Monday, August 31, 2009

On Botox and Death Panels

Much of the healthcare talk lately focuses on, for lack of a better term, bullshit. Those who argue against reform that would provide access to health care for 47 million people have, in the absence of facts, made things up. Things like the USA having the best health care system in the world, despite the uncomfortable truth that the USA is actually ranked 37th, behind countries such as Columbia and Costa Rica. Things like fictional death panels who would decide when to kill off the elderly, rationing of health care, promoting of abortions, and of course the ever popular spiraling of the country down the toilet bowl of socialism, communism, and a path towards the fourth Reich. It’s all bullshit of course, spread like manure over the fertile imaginations of tiny minded Obama haters by the likes of teary eyed Glenn Beck and his cronies at Fox News.

I suppose the fact that some huge portion of the population actually chooses to believe the bullshit accounts for it’s seemingly never ending supply. I wondered though, if by using some real facts, if it could be argued that denying health care to 47 million fellow citizens was, in fact, a good thing. For instance, lets just say we find away to provide affordable health care. Divorce rates will sky-rocket. For many people the fact that the spouse has a health care is the only thing keeping them together. My wife actually called me a pre-existing condition the other day, and now I understand why. Blue Cross may be the only thing standing between me and an expensive divorce.

If, like in counties who have universal health care such as Canada and the UK, the mortality rate in infants goes down, that will eventually mean more tax money will be needed to pay for schooling the little bastards who don’t die because their mommy could now afford to see a doctor. People also tend to live longer in countries with nationalized health care systems. That translates into still more taxes to pay for Hoverounds and diabetic supplies to those old, poor people who would just die if we didn't change anything . Abortion rates might also decrease as a result of more people having access to birth control information, and methods. If abortion rates go down, what happens to all the hate groups who protest at legal abortion clinics, and those who do the Christian thing, and murder the abortion providers? More unemployment and less people doing the work of the lord, that’s what happens.

Hey, the folks in favor of the current system are never going to just come out and say that there can be no real reform because all the insurance companies own the politicians in both parties, and that despite professing to be a Christian nation most people are selfish and think those 47 million losers without health somehow aren’t as deserving of health care as they are. They may even put a serious cramp in their ability to get botox injections s and boob jobs in a timely manner.

Well, there you go health care reform opponents. Health care will reform will result in more taxes, more unemployment, and sky-rocketing divorce rates. And before you cry “bullshit”, this all makes about as much sense as what I’ve been hearing so far.

Blog Developments

I have been in a blue funk for a couple of weeks and totally lacking inspiration to write. That happens to everyone from time to time and it is frustrating, particularly when there are several events in a given day that yank my chain and I find myself unable to approach any of it via the written word.

And then there are those days when not a single news item really disturbs me. Those are rare but they do happen. As a result, I've been toying with the idea of getting some contributors on this blog. Someone to take up the slack and fill in the gaps with some interesting perspectives.

I have a Facebook friend named Wilf. I met Wilf virtually through his wife who I met virtually through a childhood friend on Facebook. Gotta love this social networking! I have seen a few opinion pieces Wilf has written as Facebook notes and a couple which were published in a small local paper where he lives. I like his attitude so I've been pestering him to contribute here. He finally caved in and agreed.

Wilf is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently is active in Democratic politics with his wife in central Arkansas.

I'm delighted he agreed to post here and I hope you'll all give him a warm and hearty welcome, and encourage him to chime in whenever he has anything at all to get off his chest!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Songs on the Radio

On the way to Home Depot this afternoon I heard a new song on the radio by a band called "One Eskimo." I really liked it and decided to share.

Well, it's sorta new... 1974 was a LONG time ago...

Another version of this great song by Ella Washington. I can't believe I'd never heard it before today.

Which version do you like best?

As it turns out after extensive research, this is a Patsy Cline song. Figures. I wonder if One Eskimo knows that.

The real irony here is that our local radio station played Patsy Cline's "Crazy" immediately before One Eskimo's "Kandi." And we all know "Crazy" was written by none other than Willie Nelson.

Music is interesting.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: The Furrrminator Edition

For many weeks now, txrad has been wanting to buy one of these Furrminator combs. I was trying not to encourage him because they are around $30, and we do have a brush for the cats which works pretty well. The last thing I wanted was to spend that amount of money on something which frankly had me skeptical.

A week or so ago while at Petsmart, they had one on sale slightly, if you have one of those Perks cards, and txrad was talking about it, and I said, "go ahead, buy it."

It sat around here on the kitchen table unused for about a week. I finally picked it up one afternoon earlier this week and gave Sissy a combing session. She's notorious for pulling out clumps of hair and depositing them on the bedroom floor. After about 5 minutes of gentle combing, I was astonished at the pile of cat hair! I wish I had taken a picture.

Instead, I got pictures of the Tot a few days later and his mini-pile which is nothing compared to Sissy's. I am completely sold on the Furrminator and believe every cathouse should have one.

Furthermore, after I was done I have the Tot some strokes with my hand and his coat felt like he'd just had a bath recently. Amazing.

