Archive for March, 2010
My parents were down for a visit yesterday, and this morning, over coffee and bagels and orange juice, the talk turned briefly to politics. Specifically, to the new health care bill and what John and I think about it.
Our response? “It’s about time!”
My parents were surprised. They are for it, but most people that they know, even those in the health care profession, are against it. Most of the patients on my Mom’s ward (she is a transplant nurse) are against it. One of her patients was railing against it, saying that the government should get out of people’s health care. She responded that he should get off of Medicare, then. Most of the people on her ward are on Medicare or Medicaid.
Are you afraid of the specter of socialized medicine? We already have it. We have had it for a long, long time. What do you think that Medicare and Medicaid are? Socialized, government administered, health care. 60% of all health care dollars already flow through the government.
Don’t you think that everyone who wants health insurance should be able to get it? Even if they have a chronic illness or a pre-existing condition? Do you think that people should lose their health insurance if they get too sick? Do you think that insurance companies should be able to deny people coverage? Why don’t you think that ending health care discrimination is a good thing?
John and I, right now, will see no impact as a result of the bill. First, both of us already get health care through our employers. Secondly, it will take years for all of the provisions in the bill to take effect. Like any sweeping reform, it will roll out slowly, in bits and pieces. It will not be until 2014 (or later) that the whole thing is in effect.
However. Should I leave my current employer or lose the health insurance that I get through them for any reason, I like knowing that I will be able to purchase a private health insurance plan on the open market and not be automatically excluded for my pre-existing condition.
I have high blood pressure. (Essential hypertension, according to my cardiologist, who could not find a single reason why I should have high blood pressure. Yet there it is.) I am healthy. I cook and eat well. I exercise regularly (yoga, fencing, weights and elliptical in the gym at work, exercise bicycle at home). My blood pressure is well controlled by my medication and lifestyle. But the problem is still there, and that means that no insurance company would look twice at me.
I like knowing that in a couple of years, should I need it, I will be able to purchase affordable (not highway-robbery priced) health insurance from a private insurer and they will not be able to turn me away or deny me coverage because of my high blood pressure.
Also. We require all drivers in this country carry auto insurance, and there are heavy penalties if someone is caught driving without it. How is that different from requiring that everyone carry health insurance?
Yes, the new health care bill is not perfect. I can think of a lot of ways in which I personally think that it ought to be improved or changed, but that fact that it is there at all is a good thing.
We had a tornado drill the other day at work, since it is getting to be that time of year. And even though we aren’t exactly in Tornado Alley here, twisters have been known to touch down now and then.
I can remember tornado drills from grade school. The school’s tornado alarm would go off and we would all file to our grade-level appropriate safe zone. Some grades hunkered down in the interior bathrooms, some took shelter in the storage area next to the gym in the basement, others were in inside hallways. Everyone was down on their knees with their hands over the backs of their heads and necks. To protect against falling masonry if a tornado tried to rip away the school around us, I suppose.
The tornado drill at work was… different. There were laminated signs hung in the hallways every three feet – “This way to a tornado shelter!”, “This room is a designated tornado shelter!” – which kind of tipped us off that something was going to happen. About midway through the day someone got on the PA system (no alarm or siren) and announced that the drill was starting and we should all go to the closest tornado shelter. The closest shelter to me was near the kitchenette on my floor, so I took my coffee cup with me, got a refill, and hung out chatting with my co-workers for a few minutes. No hunkering down or protecting our heads and necks at all. Not at all taken seriously. The nuns at my grade school were serious about safety drills.
After a few minutes the PA system started up again and we were told that the drill was over, thank you for participating.
Then they took down all of the laminated signs.
Now how will we know where to go if an actual tornado strikes?
My hands smell like bananas because they are covered in new-skin, and they are covered in new-skin because I was out doing yard work this morning.
Today is the first day of spring. It is also my Dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad.)
The weather was warm enough and it wasn’t raining like it was all last weekend, so I was finally able to get out and clean out the flower beds. The cleaning, by the way, is pretty minimal. I pull out all of the dead stalks from last year (from the hostas, the daisies, and the lilies) and clean up the front walk and porch steps, but I leave most of the rest of last fall’s leaves where they are. I also gave all of the decorative grasses haircuts. It can be pretty satisfying and a lot of fun to go in with a pair of hedge clippers and whack, whack, whack away until a stand of grasses that was taller then I am is down to a couple of inches of stubble.
My yard style is more “English country garden” then anything else. Pretty wild and disorganized and lots of plants and other ground cover. The flowerbeds get pretty minimal interference from me. I water them when things get too dry, and every couple of weeks I go through and pull out crabgrass, dandelions, and other obvious weeds, but other then that… eh, not so much. As a result they are a lot rougher looking then most of the rest on the street. Of course, most of my neighbors are also retired or semi-retired and have moved to doing full-time yard maintenance in the spring, summer, and fall, and as a result have yards and gardens that are very very orderly and pruned to within an inch of their lives. Especially the across-the-street neighbors, who have mostly mulch and the occasional well shaped shrub in their flowerbeds.
