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Drove 7 hours yesterday to central BC. Now I’m spending the weekend helping my parent take care of their extensive yard.
This morning I chopped ten large hunks of wood into 30 smaller hunks, hacked down two dead bushes, then I spent an hour trying to find a way to level the rain barrel with different arrangements of bricks, and then I moved a bunch of 10lb planters from the garage to the front of the house.
Feels good to create some order and work the muscles a bit.
I’ll take mom to dinner tonight for belated Mom’s Day.
Drove to Vancouver from Seattle yesterday afternoon and booked into the Jericho Beach Hostel. After a night at the surprisingly comfortable and civilized hostel, I did my HIIT in the Kits Community Center gym and relaxed in their giant jacuzzi. The community center shower room has an area with hand driers mounted high up so you can stand under them. They should get some of the monsters I used at the Luxembourg Hostel–four times the size and on rails so you can adjust the height.
The Hostel and gym seem underpopulated considering how beautiful this part of Vancouver is. The hostel is in the middle of a beach side park! I think the locals are going to the States for their Victoria Day long weekend. They won’t find anything better…
The morning sun on my sidewalk cafe table right now brings joy to my heart!
I’m going to mark Victoria Day 2010 on my Calendar–that’ll be another good getaway.
Yes, I’m wearing my political colors. Sometime I have to write an article about how democratic discussion has become a social faux pas.But right now, I want to urge you to watch the Nevada debate on MSNBC Jan 15, at 6pm Pacific. MSNBC tried to exclude Dennis from the debate at the last minute, but judge ruled the debate must include him.
I haven’t seen an issue yet where Dennis hasn’t cut to the heart of the problem and provided a practical plan.
Take Iraq. He has a detailed plan for beginning immediate withdrawal of troops. What makes it particularly practical (unlike the plans of so many other candidates) is that he would work with the UN to replace US troops with peacekeepers. Peacekeepers have worked and continue to work in so many places around the world (check the UN web site). Dennis also would include Iraq’s neighbors, Iran, Syria, Jordan, etc. in peace talks to help stabilize the region. And just as with the troops, Dennis would replace US contractors (like Haliburton) with Iraqi and other local interests.
Consider health care. As I mentioned in some of my other posts, one can visit the WHO website and very quickly discover enough statistics to convince any hard-core economist that the US health system is wasting money. The Canadian government spends $3000 per capital on a health care system that provides care for 100% of Canadians — and Canada (and 14 other developed nations with national health care) have higher health and quality of life indicators than the US.
Now the US Government also spends $3000 per capita on health care (that’s right — tax dollars) but in addition we, the people, spend another $3000 per capita out of our own pockets! $6000 per capita for a second class health system that doesn’t even serve 90% of our citizens. Where does that extra $3000 go I wonder?
Profit. That’s right, I’m dissing the mythic efficiency of for-profit health insurance. You can see it in the stats — the for-profit system is lousy at delivering cost-effective health care to Americans.
All the other candidates want to retain the for-profit health insurance system. In many cases, they want to start paying more tax dollars — directly to the health insurance industry.
Dennis says lets do not-for-profit health insurance like all the developed countries that provide better health care than we do.
Finally, Dennis’s plan for the economy is comprehensive. John McCain talks about bringing manufacturing back to Michigan with tax breaks — but what about all that cheap labor that manufacturers get overseas — without import tarrifs — under NAFTA and the WTO? Dennis would get us out of these crazy contracts that let companies export jobs and make treaties that encourage growth at home and trade abroad that respects the environment and workers rights.
2007 has been good to us. Last Christmas season, we rented a new place in Shoreline (North of Seattle), a three-level condo with almost 1400 square feet and a nice location behind a wooded area. Much quieter than our old place in the U District!
Also, early in 2007, Anne got a new job! She’s now working for the City of Seattle as a case manager for homebound people. This includes everything from the disabled to the mentally ill to the aged. It has much better pay and benefits than her last job and she likes her boss. Ironically, the job is at the opposite end of Seattle from our new rental, so her commute is horrendous.
Commuting has also been a challenge for me. I found that the bus connections from our new address to Ballard, the neighborhood where I work, are appalling. I decided to buy a car, just when a co-worker of Anne’s decided to sell hers. So I bought a 12 year old Subaru. It’s a standard, so I had to learn to drive stick for the first time in my life. Now changing gears has become automatic (hah!) and I like my little car.
Over the summer, I went to the Heinlein 100th anniversary convention in Kansas City and made a special side-trip to Butler, Missouri, where he was born. (I will tell the story of how I met four of his nieces and nephews in a future entry). Back home, I joined my company softball team—the PsychoPATHs—and actually made a key run for one of our games.