He appreciated the grooming and decided to snuggle up with his nose firmly planted in my stinky Birkenstock.

Happy Friday! Praise the Ceiling Cat because the workweek was comprised of extreme suckage and annoyances.


UPDATE: I was just out on the patio enjoying my least favorite smoking product when txrad walked out and proclaimed, "I found a typo."

My reply was something along the lines of, "well god damn. Don't be telling me this shit. That's all I've had at work all week is finishing a project and then having people come back to me with a problem."

And then I asked, "What is it?"

txrad responded, "I'm not telling you."

No biggie. I found the damned thing and it's fixed and I am now off the clock.

I Prefer a Tighter Hole

But this put a smile on my face, nonetheless. Deeky has a list of Six Gayest Robots.

I may never watch sci-fi the same way again.

I always thought these two secretly wanted to get it on...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Give Me Some Elevation

I'm seriously thinking I could live in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Samoa, um.... Spain.... umm.. Cuba. But maybe Cuba..someday.

Just to get away from the toxicity of US politics.

As long as I can live high enough to avoid the rising waters of the over-heated rhetoric.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RIP Edward M. Kennedy

I guess this answers the question regarding whether or not he would be able to drag himself in to cast a vote on health care reform.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Other Insurance Issues

This post is about the other insurance problem -- not health, but homeowners and automobile insurance. And I'm almost as disgruntled about the latter as I am with the former.

In 2005, I paid Travelers $1,180 annually for homeowners insurance. In 2006 I probably got an offer letter from Allstate with a sweet deal. That was the year I switched to Allstate for $786 annually. And despite the fact that I have never filed a claim, even when I had flood damage in 2007 requiring carpets to be ripped out of two rooms and replaced, I've seen my insurance rate climb to $818 in 2007, $872 in 2008, and now $961 for 2009-2010.

I recently received an unsolicited letter from Farmers with a quote of $444 for homeowners insurance. Their limit for dwelling is $224,000 compared with $269,000 with Allstate. However, the liability coverage is $500,000 vs. $300,000 with Allstate. It will be interesting to see if I can get equal coverage for not much more than $444 per month. And I will be asking them about packaging in automobile insurance as well.

I switched our auto insurance from Travelers to Allstate at the same time I moved our homeowners policy.

Travelers charged $1,866 per year for two vehicles. Allstate was around $1,400. That quickly rose to $1,600 and I then took steps to lower the premium by making adjustments to the coverage. There are no lienholders on either vehicle. One is 13 years old and the other is 6 years old. We have never filed a claim on either vehicle and we do not commute to work. In fact, one vehicle (the older one) is probably driven less than 1,000 miles a year when I happen to be out of town, or when I need to drive it to keep the fuel from getting old, and to keep the battery charged.

The insurance for the most recent year, 2008-2009 was already up to $1,700 and for the first six months of the 2009-2019 year it's coming in at $798 which translates to about $1,600 for the year if that rate holds for the 2nd six months. We are in a "good driver" program where we get a kickback in rate for a good driving record so that might be why the rate seems to have dropped.

The biggest source of my irritation is that I feel as though I constantly need to be shopping around for a better deal instead of feeling secure in the feeling that I'm being treated fairly as a loyal customer with one insurance company. Perhaps that is the game. They keep raising the rates until you notice; it's money in the pocket for them.

Is anyone else going through this run-around? Would love to hear your stories, especially regarding Farmers. And this is a prime example of why we need health care reform. It's bad enough having to deal with this for homeowners and automobile insurance. For those who select their own private health insurance, it just adds one more layer of hassle few of us have time to deal with these days. But my employer has to deal with it. Hardly a year goes by when we don't switch and the paperwork madness begins again.

Bring Back the Draft

It might be the only way

to end the insane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eight years into it and we're on the losing end. Time for a reality check.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Robert J. Samuelson, in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, issues a rather blistering critique of President Obama's vision for a high-speed rail network in the United States.
The White House promises fabulous benefits. High-speed rail "will loosen the congestion suffocating our highways and skyways," says Vice President Biden. A high-speed rail system would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions "equal to removing 1 million cars from our roads," adds the president. Relieve congestion. Fight global warming. Reduce oil imports. The vision is seductive. The audience is willing. Many Americans love trains and regard other countries' systems (say, Spain's rapid trains between Madrid and Barcelona, running at about 150 mph) as evidence of U.S. technological inferiority.

There's only one catch: The vision is a mirage. The costs of high-speed rail would be huge, and the public benefits meager.


In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office cited a range of construction costs, from $22 million a mile to $132 million a mile. Harvard economist Edward Glaeser figures $50 million a mile might be a plausible average. A 250-mile system would cost $12.5 billion and 10 systems, $125 billion.

Given the billions being tossed around lately, from Iraq to Afghanistan, from the US bank bailouts to the General Motors rescue, not to mention another $3+ billion in the Cash for Clunkers program, $125 billion for TEN 250-mile rail systems seems like quite a deal, and represents a fraction of the economic stimulus package which has yet to make an impact on most Americans, particularly those unemployed.

