The DNC is in full swing, and for the first time I find myself actually getting caught up in it. I guess I never before felt the sense of urgency I do now. Barack Obama rules. Kerry’s speech tonight was better than I thought it would be.

I’ve been wondering about something related for a while now, actually. When Reagan died, a huge number of people grieved publicly, honoring him in their hometowns and in the capital. I was amazed (as I was with the Princess Di affair) that so many people cared enough to do such things. Did they really miss Reagan that much? Were they just caught up in the publicity? I couldn’t imagine myself doing that for any president. Then I realized that I couldn’t even think of any public figure at all whose death I’d honor in that way. Am I just apathetic? Or do we not have any great leaders at the moment? (I could see myself hitting the streets for Lincoln or Gandhi or King. Or maybe I’m just flattering myself.) I love music, but no musician I can think of would get me out of the house either.

This phenomenon has always been mysterious to me. I feel like I’m missing a big part of the human experience here — or maybe all these people are just insane. Whose public funeral would you attend?


Here’s something I want to fix. Say I need to get LASIK surgery, or you need to get your wisdom teeth out, or need some kind of more serious surgery. Where do you go? Traditionally you’d talk to your doctor or a friend who’s had the procedure done before to get a referral. (“Yeah, Dr. Bongo did a great job with my eyes!”) For a health issue of significant magnitude, this approach is seriously flawed: you know there’s some amount of cronyism going on with the doctor-doctor referral, and your friend has a sample size of one in his or her experience with the procedure, and thus has no way to evaluate the quality of the job. (That “it worked” might be good, but I’d rather get the best than just good enough.)

The cost of a referral gone wrong could be a serious health defect. Who wants to risk that? So here’s my plan. I’m amazed that on eBay, even the pettiest of sellers hawking trinkets has an extensive feedback registry while doctors pulling in six figures and affecting your quality of life in a big way have none. Someone should start a site, say, that lets people rank doctors. Then when there’s enough data, you could make a more informed decision about who’s going to skewer your eyes.

Holy crap. I just checked and guess what — it exists, and does exactly what I said. Drat! There go my millions. Also there goes, in theory, the second half of this entry. But I’m going to keep this here since I spent the time to type it up and at least I thought it was original!

Grr. I even though I had a good domain name for it. Too good, I guess.

We saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones last night. It was a pretty cool show. We were too far back to really appreciate the first set, but then Manu and I moved up during the intermission, and the second set was much better. Bela was good, but I was really enjoying Victor Wooten, Bela’s absolutely insane bass player. I’ve been worshipping him since I got their live CD in college like six or seven years ago. He was just as incredible live, and the band had some good jams. After the Indigo Girls two weeks ago, this looks to be my last concert of the summer — next up is the Pixies and then Richard Shindell, both in September.

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5 Responses to

  1. Victor Wooten

    An ex-girlfriend used to have this big crush on Vic Wooten. She wanted to have his babies. Some time after we (amicably) broke up, I went to a flecktones concert with her, at which she didn’t get him to impregnate her, but did get him to autograph her chest. I assume she’s probably had to take a shower at some point since then, but I wouldn’t know.

    He *is* a great bass player, and very fun to watch. Almost as much fun to watch as Chris Wood, of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Actually, bass players are consistently the most visually entertaining members of a band. Why?

    • aj says:

      Re: Victor Wooten

      Perhaps because the bass is a bigger and more rhythmic instrument that the guitar — the musician is more visually correlated to the music, and so he’s more fun to watch.

      I’ve always loved to watch great drummers, probably for the same reason I guess.

  2. wasabisabi says:

    Have you hugged your MD today?

    There are actually quite a few resources out there for checking up on a doctor. With something like, of course you have to worry about sample bias as you would with any kind of feedback site – people with bad experiences are probably those most likely to post, and you don’t really know what fraction of this guy’s patients they represent.

    A lot of states now post physician profiles concerning medical misconduct – including any cases of malpractice brought against the MD – however these need to be interpreted cautiously. For example, here’s an incredibly common scenario: a patient brings a case of malpractice against a doctor, however doctor and his/her lawyer know it’s unfounded and know this case won’t even get off the ground. However: most malpractice insurance companies will force a doctor to just go ahead and settle a case anyway right from the start to avoid legal fees. The doctor has to accept, otherwise he/she has to fund the case with his/her own money. The downside is that cases that get settled, even ones that never really go to court, still show up on the physician’s record as a malpractice case. The consumer never knows if this settlement was done before the case even went to court or if this settlement was after a year-long battle.

    There are some other objective resources that can be very good – for example, when choosing a hospital, many states also provide records on number of cases of this or that surgery performed at a given institution any year. While it doesn’t tell you about an individual surgeon, most hospitals don’t have but a few surgical specialists in this or that field. Plus, it’s been studied in the medical literature, and as you might expect the volume of surgeries performed at an institution is definitely predictive of outcomes for that type of surgery.

    You can also check for board certification in a specialty online. You’d be surprised how many surgeons are not board certified, particularly one from another era where board certification wasn’t required in the way that it is today to find employment with an HMO or hospital. Most people think board certification is synonymous with licensure, but it’s really just an honor.

    I guess the real crux of the problem is: why is Victor Wooten so dreamy!

    • aj says:

      Re: Have you hugged your MD today?

      Dude, I should have just had you write this LJ entry :).

      I totally agree about sample bias. I’m hoping it’ll turn out to be something like eBay, where feedback is always expected.

      As for malpractice, yeah it’s pretty clear that the doctor can get screwed pretty easily. But if it’s a case he can win, doesn’t the accuser have to cover his legal fees if he (the doctor) wins? Or does he just not want to go through with it because of the hassle of going to court?

      Your point about volume of surgeries is good. But for something like LASIK, how can I be sure? The prices vary so widely that maybe a place that offers to do it for like $200 per eye has done a lot of operations simply because they’re so cheap.

      I’m just much more leery of the case where I have an economic choice between doctors. (In most cases, I don’t even see the money behind the scenes.)

      Dude, I can’t wait till I have a sore throat, because then I’m coming to you, baby. I hear you have a A++++ WOULD GET OPERATED ON AGAIN!!!1 (1041) feedback rating. Yeah!

      • wasabisabi says:

        Re: Have you hugged your MD today?

        Ha!! I’ll give you an eTonsillectomy anytime, no charge.

        I believe a doctor has to file a former countersuit in order to recover legal fees or lost wages if hit with a frivolous lawsuit, and have to prove that indeed it was completely without merit. I’m not positive about this, though. In general, the impression I get is that a doctor’s malpractice insurance company can effectively bully him/her into settling because it’s in the best interest of the insurance company (perhaps prosecutors of such frivolous cases know that they should encourage their client to accept even a small settlement because otherwise they would lose in court); otherwise the doctor is on their own for the case. At that point wages lost from missed work start to outweigh legal fees.

        As for Lasik, yeah, that’s hard. Such a variety of options and prices, it seems. In general, I think experience is the best indicator, but hard to figure that out sometimes. Especially with Lasik – I’d be wary of overinterpreting fees, since I get the feeling that a lot of new, young ophthalmologists have to resort to sort of gimmicky techniques to get their foot in the door and get a new practice rolling (stuff like “coupons” in the newspaper for Lasik, advertising things like “Get one eye done for $$$, and get the other one for free, limited time only, etc.). But in general, guys doing Lasik often do a LOT of Lasik, since it only takes like 15 minutes, so most guys probably have a ton of experience.