Friday, December 23, 2022

And so this is Christmas. Or will be tomorrow.

Tomorrow's Christmas Eve and, as far as I'm concerned, Christmas Eve = Christmas. 

My family is coming over, and we will sit around eating, drinking, talking (this is, after all, my family), and gazing at my tree.

I've had bigger trees. And better looking ones, I suppose. But as long as it's real, as long as it's balsam, as long as I manage to get all the ornaments that I love on it, I'm happy.

So, Merry Christmas/Merry Christmas tree to all.

In keeping with Pink Slip tradition, we're taking the week after Christmas off, and will return in 2023.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

It's the most wonderful day of the year. Well, almost.

Yesterday was the one I always dread. Shortest day of the year. Darkest evening. 

On that darkest of days, this little horse always gives her harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake. So very, very dark. So very, very early. Look out the window a bit after 4 p.m. Darkness, darkness. Will it ever get lighter? Will it ever get better?

Fortunately, there's today. 

And things are on the upswing.

Oh, it's a miniscule difference at this point, but each day, there's more and more light at the end of the daily tunnel. And I cherish it.

By mid-January, it will actually be noticeable.

But just knowing it's here makes me feel a lot better.

It's certainly no accident that so many cultures in the Northern Hemisphere picked December for celebrations that somehow involved light. These celebrations are diversionary tactics from the dark and gloom. And they pretty much work.

Boston usually keeps the Christmas lights up in the Common until the first of February. Somehow, the combination of more light in the evening and the brilliantly colored lights (especially surrounding the Frog Pond, where the skaters are already out in full force) makes it easier to cope with dark and dreary.

But even without the assist of colored lights, a little light at the end of the day does my soul good.

Let there be light! (Or to show off my fancy Latin skills: fiat lux!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Ridiculous but Awesome Goop Guide

I love my annual trip over to to see just what Gwyneth Goop has curated for me. 

This year, unfortunately, I have not had the time to give all of her tasteful, artful, goopful gift collections the once over. So I thought I'd concentrate on the Ridiculous but Awesome Gift Guide. Because if there's anything I think of when I think Gwyneth Paltrow - which, admittedly, I seldom do - it's ridiculous but awesome.

In truth, I was a bit disappointed.

There were a few pricey pocketbooks. Sure the prices - ranging from $6K+ to $8K+ - are absolutely ridiculous, but the bags weren't all that awesome. I'd put the wonderful periwinkle Dooney & Bourke bag I got for (comparatively) next to nothing at Nordstrom Rack up against any of the R but A bags.

If you are hell bent on getting into the Gucci bag world, without it setting you back a ton of coin, Goop does recommend tiny little Gucci purse you can use to hold your dog poop pickup bags. It's only $420 and is definitely an upgrade from the little black plastic, bone-shaped poop bag holders most dog owners sport. But really?

Did I forget to mention that the collection includes a Chanel bag: price available on request?

Hard pass.

For the fellows, there are a number of Rolex watches. But haven't Rolexes, whatever the price, been pretty much done to death? Yawn.

Gwyneth did promise us ridiculous. And awesome. And she does deliver, even if the ratio of ridiculous to awesome isn't exactly 1:1. More like 10:1. (I guess if you consider that much of the awesomeness is in the price, the ratios settle down.)

Thus, I'll give you:

The satin baguette holder, because who wouldn't be willing to pay $239 (sacre bleu!) for a baguette holder. Frankly, I'm surprised that Gwyneth hasn't seen how Parisians carry their baguettes: in their shopping tote, under the carrier arm on their bicycle, under their very own personal, sweaty arm. (Not that Parisian women sweat, mind you. Neither, I suspect, does Gwyneth.)

And frankly, this baguette holder looks like it's going to a funeral.

Flamingo Estates sells a sack of shit for only $75. But I was disappointed to find that the SoS is not made up of flamingo crap but, rather, more pedestrian "free-range goat, horse, chicken, and cow manure." What ever's in it, it's supposed to work wonders on your roses.

There's a $50 hair color kit for dogs which just makes me sad. Sure, when I was a kid and saw pictures of pink and blue poodles in Look Magazine I thought they were swell, but I really don't think anyone should be dyeing their doggos. As they say, we don't deserve dogs. And dogs deserve better than being toyed with.

At least the price isn't that high.

Even better, price wise: a six pack of neon toilet paper for only 18.75 Euros. (Wasn't the pastel colored toilet paper of the 1960's phased out because the dye was good for neither tush nor environment. So whatup with neon?)

There's a joint-roller for $299 which, come to think of it, is a not so bad idea. It's been five decades or so, but when I first rolled a joint, I didn't. My friends and I would buy a pack of unfiltered cigarettes (think Camels), shimmy the tobacco out, and stuff the emptied cig with sinsemillia. Of course, out of embarrassment, we all eventually learned to roll a joint in Zig Zag cigarette papers, (fake) expertly licking the paper to seal it and twirling the edges. But, as with skiing, I never did it often enough to get really good at it. So, a joint-roller. Come on down. (Or is it up?)

Goop suggests a companion product: $3,900 worth of snacks. I guess that would save you the post-smoke run to the grocery store for a frozen pan of Sara Lee brownies. (As I recall, even though you have to gnaw on it, frozen Sara Lee brownies ain't all that bad. As I recall...but that's a good five decade recall...) 

In the mid-range of the R but A collection, where the ratio of ridiculous to awesome is totally out of kilter, there's a spa day for $40K. Okay, it does include an overnight. Still, $40K???

But that $40K would be cheaping out, compared to $286,595 for a 3-night stay at each of three swank New Zealand lodges. I'd like to know how they came up with a number like $286,595. It seems so ridiculously precise. But if I do the math, this is way less than $40K per night in the spa, isn't it?

So much ridiculous. So much awesome. So little time.

Curate on, Madame Goop. You've almost got Ridiculous but Awesome down pat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Oh, dear

I have, blessedly, very little experience with nursing homes.

Both of my grandfathers died young, and neither of my grandmothers spent any time in a nursing home.

My Grandmother Wolf died in the hospital, but she had been living in her own home and - at the age of 78 - still shoveling her own snow. (When she died, I was 29, and 78 seemed like such great old age to me. The thought of someone shoveling snow at 78 seemed just preposterous. Little did I know.)

My Grandmother Rogers died in my Aunt Margaret's house, a month short of making it to 97. One of her brothers, my Great Uncle Pat, also made it to great old age, but spent the last couple of years of his life in a nursing home. Curiously, it was right next to my grandmother's house, just up the hill. She was still in her home when Pat was in Clark Manor, and she could hobble out to her porch (in Worcester parlance, her piazza) and wave to Pat standing in his nursing home window.

