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Comment: Re:FTYF, Submitter (Score 2) 314

by swb (#49630737) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

The NY Times had a whole article on this phenomenon:

One thing that wasn't clear is how successful doctors are in pursuing these charges if the patient actually refuses to pay (especially if in your case, as you confirmed in-network status ahead of time in writing).

I have a hard time seeing patient responsibility for this out of network gambit if they didn't approve it up front. Of course like everything else, they will line up an expensive lawyer to chase you down and make you decide whether agreeing to settle for a reduced charge of $10,000 and making it go away is a better choice than rolling the dice on a $10,000 legal defense that you could lose, upping the ante by another $10,000.

Imagine working as an IT contractor on a project and bringing in an outside consultant who then bills the company separately at 10 times the rate as the contractor. "Oh, I'm sorry but it was necessary due to project complexity." You'd get laughed at, fired and probably sued into penury if not brought up on criminal fraud charges.

Comment: Technology can't help here? (Score 1) 165

by swb (#49629707) Attached to: Self-Driving Big Rigs Become a Reality

"Given a big trucks' long stopping distances and limited maneuverability, driving one requires the ability to correctly predict what's going to happen far out ahead. That requires foresight and intuition that are difficult to program into computers."

I can't see why technology wouldn't exceed a human operator in this situation.

In theory, the truck computer knows the braking capacity of the truck (extensively tested with varying loads, brake materials, tires, road conditions), the mass of the load (and possibly even its distribution over all the wheels), the weather conditions, the actual physical distance to the vehicle(s) in front of it AND their velocity, and possibly even the physical condition of the roads, not to mention the physical geography of the roads in front of them (changes in elevation, etc).

A human driver takes years to learn these things and their skills often go in the toilet if they encounter circumstances they're not practiced in (loads, trailer types, surface conditions, geography).

My Volvo has distance sensing cruise control and I've driven in blizzards where the distance sensing cruise could do a better job than I could in sensing the distance to the car in front of me. I fail to see how more/newer/better versions of this wouldn't be a benefit to trucks.

Comment: Re:FTYF, Submitter (Score 4, Informative) 314

by swb (#49629595) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

I'm pretty sure there are acute illnesses that don't involve gushing blood. And sometimes your only recourse is the emergency room because the doctor's office is closed, the urgent care clinics only want to treat strep throat, yeast and bladder infections and won't prescribe any pain killer stronger than baby aspirin.

The NY Times has chronicled many explanations for high bills that have nothing to do with overuse of services. Like every person with a pulse in the ER bills their services separately, even if they don't do a damn thing. I badly mangled (and ultimately need to amputate) my left ring finger and I had a $1300 bill from the ER physician whose only "service" was to ask me if I did it on purpose.

And God forbid you should need surgery and the surgeon brings in his "out of network" business partner to consult in the surgery and you get hit with an uncovered four or five figure bill from them, too. I honestly think they overcharge on purpose so that both the "negotiated balance" is nothing to sneeze at for an hour of "work" (I'd like $5k/hr, too) AND they can write off the unpaid portion of the bill as a tax loss, too, cutting their gross income.

All of this is just bullshit designed to run up fees as high as possible. Which I guess was all part of the grand game when comprehensive insurance actually was, but now that it's not it's just so crystal clear how it's nothing more than a money grab.

Comment: Not worth it or worth the risk? (Score 1) 190

by swb (#49627917) Attached to: Uber Forced Out of Kansas

Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS have a funny geographic quirk where the border is kind of a line on the map, and not necessarily a geographic feature. You can cross the street and be in another state and from the street you'd never know.

If Uber still operates in KCMO, what will really stop drivers from dropping passengers in KCK? It's not like the cops can stop every car with two people in it with MO plates. Even doing pickups on the KCK side seems relatively low risk unless the state put a lot of effort into a sting operation.

Kansas City is the biggest metropolitan area in Kansas and Uber can still service 2/3s of that market with near zero risk. About the only thing they may deliberately do is turn off pickups for Kansas geolocations to prove they're "not in that market." But for all practical purposes they can still service it from the MO side.

Comment: Re:iPad 1 anyone? (Score 1) 345

by swb (#49625929) Attached to: Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer

No, because they're too busy re-launching the crashed browser because the inadequate RAM on the device makes it choke and die on today's Javascript-heavy web pages.

