Seattle and Clouds

With all the triple-digit temperatures Seattle has had this week, some residents may have forgotten that we sometimes get clouds. This is a reminder.

The GF lounged on the deck this weekend while I tended to plants. She asked to play with the camera and shot these images of clouds. I haven't done any post production processing to them.

She shot them with my K10D Digital SLR with the 18-55mm kit lens with a polarizer. A few were at 70mm with my zoom lens before she asked for the other.

2009-07-25 Clouds

2009-07-25 Clouds

2009-07-25 Clouds

You can find more pictures here.


Network TV Planning is Hard

I'm certainly not shy about what I perceive as the idiocy of network executives who cancel awesome shows, but I do acknowledge that their jobs are hard.

But seriously -- 5 hours a week of Jay Leno in prime time this fall? That's not even trying.

So I looked at a bunch of great shows from the past few years and decided to schedule an awesome TV network. I did cheat a little on a few days at start prime time at 7:00 PM instead of 8:00 PM. Some of the shows have been off the air for a few years, others are clinging to the edge, and others are big hits.

I used the Google Calendar App as my work sheet for moving things around.

It's not a perfect schedule, but it's better than what the networks are doing.

How would you schedule a network?

19:00 -- Life
20:00 -- The Mentalist
21:00 -- CSI: Miami
22:00 -- CSI: New York

19:30 -- The Big Bang Theory
20:00 -- Chuck
21:00 -- Heroes
22:00 -- Pushing Daisies

19:00 -- Nanny 911 (Yeah, yeah, I know...)
20:00 -- How I Met Your Mother
20:30 -- Rules of Engagement
21:00 -- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
22:00 -- CSI

19:00 -- Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
20:00 -- My Name is Earl
20:30 -- The Office
21:00 -- The Simpsons
21:30 -- Family Guy
22:00 -- Criminal Minds

19:00 -- New Amsterdam
20:00 -- Two and a Half Men
20:30 -- 30 Rock
21:00 -- Law and Order
22:00 -- Law and Order: SVU

19:00 -- Scrubs
19:30 -- Airline
20:00 -- NCIS
21:00 -- Dollhouse
22:00 -- Law and Order: Criminal Intent

19:00 -- Eureka
20:00 -- The Unit
21:00 -- Cold Case
22:00 -- The Closer

So there we have it. When do I get my cushy TV job?


Shatner-Palooza: Political Poetry

What do Governor Palin and Elton John have in common?

It took William Shatner to truly bring life to their words.


Travel and storms

It was around midnight when we spilled off the regional jet at the Savannah airport. I'm not sure why going to the Georgia coast in July seemed like a good idea. The three feet between the airplane door and the air conditioned jetway said, "Go home."

At most airports the mix of jet fuel, jet exhaust, and late passenger desperation combine to make their own potent cocktail. In Savannah, they didn't stand a chance against the dank scent of plant decay and swamp air laden with moisture so think your luggage gets we just because you carry it.

It was the end of a long day in the air and on the ground. 14 hours after checking in at SEA, I had my bag back in SAV and trundled out to the rental car.

The day started with a 2.5 hour weather delay in Seattle because of storms in Dallas. When I finally made it to the overcrowded, low ceilinged labyrinth that is the Dallas airport, I got my fist piece of good news -- the connection was delayed. But they didn't seem to know where to put it. Thus, I completed my triathlon training dragging carry on luggage to a different B-Gate every 5 minutes. A lunch of Twix and juice would have to be enough. And it would undo my triathlon training.

But eventually I did make it into the moist city of Savannah. Cars were strewn about the hotel parking lot, popped up on random curbs as people sought anyplace they could find to stash their car. All the locals checked in to the hotel because of a blackout. But the hotel honored my reservation, and at 1:00 AM, that's all I can ask. They gave me the weirdest hotel room I've ever had, but that's a tale for another day.

So there's not much point to this post, other than to point out Savannah is wet even when it doesn't rain, and to play with language a bit. I imagine I'll have a much more favorable opinion of the town after a few hours sleep.

Shatner-Palooza: Promo

In this audio clip, Shatner makes a voice-over director cringe. Shatner may be right, but I still feel bad for the guy.

Shatner doing a promo.

This clip come from YuppiePunk, by way of Jon Clarke at Not in my Book. Thanks, Jon.


Torchlight parade 2009

I'd had it.

For years I struggled to find space on the parade route to watch the dusk-light festivities. I waited for hours, tried to worm a corner of sidewalk,and stake my claim, only to see that space quickly eroded by 8-year-olds. And it's not like you can yell at the little kids that they're getting int he way of you seeing the clowns and pirates, because there's no way to do that without making yourself look an idiot.

