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Archive for January, 2010

I suppose I should finish this rambling blog that I started a couple of days ago.

I would like to also say, before I sit down to listen to the President’s State of the Union Address, that I hope I am not one of those people who everyone seems to think pinned all my hopes for the country on one man, one new President.  That was never the case with me as I have been following politics for years and became a bit disillusioned with the whole lot of them (politicians) years ago.  Looking back at the blog I wrote when President Obama was inaugurated, I said:

I don’t hold notions that the entire country, or world, can come together into a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood” as Dr. King put it.  But I do believe that the the goodwill of the rest of the world is not something to spit on and we have a better chance of regaining that.  I do believe that the security of this nation is a priority and I don’t think we will be losing ground on that.  I do believe that many people in this country can work constructively towards a better future and I think many people are willing to put their best foot forward. 

That was it and I still believe that.  Although I used the dreaded word “Hope” to title that blog, it was not meant to say that all my hopes rested on one man. 

And now on to the much less controversial topic of health care.  Ha!

I figured it was time to get a little more personal….

When I was about to graduate from college, a friend of mine asked me a question for an article he was writing for the campus newspaper.  It was the end of the school year, seniors were about to matriculate off of campus and into the wide world.  I can’t remember for sure the specific topic of the article – I think it had to do with the things we were anxious about in regards to our graduation.  The job market?  Being on our own?  Maybe it was an article on the things we were looking forward to after graduation.  Independence?  Being on our own?

I think I said something along the lines of: “I’m worried about health insurance.”

Along with being kicked out of the nest of the university, I was also about to be kicked out of the student health insurance I enjoyed during my undergraduate years.  For the last 4.25 years, I had been able to see a doctor whenever I wanted, get prescriptions I needed, and not worry about what would happen to me if I was gravely injured.  Well, you know – not worry about going bankrupt and all that.  I would be worried, of course.  It may seem like a strange thing to feel anxious about when leaving college.  With all the world in front of me and no full-time job lined up, I was most worried about health insurance.   

You see, I didn’t have that growing up.  I’m willing to bet a lot of kids my age didn’t either.  But really, I’m not sure. If their parents worked for a good-sized company, maybe they all did have health insurance. My parents didn’t and so, we didn’t. 

I didn’t understand health insurance when I was a kid.  I remember going to the dentist on a regular basis.  I had to, what with the teeth extractions and the cavities and the braces and all.  But going to the doctor?  Not so much.  I remember a shot when I was very little.  Some sort of pain in my neck in 6th grade when I turned my head too fast.  And……that was it.  I don’t remember seeing a doctor between the age of – oh about 11 to age 19.  Not that I really needed one.  I was a fairly healthy kid. 

Except, really I wasn’t.  I got sick often.  When I finally saw a doctor during my first year of college and he asked me all sorts of questions and listened to my lungs, he said “You have bronchitis” and gave me some antibiotics.  “Really?”  I thought to myself.  Because I was experiencing the same symptoms and problems I’d had many times in the past.  I just never thought to go to the doctor.  Now again, I consider myself to be lucky because, even though it probably caused a world of stress for my parents, I got help when I needed it.  They paid for my braces.  They paid for my eye exams and glasses.  I just don’t remember if insurance was ever part of our vocabulary back then. 

But I do remember a lot of anxiety over the idea of needing to see a doctor.  This had mostly to do with the fact that my dad had a couple of scary stints in the hospital when I was younger.  The irony I came to learn later was that – I think Dad could have avoided the times in the ICU if he had sought medical help earlier with his doctor.  When I was in college and he was in between insurance carriers, he didn’t go to see the doctor until the pain and damage was enough to cause him to pass out when he finally drove to the hospital.  And then, he wasn’t covered by insurance and spent years paying off the hospital stay.  Didn’t matter that he had just been covered.  Or that, in a few more weeks he would be covered.  He didn’t have an interim policy and therefore, he was screwed.

Over the years since college, I’ve watched and listened to friends who won’t go to see a doctor when they are not covered by insurance.  I’ve seen friends fret over getting independent insurance when they fear that some benign old ailment will suddenly become the “preexisting condition” that results in denial of coverage. 

