Wednesday, March 30, 2011

health care

I was telling someone the other day that the reason why this country will never, ever have affordable health care is because for one thing, they are not focusing on the root cause of what prevents us from having it, and for the other thing, even if they did, the "culture" of our country is not conducive to it.

First part: the real cause of why health care is not affordable is because there is too much greed, selfishness and fraud going on in our country. People love to blame to big, faceless, evil corporations that have anything to do with health care, as driving up the costs. They blame the insurance companies, doctors, lawyers, etc. Yet those same folks are out there ripping off the system themselves, cheating on their income taxes, making false claims, etc. In other words, the rotten apples are all over the place, not on one side or the other. We live in a country whose slogan is "me first" and everyone is concerned mainly about their own entitlements.

Second part: The culture of this country is not conducive to making the change needed (i.e., getting rid of the selfishness, greed and fraud) to enable affordable health care for all. You can't do that in a "me first" environment.

In order to do this, you'd have to have a cultural mentality closer to that of Japan. We've seen the pictures and videos of the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and how they patiently wait in line and do not take more than what they need. Contrast that to the conditions in this country after Katrina (or any other disaster) in which there is rioting, looting, people pushing and shoving in line, tons of fraudulent insurance claims, fake charities being created, etc. I'm not saying that everyone in the respective countries is like that, but I think enough of them are so that my characterization is valid.

Heck, just look at how people stampede into stores, even to the point of crushing others to death on Black Friday - and that to save a few bucks on a television set that they don't need. Can you imagine their behavior in a real emergency? Like I said, there are lots of upright, compassionate people in this country who would do the noble and right thing, but unfortunately, also way too many who wouldn't.

And that's why we can't have affordable health care in this country. Our cultural mentality is way off the mark.

Friday, March 25, 2011

even faster

Today I received a notice from Charter that they've made my internet connection even faster, at no charge. Being the skeptical person I am, I tested it via speedtest.net and lo and behold, they were right. I was already getting very fast download speeds but now it is even better. Click on the image for a larger version.


I think that is about 30x faster than the connection at work.. pretty sad, isn't it?


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

it's all relative

The Los Angeles Times had an article today about how residents of Benedict Canyon, an area with lots of wealthy folks with huge estates and mansions, are up in arms about a proposed residence of 85,000 square feet. That's just too darn big, they say, and why would anyone need a house that large?

In all fairness to the owner, whose identity is being kept secret, 85,000 is the total square footage of several buildings, not just one. The main residence will only be about 43,000 feet. Then there will be a 27,000 foot "son's villa," whatever that is, plus a guest house, servant quarters, and a gate house, whatever that is, too.

What I thought was funny (both haha and ironic) was how the entrenched clique, er, current residents, were complaining about the size of the proposed home and why does anyone need such a big house? These folks whose own mansions could swallow up 5 to 10 or more of my house are asking a question like that?

I suppose if I were to ask them that very same question, I'd be told to mind my own beeswax, but really, you've got like 1, 2, maybe 3 or 4 people inhabiting a monstrous mansion and I just have to laugh that they are so offended about someone else coming in with a bigger model. Sure, that bigger model is a lot bigger than their own homes, but hey, big is big. It is like Al Gore criticizing someone because their electricity bill is $25,000 a month.

Don't we have better things to whine about?

Friday, March 18, 2011

goin' down

Back when the episodes were new, first run, The Monkees was one of my favorite shows on the tube; I'd look forward to watching them every week. On the show they lived together in the same house, which is what I thought all groups did when I was younger - like I was quite surprised to find out each of the Beatles lived in his own place.

Watching the show now, I find it pretty corny and actually aside from the music portions it no longer holds my attention.

The other day I ran across a recent CD by Micky Dolenz while browsing through Amazon - King For A Day. I listened to the 30-second track samples and liked what I heard so I ran through them again. Then opened up the Rhapsody music service to see if it was available there, which it was, so I listened to the entire tracks. Then I ended up buying the CD because I thought it was that good.

At the same time I purchased Monkee Business, a biography of the group. I just enjoy reading about stuff from that era. Both items just arrived today so I haven't had a chance to do anything yet but I'm glad I bought them both.

In my younger days we'd discuss who was our favorite Monkee - sort of like how we'd vote on who was better looking - That Girl or the Flying Nun. I think the girls all went for Davy, which none of the guys would ever be caught dead declaring as his favorite; I think Peter and Mike got most of the votes among us guys. Peter, because he just seemed like a nice guy, and Mike because he seemed the most musically talented and he had that look he did with his eyes at the camera. Mickey didn't seem to get mentioned as much. He had a lot of talent, though.

Well, one of my most frequently played 45's in junior high was the flip side of Daydream Believer, a song called Goin' Down which featured Mickey by himself, no vocals from any of the other band members. It was addicting - I'd stand there trying to sing along with it, even though some of the lyrics I couldn't decipher on my cheap record player. I still enjoy listening to it.

The Monkees and those days bring back a lot of good memories. I'm looking forward to reading the book. Meanwhile, here's a video of Goin' Down:





Monday, March 14, 2011

the old days

Being an Amazon Prime member has its advantages. I love the "free" two-day shipping (I realize the that "free" shipping costs $79 a year but for me it is well worth it - I can order something that costs $0.99 and it still comes in two days). And to sweeten the pot, recently they made a large portion of their streaming movie and television catalog available for "free" as another membership benefit.

That latest benefit prompted me to get a Roku box so I could stream those shows to the television, instead of just watching them on a computer.

