About David Conti
David Conti is a health & wellness advocate, marketing executive, community leader, and creative corporate communicator. A graduate of Boston College, David’s many interests include corporate health programs, music, personal growth, sustainability, Qi Gong, and building a social media community. He is also the co-founder of NE Businesses for Social Responsibility, which he started in 1988.
Latest Posts by David Conti
Health care transparency: the hidden cost of teen dermatology–
Everybody wants great looking skin, especially teens. But the teen lifestyle can often get in the way. For my 16-year-old son, blemishes were getting worse, so we booked an appointment with a dermatologist two months ago.
We had tried a number of OTC options without great success. We were excited to go to a dermatologist who deals with this issue on a daily basis. Trial and error with combinations of scrubs and washes would be history. I estimated that we’d be given a $20 Rx, told to cut down on pizza, soda, and chocolate, and be on our way.
Much to my surprise, one office visit and three prescriptions (Rx) cost about $500. I was shocked and felt ripped off. But as a parent, if it makes a dramatic difference in the life of your kid, you do it. I have a health savings account and money is not the issue.
Upon further investigation, my son was given 3 Rxs: One for an antibiotic (monthly cost $67 – and now two months later, there is only 40-50% improvement.). Since I no longer have the $10/20 co-pay option, you pay out of pocket for all your health care cost until you hit the high deductible. Fine, I get how this works finally.
The problem that showed its ugly blackhead was the cost of the two other items: An acne wash scrub and an acne cleanser.
I’m already spent hundred of dollars at CVS over the last few years on these acne products for my two kids. These days, you can hardly find any kind of wash, scrub, cleanser, or cover-up for under $10. It’s supply and demand; that’s why Neutrogena Aveeno, and others can continue to charge high prices.
But those prices were tame compared to the $37 acne scrub and $244 wash that were prescribed. Yes, $244 for a small bottle of an acne foam cleanser. I was not at CVS to pick up the meds, so didn’t find out about the cost until the items were already paid for and brought home.
Do the math: that’s almost $3000 on a yearly supply of a single item! Yikes.
The next day I called the CVS and asked the pharmacist if $244 was the correct price. Yes, it was correct and I was informed it was a lower-cost generic version of a foam cleanser. The real McCoy brand name acne cleanser cost about $500 for one month’s supply.
Am I nuts or are these prices so over-inflated that you lose respect for much of the medical establishment? Gee, I could go to a fancy cosmetics counter at Nieman Marcus and have a hard time spending that kind of money.
Still baffled, I called the customer care folks at CVS in Rhode Island and asked to double-check the price. It was correct. That’s the way it is. Then I called Costco pharmacy. Same price. No Costco discount.
When we called the dermatologist’s office, the office manager was surprised that we questioned the Rx. However, they had little idea of the actual cost that we were charged at CVS. We demanded an alternative and yes, there often are options, but you have to demand them. Instead of the $244 foam, we now have a $67 liquid.
The bottom line: as consumers of health care we need to take charge and find out how much things cost. When the cost are unknown or so outrageous (as in my case), we have to walk away and look for other options.
Health care transparency will be the next wave improving our great American health care system. As cost shifting moves to you and me, we need our providers to know more about not only the efficacy of Rx they prescribe, but the true out of pocket cost to the patient.
Before you get an appointment with a doctor, the office manager always asks what kind of insurance you have. Now we patients need to be asking questions – upfront and before we get sucked right back into the system.
Today is October 9th, the birthday of John Lennon. Yoko Ono has organized a “humble gathering” again this year at the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavík, Iceland.
See more and send a Tweet: www.imaginepeacetower.com.
October 9th 2007 , the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER was dedicated to John Lennon by Yoko Ono on the occasion of his 67th birthday on the Isle of Viðey, Reykjavík, Iceland . In attendance were Sean Lennon, Kyoko Cox, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison, and Vilhjalmur Vilhjalmsson (Mayor of Reykjavík), along with 300 invited guests.
This year, Yoko’s goal is for the citizens of the world to produce a million positive messages, now employing Twitter and Facebook, to spread love and peace.
Today’s uniting force is determined to shift the axis of the world to move toward peace and joy… to enjoy a new age of love and peace. We are reminded that this edifice in Iceland is a “Light of healing wisdom and empowerment…. even in times of darkness and confusion…But we can all be together in seeing the light of peace…
The Imagine Peace Tower was visualized and realized with love, says Yoko. She instructs the Twittering peoples of the world to “make a wish and send light to each other and say I Love You”…
Yoko conceived the idea of a “Light Tower” or Light House in 1965. Here’s how she ties in the concept of a wishing tree (which now are planted around the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland):
“As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.” Yoko Ono: “All My Works Are A Form Of Wishing”.