People like to throw out terms like “death panels” when talking about the proposals for health care reform that have been winding their ways through Congress last year.  As if the idea of someone dying because he or she is denied health care coverage under the new proposals is a completely novel idea.  Really??  Where have you been?  Oh sure, you say that anyone in this country can walk into an emergency room and get help.  Sure.  But they still have to pay for it if they are not covered.  For some people, the choice of trying to manage their own pain versus paying thousands and thousands of dollars for emergency care is not a choice at all.  Or, some people who seek treatments are flat out denied coverage by their existing insurance carriers and, believe me, there are not many things harder to do than make an appointment with a doctor, let alone a specialist, without health insurance.  I tried to do it. 

Years ago, I was dissatisfied with my existing doctor and wanted to meet a new potential primary care physician.  I wanted to meet this doctor first before switching to her so I made an appointment.  I went into the office to check in and gave them my insurance card. 

But wait, I was told, Dr. A is not your PCP. 

I know, I said.  I want to meet her first before I assign her as my PCP.

But then your’re not covered by your insurance.

Well, that’s irritating but ok.  Can you give me an estimate of how much it will cost to talk to her?

No.

No?  Excuse me?  Can you just give me a ballpark figure of how much it would cost to walk through that door right there, sit down with the doctor for 10 minutes and walk out?

No.

Why not?

We cannot possibly cover all the possible things that may happen.  We can’t give you an estimate. Why don’t you just call your insurance, change her to your PCP, make a new appointment and if you don’t like her, you can change your PCP again. 

Now tell me, is that a WTF? moment or not?  I’m standing about 20 feet away from the doctor I want to meet.  But I have to pay money to open that door and meet her.  And her staff cannot give me a price estimate.  Cannot give me a price estimate.

WHO DOESN”T DO THAT????  WTF?  You need your oil changed in your car?  You call a garage and get a price estimate.  You want to switch your cell phone carrier?  You can call companies and get price estimates.  You want to buy a new TV?  You can shop around and look at price tags.  Hell, if you want me to write you a Population, Employment and Housing section of an environmental impact report for a new development, the least I can do is give you my billing rate. 

But ask how much it costs to see a doctor in this country?????  Nooooooooo.  We can’t do that.  Who knows -you might slam the door shut on your finger, bump your head on the counter and suddenly – the doctor needs to perform brain surgery.  Yeah.  That’s right stupid little patient.  Do what your insurance company tells you and it will all be better.

So, that was my attempt to get help without proper insurance coverage.  I ended up walking out, switching my PCP and going back to meet her.  Crazy how we can meet with anyone else in the world we want to hire beforehand but we can’t seem to cross that magic door to see a doctor without the proper paperwork. 

After I graduated from college, I was lucky enough to picked up for a full-time position with the research group I had been working for as a student.  Ever since then, I’ve either been working full time or covered by a COBRA policy.  Or – now that I am working on my own, covered by my husband’s work insurance.  There are still problems, especially if we want to move back to the mainland.  But still – I’m one of the lucky ones. 

I don’t believe in, nor want, an only-government-run health care plan in this country.  I’ve said it before – it’s not feasible in the United States.  I don’t think it would be efficient either.  I’m not in favor of the government spending more money than they take in.  But I do believe that reform is needed so that people who can pay for coverage and want coverage can get it.  I think that, if we require drivers to have current auto insurance, we should require citizens to have current health insurance.  I don’t say this because I am some sort of bleeding-heart who wants universal love and peace.  I say this because covering costs for the uninsured ultimately raises costs for the rest of us.  And I say this because I’ve seen the detrimental effects on my friends and family members of not having health insurance. 

I suppose there is more I could write but I’m not really trying to convince anyone of anything with my babbling here.  I’m just trying to give a little personal perspective.  People expect stereotypes in politics.  “Well, you are XYZ, so you must believe ABC.”  Sometimes I follow a stereotype.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I believe in things because I research both sides and talk to people and learn as much as I can.  Sometimes I believe in things because of personal experience.  Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

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The Tao of Inner Peace…

…is one of the books I am currently reading from my Read Your Own Book 2010 Challenge.  I am reading it to distract me from “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space” by Joseph Campbell which is going very very slowly.  I’ve just finished “Saving Fish from Drowning” and three back issues of Time magazine while trying to get away from the dry Campbell book. 

Anyway, like the Campbell book, “The Tao of Inner Peace” by Diane Dreher is a bit dated now – having been written in 1990 and updated in 2000.  It’s got a bunch of self-affirmation in general mumbo jumbo, of the type much parodied by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live many years ago.

But, all snickering aside, I liked the little line I just read and thought I would share it:

The Tao of Openness

MItch Saunders, marriage and family counselor in Santa Clara, California sees honest relationships as a great way to develop self-acceptance.  The more we share our feelings with others and find they still accept us, the more our self-acceptance grows.  Each moment of openness wears down our defensive walls.