I'm certainly willing to concede that, as Mr. Samuelson asserts, we have lack-of-density issues in this country which work against the notion of a successful rail network.
What works in Europe and Asia won't in the United States. Even abroad, passenger trains are subsidized. But the subsidies are more justifiable because geography and energy policies differ.

Densities are much higher, and high densities favor rail with direct connections between heavily populated city centers and business districts.

True, but Obama isn't proposing a vast rail network along the lines of our interstate highway system. No one is talking about high-speed rail between Amarillo and Albuquerque (yet). The focus is in areas where there already is significant population density and frequent airline service between metropolitan areas -- often hourly air service! I can't imagine a scenario more worthy of frequent high-speed rail service to help ease congestion in the air and to provide quick alternatives for airline travel.

Moreover, as the population continues to climb in the US, with more people clustering in urban areas, trains are only going to make more sense as time drags on, not less. But I'll confess it does seem to be very American to wait until a need is overdue -- and even more costly years down the road -- than prepare now for what is going to be an inevitable necessity. And let us not forget the uncertainty of fuel prices which, at some point in the future, are going to start rising again.

Here is a map illustrating some of the proposed high-speed rail corridors.

This makes perfect sense to me as a starting point. Regional rail networks would definitely help to alleviate air travel congestion where they can actually compete with airlines in total travel time. An Austin to Dallas route for example, at around 200 miles should easily be managed in less than 2 hours by high-speed rail, and be significantly more pleasurable that sitting around for 45 minutes in the airport prior to departure, and after having endured the unpleasant security aspects, had your nail clippers and large shampoo bottle confiscated, etc.

Excessive security is precisely the reason I choose not to fly except when absolutely necessary, and I haven't flown anywhere in a number of years. However, I do drive between Austin and Little Rock at least once a year, and that trip takes close to 8 hours if I hustle and keep my rest stops to a minimum. If I had the opportunity to board a high-speed train here in Austin and arrive in Little Rock in roughly five hours, I seriously doubt I'd ever make the grueling drive again.

And because that travel time is about the same as air travel when you factor in the waiting time and layover in Dallas, it would compete quite nicely.

While Texas and Florida certainly have some population density issues which beg for development of high-speed rail options, California certainly is viable.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has a beautiful and exciting web site illustrating the vision of high-speed rail and even includes some simulated videos which are thrilling to watch. Check out a few of the "Trip Visualizations."

The time to move forward on this is now, not 30 years down the road.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: Ménage à Tot Edition

Yesterday when I was unpacking my ergo chair I tossed the plastic covering on the kitchen table. Tot thought it was his job to make sure it didn't go anywhere.

Then last night txrad had some Tot time with the camera.

This next one is a tad freaky.

'Tis Friday. Yeeee haaa!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don't Jettison the Pod

Jettison the Pod

My Ergo Moment

Those who follow me on Facebook know that I was expecting delivery yesterday on my long-awaited ergonomic chair which I "built" online according to my specific needs -- headrest, adjustable arms, extra height option on the seat, etc.

The chair didn't arrive as "estimated" by Fed-Ex yesterday so I knew it would definitely be here today. It was just a question of when, and I was running to look out the window every 15 minutes or so to see if the delivery truck was here. That's how eager I have been.

My workday was comprised of a major television ad placement for September which involved a LOT of tedious data entry. I was literally so uncomfortable with my old chair in relation to my PC keyboard that I was having to get up and walk around every five minutes.

I was probably 30% done with the project when I heard the rapid knock on the door. I raced to the door expecting to sign something confirming receipt, but the delivery guy was running to his truck like he'd just planted a bomb in Baghdad. (Bad reference, I know. Sorry. It's just what sprung to mind.)

I opened the box on the patio (the chair weighs more than 60 lbs.) and removed the two pieces: the chair and the base and brought them in the kitchen. Assembly was a breeze. I simply had to slide the chair into a tube on the base and presto! Chair was ready to use. I got the various adjustments made for my comfort and back to work I went.

And wow, did I get some work done. Gone were the agonizing cries of an unpleasant work environment. Gone were the breaks every 5 minutes. With an extra 2 inches of height, I was suddenly comfortable using my keyboard and mouse. And not only was I comfortable, I was happy and ecstatic. And even volunteering to help others with the same work I'd been wondering if I would even be able to finish today. I was joking about that offer, sort of. I'd do it.

I'm not going to tell you what I paid* for this chair. Most of you would think I was nuts. But it's some of the best money I have ever spent, in my opinion. Now if I can only find a mattress equivalent to this chair, I will think I have died and gone to heaven.

*It's quite cheap if you use the rationale I used to convince myself to order it. The price works out to less than 8-cents an hour for an 8-hour day, 365 days a year, for five years which is the length of the warranty.

The Gun Obsession

The gun enthusiasts are crossing a line these days by showing up at town hall meetings, armed, and harping on their 2nd amendment right to do so.

