Friday, July 21, 2017

Still in the mango

Its looks like I will be here in the mango until Saturday night.  Was planning to go up to the country midweek, but was delayed first by dead water heater, the rain, and then Wednesday by a dead battery. Spent yesterday getting a new battery and a new water heater.  Guess being away for a long time is not good and all the maintenance items seem to be needed at once.  

My previous car battery lasted just a year and I now realized I didn't do enough research on the brand of batteries they installed.  I was in a hurry to get back up and just had them install what was available. As it turned out, two different brands, two dead batteries that lasted exactly a couple of weeks after the warranty period.  Anyway, I did some checking this time on the internet and finally decided to try a brand called FB battery.  FB battery at least has a decent description of their product and they are a very large company providing OEM batteries to some of the cars being built here.  They are also controlled by SCG (Siam Cement Group), one of the largest companies in Thailand.  I decided on their Gold Super Maintenance Free model and will see how it holds up.  Many of the locals tell me FB batteries hold up better than most in the hot weather we have.  Its the hot weather and hot temperatures under the hood that shortens the life of the cheaper batteries.  Unlike in Kalifornia, the maximum battery warranty here is usually only 2 years.

6000 watt multipoint system for the bathroom only

Also made a trip to Powerbuy to get a replacement bathroom water heater because they had it on sale.  We have two heaters in the condo, one for the bathroom sink and shower and the other for the kitchen sink and washing machine.  I had the water shut off while I was away this time because I didn't have a maid any longer. After 13 years, the original water heater died and so I had to find a replacement.  The same model was available at Powerbuy so I made a trip over to get it.  Cost me 6000 baht, and they had a free install if you were a 1 Card holder.  What a deal! The down side is that I will have a couple more days of cold water only showers.  In the warm weather we have, cold showers are kind of refreshing in a way...sometimes in the hottest weather, the cold water isn't even cool enough for my liking.

So hopefully tonight I can make the free buffet.  Will contact BB later to see if he is going.  

Lastly, the good news is that Barnaby is out of the hospital and resting at home.  Take care bro, see you soon.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Experienced it myself

Drugs.  Prescription Drugs.

Its a complex web of pricing and I experienced it myself over the last week.  I'm developing or already have Type 2 diabetes (age onset diabetes) which I inherited from my mother.  Its at the early stage and controllable.  Was prescribed a certain drug by my doctor to address this and also help to minimize any impact on my kidneys.  I won't name the drug or its company because they might find this post and fix this situation.

Anyway, this drug illustrates the diversity of pricing for obtaining it through various channels.  I mentioned my experience with the local CVS pharmacy back in Kalifornia a few posts back.  In that case, my co-pay with insurance coverage was over $500 dollars and the cost per pill was $17 each. When I saw my doctor today in the mango, the hospital cost was around $3.50 USD per pill (120 baht).  Quite a savings right?  However, going to a pharmacy that Bangkok Buddy found, I got the same pills for $1.52 (USD) each.  So you can see that the price gap is HUGE.  And the irony is that even at the lowest price, everyone is still making money from me.  

I guess the practice of tier pricing was designed to make drugs available to poorer countries.  If that wasn't done, there would be many generic drug companies making cheap knock off drugs and ignoring the patents.  Fortunately for those that can travel, knowing this fact can save one some money if your insurance doesn't cover the full cost of your prescriptions.  In my case, even with my insurance, the drugs are cheaper here retail than the cost of my co-pay.  And yes, the drugs are real and of the same quality as the ones you get from the local drug store back in your home country.

I did not require a prescription.  Just brought in my envelop from my hospital with the drug name, dosage, and other info and they sold me a three months supply with no questions asked.  Came in a nice box too instead of the bubble packs.  Here is a video on some of the abuses that have recently entered the pharma industry.

