Categories
My SARS-CoV-2 Life Personal Rant

Whimsywear, or The Art of Disarming Face Masks.

So, I poisoned my mind last night, reading stuff on Twitter about how a county out here in Oregon has mandatory mask wearing, except if you’re a person of color.

There are a lot of folks with their bits in various types of twists over this, but I may as well chime in as someone who is physically a county or so over from this place with a bit of mind meal.

Hi again. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I am a person of color, if we must use a category. For this conversation, we’ll use the category, because it’s an integral component to understanding this.

For folks like myself, masks cause a level of worry: depending on the material, the color, the pattern, the way we wear it, among a number of myriad elements and uncontrollable provocation steps outside of our immediate sphere of influence, a mask can represent a clear and present danger.

As example, I would NEVER wear a bandana tied over my face, no matter how much you attempted to convince me. Why? I fear the folks who would immediately jump to the conclusion that I am about to commit some any type of crime. It’s more likely that someone would just start off being verbally hostile. I also fear the types of folks who attack first, question eventually in situations like this, because that’s instant escalation.

I’m more likely to just stay home, to hopefully minimize my potential exposure to things like this, because it is, relatively speaking, the safer choice. It’s no absolute guarantee of safety, and I only have to Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor, to illustrate one recent event that can explain the fear.

But, I do have to leave the house now and again. I need groceries, medicines, and the occasional check-in with work so they know I’m still breathing, hungering, and keep me on the payroll.

When I leave the house, as such, I wear a face mask that clearly looks like a face mask, but isn’t just a solid, plain color. I have a series of masks that are either whimsical in nature, such as a large set of teeth with a piece of spinach stuck in them or a blushing cat face mask, or have a distinct appearance, like my grumpy bear mask, or are very graphical in their designs, such as an exit sign mask based on a sign from Tiny Speck’s Glitch.

All of these masks elicit positive responses from folks around me, which is a desired trait in a mask, though it may seem strange. If people are positively interacting with me, talking with me for a minute or two, complimenting my mask… I have a perception of lowered localized threat. People, while they can’t see my resting bitch face, are suitably disarmed because they’ve spoken with me. I’m no longer some potential burden on the system, a possible attacker bent on damage or destruction. I’m just a person sitting here, checking email and waiting to pick up my heart monitor, or waiting for the next paratransit bus home.

That said, I find Lincoln County, Oregon’s approach, removing the mandatory obligation to wear a mask sad, but understandable. While I may have found a solution that, at least for now, works for me, there are real and valid fears at play from other folks who share my skin tone range, and I cannot fault them one bit for not wanting to risk their existence for a face mask.

As before, be safe in what you do, when you do it. Wash your hands with genuine soap and water, and have a glass of water afterwards. You’re dehydrated.

Categories
Life Rant

Righteous Energy, Wrongly Directed.

I’m going to expend one of my Politics points for the year on this post.

This will leave me with 2 points when I’m done and this is posted. I’m fairly good at keeping politically charged statements to a minimum, so this won’t become the new norm.

You’re welcome to scroll on past, but I’d like it if you slowed down and gave it a read.

Also, this post is being monetized by Coil, if you have it. If you don’t, that’s okay: this is still something that should be read. Thank you.

To start, if I wanted to put myself in one of the containers out there, I am a person of color, a minority. I don’t care to, so I’m just a person, generally speaking. I’m also afraid on a daily basis, because I could end up not existing at the drop of a hat, just because I look different.

I end up typically eschewing politics in my country of residence, because they’re done poorly. Our voting system is designed in such a way to squelch the voices of the ones who need to be heard most, through gerrymandering districts to make their collective voices inaudible, revocation of the right to vote through means both creative and non-, through foul tactics designed to drive those who would try to earn their place to help their fellow countrymen out of politick, among other things.

We have a broken voting system that encourages that, with what little voice we have, to choose between evil blatant and evil cloaked, and not even try voting for that one voice of dissent and reason, with sound logic presented in a factual, fair manner. Why? Because the vote would be a throwaway with the current mindset of so many other voters in these jury-rigged districts.