Yesterday, Chris Matthews interviewed John Velleco representing Gun Owners of America and it's rather shocking to hear anyone advocating a constitutional right to attend a speech by Obama, armed with semi-automatic weapons, and the right to travel on commercial airlines with guns.

Just because I have freedom of speech does not mean I have the right to do so if it puts the safety of others at risk. A good example of this would be the millions of one-handed drivers who are clutching a cellphone while zooming down the highway at 75 MPH, or no-hands drivers who are texting. While these "law-abiding" citizens may have every legal right to attend public events with a loaded pistol strapped on their hip, that does not make it a smart or sensible thing to do, even if the subject of the town hall meetings was the 2nd amendment as opposed to health care debate.

Ironically, these people are actually jeopardizing support for the 2nd amendment right to bear arms. As soon as we have one or two incidents in which someone is killed, whether it be in a bar, a church, a school gym, or town hall, especially if that someone happens to be a politician, then public opinion is going to swing in the direction of gun control. Or theoretically, it should.

Too many people are trying to cross this bridge made of toilet paper, and to compound the problem, there is rain in the forecast.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Getting Angry

I don't care if health care reform -- the RIGHT health care reform -- gets 60 votes or the controversial 51 votes. We need change. We need health care reform. Obama needs to push it.

60 or 51. Whatever gets it done. PUSH IT! I'm fed up with the lies, the fear, the distortion, the death panels, the Republicans, the Blue Dogs, the hypocrites, the town hall meetings, the corporate lobbyists, and the so-called "liberal" media who perpetuate meth myths.

The Health Care Reform Sham

I tried not to get too upset when I heard that a public option was off the table.

I tried to get excited when the co-op idea seemed to gain traction.

But deep within me, I knew we were probably squandering another opportunity for necessary change. And I'll be damned if Bob Herbert hasn't gone and backed me up.

Corporations and the profit motive, coupled with lining the pockets of politicians with campaign cash, will always prevail over doing what is right for the people. I wonder when we will finally say, "enough!"
Giving consumers the choice of an efficient, nonprofit, government-run insurance plan would have moved us toward real cost control, but that option has gone a-glimmering. The public deserves better. The drug companies, the insurance industry and the rest of the corporate high-rollers have their tentacles all over this so-called reform effort, squeezing it for all it’s worth.

Meanwhile, the public — struggling with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s — is looking on with great anxiety and confusion. If the drug companies and the insurance industry are smiling, it can only mean that the public interest is being left behind.

Monday, August 17, 2009

200 Miles

This weekend I hit the 200 mile threshold in my daily walking regimen which commenced on May 18 of this year. I'll admit the first 100 miles came more quickly than the 2nd hundred did. The summer heat really started to take a toll on me in the afternoons so I've been limiting myself to a 1.5 mile morning walk until it cools off. I'm guessing by mid-September I can get back to 2.5 or 3 miles per day.

I have kept a daily log of my distance walked, and on June 21 I also started to document the number of days where the high temperature exceeded 100 degrees. We'd already had a few of those when I started keeping track, and now we're up to 42 days of triple digits -- not counting the ones I missed!

Two hundred miles puts me close to downtown Dallas in what I've been calling my virtual walk to Connecticut. I have a long way to go just to get out of Texas!

My shoes are holding up so far. I was going to post a picture but the battery went dead so I'll add a couple of pictures to this post once recharged.

One of the things I love most about walking is the slow pace. I notice things in the neighborhood that I'd probably never see in a car or even on a bicycle, whether it is the discarded beer can on the side of the road or the toads who tried to cross the street at night and were no match for a moving vehicle. I feel at one with my environment, connecting with the doves and cardinals, as well as the occasional road runner, deer and garter snake.

I also enjoy the open air, even when it's hot. The clouds can be beautiful and each day as I ascend the steep hill one block over, I turn around and admire the view and pat myself on the back for my discipline in this endeavor.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock 40th - Part 3

Someone's "home movie" shot at Woodstock with no sound, just crowd shots.

I'll wrap up this weekend celebration with five SIX videos (Isabelita reminded me in comments of the Ten Years After gig which I had intended to post and forgot), some of my favorite stuff from the festival. Pull up a chair, pop open a beer, fire up a joint...

Grace Slick gives the crowd a morning wake-up call.

Max Yasgur on his farm in 1970. Thanks Max!


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Whole Fools Market

John Mackey, CEO of Austin-based Whole Foods Market created a stir back in 2007 when it was revealed that he had been posting to a Yahoo financial forum under a pseudonym, promoting the financial strengths of his stores during a takeover of rival Wild Oats. That was pretty stupid and it called into question his sanity ethics, not to mention his maturity.

Wackey Mackey had gone and done it again, this time under his real name in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal concerning health care reform.

