Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

We decided to not travel anywhere for Thanksgiving this year and instead visit with L.’s Aunt and Uncle like we did last year. Baking a Thanksgiving dinner for just two people always leads to way to many left overs and this way it allowed us to bake lots of desserts. (What they asked us to bring.) Since we had a little extra time this year I wanted to try to make some of the things from scratch. So for the pumpkin cake I steamed the pumpkins and pealed them. (It gave it a more pumpkin flavor at the same time as making it more bland. I didn’t feel it was worth the extra work.) I also made stuffing from scratch. I think I put to much fresh sage or thyme in there because it was the most spicy stuffing I have had before, but surprisingly good. We also brought pumpkin pie and persimmon pudding.
It was really fun just visiting with everyone. we stayed up late playing Canasta which both L.’s Aunt and Uncle seem to be hooked on. We laughed about all the people that would be miserable in the cold waiting for stores to open for Black Friday deals and in the end we just ended up staying overnight and driving home Friday morning because we stayed up so late talking.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Health Care

So I know I said in a previous post I wouldn’t say more political stuff but there has been some recent events happening that influence how I feel. I work with two people. Both with kids that suddenly pop up with bad nervous system disorders. One of them just moved to Scotland. Of course the UK’s system is very different than here, so hearing the differences were sobering. The first is how hospital beds are handled. When she was feeling better, they said she could go home but they would keep the bed reserved for her through the weekend. It might sound more expensive but people are more likely to leave sooner if they are not worried about returning if needed. Imagine if they were to throw out the revenue per bed model here. The other thing was that the hospitals were built into malls. Imagine reducing the stigma of visiting the doctor down to just being another errand. Doctors catch the problem faster making it cheaper to treat. So what is the verdict. My co-worker’s child in Scotland is on an aggressive drug and is getting better. The co-worker here is still having problems with the insurance company getting authorizations for all the specialists. In Scotland she had to stop being a student temporarily but was still able to get the same care. Here, he couldn’t work so there was also a large delay switching from work insurance to medicare, all the while his father is busy with paperwork, searching out the right specialist, and bills, making two people not being productive. (Trust me, I work with him and was picking up some of the slack.)
Now I am aware that what I am presenting is antidotal evidence, so I can only add my own personal experience: My wife gets a prescription and fills it. After a few weeks it is not working and she is getting worse so she goes back to the doctor. Apparently the pharmacist didn’t fill the prescription correctly because it was not on the insurance formulary. The Insurance company had listed a similar drug which the pharmacist gave without saying anything. The only problem is the two drugs were similar in every way except what my wife needed. Luckily (there could have so many other things gone wrong) it was only 2 extra weeks of being sick and not something more serious, but an insurance accountant should not have a say if my wife gets the medicine she needs.
In another experience she found out she needed to see a specialist. The only problem is that it was specialized enough that they didn’t take insurance. Apparently the insurance companies try to get out of paying the doctors as much as reimbursing patients. So even with full health insurance we were still headed for bankruptcy. (As it turned out by a total fluke, my wife’s work had an extra rider that paid directly to the hospital for that specific specialist. I guess someone high up also needed it and added it to the company health plan.)
I am just saying the system is broken. I think an obvious example is all the pharmacies that find it easier to give some drugs away for free rather than deal with insurance companies. It is not a good idea to give financial incentive to the insurance companies to give worse care to people. The USA pays more than any other country and we still end up 16th in care. (It’s in the 30’s if we count the un/under insured.) I can only guess for other countries that the extra cost of having everyone in a country covered is absorbed by the lower cost of paperwork and catching things sooner is cheaper.
The conservative people I know like to call it “socialist health care”. I like to point out we already have a socialist fire department. They learned long ago that if they were to try to bill people to put out a fire, people would call to late. The fire, or in the case disease, would spread making it more expensive/impossible to control. If other countries pay less, and get better health care, better satisfaction with their medical care, faster service even with “rationing” (Another term I hear a lot.) and still cover everyone, than you can put me down for socialist health care. Now I realize I live in a liberal area and hear a lot more of that side of the issue, but just from personal experience and from the people I know, I just don’t get the arguments for leaving the medical system the way it is. Because the way I see it right now is that we are paying more and getting less.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Post election

So Barack Obama was elected. It seems like the entire election played out just like 2004; at least in my eyes. The loosing political party gets more desperate as the the election gets closer. Doing more and more erratic actions. As I have said before I have a lot of family that is very conservative. A lot of them were saying they were surprised by the outcome. I heard the same thing from some of my friends that are “yellow dog democrats” in the last election. It is funny how people see what they want, with all events backing up already held beliefs.