It is of little wonder that voting feels useless in this age.

The entire voting system needs a burn-down and rebuild, stronger and better than it has been. A voting system that allows the people to rank their choices of candidates would be a good start in burning down a mental barrier for people to finally vote for a candidate they actually believe in.

A voting system that allowed for all people to submit their ballots via mail or designated drop-off points throughout their city or state, with no regard to reason for actually voting this way would be great. This is how the state of Oregon handles ballots: Every vote is cast by mail-in or drop-off site. We do not have polling booths that you have to gather at. There is no need, in the age of COVID-19, to have someone sanitize or fog or however you’d manage the cleaning process a ridiculous number of times in a day a voting booth. People can fill in their ballot in the privacy of their home, affording them the same (or honestly, greater) level of privacy that one would ask of a voting booth.

Even better, we have the time and tools available to us in the modern age to research an issue on the ballot, or a candidate, without dealing with snipe sign spinners standing outside as close to the polling places as they legally can, hoping to sway someone’s thoughts in a last second bid for attention.

Voting by mail and drop box should become the norm nationwide, rather than the exception. In areas where it just isn’t feasible to vote by mail (limited mail service, as example), another option would be needed. Whether it’s keeping the current go-to-the-polls setup, or developing and deploying something new, it’s something that needs to be gnawed at, feasted upon, and digested. We need to do better, and we are now in a time that brokers no argument to the matter. We must do better.

Until we can push and prod the system to go the right way, we must push the system with what tools we have. Voting is more than just a “Vote for this person to be our president” situation. They are a figurehead that can be noisome, yes, but until we remember to go back to every home game and away game — that means anytime something’s in the polls that we can vote for, research it and VOTE — we’re throwing away a chance to pull the power back into the hands of the people. We’re tossing our chances to actually change things away, and we need to stop blaming the folks who are capitalizing on it.

That’s my political point spent, and I get two more for the year.

Be safe, wear appropriate protection in all things you do, and take care.

Categories
My SARS-CoV-2 Life Update

The power of e-scooters.

Since we’ve all been asked to stay home, stay healthy, or any permutation of those words due to the current pandemiscape, I’ve been sitting here and mulling over my biggest issue.

I’ve been wanting to get a new e-bike or similar so that I can get around town easier, because I do have to occasionally go out to buy groceries or pick up prescriptions.

Since I refuse to do mail order on anything that could be considered seriously essential, like my insulin and my glucose sensors, that means I have to be able to get to places to get those. I have access to our paratransit services, but trips have to be planned in advance, and the return trip often leaves me waiting at the store for 30-45 minutes when I just want to be back home, in relative safety.

I had mulled over an e-bike or two, since the disbursement of the stimulus checks, but what I kept coming up with bothered me: I’d get either a bike that is physically smaller than what I need, or I’d pay enough to have thrown funds at a used car with car insurance and fuel costs covered for three to six months.

I had looked at things like the RadRunner 1, which, while it’s certainly a nice looking, approachable bike, worries me because I’m near their suggested upper weight limit before I start using the bike for what I want to use it for: Picking up groceries and my prescriptions. Their RadWagon, while it offered a slightly larger payload capacity, is currently sold out.

I rejected any e-bike with a 36 volt battery system, because I’ve already had 36 volts. It gets you started in the world of electric bicycles, but you can quickly tell that the bulk of the bikes have anemic drivetrains and no real energy to help you in the spots that you could use it the most, like needing to cycle up onto the connector bridge in my neighborhood. So this took a lot of the inexpensive bargain imports off the board, like Ancheer, Nakto, and Ecotric.

Likewise, I rejected any folding bike, because I’m large and the folding hinge is an extra weak point on a bike that I don’t need if I’m not going to fold it very often, if at all.

While mulling those over, I also started giving thought to the e-scooters that are out there, particularly the sit down models. More of those are designed to support additional weight, often up to 450 pounds (204 kilograms), and offer travel ranges between 20 and 40 miles on a single charge.