It's not so much what he said that has me pissed off as it is the fact the he went out of his way to write an article about the direction he believes we need to go for health care reform. Had this piece been written by the CEO of Walgreens, Citigroup, or John Deere, I would not have cared in the least, nor would it have been the least bit surprising. If I had a Citigroup bank account or credit card, I would not be rushing out to close the account. I wouldn't cease shopping at Walgreens (although I shop there less than once a year on average anyway) and I wouldn't suddenly be trying to sell my John Deere to buy a Cub Cadet. (I have plenty of other reasons for the latter, however.)

John Mackey is the CEO of a supermarket chain which began here in Austin by appealing to the local back-to-nature hippies and others who sought organic and natural foods. Obviously this remains their targeted customer -- people who are likely to be quite left-of-center politically, and have quite a knowledge about the health consequences of processed foods and unhealthy ingredients. We tend to read labels and avoid those items which don't meet our own personal dietary standards and preferences. I say "we" because I have been a Whole Foods shopper, off and on, for over 12 years. In 2007, I worked directly across 6th Street from the flagship store and headquarters. Believe it or not, the store is a big tourist attraction.

For him to write an opinion piece of this nature is not unlike the remorse I'd feel after working hard to elect a member of the Green Party to Congress, only to have that person start voting in lock-step with Republicans. Wacky Mackey has apparently forgotten the proclivities of vast numbers of his clientele. In addition, I could argue he may have forgotten his own humble and struggling start in business.
In 1978, twenty-five-year-old college dropout John Mackey and Rene Lawson, his twenty-one year old girlfriend, borrowed $45,000 from family and friends to open a small natural foods store called SaferWay in Austin, Texas (the name being a spoof of Safeway). When the couple was evicted from their apartment for storing food products in it, they decided to live at the store. Because it was zoned for commercial use, there was no shower stall, so they bathed using a water hose attached to their dishwasher.

Two years later, John Mackey partnered with Craig Weller and Mark Skiles to merge SaferWay with their Clarksville Natural Grocery, resulting in the opening of the original Whole Foods Market on September 20, 1980. At 12,500 square feet (1,160 m2) and with a staff of 19, the store was quite large in comparison to the standard health food store of the time.

Less than a year later, on Memorial Day in 1981, the worst flood in 70 years devastated the city of Austin. Caught in the flood waters, the store’s inventory was wiped out and most of the equipment was damaged. The losses were approximately $400,000 and Whole Foods Market had no insurance. Customers and neighbors voluntarily joined the staff to repair and clean up the damage. Creditors, vendors and investors all assisted in helping the store recover, and it reopened 28 days after the flood.

Or perhaps he believes, as a result of that experience, that everyone else in the country with inadequate or no insurance can get the voluntary helping hand from friends and neighbors. Who knows. But based on one idea he promotes in his opinion piece, it sure sounds like that is his belief.
Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

So, that's like a voluntary taxation for providing health coverage. Can we do the same with our military budget? I would like to opt out on a few things there, buddy.

Hopefully a lot of CEOs just like him would be compassionate enough to exercise some stock options and maybe voluntarily donate $100,000 or more to a worthy cause. And yeah, these people who financially need no help would get yet another tax write-off while those struggling with every penny earned would be praying for compassion and hoping for the best.

Blow that out your ass, Mackey, along with your embedded advertisement to encourage more folks to shop for natural and organic products (where? Oh, Whole Foods of course!) and a blatant promotion of how great the benefits are to his workers.
At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.

Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

Unfortunately many of our health-care problems are self-inflicted: two-thirds of Americans are now overweight and one-third are obese. Most of the diseases that kill us and account for about 70% of all health-care spending—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity—are mostly preventable through proper diet, exercise, not smoking, minimal alcohol consumption and other healthy lifestyle choices.

Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat. We should be able to live largely disease-free lives until we are well into our 90s and even past 100 years of age.

Many of our health care problems are not self-inflicted. Ever heard of automobile accidents? Ever heard of pedestrians or cyclists being slammed by a vehicle? Ever seen a hospital bill for weeks of intensive care?

Eating healthy and natural foods is a great thing and I highly encourage it. After 18 years of a vegetarian diet, txrad and I really haven't had any significant illnesses during this time, other than an occasional allergy due to local pollen, and that was several years ago.

But in March of 2007, txrad did have an accident resulting in a concussion. He spent two days in a hospital for observation mainly. They did brain scans and x-rays, and determined that he also had some fractured ribs, but there was nothing they could really do. It required rest and weeks of recovery at home to heal.

He was unemployed at the time -- had been for over three months. And despite the fact that he was still covered by insurance (incidentally from the advertising agency directly across the street from Whole Foods in downtown Austin), he still has about $3,000 in unpaid medical bills which were not covered by his insurance. He is also still unemployed. He is nagged daily by calls from collections attempting to get their hands on the funds. And his previously decent credit rating has probably been reduced to nothing.

Nice system we have here. And thanks, Mackey, for being so understanding.
We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health.

Gee, maybe if we had made the "lifestyle choice" to take the money we spent at Whole Foods Market through the years and instead, invested it in an interest-bearing account -- all $10,661.28 -- txrad's bills would be paid and we'd still have a nice health cushion. How stupid of us to have not thought of that option. (Yes, I do have a screen shot of a Quicken report I just pulled to back up my figure.)

