Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

27 September 2011

Famous People Born Today (September 27)

I'm sure this is a question that has plagued you
for most of your life:

who are the famous people born
on September 27?

Well, I'll tell you who a few of them are:

there's Shaun Cassidy -

born on this day in that fine year of 1958.

Avril Lavigne, too, popped out
nearly 30 years later --

And then there are the "Birthday Twins," Gwyneth Paltrow and Lil Wayne:

I was looking for similarities in features, and I was going to say we're all blonds,
but Lil Wayne kind of messed up that equation.

So does the Italian/Greek actress Sophia Milos

who probably also has more cleavage than all of us put together. . . 

But the capper came today,
the coupe de grace,
the birth that has finally given meaning
to this humble day in September:

It appears today is the day that Google claims
as the day of its birth --
Yes, the ultimate symbol of the vast power of the internet actually claims
this day
as ITS day,
and offered up a cake. . . 

I'm pleased to share the day of my birth with this,
this blank empty line on your screen on which
you can type any question
and get some kind of answer --

the Oracle of the 21st century,
and I,
aka -- some unknown frustrated academic/writer/clumsy guitarist/singer
share this fine day
as the day of our birth
with all the people named above and more,
perhaps even you.

So I executed my ceremonial changing of my age --
as Makropoulos,
I am now 426, but in something known as reality
I'm about the same age as Shaun Cassidy,
and send birthday wishes to all of you Librans
who always wondered who
might be born
on September 27.

Happy day to you!

22 September 2011

21 September 2011

The Gniggling Gnat


There is a gnat in my brain.
It's a gniggling gnat
plays on the borders of language --
it lays its eggs
there on the threshold between the
                        good and bad, between
                             woman and man, between
                            black and white, between
friend and enemy.

Sometimes, in the gniggling gnat's gnaggling gnoogling
they produce eggs
                                                                 on the wrong side of the right, and
the offspring tries to convince me that
what is wrong is actually right,
what is bad is actually good,
what is white, is actually black,
what is love, is actually hate,
what is female, is actually male . . . 

It tries to turn me against
Me and destroy
all the positive accomplishments
I've gained.

And then I would like to squash it.


But the irony is:
if I squash
my gniggling gnat,
I'll destroy myself


My gniggling gnat
keeps me on task; 
keeps me alert; and it
and I love and hate
all the same, because
it lives there
on the borders of language,
at the place where
love and hate meet, and it
reminds me that both
are one
and capable of living in harmony.

~ ~ 
The gniggling gnat is like the rod in the piston,
like the water in the wheel, like
the combustion in the engine,
like the wind in my hair.

. . . . and I'll go to my 
the spirit I have inside me,
this gniggling spirt,
that gnaggling spirit,
that spirit so capable

of love.

20 September 2011


I do love listening to NPR
in the morning.

Only on NPR can you have the experience
that I had today, while driving.

There was this story about elephants,
and the way they communicate.

It appears that they make a low resonant noise
when they have some kind of distress,
and that noise can be detected from very far away,
and can act as a warning to distant members of their herd
of danger.

What I got from the story
is that no one knows for sure how it is that elephants,
so far away,
can know that one of their number 
is in distress.

I propose that they feel it in their feet --
Frequencies and messages can be detected
in the natural world
by natural beings that are not crippled like us --
most animals use their entire system
to communicate.

I'm sorry to say I can't find a tape of this elephant story that I heard this morning,
Perhaps I heard it in my feet;


I can find recordings of the stories that followed it,
and they were stories about the U.S. congress,
fighting over the budget.

The president thinks we should tax the wealthy more;
and the various factions in Congress
are making their usual noises,
arguing that taxing the wealthy is not the answer,
we should cut spending.

So much chatter,
like the monkeys up in the trees --
but wait --
it's an insult to monkeys to say that.
Monkeys, it appears, are quite wise.

Our leaders keep chattering, 
but no one is listening,
not with their ears or their feet or their hands or their minds.
Everyone just chatters along with the others, 
and not one stops,
except occasionally
when someone dies.

Humans are, perhaps,
the saddest of the earth's creatures,
the most inept,
because even now,
even as
the sound of our collective distress resonates
through the earth,
no one's stopping their rushing around and chattering
to truly listen
to it.
If we would only listen,
with the mentality of the herd creature that we truly are,
perhaps we'd actually find a way to help each other.

