Friday, September 30, 2016

Neighbours LBC 9/30/2016

Ramana suggested this weeks topic - Neighbours.

Times certainly have  changed. In 1959 when we moved from Colorado to Hayward, California we moved into a brand new housing development. All new homes with largely first time homeowners, just a bunch of newly constructed homes in a sea of dirt. That all changed immediately. Groups of neighbors banded together to build fences, patios and such. Friendships were struck and a community established. I was the  neighborhood baby sitter. The dads played football in the street with the kids. The Jewish family across the street became an extension of our family - Len and Elaine were second parents to my sister, brother and I.Their second oldest son Russ is a Facebook friend of mine and their cousin Stuart - who spent  summers with them is one of my very best friends to this day. As an aside whenever you use your cell phone you owe a debt to Stu and his team at Bell Labs as they were essential in developing the switching systems employed in cell networks. When my infant brother Pat passed away it was a neighbor that came to my JHunior High School to break the news and take me home.

In 1975 Lynn was offered a chance to take a position setting up a New England regional office for her company so off we went on what we expected to be a great adventure. Alas - New England was not particularly open to a couple of North Californians outside of the office. Were it not for her cousins in Middletown CT. our social life would have been non existent. That did not improve for seven months or so when I talked my way into a tryout on a softball team sponsored by the local package (liquor) store. It was amazing how the ability to hit a slow-pitch softball well over 300 feet caused the west coast bias to evaporate.

A year later we  moved back to California (Hermosa Beach) where neighbors were cordial but not overly friendly. Eventually we got back to Northern California where our friend base was and the neighbor issue tended to not matter. 

Texas and North Carolina have been more of the same. Smile and wave but that is it. Until my daughter and her kids moved back in a few months ago the animals and I lived a pleasant but solitary existence. 

I confess  I miss that neighborhood community in Hayward. There was a real "we" spirit about things whereas today's world is a me world. It should surprise no one that Donald Trump is enjoying success in the current  presidential race here - he epitomizes the me folk even though like me he is a Baby Boomer.

 Be sure to see what Ramana has to say on this topic here. 
Pravin's take is here.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Profit Based Healthcare LBC 09/23/2016

This weeks topic was my suggestion. I must confess - any liberal/progressive streak hiding in me tends to rear its head when the subject of healthcare is the topic of discussion. There are many directions this discussion can take but this is just a short blog so I will toss out a few things and let you, dear reader, make up your own mind.

Three out of five personal bankruptcies in the US are the result of  medical bills (2013 study). That is upwards of 643,000 bankruptcies. Check Snopes for details. Look at this chart to compare some popular drug costs internationally -

The difference? Those other countries employ a single-payer system. In the US  single--payer is as offensive a term in the medical industry as is gun control to the IRA.

Funnily enough though - what are Medicare and Medicaid if not single-payer systems? Many  Medicare users are covered by private companies in the form of Medicare Advantage plans (which at minimum offer the same coverage as Medicare and a variety of additional coverages) or employ a Medicare Supplement plan that picks up some of the costs not covered by Medicare Part B (which covers 80% of the  cost of part B services). Advantage and Supplemental plans are offered by private insurance companies. For example, my Advanage plan is with Aetna.  Medicare plan coverage prices are negotiated by the government. Many Advantage plans cost nothing beyond the basic $114 monthly fee automatically deducted for Medicare B that is automatically deducted (as mine).

The fear/contempt of single-payer systems here is what led directly to the abomination known as Obamacare - which is failing and fading fast if many of the media reports are to be believed. 

So what is the point of this statistical mish mash?  I am a proponent of a single-payer system. There will always be demand for private healthcare - the rich folk will always want their exclusive care providers. They simply will NEVER accept being limited to the same providers as the masses. I frankly could care less - the discrepancy in what those people can afford compared to the average citizen is directly proportionate to the income discrepancy. 

The government "death panel" argument (remember Sarah Palin?) forgot to mention that the current "death panels" now are for-profit insurance companies and their actuarial staffs. Just what you want - coverage wholly dependent upon profitability, yes indeed.

The hurdles ahead are numerous and difficult. The VA crisis of the past several years - decades in the making IMO - fuels the opponents of single-payer. Mismanagement is no stranger to any healthcare system but it borders on criminal when it involves those who sacrifice all to protect our way of life. But the problems are fixable. 

Interestingly enough I have never experienced any  major issues with our healthcare system save one. I have a fatty tumor on my neck and my RadioShack insurance refused to cover its removal. The insurance company said it was cosmetic only and so not covered. Guess I missed the ugly rider on the policy but what the heck - what else are beards for. But even through the 10 years Lynn struggled with HD we had no issues. We were very lucky. Of course HD is not a very Dr intensive disease - since it is incurable we basically experimented with drug combinations to control the symptoms as well as we could. She was covered by Medicare for 9 of the 10 years.

Its an election year and change s in the wind. Here's hoping it hits our healthcare system. IMHO profit should never prevent someone from  receiving health care and we absolutely need to care for the mentally ill betterif it is even possible to call what we currently provide care.

That's a very quick look at this weeks topic. Check Ramana's take here. Check Pravin's blog here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

How Do You Identify Your Mojo?

Pravin offered this weeks topic. Lets begin by trying to define mojo

Merriam-Webster says mojo is: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc..

With that definition as a starting point for this exercise, I suppose it behooves me to define my own mojo. Frankly it is not something I have ever spent much time worrying about, sculpting or in any way considered important. Taking a SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess) I think my mojo is centered around affability and honesty. 