There is already a "Boycott Whole Foods Market" group on Facebook. At the time I'm writing this, it already has 7,702 members. I'm one of them. A lot of people are pissed off about this. And that should start to worry the stockholders if this impacts the chain's profits which have already been battered somewhat by the recession.

I am in the awkward position of saying I have no desire to shop at Whole Foods while simultaneously being a stockholder in the company. And I hope to someday have an opportunity to vote on replacing John Mackey with a new CEO, one who doesn't quote Margaret Thatcher as a prelude to a piece which basically puts him or her in direct opposition to so many of those who have supported the business through the years.


Blueberry also had a nice rant which is where I found the link to the WSJ piece.

Crossposted at B3

Woodstock 40th - Part 2

Yesterday I popped in at Overstock to look for something and I had to laugh at their Woodstock commemorative logo. Cool!

Although I was 9 years old while Woodstock was taking place, I have absolutely no recollection of hearing anything about it until a couple of years later when my musical tastes started to swing from the Partridge Family to the likes of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I certainly don't recall my parents making any kind of commentary about it although I'm sure they had to have noticed reports on the news.

Maybe it just wasn't big news down in Arkansas. But I did know what hippies were when I was nine. I just had no idea I would become one later in life despite the fact that I could spell the word psychedelic when I was eight.

Thankfully, we have hundreds of thousands of people who lived through it to share their stories, as well as those who documented it through audio and video. And I think I would have had a blast there, even as a nine-year-old kid, because I loved music and I was already on the cusp of discovering blues-influenced music. I am sure I would have had more fun than Gail Collins -- she apparently missed all the music!

Having been born in the Delta, just a few short miles across the Mississippi River from Clarksdale, I think blues music was in my blood. Son House was born two miles from Clarksdale. Alan Wilson, leader and singer in Canned Heat, was a huge fan of Son House, and for good reason.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock 40th

This has special meaning for me, even though I was only 9 when it happened. But this weekend is going to be dedicated to the best of Woodstock. If you have suggestions, leave them in comments. But let's get started:

Let's move to Richie Havens...

Do You Watch MSNBC?

If you watch MSNBC, regardless of whether you live in this asshole's district, please email him and say, "I watch MSNBC." Do it for konagod.

Just be aware, I tried emailing him and he apparently doesn't care what Americans outside his district think about his moronic views, despite going on national television to spew them. Oh, and he doesn't mind if non-residents sign up to get HIS views. Asshole.


So why not just give his office a call and let him know that you watch MSNBC. It really doesn't make much difference as he isn't likely to take your call or your email.

Houston Phone: (713) 682-8828
Washington Phone: Phone: (202) 225-2571

Thank God I don't live west of Houston.

Get to know a district!

Big thanks to Petulant for getting the video and a post up so quickly.

Friday Pussy Blog: Yeah, I'm Relaxed; It's Friday Edition

I just washed sheets in the last day or so and therefore Sissy will nap against my pillow. She loves clean sheets!

And while it may be summer, and hot as hell in Texas, the Tot still likes to catch some rays.

He's too lazy to put on his pretty face today.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Awkward Moments in Television

For those of you who missed this on Hardball last night, I present you with one of the most uncomfortable interviews I have ever seen. I joked to txrad that Sarah Palin should choose this woman to be her VP running mate on 2012.

But seriously, why this woman would choose to go on national television is beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Sentiments Exactly

It's not my work but it sums up my feelings lately...

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels 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.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

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, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our Biggest Problem (What? Only One??)

Your morning dose of reality as seen through the eyes of Bob Herbert, op-ed columnist for the New York Times.
Some 247,000 jobs were lost in July, a number that under ordinary circumstances would send a shudder through the country. It was the smallest monthly loss of jobs since last summer. And for that reason, it was seen as a hopeful sign. The official monthly unemployment rate ticked down from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent.

But behind the official numbers is a scary story that illustrates the single biggest challenge facing the United States today. The American economy does not seem able to provide enough jobs — and nowhere near enough good jobs — to maintain the standard of living that most Americans have come to expect.

I've already come to terms with the fact that our standard of living is as unsustainable as our current health care system. But that doesn't have to translate into a tragedy. Some of us, perhaps most of us, are going to need to make adjustments in our "American Dream."

But what is really shocking about the current unemployment situation is the impact on younger Americans and especially minorities (well, that part isn't shocking at all; it's the status quo, just on a larger scale).
Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16- through 19-year-old age group. For minority teenagers, forget about it. The numbers are beyond scary; they’re catastrophic.

This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.

And I can't help but wonder how involved these age groups are in the critical health care debate. I fear the entire dialogue is being driven by those baby-boomers who have been paying attention and have seen the rampant inflation in the health care sector, and have experienced the costs first-hand, and the baby-boomers on the right who are having their fears stoked by various media figures and right-wing fringe elements throwing up the socialist red scare all over again.