Yoko has collected over 1 million wishes. See more:
One of the best books I’ve read about John Lennon and the Beatles was “The Last Days of John Lennon” by Frederic Seaman (http://tinyurl.com/2dxk8sa), his longtime personal assistant. It chronicled John’s life in New York and provided insights into his complex relationship with Yoko and his aspirations to continue to write and perform, just as Double Fantasy album was being recorded at the Hit Factory studio in NYC.
In 2006, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It’s a great take-in and I’d love to take my son back there soon. There was some Beatles paraphernalia and famous costumes on display, mostly things you’ve probably expected. However, the one item that truly touched me was John’s white Yamaha grand piano that he played while composing “Imagine” in 1971. There was still positive energy emanating from that instrument. Its essence and historical significance was palpable.
Two years ago, my son and I walked by The Dakota in NYC where John and Yoko lived. After walking around the block-long complex we arrived at the side entrance where John was shot. It was a strange sensation, just standing in that same spot and thinking about what John would be doing today.
It’s clear to me that John was the spiritual leader of the Beatles – on so many levels. His “fire element” energy led him to make outlandish statements sometimes, but he has a strong drive to love and communicate with many people. His love and passion for life and peace was overflowing and I continue to be fascinated by the life, words, and music of John Lennon.
Give Peace a Chance.
My first car was a 1976 Toyota Corolla Wagon that I bought it in Fort Worth, Texas for $1500 in 1982. Years later, I am still buying used Toyotas . Recently, I purchased my second hybrid car, a 2006 Toyota Prius and continue to help save our planet. So far, so good. We are thrilled with the comfort and efficiency and since this car was designed as a hybrid from the ground up (and built in Japan), it continues to be a winner around the world.
With thousands of Toyota Prius hybrids coming off leases, now might be a good time to buy a used Prius – at a good price. Here are a few consumer tips to help you in your search.
Do your homework. My search took me to five dealerships spread across three New England States: Mass., NH, and RI. It’s worth the effort to explore beyond your local dealer.
Purchase at the very end of the month. It’s true. Especially in this economy, businesses have to report end of month sales stats. You have more negotiating wiggle room on the last 3-4 days of the month. (Yes, show interest earlier in the month, but don’t go back to the dealer until the end, assuming you are ready to buy, how visited several competitors, and know what you want.)
New vs. used. Consumer Reports for years has recommended that people buy quality and reliable cars – used. I understand there are people who can fully afford or just have to have that new car, but that’s not me.
Supply and Demand. Research local dealerships (or do an exact search for 2007 Prius on (www.KBB.com) to get listings. Go to dealership that have at least 6-10 Prius currently on hand. That’s a large supply and you can get a better price.
Look for low mileage. In my search I discovered a couple of very low-priced Prius hybrids. At first, I was intrigued. Could the market be this flooded? Then I found out that a 2008 has 105,000 miles (wow!) or a 2007 had 89,000 miles. Either way, that’s too much driving of any vehicle in a short period of time. Look for lower mileage – certainly under 50,000 for a 2006 or 2007.
Get your financing in order. We did not finance this vehicle, but as I learned, most people do. In this market, approximately 75% of people are financing used cars (and probably more for new cars…) Amazingly, I found out that 50% of those seeking used car financing, get turned down. Poor credit is the biggest culprit. Know you local bank options before you walk into the dealership. (Note: If you want or need to finance your Prius, Toyota dealers will only provide financing on new purchases. They were recently offering a 0.9% rate, which is quite attractive, but ask yourself if you really want to pay for a new vehicle with extra sales tax, excise tax, and huge instant depreciation).
Cars coming off lease. In my research, the bonus I discovered it that the Prius supply is currently high because a lot of cars are coming off a 2007 lease. Generally, these cars were driven less than 12,000 miles a year. That’s good for you.
Super clean. If you look at enough used cars, you can tell which one have been meticulously cared for by the previous owner – and which ones we flavored with the “new car smell” spray after a rub-a-dub treatment by the dealer. Go for the vehicle that has been loved – and many Priuses have been well cared for by their previous owners.
Shades of Gray. If the exterior color of the car does not matter, go for either of the lighter or dark gray colors available. They are most plentiful and you can negotiate a good deal, since they are trying to get them off the lot.
