Category Archives: Uncategorized

Just now I had a very frustrating call with Apria Healthcare, and feel compelled to vent about the APPALLING GOUGING BY U.S. HEALTHCARE COMPANIES here.

About a year ago, a representative of Apria Healthcare brought a CPAP machine to my house to help me with my sleep apnea. The model that they supplied me with — a Fisher-Paykel HC230 — can be purchased online for $399. I received a couple of bills totalling about $70, which I figured must be my co-pay, and assumed that my health insurance company (Healthnet) had covered the rest. So far, all well and good.

Then earlier this year I received another bill from Apria for $295. Confused, I figured that they must have billed me in error before receiving payment from Healthnet, and so ignored it. However, a week ago I received another bill saying that I was “seriously delinquent” on my account.

When I called them this morning and asked what the bill was for, they said that it was my 50% co-pay for the equipment.

“How can that be?” I said, “these machines can be bought online for $400, and I’ve already paid about $70, so how can my 50% co-pay be $300?”

I was told “Apria has a pricing agreement with Healthnet.”

My response: “What’s the point of having health insurance at all if it costs me just as much as it would to buy the equipment myself online?”

I couldn’t get too angry at the courteous Apria representative on line, because there was a note of shame and resignation in her voice when she confirmed that “a lot of people ask that.”

Birthday Party

I have a big milestone birthday coming up next month, so I’m throwing a party with my girlfriend Lori Ann (who is also having a big birthday next month) to celebrate.

We haven’t found a venue yet, but the date’s fixed — Saturday 17th May 2008.

New Job

I’ve been doing my new job as Global Library Science Specialist for a new (and as-yet unnamed) advertising agency for almost two weeks now, and so far, it’s been a lot of fun.

Because the agency — which will be unveiling its name at the end of the month — is new, there is a definite start-up buzz, but the fact that it’s part of a large existing marketing communications group means that there’s a good amount of basic infrastructure in place already.

Earlier this week I went out to Austin, Texas, to visit the client (a large computer manufacturer) to talk about digital asset management, and I’m going back again next week too.

Goodbye, Center for Jewish History!

Friday 14th March 2008 was my last day as Director of the Gruss Lipper Digital Lab at the Center for Jewish History in New York.

I like to think that I accomplished a great deal since I took the newly-created position in April 2005, just under 3 years ago. When I started, the “Digital Lab” was just an empty, gray-walled room in the basement of the Center for Jewish History on 16th Street in Manhattan, and a chunk of grant money from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Today, the Digital Lab is a fully-operational in-house digitization service, with all the policies, procedures, standards, technology and staff required to sustain a high-quality digital collection building program.

In addition to setting up the Lab, I was also responsible for implementing a trusted digital repository in which to securely store all the digital assets created by the Center community, and a vehicle by which to make most of them freely available to researchers and the public:

CJH Digital Collections

I am proud of what we built at the Center for Jewish History (I use “we” because of course such an endeavour can only succeed as a team effort), and am happy that I have left the Lab in very good hands — Andrea Buchner, who I hired last year as the Lab’s Quality Assurance & Metadata Librarian, took over as Acting Director upon my departure.

Finally, many thanks to all my team members past and present, and my boss, Bob Sink, for helping to make the Digital Lab both a success, and an enjoyable and rewarding place to work for the last 3 years. I’ll miss you all!

Some of the Digital Lab’s staff, past and present, at my leaving party at the Belmont Lounge on Friday. From left to right: Gloria Machnowski; Stan Pejsa; Tony Gill; Amit Primor; Hyla Skopitz; Andrea Buchner.

Overcharging Hall of Shame: Salt Restaurant, Soho, New York

I learned the hard way, many years ago, that I have to keep a very close eye on my credit card spending to avoid spiraling into uncontrolled debt. So I always keep my credit card receipt when I pay by card, and I always record any tip and the total amount on the receipt when I pay by credit card at bars, restaurants etc. Later, when my wallet gets too fat from all the receipts stuffed inside, I manually enter the amounts from the receipts into Quicken on my computer, so that I can reconcile them later against my credit card bills.

This is tedious and somewhat time-consuming, but as a result I am in full control of my credit card spending, and no longer go further into debt than I intend to.

I’ve also discovered by doing this that many restaurants regularly overcharge on credit card transactions. Normally it’s just a few bucks and I don’t bother doing anything about it.

However, today I discovered that the somewhat fancy Salt Restaurant on MacDougal Street in New York’s Soho overcharged me by $10 recently. The bill came to $14

Writing on the Wall

When I was back in the UK recently visiting friends and family for Christmas and New Year, I came across an original work by Banksy, the celebrated anonymous British graffiti artist, on a wall on the Portobello Road.

I like Banksy’s work a lot (although this isn’t one of my favourite examples), so I asked my friend Chris to take a picture of me standing beside the painting:

Today, I read a BBC News article saying that the same work of art has just been sold on eBay by the owner of the wall for £208,100!

