Friday, October 30, 2009

A new feature

I'm adding a new feature to this blog- I'm trying my hand at a weekly comic strip. I'm calling it On Any Sunday; it's the adventures of Uugene Eric, a member of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ourtown. (any ideas sent in will earn a grateful tip of the hat)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Looking for a Halloween costume

you can do quickly for a party? Watch this woman become a zombie in 45 seconds!

I've never thought of it that way before

But a Canadian writer makes some interesting points about right wing women

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just how complicated is healthcare, anyway?

I happened to see a reference to the actual bill before the Senate, and noticed how long it is, and decided to compare it to works in my personal library, plus a couple I don't own but are available from Project Gutenberg :
Original handwritten Constitution of the United States of America, 6 pages
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx, 23 pages
Relativity, The Special and General Theory, Albert Einstein, 194 pages
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Sir Isaac Newton, 253 pages
Canterbury Tales, Chaucer, 627 pages
The Complete Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, A. C. Doyle, 636 pages
Crime and Punishment, Dostoevski, 718 pages
The Novels of Dashiell Hammett, 726 pages
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1,069 pages
War and Peace, Tolstoy, 1,225 pages
New King James Bible, 1,426 pages
Senate health care bill, S. 1796, 1,502 pages. Three times as long as the Constitution, Communist Manifesto, Theory of Relativity, and Principia combined. What do you suppose the odds are that your Senator has read and understood it?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Invention needed

A light for desk drawers that comes on automatically, like the one in the refrigerator. If there were such a thing, never again would someone fumbling around in the drawer for a Vicks Inhaler use a AA battery by mistake.

Rape as a preexisting condition

According to this article in The Huffington Post, women are being refused health insurance as a consequence of being raped. The reason is that rape victims are given anti-AIDS drugs to prevent them from developing AIDS if they have been exposed- which leaves a record of having been treated for AIDS in their medical records. Afterwards, whenever they try to get health insurance, all the insurance underwriters see in the record is "AIDS patient", and they are rejected for this "preexisting condition".

Outraged? So was I- and I could feel a special sympathy because I, too, have a "haunting diagnosis" in my medical record. Not anything like that severe, nothing that would cause me to lose health insurance, but it has caused me to be later misdiagnosed by doctors who glanced at the chart and made the "obvious" diagnosis without further thought- and once it was a life-threatening condition that was missed, only caught by (lucky!) accident.

After I got over my initial rage at this story, I started thinking about causes. Why do insurance companies disallow preexisting conditions? "Because they're heartless, profit obsessed bastards" is the standard answer, but misunderstanding this is one of the reasons why we have the healthcare problems we do. Lets not single out AIDS; there are a lot of diseases that are both expensive and long term- call it "condition X". Suppose you're an insurance company, and one of your clients develops "condition X"- no biggee, one or two such patients divided by thousands of customers isn't so expensive, and anyway, every other insurance company will have the same percentage of "condition X" patients; you can stay competitive with the market.

So if it's no big deal, business wise, why then refuse them if it's a preexisting condition? Because if you're the first to allow the preexisting condition, everyone with "condition X" will flock to your company, costs will soar, and all your healthy customers will be outraged at your high rates and sign with your competitors instead- you'll be out of business in a year. So you must screen out any preexisting condition that might be expensive; a bankrupt insurance company doesn't help anyone.

This is why requiring all health insurance companies to accept all applicants regardless of preexisting conditions must pass, if nothing else does. Doing that will restore competitive balance; if nobody has to bear the burden of being first, then all insurance companies will have the same mix of customers on average, and so be able to cover any such "condition X" without fear- or outrageous rates.

If we passed the preexisting condition regulation and also licensed the insurance companies nationally, rather than state-by-state, so that we don't have the situation President Obama spoke of with entire states having only a couple of health insurance companies to choose from, half of our healthcare problems would be fixed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Penn Jillette meets his childhood idol

and wonders whether the feet of clay are the idol's or his own. It's a long video, but very much worth it.

If I could speak to Penn, I'd tell him this story: A preacher was once asked why he took his ministry to prisons, the streets, the seedy neighborhoods. "Because that's where the sinners are," he answered.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Too busy for a real post...

but here's a cute video I was sent:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Pagan publication for children

Something I found online- a free magazine for Pagan children called The Pooka Pages (Pooka is a cat; there's a photo album) It's full of stories, crafts, artwork, recipes, many fun things for kids. RE's might find some activities there, too. Check it out!

Another National Health Service story

It can't be said any better than the first four lines from the Daily Mail story: "A grandfather who beat cancer was wrongly told the disease had returned and left to die at a hospice which pioneered a controversial 'death pathway'.

Doctors said there was nothing more they could do for 76-year- old Jack Jones, and his family claim he was denied food, water and medication except painkillers.

He died within two weeks. But tests after his death found that his cancer had not come back and he was in fact suffering from pneumonia brought on by a chest infection.

