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Monday, February 03, 2014

Long Month's Journey Into E-Mail - The Letter "A"

It took me about 10 years, but it has finally reached that point. My e-mail account is officially out of control.

In the early days of e-mail, back in the 1990s, people learned the hard way that an e-mail address is something that should be shared as little as possible. Signing up for "new offers" became a nightmare, as retail outlets forced an e-mail out to all subscribers roughly every 48 hours for some kind of new "bargain".

I thought I knew better. I truly thought that with over 20 years of internet surfing under my belt that I finally knew how to control the influx of e-mail to my inbox. Roughly 900 e-mails in my inbox later, I find that I was sadly mistaken.

So, since today is a scheduled day off for me, I thought I'd begin the task of cleaning out my inbox, while at the same time, offering the reader random insights into my world and its machinations, as explained by who sends me e-mail on a regular (or perhaps irregular) basis. This will be a regular feature throughout the month of February until the bottom of the e-mail folder is reached. To make things easier, I have ordered my e-mail box alphabetically by sender. I'm going to do these posts one letter (or group of letters) at a time so as to keep your attention. Today's posting is brought to you by the letter "A".

I'll give you a minute to grab a few beers, some cookies or equivalent biscuits and allow you to settle in for our journey.....

With that, let us begin:

AAPC / 8 E-mails - I have been a certified medical coder since 1998, the American Academy of Professional Coders (or AAPC) is my licensing organization, and I have two current certifications through the organization. Currently, I am looking at 8 e-mails dating back to January 15th of 2013. We have 3 receipts, two for national conferences from last year in Orlando, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee (coming up this April) respectively, and one for my membership renewal fees that come up once a year. I'll be generating the latter again in June. Since maintaining my certification is now a necessity of my occupational life, I can claim all of these receipts for tax purposes (this is where I print and delete). I have one e-mail welcoming me to last year's conference in Orlando (delete), a reminder from last May that my membership fees are due (paid; delete) and an e-mail thanking me for my registration to this year's National Conference (delete). I also have an e-mail talking about how I can get certified for ICD-10.

What is ICD-10, you ask? I'll going to try to make this simple, but apparently, I never can. "ICD" stands for International Classification of Diseases. IN 1900, the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed on a global standard for disease reporting, with the original plan being to update the reporting system every ten years afterward. The United States currently uses the 9th Revision (ICD-9) for all billing and coding. It should be noted here that we are the last first-world country still using it, as it was released in the 1970's. When I first became a certified coder in 1998, I was told that ICD-10 usage would begin in the U.S. in the year 2000. This was a wild exaggeration, as the United States has finally decided to join the rest of the modernized world on October 1, 2014. It is a wasted exercise, as ICD-11 is due to be released by WHO in May of 2015. When I pointed this out to the geniuses that run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), I was told that it is now too expensive to wait for the most modern system, which is a bald-faced lie. If you want to write your congressman about any subject, I ask you to write to him or her and beg for ICD-10 to be permanently shelved in favor of ICD-11. The 11th Revision includes clinical language which will lead to better treatment, which I have always believed was the goal of "health care".

The last e-mail from the AAPC was a daily digest from a LinkedIn group that they ran that was a total waste of my time. I unsubscribed from this group in December and must have forgotten to delete this last digest. I just fixed that.

ADVANCE Newsletters / 8 E-mails - ADVANCE is a company who provides free publications for certain occupations. The one I currently subscribe to is for Health Information Management, which is actually an area of expertise for people who do billing for hospital facility services. I have been a subscriber for years. They used to make a print edition, which consisted of medical transcriptionists complaining that they were in a dying profession and no one wanted to pay them what they thought they deserved. This became expensive, and ADVANCE now sends out e-mails. All eight of these are either the regular e-mail blast with stories about ICD-10 (there it is again) or attempts to sell me something. I am deleting all of these, and if you give me a moment, I am going to unsubscribe from the publication permanently. It no longer deserves my time.