I guess the key there is “and find they still accept us.”  I hope we all have people in our lives who help us increase our levels of self-acceptance.  I do.  And for them, for you, I am thankful.

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You can join in this week’s Sunday Stealing over HERE

Foods which disgust the crap out of me: You all know how much I love food.  Not much disgusts me.  I have been known to get nauseous from green onions.  Yuck.

TV show I loathe:  Any version of The Real Housewives except the one that is my (shhhhhhhh!) secret TV guilty pleasure: The Real Housewives of New York.  When the heck is that one coming back on anyway?

Movie I loathe:  Braveheart.  Double yuck.

Music genres I loathe:   Toughie.  I appreciate at least a couple of good artists from every genre out there.  I do like regular rap but Gangsta Rap is pretty bad.

Magazine which annoys me:  Pretty much all of the ones that make money off of celebrity worship which quickly turns into celebrity trashing. 

Makes me cranky at restaurant:  When the hostess tosses a menu at a table to seat you without even looking at you.  Also, patronizing waitresses who offer me a lemonade while telling my friends about the drink specials.  However, offering me a children’s menu will definitely just make me laugh because it is so ridiculous and it offends my friends who wonder if they look old enough to be my parents.  Ha ha!  Love you guys.

Makes me cranky in public:  Incessant and unnaturally loud one-sided cell phone conversations. 

Makes me cranky in general:  People.

Pisses me off at home:  CHUKAR BIRDS.  Nobody likes you, you obnoxious birds.  Go AWAY.

Pisses me off at work:  That whiney chick in my office every day constantly interrupting my solitaire games.

Pisses me off in general:  This question is very similar to the cranky in general question.  That pisses me off.  😉

Makes me impatient at home:  Slow wi-fi connection. 

Makes me impatient at work:  Slow wi-fi connection which seriously endangers my high score on Bejeweled 2. 

Makes me impatient in public:  Elevator music.

Celebrity I hate:  I don’t care about most celebrities enough to hate any.
 
Music artist I hate:  Ditto. 

I could care less about:  Who gets into the Super Bowl.

Annoys the crap out of me weekdays:  Nothing in general.  I’m very easygoing, dontcha know?

Annoys the crap out of me weekends:  If Sweetie has to work both days.

Blogger’s habit that annoys you:  Which blogger?  The way that is punctuated implies one Blogger.  Do you mean Blogger the blog host?  I don’t use Blogger. 

Feature on your blog you hate:  None.  It’s my blog!

Movie star you despise:  See above.

Politician that you hate:  Hey brah.  I live on Maui.  No hate in the 808.

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My Poor Hubby

This exchange from an episode of 30 Rock illustrates well the sort of behavior of mine that my poor Sweetie has to put up with on a day-to-day basis.

Jack says something to Liz (Lemon).

Liz starts ranting on and on and on about some old memory of hers.

Jack says:  “Lemon, this is a part of our problem. I give you a simple managerial suggestion in a professional context and I get back the second half of a Judy Blume novel.”

I’ve given up trying to pretend that I don’t babble incessantly to my husband. I do.  I’m a babbler.  My good friends know this about me.  Nowadays I just sidle up next to Sweetie and say something like: “Honey, do you have time for the second half of a Judy Bloom novel?”

Bless his heart, he usually says yes.

But you know I’ll rant about it when he says no.

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*sigh*

I have been trying to decide on a proper title for this blog.

“The Irony of Massachusetts”?

“The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure”?

“How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election”?

“Health Care Reform Now!?!” ? 

“What the TV Show “West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans”?

Fox News would tell you there is a lot at stake today with the special-election vote for US Senator to take the seat of the late Ted Kennedy.  I’m guessing this because of the disparity I’ve noticed this past week in the content of CNN versus Fox News.  Since the earthquake in Haiti, CNN has been spending a lot of time on the aftermath of the tragedy.  They have their first-string reporting crew on the ground in Haiti.  As do CBS and NBC.  However, every time this past week I have turned to Fox News it has been politics politics politics.  Oh, except for the one report from some correspondent I’ve never seen in grainy video in front of a gas station somewhere in Haiti.  Turn on the TV to CNN – they are interviewing former Presidents Clinton and Bush (the second) about their combined efforts to spearhead an aid campaign to Haiti.  Turn to Fox News and, once again, I am faced with the butt-ugly, caked-on-make-up, plastic face of Charles Krauthammer talking.  And talking.  And talking. 