To his family's horror, they were told he could have recovered if he'd been given the correct treatment." The kicker comes halfway down the page: "Despite the fact that no tests were carried out to confirm the diagnosis, his family say doctors instructed nurses to stop giving him food and fluids."

If you're thinking this will result in a massive malpractice suit, think again; remember that this is government healthcare, and governments don't usually permit themselves to be sued- "The hospice and the doctors who treated Mr Jones continue to deny liability, but his widow has now accepted an £18,000 out-of-court settlement after being told she would otherwise lose her legal aid." And they could scarcely fail to back the doctor- after all, he is the one who wrote the "dignity means being denied food and water" policy in the first place. And I'm sure if you own a microscope, you could find some comfort somewhere in the statement from the hospice: "The hospice's lawyer, Dorothy Flower, said it had settled the case to enable Mrs Jones to grieve for her husband, but did not accept liability. 'Some things are done for economic reasons, and a case like this costs a huge amount of money, which would do nobody any good,' she said." See- they were looking out for her best interests.

I hope our "public option" will be written a hell of a lot more carefully than England's was.

Update to "That must have been some beer"

In that previous post about President Obama receiving The Nobel Prize , I speculated, as did many other bloggers, that they must have awarded the prize on speculation, for things he will do. Turns out they and I were wrong, and Bill Baar was right when he said to take the Nobel committee at face value- they did award it for his accomplishments, not his potential.

In this Associated Press story, "...committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland tells The Associated Press that "we simply disagree that he has done nothing. He got the prize for what he has done." Jagland says Obama reached out to the Muslim world and "modified" a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe."

Ok, that explains a lot. Mahatma Gandhi reached out to the Muslim world, but he never did anything about Star Wars; that's why he never got a Nobel Prize- it takes the combination to do it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I only see two possible reactions:

Either you'll want to run out and adopt a kid just so you can buy this for him, or you won't understand and wonder just how sick I am for recommending this Tauntaun sleeping bag

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ok, they're really, really cute...

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams - New Pet Craze: Tea Cup Pigs

NBC Nightly News with Brian WilliamsMySpace Videos

... but I can't help thinking about the Classic Star Trek episode, "The Trouble With Tribbles"...

That must have been some beer

President Obama is doing a good job. Although he wasn't my choice- I wanted to see a race between Giuliani and Clinton- I have to admit he's performed well so far; he hit the ground running, and has had a good 8 1/2 months. Yes, I oppose some of his programs, but they are the programs he ran on, and he won; he has every right to push them. But that doesn't explain today's surprise announcement: President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Heavens to Hecate. The Nobel Peace Prize? I don't understand. Guantanamo is still in business. We're still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran and North Korea are still pursuing nuclear weapons. He hasn't re-submitted Kyoto to Congress, or negotiated a replacement. He hasn't negotiated a peace treaty to settle anyone else's war. He hasn't negotiated a new Middle East accord. He didn't improve our national image enough to even get Chicago to the second round of voting for the Olympics. His only peace accomplishment has been to get a hotheaded college professor to sit down with a hotheaded cop to share a beer. That must have been some beer.

I realize I'm out of step with the world today. Everyone else is singing songs of praise to Obama. Celebrities are pledging to be a good servant to him. And the Nobel committee has such faith that they have awarded him a prize for what he will do. It's ridiculous of me to ask why; nothing I say will stop the chorus. If every tongue were stilled, the songs would still continue- the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing. Obama, Hey Bama, Bama Bama Obama, Hey Bama, Obama...

UPDATE: Turns out it wasn't the beer after all. The Nobel nominations have to be in by February- President Obama had been in office only 12 days.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The dangers of gay-bashing

One night in Swansea, Wales, three burly street toughs went strolling down the avenue picking fights. After losing one altercation, they decided to regain their manhood by beating up a passing drag queen. Other men might have struck up a conversation with the cross dresser instead, getting to know him as a person. Had they done so, they would have learned what the drag queen did for a living: he is a professional cage fighter. Other men wouldn't have the surveillance video of the three of them getting beaten up by one guy in a classic black evening dress posted on YouTube for the whole world to see.

UPDATE: Here's more footage from ITN. Notice that it takes only 12 seconds for the man in the black dress to put the thugs down, retrieve his purse, straighten his dress, and walk away.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Getting between you and your doctor

One of the biggest complaints against health insurance companies is that they deny claims on the basis of cost, rather than medical reasons- that's why we need a public option, healthcare that looks at medical necessities rather than profits. Now someone has published the actual numbers to show the extent of the problem.

Researcher Pat Tuohey has collected the raw numbers from the eight largest healthcare providers, and the results are interesting. The number of denials vary considerably- the average is 4.25% of claims denied, with the low being 2.68% denied (UHC). The second highest denier of claims, Aetna, has a denial rate more than double UHC's- 6.80%.

