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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2005 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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rob the king is naked
september 1, 2005

Usually I read my e-mails in the morning, reply that evening. I like the daylight gap between reading and writing back, because it gives me time to consider what the sender has said.

About half the e-mails I receive are from people familiar with my writings, who contact me to say hello, talk about a particular story, essay, etc. they've enjoyed reading.

The other half are from people who aren't familiar with me as a writer, but are contacting me for one of several reasons.

The first group are webmasters who want me to exchange links with their site. The e-mail generally goes, "Our research shows that [such and such a page on SENTENCE] ranks high in search engine searches for [such and such a search term]. The site of theirs they want me to link to usually sells mattresses. (Seriously. I don't know what that's all about.) Those I don't even bother to print. Occasionally, I'll receive an e-mail from a writer just starting out, who has put up his or her own website, or a new publisher trying to get some notice, and those I'll almost always include in the Links section (though sadly, their websites, after a few months, often bubble under).

The second group are people who read something of mine on SENTENCE, were affected by it, and wanted to let me know. The three most common subjects they write about are the death of a cat, a loved one who has had a stroke, and how the hot water cure I suggest for fire ant bites really works (these latter e-mails usually have, GOD THANK YOU!!! in the subject line.) Over the years I've been writing SENTENCE, I've received a large number of e-mails on the death of a cat. Often, people tell me their cat just died, or has been diagnosed with an incurable disease, they did a search on Google, wound up on my site (I've written about the death of several of our cats), and wanted to share their own experience with me. Obviously, I treasure these e-mails, and appreciate the opportunity to help in some small way in sharing their sorrow. The same is true for people who write me after a spouse, parent, or lifetime companion has suffered a stroke. To me, this is one of the greatest powers of the Internet, strangers being able to share information, console each other, around the world.

The third group of people writing me read something I wrote in a Lately, found that the page shows up high in search engine results, and want me to revise or add to what I've written.

Here's a sampling from recent e-mails in this third group.

The first e-mail concerns my Lately on our cat Rudo, who died from kidney failure.

Some text from the e-mail has been edited to assure the anonymity of the writer (it's my personal policy to not identify people who e-mail me, unless they specifically state in their e-mail I can use their name).

I just read your diary entry about Rudo and found it most touching. Indeed, it was more than touching. We lost our second cat to CRF less than three weeks ago (the first was aged 20, the second 22) and two more of our cats have the disease, so we know the wrenching emotions far too intimately. What I found missing in your entry, though, is that much can be done nowadays to help CRF cats. Although [one cat of mine] lived only a year after diagnosis, [another] lived just a month short of three years, all but the last month very high quality life. Not a small number of cats live for five years and at least one (per [our vet]) has lived for eight years after diagnosis. It takes some home care to nurse a cat for so long but the cat often has a high quality of life until it's time to go to the vet for that last visit.

I'm concerned that those who read your lovely story might think that a diagnosis of CRF is invariably an almost immediate death sentence. Vets now routinely test for CRF when a cat reaches senior status (eight or nine) so more cats are being diagnosed early on when much help can begiven in the form of home-delivered subcutaneous fluids and various medications as required. Unfortunately, the age at which cats are being tested is steadily dropping because, like Type 2 diabetes in humans, the problem is being found more frequently and in younger animals.

Thus, I wonder if it's possible for you to add a note to your story - so beautifully presented, by the way - to encourage those who have or might have a cat with CRF to read [two websites discussing feline CRF].

I hope you'll consider amending your story, Rob, so that more people become aware of help for their cats - and keep aware, because an enormous amount of research is being currently conducted to determine the cause(s) of the fast-growing incidence of feline CRF.

I generally dislike changing past Lately columns, because they're meant to stand as my take on something at that moment in time. However, in this case the individual making the request was obviously an intelligent, caring person who felt letting others know about new treatments for CRF would help visitors to my site. The truth is, a lot of people whose cats have been diagnosed with CRF often wind up on my page about Rudo, so it made sense to include factual information on how CRF can be treated, to help others.

So I revised the page, adding the information in a postscript (which is how I change the few Latelys I have changed, leaving the original text unaltered.)

A second writer had something to say about several negative comments I made concerning a retail seafood market located in Dallas. We called the market three times to confirm they would have large lobsters available that Saturday, for a special dinner we had planned for that evening. Each time we were assured that would be no problem, they'd have them. When we got to the market, there were no large lobsters. A clerk told us we had to special order the lobsters to have them in-store. No one had mentioned that important fact the three times we called. No one apologized to us for the mix-up. The clerk was indifferent to our plight. Looking over our shoulders to wait on the next person. On the way out, we noticed the lobster tank they had for one-pound lobsters, and the water in the tank was absolutely filthy. You could barely see the lobsters inside.