Dealer vs. Private Party. I did not find very many used Prius cars for sale on Craig’s List over a several month period of time. But there a few out there. If you can get 10-20% better than Private Party blue book price (www.KBB.com), then go for it. Otherwise, go for the super clean, low mileage Prius that came off a lease.
Overall, we were very happy with our experience at www.HybridCenterofNE.com and we were treated well by Fosi Hader, an accommodating and knowledgeable salesperson, who worked hard for us and earned our business.
Safe driving to all – especially when getting over 50 m.p.h. ! Oh, what a feeling.
Book Review: Confucius Lives Next Door by T.R. Reid
What Living in The East Teaches Us About Living in the West (Vintage Books 1999)
This week, Japan become #3 economy, behind China and the U.S. Let us not forget the great democracy that Japan is and despite the devastation of WWII and massive cultural differences, we have much in common.
Although the book is now ten years old, the author captivated my imagination as I wondered: what would it be like for an American father to bring his family and living in Toyko?
I’ve always been fascinated with the Japanese culture, especially: low crime rates, non existence divorce, respect for the elderly, Japanese shiatsu therapy, focus on the common good, amazing longevity, and more.
As I found out, many of these principles can be traced to the influence of Confucius – the great Chinese thinker and nobleman from 500 B.C. The name is derived from the Chinese name of Kung Fu-tzu and was “Latinized” by the Jesuits to Confucius. (Note, in Japan, Confucius is referred to as Mister Koshi.
The book chronicles family life and explorations throughout East Asia (but primarily in Tokyo where T.R. Reid was bureau chief for NPR and the Washington Post). His many observations of the Japanese fascination with certain American icons and culture are spot on. The family is a bit of a novelty, but quickly learns to adjust and learn the importance of everyone doing their part to build community and benefit society.
This mantra contradicts with our American sense of individualism and the author does a great job of contrasting drivers of East Asian vs. Western cultures. For example, in the late 1990’s President Bill Clinton remarked on “a stunning breakdown of community, family, and work… and we must give young people something to say ‘yes’ to…” This is juxtaposed to the two billion people in East Asia saying ‘yes’ to the Confucius-influenced society that stresses the importance of enhancing the community, not the individual.
Want to act as a noble person? In this world, anyone has the ability to become a chun-tzu – a magnanimous man of virtue. Confucius taught that any man could be virtuous, key elements of virtuous conduct had to be taught. In the West, we have come to believe that it is important to education the individual vs. educate society.
9 points on which a gentleman should take care and be mindful of:
- When observing – to see clearly
- When listening – to hear distinctly
- In his expression – to be amiable
- In his attitude – to be deferential
- In his speech – to be loyal
- When on duty – to be respectful
- When in doubt – to ask questions
- When angry – to ponder the consequence
- When gaining an advantage – to consider whether it is fair
This well-paced book spans a number of topics that provide insight on how the Japanese recovered from the devastation of WWII and continues to be a strong democracy and economic power. Overall, it was a wonderful read. I learned a great deal about how the Japanese people tick – how they conduct business, show respect, and mold their youth. I remain fascinated, wanting to learn more and visit Japan in the future.
Summer in New England would never be complete without visits to the local ice cream shop. New Englanders love ice cream. In fact, we consume some 15 quarts per year. Last week, while travelling on Cape Cod, I reconnected with friends John and Heather Lynch who own and operate the Holy Cow ice cream stand in North Falmouth.
For the Lynches, there’s more to Holy Cow than 50 flavors, fresh waffle cones, and homemade brownie bit toppings. For them, it’s about family, entrepreneurship, and building community.
Although Holy Cow might only be open from the traditional summer season – Memorial Day through Labor Day, seven days a week – it has had a strong impact on the lives of many teenagers and has become a heart and soul of the quaint little village of North Falmouth.
Starting the business from scratch
Although an accomplished IT professional with Fidelity, Harvard Pilgrim, and BCBS on his resume, John wanted to “do his own thing”. John wanted a hobby or business pursuit away from corporate America, expressly seeking closer interactions with real folks—neighbors, tourists, and summer cape residents.
His wife Heather had ventured out on her own by purchasing a hair salon business a few years back. It is now called Muse and it is conveniently located adjacent to Holy Cow in the village. That’s perfect for the Lynches’ two daughters Cecilia and Joan, who work at both businesses and are learning the keys to customer relations, product management, payroll, accounting, marketing – all in a very fun way. They even get a chance to hire and manage some of their friends – a task that is especially challenging for a teenager!