I looked at kick e-scooters as well, but just about all of them (a few brands excluded) all suffer a “Maximum Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)” limit. This makes them unsuitable for my purpose, being above that weight by a decent amount.

I found one kick scooter, though, that boasted a maximum load of 320 pounds (145 kg), which would do for mixed mode transportation to cover short runs to the closest pharmacy and back, or to the bus stop a mile away to get to one of the two nearest grocery stores.

I won’t bless or curse the company with a name here, however: I bought one of their refurbished models, and it arrived physically broken. Not cosmetic damage, as they implied on their site, but broken latch, so I couldn’t even unfold the handlebar into a usable position. I paid UPS $10 to pick it back up next day and ship it back to the company, who decided they’ll repair it, and should be sending it back to me.

So, while that was going on, I kept eyeballing some of the sit down scooters, and kept coming across these fat tire units, usually with the name CityCoco attached.

I decided that, well, hell with it, I’ll bite the bullet, and bought one from EBikeWholesaler. It arrived a couple of days ago, neatly crated and ready for me to have a go at assembly, what little of it I needed to do.

Once I rolled it out of the crate, grunting at the weight (about 130 pounds or so), and assembled the few items I needed to put on, I dropped it on the charger that it shipped with. Remarkably, it’s a charger with a fan in it, something I don’t see all that often, but a nice touch nonetheless.

Yesterday, I took it out for a ride.

Since I have been furloughed, I went to check in with my employer, a mile away. The scooter is FAST. It took maybe five minutes to get over to work, of which the hardest part was a right turn that’s really tight on something with a not too sharp turning radius. I’ll likely take one of my alternate routes to work, now that I’ve tried it.

From there, I headed back to go to the pharmacy, since I had a pickup to do and they wouldn’t be able to deliver until Monday otherwise, and then up to Macca’s for a whip through the drive-thru and collected a breakfast before coming back home. All of this was done inside an hour, and I even took my time.

Later that day, I was going to have a salad for dinner, but I had no dressing for it whatsoever. That would have meant no salad, or an hour plus bus trip for the item I forgot to order on my last delivery request via Rosie, but I hopped out onto the scooter and headed over to that store a mile away.

I got my dressing, some ready to eat chicken to add to the salad, and a few more incidentals while I was there so I wouldn’t have to make the run again for a few days, and got back home.

When I looked at the clock… only thirty minutes had elapsed.

THIRTY. MINUTES.

Having had my trip times either pegged to the fixed route buses, the delays of waiting for paratransit, or walking or cycling to everything, this was mindbending in its glory.

Future me is going to have to spend a bit of time calculating how much I’ve saved in time and money on transportation, and figure out my return on investment. It’ll add up quick, I’m certain, whether I do the math based on trips on Lyft, or trip legs on paratransit, or time saved.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy not sharing a vehicle with others while going out to get groceries and meds.

Categories
My SARS-CoV-2 Life Update

Lay low, wash your hands, ride the furlough.

These times are new and rough for many of us, not knowing exactly how to navigate our new pandemiscape.

I’m going to say first that I’m actually thankful for being furloughed from my job at this time. It IS hard to deal with, being used to working and working and working, then told nope, go home, and stay there until we pull you back in. Occasionally, yes, I need a break or vacation of sorts, but the way this is happening is beyond the mindset of folks my age.

I’m choosing to look at this in the least stressful manner possible: I’m using the time off to recuperate and mentally recharge as much as I can. On one hand, the impact to my budget is definitely present at the moment, as I am only collecting the state unemployment benefit, but I look at it from the other side: I’m also going fewer places, spending less cash overall because I want to know I have the power to pay bills as necessary. So, the smaller payments are still survivable at this time.

I had paid for a new computer prior to this furlough, thinking things would pan out in such a way that I’d be considered essential and/or vital to operations and having the time off wouldn’t happen. But then, the furlough nation attacked, and I’ve been pretty much home bound for the last two and a half weeks.

