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Showing posts from 2013

"Affordable" Care Act

Many years ago, California passed laws that made having auto insurance mandatory within the state. The insurance companies looked at that legislation and said, "Great, we have a captive audience. Let's cancel policies, create new ones at many times the current costs, and screw as many people as possible, while making huge profits." (I'm paraphrasing.) While the intention of the state mandate was good, and, logically, the insurance companies would have had many more millions buying the existing policies, increasing their coffers a very respectable amount, they got greedy. California later then created and passed Proposition 103, which forced the insurance companies to rein in their greed. According to the Consumer Federation of America's report, Prop 103 has saved California drivers about $100 billion since it was passed, in 1988. California is also the only state where auto insurance rates have consistently gone down over the last 25 years.

The Affordable Care Ac…

Back Pain, Again

I mentioned a little while ago that I had some severe back pain (here and here). Taking the advice of many family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, I pushed for an MRI before starting physical therapy. The issue, many of them explained to me, was that physio is great as long as you are being treated for the right cause. In many cases, however, they started physio right away and nothing worked or their back trouble got worse, because you do different physio based on the root cause of the problem.

The MRI was last week and I got the results today. Turns out that I have disc herniation in the L4-5/S1 area of my back, presenting on the right side. Which is exactly where all of my pain and discomfort came from. Even down to my right leg not wanting to make a full arc when walking due to the discomfort I still feel in it.

The herniation is NOT pressing on the nerve, which is great news, but the fact everything is swollen and not in line still causes a lot of pain and discomfort.

Now t…

Bullied

I was bullied at times as a child. I was small, always something that bullies look for in a victim. I was a bit of a smart ass, something that bullies hate. I was one of the smart kids, something that many bullies can't stand. As someone who was bullied fairly regularly, I learned that there is never one set, pat answer to the bully. The correct response is fluid and changes with what is going on, how bad the bullying gets, the level of physical or mental trauma inflicted, and the level of threat in evidence.

The Incognito/Martin issue currently in the news, and constantly developing, really shows a dichotomy in how people think and see bullying. I was just watching ESPN and it was showing an exchange between Mike Golic and another former NFL player on the subject. Golic's response showed me that Golic has never, ever been bullied in his life (or that he believes one answer is right for all circumstances). He was basically saying, "Martin should have stood up to Incognito…

Concussion Conclusions

I'm torn on the recent spate of journalism on concussions in the NFL (and all football). After watching and reading a bunch about it, I'm left with two opinions:
Concussions are bad and it is a shame the NFL has obfuscated, ignored, and lied about it for so long, rather than just helping to fix it. They should get compensation from the NFL for this.These people get paid hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year partially because of the danger inherent in the job. If the job is safer, they should be paid less. I'm not sure which opinion, if either, is more important. But, if we are making the game of football less dangerous, than shouldn't we also lower the pay we provide to watch these players enjoy the game?
The average NFL career is three years. For 2013, the base NFL salary for a Rookie is $405,000. The average American yearly income is around $50,000 (it's hard to nail down a precise figure, as there are a lot of variables involved, especially as the w…

Moving Forward and Looking Back

When ServiceMaster (SM) first arrived to help us with our sewage flood in our basement, they were helpful, attentive, and hard-working. Morris, the guy we initially dealt with, talked all about the benefits of having a bin brought in to store our stuff in while the reclamation project proceeded. He and "the girls" were quick to sort through everything, box up what could be salvaged and pile up and discard what couldn't.

SM then proceeded with the recovery phase. They were quick to get the wallboard cut out, the damp, moldy fiberglass removed, and the industrial-strength HEPA and dehumidifiers working. Morris talked about the process and the project as it moved forward. Then Morris left.

We were left calling Lynn at the main SM office. She was helpful and we told her what we needed and what SM had done. What we didn't know until about a week and half into talking with Lynn was that she was just relaying these messages to someone called Mike, who was our actual project…

Congressional Rules (Revised)

I have revised my set of rules for Congress.

A member of Congress:

Shall be paid a Salary equal to the American Median Income + 10%. This amount cannot be raised or changed by Congress in any way. Must make public and easily accessible any and all Income made in addition to their Congressional salary, including any stock and bond transactions, gifts, gratuities, honorariums, speaking engagements, book deals, campaign funds/contributions, et al. Shall only have “free” health care provision while in office.Must make public and easily accessible all travel expenses while in office. Only those that are for official government functions and reasons will be paid for by the government. Campaigning, fundraising, vacations, travel for family members, and any other travel deemed to not be for official government purposes will not be reimbursed by the government. (UPDATED)
[Solves the problem of Congress being paid well more than the average person (current Congressional salary: $174,000/year; curre…

Fall Out

I saw my GP today. Or, rather, I saw the doctor he had filling in for him while he's on vacation or otherwise away from the office. She had me run through a series of tests to determine what may be going on with my back and, in the end, agreed that I am "MRI worthy." However, she also said that regardless of the MRI results, the immediate therapy will be the same and will probably do what is needed: stop the pain and strengthen the back.

