risk the very people we need to overcome the administrative stupidity that emanates from government at all levels for the sake of votes or feeling good. Lawmakers…it’s time for you to put on your Big Boy Pants and defend common sense.

Viral Cocoon

After more than a year of the virus, it looks like the safest place is still in the cocoon.  My house is my cocoon.  Let’s talk about how we can truly thrive in this environment.  

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Freedom is Painful

This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document.

The Cast of 1776 from The Ritz Theatre in Oaklyn, NJ in August 2003.

There is an awful lot of debate now, particularly in the recent weeks that deal with the ongoing hate and prejudice surrounding men and women of color. There is a desire to expose our painful past and remove any public link to any degree of pride with some of the characters that have been involved with past events. Some, I dare say most, are justified. While protesting today’s injustices we must try to keep some kind of perspective. This nation had a painful birth. It was in the name of freedom from England’s tyranny that we sought to have a separation from them as a governing body. At the same time, we had a massive contradiction when talking about oppression but having a practice of enslaving human beings.

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he examined his own practices and conscience and intended to have this document indict the King of England for creating this practice and seeking to have it ended with the Independence of the United States. This nation could not start without a unanimous vote of the colonies. Through days of debate, it became clear that the southern colonies would prevent independence unless the mention of the slave trade was removed from the document. In the interest of the unanimous vote, the passage was removed.

Independence Hall with the “mythical” scoreboard that kept the audience aware of the score.

“The right to be free comes from nature.” This quote was from Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin encouraged Jefferson to leave out the entire passage relating to slavery for the sake of the vote to pass. Samuel Adams said to Ben Franklin, “If we give in on this issue, there will be trouble a hundred years hence; posterity will never forgive us.”

In 2003, I was in a play called 1776. This play and movie chronicle the proposal, debate and finally approval of American Independence. It was a painful process. No country had ever broken off from the mother country before. The quotes listed above were in the play but since Sam Adams was not the main character of the play, the line was given to John Adams character and shortened leaving out the “hundred years hence” line because the authors believed that it would be too unbelievable because it actually happened.

Now here we are…over 200 years hence. We are now “posterity”. We are trying to decide whether to “forgive” the founding fathers. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson have been vilified over recent days because they are now being identified as being in favor of slavery. They were living in a time when it was already part of a “way of life”. If they never debated it in the process of becoming a “free” nation, then I would agree that they needed to be judged a little harsher. They also became traitors to England, a crime punishable by death, in order to become a new nation. They were brave, honorable and yes, they risked the judgement of “posterity” by compromising their ideals for the sake of starting a new nation.

Statues of confederate soldiers and leaders that fought to continue the practice of slavery should be removed. Hate and prejudice will remain but as a nation we need to condemn the painful time. We have to acknowledge that as a nation worthy of the name United States, we have to come together. Our history is our history.

Turner Classic Movies will be running the movie version of 1776 starring William Daniels on Saturday. Maybe we should encourage everyone to watch it. Aside from the songs, which probably didn’t happen, this depicts what actually happened. It may give a new perspective to those who would want to demonize all of our founding fathers without putting this into context.

It’s Going Viral

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror.

This is an all too common phrase. When we see a YouTube video that we like or some other video or post and we share it, it is said to go viral. The term comes from the medical world where a virus spreads from person to person because it is transmitted or “shared” with that person. That is why households get sick, places of work get sick and it goes from place to place. We seem to be comfortable with the term when describing the Internet experience but it gets clouded when you bring it back to medicine and that is where the viral experience becomes deadly.

Medical professionals have told us that it is a virus. They have categorized it as such and understand it as such, but the disease that it causes is new and it is attacking old and young alike in many different ways. In order for it to be treated we have to deal with it for a much longer time and experiment and we are going to lose a lot of people that way. In order to prevent it, we have to find a way to trigger an immune response to the virus. This also takes time and is unique to this new virus. Medicine has only one absolute. Remove the host and the virus will die.

If we all locked down and really did what we were told by medical professionals, we’d be looking at this in the thing rear view mirror. It would have taken about a month of serious lock down and we’d be back to “near normal”. Instead, we are on the path to real devastation. This is because we have another viral load to deal with…deniers…led by the denier in chief.