(edit updated over the next month.)
It has been weird with the outcome of this election. Moving from Oregon to New York I am well aware that I have lived in liberal leaning areas. I have seen stickers for years that said “Bush’s last day 1-20-09” and “Republicans for Voldemort”. Here in New York City I have heard speeches by Obama blaring from radios of street vendors pretty much every time we passed a group of them. I was expecting a positive reaction but not to the level that I have seen. They are still selling the Obama paraphernalia on the streets (some ONLY selling Obama stuff). People are still wearing buttons and hats. I usually see about 7-10 on people a day still. The weirdest one though is the reaction. Time Square the day after the election looked like “Victory in Europe/Japan” war footage. Everyone was smiling, laughing, talking to complete strangers. The one that tops it all is everyone looking each other in the eye. I have had to explain to visiting family that is not Christmas Spirit that is in New York City. It is still post-election glow, at least compared to last year, especially with all the financial problems. I do not think anyone is capable of living up to the hype that is built up to the level that Obama has, especially with the bureaucratic cruft that is our government, but hopefully Obama does not squander the good will he has like Bush did after September 11th.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Voting 2008

Warning this is a political post! Yes, I have political views. However, I hate political blogs because they only show the naivety of the speakers. (As this post will do to me.) So unlike most people I know they all stink so I try to keep them to myself but for one day a year.
First, most of my biases are based around the fact that I really don’t like political parties. Actually, I hate them. has anyone ever heard of someone going into the voting booth and voting the party ticket to get rid of government corruption? Is there really anyone that thinks that all the issues in the world can be boiled down to one of two sides? Has anything been “one for the history book” when the vote in congress is split along party lines? (I am well aware we are doomed to a two party system as long as the constitution allows for “winner take all” voting.)
Debates:
I watched all three presidential debates and the one vice-president one. Really, I didn’t even see two people arguing, much less debate. There was two people saying talking points at the camera. There is a real chicken and egg problem of not letting any 3rd party candidates debate. Without national exposure they will never get votes but without votes they will never get the debate entrance. People think that by putting two people on the stand will debate both sides of a topic. It seems like a lot of topics were never even brought up because they were not derisive enough to split voters. The closest thing to a technology question is when Palin declared she didn’t think humans were the cause of global warming.
I didn’t like the candidates quoting voting records. There are a hundred reasons why someone in congress votes for/against a bill and the spin the other candidate puts on it only confuses and repels voters.
I do like that both sides did try to stay out of negative politics. Of course when McCain was loosing all bets are out the window and seriously I had to laugh at the people that were claiming that comparing McCain to Bush was negative campaigning. (If even his own party thinks Bush is a bad word then it is their fault for supporting him.)
I do not see flip-flopping on issues as a bad thing. I would hope every leader will keep open the choice to change the plan of action should the situation or information change. I think failure to follow this advice is one of the reason that got this country into the trouble it is in now.
The president does not handle the budget that closely. So the biggest voting issue this election, the economy, really says more about who to vote for in Congress. Yet both sides felt the need to describe all the things they would propose... to congress. As if someone else in their party couldn’t also propose the same thing.
McCain:
I really think McCain got some bad luck, enough for him to want to hire a hitman on Bush. After loosing to Bush because of dirty tricks in 2000 he has to deal with the low view of the Republican party here and internationally to the point that a Republican win would anger the world. But by trying to pander to the base by saying they are “real Americans” that means anyone who doesn’t vote Republican isn’t a real American? So the American way is a one party state? I also think that by repeatedly saying he was a maverick at the same time as completely changing his positions to get more votes was pretty scary.
Obama:
Yes racism is alive and well. I heard it every time someone used the excuse they really didn’t know what Obama stood for, or didn’t want to vote because of Hussain as a middle name. Lets follow that to the conclusion and say he was Muslim. What is the problem of having a Muslim president? That being said Obama did spend more time saying happy thoughts and McCain=Bush rather than concrete positions. (Both of them had more facts on their websites. I guess TV news is always looking for soundbites over substance.) It is scary to see how much money Obama raised and spent but I get comfort from it being from individual donors instead of PAC’s.
Really I see the biggest problem is the people who want it to be over. With the crumbling of rights by the current president, I’m curious what it would take for them to want to be involved instead of just something to get past so they can return to their regularly scheduled programming.
So who am I going to vote for? As long as I make an informed decision (which means not listening to advertising and actually taking 5 minutes to look at their platform on their website. Personally I use Open Secrets(opensecrets.org) too. Being able to tell who they accept money from tells a lot more what they will do than campaign promises.) The most important thing is that I will vote, and that will take power away from lobbyists. And that is all I need to know to put a smile on my face on election day.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bike Ride into NYC

