Sunday, September 20, 2009

Non-random thoughts

occuring while reading the Sunday NY Times business section.

Fair Game: Too Many ‘No’ Votes to Be Ignored, a column by Gretchen Morgenson about corporate shareholders' disapproval of candidates for boards of directors. For many years I have always voted to withhold approval of all director candidates who are employees of the corporation. In my view, these would-be "inside" directors, the CEO in particular, should be working for the board, not be a part of it. There's a huge conflict of interest there. One thing I seem to have noticed in recent years, though--usually the only inside directors now are the CEOs, not their subordinates. That's at least some improvement. I really could never understand having subordinates having a say on the employment of their boss.

Digital Domain: What if People Don’t Take the Bait to Go Paperless? a column by Randall Ross, about efforts of companies to get their customers to go to paperless billing. I've accepted such offers for a few bills that are pretty stable, like my phone bills, and my cable TV bill--but I must have an automatic payment set-up with these companies. I don't want to take a chance on an e-mail going astray. I know that snail mail can get lost also, but, perhaps wrongly, I'm more confident in it. It also helps when the company gives me an incentive to go paperless--the cable company deducts a dollar from my bill.

Economic View: Why Health Care Will Never Be Equal, a column by N. Gregory Mankiw. In it he talks about an estimate that statins (a type of drug used to lower cholesterol) cost a whopping $150,000 for each year of life saved. Most of this cost is born by health insurance companies, who of course have to figure this into the rates that policy holders have to pay. He asks whether it is worth it. As it happens, I have been taking such a drug, Lipitor, for roughly 15 years now. I think it costs me $5 for a 90 day supply. It costs my insurance company $200-something. A couple of times I've gotten letters from my insurance company urging me to get my doctor to switch me to a cheaper medicine. They're not talking about a generic version of Lipitor (which does not yet exist) though, but entirely different drugs. I asked my doctor about it. He saw no good reason to switch--Lipitor has been effective for me, and I've had no side effects. So we're sticking with Lipitor, regardless of how much it costs my insurance company. (Getting back to the column's question, I think he's ignoring an important factor. He's failing to consider the costs of treating the heart disease that high cholesterol can cause. Lipitor doesn't just extend lives--it prevents a costly disease.)

Can Amazon Be Wal-Mart of the Web?, an article by Brad Stone about Amazon's venturing way beyond being a bookseller, its original endeavor. I'm all for it. I have found it to provide excellent service, with competitive prices. I like the fact that with most items I get free shipping with a $25 order. And its standard shipping is quite fast (once I got my order before they sent me an e-mail saying it had been shipped!)--there is absolutely no need to pay for expedited shipping living where I do. Their return policy is great. The only complaint I really have ever had about Amazon is when they removed all LGBT-related books from their rankings. I did not buy their excuse that it was part of an effort to remove "adult" books--not when they continued to rank anti-LGBT books. Fortunately they quickly reversed their policy, after the change was protested. I got the feeling that some middle-level executives tried to surrepticiously insert their personal anti-LGBT opinions without the knowledge of the Amazon top-management.

Preoccupations | Jim Remsik: For Writing Software, a Buddy System, a first person article about the use of two-person computer programmer teams to write code. I had never heard of this method, despite having been a programmer for 25 years (I did retire 5 years ago). One person writes, while the other critiques. It sounds like a good idea for writing original software. But I did little of that after 1986, when I left my first IT job. From then on most of what I did was program maintenance, and I don't think the buddy system would be very cost-effective for such work.

Quote of the day

Being gay is not a lifestyle. However being filled with hate and stupidity is.
--Journal of a Power Dyke in Training

I might have said ignorance instead of stupidity, but yeah.

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