I’ve done some house cleaning, need to do a bunch more, may want to ask our landlord to up-size our waste bin for the next month so I can be rid of much more crap without dominating the garbage from everyone.

I’ve actually worked on a project of mine that I didn’t think would be one until yesterday: I have an old Chuwi Hi10 Pro tablet that had its digitizer shattered on an Amtrak train last year. At first, I thought it’d be useless, because finding a replacement digitizer for the thing was not panning out well, and additionally, getting this thing apart and a new one on would be tedious at best.

Welcome to my first blog post from the old Hi10 Pro: I didn’t replace the screen. I replaced the entire operating system stack with Lubuntu 19.10, using a keyboard dock for it, and installed NoMachine on it so I can remote in. I am considering replacing the keyboard dock with a USB Type C hub, so that I can plug in either a better wi-fi adapter, or if the hub has Ethernet, a proper Ethernet cable as the onboard wi-fi in this thing is godawful.

There’s an actual use case for me to do this: There are several things that I could easily offload to a low powered machine, like I used to do back when I still used my Wyse Winterm 9455XL. Further, I would like to see if I can get one of the Android emulators running on this remotely: I have smart lights, and occasionally want to adjust them when I don’t have my phone on me.

I’m waiting for my unemployment benefits to come in, because I really would like to mount some shelves in my bedroom. It’s my biggest annoyance: Not enough flat surfaces for items, so they stay in boxes for a ridiculously long time.

Could I buy shelves right now? Yeah, I could, but I have a mental aversion to spending on something less essential than medicine or food.

For now, though, I’m going to have to go for walks around the block so I don’t go stir crazy sitting here at home for the next month or so, and get cracking on some of these projects.

Until then, be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask in public, and don’t buy 64 damned rolls of toilet paper unless you have a real need.

Be safe out there.

Base, clear.

Categories
Update

Unpopular Opinion: Short Notification Services are sub-par image gallery services.

The title alone should carry enough weight on its own to deliver the complete thought, but it seems the need to explain this in detail is just there as people keep wandering to Twitter, Instagram, and similar services to post their artwork, photography, and the like.

The problem is that the overall design of services like Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, and so is that they aren’t conducive to logical indexing of one’s work.

If you’re a photographer, and you only take one kind of photo ever, then you’re in the rare niche that an SNS would work for. A new picture of the same wall clock every day would fit.

But people photograph or draw all sorts of stuff! Sure, it might be all dog pics, or pictures taken from a bridge, but the moment you have diversity in your photos and want to sort them out, a SNS fails you as the photographer.

Sure, you can , but this fails you, as unless your hashtags are super unique to you and you alone, you share your audience with anyone else that has used the same tag. Yes, one could filter a little more by doing whatever your platform chooses to designate a user, followed by a hashtag, but that’s silly: It relies on people to think of a descriptor in the same manner as you, and we’re all pretty unique.

When I was less internet aware, we either wrote our own HTML and built an image gallery, or found a script bundle that generated one for us. Whether it was Gallery, ZenPhoto, Chevereto, or any number of PHP, Perl, or Python based scripts, we hosted our own galleries on our own online space, and personally, the internet was better for it. We cared for our own little corner of the interwebs, paid a little for shared hosting, and things were nice.

Yes, this approach introduces its own set of issues: You’re now required to maintain your site. Did the author of your gallery script just heck off into the aether and leave an unpatched issue behind, with no-one able to fix it? Sorry, find a new script or learn the language so that you can submit patches or patch your own site to protect against meatspin injections. Is your webhost hosting you on a mouldy potato and the script keeps dying? Sorry, find a new host.

But as the years progress, we find ourselves with websites-as-a-service setups, with sites brought to you by Squarespace or Wix, or a myriad of other services, replete with Docker or Kubernetes containers needed just to do a thing. And this level of complexity is such that folks just… They give up. They go to whatever is already easiest to just click on a link, type in a username, type in hunter2, and their email address, and call it a day.