ABC, CBS, NBC- on the ground in Haiti.  Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio.  CNN – Anderson Cooper in Haiti.  Fox News – Krauthammer in the studio. MSNBC? – well, I have no idea.  I never watch MSNBC for fear of Keith Olbermann yelling at me. 

Then, *ding* I suddenly remember that the Massachusetts special election is coming up.  I learn  that the race is pulling closer and closer with the Republican candidate Scott Brown suddenly ahead of the Democrat Martha Coakley.  I realize that one party in the Senate is in danger of losing their supermajority of 60 seats.  And then I understand why Fox News seems to feel they cannot waste any time on some humanitarian tragedy in a developing country when there is a possibility that Republicans in Congress may once again be free to wage a filibuster war without fear of cloture.  A-ha!  

Well, not to worry Fox News.  Maybe there will be another devastating natural disaster next month and you can cover it with some amount of respect.  Maybe it will happen in a more glamorous spot than Haiti. 

So, all this bruhaha for the Republican candidate who has vowed to fight President Obama’s health care agenda.  And a few other domestic issues.

And can he do it if elected? 

Can the Republicans in the Senate torpedo the health care legislation that has already been passed in the House and passed in the Senate by the existing members of Congress?  Ummm……possibly yes if the House has any changes to the Bill that would require the Senate to vote on it again. 

Funny how quickly things can change.  Vote in the Senate in December with 60 members who would not allow a filibuster to delay the process.  Vote again in January with 41 members who will allow a filibuster on the floor.  And Bam! all the pundits are discussing the death of health care reform in the United States.

And so…………not unusual…………my brain starts working overtime.

The Irony of Massachusetts?  That would be the irony of Ted Kennedy being the champion of health care reform and having his death be the potential sticky widget in the works that kills health care reform.

The Perils of Parliamentary Procedure?  That would be the fact that the practice of delaying the vote has been carried forward in certain types of governments since ancient Rome.  Caesar faced it in 60 B.C., so garsh darn it, we Congress members are going to uphold the right and tradition.

How the Cockiness of Politicians F*ed Up Another Election?  That would be the complete inability of certain campaign managers to learn to NEVER TAKE AN ELECTION FOR GRANTED.  Hindsight commentators criticize Hilary Clinton’s primary campaign for being so sure of a win they had no strategy for a prolonged primary contest.  Seems that Martha Coakley let her lackadaisical campaign get a little too self-assured for their own britches. 

Health Care Reform Now?!  The reason I care about this issue at all is because I do believe that some health care reform is needed in the United States.  I’ve been trying to explain to people my feelings on the difference between Universal Health Care and Government-Run Health Care.  I support the former, oppose the latter.  I think that those of us who pay for health care ultimately pay the higher costs of a system that takes care of the uninsured.  I think that those of us currently covered by a health care plan should be able to transfer from one state to another as I face the specter of searching for a new health care carrier if I move back to California without finding a full time job.  I think that people who are searching for a health care provider shouldn’t be afraid to seek medical help for fear of suddenly being denied coverage because of an “existing condition.”  I have seen mandates for health care coverage work in other countries that provide public and PRIVATE health care options.  I do not advocate that the whole system be government-run.  What a disaster that would be. 

What the show “The West Wing” Taught Me About Congressional Shenanigans.  I think about certain episodes where staff members kept running to Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, for ideas on how to delay a vote (can’t remember if it was House or Senate).  Josh would pull archaic parliamentary rules from his memory that members would use to take up time on the floor.  Or the episode, The Stackhouse Filibuster.  When the White House staff realized why a particular Senator was waging a filibuster, they tried to help him out by enlisting the aid of other Senators via a rule that allows him to yield the floor without abandoning his delaying cause.  Of course, that seems to promote the nobility of the worthy filibuster. 

So, I decided on “Don’t Fear the Filibuster.”

Because right now, I’m a little pissed about the whole idea of a worthy filibuster.  But I’m more pissed that the Democrats and Republicans and pundits seem to think that a filibuster would kill the entire months-long effort of passing a health care reform bill.  It all comes down to votes in Massachusetts today because without a supermajority to end a filibuster, the Senate is doomed to not pass a bill?  What am I missing?  If you  have the votes to pass a bill, you have the votes?  How long, in the history of our government, did the longest filibuster last?  Hours?  Days?  Weeks?  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t weeks.  In fact, it was a 24-hour and 18-minute-filibuster conducted by Strom Thurmond in 1957 arguing against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.  He read Washington’s Farewell Address and talked about his mother’s biscuits.  What happened to the Bill?  It passed.  Eventually.

