Fight for Cheaper Rx Drugs, Not New Ones

It’s 4/20, but that fact alone won’t influence today’s post. I don’t smoke marijuana — never have and never will. I don’t get lost in the debate over whether it should be legal or whether it’s worse than alcohol or whether it should be used for medicinal purposes. I’m just disinterested. A subsconscientious objector, if they were such a thing.

Basically, I’m more likely to join a Fantasy Dog Show league.

Yesterday, I hinted at the fact I’m suffering allergies. I’ve never experienced seasonal allergies before. At times in the past month, I thought I had pink eye or eye strain. Turns out, I, like so many during their first spring in Portland, was suffering from the early pollen onslaught thanks to the heavy foliage and regional growth of grass seed.

Like any sensible person with health insurance, I went to see my doctor. I told him my only symptoms were red, dry, itchy eyes. I admitted my concern was purely cosmetic; I hate wearing my glasses, but more than that, I hate appearing stoned. I sought a prescription that would (in order of relevance) eliminate any assumption I’m a stoner and alleviate my symptoms.

So, my doctor wrote me a prescription and I was merrily on my way. I dropped my prescription for 60 Allegra-D pills at a nearby Rite Aid. I returned a few hours later to find the prescription cost $115 (!!!) even with my insurance plan. Imagine me, $10 bill in hand, looking at this ridiculous price for pills. How much is my upstanding reputation really worth?

I didn’t get the pills. I sheepishly declined the prescription and settled for some heavy duty over-the-counter eyedrops. I’m happy to report they make me look very unhigh.

I know a major cry that motivated the passing of healthcare reform was the astronomical rise in prescription drug costs. I’m insured, and I have pretty decent coverage (or so I thought — so when a month’s worth of allergy pills cost $115, my heart breaks for those without coverage who have real health concerns. Yeah, allergies suck and they feel intolerable, but I can get by without treating them. In that way, I’m lucky.

Marijuana will get attention from around the world today, and more than likely, you’ll hear an argument or debate about its medicinal value. (Take Oregon, which already has the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.) I wish the same attention was given to prescription drug costs, if for only one day. Pick a day, any day. Celebrate it however you like. I might start by reading stories of those who had to choose between feeding their family or paying for prescriptions.

Don’t pretend to be the good samaritan, humanitarian, caretaker, marijuana advocate, and act like your interests are rooted in those who suffer when chances are, the way prescription costs have skyrocketed, most people couldn’t afford legalized medical marijuana, anyway.

Money Heals All Wounds? Hardly

This episode of How to Lose Faith in Humanity is brought to you by Kathleen Vohs, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, who just released study findings that suggest touching cash can suppress physical and emotional pain.

In her study, the control group was asked to count a stack of cash with the understanding they wouldn’t get any of it. Afterward, they were told to dip their hands in scolding hot water. The same was asked of a pilot group. You can guess the results; the control group described the experience as more painful than the pilot group did.

Vohs, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune,

“Having money blunts pain. Not having money heightens pain. And when you’re in pain, you want money.

Not to speak on behalf of the human race, but in my limited experience with pain — knock on wood — I’ve never been in the throes of agony and thought, Someone get me a $20! There’s so much blood! Cash! Now! Similarly, I’ve never witnessed an ambulance rolling up on a trauma victim, paramedics piling out only to make it rain in leiu of administering anesthesia.

You’ve got to believe Vohs’ study will be debunked within a week or two by someone who is, oh, I don’t know, maybe not an associate professor of marketing. How about an actual scientist? This nonsense wouldn’t score a ribbon at a fifth-grade science.

Vohs also told the Star Tribune,

“Think about workaholics. They’re driven by money. They’re able to withstand a lot of discomfort and pain. Think about people on a diet. They can be motivated by money.”

Could it be, Ms. Vohs, that workaholics don’t feel discomfort and pain because they are workaholics? The thing about being a workaholic is they’re addicted to work, they don’t feel uncomfortable and it’s not a painful experience. And if what you say of dieting is true, wouldn’t every clown on The Biggest Loser show a little more effort from the get-go?