I actually kind of miss the days of self-maintained sites, of web rings, of relative independence from information silos built by corporations that enjoy foisting ads upon us. This is why I run my own domains and use things like WordPress and Grav.

I avoid posting big, noisy overt ads on my personal blog, relying solely on the couple of dollars a year that I get from referral revenue that I get from one of the big machines for driving a customer to their doorstep for an item that I actually like enough to tell people that I like. That, and the occasional person that says, “You know what? Let me buy you a coffee.” and does so through my Buy Me a Coffee link (https://buymeacoff.ee/xial).

The quiet web is sorely missed, but maybe we’ll get back to it with how folks are getting fed up with the way the internet “works”.

Categories
Personal

Bonus Day Digital Self-Care!

Well! Since we have an extra day in this month, take a little time to do a little digital self-care.

We talk about taking care of ourselves, getting away from our machines, putting down our phones, and just getting some time away from things to give our minds a minute to come back to focus.

But we should also take a little time to take care of our digital forefront, as well.

Here are a few things that you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Declutter your Twitter following list.
    • That means heading to twitter.com in a web browser, logging in, clicking on Profile on the left side, and next to your following count, click the word Following.
    • Evaluate the list of folks you’re following. If seeing their tweets gives you a case of the dry heaves and you’d feel better not seeing them? Unfollow them.
      • Bonus action: you can also temporarily block someone, then unblock them to remove a follow-back if one exists. Not a required action, but it’s handy if you want to protect your timeline and don’t want to grandfather in some accounts.
    • If you want to keep following someone, but don’t give a damn about their retweets, hit their profile, go into the three dot menu next to their profile pic, and TURN OFF RETWEETS.
  • Clean out your email inbox. That means…
    • Go on an unsubscription jag. Get emails from services that you don’t particularly care about? UNSUBSCRIBE.
    • Go delete those old password reset emails. You know the ones from 10 years ago.
    • Delete those old sale ads. That Newegg sale from a decade ago doesn’t apply and you don’t need to reference it.
  • Back up your important stuff.
    • I’m going to hand you some sage advice that I gave customers at least a decade ago when I worked for a rather large computer company: If you don’t have at least two separately stored backups of your data, it is clearly not important to you.
      • Two, not one. What happens if something breaks both your original file on your computer and breaks the first storage device you’ve put your files on? If those are your company’s accounting files for the last ten years, you want as many possible ways to recover from catastrophic failure. Losing two weeks worth of your data is significantly less painful than losing a full decade.
    • Back up your files on media you have control over. That means external hard drives, removable USB media, burn to optical media (DVD-R, CD-R, BD-R), dump to tape, store on a NAS… just choose at least two of these options.
    • Make a regular habit of reviewing your backups. If your backups are corrupted, infected, or otherwise, it’s pointless.
  • Play a video game.
    • Something fun and relaxing for you — doesn’t have to be anything that’s super involved. Just fun.

And with that, February’s about over. See you in March!

Categories
Personal Update

Make of things what you will.

I’ve decided that the resolution I will try to keep this year is a little different than usual. Normally, I joke, “1920 x 1080” — my screen resolution on my desktop.

This year has a list to go with a tweet:

” If I have to have a New Year’s Resolution of some sort this year… it’s to find my maker’s spirit again and complete a project every three months. That’s four projects in a year.
What are my project goals for this year? “
  1. Make cardboard bricks for fireplace burning from waste paper/boxes.
  2. Get a welder, materials to make a sturdy cargo scooter and ACTUALLY MAKE the scooter.
  3. Try to assemble this 3D printer I bought last year, print some battery boxes.
  4. Make a rain-resistant cycling cape.

Each one of these has a related challenge, typically financial in nature for the larger ones. The 3D printer is more patience-related. How patient can I be in trying to assemble this thing, and get it right? It’s been started for MONTHS, but every time I touch it, I put something on backward despite following the instructions.