So I actually bought tickets to the parade. It seems silly because -- hey -- the parade is free. But with preassigned seats in the grandstand, the GF and I wouldn't have to deal with the encroaching 8 year olds.

No, instead we got deal with an 8 year old with an assigned seat and an inflatable noise making stick, accompanies by two adults who appeared to be on a bad date. This kid only hit my GF once or twice with the stick (on accident) so it was still much less annoying that being on the street. The several hundred people in the stands seemed to agree.

The parade itself was as fun as ever. Alaska Airlines took over sponsorship from Southwest Airlines this year, and they had a great presence. The had flight attendants twirling oxygen mask while pushing airplane beverage parts down the street.

Horizon Air employees put together a drill team using carryon luggage and those long flashlights the ground crew use when guiding a plane into a gate.

Despite rain at the beginning of the parade, it was, as always, a great time. Here are a few pictures.

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (2)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (6)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (7)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (18)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (20)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (23)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (27)

2009-07-25 Torchlight Parade (1)


Life in the Garden Part 28: All in one

Gardening magazines often suggest putting multiple plants in one pot for design. That always looked sharp to me, but I was worried about crowding them and choking off the roots so I never did it until this year.

I finally tried it and I am thrilled with the results. I put a bunch of Basil, Thyme, and Lavender in a pot. Here's how it looked on 2009-05-30:

2009-05-30 Garden (7)

I gave watered it, cut back the Thyme when it got out of control and threatened to shade the others, and this is how it looked on Sunday, a month and a half later:

2009-07-19 Mixed Herb Pot (1)

2009-07-19 Mixed Herb Pot

2009-07-19 Mixed Herb Pot (2)

I am thrilled with the result. I've never gotten gotten Lavender to flower quite like this. And I'm amazed at how soft and downy the Thyme plants feel. The Basil is thriving, too.

The GF tells me that it kind of went a little crazy this week so I may be doing some pruning/harvesting this weekend when I get home. It's pesto time!

I'll definitely be doing more of this type of planting next year.


Time of day matters

Time of day is an important element in the context for our actions.

When the coffee shop barrista you've never met before tells you how much your order is and you hand her your hotel key:

AM: You are a harmless, uncaffeinated dorky guy who grabbed the wrong thing from his wallet.

PM: You are a creepy stalker guy extending an unwholesome invitation

(BTW, I was the AM guy. I don't want to meet the PM guy. Again.)


Life in the Garden Part 27: Osteoperosis for plants

My tomato plants are growing tall and bushy, but they do face some problems. This weekend I noticed an outbreak of Blossom End Rot.

Basically, the green fruit decays from the point where the flower used to me.

2009-07-19 Blossom End Rot (2)

I still have a lot of green healthy tomatoes on the vine quickly moving to read. I may be able to make a sauce this weekend. Or at least a mighty tasty sandwich.

But I did lose a few.

2009-07-19 Blossom End Rot

Some preliminary research taught me that this is likely caused by a lack of Calcium. For some reason, the roots can't pull up enough. That could be due to poor soil, too much water, or too much drying out.

The first step was to pull the bad fruit. Then I added some fertilizer sticks to the soil and gave them a good soaking. While I'm out of town, the GF will water them (she does good work) and hopefully, I'll be drowning in deep red fruit in a matter of weeks.

Garden news isn't always good. But those occasional setbacks make the fresh food all the more delicious.

You can see more of my garden pictures here.


Nissan Pathfinder thoughts

Last week when I landed at the Greenville, SC airport (GSP) Hertz didn't have any cards available with NeverLost (GPS navigation) so they upgraded me to an SUV. I drove out of the airport in Nissan Pathfinder, a mid-size SUV.

It's way more vehicle than I would typically need, but I like it.

The version I had featured a comfortable seat, well placed cupholders, and effective airconditioning. For a large vehicle, it handles surprisingly well. I had no trouble zipping in and out of parking spots. The blind spots weren't nearly as bad as you usually get with an SUV.

Since I had to drive from Clemon, SC, to Christiansburg, VA, I got to put it through its paces on the highway while I listened to the RadioLab on my MP3 player. It's a tall vehicle but I never felt like it would tip over. The stability was impressive.

The weird thing was that sometimes I would get in and discover that both the driver's and passenger's windows were rolled down. I'm not sure how it happened because I don't think I triggered it. It appeared to happen when I had been putting luggage in the back. I guess it's possible that if it's a certain temperature out and you open the tail gate for a certain amount of time, it lowers the wondows to cool things off. But it's kind of a weird feature. Or a bug.

So if you are looking for an SUV, the Pathfinder is worth some investigating.

Warning! This post contains words.

This post seems a bit Jay Leno-y to me, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

I picked up a bag of peanuts at the local QFC. Sure, it was an impulse buy, and I didn't read the label carefully. Then again, I didn't need to. I don't have a peanut allergy, which is why I don't look for warnings about peanut allergies.

