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.


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.

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.


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 (

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”.


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 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!

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.

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.

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,!), 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. 💙

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.

Personal Rant

On Annoyances with Mail Order Pharmacies

Last evening, I posted a few tweets about a problem with getting one of my prescriptions via mail order through Express Scripts:

The longer story, which doesn’t fit in a few tweets is complex: I ordered a three month supply of my Freestyle Libre 14 day sensors through Express Scripts on the 11th of December, with a message from them showing they’re reaching out to my doc for a write-up of a 90 day run. I had just taken on a refill a couple days prior, and wasn’t scheduled to swap sensors until the 14th of December. That gave me a bit over 16 days to have new sensors in hand, which is plenty of time under typical circumstances.

Two days later (Friday the 13th, no less), in the evening, I get an email from Express Scripts letting me know they’re waiting on my doctor’s office to send over the updated scrip for a 90 day fill. I send a portal message the next morning to my office, and mention that it’s possible that the refill request went to my previous practitioner, who had left the office in the prior month. That way, they should be able to find that and migrate it over. I specifically named the sensor as the requested item for refill in that message.

~ 12 Days of Sensor Time Remain ~

Monday, 16 December hits, and the office acknowledges that they got the message and sent things along to Express Scripts for my sensors.

Tuesday, 17 December lands, and I get a message: “We shipped your order on December 17, 2019.” for a medication starting with F. Express Scripts, of course, obscures the name of the medicine in email by default. I have two prescriptions that begin with an F, and the other one had been filled a month prior, not due for refill for two months. I’m calm and not worried — this package has a UPS tracking number, and should deliver by Christmas. I think nothing of it and don’t log in to the Express Scripts portal.

Wednesday, 18 December sticks its head over the fence. “We’re working on your order,” another email from Express Scripts reads. Wait, what? is my reaction, knowing my refill dates for my other maintenance meds are a week out — I had already received that message. So I log in to their site, and my blood starts to boil.

Somehow, there’s a refill on the 13th of December for the Freestyle Libre READER. The SENSOR KIT has an order date of the 18th of December. I had no emails suggesting they were actually filling the reader, which I really do not need — I have two of them, before this shipment. One is my phone, the other is an actual reader.

Keeping in mind that I check my email in the evening after work, usually, it’s late and I write off my attempt to scream at someone until the next morning.

~ 9 Days of Sensor Time Remain ~

Unusually, I check my email that morning as I wake up, and there’s a rather mollifying message there: “We shipped your order on December 19, 2019.” for a Medication starting with: F*****. I check the app, and it’s the sensors actual this time. I’m still miffed, but there’s still a good chance I’ll get them on time — it’s another UPS shipment. So I’ll check the tracking number in a couple of days, give logistics time to move the package.

~ 6 Days of Sensor Time Remain ~

It’s a lazy Sunday, and I check my email. I find myself pulling the tracking number for UPS out of the email, and growing irritated. The estimated arrival date of this package? 31 December 2019. That’s three days past my sensor swap day. That’s LATE. I bite my tongue, however, because a mote of logic shows up: “Hey. It’s a couple of days until Christmas. It is possible that the package is moving right now, and has not been scanned in transit because of a glut of packages.”

That is what it looked like when I looked at the tracking data, so I decide I’ll wait for the 26th, just in case that’s exactly what’s happened.

~ 63 HOURS of Sensor Time Remain ~

Thursday morning, I check that damn tracking number. No updates, still 31st of December. Now I’m Angry++. I try to call Express Scripts while I’m walking to work. Their IVR is infuriating, and eventually asks me if I’d like a call back as the wait is seven minutes. I select yes — this would give me a chance to finish walking and get out of the sounds of traffic.

Express Scripts is, bluntly, fucking stupid at this point. Their callback system calls from a phone number of ALL ZEROES. How do I know this? My cellular carrier blocked the call as potential spam, showing a number of ALL ZEROES.

Great. Now I have to call back and murder my way through their IVR. I’ll have to do this in a couple of hours… and I do. At this point, I’m voice gating through their system, taking advantage of a few tricks I had discovered and get a human in record time.

This human just hems and haws about — I’m frustrated, but doing a remarkable job of not taking it out on them. This person is just a cog in the great and terrible machine, and isn’t the root of my ire. However, three minutes into the conversation, they earned a prunable branch status by virtue of NOT GETTING THE POINT.

So I cut to the quick on it: Look. I ordered this well in advance. Your company goofed up. My sensor wears out in two days. Your delivery lands several days after that. Can I just go to my local pharmacy and get this thing filled so I’m not out?

This human finally gets it, says yes, get a one-off scrip and have a local pharmacy fill it. They then pork about a bit more, and ask a stupid question. “Can I transfer you to a pharmacist so we can ask what happens if you don’t get your refill in time?”