But no one is listening,
for the elephants.

19 September 2011

Just Another Day

OK, dear blog-land friends,
I just would like to say
I'm still among the living and the blogging,
my mind has been terrifically occupied these days.

It's called:
The Beginning of the Academic Year.

But I thought I'd check in with this:

I have for some time been interested
in this whole
December 21, 2012 phenomenon:
the rumored end
of the Mayan calendar,
not to mention that moment of
planetary alignment, when
I think our magnetic polar caps
or something like that
are supposed to shift.

And here it is --
my first experience of a 2012 calendar.

it's one put out by the Alzheimer's Association.

And here, above,
as you can see,
is what December of 2012 looks like --

It's worth noting that December 21,
the supposed end of the world and all time
will be a Friday.

It seems suitable.
Perfect day for an End of the World Party.

And I really like this illustration,
as I am certain this is what the world will look like
at the end:

. . . and perhaps we'll all have Alzheimer's,
and perhaps that will be
the End of Time.

~ ~ 

I'm currently reading a book called
by a former classmate of mine,
a man named Tom Perrotta.

It's really a good book --
Perrotta contemplates
what would happen if
a large group of people just
in a "rapture like event."

Heaven forbid it actually be called the Rapture.

Anyway, I haven't finished it yet,
but I heartily recommend it, 
it's just damned good.
In it, the people who leave are not
The Chosen,
and the Leftovers, are, well,
just like you and me.

I won't say anymore right now,
but I feel a longer entry coming on.

In the meantime,
enjoy 9/19/2011,

which, I predict,
will be

quite simply
just another day.

13 September 2011

unfinished symphony

Child of mine,
from my gut
you could ever draw
the sharp breath of life,

by my grief and his
greed, left to
for months on end ---
my aching womb
the only sign
of you.

Ah, to see
your face.

And I, now
to live on the sidelines
of other families' lives,
feeling their love
so deeply,
loving them
so deeply,
yet never quite able
to be one.

Child of mind,
my guilty sadness,
my unfinished symphony --
every note I sing
I sing
                       for you.


to see

your face.

10 September 2011

Remembering 9/11

I've written about 9/11 before on this blog --
my entry called Blood Red Pants documents my own personal memory
of that day.

I don't really want to say too much about it,
yet I want to acknowledge the anniversary.

Because, quite frankly,
we can't forget history --
history is our story
and the story
of the last ten years has been the history
we have written in the wake
of that horrible day --

We do have the power to change this story
if we guide the pen
with no ego,
with no evil,
with a full understanding that history
can and will repeat itself
if we let it.

The best tribute I've heard to 9/11 is Judy Collins' Kingdom Come --

I've posted it before.
I'll do it again.
Thank you Judy,
and may the souls of those who died on 9/11/01
and those who have died
in the decade since,
sacrificed for the sake of 9/11,
in peace.

09 September 2011


It's all about passing
as something you're not.
The passing can be as significant as
a pauper passing as a prince,
as subtle as passing as a blond
when your naturally blond
have begun to dull and face.

I am a woman who strives
for utter truth,
and yet I do it --
I dye my hair.

"I am a true blond,"
I insist
as I await touch-ups
and highlights.

Or at least I was
                          a blond
a decade ago,
or a century ago,
or two.

Born blond, that's me,
and now, I pass
as blond and hopefully appear to be
younger, too,
than I really am.

(  aoltv )

Yes, I'm sitting here, awaiting
color and cut
and admiring the handiwork
of this salon --
4 years straight
voted best in town.

And I'm looking at my fellow
salon clients,
eyebrows slathered in dye,
heads all wrapped in foil,
baking under space-aged dryers,
and I think:
There's no fooling anyone here:
We're all just passing
or trying to pass 
as something we'd much prefer
to be.
A past self we always took for granted;
a future self always changing.
Some of us, if we're lucky
will find
that on the way to passing
each other,
we'll find

( allposters ) 

08 September 2011

Toddlers, Tiaras, and 9/11

Well, I'll tell ya' what --
Even though I,
as a 437 year old woman,
was born during the Renaissance,
right now, I feel
like I was born in the Dark Ages.

while I was looking for the Public Television Channel,
I stumbled onto another channel instead --

Now, I have to tell you --
I don't watch my television much.
People who watch TV a lot
know where their PBS Channel is,
especially if it's what they want to watch,
and they also know where TLC is,
and they probably know what their programming is like.