Afton Milwaukee / 1 E-mail - Afton is one of these groups that will book musicians in certain venues in cities, provided that you swell 50 tickets for your friends to see yourself and promise to never get paid. The e-mail that I have is telling me that Afton has a Washington, D.C. branch. As I leave the house every morning at 6:30 to drive 50 minutes to work, stay until 5 PM and then return to my home at roughly 6:10 every evening after the nightly commute, my musical career is slowly sinking like a rock. Even if it wasn't, I don't like groups like this, as it perpetuates a system where the musician gets screwed out of money for the faint glimmer of hope that recognition could come with the next gig. Mark this one "safe to delete".

Al Quaglieri / 1 E-mail - Al Quaglieri is a longtime producer in the music business. His first credits go back to 1958 and records by Johnny Cash. Recently, he works as a producer on reissues of of classic albums or box sets for Sony. It is in this capacity that I came to be in possession of an e-mail from him.

One of my favorite songwriters is Laura Nyro. For all but the hardcore fans, she was known as a writer who created hits for other people, among the "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night, "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Wedding Bell Blues" by the 5th Dimension and one of my favorites, "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Her first four solo recordings are just phenomenal, and Al Quaglieri has worked on reissues of a few of them, as well as acting as the producer and liner note author of a live recording from 1971 that was released in 2004.

For a time in the early 2000's, I belonged to an online chat group about Laura Nyro, and Al reached out to the group to offer some free professional copies of reissues and what became the live album from 1971. He did this with the proviso that these not be offered on eBay or he would come after anyone who did. He offered a temporary e-mail for the requests. I requested Eli and the 13th Confession and Live at the Fillmore East, March 30th, 1971, both of which I received and both of which remain in my collection. If you have a chance, look over this list of albums and reissues upon which this man has worked. It's a rather profound list. With that, I delete this e-mail from 2004 telling me that the albums are on their way.

As for the chat group, there are two people I still talk to from time to time, but I left because there were some people in the group (in particular one squirrelly guy from Chicago) who tended to be politically correct scolds and way too sensitive. Rather than waste my time in an online kabuki dance of manners, I left. In the end, I have to be me.

(Co-worker / Named Redacted) / 1 E-mail - From time to time, I get work e-mails in my personal e-mail box. This is as a result of having shared it with my boss and a few other key people at work during my pre-employment phase. As a result, if the sender isn't careful, I get e-mail threads for work in my personal inbox. This particular co-worker was replying to an e-mail from my boss, which included my home e-mail on the CC line. The co-worker's last name begins with "A". I have read and deleted.

Allmusic Membership / 1 E-mail - For a very short time in 2004, I was a member of the Allmusic Guide, which has become the music information juggernaut (for better or for worse, mostly worse) of the streaming music era. Membership allowed you to provide clarification on entries in the Allmusic Guide. When I tried to update the profile of one of my favorite songwriters, David Ackles, with information showing that his main instrument was piano, I received a rude e-mail back from them stating that they "could not verify the information" and further wording that intimated that my information couldn't be trusted. If they had any institutional curiosity, aside from making themselves the main purveyor of useless music information and band reviews on the internet, they could have picked up any one of the four albums David Ackles made in his lifetime and read the credits that stated "David Ackles: Piano, Vocals". Apparently, quoting Richie Unterberger ad nauseum for every band that ever existed is the preferred course of the Allmusic Guide. The e-mail I have is for password information. Consider that deleted. If you want to know anything about bands from the past, go to Wikipedia for the time being. The Allmusic Guide is full of opinionated biographies written by one guy ( the aforementioned Unterberger) who apparently likes to write dismissive one-paragraph dreck about artists he doesn't like and mini-novellas about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Without simple, neutral artist biographies, the Allmusic Guide has become the greatest hinderance to true music discovery in the internet age.