So I picked up this.

2009-07-19 Nut Warning (1)

And on the back, I saw this:

2009-07-19 Nut Warning

Now, I understand that peanut allergies can be deadly, and those unfortunate enough to suffer them must be very careful in their dietary (and even atmospheric) choices.

But if you are smart enough to be able to read the warning, YOU SHOULD BE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT PEANUTS CONTAIN PEANUTS!

Was there actually some sort of law suit that inspired this? Did someone actually think these were peanut-free peanuts, and therefore okay? The kind of stupidity that requires such a warning is mind-boggling.

At the same time these warnings seek to encourage caution, they actually do the opposite. The more pointless and stupid warnings I see, the less likely I am to read them. Manuals for electronics today start with several pages of warnings that I completely ignore because when I do read them, they are tell me things like "don't put you TV in the bath tub," or "don't hit someone in the head with your computer" because someone might get hurt.

This endemic stupidity hides actual caution information by burying it under pointless tips that seem to be an attempt to discourage the culling of the human herd.

If I do get injured because I missed the 1 valid warning among the 137 idiotic ones I guess I'll just have to sue the lawyers.


Light Rail and Soccer

On Saturday, Light Rail finally started rolling in Seattle. It's not a perfect system, but it could grow into a great transit solution, if Seattle will just stop talking to itself and build some damn infrastructure.

I thought about jumping on the train for the rides today, but I didn't feel like dealing with the crowds. And I was tired. So decades from now, I'll be able to tell folks I passed on a major historical event for the city because I preferred to have a nap.

You can read more about the opening in the article.

What really stuck me about the article was this line:

The sold-out Sounders FC soccer game, which drew more than 65,000 fans to Qwest Field, caused surges at nearby stations. But after the game, Sound Transit rolled up an extra two-car train at Stadium Station.

What? 65,000 people are showing up for a Soccer game in Seattle? Isn't that, like, 2/3 of entire professional Soccer fan base in the US? And apparently, the Sounders are drawing an average of 29,983 people to each home game.

The Mariners only draw 28,761.

Those number are shocking. I don't know if I should be more happy for the Sounders or more embarrassed for the Mariners.


10 Things I like about the Detroit Airport

  1. It has a Popeye's
  2. The A concourse is just silly long, but has plenty of people movers and a train.
  3. The tunnel from concourse B to A has a nice music and light show.
  4. It has a good sushi place
  5. The NW World Club in the B concourse was a great place ot relax or work.
  6. It has a Fudruckers.
  7. When you arrive in A from the B concourse, there is a often a 747 parked next to the widows and it is awesome. Heck, it's not too uncommon for there to be a bunch of 747s and A340s parked there.
  8. It's hard to get lost.
  9. The giant TV screens.
  10. It has a Taco Bell.


MSFT laptop hunter ads annoy Apple

Apparently, Apple is not happy with the current Microsoft ad campaign.

From the Seattle Times:

Microsoft said it received a call from Apple saying Microsoft needs to stop running the laptop-hunter TV ads that harp on Apple for expensive computers. Why? Because Apple has lowered is prices.

That's according to Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who said he took a call from an Apple attorney. two weeks ago. He initially thought it was a practical joke, then said he found out Apple had cut prices on its computers.



Stimulus spending in Seattle

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported on Tuesday that King County Metro Transit is using $46 million in federal stimulus money to purchase new hybrid electric busse to replacing aging diesel busses.

It sounds like sensible purchase for Metro. Metro will spend less on fuel and maintainence, and these new busses will be replacing busses that are already at the end of their service life.

Previously, I advocated stimulus spending on infrastructure, and mass transit is a great place to spend it. We have a unique opportunity to improve our infrastructure at a discount while we keep people working.

After the stimulus spending, people will have had more work and cities will have improved infrasrtucture that will last for years to come. These are all good things.

But these busses will not be built in King County. They are made by Daimler Chrysler, so I imagine they are being built somewhere in the US. At least I hope they are.

I would rather Metro spend stimulus money not on replacement busses, but on other infrastructure to keep people working in King County. That may inlcude construction work to speed up Sound Transit's Light Rail, enhanced Park and Ride facilities, improved HOV access for transit, or other items.

Buying additional busses to expand service on exisiting routes would also be a good use of stimulus money.

It looks like the stimulus money is going to meploy people in the US. And ultimately that does benefit us all. I would just prefer the King County Metro stimulus money be spent to employ folks in King County.


Is your bottled water safe?

CNN asks this important question:

Is your bottled water safe?

It's an issue I've considered carefully. And the answer is, "yes."