Fortunately this jerk got what was due him - busted on Securities fraud

For those traveling to the LOS and need the info, contact BB or myself and we can fill you in on the details of where to go.  BB checked out every pharmacy in the mango and found this place to be the cheapest and best.  Don't get ripped off by big pharma.

Back Home and Back Online

Made it back to the mango as scheduled on Monday, but after a warm greeting by Marina and B at the airport, we went to the condo to only find that my internet connection had been shut off.  I recently changed from True to AIS fiber and somehow the billing didn't follow correctly.  I filled out paperwork twice before I left last time, yet they did not automatically deduct what I owed each month from my bank.  In the meantime, the account was 6 weeks delinquent and they blocked my service.  So nothing we could do until yesterday.  In the meantime, we all caught up in hugs and kisses and I started to unpack what I had.

The only way to restore it was to go to an AIS shop, pay the bill, and ask them to restore it on the spot.  After getting wrong info yesterday morning and a wasted trip to the Silom Compex, I finally got the whole mess straighten out at the Central Rama 9 office.  It was convenient because I had a late lunch meeting with Bangkok Buddy at Sizzler at the same mall.  It was a zoo there and took 30 minutes of waiting to see an agent.  I lost a large part of the day getting things restored, but when I got home after the lunch, I was back online - didn't do me any good as I was jet lagged out.

The last two days have been great.  It has been cloudy and in the 80s.  Walked through Lumphini yesterday for my morning workout and my daily step count was over 11,000 with all the running around chasing my internet connection!    Even forgot to bring BB's mail for the lunch.  He bought me lunch for bringing his mail, but I didn't deliver it because I forgot bring it..555.  Next time I will have to buy lunch.

More later in the week as I have a doctor's appointment later today to manage my type 2 diabetes. Plans are to go up to the resort tonight, but things can change.  A big storm is supposed to be on the way up there and I don't want to travel in the rain, especially with all the news of bus accidents recently.  No better place to wait it out than at home in the land of smiles.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Chilling out at the EVA lounge

We will have to skirt this nasty storm on the way to the mango

Its about 5:45 am here in Taipei and I'm chilling out and waiting for my 8:30 am connection to the big mango.  Pretty smooth flight over for the most part except near Japan where there is always some turbulence for some reason.  The next segment of the trip is not going to be so easy as there is a typhoon in the area that is suppose to create big problems for those in the south china seas.  Its not a major storm, but its expected to hit landfall in Vietnam around the same time we are passing through the country on the way to Bangkok.  Parts of China have already been impacted, primarily in the southeast where some tourists had to be evacuated from some small islands off the coast.

On my way over, I used the internet connection to catch up on news, email, and did a couple of LINE chats with B and Johnnie Walker.  The voice connection was impossible as I thought, but the chat and text usage seemed fine.  Even uploaded a couple of pictures, but it took a bit due to the slow connection speed.  Keep that in mind if you choose to buy the optional service.

The lounge is still the same and this time I managed to get one of the tables against the wall with an electrical outlet.  First order of business however, was to stuff my face again.   However, the speed here was good enough for me to contact B and arrange for my pickup at the airport later this morning. While not amazingly fast, the speed is good enough for most uses - especially because its free.  Also free for those that don't have lounge access is a FREE airport Wifi service.  I've used it at the gate before and it wasn't too bad at all - especially if you get in early like we do from the west coast.

The EVA lounge speed test in Taiwan
That's the update for now.  Have to go out later in the morning to buy some perfume for B.  Got a special order last night for a specific brand and fragrance and as they say, happy wife = happy life.  In other words I don't want to be staying in the dog house on this trip...555

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Blogging at 30,000 feet

Somewhere over the Pacific, half way between SFO and Taiwan, this blog is being composed and distributed.  Can't imagine how fast this technology has moved in recent years.  It wasn't that long ago when emails were considered strange and most people didn't think of why they would even need one.  Facebook hadn't been invented yet cause Zuckerberg was still in diapers running around somewhere.  And in those days, we had to pay to go into the various internet shops around the reservation to share a computer that was connected to this mysterious network called the world wide web.