The cardboard/paper bricks would benefit from a briquette press or similar hardware, either hand built or purchased. I just cannot find a prebuilt press for a reasonable price; I’m working on a bill of materials needed to build my own based on a guide I found on Leland Hite’s site, because we throw away so much that could be reused in some shape or form. Said press can also be used for things like sawdust, from what I see, and formed wood burns rather well from what I’m finding in research.

Welding’s the tricky one, as I’ve never welded metals. Plastics, sure, a little bit, but that’s chemical/heat welding, and a different process. But, I have guides I’ve picked up from Atomic Zombie for scooter and bike designs, and I’m sure that once I get the initial few welds in place and understand what I’m doing, I can start cranking out things that are useful. An electric cargo scooter would be great for getting to and from the store, and gets around the stigma that folks seem to associate with electric scooters from companies like Bird and Lime.

By eye, the outlay on the scooter project is going to be several hundred dollars. I’d need the welder, and even an cheapo one is $100-$200. Materials will likely set me back another hundred. I’ll need a few other tools, and last but not least, a 36 volt lithium chemistry based battery to attach to my existing hub motor is needed.

The riding cape will likely be a hundred dollars, whether pre-fab or bought on the internets, because of the amount of material needed, plus treating it for water resistance. It would probably be expedient to buy one, but I would like one, sooner rather than later, whether I make it or not.

Now to go plan each of these things out in more detail.

Categories
Life Rant Update

IVR Voice Gating, a reminder.

Did you know?

Whenever you get an interactive voice recognition system by calling a big business, many of them are set up with voice gates that will dump you into specific queues.

Certain words, phrases, and tonalities can pull you to the front of the queue as a VIP.

VIP, in this case, is often Very Irritated Person.

You’ve probably observed this behavior in the past, when you’ve called a company three times, got irritated, and launched a tactical F-nuke at the voice system: “I’m tired of this F-ing machine!” Please hold, I’ll get a representative.

So, start off nice, but answer as many prompts with your keypad as possible when you call. What’s your member number? Keypad that, 8675309. What’s your date of birth? Button time, 06091969. How much did your first born weigh in grams? Digits, 4096. DON’T spam zeroes — a lot of IVR systems are now trained to dump calls to the tone department after too many responses of 0.

This said: Halfway through the process, switch to voice responses. Save your tactical F-nuke and carpet F-bomb for later. IVRs steer around their efficacy for the most part. Arm yourself with the words Agent, Representative, and Give me a real human. Actually answer one or two of the questions via voice, then switch to Representative or Agent rounds, and put a little steel into your enunciation of the word. You’re now opening the gate to queue jump.

When the system starts getting preachy about how it can help you, fire the Give me a real human shell for extra damage. Most systems will give up, and place you in the call queue to get a person on the line. You’ve usually been bumped ahead of the person that talked their way through all of the menus, but for an extra boost, while the system is talking to you on estimated wait times, throw an exasperated Shut UP in for chip damage.

Incidentally, this is how I carved through a “greater than ten minute wait” that Distress Scripts announced during my ordeal with getting my glucometer sensor suite. From top of call to human response was about 139 seconds: Actually faster than the previous call of 6.5 minutes, no human, and an offer to call me back.

Categories
Life Personal Update

An interesting year in the rear view mirror.

Hey, folks. Welcome to 2020, and all the insights that come with being in the rear view mirror. As the sun sets on 2019, I’m looking back at things I have learned, and realizations that are taking me full speed into a year with an extra day under its hood.

Last year, I learned how broken the idea of a pharmacy benefit management company has become in the United States. I had my go-around with Express Scripts, in which my glucometer sensors arrived several days late, and it was as if I were pulling teeth to get an urgent fill at my local pharmacy so I could keep an eye on my blood sugar.

I never did replace the electric bicycle that broke in December 2018, but that’s okay. I spent more time on the manual transmission bike, and also started going to the gym. The exercise proved beneficial, even though my commute ability decreased by a range of a few miles. Going to the gym net me a few hundred dollars from my employer through their fitness benefit program, and for half the year, I felt inspired enough to complete the goals. This year, I’ll punch higher.