Love Will Tear Us Apart

I just watched Control, a new British-made biopic about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, who committed suicide in 1980.

I was a big fan of Joy Division when I was an angst-ridden goth teenager growing up in Sheffield in the early eighties. I still have the original Factory Records vinyl releases of the first three LP’s (Unknown Pleasures, Closer and Still — which my father always complained sounded like “funeral dirges”), and recently recovered my old Unknown Pleasures and Closer posters when I finally emptied my storage lock-up in London last year (they’re now framed and on the walls of my apartment in Brooklyn).

I even found a ratty old T-shirt in my lock-up, with the arms hacked off and sized for the skinny teenager that I was then, with the classic Peter Saville Unknown Pleasures design (above). It’s extremely embarrassing to admit now, but in the throes of some teenage angst, I even wrote Curtis a posthumous letter about three years after he died.

Unfortunately I never got to see Joy Division play live; Curtis had been dead for two years before my family moved to Sheffield and I first heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” at 14 years old, on a compilation cassette given to me by a friend. I did see New Order, the band that the remaining members of Joy Division formed after Curtis’ death, at Sheffield University’s Octagon Centre in about 1986; they were a bit shite, to be honest.

Anyway, Anton Corbijn’s Control was excellent; the dialogue was convincing, the casting and acting was great, the black & white cinematography was beautiful (as you’d expect from a successful rock photographer), and both the soundtrack and sound design were expertly handled. And although the overall tone of the movie was unavoidably a bit grim and dour, there was enough comic relief — particularly from the foul-mouthed Rob Gretton manager character — to keep it enjoyable throughout. My only complaint is that the movie was about 20-30 minutes too long (although this perception may have been caused by my increasingly full bladder).

Anyway, here’s the trailer — highly recommended.


Recently I discovered a piece of classical piano music that I had been trying to find for almost 30 years — Gnossienne No. 1 by Erik Satie.

I first heard the piece when it was used for the soundtrack of James Burke’s excellent 1978 BBC documentary series, Connections, and I’ve been trying to track it down ever since. Although I’ve heard it on several occasions in the 29 years that have elapsed since the show aired, I wasn’t able to discover its identity until Lori Ann played it to me recently. I’d never even heard of Erik Satie until then.

Buying the CD on Amazon, however, proved more difficult than I’d anticipated. There were many different Erik Satie CD’s, all with slightly different combinations of essentially the same pieces, and all by different pianists. I spent a long time reading the reviews, which tended to consist of strong but widely-divergent views on which were the best interpretations.

In the end, I bought one of the more expensive CD’s with one of the cheesiest titles — After the Rain…The Soft Sounds of Erik Satie, performed by Pascal Roge — because the reviews seemed to suggest that it contained only Satie’s better, more atmospheric and melancholy works, that Roge’s performance was among the best, and that the recording was of a high quality.

Anyway, I like it very much, particularly the first part of the disc, and have played it quite often over the last couple of months. Check out the preview of Gnossienne No. 1:

And thanks to Lori Ann for ending my 29-year search!

The Sweeney

I just finished watching the first season of a Brit TV cop show called The Sweeney, that I used to watch years ago with my Dad when I was a kid. It’s available on DVD from Netflix.

The name of the show derives from Cockney rhyming slang; “Sweeney” is a contraction of “Sweeney Todd,” which was Cockney rhyming slang for the Flying Squad, an armed rapid-response division of London’s Metropolitan Police set up to combat the upsurge of violent armed crime in London during the seventies.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, in addition to providing a greater than expected nostalgia hit, the show had actually aged very well; although the acting from some of the supporting characters (especially some of the villains) was often a bit dodgy, the scripts and production are generally solid, and the acting of the three main characters — John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan, Dennis Waterman as Sergeant George Carter and Garfield Morgan as Detective Chief Inspector Frank Haskins — is excellent.

The original titles (the first opening and closing titles in this compilation video) are still for me some of the most memorable TV cop show titles ever; I still love the way that the opening titles are exciting and action-packed, whereas the closing titles are slower and more moody:

Another reason that I loved The Sweeney as a kid was the tyre-squealing car chases — the bad guys would invariably drive an old Jag, whereas The Sweeney always drove a Ford Granada. This had extra resonance for me as a child, because my Dad had several Ford Granada company cars at the same time the show was airing.

Here’s another video of an archetypical Sweeney car chase from the first series (from an episode called Stoppo Driver):

“Shut it!”

Wedding Pictures

I’ve uploaded lots of wedding pictures to my Flickr account (I’ve been temporarily upgraded to Flickr Pro, as compensation for the demise of Yahoo! Photos).

Here are links to the three sets:

Here’s a sample image from each wedding:

This is me with Jonas & Melissa on the night before their wedding in San Francisco.

This is my little sister Vicki and her husband Steve in Sheffield.

Stuart & Becky at the Queen’s Chapel in Savoy Hill, London