Now for a measly $20 bucks you can have service on your flight across the Pacific and surf to your heart's delight.  How is the service?  In a short word:  primitive.  Here is the speed data that I just ran on the network:

Its basically ADSL levels

For those that have to stay in touch, its barely enough.  For those bored out of their minds with 15 hours to kill, its a cheap price to stay plugged in and entertained.  

Things went smoothly at SFO.  The lines were not too long, but this flight segment is full.  Looks like every seat was taken and thus I did not get my business class upgrade even though I was on the waiting list and ready with my mileage.  For dinner tonight, we had Sirloin braised with red wine and served with veggies and red potatoes.  Not a bad meal and it was tasty.  They even gave us sandwiches a few minutes ago to tie us over until breakfast.

That's all for now as I'm going to try my mobile phone to see if I can use line to make a call.  It might work, but I bet the service and voice quality will be pretty bad.  More from Taiwan.

Tonight is the night....

Going to the airport tonight for the 1:30 am flight back home.  Its been a long haul here on this bookend.  It started in late April and now its mid July - the longest I've been away since I first starting having kids.  I miss my kids badly, and I know Marina misses me as B says she is always asking when I will be back.  We do video talks every day, but we all know that its not the same as being there in person.  We are a close family and there is no better joy than to have everyone together when we eat, sleep, and hang out.  To a four year old, three months seems like a lifetime to them.

Anyway, got the first chore done today which was to pick up my medications - all except one.  I was prescribed a medication by my doctor in Thailand for my early diabetes which I tried to get filled here to save some money. My doctor here didn't mind writing the prescription, but the pharmacy called me and said "do you really want this medication?".  I asked why and she said "Your co-pay (uncovered cost) for this 90 day supply is $560 USD".  After I picked up my jaw from the floor, I asked why it cost so much and she said 90 pills cost over $1500 USD and my insurance only covers a portion of the cost.  Naturally, at $17 per pill, I told her that I didn't want the medication and that I would talk to my other doctor about it.  With a bit of research, I found the exact same medication online at an international pharmacy based in Singapore for 1/3 the cost and I think I didn't even pay close to that much in the Mango for my initial 90 day supply. Obviously, big pharma has tiered pricing on this medication and its a lot cheaper to get the medication outside of the US.  I have a followup appointment with my doctor at BNH this month anyway and will get my pills from them.

Have to go over my bags one last time to take out any heavy items that can wait until next time and include light items that I can carry.  Taking only 1 1/2 bags this trip along with my backpack, which is about half of what I normally bring.  Have to baby my sternum for another month or so and by next trip, it will be back to my normal 3 bags.

That's it for now, more from the airport later tonight.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tomorrow is the day....

Less than 48 hours on this bookend, but things are doing well and no major problems so far.  Just came back from seeing the cardiologist, and had a great report.  He said my surgeons did a fantastic job at Cleveland Clinic and I am in excellent shape.  The only restriction he placed on me was that there should not be any heavy lifting or golf type swings until next month.  That would make it three months after surgery - just to be safe.  After that, he recommends starting slowly and gradually until I get stronger.  I have no immediate plans for golf this month nor other major activities so it will work out great.

Some really good news for those on long stay visas such as for retirement.  I read on one of the other blog sites that the Thai government has approved an extended long stay visa for citizens of 14 countries.  Here are the details I copied from the other site:

That would be great news for us on retirement visas as it would cut the yearly hassle of waiting all day to get our visa renewed and the uncertainty of the ever changing process and how long we can stay.  It will take some time to fully implement, but hopefully next year I will be in a position to apply for this kind of long stay visa.  There is still the re-entry permit process that needs to be addressed.  Most of those are only good for one year or issued on request by someone who wants to travel out of the country.  Its a big money maker so I doubt if that aspect will change.