I’m angry actual at this point, and stop drawing all punches. I can tell you what happens if I don’t get my sensors in thirty seconds. I come out of pocket at about eighty cents a pop to test my blood glucose with strips I have to buy out of my own money. Express Scripts does NOT COVER the cost of the testing strips that are compatible with my glucometer, and as an insulin user, I have to test. And testing three times a day is the average for me on finger sticks. That’s about $2.40 a day in strips alone for every day I have to wait. At this point, you’ve given me the information I need, and I need to get that ball rolling. This is all I need; thank you for your time, good day.

I drop that call, and call my doctor’s office, tell them what’s going on and get them to fax over a fill to my local FredMeyer Pharmacy, figuring that if anyone would have them in stock within the next 24 hours, it would indeed be them. Plus, with their longer hour availability, I would have a chance to get in to the pharmacy and pick this up before it’s too late.

I call FredMeyer that evening and ask if they got the order, and when I could pick it up, and the poor tech had to tell me that insurance is denying the fill.

If you see a smouldering pylon off to the east, that’s the Express Scripts office. They’ve goofed me up on this. They told me to have my office send this over because the mail order isn’t going to arrive on time, I said.

Don’t worry, fam, I gotchu. That’s the short version of what I got back. “Hey, don’t worry. We’re going to call them now to get an override. Can we call you back?”

I get a call back eight minutes later, and was told to swing by in an hour.

I do so, and the tech apologized — they didn’t have two sensors in stock, so I’d need to come back the next day. They offered to text me when the sensors arrive, saying they unpack their pharmaceuticals mid-day. Sure, I’ll take a text, but won’t be in until about 17:30, 18:00 or so.

I’m completely okay with this, because I have a hard arrival time on the board, and it’s a number before sensor depletion time. Thank you, thank you, I’ll come back tomorrow. Buy some groceries, go home, and rest.

Oh, and that reader I didn’t order had arrived.

~ 29 Hours of Sensor Time Remain ~

Friday evening. I hadn’t received a text, but I’m dead set on going to the pharmacy anyway, and if I have to camp out in the pharmacy area until the next morning, at least there’s food and a bathroom, and some furniture. But I was not planning on leaving without sensors, even if I had to ask the cash price and buy one right then.

Different pharmacy tech, and I ask for my prescription. “You don’t have any prescriptions.”

Nope. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Nuh-uh. Re-evaluate. Are you certain, I ask her. I was here yesterday, and was told that a pair of Freestyle Libre Sensors were ordered and should’ve arrived on today’s truck. Express Scripts screwed up a mail order, and I have 28, 29 hours left on the one I’m wearing. I really need them.

A screenshot from Freestyle's LibreLink app
At the bottom, the system is counting down in HOURS to replacement time.

She checks, and does see the scrip as well as sensors in stock, but also reports that Express Scripts is blocking the fill because of the mail order. I went through this yesterday, and Express Scripts was called for an override to be authorized. Now I’m about to start panicking.

At that point, I’m visibly distressed, feeling like I’m being punished for doing the thing my insurance has mandated, and I just want to cry.

The tech was very comforting. “Hey, don’t panic. Have a seat — we’re going to call them again to get this fixed. We’ll get this taken care of.”

So I sit. And I tweet a bit of acid about Express Scripts, with a very overt thanks to my local FredMeyer Pharmacy.

And ten minutes elapse… with the tech calling me up. They’ve got the refill. There are TWO sensors. I’ll TAKE IT. I thank her and the pharmacist profusely, and take delivery of two units. I now have a backup in case of emergency that I can rotate into the cycle, and I have one for my sensor day.

I’ve never had such an ordeal in getting a prescription, and no-one should ever have to do that much chasing and fighting to get something that they’ve been prescribed.

Express Scripts should feel shame for making this such an arduous task, as well as being rather environmentally unfriendly. Medicines that need refrigeration, as well as equipment that contains lithium-chemistry based batteries should not be REQUIRED to be mailed to the home. I should be allowed to walk into a pharmacy of my own choice and get a three month fill of these. Don’t mandate that I have to use a specific national chain that begins with a W for three month fills — no-one’s paying for my Lyft to get there and back when I have to go late in the evening or on a weekend.

Instead, I have to take delivery of a big styrofoam crate with ice packs inside for two different medicines quarterly, and no, they won’t synchronize the prescriptions to send them all together.

Tell you what, Express Scripts: Honor a prescription for an electric bicycle of my choosing, or pay for medical transportation and I’ll show you cost savings: Every time I can go pick up my own prescriptions in 90 day runs, you don’t spend money on shipping, packaging for shipping, carbon sequestration (because I know big companies like to do that to look carbon neutral), logistics to pack meds, and all that.

By making sure I actually have access to my medicine, it lowers the chance of negative impact to my health.

Personal Update

Re-homed: Lick dot Blue.

This past weekend, the webhost I had been using, Bigfoot Hosting, decided they were going to give a near-zero warning shutdown of their services.

A quick readthrough of LowEndBox shows that several hosts sent out the same form letter, announcing their imminent closure on the 9th of December.

Right… in time… for the holidays.