The iPad 1 is a great tablet for letting your kids watch movies on an airplane, but it's obsolete for most every other use. Even my wife, who would still be watching TV on a 13" tube set if I hadn't given it away, finally gave in and bought a last year's iPad air versus putting up with it any longer.

IMHO, the iPads are pretty decent at longevity -- I have 8.3 on my iPad 3 and it's arguably no worse than it was on 7.x.

I think Apple could benefit everybody by doubling (or more) the RAM they put into iPads. New OS releases and expanding app capabilities eat into RAM to the point where you can't keep apps cached in RAM long enough and app switching becomes app re-launching and the inevitable grinding away as they refresh paged-out objects from the network.

IMHO this is what makes them slow/crash/obsolete. I'm sure the iPad 1 with 4 gigs of RAM would still be pretty useful.

Comment: Re:Another market overlooked (Score 1) 311

by swb (#49625685) Attached to: Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

It's a good question.

When our house was built in 1957 it had a fuse panel. Someone in the late 1970s/early 1980s upgraded it to a 100A breaker panel and did some significant wiring changes.

When we remodeled in 2003, I had the service upgraded to 200A and beat the total chaos of rewiring by having the new service feed a 200A panel and then fed the old panel from the new panel, deftly avoiding the chaos of trying to rewire a hot mess of Romex, BX, flexible metal conduit (original to the house) and EMT to a new panel.

A commercial electrician I used to work with did the wiring when he built his house and piped all of it, most of it in 1" EMT with a couple of strategic junction boxes. In theory he could rewire relatively easily by just pulling more wire in existing pipe.

I always kind of wondered why houses didn't go one better and have raceways integrated into them.

Comment: School me on well water (Score 0) 302

Is "well water" (drill hole into water table, pump out water) always used raw and unfiltered? Has it traditionally always been safe to drink anywhere you can sink a well, or is there some history of bad wells due to natural contamination?

Every home I've ever been that had well water at least had a water softener and often had issues with high iron content. A woman I worked with who grew up on a farm said they had to buy bottled water (the giant kind of bottles you see on old school water coolers) for visitors because they had some kind of low-level bacterial contamination her family was immune to but would make guests sick.

It seems like it would be common sense anymore to have a whole-house reverse osmosis system if you had a well. If not for health then for not choking your plumbing with mineral build up and making your washing machine and dishwasher work.

Comment: Re: trickle down economics (Score 1) 215

Do you understand what 'rich fuckers' do now? They pay property taxes at an obscene rate to fund their local public schools and then leave the public school system to privately fund their children's education elsewhere, leaving more money in the school system for the other students.

I think it depends on how you define "rich fuckers". Astronomically, family-dynasty rich? Sure, they pay big property taxes either in an urban school district which is so chronically underfunded and mismanaged that their generous and unused contribution doesn't make a difference or in some elite suburb which is so generously funded their contribution doesn't matter. And they're so rich they don't care.

On the larger scale though, the HENRY (high earner, not rich yet) generally flock together in affluent suburbs where their property taxes are pooled to fund really great school systems and where housing prices and housing policies basically redline the non-affluent out of the district.

The real benefit of this isn't the money per se, but the way it keeps out the problem children of the urban wasteland -- those whose parents don't participate in their kids' education or really provide any structure in their lives. These kids are the drag on urban school systems through discipline problems, the extra work required by teachers to get them back to any kind of baseline, special education needs, etc.

An average funded school district can educate children well if the kids have some kind of parent-engaged baseline to start with.

Comment: Re:Maybe it's a sign... (Score 1) 32

by swb (#49619489) Attached to: Cisco Names Veteran Robbins To Succeed Chambers as CEO

Aren't they already getting squeezed?

There are more than a few decent layer 3 switches with command sets nearly Cisco config compatible that don't require the high-dollar smartnet for support and then companies like Juniper at the high end.

Most places where I see Cisco switching deployed could have gotten away with most anyone's switching product and gotten the same performance and they barely tap the feature set and certainly not to the point where they're doing anything Cisco specific.

Comment: Apple is controlling and mercural (Score 1) 110

About their platforms, especially the iPhones. I would expect them to be as or more so with a watch. I wouldn't expect this port to remain usable, in the same configuration or even be there in the future. Because that's how they work.

Most of the time I sort of buy the benevolence in their designs (ie, the lighting port on phones) although generally speaking I think they're too controlling and they actually limit things you can use the devices for.

But if you discover something that hasn't been advertised as for a speciic function, don't be disappointed when they take it away.