My name is [Name] family owns [a well-known seafood market] in Dallas. In a Google search I came across your on-line diary entry that mentions a bad experience you had at my folks' store.

First, let me be the first to apologize for any inconvenience you encountered back in Feb 2002. One of our employees must have miscommunicated...we can always have larger lobsters, but we ask that customers place an order for them. When you asked about their availability, that should have been made clear to you.

In addition, we now use Dallas North Aquariums to maintain the cleanest lobster tank in the city. They completely change our water every 28 days...a far more comprehensive cleaning system than any grocery store.

As you mentioned, [the seafood market] is an award-winning seafood market and we pride ourselves on outstanding quality and customer service. Why don't you come back to our store and take home some fresh fish for dinner (free of charge)?

Ask for [Name].

Again, please accept my apology for your negative experience in 2002.

We would appreciate a second chance. And of course we hope you will let your readers know if you enjoy the fish!

I wrote a polite letter back, but turned down his offer of free fish. If indeed they have improved their customer service and lobster storage tanks that's good news, but the Lately is about our experience at their market at that point in time, and we did have a truly bad experience. So the column stands, unchanged. If you live in the Dallas area, the best place to buy seafood is Whole Foods or Central Market, although the quality of the seafood at Central Market has declined somewhat the past few years (if you own Central Market, please don't write me. Just buy fresher fish, like you used to). When Mary and I want really fresh seafood, we go to Whole Foods (plus Whole Foods identifies their source for each seafood, specifying whether it's farm-raised or wild).

The third e-mail is from someone who objected to my endorsement of the hot water treatment for poison ivy.

I found your story about fire ants and poison ivy tonight while searching for treatments after my own run-in with the little bastards. I've also had a bad history with poison ivy/oak as I was a landscaper and spent a lot of time as a child in the woods.

While I've read a lot of praise for the hot-water treatment to relieve the itching and have also experienced the euphoria myself I believe it made my rashes worse and prolonged the experience. It wasn't until I was older and doing landscaping that I did research on the topic myself and found out the general way in which poison ivy/oak works.

I would love to see you add a notice to the page notifying readers that hot-water treatment has possible bad effects. I have provided only a few links but the general idea is the same (open pores lets the oil into the blood stream).

[Several links given]

I think the hot water is a great way to relieve the itching, however, if it is done when the oil is still on the skin the results will probably not be good though I'm sure it's different for different people.

Here's my reply:

I appreciate your taking the time to write.

Any treatment may have some side effect, but the overwhelming number of e-mails I receive from people who used the hot water method is that it works, and doesn't make the poison ivy worse (in fact, of the 100+ e-mails I've received, I don't think a single person has mentioned any problem with the method). On the first link you gave me, the vast majority of the people writing about their own experiences (dozens and dozens of them) also thought the hot water method was beneficial.

I did look at the "I've had poison ivy for a week" entry you cited, but it's anecdotal (as are the others, but we're talking about dozens of positive anecdotes vs. one negative one.)

Sometimes a disclaimer is necessary, but I don't think a disclaimer should be given for every statement made on a personal website. Sometimes, a disclaimer just muddies the water. This is, of course, my own opinion. You may feel differently.

I sincerely appreciate it that you took the time to write. I hope you understand that in this case, I don't believe a disclaimer is necessary.

Finally, it's that time of year when I get a negative e-mail about my writings.

Here's the complete text:

Your essay on Fear is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Rob the king is naked.

The essay is located here.

Here's my reply:

Thanks for writing.

I've heard from a large number of people over the years about my Fear essay, and yours has been the only negative comment.

People who have had traumatic events in their life, or ongoing anxieties, have told me it's helped them; I've heard from a number of counselors that they've used the essay with their patients and therapy groups; and Prentice Hall, a leading U.S. publisher of textbooks, uses the essay as a part of their study group material for special education needs.

Just because you don't understand something doesn't necessarily mean it's ridiculous. All it really means is you don't understand it.

Your line, "Rob the king is naked" doesn't make sense to me. Did you mean to say, "Rob the Emperor", as an allusion to Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Suit?

In any event, it's rare that I receive an e-mail from someone as bitter as you. Thanks for the treat.

As many of you who regularly read this column know, I recently lost my job. As part of my effort to find new employment, I signed up at, a free service where you can place your resume on-line, and search through listings of available jobs in your profession.

A few days after I signed up at Monster, I received a phone call from a woman at Banker's Life and Casualty. She said they had reviewed my resume, and would like me to come in for a job screening.

Naïve me, I thought they had an opening in my area of expertise (self-funded health coverage law), since that was what my résumé was all about.

I got out my suit, Mary picked a tie. Drove over to Banker's for the "interview".