According to John, the physical location and serving the community came first. Then they had to figure out what kind of business venture the family would dive into. John loved the location. He knew it from childhood and it is walkable from North Falmouth Village and Megansett Beach.
Heather was instrumental in determining that the business should be ice cream instead of the vegetable stand it used to be. John spearheaded the project build-out of Holy Cow, in the tradition of rustic Cape Cod sweet shops. Heather and John came up with the name together in roughly three seconds and the store has been a success from day one.
What about the ice cream?
Yes, it’s delicious (homemade by Gifford’s Ice Cream) and it is served by teenagers who take on a lot of responsibility while chocking up solid work experience. The top five flavors at Holy Cow are Deer Tracks, Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate, Mississippi, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream.
The owners favor Raspberry and Lemon Sorbet because, “ the flavors just crackle.’ Holy Cow employees create and decorate home made ice cream cakes and pies.
Cup vs. cone: You’ve got to try the made-to-order waffle cone. They are handcrafted, served warm, and put out an incredible vanilla scent that wafts through wafts the store and even out into the outdoor seating area where young families can enjoy their summer treats in the Holy Cow garden.
Serving the community, not just banana splits
John’s roots in Falmouth go back some four decades. He’s seen a lot of changes and was never afraid to get involved in serving the Falmouth community through a variety of school and sports activities that the girls participated in over the years. Today, he views Holy Cow as an extension of coaching and mentoring kids through their teen years.
Over the past four years, Holy Cow and Muse have sponsored the Paul White race (which granted $6000 in local student scholarships this year). Holy Cow and Muse are “friends” of the Falmouth Hospital Auxiliary, have donated ice cream for a number of community ice cream social, and have sponsored the annual Nye’s Neck Ice Cream Social.
Over the last four years, the Lynches have taken some risks, served the local community, and grown as a family. The people of Falmouth – even those flocking tourists—appreciate how a small business can do well by doing good and serve an important role to bring people together from all walks of life.
Fortunately, everyone loves ice cream – and for Holy Cow and the North Falmouth area, it has proved to be incredible means to community building and enjoying a classic summer pastime.
Holy Cow Fun Factoids:
• 15 teenage student employees
• Students attend Falmouth Academy, Cape Cod Academy, Falmouth High School, Thayer Academy, Bishop Stang, Providence College, Cape Cod Community College, Roger Williams, NY School for Dramatic Arts
• One employee is a pilot
• One employee is an accomplished violinist
• Three employees are Falmouth High School cheerleaders
• One employee is a harpist
• One former employee is working in film & television in Los Angeles
• Owner John Lynch plays guitar and sings on Sunday nights for “Acoustic Sundae”
• Freshly made waffle cones
• More than 50 flavors of Gifford’s ice cream, sherbets, yogurts and sorbets
Visit them on Facebook at Holy Cow Ice Cream!
Artesia Train Ride Featured Three Hour Delays, Fraud, and Scam Artists
Last summer, we booked a family vacation to London, Paris, and Rome via Air France Holidays. Although it was a great learning and cultural experience for our kids, we experienced several misfortunes; one included getting pick pocketed at the Notre Dame Paris subway station by professional thieves.
But our troubles were only beginning.
After Paris, it was on to Rome on the overnight train. We were impressed with the website for Artesia, which happens to be a joint venture between Italian and French train companies. The notion of travelling through Provence and all the way to Rome seemed romantic and an enjoyable experience for the whole family.
Boy, were we wrong. Actually, the website experience was the best part of the Artesia encounter. The lounge at the Bercy Train Station in Paris was a joke. We checked out of our three star Paris hotel at 12 Noon, dragged all the luggage to Bercy only to find out that the Artesia lounge would not be open until 5:45 PM. With no place to store our luggage, we wasted an entire afternoon hanging around Bercy train station with two very bored teenagers.
We were told be three independent sources (including the Artesia attendant in the Bercy train station) that since we had paid for our couchette accommodations, that our dinner meal would be included. That’s a pleasant surprise, so we thought.
Unfortunately, we were grossly misinformed and our pleasant train trip watching the field of sunflowers in southern France, quickly turned into a nightmare.
A female dining car attendant (who reminded me of an Italian Grace Jones) stopped by our cabin at 7:15 PM to ask if we preferred the 8 PM or 10 PM dining car seating. We opted for the 8 PM slot. She said that the credit card machine was not working today….(scam…) We said that since our meal was included, it was not going to be an issue for us. She said “OK”.