Next generation: my father (age 58) and most of my uncles died young - or at least youngish. Not one made it much past 65. My mother's brothers: dead at 45 and 52. So, no nursing homes for them.

My mother died (age 81) in a hospital, but she was living pretty independently up until the end. A year before she died, she had sold the house we grew up in and moved into a congregate, lightly assisted facility just across the street from her parish church. She could walk to daily Mass. Hallelujah! She had a lovely one bedroom apartment, two meals a day, and light housekeeping and laundry taken care of. Hallelujah! 

While she did died in a hospital, she almost died with her boots on, as she had three trips (Chicago, Cape May NJ, and Vienna and Prague) in the works when she embarked on the ultimate journey.

My Aunt Margaret (85) did die with her boots - make that pumps - on. On the day she died, she drove out of her driveway in the home of 60 years, went to Mass, went to the Star Market, went to the library, drove home and parked in the driveway, and took what turned out to be her final nap. Oh, and she was shoveling and chopping ice up until the end, if her son-in-law or grandsons didn't get over there quickly enough for her liking.

Peg's death is how everyone wants to die. (As a kid, I remember the nuns yammering on about praying for a happy death. Happy death? Say what? What's happy about death. Now I get it. If I prayed, I'd pray for a happy death. Just like Aunt Margaret's.)

My incredible Aunt Mary did die in a nursing home. Incredible because she lived independently until a few years before her death. She moved into an assisted living facility, but her health declined and she required a high level of care (heart, mobility and vision issues), so she had to go into a nursing home. Perfectly fine nursing home, but she was miserable.

When I say that Mary was incredible, I mean incredible. She was tough, smart, sharp, with it, active. Up until near the end of life, if someone told you she was 10, or even 20, years younger than what was on her birth certificate, you'd believe it. 

I didn't get to see Mary very often, as she lived in Chicago, but it was only once she was in the nursing home that she sounded like an old lady on the phone.

My generation: the two deaths of those closest to me - my husband, and my oldest and dearest friend - happened in hospice. Jim had just turned 70, Marie was 64. Too young, way too young. And way too young for nursing homes.

But many people - even at a relatively young age - do need the level of care provided by a nursing home. 

Good luck to them...

As was reported in the Boston Globe the other day, there's a labor shortage writ large in the nursing home industry. Chalk it up to low pay and poor working conditions. Covid burnout. Just plain regular burnout. Immigration crackdowns.

The nursing homes around here are short of staff. Many have had to cut the beds they offer, and hospitals are left scrambling trying to find places to discharge elderly patients to when they require care that they can't get in their homes. 

One nursing home mentioned in the article:
...spends $10,000 a month advertising nursing home jobs...[and] offers registered nurses $4,000 signing bonuses and takes over their student loan payments when they come onboard. (Source: Boston Globe)

Even with enticements like these, "...more than a third of 180 staff positions are vacant."

Staff are being pressured to work extra hours, pushing many of them out the door. 

At a time when people have been quitting their jobs at record rates, nursing homes have been dealt a particularly devastating blow. The labor shortage was an issue well before the pandemic, and now it’s ballooned to historic highs, with 6,900 open nursing staff positions in long-term care facilities across the state — a 22 percent vacancy rate, according to the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, an industry trade group. Most of these skilled nursing facilities are heavily dependent on Medicaid reimbursements, which means pay is typically less competitive than in hospitals or other health care facilities. The number of immigrants, many of whom work in nursing homes, has also fallen sharply.
Meanwhile, our population (including - ugh! - me) is aging. 

Add on that a lot of nurses are leaving the direct patient care side of the nursing profession or working for temp agencies, often - for the young - traveling around the country from gig to gig in cities they want to live in for a while. Temps get paid more than staff professionals, and can refuse night and weekend work. No surprise that tensions can run high.

Then there are the workers lower down the skill totem poll: aides, building and grounds, cleaning, food service. The lower the wages a worker earns, the more likely they are to be enticed by another job, even if it only means making a buck or two more an hour.

So, yes to more services that help the old and frail stay in their homes. 

But that'll only get you so far.

When someone has greater impairments, they need to be in a place where there's 24/7, skilled nursing care. And let's not even get into Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases.

So, yes to opening up immigration to help fill in some mighty big gaps.

Oh, dear.

This picture? That's me, off to utter an atheist's prayer for a happy death.

Oh, dear.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Are there suckers born every day, or is it money launderers.

I've got to hand it to Trump. He never fails to amaze me with the tawdry, grifting, ridiculous stunts he continues to pull.

The most recent is, of course, his much heralded sale of a series of digital DJT collector cards. NFT's of course. (Trump collector cards: trading cards :: Trump University: education. There's no there there.)

You need to look through the entire array of Trump cards to fully appreciate the breadth and depth of Trump's idiocy, foulness, narcissism, grift.

The digital cards are poorly photoshopped, with a slenderized version of the Trump face imposed on an image that represents the fantasy world version of DJT. Trump as hunter, as Hollywood mover and shaker, as Wall Street darling. Astronaut. Superb athlete - pick a sport, any sport. Sheriff tough guy. Super hero.

What an ahole. 

But that's not exactly news.

What is news is that these limited edition NFT's have sold out, "earning" Trump over $4.5M for something that probably cost about 100 bucks to produce. 

Were people buying them as a joke? Talk about the ultimate Yankee Swap gag. Are the credulous ninnies and/or Q-ites who lap up his every everything paying "good" money (they're purchased using crypto, so the word "good" doesn't exactly apply) to buy this nonsense?

Or is this just another money laundering scam where money's being funneled by Russians or Saudis into murky accounts where half ends up getting laundered and half ends up padding Trump's wallet? Sure, crypto's been taking a well-deserved hit lately, but it's still a place where you can muck around with dark money transactions. A perfect venue for Trump.

When I first saw pictures of the cards, I started to feel a tiny bit bad for this pathetic bloated blowhard of an old man with a hyperactive Walter Mitty life in which he's lost 100 pounds and 30 years, in which he's assumed all sorts of personas he was too incompetent, weak, and lazy to ever be in real life. But that feeling of pity/sympathy didn't last that long. This is Trump, we're talking here. A terrible man who continues to wreak havoc on our country.

There have been other presidents I didn't like, mostly thanks to their ideology or policies. I

I may not have liked them, but I didn't doubt that they were trying to do what they thought was best for the country. I didn't spend any time worrying that they didn't understand how our government works, what the founding principles of our country are, what makes it great (and sometimes not so great). 

Sure, there were occasional misfires: Reagan with the thinly veiled racism of his "welfare queen." Bush the elder with his Willie Horton acts.