The Roku box is able to stream popular sites like Amazon, Netflix and HuluPlus. It also streams several lesser-known sites. I looked through the list and selected the "Pub-D-Hub" service, which features old movies, cartoons, tv shows and even commercials and what they call "cautionary films."

That last category, "cautionary films," is pretty interesting. It's a collection of films produced mainly for students that instructs them on the ways of the world - proper moral and ethical behavior, and how to avoid getting into trouble and also avoiding harmful types of people. In other words, subjects that you won't see on NPR.

I watched a few of those today and while they do seem corny by today's standards, there is a lot of truth and wisdom in them. Watching them, I was thinking that this really ought to be common sense but hey, take a look at what our society is like these days - common sense is at a premium. It isn't all that common. Schools are so concerned with test scores and grades and achievements that there is little or no emphasis placed on the morals and ethics. Many administrators ought to take some lessons in those fields since they seem to completely abandon any sort of ethical behavior in the quest to make their institutions look good.

One of my favorite teachers was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson. Often she would sit in front of the class and just talk to us about morals and behaving properly. I always thought this was a welcome change from academics since it meant not having to "study," but it was also interesting hearing what she had to say. She took it very seriously. She didn't preach to us and didn't speak in a condemning or condescending manner; she spoke to us as fellow human beings in society, and in a loving, caring way. That's part of why she was so popular - we all knew she cared about us.

If you ask me, lessons like that were every bit if not more important than going through academic exercises of which maybe 75% would be long forgotten after leaving school.

Back then, there was much more talk about what was "right," and how people should behave, and it wasn't adulterated by all this ridiculous political correctness that has pervaded society for some time now. Contrary to popular belief, there are absolutes in this world.

Yes, the stuff from the "old days" may seem corny but it is corny in the sense of the little angel on your right shoulder being corny. These days, political correctness and "sophistication" are just an excuse to listen to the other little fellow with the horns that is on your left shoulder.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

fascination

I got a new cell phone today. I had a Blackberry through work but am turning it in because it costs about $100 a month and I average less than 5 minutes a month. Some months I don't even use it. I hate using cell phones. I actually don't like phones at all - I don't like calling people and I don't like getting phone calls and I don't like talking on the phone. I much prefer e-mail.

I decided to get the phone from Costco. Actually it is a kiosk within Costco and is not strictly a phone from them but I feel more comfortable dealing with someone who has an affiliation, rather than these cell phone companies that advertise on a paper placemat at a Chinese restaurant.

All I wanted was the cheapest, most basic plan and that is what I ended up with. The phone was free as part of a 2-year contract and it came with all the accessories I needed so I thought that was a good deal.

I asked the guy how often the average person gets a new phone and he told me that they do a booming business - people can't wait to get new phones, even before their contract is up. I think that's crazy. What is the fascination with phones?? Well, I know it isn't really the phone but more the texting, net and social networking aspects of it but it seems like society in general spends way too much time with their head down clicking on a keyboard.

I could never get used to using that little keypad on the Blackberry. Using that is like trying to eat individual kernels of a miniature corn cob.

This new phone is much better suited for me. It is compact (the Blackberry is just too large to carry around comfortably) and easy to use. It flips open so you don't accidentally turn on the phone by pressing the keys when putting the phone in your pocket. It's just baby-bear right for me.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

packed in like sardines

I was watching the news the other night when they showed a Redondo Beach Harbor that had been inundated with dead fish. They were floating on the water and were packed in so tightly that some boats couldn't even move. The pictures shown made it look like a silver carpet - thousands, if not millions of dead fish.

So what happened? Last I heard, the theory was that the previous night's winds were so rough on the water that the sardines got confused. As they were swimming, whoever was leading the pack (or school) took a wrong turn at the breakwater, leading all the fish into the enclosed area. The area was too small and the resulting congestion caused a lack of oxygen and they suffocated.

Yes, I know this is something tragic but I couldn't help but laugh at the images on the screen. Fish look pretty stupid anyway, with those eyes on the side of their heads staring blankly at whatever they are staring at, and to see them floating on top of the water on their side just made it look even more humorous (to me, anyway).

All this because the head fish took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, er, at the breakwater and then everyone followed. I guess part of why I was laughing was because people really aren't too much different from those fish.

And, the fish were sardines so it seemed kind of fitting that they were all jammed together like.. well, like sardines. Maybe they were rehearsing?


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

class action

Today I received a Proof of Claim form pertaining to some class action suit and settlement with Apple, which looks like it was sent to anyone who owned their stock between certain dates from 2001 to 2006.

The total amount of the settlement: $16.5 million. Now how much of that would I receive were I to file a claim? A potential 7 cents per each share I owned.

Yes, 7 cents per share. But wait, there's more! The claim form said that since it is likely not everyone who is entitled to file a claim will do so, then the payout could conceivably exceed 7 cents per share.

Now we're talking. I'm already drooling at the prospect of maybe 25 cents a share.

Given that you have to list out all the details of each stock transaction and include documentation, and given the measly number of shares I must have owned during that time, I'm going to be one of those who don't file a claim and thus someone else can have my 7 cents.

This kind of thing is only worthwhile to super wealthy investors who don't need any more money, or to mutual funds that owned a ton of shares. So let's say those funds file claims - who is it going to benefit? Do you think they will pass the proceeds along to the fundholders? I think not. I think some folks will just get a larger bonus this year.

And how much do the attorneys get who handled this case? $2 million plus $450,000 in expenses. That's a lot more than 7 cents per person. Or hour.

Just another ridiculous thing in life.

The cost of your next Apple product just went up by about 7 cents.