Saturday, January 31, 2015

The NUCC--a Great Discovery for a Lover of Bureaucracy

Who knew there was a NUCC in our world? 

What, you may ask, is a NUCC?

It's the National Uniform Claim Committee, the proud sponsor of 1500_Claim, which is one of the government's most popular publications.

Essentially it tries to standard healthcare claims. As they say:

"The NUCC replaced the Uniform Claim Form Task Force, which was co-chaired by the AMA and CMS and resulted in the development of the 1500 Claim Form, a single paper claim form for use by all third-party payers. With the transition of the medical community to electronic data interchange and the proliferation of data element definitions among various payers, it became essential that an organization be established to maintain uniformity and standardization in these areas. The NUCC is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the data sets and physical layout of the hard copy 1500 Claim Form.
From the provider viewpoint, non-uniform data elements have caused significant frustration, claims billing and processing delays, and rejections. From the payer viewpoint, claims that are not in the required format may be resubmitted several times before they can be processed. The result is a very labor-intensive and costly business practice for providers and payers.
Through an iterative process, the NUCC used existing implementation guides, data dictionaries and results from ongoing standardization efforts within the health care industry to consolidate the many current data sets into one set.  The NUCC continues to work to optimize, as necessary, coordination of implementation within the health care industry, working with ASC X12N as required, to resolve data maintenance and standards problems that arise from the NUCC's work.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Gloom and Doom

"Gloom and doom" was a popular term in the '50s--if I remember Republicans accused the Dems of embracing gloom and doom when Dems pointed with alarm at all the shortcomings of Ike's administration and the general state of the world.

On a day when spring seem far away, I thought I'd highlight a contemporary gloom and doomster, Leslie Gelb, writing as part of a Politico survey of learned people forecasting 15 years ahead:

The world of 2030 will be an ugly place, littered with rebellion and repression. Societies will be deeply fragmented and overwhelmed by irreconcilable religious and political groups, by disparities in wealth, by ignorant citizenry and by states’ impotence to fix problems. This world will resemble today’s, only almost everything will be more difficult to manage and solve.
Advances in technology and science won’t save us. Technology will both decentralize power and increase the power of central authorities. Social media will be able to prompt mass demonstrations in public squares, even occasionally overturning governments as in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, but oligarchs and dictators will have the force and power to prevail as they did in Cairo. Almost certainly, science and politics won’t be up to checking global warming, which will soon overwhelm us.
Muslims will be the principal disruptive factor, whether in the Islamic world, where repression, bad governance and economic underperformance have sparked revolt, or abroad, where they are increasingly unhappy and distained by rulers and peoples. In America, blacks will become less tolerant of their marginalization, as will other persecuted minorities around the world. These groups will challenge authority, and authority will slam back with enough force to deeply wound, but not destroy, these rebellions.
A long period of worldwide economic stagnation and even decline will reinforce these trends. There will be sustained economic gulfs between rich and poor. And the rich will be increasingly willing to use government power to maintain their advantages.
Unfortunately, the next years will see a reversal of the hopes for better government and for effective democracies that loomed so large at the end of the Cold War.
(I think he's by far the most pessimistic seer.)

Enjoy the weekend.

"An Accretion of Intention"

A phrase lifted from a New Yorker Around Town piece--the context is that the New Yorker's offices are moving from midtown Manhattan south.  (See their cover.)  Nick Paumgarten has observations on the moving process, the loss of familiar routines and landmarks, the need to go through years of accumulation hoardings.  He quotes an acquaintance as calling it "the accretion of intention", which I think is right on.  In my old office, in my home, in my life I've seen the gradual accumulation of stuff which were parts of good intentions: projects I wanted to do; things I wanted people to see me doing; stuff I wanted to have done, but always works which I never had the energy or determination actually to do.

One thing I did once do is pass my drivers test.  Adam Gopnik has an article on his late-life experience learning to drive. 

BTW I've a stack of last year's New Yorkers to get rid of--read most of most of them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Farm Program Costs Under the New FArm Bill

David Rogers at Politico has a longish piece on projections of costs under the new farm bill.  The Congressional Budget Office has revised their estimates upward.  Rogers suggests maybe their estimating process has problems, that as prices fall and  the new direct payment programs increase their payouts, crop insurance costs will also fall.

Food Waste--Michael Roberts

Prof. Roberts doesn't blog often but he's good. His latest is a long spiel on the subject of food, especially food waste. Naturally his opinion and mine are reasonably in agreement, though his is longer and with added points: food waste is correlated to the cheapness of food; reducing food waste would increase the supply of food, making it cheaper.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Changing Norms

I follow the Powerline blog, even though it's conservative and I'm liberal. Sometimes they, particularly Paul Mirengoff, surprise me but mostly not.

Today Steven Hayward writes on manners and norms in the classroom.  His takeoff point is a university banning the use of titles in favor of using the students' full names when a professor calls on a student--i.e., "Mr. Harshaw", etc.  He pats himself on the back for using "Mr and Ms" when calling on his students.