America's youth need to be paying attention and getting involved now. Health care needs for those in their 20s may seem to be a low-priority (perhaps a couple of rungs below the crisis of Twitter being hacked) right now, but this is an opportunity to influence the debate and help shape a system on which they will depend in another 15 years or so.

I know, I know. I'm dreaming again. That is about as likely as Dennis Kucinich winning the 2012 Democratic nomination.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Blogging Accessories

I really shouldn't be splurging on such things during the current economic climate but sometimes a boy needs new toys. I recently got a KVM switch so that I can have ONE monitor on my desk, one keyboard, and one mouse, but two computers: one for work and one for play.

All was well except that neither of my keyboards are USB which is required by the KVM switch. However, after living a year with two monitors, two keyboards, and two mice on my desk, I figured two out of three isn't bad and I could handle two keyboards, at least for awhile.

Here's the problem: I would be switching back and forth between PCs and forget to swap out the keyboards, and I'd start typing away and wondering why nothing was appearing on the monitor. For someone who works in a lot of spreadsheets, this could potentially cause a major data disruption if I'm not careful, so it was obvious a keyboard correction was in order. Especially after I shoved my personal keyboard off to the right one day, right into the slightly elevated edge of the higher printer table between me and txrad, and broke a leg off it.

I'm on a big ergonomic push right now due to some back troubles and I'm trying to correct all the wrongs in my work desk environment. No more twisting to the left for employment duties and then twisting to the right for blogging or other personal work.

This keyboard might not fit the ergonomic definition but I really love the quiet notebook-style keypad and the backlit keys.

Also love the ultra-slim design! This baby is almost wafer-thin.

I'm rather embarrassed to admit that I've never used programmable function keys before now. And I love that I can use the keyboard to mute sound, increase and decrease volume, and jump directly to my email with one keystroke.

Best of all, I took a gamble that there wouldn't be a huge difference in price between Amazon and Fry's Electronics here in Austin. I saw this at Fry's today and bought it for around $58 plus tax. I told myself I was not going to check the price on Amazon, but while shopping for a cordless mouse (by the way, the keyboard is corded and I'm fine with that), I ran across this keyboard for $69.99 and because it is shipping through an outside vendor, not Amazon, there's an additional $6.89 shipping charge. So I got quite a deal.

Interestingly enough, the Logitech mouse I have ordered is $99.99 at Fry's, plus sales tax which in Austin would be another $8.25 for a total lof $108.24. I ordered the mouse on Amazon for $66.36 with free shipping and no sales tax.

It pays to shop around.

I am definitely happier with this keyboard than I am the one I ordered from Amazon a couple of weeks ago... one of those pliable, roll-up keyboards. It is fine for very light typing, but at my usual typing speed and finger pressure, it would have produced a very cryptic blog post. I wrote a review of that gadget at Amazon.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kittie Porn?

Nice try but no catnip!

According to a sheriff's report, Jensen Beach resident Keith Griffin told investigators that pornographic images downloaded when his cat jumped on his computer keyboard while he was downloading music.


Sheriff's officials say a family friend is now caring for the cat.

Keep the cat away from the computer.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Pussy Blog: PC Kitteh Edition

My supervisor was on the job this morning!

"Daddy has a camera; it must be Friday."

"Get a profile shot so they can admire my feline greatness!"

"Use that flash one more time motherfucker and I'll rip your fucking throat out!!"

"Hey, I was kidding! I LUVS my daddy!"

Happy flippity fuck it's Friday!

Chillin' with the KKK

An advertising agency in Belgium has created this ad to promote just how "relaxing" the Luxor hot tubs can be. Hmmm. I don't know about the rest of you but I don't find this relaxing or appealing. In fact, it's kind of disgusting.

Click to embiggen.


Credit Checks Are Screwing the Downtrodden

This isn't a new practice; in fact I read about this last year and another article appears in today's New York Times regarding employers running credit checks on job applicants and then refusing to hire those who appear to have a history of "bad decision-making."
Business executives say that they have an obligation to be diligent and to protect themselves from employees who may be unreliable, unwise or too susceptible to temptation to steal, and that credit checks are a help.

“If I see too many negative things coming up on a credit check, it’s one of those things that raises a flag with me,” said Anita Orozco, director of human resources at Sonneborn, a petrochemical company based in Mahwah, N.J. She added that while bad credit alone would not be a reason to deny someone a job, it might reveal poor judgment.

“If you see a history of bad decision-making, you don’t want that decision-making overflowing into your organization,” she said.

More than 40 percent of employers use credit checks at least sometimes, according to a 2004 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, up from 25 percent in 1998. The share has almost certainly risen today, say career counselors.

Yeah, like the millions of people who made the "bad decision" to take a job at a company which would at some point lay them off, or the "bad decision" to feed their families vs. pay the mortgage when the option is either/or. And many made the "bad decision" to seek medical help for a serious injury when they had no health insurance because they can't afford it, and are now facing bankruptcy due to the enormous costs of health treatment.