And I also had occasional problems with presidents I actually liked and mostly agreed with. When Clinton was caught up in the Monica Lewinsky brouhaha, I wrote both of my senators (Kennedy, Kerry) asking them to ask Clinton to step down. If, when you hold the most powerful position in the world,  you can't keep your zipper closed to every young woman who comes along, then I think you gotta go.

But Trump is another story entirely.

I can't think of one positive attribute, unless feral survival instinct and the uncanny ability to understand what his audience wants to hear from him count as positive attributes. That an marketing genius, I guess.

Mostly, well, if we played a round-robin game of adjectives describing Trump, we would all grow old and gray before we ran out of things to say. (Okay, I'm already old and gray, but you get the point.)

I hope that, before he can get his sweaty mitts on it, crypto chokes and whatever share of the NFT loot is coming his way is less than he imagined it would be.

What an utter laughingstock. What an utter disgrace.

All I want for Christmas is this rancid charlatan gone.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Interesting caps. That's the post. Interesting caps.

A charity I'm involved with got a wonderful donation of thousands of ball caps - major league teams (all sports), minor league teams, colleges, organizations, clubs, etc. While sorting through, we came across two that everyone is especially enamored of.

This one is quite cute, but had everyone wondering whether there was a team called the Pickle Jars.

Turns out, it's the Fireflies, a minor league team in Columbia, SC, and they've apparently gone back to the drawing boards for their logo.

The new logo doesn't quite do it for me. Because, let's face it, unless it's lighting up a bottle, no one really knows what a firefly looks like. Back to the drawing board...

I actually prefer the Pickle Jar logo to the Firefly, and kinda sorta wish there were a team out there called the Pickle Jars.

Then there was this one:

Well, you can imagine the ribald comments fireflying around when we came across these. 

Turns out it's a very old society - founded in 1908 - to provide athletic and social opportunities for African American men. Their basketball teams were quite prominent in an era of segregation. 

Like many other black fives of that era, the Independents—whose literature advocated, “uplifting the colored athletic standard”—staged social events to raise funds and strengthen camaraderie among athletes as well as to build community awareness. (Source: Black Fives Foundation)

Today, their memory is preserved by the Black Fives Foundation, which has as its mission

To research, preserve, showcase, teach, and honor the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball.

I know a bit about the Negro Leagues in baseball - probably because I'm a baseball fan. But knew little of the early history of basketball. Dr. Naismith and the peach basket...NBA starts becoming more of a thing in the 1950's...And that's about it.

One of the way the Black Fives raise funds is selling caps of the historic basketball teams. 

This little history, of course, makes the name less make-fun-of-able. Instead, it's a good time to think about segregation, and the parallel institutions formed in the Black community that strengthened those communities and helped them thrive.

Still, given the name, I'm really surprised there were any Independent Pleasure Club caps that weren't snapped up. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Toy Hall of Famers, 2022 Edition

I am at present immersed in Toy Land.

I volunteer with Christmas in the City, a charity that focuses on making the holidays a little merrier and brighter for families in need. This weekend, we'll be hosting Jake's Toy Mania. At this event, named after Christmas in the City's founder (the organization's beloved and brilliant Jake Kennedy, who died in 2020 of ALS), families will be "shopping" for free from the toys that have been donated. Sign up closed on Tuesday, but when last I looked, we had nearly 1,000 families registered for Jake's Toy Mania.

I've volunteered for years - pretty much since I met Jake, who did PT on my broken shoulder in 2008. I do a bunch of things, like helping manage corporate toy drives, and opening and sorting the Amazon boxes full of toys that are just flying in. Thus, I am familiar with every possible Disney Princess, Barbie career gal, superhero, remote control car, and Legos kit. Hot Wheels, art kits, Candy Land, jewelry-making kits, soccer balls (out scoring basketballs this year - maybe because of World Cup), cute stuffed animals, Play-Do, anything to do with Crayola, anything to do with Fisher-Price, Doug & Melissa, Leap Frog, or Baby Einstein. You name it, I've unboxed it and put it in a pile with kindred toys.

Admittedly, I like to see old fashioned toys coming through. One the other day made me laugh: a Fisher-Price Classic Chatter Telephone.

What in the world is a toddler going to make of one of these

Anyway, Toys 'r Me these days.

No wonder I forgot all about the recent announcement of the toys that had been chosen for inclusion in the National Toy Hall Fame in Rochester, NY. 

Three toys were picked this year to join:  "the ancient top, cultural phenomenon Masters of the Universe, and beloved Lite-Brite."

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that none of these picks excited me as much as last year's inclusion of the American Girl Doll and sand

The ancient top was the only one I had much experience with. There was something sort of mindlessly numbing about spinning a top, and I enjoyed that aspect of it. But even when I was a kid, the top was not all that much more popular than, say, a hoop to roll. Yes, every home did have a spinning top at one point or the other. But it was on nobody's "must have" toy list.

Masters of the Universe? Hard pass. Not my jam now, and wouldn't have been if they'd been around when I was a kid.

Lite Brite I might have liked, but it wasn't invented until I was well into my high school years. Did my kid sister have one? Well, yes she did. In fact, she has one now (which is actually a relic of her daughter's childhood). 

These three toys were chosen from a list of 12 finalists which included bingo, Breyer Horses, Catan, Nerf, piñata, Phase 10, Pound Puppies, Rack-O, and Spirograph.

How can bingo not already be in the Toy Hall of Fame? Is its reputation as being kid-friendly tarnished by its association with little old ladies playing a dozen cards in the church hall? 

I loved playing bingo as a kid. I demand a recount.

I know what Breyer Horses are, but I was not one of those girls who mooned over horses. Certainly, when I was 8 or 9, reading cheesy books about rich WASP-y boarding school girls, I did a tiny bit of mooning. But mostly it was about the boarding school, not the horse.

Catan? Don't even know what it is.

Nerf, on the other hand, is so versatile that it merits inclusion. If I were on the selection committee, I'd definitely vote Nerf.

Piñata is something I always wanted see in action, but in my 'hood, no one was going to put a weapon in the hands of the blindfolded kid while a bunch of other kids circled around screaming.

Phase 10? C.f., Catan.

Pound Puppies are cute, but no cuter than the average stuffed animal. More of a marketing gimmick than anything special.

Rack-O? I just looked it up and found it came out in 1956. 

Q. How many hours of my childhood were spent playing card games and board games?

A. Countless.

How is it that my card-playing, board-game loving, number-nerdy family didn't have Rack-O? If only my parents were alive to ask.

Spirograph is another one that came out too late for me. I would have liked it and, in fact, I'm pretty sure that on occasion I played with my sister Trish's. (She had one then, and also has one now. She told me that a few years ago Target was selling throwback toys. So...) Anyway, mindless and vaguely arty. Yeah!