Anyway, the decorative grasses are why my hands and arms look like they are covered in paper cuts, and why I have new-skin covering some of the larger (including a rather impressive one on my right palm) gashes on my hands. Those dead grass stalks are like razors.
I filled five yard waste bags with all of those cut-away grasses and dead stalks, which are now stacked in the garage and awaiting trash day. Unfortunately, they may end up waiting a while, since I seem to recall, now that I think of it, that the garbage men won’t pick up yard waste until after April 1.
It looks like Dayton is marketing itself heavily to be one of Google’s fiber test cities.
Check out the website for the project. I especially like the “Average” page on the site.
Of course I indicated my support and added myself to the map… what else could I do?
I hope that this project comes through… It would be pretty awesome.
Take a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey and add it to a pint of hard cider (I like Hornsbys) and then enjoy. That’s a Johnny Jump-Up, and that was the only thing that I did on Wednesday to acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day.
On Friday, John and I went down to the Dublin Pub in the Oregon District to hear Fin Tan play, since we are friends with 3/4 of the band. We know all of the songs (and they like to provide sing-along sheets with the chorus of all of the songs in their sets since they are a very audience-participatory kind of band) and I like to sing along, even if I can never actually hear myself sing since we tend to sit as close to the stage as possible.
A couple of times during the show there were announcements that the Dublin Pub announced intended to open at 5am on St. Patrick’s Day and would be offering a “breakfast and beer” special. I tend to think of St. Patrick’s Day as the national holiday of frat boys. I don’t enjoy crowds and I am not much of a bar person on a normal day, but St. Paddy’s is one of the days where I do not think that I could be paid enough to set foot in a bar. Too many people wearing green, with shamrocks painted on their faces, being stupid, and drinking too much of all kinds of faux-Irish drinks.
Hence the Johnny Jump-Up in the quiet and comfort of my own home.
Just say no to green beer… really. Because nothing says “St. Patrick’s Day spirit” like a Budweiser with some food coloring in it.
I have a sore throat and a hacking cough and a voice like I just swallowed a bucket of gravel, but on the whole I am feeling better then I was the past couple of days. Despite the hack, I made it in to work Thursday and Friday. However, just about every person that I talked to felt it necessary to point out how bad I sounded, which does tend to get old after a while.
This bit of nasty showed up just as I was getting over feeling completely wrecked from Ceilidh last past weekend.
Maybe by the end of this weekend I will be back to feeling 100%? One can only hope.
About Ceilidh this past weekend…
Ceilidh is always a good time. Excellent fencing. And traditionally the date of the tournament to see who will be the Capitaine de Griffe (rapier champion) for the Barony of Flaming Gryphon. I was the most recent champion, and was happy enough to pass it on to the next person. The list of applicants was a touch thin, so Wit and myself threw our hats back in the ring to bulk up the pool and ensure that the baron had a wide range of choices for this year’s champion, despite the unwritten tradition that past capitaines don’t try to win back the title.
I think that the best fencing that I had that day was the handful of rounds I went against Max. It is always fun to fight other people who study longsword, since there aren’t s lot of them in this corner of the kingdom, and it is always a blast to fence Max.
The title ended up going to Lars. I think that this was a good choice – he may be a less experienced fencer, but he has some solid skills, good potential, courtesy, and a sense of real enjoyment about fencing. And maybe standing behind the throne in court and representing the barony on the list will encourage him to get some nicer looking fencing garb. He was completely surprised to get called out in court, and to get be-decked with all of the champion’s regalia – buckler, half-cloak, medallion, and belt favor. After that hand-off, he took his place behind the baronial seat and I stepped down.
Now I am completely regalia-free, after about a year and a half. It was fun standing up behind the baron and baroness, but it will be nice to see court from the other side again.
Really, I think that if I was asked to make any complaints about Ceilidh, they would have to do with the quality of the footing in the lists… which was pretty slick, and nothing that anything could really be done about. Doc Martins (my fencing foot-ware of choice) don’t tend to have very good traction on smooth surfaces, so I wiped out a couple of times, and hit the floor pretty hard a couple of times, and ended the day with some very spectacular bruises on my knees (right as the skinned knees from Val Day had finished healing). The stiffness and soreness the next day was worth it.
Good times at Ceilidh.
John and I both have fairly straightforward taxes, and it takes less then an hour with tax software to take care of them.
Since this is the first year were we are entitled to file differently then we have for all of the previous years of our lives, we were curious if it would be more beneficial for us to file separately or jointly. In other words, marriage tax penalty, or marriage tax break?