That's it for now.  More tomorrow as I will be on my last day before going to the airport for my early morning flight.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Good Echo

Had my echo cardiogram yesterday.  Its the first after leaving the hospital 7 weeks ago and the results could not have been more encouraging.  My mitral valve is still functioning perfectly and my regurgitation is completely gone.  Also, my left ventricle, which was severely enlarged is now back to practically normal size.  Lastly, my EF (or ejection fraction) was at 72%, which is on the high end of normal (55-75%), meaning that my heart is performing better than the normal range in terms of pumping blood efficiently.  While the results still need to be confirmed again by the cardiologist on Friday, I felt really good after the readout by the tech yesterday.  It looks like the two months of diligent rehab has been very helpful and now I need to keep it up for the duration.

Three more days, but time seems to pass so slowly while I wait.  Started to kill some time by watching season 1 of Stranger Things, a new series on Netflix.  Its a SciFi thriller with a very interesting cast.  Kinda reminds me of the old Spielberg movie, Goonies.  Based in the 1980s, its backdrop and story line made enough reviews to make it to season 2.  The new season is going to start this weekend and I will be able to continue to see it in the land of smiles because I have Netflix via my Amazon Fire TV stick. The other thing that keeps me going is that by this time next week I will be in the LOS again at the resort.

Some of the best scenes from last year (don't watch if you don't like spoilers):

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Few more days.....

Been a busy few days since my last post.  The red egg and ginger party went very well and everyone was happy and well fed at the buffet.  I must say that that Kome is one of the best buffets in the area for the money.  There was a large assortment of Sushi, seafood, and hot entrees to choose from.  The only downside was their limited dessert choices, although there was lots of ice cream available.  The new baby, Kaitlyn, was good too as she behaved well and seemed to know that the party was for her.

The gold pendant I got for her received a lot of compliments and now she will have something to remember when she is older.  Yes, I did get a coin with this year's date so the coin will be as old as she whenever she decides to wear it.

Started packing yesterday after a quick trip to Costco to pick up a few items.  Had to stock up on vitamins and bought a bag of California Pistachios for B.  Pistachios in Thailand are very expensive and a small bag can easily cost 200 baht or more.  Because they are local, buying them here is quite reasonable, especially at Costco.  

Will also consider bringing some fresh Bing cherries as they had some at Costco too, but to do that I will have to wait until Saturday morning to get them.  Once I get them to Thailand, they eat some fresh and then freeze some of them so later thy can eat them like a little cherry Popsicle - Marina and B just love those cherries.

I have an echo-cardiogram scheduled for tomorrow.  It will be the first detailed exam of my heart since I left the hospital six weeks ago.  I don't expect any problems as my recovery seems to be doing well and my walking and Tai Chi is still a daily routine.  I check my blood pressure regularly and its still at young man's levels (115/83) and my blood sugar is also under control.  Its really feels like this operation has moved the clock back decades for me in terms of health.  

On Friday, I will have a final consultation with the cardiologist before my trip.   I want to take advantage of all the exams and get all my medications while I am still here and covered by my insurance.  Once I get to the land of smiles, my coverage stops and I have to pay out of pocket for all my exams and medications.  Its not a lot, but still why pay when you are entitled to these services?

Lastly, its a race against time as last night I saw that Ella is pretty close to walking.  She can take only one step or so before falling so I think I'm only days away from seeing her walk for the first time.  I was there when Marina took her first steps three years ago and want to video Ella's first steps as well.  Its one of those milestones I want to capture for them and me.  Many years from now, we will all see these precious moments and all laugh together.  In life, there are no replays unless you capture them yourself in pictures or videos.

That's it for now, more later in the week as I get closer to departure. Next week at this time  I should be at the resort getting some food and getting some sleep.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

One more week......

Yeah.  One more week left before heading back to the mango and home.