L. was still sick and it was driving me crazy to stay at home so I decided to ride my bike into NYC and see the fall colors along the way. There is a nice trail that I found so I packed up my bike and took off. The main reason was that there were some really pretty fall colors that I drive by every day on my way to work that I wanted to take pictures of. I have also been playing around with creating HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with the camera and my computer.
As it ended up I would ride for a while pull over take some pictures and then continue. I really wasn’t in any kind of a hurry and was more interested in the idea of just enjoying myself. At one point I saw some columns and couldn’t resist and carried my bike through about 50 feet of underbrush to take some pictures. I think a thorn caught the back tire and put a leak in it. I was so close (2 miles) to the subway stop so I just walk my bike the rest of the way. To finish off the day I spent some time visiting the MOMA garden before they close for the winter.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween 2008

Living within driving distance of the real Sleepy Hollow L. and I could not resist to going to the halloween celebration there. There is a recreation of a colonial times town that is there year round. During October they light it up and have the headless horseman ride around. The real headless horseman bridge is kind of disappointing because as with most roads that have been around 200 years it is a main road and you really don’t realize it is a bridge at all. The wooden bridge in the re-creation is much better. It was a pain to photograph the headless horseman since he was wearing black, on a black horse. So I have a bunch of pictures that look like a floating pumpkin. They had people in period costumes telling ghost stories and giant trees walking around (think french parade). Both L. and I were a little disappointed in the lack of things to do, but neither of us could think of anything else they should have and after the thought that we only paid $5 more than a movie we realized maybe our expectations were to high.
At last year’s NYC Halloween parade we had spent the evening comparing what we thought was the best costume and what would be a good costume for us the next year. Fast forward a year and of course we are all to busy so throw all the elaborate plans out the window. Even the plans of a group costume, we couldn’t agree on anything. So I decide I want to be crafty and build my costume this year. I wanted to try build something out of foam. So Ryuk from Deathnote won out over being a Robotech Veritech or NHK’s Domo because the theme of the parade was ghosts.
Part of my costume was to cut a ping pong ball in half with a hole in the middle and paint them for the eyes. While I could still see it gave me extreme tunnel vision. This made for an interesting night walking around the city. My peripheral vision was replaced by large feathers on my shoulders that acted as “curb feelers” for when I crashed into people or walked to close to walls. The weirdest sensation is that with the loss of vision I had a harder time hearing too even though nothing was covering my ears. I guess my brain was working overtime to keep up on processing information. I did feel lost most of the evening instead just following around L. and my friend D. Not an easy task when there is 3 million people (The largest event all year for NYC, bigger than the ball drop on New Year’s eve).
The thing that caught me the most off guard was how much everyone liked my costume. Tons of people wanted to take their picture with me. I felt like I was famous with all the paparazzi. In truth when someone stepped in front of me and asked I really couldn’t say no and walk around them without crashing into people. It was just good that L. and D. kept an eye open so I didn’t get left behind. My guess is that around 50 people asked to take their picture with me. Another 100 or so just took my picture as we walked by. I had a blast of corse but next year I think I will make a costume that allows me to see all the other costumes so I can participate in the fun more.