Another stream of genius from Vohs:

“Say you’re stranded at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport because your flight has been delayed by 17 hours. You should be getting cold, hard cash instead of a voucher. … You won’t be all cranky and upset.”

I’ve been stuck in O’Hare for 17 hours. Overnight. I didn’t want a voucher or cold, hard cash. I wanted a flight home.

There’s preposterous and there’s totally asinine, but when I read money was spent to determine if money, itself, has healing powers, I find myself in need of a nap. Something things can be so exhaustively stupid.

I’m an advocate for research, but with cash-strapped public universities struggling across the nation — Minnesota being no exception — you have to wonder how someone can have the guile to bring such ridiculous, inconsequential findings to the public conscience.

Forget Vohs’ cash theory. I need an Advil.

KFC’s Double Down is a Dream, Not a WMD

Anytime a fast food restaurant serves an item named after a gambling term, you know it’s going to take some flak. Such is the case with the Double Down, KFC’s audacious bread-free version of the chicken sandwich .

That’s right — there’s no bread to be found with the Double Down. Just two boneless chicken breasts (fried or grilled), two slices of Monterey jack and pepper jack cheese and two strips of bacon. The chicken breasts, themselves, act as the bun, and that’s why this sandwich is so buzzworthy.

While KFC is pushing all-in on this innovative combination, many are up in arms about the Double Down. Yesterday, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) went so far as to release the following statement about the sandwich:

Dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are asking KFC not to advertise to children its newest product, the Double Down sandwich, and to post a warning on the high-fat sandwich about its potential ill effects on children’s health.

The Original Recipe Double Down tops out at 32 grams of fat, 540 calories and 1,380 milligrams of sodium. The grilled version is just 23 grams of fat, 460 calories and 1,430 milligrams of sodium. Compare that to a McDonald’s Happy Meal featuring a cheeseburger, small order of French fries and 12 ounces of Sprite, which amounts to 24 grams of fat, 640 calories and 1,040 milligrams of sodium.

OK, so maybe you don’t want to raise your kids on Double Downs.

Regardless of how disastrously unhealthy the Double Down is, I think it’s the shock of seeing a sandwich without bread that’s really getting people. Something about it seems so barbaric. Something about it makes me feel like a neanderthal for wanting one, like I should grab my club and drag my knuckles all the way to KFC, point to the picture on the menu and say, “Me. Want. That.”

What’s so dignified about a bun, anyway? McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese checks in at 42 grams of fat, 740 calories and 1,380 milligrams of sodium, but it’s got a traditional bun, so no one says boo. The Colonel gets reckless, sees thinks bread has become arbitrary, invents something — God forbid — new to fast food, and suddenly, rumors start to swirl KFC has aligned itself with Al-Qaeda.

I’ve already taken time to write about childhood obesity and what efforts should be taken to help make kids in this country more healthy. I won’t argue against the claim fast food restaurants have an obligation to offer health options on their menu. I just feel like if the Double Down had a bun, it would be just another stupid KFC sandwich we pass on in favor off the all-you-can-eat buffet.

There’s a lot of painfully clever hyperbole built around how eating just one Double Down can harm your health. Please. We’re Americans. We’ve been making poor health decisions on some scale our whole lives. The Double Down is a novelty snack, not unlike cotton candy, Pop Rocks or spaghetti on a stick. Of course you’re not supposed to eat it every meal.

Anyone who’s stupid enough to think otherwise probably gave up fast food for fear of future persecution by an Obama death panel.

A One-Eyed Weekend

Well, that's maybe just a little overdramatic. But, pink eye is real.

I’m posting a little later than usual because I’ve got pink in my left eye and I couldn’t find my eyepatch.

I had to take a sick day because I feel like Satan gave my left retina a hickey last night while I was sleeping. I had been pulling my contact lens out all week at work thinking it was debris or just a bad lens. I thought maybe I was just dehydrated and my eye was becoming petrified. I stare at computer screens, too, most of the week, so I thought eye strain was a possibility.

Nope. Bonafide pink eye.

