January 31, 2011

Transferring Prescriptions

Mortar and pestleYesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a front-page story that the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy may consider instituting a rule like one in effect in neighboring Ohio. Under most circumstances in that state, a person cannot transfer a prescription between pharmacies more often than once a year. Such a regulation clearly limits consumer choice through restraint of trade.

So what arguments have been advanced to justify such a restraint? The main argument is set forth in this paragraph:
“We’ve had so many prescriptions being transferred, and every time a transfer occurs, there is an increased chance of error because they’re all done verbally,” said Ernest E. Boyd, executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association. Errors can occur in phone calls between pharmacists, with possible points of confusion including many drugs having sound-alike names or dosages being misunderstood.
The article also suggests that transfers can also result in prescriptions being active in multiple pharmacies, allowing the patient to purchase more drugs than he or she is entitled to.

It sounds to me as though pharmacists simply don’t want to be bothered with transfers or with competition.

Ohio is actually solving the wrong problem. In this age of computers and the Internet, one might think that the medical community could devise a way to communicate prescription information reliably and securely without having to dictate information over the telephone. If the prescription transfer process is broken, even transferring a prescription once in a year is hazardous.

Interestingly, one doesn’t hear about banks asking the government to limit money transfers because effecting them over the telephone is error-prone. Banks transfer billions of dollars every day, and—trust me on this one—banks are pretty good at doing it right. Maybe pharmacy schools need to add more computer courses to the curriculum.

January 23, 2011

What to Do with Republicans?

It is infuriating that the Republican Party is wasting the time of the House of Representatives by its cynical and futile attempts to repeal or eviscerate “Obamacare.” That the GOP is increasingly dominated by sanctimonious demagogues and ignorant ideologues inspired me to create the logo below:

January 14, 2011

Hope Fulfilled?

In my post “Hope for 2011,” I observed that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorialized that it would be good if WDUQ-FM, which Duquesne University had put on the auction block, would be sold to an organization that would maintain the present news/jazz/NPR format.

Today, it appears that that hope has been fulfilled. In a brief announcement following the 2:01 PM NPR news, listeners were informed that the station has been sold for $6 million—substantially less than the university was aiming for—to Essential Public Media, a joint venture of WYEP-FM, a Pittsburgh adult alternative public radio station, and Public Media Co. (PMC).

The Post-Gazette explains that

PMC is a nonprofit organization launched by Public Radio Capital, a Boulder, Colo.-based organization that helps communities preserve public radio stations in their markets.

It appears that news, jazz, and NPR programming will remain in the WDUQ lineup. A press conference is scheduled for later today.

WDUQ logo

January 13, 2011


It’s snowing again, and I feel stranded inside. At times like this, I really appreciate encountering something humorous or amazing. An example is the little video below that I ran into this morning. Enjoy!


January 7, 2011

Who Moved My CofE Web Site?

Today I was updating the No Anglican Covenant Web site, mostly to add new documents from the Church of England. As I was doing so, I began getting “Internal server error” messages when trying to reach pages I had been able to view a few minutes earlier. (See image below. Click on images in this post for a larger image.)

Server ErrorA bit later, the Church of England Web site returned (sort of), but none of my links worked. I tried to search for the documents to which I was trying to link and, on every search, the following notice was returned:

ErrorSo, what is going on here? Consider the matter of the Church of England Web site’s URL. The Web site in the past could be found at http://england.anglican.org/, http://cofe.anglican.org/, or http://churchofengland.org/. It appears that the primary domain (or subdomain) being used before today was cofe.anglican.org. As of now, trying to access that subdomain displays the “Internal server error” message. The primary domain now seems to be churchofengland.org; england.anglican.org is being redirected to churchofengland.org.

Well, the Church of England has launched a newly designed Web site. I didn’t know this was coming, but, apparently, others did. Clearly, the launch, which was done Friday night, is a disaster. One has to ask if the designer, Zebedee Creations, bothered to test the new site before going live. The Church of England should not pay for their new site until it actually works.

Is more going on, however? The Anglican Domain (i.e., anglican.org) is at least partially controlled by Americans. (Click here for more information.) Does the Church of England not want to be at all associated with Episcopalians?

Update, 1/7/2011, 6:16 PM: The subdomain cofe.anglican.org is now being redirected to churchofengland.org.

Update, 1/7/2011, 6:31 PM: Thinking Anglicans has also published an item on the new Web site. That post quotes Director of Communications for the Church of England, Peter Crumpler, as saying, “All the existing links should transfer across [to the new site] auto­matic­ally.” Yeah, right!

Update, 1/7/2011, 7:13 PM: The search function on the Church of England Web site is no longer giving error messages for every search. On the other hand, I have not found any of the documents to which I created links earlier this afternoon.

