Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bootstraps Can't Overcome Pre-Existing Conditions

As a citizen of the only modern, industrialized, western democracy on the planet where Universal Health Care is not a reality, I frequently hear closed minded and selfish Republicans say "pull yourself up by your bootstraps!" and that the way to accomplish the American Dream is through hard work, persistence, innovation, self-reliance. And yes, for many fellow citizens that actually works, from a son of immigrants like me, to the son of a turd miner and grand son of a goat ball licker like Stephen.

But if genetics or other parts of life deal you a curve ball, like mellitus, or fibromyalgia, or prostatitis, or cancer, or epilepsy, or pregnancy, or schizophrenia, or any of 1000s of other conditions and diseases that humans are prone to, then like 21% of other Americans, you will be DENIED COVERAGE, or DENIED A POLICY when attempting to buy your own coverage. 21% of Americans who apply for individual policies - being self employed, or unemployed, or having just lost their jobs - can't get insurance coverage. There's no boot strap strong enough to over-come the costs in the existing US system where someone who is un-insured pays roughly 3.5 times the negotiated rate charged to someone WITH insurance (in some cases, as Dr. Desert Flower has seen, 6 times more expensive).

It's the pre-existing condition exemption that lawyers and insurance company MBA policy making executives that make individual insurance policies completely impractical. It's these same pre-existing condition exemptions that tie Americans to their employer provided plans - if you try to strike it out on your own to start your own business and "live the American Dream", you BETTER be independently wealthy if you have any serious medical condition.

It's ironic that Republicans, most of whom publicly eschew, refute, and despise Darwinian theory, support a public Health Care policy (bootstraps can solve anything) that stands so firmly upon the foundation of Evolution. Only the purest, healthiest, most vigorous American citizens are capable of realizing the right wing's idealized American Dream.

Regional Priorities

In the Science Offices at the University of South Carolina Medical School (a State office), posted on a principal investigator's door, Dr. Desert Flower and I observed this notice earlier this month (it Was May 11th) as our recently graduated progeny showed us around his work place.

I've been in China during "Dragon Boat" festival. I've been in Taiwan during the "Moon Festival" where you sweep the graves of your deceased relatives. I've been in France during a co-worker's "Saint's name day" when they got the day off because the Catholic Church was celebrating their saint's feast day. I've been to Freital (near Dresden) Germany where they had the Spargus Festival serving massive spears of white asparagus for a solid month and celebrated like it was Oktober Fest. And I lived in South Carolina for almost 16 years, all-together, but this was the first time I've seen Confederate Memorial Day listed as a regional reason to have a holiday. Up in Greenville & Spartanburg SC, where I used to live, they used to substitute "Robert E. Lee's Birthday" in place of "Martin Luther King Day" up through 1999 - but they still took the 2nd Monday in January off.

I was going to label this posting "Anachronistic Colloquialisms" - but then I thought again, and changed it to "Regional Priorities". To many people reading this blog, celebrating a holiday to memorialize the war dead from a failed attempt to secede from the Federal Union sounds like anachronistic, unpatriotic, treasonous, misplaced nostalgia. But, as a son of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants, who still celebrates and remembers my ethnic traditions, I don't think it is right to belittle South Carolinians' priorities and personal preferences. I don't agree with them, but if that's what they want to do, that's fine. Utah citizens practice Pioneer Day, New Orleans residents celebrate Mardi Gras... Savannah residents love St.Patrick's Day... whatever works for the citizens of that region, that's fine with me. I don't have to buy into it if I don't want to, and I have resisted the urge to ridicule it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Which Pope Are You?

Pharyngula has this wickedly wonderful posting today.

The questions are ... well... you need to see the survey for yourself. =)
After reading The Bad Popes this gives me a new perspective.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend Multi-Media Madness

Quantum of Solace (DVD)
Would be better called "Quantum of Tedium" or "Quantum of Vengeance". A lame "villain" - or lack of any coherent villain whatsoever. Not a single interesting Q issued gadget. An awesome car chase scene to open the movie, but then, quickly down hill from there. M's body guard of 6 years turns on her, in an interrogation? Fuel cells that all violently explode? (a hollow volcano is more believable, seriously). No witty dialogue, just a bunch of barely audible growls. Daniel Craig is one of my (and Dr Desert Flower's) least favorite Bonds. Albert R Broccoli is sorely missed.

Star Trek (2009)
Awesome movie. Disbelief was immediately suspended, with a mournful sigh for a vintage vette. The Iowa Federation Base was green screened onto the Calpine's Pastoria S.CA site with a bank of three GE 7FA+E Gas Turbines. Hilarious lines, well delivered. A story line that made some sense with more singularities than "A Brief History of Time". I still don't understand the physics of instantaneous warp speed acceleration and deceleration... but it doesn't matter, it was a fun ride. My buddy Ron has a nice posting on it here, with beaucoup de comments.