Comment: Re:All aboard the FAIL train (Score 2) 548

by swb (#49613079) Attached to: Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina Announces Bid For White House

I'd be curious what would happen if a Republican would be:

* Pro-market but without slavish devotion to specific big money interests or backing crazy tax cuts

* "No stance" on abortion. "I wouldn't have one but I'm not telling anyone else what to do"

* Pro-pot legalization "I wouldn't use it, but let's be honest, banning it hasn't worked and jailing people really hasn't worked. Let the states do what they want, like booze"

And the rest basic, run of the mill Republic policies.

Would they get run out of town for not genuflecting on abortion and big money, or would the establishment shit their pants as somebody who violated the party line on pot suddenly got a lot of interest?

Comment: Re:wtf (Score 3, Insightful) 94

by swb (#49612877) Attached to: US Gov't Will Reveal More About Its Secret Cellphone Tracking Devices

1) Cops gather evidence via unconstitutional means.
2) Consulting attorney tells them what evidence is needed to get a conviction via constitutional means
3) Cops use unconstitutional evidence as a roadmap to gather constitutional evidence
4) Cops present case with just constitutionally gathered evidence to prosecutor, don't share unconstitutional evidence with prosecutor
5) Prosecutor in the clear, has no knowledge of unconstitutionally gathered evidence and nothing to share with defense regarding unconstitutional evidence gathering

I believe the general term is parallel construction.

Comment: Re:Another market overlooked (Score 1) 311

by swb (#49612811) Attached to: Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

Maybe I wasn't clear -- most houses have a single panel with multiple circuit breakers. Each breaker services a separate circuit. Each circuit represents a single run (hot, neutral and ground) from the panel to the destination. Only really old houses that haven't been upgraded use fuses. The panel itself has two buses, one for each 110v leg, a common neutral bus and a ground bus, a main breaker which controls the entire panel. The legs aren't switchable.

The fuzzy part is the "destination". Since each circuit is usually breakered for 15A it can support more than a single outlet or light fixture. When an electrician wires the circuits, they commonly will run the cable from the panel to, say, a socket and then feed off the socket's secondary terminals (or via wirenut splice) to another close by socket or light fixture. And "close by" doesn't mean "in the same room" or "the same type of connection" -- if there was another socket on the other side of the wall installed at the same time, because the distance is close and it's easy for the electrician they will often connect that socket to the same circuit as the first one.

What you end up with is basically a parallel circuit of devices (light fixtures and sockets) that are close together "as the crow flies" but not necessarily in the same room or a common type of connection (socket or light fixture). This is especially true of remodels or small-scale room re-dos or where people have wanted additional outlets and rather than rip out a bunch of drywall, they will tap from the closest place they can.

Large draw devices (central AC, electric stove, hardwired electric heaters or furnaces) will have their own, dedicated high-current breaker at the panel and a dedicated run from the panel to the device. It used to be allowed years ago to even tap off one leg of a 240v circuit to get a 110v, but codes are tighter and these days a new install will require a dedicated run.

So what you usually end up with a single panel with a handful of dedicated breakers for high-current and 240v devices and then a bunch of other breakers which control the outlets and fixtures in a specific area, but which may also control other outlets/fixtures "nearby" often with no logic other than what made sense for the electrician when the wiring was done.

What I think is needed is much stricter cabling standards and structured panels. One panel should control lighting with a dedicated breaker for each room and ONLY fixtures IN THAT ROOM connected to it. Another panel should control general purpose outlets by room. A third panel should control high load devices (electric stove, central AC, other major electric appliances). A fourth panel for "mandatory devices" you would always want priority given to, such as refrigerators, furnace blower motors for gas or oil furnances, etc, perhaps a few "emergency" outlets for computers or USB chargers).

With a properly structured panel system a transfer switch could then feed the lighting and mandatory device panels but leave the high power devices and general outlets off until mains power is restored without risking overload of the backup source or from vampire loads connected to standard outlets that aren't critical during a power outage. Of course this is a lot more expensive to install because you need much more cabling, more panels and more wall space to place the panels.

A better option, IMHO, would be a smart panel or maybe even smart breakers which could be individually controlled so that you can assign the basic panel "values" and determine which ones to run under specific non-grid scenarios. Such a control system tied into the backup system's monitoring and capacity could then switch off or on circuits as power was available or as loads were brought up/down.

Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.