He said in January it would go away and has been saying it ever since. Now, what could have been a one month shutdown if it where handled as a national emergency has no end in sight and his narrative hasn’t changed. “It will go away”, he says. In spite of all that he has said that hasn’t come true, people are believing him…and they go about like there is no threat at all. They also do something far worse. They “share” their opinion and others follow suit. The idea goes viral and so does the virus.

Let’s Be Essential

If you’re struggling with being “essential” and you love teamwork and you’ve suddenly got a lot of time on your hands…join me for some lively discussion on how we can help each other through this difficult time of quarantine.

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Together, we can talk about our situations. Separation is hard but we can still connect…thank God…and we can still make a difference. One good thing about this “quarantine” is that no matter how far away you are…you’re as close to me as my next door neighbor.

Story Time The Hundred and One Dalmatians

On april 9 and 10 of this year, the students at my wife’s elementary school were scheduled to perform an elementary junior version of the Disney musical 101 Dalmatians. During the rehearsals, I had always told the students of the subtle differences in the book version of the story. Sadly, due to the international pandemic, the students were unable to perform this show. In an effort to keep them from totally missing out on their experience, I have taken it upon myself to read the book to them through consecutive YouTube videos.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be reading one chapter a night and then having them stay on YouTube. This will hopefully encourage the kids (grades 3 to 5) to want to read more and give them some degree of continuity. I have also decided to read to them from a variety of different locations to encourage them to “bring a book” with them when they are out.

I am reading from an old Signet copy of The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. As I read, if I come upon any illustrations that can help with the story, I flash them up along side of my face. This way I don’t break the continuity. While I have targeted the students at my wife’s school, there is no reason why this can’t be made available to all kids…of any age.

My brother was a very good reader when he was in elementary school. I was not. He used to take great pleasure in reading to my brothers and sister some of the stories that he enjoyed in class. When I have been in the elementary schools, they also enjoy hearing stories. If this helps you get through this uniquely challenging family time I would be glad if you could share it.

Here is the link to the premiere.

A Seismic Change

Yesterday I was watching a special extended news program regarding the local response to the COVID-19 outbreak. During the news broadcast there was a sudden boom and shaking of my chair, violent shaking that lasted for about 5 seconds. The government put the seismic measurement at 4.9. The news had already gone to commercial but was cut back immediately to the local anchor who was knocked off his game. He was clearly shaken up and for the rest of the broadcast there was a trembling in his voice as the tremors continued.

Just two days ago I had been hiking in the mountains very close to the center of the quake. I remember thinking to myself that just one misstep could kill me or seriously injure me. I also thought about and earthquake. The ground was rock solid. There was nothing but rock. This was unthinkable. Imagine the power to move all of this rock.

There are protocols for what happens in a quake. Emergency vehicles have to exit their structures so that they are not trapped in the event of a collapse. Local law enforcement is put on high alert and now, our cell phones send out the emergency message. Everyone knows what to do but it doesn’t make it any easier. The very ground we live on, the literal foundation of our lives has become unreliable.

This is what we, as a society are facing right now. All of the things that we held dear are now unreliable. Our jobs, our schools, and certainly our government officials have become as unstable as the ground was last night. We want to have back what we have lost. At this point, we have been so shocked at the speed that it has vanished that we miss our opportunities.

We now have the opportunity to rethink a lot of things. We can re-imagine our lives. In the war against a killer virus, we have all become foot soldiers in the battle against the pandemic. We are driving our cars less and the air is beginning to clear around our urban centers. Gas prices have come down and this could contribute to lower costs of moving goods and services around. Our ability to work from our homes has made the highways less crowded. We have all had to embrace technology just to continue to survive.

On a Hike with Mike

I have seen far too many people focus on the negative aspects of this “crisis”. I choose to look at the situation with a different perspective. I choose to consider things that I never would have considered before. I refuse to take a bias against anything as we are in a new world. The ground has moved. It may knock me down but I will get up. If the path is gone, I will make a new one. I will be a better person in the end.