Wednesday, December 26, 2007

oh, and also...

Yesterday was some sort of holiday or whatever. Hope it was merry. Wishing you and yours health and happiness.


Leave Britney alone...!

I'm not a big Britney Spears fan. I confess I like some of her music, but I don't think of her too much. When I do, I feel like she's brought a lot of her problems on herself with bad choices, etc.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure she came into incredible wealth and privilege with limited education, almost zero life experience, and without ever having to learn serious responsibility or accountability. Not sure about her work ethic -- some entertainers actually work as hard or harder than people with more mainstream jobs...

In any case I suspect she is not necessarily a MENSA candidate, and I'm guessing she was unprepared for the life she now leads.

And watching the hassle she goes thru just ordering coffee even makes me feel sorry for her a little. I suspect I would make a bad celebrity -- I think I could probably go about two days before punching out a photographer and breaking his camera...

I had a metal cash box that I lost the key to.

I didn’t remember what I had put in it, but whatever it was was pretty heavy. I took it to a locksmith, who opened it and made me new keys. He charged me $25.

Turned out the box contained ammunition for guns I no longer owned, which isn’t relevant to the story, but I know if I don't put it in you'll get all distracted and feel unsatisfied not knowing.

Anyway, the point is that last week I saw the exact same lockbox in Walmart. I realized that I could have just drilled out the old lock and bought a new box, and it would have cost me $12.99 plus tax.

The End.

PS. The first sentence of this post ends in a preposition; if you think that’s a legitimate grammar rule to care about (about which to be concerned), you are a stupid person. Just saying.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Let’s play a game

Let’s pretend the earth is on average much cooler than it is now.
Let’s say we were used to that.
And let’s say that people were worried that CO2 and other emissions were going to cause the world to warm up several degrees.

I wonder if it would sound something like this:

Sea levels will rise, causing us to lose thousands of square miles of coastline.

Large amounts of Florida and parts of southern AL, LA, & MS will become permanent swampland.

Some coastal cities such as New Orleans will require a massive system of dikes to keep out the sea.

Hawaii will shrink to 1/2 it’s size; thousands of people will be displaced as a certain percentage of the thousands of pacific islands disappear.

The Aleutian highway will disappear, leaving no land-transportation option between North America and Asia – trade will suffer as billions of dollars of goods currently trucked between those two areas must now be transported by ship or by air.

Large amounts of Mexico and much of Northern Africa will lose their forests; in some cases land may become completely devoid of plant life. As areas lose the vegetation that holds the soil in place, some scientists predict the creation of large areas – perhaps hundreds of thousands of square miles – of “desert”: arid land containing only large amounts of dust and shifting waves of sand.

The large forests of fir and spruce that currently cover much of the USA and Northern Mexico will not survive in warmer weather. Some predict that other forms of plant life – such as currently grow near the equator – will replace them, but again, no one knows for sure. And what might New England look like when the magnificent forests of snow-covered conifers are replaced by warmer-weather deciduous trees? It’s not a pretty picture to contemplate.

Large portions of the American southwest – the “breadbasket of America” – will be so hot they will no longer be suitable for farmland; people say that perhaps Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota – even Alberta and Saskatchewan -- will be usable for farmland, but there’s no guarantee of that.

Temperatures will fluctuate wildly with the seasons; some areas will experience dramatic snowfall in the winter, yet get as hot as 90F+ during the summer; the only comfortable periods in these areas will be during the spring and fall.

Thunderstorms (with their attendant lightning danger) may become commonplace occurrences in much of the USA. Flooding will be a danger in many areas.

No longer will hurricanes be a freak occurrence; some predict a “season of hurricanes” in and around the Gulf of Mexico, with as many as 10 or 20 large tropical storms occurring EVERY YEAR, some of which will certainly threaten populated areas.

No one is sure if the ocean can sustain plant and animal life at the new warmer temperature.

Surely we must do everything we can to avoid such a catastrophic situation as described above.

You get the point. But just to clarify: I’m not saying global warming isn’t happening, or that we shouldn’t take steps to reduce our contribution to it. What I object to is your automatically treatin’ me as an inferior the doomsday drama and breathless panic that sometimes accompanies this issue. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling, and I’m the one who knows about it and you are stupid because you’re not listening.”

But the world isn’t going away; it’s not going to be “destroyed”. It may well change in some ways we don’t like, but we’ll adapt. I don’t believe for a minute that a lot of people are going to die as a result. As far as I’m concerned, we should be worried about the economic impact of global warming, and not much else. A global recession worries me a heck of a lot more than losing beachfront. Just saying.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Where Hillary and I agree

WA state is considering creating a statewide health insurance pool; universal health insurance coverage for all state residents. The best comment I heard was “What we need is health *care*, not health insurance.”

Which of course give me the opening I need to pontificate about the subject…

But I’ve found that a well-crafted essay – building a case by marshalling the evidence, tying it all together, etc – results in something that’s booooring to read.

So instead, I think I’ll just make a bunch of statements that I believe. You can disagree if you like, but for the most part you’ll be wrong.

We should have universal health care in the USA. It’s in keeping with my ideals, and mostly in keeping with the ideals we have traditionally espoused as a nation. For the money we’re spending on the Iraq war, we could buy aspirin and breast implants for the entire nation. (For the record, I’ll just have the aspirin, thanks.)