Have a jam packed schedule remaining on this bookend, starting with a red egg and ginger party for my newest granddaughter.  Normally, its held about one month after the baby's birth, but nowadays it can range from one to three months.  It is a way of introducing the baby to family and friends who may not have had the opportunity to visit the baby in the hospital or at the home of the parents.  Like all things Chinese, this celebration involves food, so we have chosen a nice buffet restaurant for lunch and are expecting around 100 guests.

Its called a red egg and ginger party because that it what is traditionally served along with the other food.  The red (or usually pink) eggs represent a new birth or start and good luck.  The ginger represents good health.  

During the party, well wishers bring either money in red envelopes or pieces of gold to adorn the baby.  Traditionally, as the paternal grandfather, I am expected to be the host and pay for the party.  I don't mind because I got a bargain last time as I had twin granddaughters so it was a 2-1 special! 

On the personal level, there are three medical appointments left, two for testing and one to see the doctor the day before I leave.  Don't expect any complications, but expect to get all my medication prescribed and filled for the next couple of months before I leave so that it will be covered by insurance.  

Lastly, its time to think about packing.  I'm limited to how much weight I can handle so I will be traveling light this time.  Maybe just one bag plus my roll-on.  Hope I can fit everything as I have birthday gifts for the girls and personal items I need for this trip.  

Almost time to get ready so have a nice weekend!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bills are starting to pour in...

Its a little over six weeks since surgery and my bills have started to pour in.  There are bills from Cleveland Clinic and then those from my local cardiologist.  Then there are those that are for prescription medications.  There are lab test bills, and other stuff that I'm sure is yet to come in.

The billing so far:  $235,000 USD

Fortunately, nearly all of it has been settled via Medicare or my Medicare supplement insurance. The prescription medication has a co-pay provision and so some of the expense will be out of pocket. The billing amount does not mean that the providers will get that much from the government or the insurance companies, but its an indication of what the cost would be on a retail, walk-in basis for someone without coverage.  I think the providers usually offer a discount to help those without insurance, but as you can see, the medical bills can be staggering and easily put people in very bad financial trouble.  It may also mean that they don't get the medical service they need.

That brings us squarely into the current health care debate on Capital Hill.  Having just experienced the system in close proximity, I think that the answer might be in a tiered approach towards health care.  I was lucky to have coverage because of my being a senior and paying into Social Security for the decades I was working.  Also, my employer provided extra benefits to cover the supplemental insurance.  Others who did not pay into the system can still receive benefits, but there will be more out of pocket expenses.  I do believe that everyone should have access to health care, but in a tiered manner. 

For those who have never paid into any kind of plan, have no money, and have no assets, a government sponsored system should be in place for basic care.  Similar to the government hospital system in Thailand, the cost to the patient is nominal.  The doctors will be government employees, medical students (doctors and nurses), and or doctors on a mandatory community service assignment. Service will be first come, first served, and limited to resources available. All US doctors, in order to be re-certified, must complete a voluntary, two week mandatory assignment at one of these government hospitals each year.  That would provide a pool of staff doctors, trainees, and seasoned experts to the system. This tier will have much lower service levels, likely long lines, and some may not get adequate long term care but after all, its going to be practically free.  It should not encourage free loaders to take advantage of our medical system.  By the way, big pharma must donate part of their products and/or money to the system as well.

The other tier should be those that have insurance coverage.  Either through their employer or purchased on the open market, this system should be like it was before.  A pool of people share the expenses and risk, just like auto insurance.  The insurance should be open to all, across all state lines, and can have any level of coverage depending on how much the buyer wants to pay and the insurance company is willing to risk.  The hospitals in this tier will be permitted to turn away patients that should be part of the previous tier (i.e. through their emergency rooms) or do not have the means to pay for the service.

Last but not least, the final tier where those who have no insurance and have the means to pay for any service can go to whomever they choose.  They can pick and chooses their doctors and pay for the service out of their pockets.  