Being a big guy, I have usually attempted to be anything but intimidating in interactions with others - unless in a debate/argument scenario or in sports.. Even then, I try to be straight forward and matter of fact, usually trying to win with facts. (Of course I have been taught techniques to use in a debate to win and have on occasion used them.) And sports? Lets just say I am naturally competitive in some ways and physically gifted enough to do fairly well.

Does my mojo work? I was an excellent salesman - even though  I hated every minute of the job.  My dumb-jock persona served me  well over the years. It fit in with my inherent shyness and allowed me to pick and choose my moments to be less than (more than?) the big, friendly quiet guy. In high school I always tried to be anything but that Big Man on Campus  type jock that intimidated the nerdy kids - in fact when called on to pick teams in PE  I typically picked the nerdy kids first. Looking back,I suppose that fueled  my mojo then - but it was not   a conscious thing.

Am I successful? That is a good question.  My core group of friends has remained relatively constant for over 50 years. It includes a dentist, an airline pilot, a park ranger, an architect and a successful medical supplies entrepreneur.  Compared  to them I have to say I have not been successful. I grew up primarily bored and other than baseball never developed a passion for anything as they all did. And we all know the passion for baseball did not work out. But - I have 2 kids and 5 grand kids. Lynn and I were together for 45 years until that "til death do us part" clause kicked in and she passed away. I take that to mean I got a few things right and had my mojo working on most if not all cylinders in that regard. So does that success identify my mojo? Dunno. If financial success is the key to your definition then I suspect not.  Lucky for me, I have always had enough financial success to get by - regardless how much money I made.

So has this week's topic's question been answered?  I am a big, friendly fellow of above average intelligence with a few very loyal friends and a somewhat dysfunctional family and I never got rich. Is that mojo or misfortune? You make the call as I am really like Popeye - I am what I am and that's all what I am.

Check out my LBC cohorts take on this weeks topic at these links - Ramana and  Pravin.

See ya next week, same bat time; same bat channel.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Domestic Chores LBC 09/09/2016

Ramana suggested this weeks topic. 

How are domestic chores divided up in your household? Traditionally there are chores that typically are handled  by men and others by women. Men tend to be the fixers and yard workers, women handle cooking and cleaning. That's how the division worked in my home when I was a kid. My mom was a branch  manager of  a Savings and Loan company and always worked. My dad was a retail manager.  As the oldest of three kids, by ten years, I was the chief assistant. I did dishes daily, mowed the lawn weekly.  

In Lynn and my household Lynn was not a good cook so I handled that. She cleaned (did dishes).  Lynn was a fixer in the house - me outside. I did yard work, she hung wallpaper and fixed things that needed fixing. When we did minor renovations we did  them together. We painted a house both inside and out - along with the assistance and direction of my step dad - definitely a qualified DIYer. Infinitely more qualified than Lynn or I (he was a carpet layer and hotel engineer by trade).

My point in all this is simple. The only rule that is important in dealing with domestic chores is that as long as the work is evenly divided, who does what is largely irrelevant. Whatever works for your situation is what you should go with.  When we lived in Connecticut and Lynn spent a lot of time on the road I handled most of the chores. We lived in a condo so there was no yard work When I managed RadioShack stores and worked six days per week Lynn did more.  It never mattered to me who did what and Lynn often said I was the least chauvinistic person she had ever known.

Running a household is a partnership and the division of duties should be whatever works best for the partners in the endeavor. When I first  moved to NC it all fell on me. Now, with three teenagers under the roof  my percentage of the chores have  been severely reduced save one. I still pay for everything. LOL.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Purpose of Life LBC 09/02/2016

This weeks topic comes from our occasional contributor Pravin. Pavin is a very serious, thoughtful young man so it is no surprise his suggestion would be one requiring serious thought.

I'm going with this definition:

 "Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations"

I believe it  covers most, if  not all of the bases.  I am  also quite sure many of my friends and acquaintances will not agree with me.

I have friends and acquaintances representing many religious ilks and I am sure a fair number of them think a life without fear of god cannot be a  purposeful life. Those with an Eastern philosophy driving their beliefs reject fear-based beliefs but they place other conditions on life and its purpose.

Me? I suppose I am  something of a hybrid. I have never been able to reconcile a loving god with one who supposedly  creates a flawed being -m aka us -  allegedly offers free will but then says if you do not do exactly what I say you will not make it to the other side. I am told that is what faith is all about. My friends  Dave and Lyn are both fine folks  Dave even goes as far as saying he hates religion. On this he and I are in agreement - religion is people based for the most part. Dave simply says read and follow the bible. The purpose of life then is simply  living a godly life by following the teachings of Jesus in the bible. Dave is most sincere in his beliefs and they do work well for him. Now Lyn and I have not had many discussions on this matter but she is quite religious. Her concern for me and  my soul are heartfelt and honest. 

There are a few folks that simply will no longer interact with me as to them I am simply an atheist.. Oh well. I'll have to muddle through the remainder of my life sans a few faux friends.

I appreciate Dave and Lyn's concern but I simply cannot accept the premise of their faith. I am more in the Thomas Jefferson school. Take away the magic and Jesus leaves a powerful footprint for a moral life based upon his teachings and the way he lived his life. Dave simply thinks Jefferson got it wrong. I am not so sure. I have said several times in the past that I fall into this category:

As luck would have  it, I am at an age where the term circling the drain is appropriate. That would seem to make it imperative that I come to a decision sooner rather than later but  I will not simply say OK - I will be a believer. That is a lie I will not offer. So to me the purpose of life will remain
 "Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations".

Check  Ramana's take on this weeks topic here. Pravin's blog can be found  at this link - Pravin.