All posts by Mason

Grew up as a child prodigy on the piano. At age 12 participated in a Carnegie Hall Annex recital, followed by an encore performance for an audience of one: Louis Armstrong. Former writer and editor for the Miami News, technology columnist for The Miami Herald, freelance journalist for the Bucks County Herald in Lahaska, Pennsylvania.

Oregon, here we come!

Yaquina Head Light in Newport, Oregon. Photo by Neil Howard
Yaquina Head Light in Newport, Oregon. Photo by Neil Howard

After writing and publishing my first book, Gulag to Rhapsody by Paul Tarko, life changed dramatically.  I sold my ranch-style home near Biscayne Bay in Miami Shores, ended a marriage of 22 years and moved to Bucks County, a picturesque region of Pennsylvania.

Over the last eleven years, I succeeded in adding one more book project, Pickled Punks and Girlie Shows by Rick West.  Although modestly successful, my contribution was limited to editing West’s manuscript and finding a reputable, reliable publisher to design, print and market the coffee-table-sized book.  Not too shabby, though.

I spent a lot of time writing for a local newspaper, the Bucks County Herald.  Although the free weekly paper’s demographics are enviable, its growing five-figure distribution does not compare with the mass-circulation readership I experienced in South Florida.  So to survive, I supplemented my meager income by driving for several limousine companies.

Well, the old adage – life is what happens while you’re busy making plans – is now apparent.  Four years ago, while chatting up two young honeys in a wine bar in Doylestown, a lean, towering force of a woman named Alice McCormick infused me with new beginnings, a healthy lifestyle and a rewarding partnership.

This year, Alice began the process of selling her spacious Doylestown two-story home, including pool, gazebo and Irish-bar-themed basement.  With its disposition in sight, she is dragging me – willingly – to the outskirts of Portland, Oregon where we will set up stakes on September 20.

Oregon is an awesome, environmentally sensible state and also reputed to be 420-friendly.  Preliminarily, I find a beckoning writing community throughout the Beaver State to be far more active and embracing than what Pennsylvania has to offer, but the cynical side of myself says to wait and see.

After an expected soft landing, I will report on what we find out there, including  a report on our 3,000-mile trek across the country with our finicky tabby cat, Millie.  Stay tuned!

 

Drug testing for doctors

California Ballot Initiative Gaining Popularity

drug-testing-101

An interesting political battle is shaping up in the State of California.

On one side is Consumer Watchdog, founded by Harvey Rosenfield in 1985. Rosenfield worked with Ralph Nader on campaign financing reform and nuclear power proliferation. According to the Aug. 1 issue of The New York Times, Jamie Cort, now the group’s president, predicts drug-testing doctors “will spread like wildfire if the voters of California give it a nod.” Erin Brockovich jumped on the bandwagon in late July.

The activists want California to become the first state to add physicians onto a growing number of professionals – pilots, professional drivers and public-service employees – that risk draconian penalties if they fail random and on-the-scene accident drug-testing. Aligning themselves with Consumer Watchdog is California’s association of trial lawyers, including U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Once the initiative passes, the legal beagles plan to give themselves a pay raise. Piggybacked onto Proposition 46 is an end to the 29-year-long cap for pain-and-suffering awards, raising it from $250,000 to $1.1 million. In opposition is the California Medical Association, unions representing various other medical workers, the state’s Chamber of Commerce and California’s chapter of Planned Parenthood, a longtime advocate for OB-GYN doctors.

These opponents argue the end game has little to do with drug-testing doctors, and they worry that doctors’ insurance premiums will skyrocket if the pain and suffering limit increases more than four times the current limit. Historically, doctors’ insurance rates were pushing medical professionals out of the state until the pain-and-suffering cap was mandated in 1975.

The California ballot measure threatens to dwarf all other state political races in November, and out-of-state medical professionals, including Johns Hopkins University, the Department of Health and Human Services and New York University, have joined in the chorus embracing passage.

Consumer Watchdog cites California Medical Board estimates that “18% of doctors will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their careers, and that 1-2% will abuse drugs or alcohol at any given time. A review of California physician disciplinary records found that one in six actions involved substance abuse, including self-use or overprescribing.”

Seemingly lost in the debate are physicians who drink coffee or take over-the-counter stimulants. Or doctors who use cannabis while on holiday and show a positive reading upon his or her return. Will that medical professional be weeded out from the pool? Another thing: Will California’s head-long quest to drug-test doctors ripple out to other Golden State-licensed professional occupations?

Like attorneys, for instance. One might reasonably suspect trial lawyers in that state could be next, right?

Nah, I doubt it, but it’s fun to contemplate.

UPDATE (8/17/14): Proposition 46 will appear on the California ballot on November 4th, and a growing list of opponents warn of the consequences of passage.  Get the full background here: controversy growing over California ballot measure.

 

Sushi surprise

Still recovering from my first all-out encounter with sushi at a fine restaurant. Didn’t realize how richly caloric some Japanese rolls at Ooka could be; no wonder finicky eaters forgo forks and knives for chopsticks.

Preliminary tally amounted to 2,000 calories, way over a sensible allowance. When I woke up the next morning, the weight scale’s digital monitor screamed I added three pounds.

Ouch!

Mesquito Grille secures the bill

A big shout-out to the folks at Mesquito Grille in Doylestown, PA.

After strolling around the Doylestown at Dusk car show Saturday, 7/19, I ambled into the Mesquito Grille’s bar for some blackened catfish, grilled veggies, some rice and crab bisque, and, oh yes, 18 ounces of Goose Island’s Matilda Belgian style pale ale.

While chowing down, we got in some good people-watching, so good, in fact, that I absentmindedly left my credit card behind in the bartender’s checkbook.

Not to worry. He’s a young, upstanding Doylestonian, assisted by watchful management that held onto my card until I called them this morning.

Did I mention the food is good, too?

Welcome to masonloika.com

Buckslivemusic.com is dead.  This website is its successor.

My obituary for Danawa is the lead item in this blog.  As soon as it appears in the Bucks County Herald, the story will exist on a page of its own.

More stories and article to follow.  Check the top of this website where it says, “About me.”  That’s a separate page.

Enjoy looking around.