I know neither because, well,
I don't watch TV.  Instead I practice
this rather arcane past-time called reading
and I write a hell of a lot;
when I do watch TV, I always have to look
for the right channels,
and I sometimes end up watching something
I never intended to watch,
simply because it's so stunning -- sometimes stunningly awe-ful --

Tonight I was looking for a show 9/11 and faith & doubt on PBS, 
and instead, I came upon 

Now I realize most of the television-watching world
knows about this show,
and I know
some of the members of the television-watching world
actually thin that beauty pageants are good
for four year olds.

But honestly,
dear Pageant Mom,
if you've come upon my blog,
and you if you think I'm going to applaud you,
you'd better find another blog to read
right now.
Because I'm going to make you kind of angry.

I cannot, under any circumstances
applaud this:

I can only be appalled by it.

When I started to watch it,
or several minutes, I thought it was a news program like 60 Minutes
covering some scandalous crime against children,
and then, when I started looking for more about the topic on YouTube,
I realized that I was watching an actual TV show about children's pageants,
that has been on for years.  It's a show with followers,
and some of the girls on the show
have become stars.

The more episodes of this I watched,
the more I decided the creators of this program are brilliant,
in a very sick way.  They are pulling a two-way scam
designed to manipulate the minds of a vast number of viewers with only one goal in mind:
to make money.

First, they've creating a show where parents who think
that it would be just grand
to have a child in a pageant,
can watch and affirm that what they want 
is just a fine family past-time:

while at the same time this is a show 
for folks to rip apart; 
it's a show for parents who need to convince themselves 
that even though they really have made mistakes as parents
they are not that bad;
after all, they would never do that:  

In some cases,
the actions of the parents are so outrageous,
that I can't help but wonder if they're acting from a script.
No one could do anything like this
if they really cared about their children --

Furthermore, the show has created a totally new subject for talk television ~ ~

~ ~ ~ and honestly, it doesn't take a great intellect,
it doesn't even take additional reading,
to agree that these parents are abusing their children.

It's a fabulous way, in the end, to entertain a large part
of the American population,
without asking them to think too hard.
And people obviously do watch it, every week.

And meanwhile,
some of us commemorate 9/11,
and we continue to wonder
how it could have happened to us,

It was easy -- the USA was looking the other way,
when it was attacked 10 years ago.

And it still is.

We need to see and remember;
we need to know the true reasons it happened,
and we truly do need to educate our vast population
that continues
to look the other way.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

06 September 2011

. . . and now, a few words from George Bernard Shaw:

. . . a curious little video, 
nicely done --
This is a speech from the George Bernard Shaw play
Man and Superman:

03 September 2011

Today's Diva: Shemekia Copeland

for those of you who don't follow me too much,
I am an academic,
and for the past week or so,
have been a little busy
with prepping for classes
and entertaining visitors.

So blogging has been lower on my list of chores
-- this is not to say I haven't been thinking about blog land --

As I was driving today,
I heard this woman on the radio --

Shemeia Copeland,
and I thought to myself:
now, there's a diva --

and I had to post a couple of her videos.

Happy Labor Day to the USA,

Happy Day to the World  ~ ~

01 September 2011

B [CB] S

I should probably be careful
what I say about this.

I mean honestly, 
it's one of the biggest companies in the U.S. of A.


I would like, for a minute, though,
to consider how this company
with all its many offices and millions of employees
is symbolic of one of the biggest scams 
in the world :

the fundamental emasculation
of the AMA --
and all its many,

But the AMA, of course,
would never let that happen, so
they fight back, and
who gets screwed,
and who has to pay?

You guessed it.


Now, how does this work, you wonder?
It's easy --
witness this statement
from a "provider" to me.

Yes, you are correct --
the provider had something to do with x-ays,
and Makropoulos,
at her tender quattro-centerian age,
is having a little trouble
with her knee.

Nothing major, mind you --
I can still kick,
and I can still
but sometimes, it hurts.

So I went for a knee x-ray.
I have a standard medical insurance policy,
and the x-ray provider submitted their bill
to my insurance company.