Terminator Salvation
I loved Terminator I. I even had all of Arnuld's lines on a 3 x 5 card back in college. Terminator II was OK. Terminator III, shear stupidity. Salvation (IV) was laughable, ridiculous, a big let down to this engineer. It was more of a poor hybrid combination of Footloose & Tremors. How could I suspend disbelief for Star Trek, but be so sorely disappointed about Terminator IV? Terminator IV is supposed to start in 2003, and end in 2018, so, therefore, (stop reading here, if you don't want me to spoil it for you)
- how does a man killed by lethal injection have any usable vital organs left to be recycled by Skynet?
- how do Vietnam era Hueys, that are not electro magnetically shielded, survive after a nuclear holocaust that Skynet launches? Or after the large blast in the first 20 minutes of the movie?
- why is it worth wasting a precious Huey to chase one escapee from the "resistance's" CA head quarters? There's a limited supply of post apocalyptic army surplus hardware.
- why do "The Machines" hone in so quickly to "music", but they can't detect the whine of an A10's high bypass jet engine that they don't control, or a Huey, that they don't fly, or any of a dozen other audible signals? Mighty convenient for a shaky, poorly conceived plot.
- why, at the Terminator Factory, are there not more terminator guards walking around? Really, they have One Naked Arnuld prototype? And that's the only one who can try and thwart humans who try and infiltrate the massive complex? One? Really? Not 1/2 a dozen, or hundreds, but one? And why would any access door use a keypad? Really.. a keypad... for robots? Robots who can do instant and precise facial recognition, and who can see through individuals to their internal organs, have to use keypads to get through doors? And there's no motion sensors, or automated surveillance watching Skynet's vast campus? LOL!
- Are 440V 0-ga wires really effective to jump starting a human heart, especially one surrounded by a great deal of metal? Are those same 0-ga wires so easily "ripped out" of a 6 axis robot's power supply? "The Machines" sure must've had some terrible electrical contractors do their wiring.
- a software / AI research center, immediately adjacent to the Terminator assembly line... ok.. I could by that... but a casting facility co-located? Ferris, Brancato and McG have obviously never been to an actual foundry... or stayed for more than 5 minutes. Laughable. Casting facilities are filthy, or they are not running. It is the nature of the process. And having a molten pour of 3000 degree metal, within about 10 feet of a prone John Connor, it's Connor's skin and flesh that would have spontaneously combusted, not just annoyed Arnuld.
- why does "the Resistance" have Soviet RPG7s? yeah, they look more formidable than a compact LAW Rocket's profile... but seriously... wtf?
- Kirk's pregnant wife on a start ship in the 24th century is believable, but Connor's pregnant wife, flying into Skynet to rescue him, and THEN performing a heart transplant at a field hospital, without regards for transplant rejection? LMFAO! Yeah, right.
The last 20 minutes of the movie, with story boarding stolen directly from 1983, pathetic blow for telegraphed blow, had me laughing hysterically. It was no "homage" or "nod" to earlier, better Terminator movies, it was a joke. What a waste of $14. Awesome special effects, sometimes. I give it a C- as an over-all effort.

Body of Lies (DVD)
Leonardo gets the crap beaten out of him several times, so I liked it right away. Yes, Leo is a good actor, but I do like it when heart throbs get severely injured, maimed even. He did a very good job in Arabic as well, from my non-fluent perspective. It was very believable, in most places. Very good movie, in my opinion, but that's just me.

Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, authors
Very interesting book about a true American Patriot who fights terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan by building schools, mostly for girls, and women's centers, and health centers, in some of the most remote and inhospitable parts of the world. The phrase "many Americans came here and promised us things, but you are the only one who has come back and fulfilled his promise" runs throughout the book. Amazing personal insights, maps, colloquialisms, cultural customs, perspectives are presented. I liked it so much, I bought Taliban and Descent Into Chaos - which Mortenson references often - before I finished the book Sunday morning. Highly recommended, if you are at all curious to read about the region that Umerika's been at war with for the last 6 years, and how our heavy handed methods are completely missing the point, and wasting obscene sums of US tax payer's money.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wolframalpha, I'm Unconvinced

Wolframalpha is supposed to be this new, wow, awesome calculator. I'm unconvinced. The data it draws from is very incomplete. 210 million English Speakers in the US? Really? 90 million US residents don't speak English? Says who? Can't tell me how many people are diagnosed with type II diabetes by country, but only wants to give me mortality rates? Oh well.