Call me old, call my memory defective, but I believe I remember back in the late 60's when all good true conservatives would never let "Ms" cross their lips. So things change.

The Farmer's Risks: Death

Farmers are about twice as likely to die as police, according to this graph of deadliest occupations. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Farmland Transfers

Chris Clayton at DTN has a piece on farmland transfers,given the high proportion of farmland owned by the old, who will be dying shortly, creating problems both for inheritance and especially for leasing.  The Iowa poet laureate wrote a play on the topic.

Here's the link to the website of the playwright

Sunday, January 25, 2015

On User Interfaces

Via Technology Review (I think) comes this post discussing the design of the user interface of subway ticket machines for San Francisco and New York City.  It's got a twist in the middle, and having been a tourist in NYC myself, and being older getting more easily confused and less resilient in dealing with confusion, I end up valuing the design I dismissed when I started reading it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Free Trade, Promotion Orders, and the Case of the Hass Avocado


A while back foodies attacked NAFTA for permitting US farmers to export cheap corn into Mexico, thereby undermining small farmers in Mexico.

There's controversy over the constitutionality of "research and promotion orders", the Hass Avocado Board operates as the result of one.

Now the avocado is surging in popularity as described here.  One might assume that the importing of avocados from Mexico has ruined the market for California growers.  But looking closely at the charts there, that doesn't seem to be the case.  Imports have grown tremendously, but US production has also grown, if not so fast (it appears US avocados went from 600 million in 2007 to 1 billion in 2013.)  It seems at least for the moment that the combination of free trade (NAFTA) and government interference (the Avocado Board) have produced prosperity for everyone, at least as long as California doesn't dry up.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I Shoulda Stayed with History--It's Expanding

I tried and failed to become a historian, dropping out of grad school after a year and a half. 

Prof. Fea passes on a report which shows I missed out on an opportunity--the past is expanding.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Big Advantage Government Has in Hiring

The big advantage government has over private industry in hiring is the possibility of work being important, in serving the society.  Sure, Google engineers can aim to do no evil, programmers could aim to make information free, but there's always the suspicion that what you're doing is enriching Larry Ellison. 

What's the trigger for this bit of euphoria: the sun peeking through the clouds and this post on the US Digital Service.  Get the salt shaker.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Boar Taint, Walt Jeffries, and GMO's

Modern Farmer has an article on "boar taint*" for which they interviewed Walt Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm.  Walt has bred "boar taint"out of his herd.  The issue raised in the article is whether it's okay to use genetic modification methods to remove the cause of boar taint from the genome of pigs.  Unlike the usual objections to GMO's, which involve transferring DNA from another species into a genome, this is an edit, an edit which as Walt has shown can be done using conventional breeding techniques.  (I raised a similar question in connection with wheat in this post.)

I suspect as we improve our understanding of genetics similar questions will come up.

* it's something which makes pork from boars unmarketable--see the link if you really want to know.

Monday, January 19, 2015

USDA Supports Terrorists?

What can you call beings who decapitate other beings but terrorists?

Maybe you call them "decapitating flies", and distribute them in Alabama because they decapitate fire ants? All part of the service provided by your Department of Agriculture and the Extension Service.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Viral Contagion and Networks: the Early Republic

One of my things in recent years is becoming more aware of the importance of networks in various forms and contexts.  I've the pet idea that the American Revolution laid the basis for the nation simply by creating networks across colonies which then enabled various forms of innovation and development in the early republic.  That may be true, but Boston 1775 notes an occasion where networks were not good; the first(?) tour of states by President Washington also seems to have spread the flu into New England.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Software "Containers" and Object-Oriented

Back when I exited the field, "object-oriented" software was the buzzword of the day.  If I remember, the idea was that a given software "object" was self-contained; once the object was coded and tested, you could count on it.

So 17 years pass and now the NYTimes describes some outfit doing software containers as the hot new thing.  Too much time has passed for me to understand the difference, except for a vague idea that software containers may be more independent of their operating system and programming language than the old "objects'. 

Seems I'll have to add "containers" to "string theory" as cases where the advance of knowledge has left me in the dust.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dairy Program, Number of Dairy Farms

USDA is reporting that over half the nation's dairy farms have signed up in the new dairy program.

What struck me was the small number of farms. According to Hoard's Dairyman as of 2012:
Since 1992, the drop in licensed, or so-called commercial dairy farms, has been 80,028 from 131,509 to 51,481. That’s a 61 percent drop during that time. Of the 80,028 dairies that exited the business during the past two decades, the vast majority, 57,497 or 72 percent, sold their cows between 1992 and 2002. That is an average of 5,861 dairy herds each year. Since then, the total has been cut more than in half. From 2003 to 2011, only 22,531 businesses left our industry for a nine-year average of 2,503.
Some law schools are concerned about the drop in enrollment, but they haven't seen a 61 percent drop.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Crisis in the Orchard

John Phipps links to a great report on troubles in the North Carolina orchards.  It's got some age on it, which explains why you haven't read about the crisis in today's media, but the poor guy is going to lose his tractor.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Re-emergence of "Traditional Values"

One day we're told that college-educated get married and stay married, and marriage makes you happy.