When I was in the office for the x-ray, I had offered to pay the "co-pay"
because I knew I had to pay one, and the receptionist said:
"Oh, let's wait and see what your insurance pays."

(For those of you
outside of the U.S. of A.,
let me please explain:
with most standard health insurance policies here,
the patient is required to pay a "co-payment"
for nearly every doctor's visit and procedure
(along with paying huge monthly payments
for the insurance itself.
In my case, my standard co-payment
is $25.00, 
but it can be higher in some situations.)

Had I paid the co-payment,
I would have never had the opportunity to witness
how my insurance actually paid less than I did for the procedure.

As you can see from above--

The provider billed the insurance company $71.00
for my knee x-ray, which took about one minute
lying on a cold shelf below a creaking old roentgen machine;
the insurance company paid $11.71;
the provider adjusted the bill by $37.29,
and then I was billed the
$25.00 co-pay.

Yes, that's right:
when it comes down to cold,
I paid more than the insurance company did for my x-ray.

And I still don't have the results!

I wonder how many
of the average readers out there
truly understand 
how it could be that a bill for $71.00
can be satisfied with a payment of 
(roughly half of the amount billed.)

I'm telling you:
if I sent half of the amount I owed to the gas company
every month,
I wouldn't have heat this winter;
if I paid half of my car payment,
I wouldn't have a car;
if I paid half my 
department store bill,
I'd have a bigger balance,
with interest,
next month.

But miraculously,
the medical industry gets away with paying
half of their bills,
and the insurance companies
keep letting them give xrays.

Now why, one might wonder?

Of course, I'm going to try to explain this because

Once upon a time, Makropoulos worked
in medicine.

She actually managed a medical office.

It was sometime early in the 1980's,
and the insurance companies were just beginning
to figure out and refine
their methods for emasculating
the medical industry.

And they came up with this notion of the 
UCR - "usual, customary and reasonable" payments
right around that time.

And I was kind of amazed, 
even bedazzled by the puzzle the UCR provided --
and it went like this:

The insurance companies asked doctors and other medical practitioners in any given region
to take each procedure they offered
and let the insurance companies know what they charged for it;
then the insurance companies determined the average cost for any procedure,
then they determined the "Usual, Customary & Reasonable" (UCR) for a procedure,
and then they paid a percentage of that.

So, take a usual doctor's office visit.

The doctor was charging $15.00 for it.

When asked, the doctor, and every other doctor in the area,
let the insurance company know that office visits cost $15.00,
and maybe some doctors in that region charged $18.00,
and maybe some charged $12.00,
and they told the truth,
and the insurance companies averaged it all together,
and came up with the average charge of an office visit in that region.

Let's say that average was $15.75

Then, the insurance companies,
led by the Insurance Company of All Insurance Companies,
told the doctors that they would, based upon that average,
declare the "Usual, Customary & Reasonable" charge for an office visit,
which tended to be around 80%.
The UCR for an office visit was then, around $13.00.

The insurance companies,
led by the Mother of All Insurance Companies,
declared that they would pay up to the UCR,
but not more than that.
In fact, most insurance companies then declared that they would only pay
80% of the UCR, and the patient,
or a supplemental insurance,
would be responsible for the difference between the actual insurance payment
and the UCR.

I hope you can follow this --
it's really quite elegant,
and also very convoluted.

Because that was when it really began --

So, guess what happened?
The doctors, 
who really needed $15.00 for each office visit,
were suddenly only getting around $11.00,
if they were lucky,
and they had to decide if they wanted to ask their patients 
to pay the difference.

Some of them did.

Some of them also found, 
with their older patients who,
up to that point always had had health insurance that paid everything,
those older patients couldn't afford to pay the $4 difference,
so the doctors started doing something called
"accepting assignment,"
which fundamentally meant that they would accept what the insurance company paid,
and write off the rest for certain patients.

Some of the doctors also found
that it was getting harder to keep their lights on
and pay the costs of the increasingly expensive and refined equipment,
so the doctors in any given region
all got together and said:
"let's start charging $25.00 for an office visit."

And they did.

And then when the big insurance companies again, after a year or so,
did an average of the cost of office visits,
they found their average went up,
and the UCR went up,
and the doctors got the $15.00
that they really wanted for their office visits.

Well, they actually got around $18.00,
but there's inflation, isn't there?