Actually, it turned out to be marriage tax nothing. I ran the numbers, doing a joint return and separate returns for the sake of comparison. We (collectively) get more money back by filing separately, but there was no big difference between our tax situation this year and our situations last year. Eh, worth a look-see.
I know that getting a lot of money back from the government at tax time is bad, because that means you did your witholdings incorrectly and basically gave the government a big, interest-free loan over the course of the year. I know that ideally you actually should owe the government a tiny bit of money at tax time.
I know that, and yet I still love getting my refund check. When it shows up, I will dance all of the way to the bank to deposit it.
It feels like free money to me, since it is money that just shows up (kind of) and that I do not have a plan for.
Also, I have no idea how to update my witholdings since one of the reasons I get a chunk back every year is because of being a homeowner. I am pretty sure that the tax forms that I had to fill out for payroll at work don’t take that into account.
Also, I just don’t like the idea of having to write off a check to the federal government.
John and I both prefer to listen to NPR when we are driving anywhere. This can make road trips (to see his folks, to see my folks, to go to SCA events) interesting since here in the midwest good radio can be hard to come by. There are a lot of country-western or Jeeeezus! radio stations, however, if that is your thing. It is not our thing. (We also have no real interest in getting satellite radio, which would also solve our problem.)
Inevitably, somewhere half-way through a trip to where ever, punching the station seek button on the radio over and over in the hops of finding something worth listening to, one of us will comment on how we should have downloaded a bunch of NPR podcasts for the trip. We do this every time, and up until the most recent trip, always forgot about the podcasts until we were already in the car, and about half-way to somewhere.
I had resolved that we wouldn’t fall into that trip for the trip to NORAD, and the afternoon we were leaving I emailed John at work to find out his podcast preferences, and then left my office a bit early to download podcasts, pack, and other assorted last-minute chores.
I managed to download 4 Radiolab episodes and 1 Car Talk episode to my iPod before we had to leave.
Radiolab is awesome.
Everyone should listen to Radiolab.
After we got back I downloaded every single Radiolab episode that I could find. (Warning: the Radiolab download server is about as quick as molasses, so I recommend downloading in the early morning. It seemed to work best then.)
We have finally gotten into the wide world of podcasts. I cringe at how long it took us.
That is where John and I went this past weekend. And that would be NORAD as in the North Oaken Regional Academy of Defense, and not the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
John taught a class on the intro to tempo and measure, and I attended a class on the intro to cut-and-thrust that, due to small class size (me), turned into a one-on-one class that was an introduction to movement and balance drills that can lead to some real cool German and longsword grappling, some of which was even legal to use on a rapier list.
I didn’t have most of the gear (closed helm, elbow and knee protection) to be legal on a cut-and-thrust list, and I was mostly interested in using the period longsword styles on the rapier list, so I watched some of the cut-and-thrust practice bouts (yelling “A&S” periodically as they went beyond the bounds of what were considered to be legal moves, even on a cut-and thrust list) and then traded some longsword rapier bouts with some of the other practitioners who were there.
I also attended a couple of Marshal classes, hoping that they would explain the paperwork a little better (I hate paperwork). They did.
Despite the weather the night before, the even was pretty well attended. And the weather Friday night was pretty bad.
Because NORAD was near Canton, OH, John and I drove up to Cleveland after work on Friday, to combine the event with a little bit of a visit with my folks.
The drive, which normally takes us around 4 hours, took over 6 hours. Heavy snow, damp snow, driving snow, mushy and wet roads, and a ton of salt and road crap kicked up by other cars and trucks. Lousy driving conditions that just got worse the further north we got. By the time we were closing in on Cleveland the roads were so covered with snow that the lanes only existed in theory, and we drove where ever the road had the best traction. We saw a lot of cars that had slid off of the road on the way up. Some of them were so very far off of the road and spun around that I honestly wondered how the heck the drivers of those cars had managed to get up enough speed to pull it off.
The one completely bizarre thing at NORAD was the fact that they were giving away several large boxes of avocadoes. They had more then enough of them sitting around that they could have just passed them out at the front door in lieu of site tokens. The details of the whole backstory are a little fuzzy to me, but it seems that one of the event organizers is involved in a church (or something) that will accept donations of food and stuff from truckers in return for tax write offs. So, say a crate of food gets damaged in transit… Maybe the box is all dented and ripped up, but the actual food inside is still fine. It can’t be sold anymore because of the damage to the container, but the trucking company can donate it, get a tax credit for their charity, and not take a total loss on it. That’s how about 6 boxes of avocadoes ended up at NORAD. We were all encouraged to take as much as we wanted.
Even after we gave my parents some of the bounty we took away with us, we still have more then 10 avocadoes ripening in a bowl on the counter. There will be a lot of guacamole and sushi on tap for dinners this week, that’s for sure.