Anne has taken some art classes, and went to a walkin improv class at a community theater recently. She periodically visits her old college friend, Patty, down in Portland and goes to Karaoke night at Sunset Bowl in Ballard once in a while with her girlfriends from her previous workplace.
In 2008, we’ll start looking for a house to buy somewhere in the southern half of Seattle—between both our places of work. Anne will finish her probationary period at her job and I’m hoping to finish a first draft of a novel I’m working on.
For many years, I’ve relied on Truthout.org to talk about the things that don’t get full air time or full explanation on the major networks and news sources.
Just a couple months ago, a couple of major internet service providers put the squeeze on them — they started labelling all Truthout messages (which Truthout only sends to people who have subscribed) as spam. Essentially, they tried to throttle the websites visibility and source of funds. Yes, source of funds — it’s us, the readers. Truthout works by donation.
They’ve been hurting ever since. I gave them $100 back then, but I’m tapped out right now. Wouldn’t you give ten or twenty dollars to keep a source of news unbiased by big money corporate interests alive and talking?
This last October 5 was the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth. Between, 1957 and 1969, only twelve years past, yet we went from orbiting the Earth to landing a man on the moon. In the face of such a burst of pyrotechnics, we might ask what’s happened lately? Why has it taken so long to get back to plans for a simple orbiting space station, or for a return to the moon and a manned visit to Mars? Has the space age fizzled?
The late Sixties, the early space age, still bubbled with the pioneering spirit that had been an American legacy for two hundred years. Once the United States burst into space, it seemed perfectly reasonable that our expansion would continue to the moon, Mars, and even the stars. Remember the movie 2001: a space Odyssey? When Stanley Kubrick and Arthur Clarke peered through this brew of space age optimism, they saw human space travel to Jupiter. That should have been 6 years ago. We should have made contact with aliens by now and sent Dave Bowman off to transcendence beyond humanity.
But that huge quantum leap has not happened. In fact, human space travel seems to have made one leap out to the moon, then settled back into a comfortable steady state, reaching no farther than low Earth orbit. After the initial excitation, the cold realities of true space travel have knocked us back.
We’ve learned a lot about human travel in space. Beyond the cradle of Earth, we leave behind abundant mother Earth, who provides us with food, water, and even air. Worse still, we leave the shielding electromagnetic shroud that protects us from random hurtling particles, radiation that erode the DNA and may even damage brain cells. How do we face up to such obstacles?
Should we try?
Will we learn something new and worthwhile? Will we make life better for ourselves? The Jamestown colonists may have asked themselves these questions before they traveled to the New World. Just as the Vikings five hundred years before them, and the Polynesians a thousand years before them, all the way back to the unknown travelers who left Africa a hundred thousand years ago.
In each case, men, women, and children faced frightening barriers—deserts, mountains, seas, and vast oceans. But in the end they went, they established distant outposts that could look back at their home, glowing on the horizon of the desolation and see it in a new way. Eventually, they learned to cross the barriers and establish new homes—but they also learned to communicate back to the distant place that had once been home. Travel, pushing boundaries, gained new perspectives on their worlds, their tools, and themselves.
Should we try?
Yes. I think we should. I think we have reached a building point, a place where technology and dreams must be rallied before another jump can be made. For those of us who grew up in the space age, this hesitation time may seem dull, but I believe, that at some point, humanity will again jump outward, and one day a child living in a place we thought unlivable will look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.
So all of the Democratic candidates have plans for some sort of wider health care system. It’s about time. America is still the richest country in the world, yet we are only fourteenth (or even lower by some measures) in health and lifespan of our population. The only thing we score number one in is per capita cost of providing health care ($6,096 per person in 2004 compared to the 12th place holder, Canada at $3,173, almost half what we pay). Is this the great achievement of our free market health care system?
I mean, what free market? It’s not like the consumers of the service get much choice. The majority of us can only afford the one or two options offered by our employer. Somehow, the health insurance industry has cut us out of the market and now they only have to market themselves to other companies. Special options may be available to individual employees under the plan, but who can afford them, let alone trust them?
Which brings up the other problem. An insurance company in charge of my health? When our car was stolen and totaled, GEICO lowballed the replacement cost by 50%. It took some determined negotiation to get them to give us a fair settlement. Thank heavens that I did not have to go farther than writing a few letters, researching selling costs of the same vehicle on second hand websites, and faxing every maintenance record we owned to the adjuster. But imagine if, when I needed heart surgery, I had to fax proof of every cardioclub workout, doctor checkup, and hearthealthy meal I ever ate?
Wait a minute! That sounds familiar.