I was worried at first. It was packed tightly with other bottles and at the supermarket. Now, the QFC on Broadway on Capital Hill in Seattle is a challenging place. It is filled with entertaining people and daily shoplifting reports. There is a security guard in there every night.

So I brought it home. It was risky, but we made it back.

Now it is sitting on the shelf in my refrigerator with 2" of space around it. It's not too far back so that it would freeze. It's not too far forward that it might fall off the shelf.

So I can say, without a doubt, that yes. My bottled water is safe. No harm shall come to it.

Thanks for checking, CNN.


Beethoven meets Beaker

When I go my first cell phone in 1998, I chose the Ode To Joy as my first ringtone. I liked the tune and it reminded my of one of the best movies of all time -- Dead Poets Society.

But now, I think would rather have had Beaker's version on my phone.


Hampton Inn in Clemson, SC

I left my hotel room to get dinner and found this waiting for me in the hall.

2009-07-08 Hampton Inn Clemson (1)

It really confused me because it's not like I sent any laundry out to be done. Was this somebody else's clothes? Or did I actually have them clean my pants in my uncaffeinated state?

Hampton Inns are generally nice hotels. They're not fancy; they are the lowest price properties in the Hilton chain. But they are mostly consistent from city to city.

The Hampton Inn in Clemson, SC rocks. The staff is friendly and helpful. Coffee is available in the lobby all day. And, despite the SC summer, the air conditioning had no problem keeping my room at 65 degrees.

Of course wi-fi is free, and the continental breakfast is free. But this is my favorite example of simple, excellent service.

On Wednesday, I left the hotel early and was back by 11:00 AM. Housekeeping had not made up my room yet, which is fine. It's not like I used 4 towels and all the shampoo that morning. And my bed was still mostly in one piece so I didn't really need it to be made.

So I just stuck the "Do Not Disturb" tag in my key slot, plugged in my computer and got to work.

And they left me alone.

Do you have any idea how unusual that is? At "nicer" hotels, house keeping thinks the "Do Not Disturb" sign means, "Knock loudly on my door at 10:15 AM instead of 9:45 AM. And then call me at 11:00 AM. And then call at me 2:00 PM to tell me in a mildly annoyed voice that you won't be providing service today because I left the sign on the door."

At this Hampton, however, housekeeping had a different take on, "Do not disturb." They took it to mean, "Do not disturb."

Shocking. Totally shocking.

And very much appreciated.

I peeled myself out of my chair at 8:00 PM and realized I hadn't moved or eaten much during the day. I decided to head out to Taco Bell. And that takes me back to the beginning of this post and the mysterious bag of underwear.

When I opened it up, though, there were not clothes in it. Instead, I found this:

2009-07-08 Hampton Inn Clemson

The fresh towels and toiletries they couldn't put in the room due to the "Do Not Disturb" sign were waiting for me right outside me door for whenever I decided to leave.

I've stayed in $200, $300, and $400 a night hotel rooms and never had this kind of service.

It's simple. It's cheap. It's respectful. And it works.

Life in the Garden Part 26: The greenhouse effect

This spring I found a cheap greenhouse for sale at Molbaks. It was rickety, but it worked and only cost about $50. I used it for my basil seedlings and had some great results. Even though the walls were basically shower curtains, it was good for the plants. When it was 75 degrees on the deck it would be over 100 degrees in the greenhouse. I saw it get as high at 125 degrees one day.

My sage plants demonstrate the impact.

I grew all these from the same batch of seeds, and started them at the same time. Both planters went out on the deck at the same time. But after a couple weeks, I put one of the planters in the greenhouse. After about 4 weeks in the greenhouse, the plants really took very different shapes.

The green house sage grew taller and thinner. The leaves became narrower. The outdoor sage preferred to develop in a squatter fashion.

If only it had occurred to me to do this for my 6th grade science project.

2009-07-03 Sage Comparison (2)

Outdoor sage

2009-07-03 Sage Comparison (3)

Greenhouse sage

2009-07-03 Sage Comparison

Outdoor sage

2009-07-03 Sage Comparison (4)

Greenhouse sage


The 787 and advanced planning

When Delta airlines bought Northwest Airlines, it picked up more than just some routes, some planes, and lousy labor relations. It also picked up NW's order for Boeing's next generation airplane -- the often delay 787.

The plane was scheduled to have it's first test flight last month, but testing showed the need to delay that process again. Originally, it was supposed to be in service in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

But Delta is apparently optimistic that they will one day in the future be flying the 787-800 in and out of the S-Concourse at SEA. How can we tell? They painted parking spots for it on the ground.

2009-07-07 787-800 parking spots at S Cocourse at SEA (2)_cropped

You can see some more views of the paint here.