(Named Redacted) / 1 E-mail - This e-mail dates back to 2005 and is from a former co-worker of my wife Leslie. It involved getting connections to the local music scene in Milwaukee. That didn't work out so well, as the e-mail thread talks about links to my MySpace page. This is a good time to tell everyone I know that I cannot access my MySpace page, and I haven't been able to in years. If the first listing for me on Google is for my MySpace page, ignore it. The information is terribly out of date and to quote Seth Myers, MySpace is the world's largest abandoned amusement park, no matter how hard they try to make it for musicians only.

Amazon / 7 E-mails -  Yes, like every other agoraphobe in the world, I have an Amazon account. These seven e-mails are offering me assorted deals on hot chocolate at Starbucks (why?), assorted albums (mostly by Bob Dylan) and luggage, all expired. I also have a request to rate a purchase from 2012, a receipt for merchandise I've already received back in 2011 and another order I received last June. Finally, there is a promotional credit of $1 that expired four days ago. I really must review my e-mail more often. Seven e-mails read and seven subsequently deleted.

American Red Cross / 2 E-mails - I am a long-time blood donor. I was spoiled living in Wisconsin, as the Blood Center of Wisconsin made donating easy. When I moved to Maryland, I had to set up an account with the Red Cross to donate regularly. One of these e-mails is for online access, and one is a thank you for making an appointment I had back in November. I challenge you to give blood, but to also delete unwanted e-mails to save a life.

Ann Crowley and Anna Galland / 4 E-mails - These are examples of what I call "advocacy e-mails". Ann Crowley is the membership director for the Human Rights Campaign and Anna Galland works for MoveOn.org. While I generally agree with the policies and beliefs of these two organizations, the number of e-mails I regularly receive from advocacy groups has reached a tipping point, and is one of the biggest reasons why my inbox has exploded. I just unsubscribed from both of their e-mail lists, as I have from about 15 other organizations recently. I wish them luck, but I don't want the inbox fodder.

Annie B. / 5 E-mails - Annie is a musician friend of mine from Milwaukee. I am on her e-mail list for upcoming shows. As I can't help her out on that front, I'd like to take this opportunity to help her promote her latest project. Annie wants to do a tour of the Midwest in the Spring, but needs some financial help making it a reality. If you can, click here and throw her a few bucks to make her dreams a reality. Annie's had a bit of a tough go on the personal front over the last 18 months, but she soldiers on. I would consider it a personal favor if you donated, and she's almost at her goal. If original, honest music means anything to you, you'll consider donating.

ASCAP / 21 E-mails - I am a member of ASCAP. Having said that, I have never copyrighted any of my songs through them because the website they provide to do that is confusing and completely unhelpful. In the days when musicians got paid (what a concept!), I thought of ASCAP as a racketeering organization. Now, being on the other side of the fence and seeing just how severe a financial penalty artists are expected to pay, I believe in ASCAP's mission to compensate songwriters and performing artists for their work.

Most of the e-mails from ASCAP are the "Daily Brief", which is sent out to document the atrocity that is the new music model. A few are for the ASCAP Expo, which I never attend, and there are a few related to the website that doesn't work. I'm going to keep the latter, then review and delete the former.

Aurora Health Care / 1 E-mail - The Wal-Mart of Milwaukee Health Care sent me an e-mail back in November telling me about their new online patient portal, myAurora. I had the old portal from my time working for Advanced Healthcare, a company I promptly left when Aurora took them over. Unfortunately, provider networks being what they are, I continued to see Aurora doctors, hence my access to the portal. Since I had a moment, I decided to re-register for the new portal. I find that I have no appointments, no outstanding medical bills, and I haven't had my cholesterol checked in 16 months. I'm sure the cholesterol number is well over 300, but it's not impressive unless I set the record. Re-registering for the site created another e-mail. I deleted that one, too.

We have finished the letter A. Tomorrow, we take a look at the letter B. This is going to be quite the project.

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