It DOES do a few cool things, mathematically. I never would have gotten a D in Calc III in 1985 at RHIT if I had this calculator. Differential Equations II would have been alot easier with this library. Kids now a days have things so much better, educationally, in so many ways than I did (remember microfiche?!? And 5-1/4 floppy disks that held a whole 512K??)

Mortgage monthly payments are easily / quickly calculated.

So it's good for some things I guess. Also, very repulsively egotistical that it's not named after Tungsten, but rather, after inventor Stephen Wolfram. Ugh.

Hot Chicks with Douchebags

Friday Funnies: Hot Chicks with Douchebags

Not just a tip of the hat, but a gift of the whole hat to Matt for this gem. I have not laughed this hard all week!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Robert Gibbs, is Great!

I was not so sure about "uhhh... uhhh.. uhhh" somewhat smug White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs previously, but today... LOL... he cracked me up! He's talking to 'MEE-shell' Norris on an NPR interview, and Gibbs says "today he showed that he is Not the decider. " Beautiful! Then.. he followed later with "it appears former VP Cheney is having an argument with others who have left office" - there's no transcript yet published. But it made me smile. =)

Cheney, our National Hero

Classic Colbert. Beautifully delivered.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

6 Brave Senators

6 Brave Senators

90 Fools

3 Cowards (or 2 cowards, and one infirmed)

""The American people don't want these men walking the streets of America's neighborhoods," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday." What an idiot! Like ANY Federal judge would actually allow a dangerous and violent prisoner out.

Our prison system is good enough to securely house Charles Manson without him escaping (as well as Jose Padilla, Richard Reid, Omar Abdel-Rahman, "Christian" terrorist Eric Rudolph).

What a bunch of spineless sheep the members of the US Senate are!

Big Sky Prisoners

why not send Gitmo prisoners to Hardin Montana? The town wants them. Every time I hear someone saying some NIMBY "not here" phrase, they should contact Greg Smith. He wants the worst of the worst. It's been 4 weeks since NPR reported this, and I've heard nothing since.

ASU geniuses

Borat had the University of South Carolina racist ignorant frat boys, unscripted, making fools of themselves on camera. The Daily Show's Jason Jones has clueless ASU students. I'm so proud to have lived in both states! I meant to post this last week, after it first aired, but I have been buried in other work.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More Delusional Scientists - "stunning fossil"? Oh Please!

Don't these silly scientists know that the earth is 6000 years old? A "stunning fossil find"? How ridiculous! All this mumbo jumbo about "missing links" (Darwinius masillae) and 47 million years old... Yahweh hadn't even thought of creating the Heavens and the Earth that far back. The "missing link" these scientists keep overlooking, is simply this: if it's in The Bible, it's real and true. If it's not The Bible, then it's Satan's work trying to confuse and mislead.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Parental Hawk Bringing Home Dinner

I've always had an affinity for apex predators. I'm trying to live my life not killing or eating one of them, on purpose - but I do think it is immensely cool to watch apex predators in action. On a hike in the Phoenix Mountains last January, I watched with amazement as a pair of falcons defended their nest against a young interloping male. My friend Jason captured this amazing picture of a red tail hawk at a cliff he camped near last weekend on the Mogollon Rim - me thinks the Hawk was making sure the large nearly hairless ape above his nest was not going to molest the avian homestead by the look in the eye of the hawk.

I hear that the movie Earth follows apex predator cats and bears as well - which I am sure Dr Desert Flower and I will go see sometime soon - I just don't want to listen to other peoples' screaming children in a theater.

Flip-Flopping Opacity

Can someone tell me why President Obama is starting to morph into his predecessor?
April 24th, Pentagon announces abused prisoner photos will be released.
Then today... Obama reverses that statement, in a direct violation of the ruling of the 2nd circuit court of appeals, stating they would be embarrassing.

I do understand wanting to prevent riots, and kidnappings, and inflaming fundamentalist hatred... but dammit... why say you would, and then reverse it?

And this is not an isolated incident of symptoms revealing a lack of cluefulness and consistency. Air Force 1 fly overs. Tax dodging nominees. Relabeling terrorism as "Man made disasters". Serious discussion of taxing employer provided health benefits (something McShame originally embraced and Obama poo-poo'ed on the campaign trail).

Has the Obama administration bitten off more than it can chew? I am beginning to wonder. Yes, it is MUCH better than the clueless, evangelical, uncurious, anti-Science, inept, nationalistic, hubris filled W administration... so far... but the Obama adminstration is starting to make some pretty dumb calls. I just hope this is a small string of anomolies, and not a new trend of reversals & incompetence.