And perhaps there is reason to be optimistic. A couple days ago, Boeing conducted the first self-powered taxi tests for the aircraft. You can see the video below (source: http://boeingblogs.com/randy/)


It looks beautiful on the ground. I can't wait to see it in the air.


Healthcare Reform 03: Follow up to the plan

Considering the depth of some of the comments I saw to my Monday post, I thought it would be good idea to respond to them in their own post.

As I respond to the comments below (and thank you very much for making them) I am not trying to dispute things. I am, however, using them as a jumping off point to further explore my thoughts on a topic and it's related ones.

When it comes to health care (and many other issues) I tend to be a radical moderate. Which means each time I think I have an answer to a question, it simply leads to 5 more questions.

I guess I'm trying to devise a system that is fair, compassionate, competitive, efficient, and effective.

The proposal I layed out a couple days ago is not intended to be the answer but it is intended to be an improvement. It won't solve all the problems for all people. But it may solve many of the problems for many people.

Sandy said...

Wow...I was with ya on the first half of your article. I think it's a terrible that the US, the most civilized country in the world does not provide for it's own. I do agree we currently have (though most would disagree) socialized medicine. The welfare system provides care for those who abuse the ER, which costs us all dearly and provides bad medical care management...but the working poor have zilch. They don't have care and thats wrong on so many levels.

Having worked in the medical field for 22 years, I can say Insurance Companies and the Medical field need to change. Doctors are paid far more than a decent wage, and so are Insurance companies. Drug companies have tremendous waste. Their employees are highly paid, and have lots of perks. Some of the fat from these 3 entities needs to happen. I have no problem with people who are working hard making a good living, I do have a problem with the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.

We need Doctors, Insurance Companies, and Drug Companies to be more accountable. And employers who pay their Executives far more than they're worth, but cheat their regular employees ought to spend some time in their shoes. I do not think the burden they have of insurance is what you describe. I do know many companies who alter hours, and conditions of employment to get around the duty and responsibility of providing insurance for their employees. Firing employees, then hiring them as temps for example. Cutting their hours just a few hours a week to keep them under the radar on legally needed to pay for their insurance. This is wrong, and very unjust. These same companies provide private jet service to the management people for trips that are not business related, vacation homes, expensive cars etc. etc.

I say trim the fat, there's plenty of it, and then providing medical insurance would be a piece of cake.

I might also add, I have 2 family members who work in the insurance industry, and 1 for a drug company...this just isn't my opinion, but opinion based on personal information and experinces.

Everytime we treat someone in the ER for the flu or a cold, or sore throat prices go through the roof. And everytime someone ends up having emergency surgery for soething that might have been caught had they been able to visit a family doctor...same thing. Current system is way too costly, both in lives and in $$
I appreciate the detail here. I'm not sure I would go so far as to say doctors are overpaid (though I may be reading too much into your comments). Theoretically, people are paid just enough to get them to keep doing the job. With doctor in private practice it gets more complicated because they are not necesarily salaried like many workers are.

And we want to draw the best people to the profession. That's one reason the system can produce such high-quality care. But obviously, salaries at all levels of the care system contribute the rising costs.

While I don't believe you are calling for salary caps for highly paid medical professionals, it is an idea that may merit some discussion. I think it makes more sense to discuss salary caps in a broader discussion of tort reform. Generally, I am not a supporter of legislative limits to pain and suffering award or punative damages for medical malpractice. While there have been some outlandish awards, I don't think they are representative of the broader malpractice issues.

However, if we were to impose limits on those awards through tort reform, then we also need to limit compensation for professionals shielded by those limits. It's about balancing the high-risk=high-reward equation.

Outside of that, when we talk about cutting pay and perks, do we risk driving professionals into other fields? Or discourage the next generation from pursuing those professions?

The broader picture of executive compensation merits a closer look. Although those highly paid executives are paid that way because that's what the company owners (the shareholders) want to pay them. The trick is to align highly paid executive pay more closely with both short and long term company performance.

It's interesting that you cite the cutting of employee hours as immoral while also citing profligate waste within the organization. I think most would agree that paying more for a product than it should cost is a form of waste. We see that in stories of aspirin and other things that cost pennies at retail and dollars in a hospital. Overpaying is typically regarded as a bad thing.

If a company is overpaying someone that means a couple things. First, they could get the same work done by someone else for less money. Second, the value that person brings the compnay does not exceed that person's cost to the company.

Reducing the number of overpaid people is cutting waste. When that standard applies to executives, people cheer. When that same standard applies to the lower ranks, people protest.

Cutting hours to reduce the number of full time employees and the need to pay for insurance is a way for a company to reduce waste. If they can get the same work product done at lower cost, that is a good thing for the owners.

While the ideal of living wage and full benefits is important to society overall, providing it, for many companies, is a form of waste.