As it turned out, there were a dozen applicants. The other eleven knew absolutely nothing at all about self-funded health coverage law.

We were put in a classroom seating arrangement, after which a woman showed us a long DVD of Banker's Life and Casualty agents who were swept away with joy over how happy they were, trying to sell life and health insurance to retirees. The agents represented virtually every type. Male, female, gay, Caucasian, African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American. All they needed to show they were completely inclusive was a guy in a wheelchair (I don't know how they missed that).

On one wall of the classroom, they had a poster that supposedly represented how much someone could make selling insurance to seniors. The poster had thirteen rows. The first row read:

New Agent $312,000
Develop Agent $324,000
Veteran Agent $336,000


But the poster was like an eye chart. As you started looking down the rows, the annual incomes reduced, and the type got smaller and smaller. I couldn't read past the fifth row, even with my glasses on. It looked like it said, Something something something agent, $16,000 a year. And there were eight rows below that.

Does Banker's Life and Casualty have the right to try to get you to sell insurance door-to-door? Of course they do. But they need to be honest about what their "job screening" really is. When they contact you, they need to say exactly what type of job they're offering, rather than pretending they have an opening in the area in which you have experience. I wasted my time going to that screening, as did everyone else. After the DVD was finished, and the moderator asked if anyone were interested, all twelve of us got up and left.

So if you're out of work and get a call from them, my advice is ask a lot of questions before you go to a "screening".

Once your employment at a company is terminated, you not only lose your job, you lose your insurance.

In some ways, the loss of insurance is even more significant.

Most people who lose their job are eligible for unemployment compensation, which I'm receiving now. Even though it's often far, far less than what you earned while working (I'm receiving the top possible compensation, $386 a week), it's at least something.

But there's no provision for insurance coverage.

Under federal law in the United States, companies with health coverage plans have to offer continued healthcare coverage to terminated employees for a period of eighteen months (the law is called COBRA).

But the premiums for COBRA coverage are usually so expensive, no one can afford them (especially given the fact that people eligible for COBRA coverage no longer have an income).

While I was employed, I paid $304.31 per month for medical coverage for myself and Mary.

Once I lost my job, the cost for me to continue medical coverage for Mary and myself under COBRA was $972.63 per month, more than three times the cost.

Quite a difference.

Since Mary is covered under Medicare (because of her stroke, and subsequent qualification for Social Security disability), I started looking for medical insurance for myself.

The Internet was fairly useless.

No matter what search term I used, it only brought up sites that wanted me to pay a huge monthly premium for "discounted" coverage. With medical insurance, once you meet your deductible, you pay about twenty percent of the cost of a medical service, and the insurance pays the rest. Under discounted coverage, the provider of a medical coverage charges you a lower amount for the service performed, but you pay one hundred percent of the discounted amount. In other words, if you have insurance, and incur a $1,000 physician bill, you might end up paying $200. If you have discounted coverage, the physician bill might be reduced to $960, but you have to pay the full $960. Bad as that is, imagine if you're hospitalized, and your discounted bill is lowered from $40,000 to $36,000. Are you ready to pay $36,000 out of your own pocket? That's why insurance is much more valuable than coverage based on discounts. Sites that offer discounted coverage cannot call their coverage "insurance". If you look carefully around their sites, there'll usually be a statement to the effect, "This is not insurance".

Getting no help from the Internet, I decided to search for medical insurance the old-fashioned way, going through the yellow pages of the local phone directory, calling insurance agents.

I got hold of one independent agent, explained my situation.

He came back with three quotes for individual coverage for myself, ranging from $250 to $450 a month in premiums.

"To be honest with you, I'm really looking for something with a monthly premium of around $150."

He immediately came up with insurance coverage for a $180 a month premium.

My first thought, Why didn't he start with that coverage?

He agreed to send me some literature on the $180 a month plan.

While I was waiting for that literature, just for the hell of it I went to the site of the $180 insurer and found there was even cheaper coverage, at $85 a month, that offered even better benefits (they reimbursed at 80% of costs, rather than 75%).

I called the agent back, mentioned the $85 coverage.

"Oh. Well, yeah, that coverage is available too."

Agents work for commission, meaning the more they get you to spend, the more they make.

Good for them, not so good for you.

The most exciting new magazine right now, getting a lot of attention, is Red Scream, specializing in cutting-edge fiction. They've bought two stories of mine, "Daddy's Glad Hands" and "The Middle Leg", which will appear in upcoming issues.

Writers graduate through different benchmarks in their career. Getting your first story published in print, getting a novel published, being anthologized. Another benchmark is being translated. Lithuanian writer/journalist Jonas Skendelis asked permission to translate my essay "Space" into his native language, and is currently at work translating my essay "Dreams". To read his translation of "Space", please go here. The original text is located here.