I relearned that there are terrible folks when it comes to hosting, in the form of paying the folk at Bigfoot Servers for a second year of service, and having them close shop in December. May they date a horny cactus for the rest of their lives. I’m over on Namecheap now; I’d post an affiliate link, but their new affiliate program is a bit of a headache to sign up for.

I finally replaced my ebook reader with a used early generation Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight. If I could reclaim the internal storage space to have more storage for my books, I’d be happier. Been reading a bunch of fan fiction in my evenings after work, and maybe I’ll actually get around to reading some stuff from my public library again. Repositories of free science fiction epubs are always welcome, by the by.

I got my blog to announce its presence via ActivityPub, thanks to a couple of WordPress plugins, making me readable and followable via Mastodon and similar suites as I post (Hi, @xial@vulpine.club!), and can still tweet my new posts.

Speaking of tweeting, it seems my post on my ordeal with Express Scripts was definitely my most read and circulated post of 2019, and drew a lot of traction via Twitter, Facebook, and even was shared via LinkedIn. I’m flattered, amused, and slightly spooked at the same time.

But, enough of this for now; I must actually go eat to fix a number that I wouldn’t have been able to see without my replacement glucose sensor. Thanks again to my local FredMeyer Pharmacy for throwing hammers to help. 💙

Categories
Personal Rant

Mail Order Pharmaceuticals, Revisited.

A thought. I gently label it “The American Pharmaceuticals Industry needs a full re-flow. Bake off the bad solder joints, get some fresh stuff in place, and remember the people.” and float on.

Prior to this week, I was relatively tolerant of the idea of a mail order pharmacy, having been forced by Express Scripts to switch, find my way to Walgreens, or only get 30 day supplies of my medicine. This also came with colorful documentation to be like Kyle, who gets all of his prescriptions mailed to his doorstep, doesn’t have to spend time going to the pharmacy, etc.

A preface: I do not hate Walgreens in the context of this discussion. Walgreens, however, isn’t located in a good location with regard to transit in this story. Two buses on different roads run through and turn to head the same direction that I need to go. To get to a stop that allows you to catch either bus without having to find out which bus is coming next (requires: smartphone or a paper copy of both schedules), one must walk a little over a quarter mile to the combined stop. FredMeyer is equidistant with regard to stop access, but has the advantage of not requiring an additional step to get to a grocery store while out grabbing pills. Albertson’s, with their Sav-On Pharmacy, wins for distance with a six hundred foot walk to a combined bus stop — the same one I’d get to on foot if I went to Walgreens, incidentally.


My prior insurance carrier, Providence, allowed me to have 90 day fills at ANY local pharmacy, which I grew quickly fond of after coming off the state’s Medicaid programme — only having to go every 90 days to a pharmacy of my choosing, getting all my scrips synchronized so I don’t have to go frequently and remember to pick up pills, and the like? Who wouldn’t like that kind of convenience, seriously?

Express Scripts would only give me that level of access if I went to Walgreens.

When you think about that, for people who don’t or can’t drive, you bet they’re going to want to line up their travel to be as direct as they can. If I’m going to have to spend a bunch of time waiting on buses, or having to take a Lyft or a taxi, you bet I’d rather have also picked up my groceries while being out to pick up my pills and shots, so I can just go home when I’m done.
If I’m wanting that, I’m sure I’m not alone on it.

So, for the current carrier, to continue getting my quarterly supply of pills, injectables, and nasal sprays, I complied by migrating most of my medicines over. My insulin and my GLP-1 agonist were two of the last three to be migrated, and those were done slowly, one at a time to make sure that things weren’t going to go pear shaped at a bad time. I had extra weeks of each medicine at the time of migration, and wasn’t immediately compelled into this. Everything arrived timely, even though my only incentive was to get medicine in bulk then.