I like the idea of trimming the fat, and I agree there is a lot of it, but defining the fat is where we get into trouble.

The costs and support structure in the industry need to come down somehow. It's not only a tremendous outlay of money, but the more people we have in the healthcare industry means there are fewer available to other industries.

One more note on the idea of wasted money: the money isn't being burned or destroyed. And getting even bigger than health care reform brings us to the broader issues facing the economy. Money wasted in healthcare isn't really wasted, as long as it gets spent elsewhere. The extra people employed there, or overpaid there, can spend their money in other aspects of the economy.

I certainly don't have all the answers, and my views are sometimes self-contradictory on this matter. That's one of the reasons I'm throwing these ideas out there.

Sharkbytes said...
It's all pretty broken, and those of us with just enough money to be poor but not destitute are left out in the cold.
That's the problem our modern welfare system faces, that need-based college financial aid faces, and that many programs that help the poor face. Programs that help the poor often do nothing to help those who are teetering on the edge. With a little help, perhaps fewer people would teeter off into serious problems and get past their current struggles. But when faced with limited resources, the general choice is to hlep the person that is starving today, and not the person who has been just a hair away from starving for the past few months.

And those who are struggling, and haven't given in to collapse, are the ones that we should be supporting more. The challege is to build social safety nets that don't encourage failure.

Mike Golch said...
the thing that worries me is will the plan become as bloated with ripoffs atrists like medicare has become.some of the reinbursements that are paid out of medicare are just gross.
My plan isn't the best solution out there. There are definite flaws; it's goal is to make the situation better, not to make it perfect.

There will always bee some ripoffs. The question is how much is too much? What is an "acceptable" percentage of fraud in a program? 2%? 5%? 10%?

In order to design a truly fraud proof plan, you will spend more money preventing fraud than you would have lost to fraud to begin with. And that makes no financial sense. The other option is to put such rigorous controls in place to prevent fraud that you end up making the program too difficult to be used by those it was orginally designed to benefit.

I'm not giving fraudsters a free pass. Inded, they should be vigorously prosecuted. But there comes a point where it's just not worth it. Right now, I'm thinking a 5% fraud rate is acceptable. But that's not set in stone.

grayspirit said...
I think the concept is a reasonable one, but my concern is that there is really nothing in place to manage the cost of healthcare. As long as the government provides reimbursements for healthcare, the industry tends to keep costs high because there really is no competitive pressure to bring prices down. Just my opinion. :)
And figuring out how to limit the costs without getting in the way of proper care is the challenge. HMOs are designed to do exacly that, and yet they are often considered one of the most evil aspects of the health care industry.

Time and again, we hear that bureaucrats should not be interfering in decisions between doctors and patients, and yet, that's exactly what limiting costs will require. Someone with the purse strings has to be able to say, "No." But that is not something most people want to see incorporated in the law.

I think the same problem faces colleges and universities today. Tuition and fee increases have exceeded the rate of inflation for well over a decade. One reason for this may be the proliferation of financial aide. If the government cut back the college financial aid programs by 75% or so, would we see a comparable drop in the number of students? Or would we see a much smaller drop in students and a larger drop in college costs?

College costs can rise as high as they have because the taxpayers are willing to give them more money through the financial aid system.

Pricilla said...
You forget in your plan people who are sick with chronic conditions or who have pre existing conditions. They (ie: ME) cannot get private insurance in the marketplace for any price. No insurer wants the risk. So my husband HAS to work. I am disabled and medicare does not begin to cover my medical costs.

Until there are viable options for sick people in the marketplace the system will not be viable. There are a lot of people with minor pre existing conditions that get them bumped from insurance plans. Major problems like what I have really cause issues.

The system is broken and needs serious fixing. I think you are right about corporate America though since they are paying for it now and basically paying for congress..

This is part of the problem with the idea of even offering health insurance. And here I am going to choose my words carefully. While there should be a way to cover those with preexisting conditions, it shouldn't be insurance.

Insurance exists on the basis of a gamble. People purchase insurance gambling that they will receive more in benefits than the pay in premiums. Insurance companies offer insurance gambling that they will collect more in premiums (and interest) than they pay out in benefits.

If I was guaranteed I would never need to file a claim, I would be an idiot to purchase insurance.

Likewise, if an insurance company sees a situation where they are guaranteed to pay out more than they are likely to collect in premiums than they would be idiots to offer that coverage.

Which make insurance a poor model for providing healthcare coverage to those with preexisitng conditions.

Once insurance is not a viable option, the question becomes who should pay? If the costs are outlandish, the person with the condition can't reasonably be expected to pay so someone else has to. Should that person be the tax payer? In many cases, the answer is likely,"yes," due to lack of alternatives.

This raises another issue then. (Note: I am not saying this has anything to do with your conditions.) The issue is one of lifestyle choices.