Health care is expensive. This is primarily because:

1) Health care costs money. We have some amazing, even miraculous, medicines and machines and procedures that save us from stuff that used to kill us. People make that effort – in R&D, in production, in training, etc – because they want to help humanity, but also because they can make money at it. If we reduce the profit motive, we’ll lose a certain amount of innovation and effort currently being made in medicine; we need to understand and plan for that if we create a system that’s more “fair”.

2) We are already paying for people who can’t pay for themselves. Most states have laws preventing hospitals from letting people die on the curb outside; when people go to the ER and then can’t pay, the hospital has to raise that money somehow, so they raise the rates they charge cash customers and insurance companies, who in turn raise the rates they charge our employers who pass that cost on to us, either by reducing benefits, making us pay for coverage, or giving fewer raises. It’s a de facto insurance system; it’s just an inefficient one, with spotty coverage and limited benefits.

3) We’re paying for malpractice insurance. Since we think life is supposed to be tragedy-free, and if anything bad happens someone must be at fault, we sue doctors so much that they have to take out insurance to be able to practice. Who do you think pays for that extra cost of doing business? Hint: it’s not the doctor.

4) We pay for empty beds and machines that aren’t being used. In order to be ready to give you toenail dialysis the same day you walk in to your local hospital (ie, when & where you want it), they have to have rooms and equipment just sitting idle (ie, not paying for itself) for large amounts of the time. That means when we *do* get there they have to charge us more to pay for the downtime.

5) We pay doctors a lot more than we pay painters, because it’s harder to get to be a doctor, and because we need them more.

Is there any other reason health care is expensive? Are bad people sucking huge undeserved profits out of the system, raising the costs?
The most common scapegoats are drug companies and insurance companies. If we took their profits out of the equation, would that result in cheap quality health care for all? Maybe, but I’ve yet to see the evidence.

I’m guessing the level of health care we desire is expensive in and of itself. Which means all we can do is look for a balanced approach that would do the following:

· Continue to provide sufficient motivation for smart dedicated people to enter the field of medicine (ie, pay doctors more than other people)

· Continue to provide sufficient motivation for companies to continue to do R&D (ie, let drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers continue to profit from their efforts)

· Stop paying people a million dollars just because they lost a toenail, or because something bad happened to them while they were looking at a hospital. Or even because their baby was stillborn, if there was no negligence on the part of the doctor. S**t happens. I’m sorry. But our litigation system is getting out of control.

· Encourage people to take care of themselves. It’s often expensive not to treat people because they get worse and worse until we *have* to foot the bill for something a lot more expensive to treat. I envision neighborhood clinics providing vaccinations, exams, all sorts of preventative medicine, as well as light emergency services, outpatient type of services, wellness programs, diet counseling, drug treatment, psychiatric services, etc. A healthier populace misses fewer work days, makes better decisions, costs society less in numerous ways (I’m betting healthy people commit less crime). I’m not saying it would pay for itself – I’m just saying it would cost a lot less than the price tag makes it seem.

So anyway, there you have it. It was disorganized, but it turned out boring anyway. You may continue with your (hopefully healthy) lives...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How much is that doggie in the window

I know this opinion isn't very popular, but...

I think the Michael Vick dogfighting thing is a bit overblown. I don't think you should get 2 yrs in jail for killing a few dogs.

I know animal cruelty is a huge issue for a lot of people. And I don't believe in deliberate wanton cruelty either. I just don't place it near as high on the priority scale as most people.

I envision the following conversation:

Angry Animal Person: I think it's absolutely horrible what those men did to those dogs. Two years isn't enough!

Bryan: Well, with children being abused and going hungry and poor people in need of medical care and homeless people needing psychiatric treatment, and disabled vets not getting limbs and about a million other things, I think the fact that they spent thousands of dollars pursing and executing this case is absurd and disgusting. Also dogfighting is crazy scary cool. Whaddaya think about that?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

If you care about global politics and culture

Fascinating book excerpt suggesting that Islam is going to take over the world because
a) they're younger,
b) there are more of them, and
c) we lack their conviction and will.

Note: according to some articles, certain groups are trying to get the author in trouble for what he's written...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

man after my own heart...

NPR commentator, on a recent pickle-juice-drinking contest:

"The winner drank [blah blah] pints of pickle juice in [blah] minutes... Also a winner: anyone who chose not to compete."

AFAIC, pickles -- and all things pickled -- are the work of satan.

Cucumbers were not intended to be eaten in the first place -- they were made so immature boys can hold them up to their bodies in the supermarket when their mother isn't looking and snicker at each other as they wave them around in a vulgar way.

And vinegar is meant to be a (subtle) flavoring, like say on fish-n-chips. It is not meant to be the primary taste of a food item. Would you eat large sticks of some vegetable that came in a jar of ketchup and no longer tasted like anything but ketchup? I didn't think so.
And BTW, Korea should be part of the Axis of Evil merely for developing Kimchi and threatening others with it.

I know pickling was developed as a way to preserve food so it doesn't spoil, but at some point I think we can say "You know what? We don't have to do this any more. We have refrigerators, more efficient farming methods, plus ships and trucks and planes to bring us food from warm places. We no longer have to eat blood sausage, haggis, goose giblets, the contents of other animals' intestines, or things pickled."

My position is that if pickling is what's necessary to preserve food through the winter, then I'll wait until spring, thank you.

I think I've made my main point.