January 3, 2011

Why the Archbishop of Canterbury Hates Us

Many Episcopalians simply cannot understand why Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who, we were told, would be a liberal archbishop, has turned out to be such a disappointment. The explanation, I think, can be found in an interview with Williams in The Big Issue in Scotland.

Much of the interview concerns economic issues, about which Williams does indeed seem to be a liberal. Then there is this:
Has the intensity of the quarrel [over gay bishops] become difficult to deal with? “Well, no more difficult than usual. It’s an ongoing set of problems. It’s to do with a Church that tries to span some very different cultures, and which is often rather unwilling to learn across cultures… It’s easier, sometimes, to go to our corners.”
IRowan Williamsn this brief quotation from the “spiritual head” of the Anglican Communion lies the answer to why the archbishop seems intent upon destroying the Anglican Communion as we have known and supported it. This man thinks the Anglican Communion is a church, and he is working to preserve the coherence and integrity of a church, a task that would simply be unnecessary for a communion, where such lockstep unity is not a requirement.

Rowan Williams is, of course, well educated, and he cannot be ignorant of the history of the Anglican Communion or of the great resistance in the past to centralizing decision-making within it. The problem, as I see it, is that Williams is very catholic in his outlook and, in his heart of hearts, would like to see Anglicans unite with Roman Catholics. Such a union can hardly be effected when Anglicans cannot seem to unite even with one another.

Whether the Archbishop of Canterbury’s dream of ecclesiastical union has created the delusion that the Anglican Communion is a church or whether he has chosen to embrace a lie in the furtherance of his ecclesiastical goals I cannot say. Neither explanation is very flattering.

January 1, 2011

Hope for 2011

The editorial in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Hope for 2011,” is subtitled “News and headlines we’d like to see in the new year.” (“Hopes for 2011” might have been a better title.) In the printed version of the Post-Gazette, the editorial is a long column of headlines seemingly torn from actual newspapers and pasted as if in a scrapbook. Unfortunately, only the text made it to the Post-Gazette Web site.

Most of the hopeful headlines relate specifically to Pittsburgh, such as the unlikely “PIRATES ENTER ALL-STAR BREAK AT .500.” Some of the national headlines seem at least possible (“UNEMPLOYMENT RATE CONTINUES PLUNGE”), whereas others seem far-fetched (“OBAMA ANNOUNCES VISIT TO CUBA”).

WDUQ logoMy favorite headline is the very first one, “New WDUQ owner keeps NPR, jazz lineup,” and I was pleased to see the hopeful headline and particularly pleased to see it featured so prominently.

WDUQ-FM is the primary NPR station in Pittsburgh. The 60-year-old station is owned by Duquesne University, which is razing its long-time home to build a dormitory and which has put the station itself on the auction block. The university clearly intends to rid itself of a “non-productive” asset and gain as much money as it can in the process. No doubt, the license to broadcast is worth more to a commercial enterprise than to a nonprofit one, but WDUQ listeners are hoping (and, no doubt, praying) that the station can be purchased by some civic-minded collection of individuals and foundations that will maintain the existing jazz and NPR format.

If I were the WDUQ station manager, I might tweak the schedule a bit, adding more public affairs programming and cutting down on the jazz, but the current format represents a good compromise in the Pittsburgh market. WDUQ once featured classical music, but that was redundant in the same town as the all-classical WQED-FM. WDUQ has more public affairs offerings on its HD channels, though one has to wonder who is listening to them. Pittsburgh has produced more than its share of jazz musicians, so it seems appropriate for at least one local radio station to feature that genre.

WDUQ is very nearly the only radio station I listen to these days, mostly for the NPR (and PRI, etc.) programming, but also for the excellent local news and features. (The recent series of short reports, “Living With,” featuring first-person descriptions of coping with mental health disorders, was both fascinating and educational.) The staff is professional, dedicated, and knowledgeable.

That is not to say that I never listen to the music programming on my favorite station, though I must admit that my taste for and knowledge of jazz are a bit thin. I do deliberately tune in to one music show, “Rhythm Sweet and Hot.” RS&H is a rare show that features popular music of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. It is co-hosted by my friend and fellow church choir member Mike Plaskett, whose knowledge of the period covered by the show is encyclopedic.

Not only Pittsburgh listeners will be hoping for the salvation of WDUQ in something like its present form. A few years ago, the station established translators in Johnstown, New Baltimore, Somerset, and Ligonier, nearby towns in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pledges regularly can be expected from these areas, as well as from listeners in West Virginia and friends who listen over the Internet. (When I’m out of town, I often find that the easiest way to listen to my favorite NPR programs is to listen to WDUQ’s live air stream over the Internet.)

My thanks to the Post-Gazette for reminding Pittsburghers of the need to save an important local cultural asset. If any of the hoped-for headlines actually appear in the newspaper in 2011, I hope that “New WDUQ owner keeps NPR, jazz lineup” will be one of them.