As a taxpayer, maybe it makes sense for me to pay for the medical care of someone who can't pay if they are sticken with cancer. But what if that person is a smoker? Should I now have to pay for the care of someone who has lung cancer when that person caused the disease themselves?

What about someone who is obese and suffers from diabetes or heart disease? Should I have to pay for that person's care when the reason they require care is because of poor life style choices?

If I get injured in a car accident that's not my fault, can I expect the tax payers to cover that cost? Maybe. But what it 90% of the costs are because I wasn't wearing as seatbelt? It is still fair?

What about child birth? Should I as a tax payer have to pay for pre-natal care and the birth process someone choose to undergo in what, again, is a lifestyle decision?

These are questions we will need to struggle with in any program that ultimatley gets implemented. Do we cover everything regardless of cause?

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Thanks, Kerrilee. It's always nice to be recognized.


Healthcare Reform 02: Electronic Medical Records

This week seems to have turned into Healthcare Reform week at Cromely's World. Or more specifically, Unresearched Healthcare Reform week. I'm not sure how that happened.

I'll be responding to the comments on yesterday's post tomorrow. But as I think more about some of the issues we encounter, Medical Records is a big one.

The volume of paper work generated by the health care and insurance industries is mind-boggling. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in administration. I don't want to call that waste because without it, so many things simply wouldn't get done, but there has to be a better way.

Besides the cost, there is the hassle for the patients. When you move to another doctor, you either need to get your records transferred or start from scratch. And if a new doctor uses a different system than an old doctor, there is the transition to deal with.

If a patient needs medical care away from home and is unable to speak, ER physicians may also need to start from scratch.

We hear about deaths every year related to mistakes with prescription drugs. A pharmacy may misunderstand a doctors instructions, or a doctor may prescribe a drug that has deadly interactions with something else that patient is already taking and is prescribed by another doctor.

Friends in the medical industry have told me about different electronic medical records system. In my own job, I tangentially have dealt with the issue as well. Thousands of people are involved in various, diverse ways of attacking the paper problem.

Moving all the records off paper and into bits is part of the solution. But it's the next step that I get concerned about.

From a practical standpoint, it makes sense to me to have all medical providers creating patient records in one electronic format that is readable instantly by any other medical professions. I believe Google and other companies are already pursuing this.

The records should be comprehensive. Everything should be in one place, so every healthcare provider knows what the other is doing. And it should be easily accessible for the patient, and easy for an authorized medical provider to access should a patient arrive incapactitated. Information should be easily exportable to the appropriate health insuarnce providers to effectively manage coverage and payments.

Theoretically, such a system could save hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of lives, and hours of incovenience for patients.

And it scares the heck out of me.

The privacy implications of such a system are staggering. Collecting that much information in one place could put people at risk with employers. It could expose embarrasing information to firends and family. And if it fell into the wrong hands, it is ripe for abuse by conartists.

And if incorrect information makes its way into such a file, it could be painfully difficult to remove and could compromise care for years to come.

In other words, if humans were not involved in the process, I would feel much better about it. But once you factor in human error and greed, the system becomes potentially dangerous.

So I'm torn on whether I want to see such a system in place. There are trememndous cost- and life- saving benefits to such a system. But is it worth the risk to freedom and privacy?

And is such a system inevitable despite such concerns?

Healthcare Reform 01: Government sponsored health care

A key initiative of the Obama administration is to bring health insurance to the uninsured in one form or another. Whether this is the US finally coming out of the dark ages or the beginning of an apocalyptic slide into communism is a more complicated discussion than I have the energy to get into tonight.

But that won't stop me from opining on the topic.

Here are some assumptions I am starting with, and I think many people are likely to agree.

We already have socialized medicine.

Between Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, workers compensation, the VA, Federal employment benefits, and assorted other programs, the Federal, State, and local governments already provide millions of people with health care.

A person in need of immediate medical attention won't be denied care at an emergency room. Millions of people already use hospital emergency rooms for primary health care because they can't/won't pay to see a regular physician.

Socialized medicine is here today -- it's just delivered with terrible inefficiency.

We have some of the best medical technology in the world.

The medical schools and technology we have in the US create some of the best procedures, medical instruments, and medication. We have fantastic physicians and they are typically well compensated after years in their profession. Many other health care providers (RN's for example) are not as well compensated as we would like, but are still extremely talented.

The US pharmaceutical industry is a technological leader.

The US drug companies come under fire for their prices and for their defense of patents around the world. But the reason they are so often attacked for not sharing their products with the poor of the world is because they make such fantastic and innovative products.

Employers in the US have an extra burden they don't share with the rest of the world.