And so the cycle began:
doctors increasing prices regularly to nearly double what they really needed;
insurance companies using complex equations and cogitations
to tell them they would only get a certain amount of that,
which tended to be
about half of what the doctors charged.

At a certain point,
it got ridiculous,
because patients were being asked to pay the difference between
a $75.00 bill for an office visit,
and the $30.00 the insurance company agreed to pay for it,
and more and more patients were asking their doctors
to accept assignment on them.

about the time I decided I had to get out of that industry,
the insurance companies started pressuring all doctors to accept assignment
on all patients,
and ultimately the doctors gave in,
knowing damned well that they could not ethically expect anyone
to pay $75.00,
or even $65.00,
for an office visit that lasted
about three minutes.

Thus, we get a statement like the one I received above,
with one caveat--
in the past 15 years or so,
the industry has produced this thing called the "co-payment,"
which means the patient must pay a little bit for every service rendered.

It started out very small,
but it has been continually increasing.

This co-payment makes it possible for the insurance companies
to pay less for a service, and leave it up to the patient
to pay the difference between what they want to pay
and the U.C.R.
Fundamentally, the insurance companies are willing to let the patients pay
what they demanded the doctors stop charging.

the statement above --
let me explain it again:

The $71 is what this Radiology Provider has set as the going rate for a knee xray;
the UCR is actually $36.71, and the provider has
"accepted assignment" - ie: written off the difference between
the UCR as set by the insurance companies and their charge.

Now, how do I know the UCR is $36.71?
Add together the remaining amounts:
my $25.00 copayment
and the insurance company's $11.71 payment.

The insurance company paid a percentage of the UCR,
and I was left to pay the difference.

Oh, in case you're wondering what I pay for insurance:
this is a "benefit" for me --
according to my paystub,
my employer pays $210.43 twice a month for my insurance;
I also get $52.61 deducted, twice a month, from my gross pay,
to help pay for my insurance.  (I'll let you figure the monthly cost out.)

For that, I get an insurance policy that requires I pay co-payments,
and I end up having to pay more than my insurance company has to pay
for an x-ray.

~ ~ ~

Now honestly,
I know I've been known to write
some very confusing blog entries,
and they came out of my weary,
427 year old, overactive brain.

This blog entry,
with its convoluted formulas
may have taxed the best of my readers,
and I have to make it very clear:
I didn't even make this stuff up!!!

This is how the insurance industry works in the U.S. of A.,
and it's getting worse :

the other policy my company offered me
was one that required I pay the first $2,000.00 every year myself.
Once I did that,
then the company would offer the same coverage
as my current insurance (with copayments!).
Every year,
I would have to pay the first $2,000.00.
The monthly cost of this policy would be cheaper
for me and my employer,
they said. 
If I opted to take this coverage, 
I would get counseling on how to create
a Medical Savings Account,
to help me pay that first $2,000.00,
every year.
In the informational meeting about this policy,
I was promised that during that time
every year
that I was paying the $2,000.00,
I would only have to pay
the Usual, Customary & Reasonable 
for any service.
Now, how about that?
In my case, that would mean that I would never actually 
my insurance,
unless I got really sick.
I have a feeling that,
so far in my life,
with perhaps the exception of one year,
I don't cost my insurance company $2,000.00 a year.

It strikes me that under this scenario,
the patient is being asked to pay even more of the bill,
and the insurance company keeps simply
making money.

It gets even more confusing when the patient is retired.

I won't go into that.

You know, I actually have some good friends
who work in the health insurance industry,
and they work very hard.
They take good care of their families,
and they try to live
the American Dream.

And it's just so sad
that their industry is one of the industries responsible for making the American Dream
so impossible for the average person.

What I think is actually happening in America
is that the insurance companies are developing ways to
continue taking money out of the average worker's salary
while also getting that average healthy worker
to simultaneously carry the brunt of the bill
for their health care.

In this scenario,
only the very sickest
and the very wealthiest,
and the very wealthiest and sickest
actually reap the benefits
of insurance.

Everyone else pays for it.

And it's a real nightmare if you have no insurance at all,
because, you lucky stiff,
you have to pay the original amount
that the medical providers charge the insurance companies.

That's right --
you're the one who has to pay
$71.00 for a knee xray.