Now I got to get back to the toys at hand. Oh, swell, another Lego Kit, another Barbie doll.


Source of info on 2022 Toy Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 2

Yesterday was part one of my annual tribute to the utter nonsense that is the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift Catalog. To finish up my virtual non-shopping spree, I give you:

A weekend in Napa ($175K)
There are worse things I can think of than having to endure a weekend in Napa Valley. Sunny, gorgeous, great food, wineries. What's not to like? And yet, spending over $175K for that weekend. I'd have to think twice. Maybe even three or four times. 

Sure, the weekend includes a private cooking class at the Culinary Institute of America. And a round of golf at a sunny, gorgeous Napa course.  And a three night stay at the Auberge du Soleil. 

Auberge du Soleil...

I've never stayed there, but I have dined there. Many, many, many years ago, my husband and I spent a weekend in Napa and had a lovely lunch, on the outdoor patio. I can't remember what I ate, but it was wonderful. I can't remember what I drank, either, but it was wonderful, too.

What was even more wonderful was that, knowing we wanted wine without worry, Jim and I taxi'd over and back from the perfectly nice but not crazily luxurious nearby place we were staying. 

The weather was glorious, but that more or less comes with the territory. Still, $175K (especially given that travel is not included) is steeper than the driveway up to Auberge, even if part of this gift is a set of fancy Hestan cookware. Admittedly, I've never heard of Hestan, but I take their word that it's plenty luxe, chalking my ignorance up to how little I hang around Sur la Table.

Not that I'm any good at it, but I love mini-golf. Everything from picking the right colored ball to filling out the scorecard with the little golfer pencil. The possibility of winning a free match if you get a hole-in-one on the 18th. All wonderful.

Growing up, there was a junky, standard issue mini-golf in my neighborhood: lighthouse, windmill, whale, some holes that didn't even have anything other than fake grass and a cup. But some of the courses I've been to have been super nice - or at least interesting. 

There was one in Eastham on the Cape we used to go to when we visited my sister in Wellfleet. It sported a couple of coy ponds. Then there was the beautiful old-fashioned course I went to once, in Naples, Maine, on Lake Sebago. Each hole had a Maine theme - lobster trap, Casco Bay ferry - and the course was shady and quite pleasant. 

My brother Tom lives in Ocean Park, Washington, and there's a worn out mini golf course in town that features nursery rhyme characters. 

Then there was the artwork mini golf that was a working exhibit one summer at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass. My company was hosting its annual users group, which always included a fun event. One year, the fun event was dinner at the DeCordova and a round of mini-golf for everyone that wanted to putt. Each hole was designed by a different artist, and a number of them had a provocative political theme, which made some of our customers a bit uncomfortable. The one I remember best had as its theme violence against women. Every time you hit certain parts on this hole, you could hear a tape of a woman getting beaten. Not quite the fun one usually associates with mini-golf. 

A kinder, gentler mini-course is, of course, possible. And if you're willing to spend big bucks on it, you can have your very own course designed by Cole and Jencey Keeton who are "immersive and experiential art installation efforts" whose design company is Sweet Tooth Hotel. 

Sweet Tooth Hotel will bring the joy and wonder of outer space to your doorstep and install a space-themed, nine-hole mini golf course on your property. Start your intergalactic journey with a sparkling shooting star at the first hole, the astronaut experience at holes two and three, then blast off with a seven-foot-tall rocket ship at hole four. Holes five and six will have you navigating your way through antigravity and a mysterious black hole, and as you reach the other side of the galaxy at the final three holes, a new planet awaits your discovery! 

Just darned my luck that I don't have a backyard to put it in. So I'll have to take a pass on this one. 

But for some lucky family who can drop $190K on something there kids will be bored with within a nanosecond, FORE!

Your Very Own Perfume ($65K)
I don't wear perfume, so this is a non-starter, luxury gift-wise. The experience is getting to meet "one of the world's most celebrated perfumers, Francis Kurkdjian," whose
"internationally acclaimed brand has become renowned for visionary fragrance."

(Am I the only one tripping over the notion of a fragrance that's visionary?)

Anyway, you'll convene with Mr. Kurkdijian in Paris, and after your convo, he'll brew up a personalized perfume for you - and send you home with six bottles, plus a couple of "leather perfume bottle travel pouches" from Atelier Renard Paris.

Sorry, but not in the market for a visionary fragrance. 

Shooting Hoops with Scottie Pippen & Son ($333,333)
Remember Scottie Pippen? He was a super player for the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era. And I'll give you three guesses what his number was. If you guessed 33, well, what a good little guesser you are!

Anyway, if you buy this one,’s your and a friend’s turn to play with this dynamic father-and-son duo [Pippen's son Scotty is a recent Vanderbilt grad who plays for the Lakers] and learn a  trick or two on the court. Following the shootaround, unwind and recap with a private dinner hosted by Pippen and Pippen Jr. As a final slam dunk to your day, sample Pippen’s premier bourbon whiskey, Digits, and then take home an autographed copy of his best-selling book “Unguarded.”

I can imagine that for a roundball fan who also likes to shoot playground hoops, this would be a really exciting adventure. And I'll give the Pippens a lot of credit here. Each of the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts includes a donation to a charity designated by the person who's doing the fantasy fulfilling. These donations run the gamut, depending on price of the gift and generosity of the person selling the gift/experience. If you buy the tiara, $160K goes to a good cause. If you buy the Christmas decoration, there's a $10K donation. (Mostly, the donations are in the 5-10% range.)

Scottie Pippen and son are donating a whopping $278K of the $333,333 gift price to Chi Prep Academy, "a not-for-profit program that promotes high standards through academics, entrepreneurship, and athletics." (Wonder if the person doing the buying gets some sort of passthrough tax donation...)

Bravo, Pippens!

Meanwhile, I text asked an old friend who worked at Neiman Marcus for years whether anyone ever bought anything from the Fantasy Catalogue. Here answer: "Yes!" And when I responded with a "Yikes!" she added "It's all relative...I guess."

If you can afford a $3.2M tiara, you can afford a $3.2M tiara.

I guess...

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Neiman Marcus - Who's Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 1.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is checking out what outrageously expensive and idiotic items have made their way into the year's edition of the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift Catalog

So if you haven't finished your shopping, you might consider:

Cartier Diamond Tiara ($3.2 Million)

The write-up on this gift tells us that "the tiara is a coveted piece of jewelry often passed down from generation to generation, rarely leaving a family's possession." I'm quite sure that if we had a family tiara, it would absolutely have been passed down. I just wouldn't have gotten it. Depending on how many generations it had been in the family, it would either be in the possession of a fourth cousin twice removed or, if coming from my either of my grandmother's: on my father's side: my cousin Barbara, the first granddaughter; or on my mother's side: my sister Kathleen, the first granddaughter. Barbara would also have possession if the tiara was passing down from my great-grandmother Margaret Joyce.