To me, this stratification of health care is the only way we can get through this mess.  We have a stratified economy and diverse medical needs.  There is no way one single system, either the existing one, or its proposed replacement is going to address the issue.  We need to model the system to reflect our diverse needs. The reality is that we are not a country of equals economically - there are rich and poor people.  We are not a socialist country. We can not fix the problem of economical inequality through the health care system - that needs to be done separately.

Only 10 more days before I get back home so in the meantime, I have to keep reviewing the bills that come in, looking for a surprise charge I didn't expect.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!!!...from Kalifornia

Wish we could do it here in the Bay Area, but nearly every year, we get fogged out.

So I guess I will watch it on TV tonight....

But here is where I would really like to be:

Buying a car soon?

Now see it again in a different light......

Click on this Link:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Out and About during the long weekend

The 4th of July, or America's Independence day is on a Tuesday this year, but people have been taking the opportunity to make this a long weekend by taking Monday off work and trying to bridge the time together.  Its also a fun time for us in Kalifornia to attend some summertime events which I have missed over the years.  Typically, this time of year I am already back in the Land of Smiles doing my visa renewal, etc.  But I was fortunate that during the last trip over, I was granted an early extension due to my heart surgery so getting back late was not an issue this time.

Anyway, I am posting some pictures from my visits to the Alameda County Fair and my visit to Larry's Produce yesterday.  The fair is someplace I like to visit when I am looking for some heat as its located in the Tri-Valley area which is always hot in the summertime.  Its a fun place to see farm and craft exhibits, taste different foods, and do some shopping from pitch salespeople on their products.  I went on a Thursday, which is a free day for seniors.  They also offered a $2 "taste of the fair" special for that day that allows people to get special samples from all the vendors selling food (see the sample $2 sausage pictured above). Without these promotions, going to the fair is an expensive outing as the admission, parking, and food can set one back a hefty amount.

The other little outing I had was to Larry's produce.  I've previously blogged about this farm stand and it continues to evolve and grow, making it a destination for people in the area.  What makes it special is the size and variety of produce available.  Some of the stuff is locally grown and some of the other stuff is obviously bought through brokers just like other stores, but the prices are real cheap. Green onion that go for 79 cents apiece at the local supermarket are 5 for a $1. Limes are 10 for a buck.  There are local grapes, stone fruits like peaches, apricots, and plums from the area that are both ripe and cheap.  Huge watermelons, and many new varieties of other melons made the trip worthwhile.  

Anyway, its only 1/2 way through the long weekend.  I want to fire up the 2 seat convertible today and go out for a drive.  Its great to be over the first phase of recovery and start the rest of my life again!  Might as well enjoy my remaining two weeks of summer here in Kalifornia!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Another day older, another year wiser?

Add caption

Its that time of the year again where I celebrate the anniversary of my birth.  Its a milestone we all celebrate because in olden times, when the average life span was much shorter, each year meant we had that much less time to be on this merry-go-round we call life.  Lifespans are longer now, but we really don't cherish the years until we get older or experience life changing events like open heart surgery.  So this year I give extra thanks to God for giving me more time and being healthy enough to enjoy life to the fullest. 

Also, thanks for those who have already sent me birthday wishes and may I also wish you all a wonderful day and many more on the anniversary of your birth as well.

At home, they are preparing a virtual birthday party for me tonight.  B is going to buy the cake, invite family and friends, and Marina will be blowing out the candles for me.  Yes, I will be on LINE chat to see it all...555  But I told them I would have another party when I get there also, to celebrate both Marina's and mine again as its a good excuse to party anyway...555.

On the funny side, Marina is now big enough to want to help around the resort.  She thinks its fun to do things like the big people, but I know that won't last very long when she figures out its hot and boring and its REAL work.  Anyway, she was trying to help grandma clean one of the bungalows yesterday and one of those moments captured that are priceless.  B sent me the following videos that just made my day...ROTFL



Funny kid.  Looks like she is going to be a lefty too, although she writes with her right hand...555