Oh - and for the hardcore Republicans who visit this blog, I heard about Obama's latest reversal on that right wing biased advocacy show Rachel Maddow this evening, as I ate dinner. So much for that "vast left wing conspiracy" that Faux News imagines it's up against.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

College of Charleston - Graduation Closing Music

On Saturday morning, as the 2 hour College of Charleston graduation ceremony concluded, the college president stated that the graduates were facing "the toughest job market in years" and while colleges around the country would be playing 18th century music as the recessional music, they wanted to play something more inspiring and unique here instead.
First they played The Charleston. Okay, corny... but humourous.
Then, they played some happy happy Diane Ross-esque song "I'm comin up" lyrical refrain.
But as the graduates were 1/2 way done filing off the stage, they played Iron Butterfly's In A Gadda Da Vida - LMAO! It was strange.

A hot, humid, sultry Charleston morning. It was very nice to get the whole grandparent gathering behind us. 3 days on the beach were nice as well. Back to Phoenix this afternoon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

President Obama Delivers Well Written Comedy

The White House Correspondence Dinner saturday night, if you've not seen it already, was pretty hilarious. I don't know who wrote President Obama's stuff, but it was very funny. Video here. It's nice when the President can poke fun at himself, as well as the obvious targets.

This is the same dinner, where Colbert repeatedly skewered W in 2006 and few people laughed at the dinner who were witnessing the pummeling - I laughed uproariously, but I did so from the safety and comfort of my own home.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Traitorous Obama Continues Bush's Support of Terrorist Organizations

My Uncle Joe has a crazy neighbor, named "Schneider" who is reminiscent of the Army-Navy surplus store owner Maynard from Pulp Fiction. Schneider sends my Uncle all sorts of articles about how Obama is gonna git yer guns! Obama is a socialist! Obama is a Nazi, etc. I laughed heartily when I saw this rabid criticism of how Obama supports Hamas, and Gaza refugees who all support Hamas, and how he really is a secret Muslim - afterall, it's in the Federal Register!! So I searched the Federal Registry, and viola, found that since 2002, Bush supported the same policy. How dare he! Cheney, Bush, Condi, what terrorist supporting Anti-patriots!!! Look at how Bush endangered America, so close after 9-11. Despicable!

Unbiased Facts -

Remember back in 2008 when Republicans kept saying that was grossly left leaning, left financed, left biased, untrustable? It was laughable then, but man, today I check, and more than 1/2 of their recent stories are blasting Democrats and mis-information spouted by Democrats, here, here, and here.

Funny, Democrats haven't tried to criticize the messenger, or downplay the accuracy of an unbiased, third party analysis.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Abstinence Fairy

Dr. Zaius continues to crack me up! Bristol Palin transformed into the Abstinence Fairy! Too damn funny!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Republican Talking Points: Health Care, stay on message!

Politico got a copy of Republican strategist Frank Luntz's 10 talking points, that mouthpieces like Cantor have been parroting yesterday and today. Excellent piece of work promoting the specific language of fear mongering, exaggeration, mis-characterization. Also, very intelligently written with warnings about not opposing Obama, since Americans overwhelmingly support Obama.

The one good idea in Luntz's list, is the perspective of trying to cooperate (secretly), not to outright resist. The crap about Canada and Europe having lower standards of care has been proven to be bogus. The language queues are heavily laden throughout. Talking points like this are never issued by Democrats, and even if they were, the Democrats are so diverse, 1/2 of them would openly criticize and argue with them, instead of marching lock-step behind them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Anti-Science Republican Smack Down

Last Friday, Bill Maher slammed quick creationist and simple minded anti-science Republicans who don't believe in Evolution, as he elaborated on how viruses (like the Swine Flue H1N1-A) EVOLVE to infect new hosts. If you don't believe in Evolution (Texas) then don't ask for, or take, any Tamilflu! Pray it away! Tamiflu - that's for us sinners! LOL!!

Today, while eating my Greek salad for dinner, I watched as Chris Matthews repeatedly hammered "Baghdad is like an Indiana Market in the Spring time" (R) Congressman Mike Pence on his own, and his party's views on Science, Global Warming, Stem Cells, Evolution, Creation... it was relentless and hilarious!

I still do NOT understand why ANY scientist worth His or Her degree, would EVER embrace the Republican party, no matter how terrible their up-bring might have been, or how engrained their opposition to social entitlement programs might be, or how much they love to pretend to drink tea publically... ESPECIALLY when they (and most of their friends) got some Federal and State funding at university when they got their science degrees.

Some things I just will never understand.