But whichever side or generation the tiara was coming from, the truth is that we're not exactly a tiara wearing family.

Margaret Joyce? I believe she worked as a maid in a fancy house when she came over from County Mayo. And my maternal grandmother? She came from a long line of farmers, and when she, my grandfather, and my mother immigrated in the 1920's, Grandma Wolf worked as a cleaning lady until my grandfather's business as a butcher got off the ground.

Alas, not a tiara-wearer in the bunch!

But in this day and age, unless you're a member of the British Royal family, is there any call for a tiara?

I guess the bride could wear it at her wedding. But I'm scratching my head trying to think of a family member who had a tiara-style wedding. And I'm coming up empty.

As tiara's go, this one's pretty pretty: 1935 vintage - the Depression, as you well know, called for a ton of tiara occasions - and has an Art Deco design. And if I'm not mistaken, the tiara can be used as a necklace, which is great, since there are a lot more necklace-wearing occasions than there are tiara-wearing locations. Or so one would think.

But be warned: the price does not include shipping.

Barbie Maserati ($330K)

If $3.2 million prices you out of the tiara market, you might have the scratch to drop $330K on a Barbie-themed Maserati. (Remember when Barbie used to be satisfied tootling around in her camper or her Beetle?) Well, out with the old Barbie, in with the Barbiecore new.

With a legacy of influencing style and culture, this luxe ride is inspired by female empowerment and the pink phenomenon known as “Barbiecore.”

Because nothing says female empowerment like a tricked out Barbie-pink ride. Especially one that only comes with an automatic transmission. Real empowered females drive stick! Alas, Maserati hasn't made a manual transmission car since 2006.  

Make Mattel’s philosophy “You Can Be Anything” a reality, and don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have your very own dream car.

Silly me, I know, but I'm thinking that an empowered female who believes that she can be anything wouldn't be caught dead powering around in a Barbie-branded car.

Experience Polo ($295K)

A tiara may be "The Headgear of Queens," but it you want to meet the sort of fellow who can make you a queen - or at the very least a princess - you might want to hang around with those who play polo, "The Sport of Kings." 

This gift is a two night stay in a swanky hotel in Aspen, where among other goodies, you'll have a private lesson with "world-renowned polo players Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras and Melissa Ganzi." This likely presumes you actually need to know how to ride a horse, so include me out. 

But there's also a match to watch and a custom Casablanca polo jersey. And here I thought Ralph Lauren was luxe...

Christmas Decorations by Jim Marvin ($190K)

As I write this, my Christmas decorations aren't yet up. My tree - bicycled over here from the Seaport by a young fellow who told me that he had recently won the title of fastest bicycle messenger in the world - is in the stand (where the world's fastest bicycle messenger secured it), but it's still undecorated. I have a bunch of amaryllis plants sprouting in the kitchen. And the Christmas-y red plaid table cloth is on the table. Other than that, it's not yet beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.

If only I had a spare $190K, I could have myself a merry little house decoration done by Jim Marvin, who's done trees for the rich, the famous, and the White House. (Did he have anything to do with Melania's blood-red, scary Handmaid's Tale trees a few years back?)

Marvin’s classic, elegant style will ensure your newly adorned surroundings shine bright and leave guests in awe. Deck your halls with a collection of designer trees, garlands, wreaths, lighting, stockings, and tabletop decor that you’ll treasure forever.

I already have Christmas decor that I'll treasure forever.  Ornaments that graced my grandmother's tree. Ornaments from my parents' first Christmas tree. Ornaments that I've gotten during my travels or received as gifts. A picture of me taken the moment I stopped believing in Santa Claus. A metal reindeer wreath I got at Crate & Barrel a million years ago. (My sister Trish has the same one.) My mother's Christmas elf small table cloth. Her Christmas candle S&P shakers. (Which I don't use, because I'm worried about 1950's era lead paint.) Vases. Pitchers. And all those serving dishes...

Christmas to me is about family, friends, my history, my nostalgia. Why would I want someone else's concept of the beautiful replacing decorations that actually mean something to me? When I get my tree decorated, I'll pause when I hang so many of the ornaments and think for a moment about where and whom I got them from. I'll be playing cornball Christmas music, singing along and loving every moment of it.

I don't need my decorations to be perfect. I want them to mean something. And that's enough for me!


More tomorrow on the Fantasy Catalogue. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

A 2013 bobblehead? That'll make it all better.

Well, as anyone who lives in New England knows (that is, anyone other than those residing in Western Connecticut/NY burbs/Yankees territory New England), Red Sox fans are in an uproar over the news that our beloved shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, is shipping out of Boston to join the San Diego Padres.

Xander isn't a "generational talent." He's probably a marginal Hall of Famer. But he's a super good player, a clubhouse leader, well-regarded in the community, adored by the fans, an all-round good guy with no reputational dings, and a home grown player (came up through the Red Sox organization) who wanted to stay in Boston.

Alas, the Red Sox - who could have locked him up last spring with a good offer, rather than the insulting offer they put in front of him - let him slip away, even though they claimed that signing him was a priority. (Readers: it was not.)

Fans are totally up in arms.

When Mookie Betts departed a few years back, fans were pissed. Mookie was everything Xander was, plus a "generational talent" destined for Cooperstown. If I'm still alive when he makes it there, I will be brokenhearted if he's wearing a Dodgers cap on his plaque. So, while I'd be rooting against the Dodgers anyway, here's hoping that, while Mookie's team won the World Series in the weird and truncated covid season of 2020, they never win again during Mookie's career. Anyway, what we all knew with Mookie is that he wanted to test the waters and get a huge contract, and that he didn't care one way or the other whether he stayed with Boston. Fans were upset, but nothing like what's going on with the Bogaerts news. Especially since most of us gloom and doomers (i.e., lifelong Red Sox fans) anticipate that the next home grown talent in line, Raffy Devers - who, like Mookie, is generational - will probably get the same shabby treatment from the Red Sox.

The comments in the Globe articles, on Twitter, in the air are just brutal. 

Fans want Chaim Bloom - the GM who was said to be "stunned" when he heard that Xander was leaving - gone. (If Bloom was indeed stunned then he's the only person in the USA who doesn't know how sports agent Scott Boras - who reps Bogaerts - operates.)