This isn’t my first bout. I’ve suffered the whole gamut of eye maladies my whole life. I’ve been poked in the eye more times than I can count, which is surprising considering small eyes run in my family. Pink eye is always the worst, though, because other than wanting to scrape your eyeball all day, you’re basically OK. Vision is cloudy, you look like you’ve been on a 36-hour bender, but for the most part, you just have to steer clear of people and altogether quarantine yourself.

The worst part is you’re encouraged to take these special eye drops before bed. I think part of the medicated solution contains super glue, but nevertheless, two drops before bed and you’re on the road to recovery. Except, when you wake up, you can’t open your eye because the solution dries and hardens on your eye lashes, effectively gluing your eye shut. Every morning after using the drops, you feel like you were the first to pass out at a frat house. Unpleasant to say the least.

This is my first sick day at my job. I can’t think of the last time I’ve called in sick for work. I could very well sleep in, but I’m too used to waking up at 6 a.m. I’m typing this through one eye, which means even if I wanted to sit around all day and watch movies, I’d probably get sick of the single-eye experience. That’s no way to live.

This is the equivalent of a major league pitcher getting scratched from the rotation because of a blister. It’s a nuisance more than anything, and particularly disheartening because I want to interview the chumps camping overnight at Pioneer Square Mall to get their iPads in the morning. I might have to play through the pain.

The nice thing about downtown Portland is you can approach someone with a freakish looking eye and no one will be caught off guard. It’s difficult to look threatening in this town, so we’ll see. (Pun, unfortunately, intended.)

We Need to Socialize Public Restrooms

Portland might be winning the War on Drugs, but it’s completely undermining the War on Public Urination.

Here, just like in other metropolitan areas, I imagine, public restrooms are at a premium. Thanks to junkies who’ve abused the privilege over the years, most of the restrooms in Portland require you either a) purchase something from the store b) find someone to let you into the locked restroom and sometimes c) have a security guard. For instance, the Fred Meyer across the street has a security guy whose job, among other things, is to monitor the restroom.

This is America. We found a way to allow astronauts to go No. 2 in zero gravity. We put restrooms on airplanes! There must be a way public restrooms can exist in a city full of syringes and capsules.

The case in Portland is particularly desperate because of a few factors:

Need a drink? Find a Benson bubbler anywhere downtown. Need a restroom? That's crazy talk.

  1. There’s water everywhere. Between the Willamette River, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the Salmon Street Fountain and, oh, I don’t know, the seemingly constant rain, it seems impossible to hold it in a city where free flowing water is part of the geology, infrastructure and climate.
  2. There’s public water fountains — Benson bubblers, they call them — located throughout downtown. So, you can stay hydrated and get yourself nice and water-logged, but good luck trying to find somewhere to relieve yourself. That’s putting kerosene on the fire.
  3. Downtown is where the beer is. And sure, you can use the restrooms at any establishment where you might be drinking, but if it’s a good jaunt home, you’ll start seeing mirages of Porta Potties. Suddenly, a dark alleyway won’t look so bad, and before you know it, you’re disgracing the Rose City.

What’s most grating is local businesses are completely justified for guarding their restrooms. There are a few public restrooms smattered alongside the river that have been used and abused. In most cases, if the toilet is a basketball hoop, the average field-goal percentage is about 54 percent. If you walk out without bleeding, catching a high or gagging, you’ve survived. You can’t be expected to run a business dealing with those types of conditions. Frankly, I would limit public access, too.

This could be the most elitist thing I’ve ever proposed, but bear with me. What if the city created public restrooms for downtown with keycard entry? To attain the keycard, you would need to be pay $15 per year and pass a drug test. The money from the keycard would go to the construction and upkeep of the restrooms, while the drug test would keep those more likely to abuse the restrooms from getting in.

Seriously, astronauts can safely defecate on space shuttles. You know that started with an idea crazier than mine!

Does anyone have any better ideas?

Don’t Overlook the Honor of Growing Old

Ask Rose from Titanic if it was awesome being old.