After a mediocre dinner of pasta, chicken fingers, and a dessert torte, we were handed a bill for 128 Euros (approx. $175). We explained that we were told by three sources that dinner was included with our ticket (approx. $1000 as part of our overall package). She said that it was not included… they we had to pay 128 Euros in cash now… or they would call the police… Incidentally, the only people that were every presented a menu were tourist who were native Italians. No price list, menu, or relevant information was available. Most of the staff acted as if they hardly understood English (although that was purely an act…).
We retired back to our room and Artesia personnel banged on our door several times throughout the night to further badger us. The continually threatened to call the police… and even went so far as to suggest that they would throw us off the train in Bern, Switzerland. We felt so harassed; they we did not even want to leave the cabin to use the bathroom down the hall during the night.
We were held captive, because they retained possession of our four passports. At one point, they also suggested that my wife get off the train and be escorted by a supervisor to go to an ATM machine at a train station. Fearing that they would depart without her and break up the family, we would not agree to any of this nonsense.
After 17 hours on the train, we finally got to Rome some 3+ hours late. There, we were met by the “chef” or “boss” who amazingly was able to get the credit card machine to work. Upon duress, we very reluctantly paid the $175 for a chicken finger dinner and felt coerced throughout the entire Artesia experience.
The Bottom Line
BYOF: Bring Your Own Food. We don’t fault Air France Holidays for the myriad of problems that we encountered, but it’s clear that as a travel agent, they should have done a better job of clearly communicating exact details of what was… and was not included at every stage of the trip.
For the money we spent on premier couchette accommodations on Artesia, we did not deserve to be treated so terribly. It was a very negative experience that dramatically affected every member of our family. Whether or not the “dining car” is operated by a separate company, it doesn’t matter. Travelers and consumers should have the right to be shown the cost of anything they are expected to pay for. In our case, we would not have even gone into the dining car if we thought we were going to be charged outrageous prices for a very mediocre pasta and chicken finger dinner (and if we had not, our entire trip and Artesia experience would have been quite different). BYOF.
Retribution: For our these troubles, after we provided a detailed account of our misadventures and accompanying receipts, we were eventually compensated for the $175 dinner by Air France Holidays, our travel agent — one that we cannot recommend.
This week, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story on Americans cutting back on visits to traditional doctors. In light of recent health care reform, the ongoing recession, and patients acting more as consumers, we have to ask: Is this a good thing?
Certainly, people should be getting annual physicals and continue with traditional preventative care. But how many men who just turned age 50 are scheduling a PSA test (for prostate cancer screening) or planning for the dreaded colonoscopy?
I know I am. A good friend, Patricia Carusone (who founded the Charles River School of Shiatsu in Arlington, Mass.) died two years ago of colon cancer. Patricia was a wonderful teacher and healer and truly committed to the holistic lifestyle. She would not even allow a microwave oven at her school. She practiced Qi Gong everyday and followed a strict whole foods diet.
Still, the mystery of cancer somehow crept into her life. It doesn’t make sense and it seems unfair. But cancer does not discriminate by age, wealth, or even lifestyle.
Men need to become more aware of health risk, especially after the age of 50. Sure, many of believe that we can just exercise more and cut down on a few beers. That’s not enough and those changes will not undo years of excesses or merely eating too much junk.
After Patricia died, her sister Kathy sent an email that clearly stated one of Patricia’s final wishes: encourage everyone to get a colon cancer screening when you turn 50 (if not before – if insurance will pay for it earlier, even better).
Good advice – from an inspirational health care practitioner and friend. We miss you Patricia.
We just returned from renting a cottage on the still pristine Lake Winnipesaukee in NH. Amazingly, the place in W. Alton, NH remains mostly unchanged from my first stay there as a kid in 1970. This week helped bring back the memories of childhood– swimming, canoeing, enjoying the gorgeous sunsets (see photos below), hiking Mt. Major, giant Kiddie ice cream cones at Sawyers, the teen-friendly arcade at Weirs Beach, tasty pizza at Giuseppe’s in Meredith, the free concerts at Cate Park in Wolfeboro…
Many things remain the same and it refreshes the spirit to know that there’s a part of our lives and in nature that can remain constant and keep us connected to nature. For me, it was an “on golden pond” experience… and one that my family wants to continue the tradition.
(note: The movie “On Golden Pond” with Henry & Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn was filmed on Squam Lake, NH, about 12 miles from where these photos were taken — in the “Lakes Region” in central New Hampshire, USA.)