Fans want owner John Henry to sell the team, since it's pretty clear that he's willing to field a last place, non-competitive, lackluster team as long as fans keep buying tickets, merchandise, and TV (NESN) subscriptions. He may be in for a surprise this year. Sure, fans will calm down by the time the season starts, but unless the Red Sox can somehow redeem and resurrect themselves, I think they're looking at fewer fans in the seats, fewer eyeballs on NESN, and lower jersey sales.

I usually go to a few games each year, and watch part of most games on TV, but I'm going to be in wait and see mode. My favorite game is the one played on Patriots' Day. Will I forgive them in time to get tickets? Probably. But that'll be it for me. And I will be super pissed that I'm chump enough to pay through the nose for those Patriots Day tickets.

And it'll be more through the nose than ever, as - after last year's stupendously terrible last place showing - the Red Sox had the gall to raise ticket prices. (In my mind, I'm rehearsing what I'll say when someone from Red Sox ticket sales calls me or emails me, which happens pretty regularly, even though I'm basically a few-games-a-year paying customer. My plan is to say that the only way I'll buy a ticket is if I can get my favorite loge box seats for half price. Which will still be overpaying. The Cubs, which also had a lousy 2022 season, are actually lowering their ticket prices...)

While the Red Sox are destroying fan morale, and likely driving us away in droves, they have come up with some idiotic sweeteners, with a holiday ticket package that comes with some goodies. (Not for everyone who comes to a game, mind you. Supplies of these treasures are limited to those lucky fans who show up early. So they can spend more for the overpriced concessions, which more than makes up for the cost of the mingy little giveaways.)

This offer dropped the same day Xander's departure was announced. You can only imagine fan reaction. I feel a tiny bit bad for the no doubt young folks in the marketing/social media department who teed this one up.

So, come on opening day to watch a bunch of no-name players, a roster which may or may not include Raffy Devers, as I wouldn't put it past the team to trade him away for a banjo-hitting utility player and a bag of balls, and get an Opening Day Magnet Schedule. 

That'll be worth sitting in the cold stands, watching a bad team, in 40 degree weather! But hot chocolate's only $8.50 for a skimpy cup. Oh, wait. That was so 2022. They'll probably be rounding it up to $10 for the coming season.

For the Patriots Day Game, there's a Boston Strong tee-shirt. This will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Marathon Bombing. Patriots Day is always my favorite game of the year, but we'll see if I'm up for getting price gouged. As for the tee-shirt: been there, done that. The Lenox Hotel is at the Marathon finishing line. After the bombing, when Boston's Back Bay pretty much shut down as a crime scene for a couple of weeks, the FBI camped out at the Lenox. My husband and I were regulars in the City Table restaurant there, and when we went back for dinner for the first time, they gave us Boston Strong tee-shirts. So I won't be needing one.

I'd only stay for the May 12th post-game drone show if the drone was guaranteed to carry Chaim Bloom or John Henry away. 

Ah, the 2013 World Championship bobblehead. Who might it be? Xander Bogaerts was on that team. So was Mookie Betts, for that matter. One hell of a team! Good times! Good times! So much of baseball is about history, nostalgia, looking back. But the stark contrast between then and now is not worth celebrating, and probably won't be on May 31st.

I do not want to see anyone wearing a City Connect tank. The colors - Boston Marathon yellow, Boston Marathon blue - are bad enough. But a tank top? Not on the bare arms of 90% of those who'll be wearing it. Not that I was planning on being at Fenway on June 14th. But yuck. Just yuck.

Surprise me. Crazier things have happened. But by September 9th, the Red Sox will no doubt be long-eliminated from any post-season play. And an MLB networking bag won't be getting me out to America's Most Beloved Ballpark.

By September 24th, I predict that the stands will be empty. Rather than let kids run the bases, maybe they should let kids play the game. Now that would be worth seeing.  I will only be there if the tickets are free. Back in the good old days, if you showed up at a late-season, no meaning game in September, they'd actually let you in to watch the last few innings for nothing. Those Red Sox teams were worth every penny. Sadly, I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that the 2023 Red Sox will be worth they same.

Prove me wrong, boys. But spare me the marketing gimmicks.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Bad influencer

Brian Johnson is an influencer, an advocate for "primal living." Social media-ing under the nom of Liver King, Johnson - in just over a year - gained millions of followers across the big three influencer platforms: YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

What's "primal living?" 

It's living the "ancestral" lifestyle, which means relying on a diet that includes "beef brains, bull testicles and raw animal livers."

He urged his followers to lead a lifestyle supposedly modeled after that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. He promoted nine “ancestral tenets” such as daily exercise, sun and cold exposure, proper sleep, social connection, and a controversial meat-heavy diet consisting largely of organ and muscle meats, “organic pastured egg yolks,” bone broth, raw full-fat milk and cheese, fermented vegetables and “wild caught fish eggs.” (Source: WaPo)

As a walker, I'm okay with the "ancestral tenets" of "daily exercise, sun and cold exposure." I'm sort of like the Post Office. I don't do gloom of night, but "neither snow nor rain nor heat" stays this walker from a not-always-swift but dogged completion of her appointed rounds. And I'm all in on proper sleep and as much social connection as an introvert can withstand. 

And, while I don't consume a ton of meat, I do eat some. And some of that - like chicken breast - is muscle meat

But organ meat?

Well, ugh.

I've tried brains, and sweetbreads, and liver. And they're not anything I gravitate toward. Mostly, organ-wise, I take a hard pass. Kidneys? Sorry, there's a bit of a pissy whiff. Heart? I don't like the idea of it. Eating heart seems, well, heartless.

But Liver King claimed that all this yucky eating helped him develop a physique that would be impressive if you're the type of person who's impressed by a physique like this. 

And it helped him bulk up a $100M empire by pushing protein supplements and dried animal organs under the brand Ancestral Supplements.

Turns out that there was more than bull testicles involved in Johnson's success as the Liver King. 

Turns out:

“I lied, and I misled a lot of people,” Johnson said to the camera. “Yes, I’ve done steroids and, yes, I’m on steroids.”

The admission of steroid use came after another fitness influencer posted a YouTube video exposing what he said were private emails in which Johnson described his steroid regimen. It included a litany of drugs and hormones, including regular injections of powerful anabolic steroids such as Winstrol, Deca-Durabolin and testosterone cypionate, as well as Omnitrope, a form of human growth hormone.

By the way, as it turns out, despite the cultish/faddish belief that our ancestors were exclusively meat eater. 

Archaeological evidence shows that humans evolved to eat a wide variety of foods, including many high-carbohydrate foods like fruits, vegetables, starchy plants and honey. 

So there! 

Which is not to say that it isn't a good thing to avoid overindulging in processed foods, junk foods, and M&Ms. 

And it would also be a good thing to avoid things like steroids. (Johnson supposedly spent over $10K a month on Omnitrope, a human growth hormone.)