Sigh. I am fairly convinced that the defining factor of American Style Health care is the private health insurance system. Health insurance companies are the ultimate middle man — between your employer, who pays most of your premium, and your doctor, who charges for services — and also between your doctor and the treatments that might be best for you. Why do we allow insurance companies this power over our live? We know they’re job is to take in as much as possible and put out as little as possible. They sit like pulsing tumors sucking up our vital fluids and impairing the health of our nation.
Let’s excise them.
Remember those 13 other developed nations that have better, cheaper health care systems than ours? They all have single payer systems. The Canadian government (ie taxpayer) pays $3,173 per person each year to provide universal health care. Keep in mind that of the $6,096 per person we pay in the US, our government already pays about half, $3,000, from our tax dollars while we and our employers pay the rest out of pocket.
WTF! If we did it the Canadian way, we would not even have to increase governement spending! And let’s not compare with Sweden or Japan at the top of the list, who spend no more tax dollars than Canada.
A universal system eliminates the profit percentage from the cost of health care as well as saving more because they don’t duplicate hundreds of bureaucracies processing claims. Finally, in a universal system, your doctor is free to prescribe and arrange the treatment you need, without consulting an accountant.
Only one Democratic candidate for president favors a single payer system. All the rest want to find a way to keep the insurance companies feeding at the trough. Which candidate would you support?
Check this link to find out how you line up with the candidates on the issues.
July 4, 2007, afternoon in UTC-6 (aka US Central Time), I left the Kansas City airport and boarded a minibus heading for hotels downtown. The bus held the normal array of American travelers: a young man with a backpack, a couple of pairs of seniors, myself, a tall fiftyish man traveling alone, and others.
One couple, perhaps in their early sixties chattered back and forth. The husband, wearing thick glasses and looking unkempt, held out a GPS unit, complaining about the difficulty of getting a signal. He and his wife seemed strangely fixated on his concerns and, when I heard them talk about the convention hotel, I knew they were going to the same place as I. They reminded me of so many nerdish fans I’ve seen at science fiction conventions, aged perhaps thirty years. I rolled my eyes and hoped they’d quiet down as we traveled.
Then, as we left the airport, a cell phone rang in the back of the bus. A hearty voice answered and talked about getting people together, about meeting at the hotel, and about visiting Butler, Missouri.
Robert A. Heinlein, acclaimed by readers and writers as a grand masters of science fiction (the first receive that title from the Science Fiction Writers of America), was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907. I planned to attend to a convention in Kansas City that would celebrate the centennial of his birth.
When I heard about Butler, my ears pricked up. Some month’s earlier the convention organizers had posted about the possibly of arranging tours the Robert’s birthplace. I had bought my ticket to arrive a day early, hoping a tour would happen. Alas, the organizers never made it happen. When that fell through, I decided to make my own expedition to Butler, but had difficulty finding much information about relevant locations to see in that town. The convention organizers had not provided much information either.
Now, I sat in the minibus, listening to the tall, fiftyish guy in the back talking about visiting the library, the house, the museum, and the cemetery. I made mental notes. When he finished his call, arranging to meet the other party for dinner, I told myself I should introduce myself and ask about Butler. I speculated that he was another fan, making arrangements to see RAH’s birthplace. We might share a car rental or share plans.
But my introverted reluctance to risk contact with a stranger held me back and I let the opportunity go.
Later, after I checked in and had some time to rest, I regretted that decision.
Or perhaps, as I’m the one who has been absent, I should say: may I come in?
A years has passed since my last post. During that year, I’ve settled in to my new job at PATH, moved to the wilds of Shoreline, and made a transition from riding the bus to work to driving a car every day — and learning to drive stick at that.
Anne and I got fed up with the noise factor of the U District and found nice condo to rent in NE Shoreline — north of North City! We canceled a Christmas visit to my parents to move and took residence Dec 28 of 2006. After some experimentation, I learned that commuting to my workplace in Ballard averaged 90 minutes one way by bus. After I learned that Vanpooling would have a higher monthly cost than a car payment, I decided to buy a used car.
I cannot believe how lousy public transit is here! I’m spoiled by Canadian cities. For the first time in life I drive a car every day to work. I didn’t even own a car until I turned 40 — now Anne and I co-own two!
Incidentally, I highly recommend the Subaru Imprezza — Mine has 189,000 miles and still runs great. I like driving it more than our 2002 Ford Escort. (BTW, apparently, Fords have this thing where the steering fluid gets contaminated with aluminum shavings and makes the wheel stick. Be sure to change your steering fluid periodically. [Ha ha! My 1994 Subaru doesn't have this problem!])
In my next post, I plan to report on my trip to the Kansas City and Butler, Missouri.