Things were fine, and I was back to a point of spending less personal time going to the pharmacy. I then got my fCGM. Express Scripts was very particular about how I got this filled: I could only pick up ONE sensor at a time, every two weeks.

This irks me for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not even allowed a one month supply of sensors. That is, two sensors at a time.
  • Sensors are attached to the skin with glue. If something pulls it off, I can’t replace it until either the manufacturer sends me a new sensor, or insurance approves an emergency pharmacy refill. Both tasks can take days.
  • I’m not even afforded the courtesy of a backup to remove some of the urgency in case of a sensor removal event.
  • I now have to visit a pharmacy every two weeks, because heck my personal time, it ain’t worth jack to them.

I tolerate this up until Thanksgiving, though — I got that prescription filled a couple days early, because it’s a holiday weekend, and it’s a good thing that I did. I had my first unplanned sensor pull the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with nearly a week left on it. I was able to clean and sanitize the site, and apply a new sensor that I would normally not have had on hand if my local pharmacy hadn’t been awesome and filled ahead of the weekend.

It was at that point that this incident, combined with reading the next year pamphlet for my prescription benefits and seeing the clause about being required to move maintenance prescriptions to mail order or Walgreens, or be denied fills after two courtesy local fills that I decided I’d bite and start the migration after my next local fill to get that process out of the way. It would get me sensors to have on hand, and I could deal with the manufacturer sending me a new sensor kit in the interim is where my thought process took it.

Most of you reading here probably know what happened with that. If not, have a read — it’s illuminating.

Now, I’m sort of laughing at myself after all this, but it’s not for the reasons some of you might think.

Hello again, I’m Xial (pronounced ‘Zeal’, rhymes with ‘eel’). By day, I’m a non-emergency medical transport dispatcher. I help people get to their doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, and the like as part of their health plan benefits on a same day urgency basis. Something that my personal health insurance doesn’t offer, but theirs does.

One of my personal gripes at work had been with folks needing to go to the pharmacy so frequently. I am guilty of grumbling about folks that should be using their mail order pharmacy benefit, because the very line of work I do makes me aware of the cost of transportation.

This week’s events, rather tellingly, changes my tune from “use your mail order benefit” to “Please ask your local pharmacist to synchronize your prescription refills, so you don’t have to go four times a week.

It changes because I’ve learned how horribly inefficient mail order pharmacies can be when they screw up for the populace, and so many people are afraid to give them access to an opportunity to screw them up. I hadn’t encountered the screw-up, and the ineptitude of Express Scripts when handling these problems, so I was very much a blind eye for the darker side of mail order.

People are justifiably afraid of what can happen when mail ordered medicines don’t arrive on time, or arrive in unusable conditions. We’re in the colder part of the year out here in the Pacific Northwest — I’m really not going to want to chance having them mail me insulin and the GLP-1 agonist that I take — neither one of them are rated for being frozen during transport. My refills were staged in such a way that we should be out of the coldest part of the season by the time it’s time for me to refill either medicine.

If I were still in Florida, I would also cringe at the idea of shipping injectables via mail. They’re typically rated for limited temperature bands for excursion. Florida gets very hot to go with its high humidity. It’ll be 97°F (36.1°C) in the sun, with a feels like temperature of 105°F (40.5°C) just standing in the sun as an organic meat computer. Now add a big box truck with poor thermal controls to the equation (which covers USPS, UPS, and FedEx), and you have vehicles hot enough to liquefy chocolate, wilt flowers, and spoil medicines. And this is how these companies want to ship life-sustaining things like insulin‽

All of this just makes me want to force the decision makers at each of these pharmaceutical benefits management companies to eat a four ounce serving of sugar free gummy bears for every validated report of delivery screw-ups. Let these decision makers feel the suffering to the tune of gastric distress every time someone has to start fighting with their damned company because an important medicine is wandering around in the back of a delivery truck half the country away.

Maybe then, they’ll be willing to listen to the rest of us when we say “This is a bad thing. We want choice, and you should pay them fairly.”

… That, or they live with constant diarrhoea.