Misc: November 2010 Archives


November 29, 2010

I haven't managed to wade through any significant fraction of the latest Wikileaks dump, but my initial impression (and it seems others as well) is, "duh". the headline disclosures—that the US spies on its allies (including trying to gather personally identifying information on foreign officials), that its foreign service officers think various world leaders are morons or jerks (and that in some cases they actually are jerks in ways we didn't already know), and that it generally throws its weight around—aren't surprising in general, even if they are in a few cases surprising in detail (frequent flyer numbers? really?). What they are, of course, is embarassing, because these are things that everyone knows even if they don't generally get admitted to publicly. I don't know if this leak will cause Hillary Clinton to resign, as Jack Shafer argues, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see some people get fired. It's not like that's going to change the macro-level behavior though. You just need some turnover so that we can all pretend that there were a few bad apples and that of course the US won't be doing that bad stuff in the future.

November 28, 2010

Lie To Me is of course absurd (think House except with Tim Roth instead of Hugh Laurie and him being an expert in deception instead of a doctor, but otherwise pretty much the same). Anyway, in one episode we learn that Tim Roth has beeen banned from Vegas because he's too good at poker.

So, first it's important to realize that unlike basically every other casino game, with poker the house has no interest in whether you win or lose. Typically they take a fixed rake on every pot though sometimes it's a percentage of the pot up to a small cap. In either case, the casino doesn't care much whether you win or lose. To the extent to which they care at all about how the game proceeds (and poker isn't that big a money maker) it's mostly about play velocity.

Now, Lie To Me does get this sort of right: according to Mrs. G. the objection was that Roth was pissing off the casino's best customers by winning too much. This sounds plausible but it doesn't really make sense either. First, the house primarily cares about having poker players be happy to the extent to which they don't leave the casino. If they just stop playing poker and play some other game, that's actually gravy. Second, for many poker players—especially many of the big money players that are most profitable—it's actually desirable to play against the best players, even if you're likely to lose (think Andy Beal). It doesn't speak to me, but apparently there's excitement in playing against the best. And of course there's nothing stopping any player from just changing tables.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Terence Spies for his help with this post.


November 25, 2010

Some of my recent non-blog material:

  • My submission to the IAB/W3C/ISOC privacy workshop. Not a very optimistic take.
  • My submission to the IETF Real-Time Web workshop, a survey of design options.
  • Slides from the P2PSIP working group meeting, IETF 79 in Beijing; RELOAD status and open issues.

Other links of potential interest:


November 18, 2010

Like many employed Americans, I have had the dubious pleasure of experiencing a variety of health insurance plans over the years (whatever my employer thought was most attractive at the time.) I generally go for the PPO, and of course there's the usual thing where the insurance company only pays for a portion of your visit due to co-pay, partial coverage etc. My doctor doesn't take payment at the time of visit so a month or so after after you've seen them and gotten your prescription for 30 800mg tabs of ibuprofen you get a bill for $20 or whatever. Actually, you get two things: (1) a statement from {Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Aetna} explaining that your doctor billed them for $190, they paid $170, and your share is $20 and (2) a bill from your doctor for $20. And then of course I go to pick up my vitamin I and pay Safeway Pharmacy $10 (because it's generic) and AetnaCrossShield pays them $20 or whatever.

My question about this is why. Not why there's a co-pay, I understand about moral hazard, incentive alignment, etc. My question is why I'm getting two pieces of paper and why my doctor is getting two checks. It seems like it would be a lot easier if AetnaCrossShield just paid all the bills in full, then consolidated all the co-pays or whatever in the month, and sent me a single bill. That would be a lot more convenient for me, and certainly would be for the providers. That's doubly true if your employer does the high deductible plan/HSA thing, since you end up doing a lot of your payments out of the HSA. It would be a lot more convenient (again, for me) for the insurance company to just bill the HSA directly (perhaps billing me for any overage) than for me to have to dig out my HSA credit card every time I want anything.

The best answer I have is that the insurance company wants me to directly experience some annoyance every time I go for service as part of their general co-pay service deterrence strategy. It's not really working in my case, though, since I pay out for prescriptions with my credit card, which is easy, and pay my other co-pays weeks to months later, so it doesn't really affect my behavior.