As I said I would, I argued for the MRI anyway, saying that it can't hurt, it gives us new and better information, and, on the off chance that something serious happened, it will catch it and we can change course at that time. She agreed and wrote me the script. Now, the bad part: MRI availability is such that I probably won't be seen for three to six months. The joys of being in the Atlantic Provinces!

She was confused that the UC doctor gave me a script for Percocet for two reasons: 1. it doesn't treat potential (and most l…

Back Pain a Week Later

It is now September 11th, an auspicious day, and I am finally able to walk without too much effort and assistance. As long as I don't move around too much, lift anything heavy, or over-exert myself, my pain is minimal. However, I walk with a shuffle, as the pain is still there and my right leg doesn't want to take my weight as well as my left leg. At night, when I roll over, I am waking up and rolling slowly and carefully, due to the stabs of pain that still exist. Sitting in my work chair in the office is uncomfortable and I have to take frequent pauses to stretch and move so my back doesn't lock up and hurt worse when I finally do move.

All told, I hurt my back in the late afternoon of September 1st (around 4 pm) and I am only just starting to feel like I am getting back to normal on September 11th. That's 10 full days, plus a half of a day on the 1st itself. And that includes having the Percocet to take daily and being given 4 days of full rest from the doctor, duri…

Back Pain

On the long weekend, my wife and I began the long process of recovery from our recent basement sewage flood. Servicemaster had finished most of its efforts to clean, repair, and recover the sheetrock, fiberglass insulation, etc., and had moved our vacated items back into the basement.

I went down on Sunday evening to assess the plan of action for Monday (my wife was away visiting some friends). As often happens, I started to move a little something, which led to moving a little something more, and next thing I knew, I had been down there for 90 minutes or more and had cleared a whole area. As one final act, I decided to lift a large bag filled with bathroom mats onto a spot in the downstairs closet. When I did, I felt a very tiny "pop" in my lower back and nearly fell to my knees from the pain that suddenly swept from my back through my legs.

I managed to hobble my way upstairs, grab the heating pad, and sit. I waited patiently for my wife to get home and didn't do much …

From All Over

I have been writing this blog for 9.5 years now, starting in April of 2004. Blogger has changed a lot over that time, as has the Internet in general, but I'm comfortable here in my Omniverse talking blindly into the ether and wondering if anyone is listening.

Blogger has added some nice features over the last few years. One of my favorites is the Statistics page, which allows me to see who is reading my blog and what they are reading. What constantly surprises me is how often people read my old entries. In any given week, I'd say about half of my top ten entries are from 2004-2010. Seeing that a couple of people found those entries and read them makes me click them open and read them. It is a great way to remember and reminisce about those times and those issues.
For example, today's top ten posts break down to four from 2013 and six from 2012 or earlier (with the earliest written in 2006). Another thing that surprises me is who is reading this blog. As I am American, it i…

Exciting Times

No time is better for a sports fan than pre-season. In pre-season, your team is undefeated, hope is rampant, and speculation is made with wild abandon.

I am a Detroit Lions fan. Have been since the late 1970s, when my father told me I had to pick a football team and root for them through thick and thin, good and bad. In that time, I have seen a lot of bad Lions teams and a few good ones. In that time, we have won only one playoff game. In that time, we had Barry Sanders to dazzle and an 0-16 season to shame us.

This pre-season, I'm trying to stay cautiously optimistic and not get too hopeful. I have been jilted before. But, for the first time in a long time, I can say that the Lions actually improved in pretty much every area that they needed to in order to become more successful. They picked up offensive line help, so maybe Stafford can stay on his feet and in the pocket long enough to connect on passes. They got what might be the perfect complimentary running back help so Staffo…

Jaundice

With my health situation, one of my biggest fears is having someone, most likely my wife, tell me I look jaundiced and having to head to the ER only to discover my liver has stopped working. The chances of that happening are low, as I take my medications, I get 3-4 blood tests a year, and I meet with my doctors fairly regularly (not as regularly as when I lived in America, and not so often with my GE doctor, but still fairly often).

I woke this morning to a post on Facebook by my cousin's wife. She said that my cousin is in the ER because he got sick and became jaundiced. Everything is pointing toward gallbladder stones that may also be affecting his liver. He may need to have his gallbladder removed, he's having tests on his liver and liver function, and they are doing surgery today to figure out what has happened.

This is pretty much my worst nightmare come to life. He had no indications of anything wrong except falling ill during the San Diego Comic Convention, so chances a…

More Game Design

I have previously talked about game design changes I would make to games I enjoy playing. Another thought struck me recently: penalizing the player. By this I mean that the player is penalized in multiple ways for using his character/avatar's abilities.