The primary provider of health care coverage in the US is the employer. Large companies provide coverage for employees. This cost, which is measured in the thousands of dollars, either depresses cash wages, or it reduces profits. Companies in other countries do not have to pay for health care for their employees.

Any health care plan we implement in the US must meet the following standards:
  1. Preserve the health care technology leadership the US has
  2. Keep and fairly compensate the skilled people in the industry
  3. Make the system more efficient and less wasteful than the current system
  4. Make health care affordable for those who currently can't afford it
  5. Reduce the burden on employers

We don't have to get there in one step. And I've always doubted that health care reform will come from the Democrats. Not because I question their commitment, but because there are too many industries opposing it, and too many varied constituencies within the party to reach consensus on one plan.

The true impetus for health care reform in the US will not come from the left. It will come from the corporate interests on the right. Health care reform in the US will come when big and medium business decides it is time to shift the burden of paying f0r health insurance to someone else.

In the meantime, the tragic stories of individuals will provide headlines, but are not likely to result in a significant changes to the system.

A small proposal

In the interim, here's a way to tweak the system that may help lower individual costs and increase coverage. I am making up the numbers out of thin air, so bear that in mind.

Everyone should have a government provided health insurance program that features a $50,000 annual deductible. Above that amount, the Feds (taxpayers) would cover the costs.

This will mean the private health insurance providers can lower their rates to make health insurance more affordable since their losses will be capped.

This will also lower the costs for employers.

Most people don't spend more than $50K per year on health care, so there is still an incentive for individuals to look for ways to minimize their costs.

The pharmaceutical and hospital industry can continue to operate as they currently do. Doctors and pharmacists don't suddenly become government employees, so the local hospitals don't become the local DMV.

This plan addresses some of the concerns above, but it's not comprehensive. It's a simple plan that provides a step forward. And maybe it will break the current political log jam.


Happy 4th!

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday.

(Link found on Fark.com)

Seattle Burger

A couple weeks ago I saw a story on Evening Magazine (or was it Northwest Backroads?) about the last of its kind XXX Root Beer Drive in. This place, located just off I-90 where Gilman BLVD meets Front ST is awesome.

The Issaquah location is one of only two left in then country, and they are both independent of one another.

If you are concerned about your health, cholesterol, or calories, you should probably skip this place. The burgers are huge and messy. The sides are big and fried. And the large root beer is just plain obnoxious.

Beyond the classic burger and milk shake style theme, this place is all about classic cars. They host different classic car events every weekend in the summer, and the interior walls are covered several layers thick in automotive memorabilia.

I opted for the Triple X Burger:

Old-fashioned juicy burger on our special fresh baked XXX bun: lots of beef, grilled onions, three cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, XXX dressing & fries....$12.49

Here's what it looks like:

2009-07-03 XXX Burger (2)

It looks huge and it really is. It's not as difficult to eat as it looks, though. The bun is soft and the toppings are not piled so high you can't put it in your mouth. With a little determination, you can pick it up and consume it.

2009-07-03 XXX Burger (3)

If you like burgers, root beer, old cars, or diner food, check out XXX. They don't take credit cards, and they won't let you have a knife or fork.

Considering the number of napkins we went through, it's probably not a good place for a first date. But for the first date debrief with friends, it's a great choice.

Or if you want to eat one meal and not be hungry for 3 days, XXX is the answer.

2009-07-03 XXX Burger


Life in the Garden Part 25: Water, Water, Never There

The architects and builders who designed my apartment gave me a great out door space. But they also made the somewhat boneheaded move of not making any allowances for water (or power, but that's another matter).

To water the plants, I have a to make about 15-20 trips up and down a flight of stairs carrying my water can. It's more of a workout than I care to have, but the alternative was to raise a rock garden.

And those don't taste as good.

Last weekend I found a partial solution -- big jugs.

2009-06-27 Water (2)

I figured if I could stage water up there, I could avoid the trips. And I could carry a jug up there every time I went upstairs, avoiding special trips.

Now I have 38 gallons of water stored on my deck. That's four 7 gallon containers and two 5 gallon containers. The 7 gallon containers weigh about 60 pounds when full, which makes me glad I didn't get the 10 gallon ones.

It makes the whole watering process go a lot more quickly. Of course it also demonstrated the depressing fact that my plants drink more than 60 gallons of water a week.

I'm just glad it's not printer ink.


Leonard Nimoy's shame

Shatner isn't the only Star Trek actor to have some embarrassing musical moment.

I first heard this song on Dr. Demento sometime in the 80s, but I had no idea there was a video. It is awesome -- especially the last 35 seconds. It aired before VCRs were available, so someone recorded this by pointing a camera at a TV screen. You may need to crank up the volume on your machine, but it is so worth it.

I (or at least the YouTube poster) give you Leonard Nimoy and "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."