So if Aetna is second highest, what unfeeling, money-grubbing, profit obsessed healthcare group is the worst? With 6,938,431 claims denied- 6.85% of the total- the prize goes to Medicare. Article with links to the raw data here

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Light Bulbs vs. The Nanny State

I experimented with the CFL a couple years ago , and found every flaw listed in this video. Since writing that post, someone suggested another explanation for why all my CFL bulbs blew so fast: they were all mounted inverted in downward-pointing sockets. CFLs create much less heat than incandescent bulbs, but they do create heat- and when inverted, the heat rises to cook the circuitry in the base of the bulb, dramatically reducing their lifespan. Incandescent bulbs have no circuitry to cook, and so last longer than CFLs in this usage.

Big deal, you say, just change the fixtures? This house was built in 1870; the chandeliers are the original gas chandeliers, wired for electricity, and they hang several feet down from the 13" ceilings. And the house is in an historical district- I would have to find five matching chandeliers, two front porch fixtures, and kitchen fixtures that are or look period, but are all wired with all sockets facing up, then have them all installed- even if possible, it would cost many, many thousands, which I don't have- especially for something that ridiculous. I suppose I could fill the house with floor lamps and never turn the chandeliers on except for company, but I don't have enough wall sockets to do that, either.

So come 2012, I will have to set aside a couple hundred dollars a year for the government mandated CFL bulbs- dramatically increasing my carbon footprint for inferior illumination- and make a special recycling basket that will cradle the bulbs without breaking them for the trips to the recyclers, so my congressman can feel he's doing something about greenhouse gasses. Something, good, I mean, rather than increasing them as it actually turns out. I will also be harming our balance of trade, as not a single CFL is made in the U.S. But as Al Gore has shown us, it's better to look green than to be green.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Countdown to Halloween

One of my favorite blogs is Sexy Witch , a collector of artwork depicting witches through the decades, and even centuries. (warning, not completely work friendly) Unsurprisingly, this month there is a theme:. Countdown to Halloween. Today's entry, Halloween in Melbourne is about the difficulty of getting Halloween decorations in Australia.

I am an American Conservative

My thanks to Wayside Chapel for providing the link I had lost to an amusing piece entitled "I am an American S***heel" that's been quoted now and again in the blogosphere since it first appeared some five years ago. I thought I'd post a version of it with some commentary included.

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. (Whose regulations have prevented the construction of any new nuclear powerplants for nearly forty years, ensuring that 75% of our electricity would come from burning fossil fuels, making us the second largest polluter on Earth) I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. (Whose pipes leak a quarter of what they pump, wasting precious clean water and energy, because it's easier to raise rates than fix it) After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels (One of the dozen-odd they permit per market, despite the fact that off the shelf technology would permit there to be hundreds of broadcast and thousands of narrowcast channels per market- must be a limit to how much freedom of the press we're allowed) to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. (Who, by next year, will be out of the manned spaceflight business because they couldn't plan ahead for the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet. Despite spending only $5.7 billion out of their $18 billion dollar budget on manned spaceflight, they couldn't find the extra $3.5 billion they needed to keep their core mission functioning... by the way, did you know NASA dollars are spent in all 50 states, and all 435 Congressional districts? That's the way you keep your funding!) I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food (Assuming it wasn't on one of the regular recall lists because yet another E-coli contamination slipped through the cracks) and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration. (Like thalidomide, the anti-nausea drug that caused all those birth defects... while the most effective of the anti-nausea drugs, the one cancer patients need, medical marijuana, is banned so strongly that they're preventing states from legalizing it on their own)

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile (That the government required explosive devices be installed in, which hopefully will be contained by the airbag before it blows your face off- though occasionally they fail to do so. The government claims you need explosives so powerful that possession of them outside your automobile would get your arrested for terrorism to be safe, despite the fact that we regularly see racecars slam into brick walls at 250MPH without airbags and without fatalities.) and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, (Which are maintained so inefficiently by local governments that here in Indiana, we leased a major toll road to a private company, who is maintaining it at a profit cheaper than the government did as a service) possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, (Using standards created by Rockefeller, who became a millionaire by producing oil of uniform standards) using legal tender issued by the federal reserve bank. (Which receives criticism from both the right and the left because it's too independent, not answering directly to elected officials- many claim it's actually unconstitutional because of that) On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service (The only delivery service in the country to routinely run at a deficit- $7 billion last year- despite having a total monopoly on first class mail) and drop the kids off at the public school. (Which here in Indiana, recently got into trouble for using creative numbers to disguise the fact that less than 30% of its students were graduating high school, despite spending more, on a per student basis, than elite private schools)

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, (Lucky guy; hundreds of house burn every year because not one state in the union requires sprinklers or any other active fire suppression system in private homes, despite that being century-old technology. Many lives are lost because they do not require fire escapes on multilevel homes, either; we bought a roll up ladder that can be lowered from the window) and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department. (Lucky guy again; care to see some burglary statistics?)

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration (An advanced version of the BBS system, which had been run by nerds from their homes since 1978 until the internet ran them out of business in the late nineties) and post on and Fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.