Another day we see reports on the importance of self-control, the famous marshmallow experiment predicts success in life (4 year olds told if they don't eat a marshmallow now, they'll get 2 later).

A third day we read about how London taxi drivers, who have to memorize all the streets before they can drive for hire, are shown to have much larger areas of the brain associated with memory.

[Just saw a piece on the importance of family dinners.]

 I can remember when the family was considered oppressive, something to be freed from, and divorce was a step on the road to liberation.

I can remember when going with the flow was the watchword.

I can remember when practice and memorization were tied to the past, to the unenlightened past.

I grew up in a time and place where family was the norm, self-control was expected, and strengthening one's mind was the result of habits.

What lesson do I take from all these: in part there are intellectual fads, in part we humans ride a pendulum of theories, never coming to rest on the truth.

Friday, January 09, 2015

French Dairy Mating

Modern Farmer posts on a French site on mating dairy cows and bulls:
"A consortium of French breeding associations launched the site in October after a farming summit. Breeders write up their cows’ online profiles, recording age and race (eye color is assumed to be brown), followed by their ideal traits in a mate. Milking prowess in its female progeny, perhaps? Muscular fitness? Or perhaps an unfettered ability to knock up his mate on the first go-around?"
 I'm curious, since my impression is that in America the data on the bulls and their progeny are posted/public, not the data on the dams.  Not sure if that's a true difference, and if it is, why it might exist.  Certainly the universe of bulls is much smaller than the universe of cows, which might be one factor.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Decline of the Mainline Church

The statistical summary for the Presbyterian Church is out.  Not good news for anyone tied to the church, either willfully or by ancestry (me).  Between 2010 and 2013, the active church membership declined by 12.6 percent. 

[Updated: added "active"]

Who Knew Wikipedia Had Bureaucrats?

It does.

Now that the found of all knowledge has succumbed to bureaucracy, it's only a matter of time before we bureaucrats take over the world.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Snow Day

Welcome to Washington all you newly-elected senators and representatives, welcome to the snow.

We had about 4 inches in Reston, enough to cause big problems because the forecast was for 1-2 inches and OPM and schools didn't close.   I wonder if Congress gave the Weather Service enough money to upgrade their model to surpass the Europeans whether they could have gotten a better forecast.

Of course people in the Syracuse area would sneer at us Virginians for not being able to drive in snow.

[Updated:  but Bao Bao, the giant panda cub, enjoyed it. ]

Monday, January 05, 2015

Persistence of Culture: Navaho Farming

Vox has an interesting post on where "lady farmers" are. (Note: the writer used the much better term "female farmers" when she actually wrote the piece, but I assume I can blame her for the URL.)

There's an interesting geographic pattern.  The counties with the highest percentage of femal operators seem to be either Native American (the Four Corners of the SW = Navaho) or exurban counties, presumably women who find fulfillment in farming, using the earnings from their first career as capital.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Laugh of the Day

An interesting article in the NY Times magazine on Shell Oil's Arctic oil effort and its mishaps (many).   At one point the Coast Guardsmen on a rescue helicopter run into an unpleasant surprise: the smallest of the 18 crew members who must be airlifted to safety weighs 235 pounds.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Victory Lap: Ebola

Buried somewhere in the comments on Ann Althouse's blog is a bet/promise I made.  It was to the effect that if there were more people dying in the US from Ebola than the number of victories the Washington Skins won in the 2014 season, I'd do my shopping on Amazon through Ann's blog.

At that time the numbers stood at: Americans dead of Ebola--zero, others dead of Ebola dying in the US--one, Skins victories--three.  The final score for 2014 was 0, 1, 4.

I have to admit I didn't have the courage of my convictions or I would have offered a straight bet to all comers, but I can at least claim I was right and all the people who panicked were wrong.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Try These Resolutions

I've decided not to do New Years resolutions any more--the usual reason--they don't work.

But for those who do want to make resolutions, consider the resolutions (not New Years) of Rev. Jonathan Edwards.

No End to the HR Courses--Five Generations at Work

FSA just posted a notice on "Diversity and Inclusion Training on Generational Differences for
Supervisors and Managers".

It seems there are five! different generations at work these days, and they work differently, so managers must know how to handle them.

With tongue in cheek, I list the generations:
  • old farts (my generation) who hang on and bore everyone with their talk of the good old days
  • boomers who bore everyone with their talk of the day they'll retire
  • gen X who bore everyone with their self-pity over all the boomers who don't have the sense to retire and make way for new blood
  • gen Y (millennials) who are busily searching for a new job away from all the bores.
  • post millennials, who are practicing up to be boring bureaucrats as soon as they get out of diapers
Although I mock, it's serious business, even having the imprimatur of a Harvard Business Review article

Next subject on the horizon: the different cultures of America, how to deal with the cultural differences between New Jerseyans and Texans, Oregonians and Floridians.  That should be good for a couple days training and a 5-digit fee to the consultant doing the training. 

(I need to create a label for this: should I use "boondoggle" or "human relations".)