Long-term steroid use can lead to an enlarged heart, kidney failure, liver damage and an increased risk of stroke or heart attack, as well as extreme mood swings, irritability and impaired judgment, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Nothing ancestral about chomping on steroids and f-ing your body and brain up. 

Johnson supposedly is still taking steroids. No word on whether he's still gnawing on raw liver. 

In any case, he's exposed himself to be a pretty bad influencer.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Sam Bankman-Fried. What's the next act for an erstwhile boy genius billionaire

Tom Brady. Gisele Bundchen. Steph Curry. David Ortiz. Shohei Ohtani. Larry David. Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame. Shaq O'Neal. 

I thought Matt Damon was on the list but, no, his crypto endorsement was for They're deemed one of the safer/better crypto exchanges, but would you really trust any of them?

Anyway, the celeb list headlined by TB12 was, unfortunately, all in for FTX, the now bankrupt crypto outfit.

You have to be a real maroon to take investment advice from a celebrity, just because they know how to throw a football, walk the runway, sink a three-pointer, or tell a deadpan joke. But I'm sure some people saw the ads where all these big names talked about what a good bet FTX is, and decided they wanted in.


Except to raise an occasional skeptical eye toward the entire crypto thang, I haven't paid all that much attention to the spectacular downfall of FTX and its founder and leader, Sam Bankman-Fried. Still, I found the recent news pretty interesting. 

At least $8 billion in customer funds are missing, reportedly used to backstop billions in losses at Alameda Research, the hedge fund he also founded. Both of his companies are now bankrupt with billions of dollars worth of debt on the books. The CEO tapped to take over, John Ray III, said that “in his 40 years of legal and restructuring experience,” he had never seen “such a complete failure of corporate controls and such a complete absence of trustworthy financial information as occurred here.” This is the same Ray who presided over Enron’s liquidation in the 2000s. (Source: CNBC)

Enron, you say? Whoo boy.  (Ever wonder why we have regulations?)

And speaking of boys, I give you Sam Bankman-Fried. Boy genius. Pitchman extraordinaire. Proud wearer of the brass rat (i.e., MIT grad). Major donor to Democratic candidates. "Effective altruist" (i.e., someone who wants his charitable donations to get results). Erstwhile multi-billionaire - "worth" over $20 billion just last month, and now reporting net wealth of about $100K, Oh, how the mighty rich boys have fallen. 

Sorry (the Democrats don't have all that many donors of the Sam Bankman-Fried magnitude)/Not Sorry (everything else) to see the downfall of this crew.

When Bankman-Fried was on his crypto roll, he was apparently quite happy to position himself as a wunderkind who was making big bucks - or the crypto equivalent of big bucks; big bitcoin? - for himself and for others. Now he's changing his tune a bit. 

In America, it is not a crime to be a lousy or careless CEO with poor judgement. During his recent press tour from a remote location in the Bahamas, Bankman-Fried really leaned into his own ineptitude, largely blaming FTX’s collapse on poor risk management.

At least a dozen times in a conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin, he appeared to deflect blame to Caroline Ellison, his counterpart (and one-time girlfriend) at Alameda. He says didn’t know how extremely leveraged Alameda was, and that he just didn’t know about a lot of things going on at his vast empire.

Bankman-Fried admitted he had a “bad month,” but denied committing fraud at his crypto exchange.

"Bad month?" That's putting it mildly. Pretty bad month for his investors, too, no?

It's not yet clear what, if anything, Bankman-Fried will be charged with. He's apparently preparing to mount a "bad businessman" legal strategy to excuse him from any culpability. But if it can be demonstrated that he deliberately misled investors, he could end up doing time. (Both of his parents are professors at Stanford Law, so he should have access to decent - if maybe a bit too academic - legal advice.)

“It sure looks like there’s a chargeable fraud case here,” said [former federal prosecutor and trial lawyer Renato] Mariotti. “If I represented Mr. Bankman-Fried, I would tell him he should be very concerned about prison time. That it should be an overriding concern for him.”

Bankman-Fried claims that he's not all that concerned.  In his interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, when asked about whether he was worried about any legal exposure, he responded:

“I don’t think that — obviously, I don’t personally think that I have — I think the real answer is it’s not — it sounds weird to say it, but I think the real answer is it’s not what I’m focusing on,” Bankman-Fried told Sorkin. “It’s — there’s going to be a time and a place for me to think about myself and my own future. But I don’t think this is it.”

Maybe he'll end up in hot water, criminally. Maybe he'll end up in hot water, civilly. Maybe he'll end up in hot water for both. 

But if I were Sam Bankman-Fried, I'm pretty sure I'd be thinking about myself and my future, and worrying about whether it might involve an orange jumpsuit and bars.

Sad to see young guy - Bankman-Fried is just thirty - who got so caught up in belief in his genius, who had all the hubris in the world, and who was pretty feckless when it came to running his show, that he could end up in prison for a good long time. 

But who knows? F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that "there are no second acts in American lives," but I don't believe that for a crypto minute. 

Maybe he'll end up in the same prison as Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos infamy. Maybe they'll put their heads together and cook up an idea that's actually workable and doesn't require fakery and BS to "succeed."

Maybe something that Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, et al. can lend their names to without ending up looking like fools. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Imagine, someone's giving private equity a bad name. (Tsk, tsk.)

Who among us hasn't done something petty and ridiculous, only to regret it a nanosecond (or two) later? A fit of pique. Or maybe just a fiteen of pique. 

It's been known to happen.

But most of our temporary sprees of insanity don't do all that much damage

Slamming the phone down on the customer service rep bot; kicking the whatever out of our way; realizing, while self-checking out, that you forgot to get what you came for, and tossing the can of soup you didn't come for onto the carton of eggs you didn't come for either, and tossing it so violently that you crack three of the eggs you didn't come for.

Mostly, no harm, no foul.

Mostly we feel a teensy tiny bit embarrassed that we lost it. If another person was on the receiving end, we may need to sheepishly apologize.

But most of these little episodes really aren't all that harmful, other than to the pride we hold that we're not the type of person who throws little shit fits.

Then there's Marc Wolpow.

I don't know Marc Wolpow, but he's a Boston big deal. He's a Wharton, Harvard B School, and Harvard Law alum. He worked for Bain Capital. He co-founded and heads a deep pocket private equity firm.  He's on the board of Children's Hospital, one of the most prestigious non-profit board seats in our little burg.

So, a fancy, credentialed, big buck kind of guy, Marc Wolpow.

And also, apparently, something of a jerk. At least on occasion.