I take an elevator to the eighth floor of One World Trade Center to get to work, and the ride never fails to offer awkward social interactions. You put a dozen caffienated workers in a 6-by-8 box, someone’s going to say something.

“You heard two of oldest people in the world died Sunday,” said a woman who works on the 11th floor. She said this as a statement; there was no question whether I’d heard. But I hadn’t.

“One was 114. The other was 113,” she said. “Both American women.”

She paused.

“I hope I don’t live to be that old!”

The odds alone make hoping such a thing unnecessary. In all likelihood, this woman of around 50 (I’m guessing) has three good decades left in her. She may die from a grueling battle with cancer or suffer a massive heart attack with no advanced warning signs.  She could go to sleep one night at age 83 and her body could decide its had enough.

I left the elevator wondering why people so often feel that way. Maybe it’s my lust for life that leaves me hoping I can live, well, forever. But I never take into account that whole “quality of life” variable. One of the women who died on Sunday was suffering from dementia. I can say I envy the length of her life, but certainly not the quality of it. Not down the stretch, anyway.

My reason for wanting to live as long as possible has to do with three things:

1. I want to witness change. The coolest conversations I’ve ever had were with elderly people who could put into focus how much has changed in their lives, not only technologically or economically, but socially. I want to have great-great-grandchildren who can’t fathom how gay marriage was ever illegal. I want to outlive racism. I want to tell people what 9-11 was like long after the new tower has been erected or how hard people fought against stem-cell research, handguns and abortion. Who can say how any of these matters will look in 50 years or 100 years. But that’s why I want to stick around.

2. People are living longer and healthier lives all the time. Life expectancy varies greatly from country to country and we know women generally outlast men. But the one constant with life expectancy is it continues to increase, and scientists aren’t exactly sure what the ceiling is. Could life expectancy someday reach 100 years? Who knows? My point is that we have more research and resources available to keep us healthier longer. I’m not saying I need to be golfing at age 95, but if I can avoid wearing Depends and recall who won the 2014 Super Bowl, I think I can be happy.

3. I’m obsessed with innovation. I guess this could fall under No. 1, but more particularly, I want to see how technology and infrastructure continues to evolve. When I went to college in 2003, wireless Internet was hard to find, Facebook didn’t exist, neither did Skype. Some people had iPods, but they were the size of a brick. GPS units existed, but they cost a pretty penny. My point is I want to continue to be impressed by what we come up with for years and years. I’m want to live out the Back to the Future promises with flying cars and instant-bake ovens. You know I want to be around when we land on Mars or when the Martians land here. I’m an admitted tech geek and news nerd. The moment I die, I don’t get to have that anymore.

I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but I do believe growing old is a privilege. Some of us shudder at being old and dependent, but you know what? That’s the expectation. It’s not like your letting anyone down. To expect otherwise is like being letdown when a newborn doesn’t hop out the womb with a full vocabulary and a muscular physique.

We’ve got a natural fear of losing control, and I get that. But I want to live to be really, really old so I can bear witness to all the cool futuristic shit going on around me. I’ve always been a curious observer.

The lady on the elevator said, “I hope I don’t live to be that old!” I wanted to tell her you should be grateful if you have that choice. I guess what makes me saddest of all is too many people are etching away at their gravestone before they ever get a chance to experience being old.

You know, some things get better with age.

Maybe Being Sick Isn’t So Bad

So, I’ve been fighting off a wicked cold this week. Been hitting it with the one-two combo of Vicks VapoRub and plenty of orange juice. I’ve heard of this thing called a Neti Pot that’s apparently big with the English folk. Essentially, you flood your sinuses with warm liquid and hope it dislodges all the mucus built up. Sexy, I know.

After watching the video above, I’m cool with sticking to Kleenex. I’ve done some crazy shit in my time. I’ve been tasered voluntarily. I’ve eaten gluesticks and coffee grounds for money. I lived with three girls for a year of college. Still, I’ve got limits. No way I’m putting whiskey in my face unless it’s going down the hatch. So, kudos, you crazy S.O.B. in the video above. You’ve made my congestion seem somewhat pleasant by comparison.