So, my question is “Why Fear the Filibuster?”  So the vote is delayed.  Yes, it sucks.  It delays the work of the Senate on other important matters.  But maybe the Senators’ constituents will be upset enough to call filibuster shenanigans on their Senators.  Ultimately, won’t a vote still be made?  And if there are enough votes to pass the bill, it will pass.  Why does the entire health care initiative have to die if Scott Brown is elected?  Why are we being told the stock market is up today on expectations that health care reform is dead.

Seriously, someone help me out here.  Are filibusters that effective?  Can’t the other Senators hold their ground?  Or do we just ask the House to ok the bill as put forth by the Senate, negating another Senate vote, and hope adequate changes are made afterward?  When are the Democrats going to grow a pair?

I seriously understand how Jon Stewart feels here at about 8:22.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
www.thedailyshow.com
 
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

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In my ongoing effort to be the most unattractive and awkward sleeping partner in the history of this planet, I tied my legs together last night.

OK, I didn’t really do it just to look weird. 

It’s related to my new “oh crap, I’m old” ailment – my hip has been killing me.  Particularly when I sleep, I have for several months been waking up with pain in my lower back and hip.  On my left side, the pain is so great in front and in back that I can barely turn over in the middle of the night. I talked to my doctor about it and about the fact that my left knee is crap.  We agreed to start with an x-ray of my knee.  Maybe get one of my hip.  In the  meantime – more pain.  And then I realized that, while I sleep – my right leg is fairly straight but my left leg tends to get quite askew in the middle of the night.  It moves out and twists. 

I was suspecting this could be the cause of my mainly nighttime pain.  So, last night I grabbed my trusty bathrobe tie and knotted it loosely around my legs right above my knees.  My legs were able to move a tiny bit but it kept my left leg from straying too far during the night.

Night 1 of Operation Tie Legs and – Sweet! – no waking up at 4 a.m. with excruciating pain in my back and left side.  hmmmmmm……I like this.  Sweetie told me one night of no pain doesn’t prove anything.  I agree.  I’ll try it for a few more nights and see what happens.  I’m hoping I can train my leg to stay put all night on its own.  Seemed to work for my arm, I think.  I haven’t been throwing it over my head a lot since I tied my arm down during the night. So much for doctors – I’ll figure out how to make my body stop hurting it I have to mummify myself to do it!

Kudos to Sweetie who puts up with the ties and knots and extra pillows and mouth guards and ear plugs and all the other signs of my advancing age. 

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Muggle Quidditch??

Who knew?

Apparently, everyone except me.

I opened up my UC Davis magazine today and read through it during lunch.  There was a little blurb near the back about Muggle Quidditch.

Quidditch, for anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter, seen Harry Potter, or heard about Harry Potter, is the sport played on broomsticks by Harry and his classmates at Hogwarts.  It’s well described in the books and there is always action on the Quidditch field in every book.

I remember going to see the first movie for the first time.  Some of my co-workers had been listening to the books on CD while working at their microscopes outside my office.  It had been a long season for the biologists out in the field collecting samples and they were now cooped up indoors identifying and cataloging.  Most of them had read all the released books already but it was fun to “reread” them at work.  We planned a trip to the movies (during work hours, yes) when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out.  We walked together from our office to the nearby theater, chattering about our favorite parts of the book. 

There were two things in particular that I had vividly created in my brain and I was looking forward to/dreading seeing on the big screen: the Gryffindor Common Room and the first Quidditch match.

Neither one of them disappointed me.  The common room, with its big fat stuffed chairs and roaring fire.  The Quidditch match with the swooping brooms and the beating Bludgers.  It was all good for me.

I suppose at some point after that, Quidditch became big on college campuses.  I had no idea.  Participants play with real brooms and follow the same rules, including trying to catch a human Golden Snitch who runs around campus and the field.

My UCD mag states:

The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, established in 2007, is now an official sports league with more than 200 participating institutions worldwide, according to the association Web site (collegequidditch.com).  So far, tryouts for the UC Davis team are not necessary and everyone is encouraged to bring a broom and come out to the Saturday afternoon practices.

Brilliant. 

Almost makes me want to go back to school.

This CBS Sports video (from 2008 – where the heck have I been??) is AWESOME. Awesome in a total-geek sort of way.  I love the Dad quote: “That’s why we send him to college, to play Quidditch.”

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