Are there also millions of Americans who have abused credit cards, shopped for things they don't need and can't afford, simply because credit was easy? Of course. But this practice is screening out far too many honest workers who have been impacted by the current recession and making their lives far more difficult.

But hey, people who might easily pass a credit check are just one less thing to worry about because we know they aren't going to steal, right?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What the fuck is a royal diadem?

I'm sorry, but this serves what purpose? I just see natural shit. Completely devoid of this lordness. But Good God does it inspire those simpletons who buy into it like a kid with a nickle in a 1930s candy store.

This is the mentality guiding YOUR health care debate. You can choose to sit back as if observing a circus, and you would not be entirely wrong, or you could engage yourself.


Another Thorn for the Right-Wing

Thankfully we have one breath of fresh air in the midst of the health care debacle. By a vote of 68 to 31, the Senate has confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as our next Supreme Court justice.

Democrats celebrated the successful nomination and relatively smooth confirmation process as a bright spot in a summer when they have been buffeted by several challenges, including rocky progress on their attempts to overhaul the nation’s health care system, President Obama’s falling approval ratings, the climbing unemployment rate and other lingering economic problems.

Shortly after the vote, President Obama said he was "deeply gratified" and confident that Judge Sotomayor would become an outstanding justice. The ideals of "justice, equality, opportunity" that guide the high court are the very ones that made the judge’s "uniquely American story" possible in the first place, the president said.

Now if we could only have such a smoothly paved road to health care reform complete and total overhaul. I'll have to get to this another day but I simply cannot fathom why we have subsidized childhood education for those who wish to use it (and private schools for those who don't), subsidized transportation networks (where toll roads aren't creeping in), subsidized fire departments, police departments, and military (coupled with the highly-successful private industry aspect). We even have subsidized health care for the elderly.

But when it comes to the working folks, or those who have been laid off, or those who are simply too poor to afford insurance, we just can't have that kind of "socialism" involved in our health care, despite the fact that we can handle "socialism" in the form of the aforementioned benefits.

I just don't get it.

This all reminds me of the push to get the US to adopt the metric system back in the 1970s. That went nowhere fast. I recall some of the same freak-outs from the right-wing back then, that the metric system was some Communist plot so that when the Russians marched in, we'd all be set to their liking and they wouldn't need conversion charts.

Delusional then, delusional now.

RIP John Hughes

This shocked the hell out of me. I still watch his movies occasionally when I stumble across them while channel surfing. However, The Breakfast Club still stands as not only his best work, in my opinion, but it has survived the test of time and remains as one of my top-rated films. If that movie was a Beatles record, it would be the White album.

Hughes was only 59.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Happy Birthday, Barack & Helen, and a QoTD

This photo makes me smile!


Now, I have a rather unrelated question of the day to throw in. I have many readers in other countries: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Costa Rica to name but a few.

Please leave a comment and tell me what you like and/or dislike about your health care options in your country. And please remember to name the country. My mother is on board with that Obama wants to kill the old people bullshit. Of course, because he is a Socialist and Fox News never lies.

And have any of you seen the advertisement on television for Ambien CR? Jesus H. Christ, do we have problems in this country! Can't sleep? Well, pop this pill. You may well sleep...forever. Listen to the long laundry list of side-effects. It makes being awake all night sound like a walk in the park.

You know, somewhere in a nation of 300 million people, someone is under the influence of this drug and is driving a vehicle and... texting! Yikes!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Party Lessons

So... party #2 at kona ranch was a much larger affair than party #1 a few weeks ago when there were only six of us. And I really got on a roll yesterday morning making all kinds of dips from scratch. One thing I have learned (and I guess you learn something from every party) is to make a check list of everything you prepare so you won't forget to serve something.

I found the ginger tofu dip in the fridge after almost everyone had left.

At least I didn't forget to make margaritas!

Everyone Left Too Soon And No One Brought Pot

It was fun as hell anyways.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Buyers Beware

A few days ago I received a flyer in the mail from Kohl's promoting their 2-day "mega sale" with "power hours." This started at 3pm on Friday and continues today. The flyer contained a card offering an extra 15% off anything in the store.


I had already purchased a couple of things last weekend so there was nothing I really needed but popped in there late yesterday afternoon just to see if perhaps there might be another pair of shorts I'd want, or anything else.

In the kitchen section, txrad was checking out food graters. Ours is a flat one that has a crack in the top and eventually it's probably going to snap in half while I'm trying to grate cheese. There could even be blood shed. So we got the fancy stand-up grater with a nice grip in the top. I believe it was 30% off and we got an additional 15% off that price.

We were feeling mighty fine with ourselves for getting this gadget for under just $12.

After we left Kohl's we drove over to the hooch emporium to procure adult beverages for the party we're having Sunday afternoon. They happen to have a kitchen section with nice high-end gadgets and I spotted the grater we'd just purchased at Kohl's. I just had to wander over there and check out the price so I could feel even better about that hot deal we got on "mega sale."

Hooch emporium price: $9.99

Enough said.