Marc Wolpow's occasion occurred in October on Nantucket. That's when he:
...allegedly found an unknown boat in the slip he uses on Old North Wharf on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 16. Believing it should not have been tied up there, Walpow taped signs to the boat’s interior GPS screens that read “Parking By Permit Only. Violators Will Be Towed" and then untied the vessel, allowing it to float
free into the Easy Street Basin.

The 32-foot Hunt center-console boat - ironically named "Fair Play" - is worth approximately $500,000. After Wolpow untied it, the boat drifted dangerously past Steamboat Wharf, got pushed northward in the wash of the car ferry the M/V Woods Hole, then collided with the $5 million, 70-foot Viking sportfishing boat "El Jefe" causing damage to that vessel. It eventually ran aground near 22 Easton Street. (Source: Nantucket Current)

God knows, it's annoying when someone borrows or outright takes something that's yours, something that you were counting on. So, go forth and be annoyed.

But it's not as if Wolpow was trying to nose his own boat into a slip. His boat was already out of the water for the season.

He just saw someone had taken up occupancy in his unneeded space and went to town.

If Wolpow had taken a deep breath and asked someone, he would have found out that the person who'd temporarily tied the Fair Play up in Wolpow's slip had gotten permission to do so from the wharf co-op representative. Which is, according to everyone who is not Marc Wolpow, the chummy, clubby custom of those who slip their tubs in and out of Old North Wharf.

But Wolpow just saw that boat there, and he started seeing red. Presumably, Nantucket Red. 

Sure, Nantuckers do get riled up. But not riled up enough to actually do anything that could hurt someone else's pricey boat. 
“I’ve heard people threaten to untie someone’s boat a thousand times over the years, but this is the first time that I know of where somebody actually did so,” [Harbormaster Sheila] Lucey said. She declined to comment further on the incident.

Damage estimates are pretty high, as one might expect given that Fair Play is worth half-a-mil, and El Jefe is a $5 mil boat. Initial thoughts are a few thousand bucks worth of damage to Fair Play, maybe upwards of $100K to El Jefe.  

Which Wolpow can, of course, easily pay.

And it could have been a lot worse, of course. Someone and not just something could have gotten hurt. 

George Regan, a spokesman for Wolpow, said Tuesday that his client is sorry.

”Marc has apologized to everyone involved,” Regan said. “It’s no big deal. Everyone will be whole. He’s sorry and life moves on . . . it will never happen again.” (Source: Boston Globe)

I'm sure Marc Wolpow is sorry. And life, as it pretty much always does, moves on. But I'm not sure I completely agree with George Regan that "it's no big deal."

Wolpow has embarrassed himself in front of family, friends, colleagues, and fellow Nantucket boat types. Maybe the ones who really know him are saying "typical Marc." But maybe there are others who are wondering if this is a one-shot hiccup in an otherwise exemplary, buttoned down life, or whether a impetuous, snotty a-hole is who he truly is. If nothing else, while life will move on, Marc Wolpow will no doubt be the butt of plenty of jokes moving forward, which may be a bit uncomfortable making. 

On reflection, I do guess that Regan's right about it not being a big deal. I mean, it's not as if Marc Wolpow is giving private equity a bad name or anything...

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Hey, Eli Lilly. You know what would have been a boss move?

A few weeks ago, when Twitter was bonkering around with all the Elon Musk rule changes and general madness, someone declared that they were Eli Lilly and announced that moving forward, they wouldn't be charging for insulin.

Would that have been the case.

The U.S. healthcare system is plenty confounding. 

On one hand, it's considered the best in a the world, a modern day marvel. The rich, the royal fly in from all over the world to be treated at Mass General, Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, M.C. Anderson. Medical breakthroughs happen here with greater regularity than they do most other places.

And yet...

Even people with reasonably good insurance can go broke if the wrong thing happens to a family member at the wrong time. And for those without insurance, well, at least now there's Obamacare. 

We have a growing shortage of medical personnel, further done in by covid's depleting the ranks, and it can take forever to get an appointment with a specialist, unless you're obviously in dire need of care, i.e., you're walking around with your severed head tucked under your arm, bleeding on the specialist's office carpet.

Modern medicine is complex, and our system makes it more complex than it has to be. 

Then there are medical outcomes. Sure, we can discover anesthesia and invent the heart transplant, but however they're measured, American outcomes aren't as good as those in similarly "developed" countries. 

And if our medical system in general is confounding, what are we to make of the drug delivery subset?

Knock on wood, but I don't have many prescriptions to worry about. I take the lowest dose, generic brand statin, and have a regular need for ear ointment to quell my chronic swimmer's ear. That's about it, prescription-wise.

Even with my limited prescription needs, I have a hard time figuring it out.

I haven't changed my prescription drug coverage since I went on Medicare 8 years ago. Yet some years I pay $81 for a tube of the ointment, while other year's it's $18. 

Others, of course, have it worse. They have to contend with "to cover or not to cover, that is the question" issues, with expensive copays, drugs disallowed, falling into the donut hole, generics vs. branded, formularies, drug tiers. 

Then there are drug costs, which has some folks slipping into Canada to buy at a far lower price than they could find in the U.S. 

One of the worst travesties of the U.S. healthcare system is the charges for insulin.

Basically, Americans pay about 8 to 10 times more for insulin than those who live in other industrialized countries.

So we've all heard the stories of people scrimping with their insulin, rationing a week's supply to last month. We've all heard the stories about people who've died because they've taken this approach.

Yes, starting in 2023, out of pocket costs for insulin will be capped for elders on Medicare at $35 a month. But what about the rest of the population? 

The galling thing about the price gouging is that insulin should really be off patent and cheaper. 

When insulin was first patented, 100 years ago, its inventors - not desiring to make any profit from this life-saving drug - sold the patent for $1. But drug companies - and the insulin market is dominated by a few of them, including Eli Lilly - have made small incremental changes over the years, which allows them to keep selling under their patent. And keep the prices up in the stratosphere, at least in the U.S. where there's never much appetite for regulating pharma. 

And then there was the tweet that could have saved a lot of lives, if it had been true:
The nine-word tweet was sent Thursday afternoon from an account using the name and logo of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., and it immediately attracted a giant response: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”

The tweet carried a blue “verified” check mark, a badge that Twitter had used for years to signal an account’s authenticity — and that Twitter’s new billionaire owner, Elon Musk, had, while declaring “power to the people!” suddenly opened to anyone, regardless of their identity, as long as they paid $8. (Source: WaPo)
Would that it were true.


The tweet apparently set off something of a panic out in Indiana, where Lilly is headquartered. Eventually, they got Twitter to get rid of the fake Lilly account. 

You know what would have been a boss move?

If Lilly decided to bit the bullet and lower the price of insulin.

It's not too late...

If they can sell insulin in Canada for 1/8 of the price they get for it in the US, why the hell not?