Your character has an Energy bar that is used to cast his abilities and each ability has an energy usage amount. So, for example, a power may "cost" 10 energy to cast and your character may have 100 energy total. If you do not have enough energy to cast the ability, you cannot cast it. The higher the power (or more powerful it is), the higher the energy cost to cast it. There is usually a method by which your character regenerates those used energy points, either over time or via some sort of "energy potion" concept.

In addition, each of the abilities usually has a "cool down" timer. This means that, when you cast it, you have to wait that period of time before the ability is usable again. More powerfu…

Heavy

In the past, I bowled, rode my bike nearly year round, and played softball. As my health grew worse, I slowly gave up on these activities due to the stress and pain they caused me. What I didn't realize was that when I was still doing at least one of them regularly, it was enough exercise often enough to counterbalance the appetite stimulation (caused by the medications I take) and my caloric intake. However, I have been primarily sedentary with little exercise for the last five years, while still having the appetite stimulation from the meds, and my weight has crept up. A sedentary life plus constant appetite stimulation has turned out to be a bad combination!

My wife has turned me on to a site called "My Fitness Pal" online. It allows you to track your calories and exercise per day to help you realize your intake and output so you can manage your weight loss goals. You can feed the results to your Facebook and Twitter, if you wish, and you can have friends on the site …

Congress Must Go!

"... Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...". I think it is just about time for us to abolish Congress, both House and Senate, and start over. We need to enact laws that limit the amount of money these positions can accrue while in office, make sure existing laws apply to Congress equally, and to limit the amount of time that one can spend in Congress.
Currently, Congress refuses to work together or with other parts of the executive branch (i.e., the office of the President); refuses to take a pay cut during one of the most dire economic hardships our country has faced; and refuses to hold themselves accountable to themselves or to the American people who, through their votes, have issued directives on what direction and what policies they want to see en…

Working the Bell Curve

At my previous job, our company was bought out. We went from a smaller company that believed in hiring the best and the brightest, training them appropriately, and giving them what they needed to succeed, to a small part of a larger corporate structure. Part of the large corporate structure was the institution of a bell curve for worker reviews.

In case you don't know how this works, basically it says that each manager selects 10% of his/her workforce and designates them as "stars," 80% are marked as "adequate," and another 10% as "failures" or "needs improvement." Some companies break the 80% up into sub-categories, but essentially you still wind up with the majority getting the equivalent of a "C" in school, a few getting an "A" grade, and the rest getting the equivalent of a "D" or an "F" grade.

The problem with this way of doing reviews is this: why would  you hire people that are going to fail or …

Man of Steel

Note: Mild Spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

My wife and I like to pay attention to critical reviews for movies, but we make up our own minds. Some movies, however, we are going to go see regardless. I am a huge Superman fan, so Man of Steel was one of those "must see" movies. Reading the reviews via RottenTomato.com and Metacritic, review compilation sites, the movie was getting a just barely "rotten" rating and many critics complained that it had no heart or charm. The critical consensus seems to be summed up with, "It's just not the Christopher Reeve Superman."

In general, I respect critics and I am informed by what they say. But, in this case, I wonder where they came up with those responses. The movie I watched had a lot of heart and charm and soul. The first half of the movie is predicated on showing that Clark Kent was a picked on boy, confused by the emergence of his powers, with strong guidance from his Earth-born parents. Even through …

Alfred Hitchcock Presents...

Just finished watching first Psycho and then To Catch a Thief. I have watched Psycho before, but realized I hadn't seen it in a while and that I wasn't remembering much of it. I hadn't seen To Catch a Thief before, so it was new to me. It's fun to go back and watch older movies, as you see and learn so much from them.

Note: Minor spoilers ahead. However, if you haven't seen Psycho or To Catch a Thief yet... well, watch them first and then come back here. My blog will keep.

A few things struck me while viewing these old classics:
Acting, by and large, has gotten much better today. Or, at least, we expect more nuance and craft in what we watch today, no matter how frivolous or small the role may be. In Hitchcock's time, actors were simply a cog in the entire clockwork of a movie, and it didn't matter if some of the smaller roles were wooden or without nuance, as long as they drove the movie forward. In Psycho, for example, the actor who played Sam was a bit woo…

A Life Lesson

[Had video here, went missing from Youtube and I can't find it to re-link to it]

Pretty funny how our assumptions can come back and bite us on the ass. The video reminded me of something that happened in my college years.

The college I attended had a very strong black population. One day, walking from the dormitories to the building that housed my class, I crossed the main quad and stumbled my way into some sort of rally that the black students were having. As I walked across the quad, I became aware of someone shouting over the speaker, "Your people enslaved our people!" and I noticed that the black students around me were staring at me. I stopped and looked around and saw a middle-aged black man with a microphone staring and pointing at me.

"Excuse me?" I semi-shouted back. I was about two-thirds away from the 'podium' area from which he was speaking.

He reiterated, "Your people enslaved us!"

"Nope, didn't happen," I responded …