Thursday, July 30, 2009

Three men and a Biden

The AP story on Obama having Sgt Crowley and Professor Gates over for a beer and peer mediation session contained this portion that just struck me as pretty funny. (I’m including a screenshot of the story in case they change it later.)


That put me in mind of this great Hollywood production…


(Barack has just learned that NO ONE messes with Joe!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Soldier Demands Apology for Obama-Care

Continuing on the healthcare motif…you’ve got to love this video of a soldier schooling Clair McCaskill on the meaning of her duty to the Constitution – courtesy of RealClearPolitics.

Of course, Ms. McCaskill wasn’t actually at this town hall to my knowledge, but a brilliant statement nonetheless.

Monday, July 27, 2009

…and among these are life, liberty, and insurance…

Sorry I haven’t posted for quite a while. Work and summer time fun have been taking an unfair share of my time.

declaration I was thinking about insurance. In an effort to identify common ground, I think any rational person would have to admit that it is unfair that an insurance company can charge exorbitant rates based on pre-existing conditions, charge different rates based on lifestyle choices, age, where you live, and even gender – if you can believe that still goes on in the 21st century.
Then, heaven forbid you need to make a claim. Then you’ll have to deal with sky-high deductibles and confront an insurance agency that wants to steer you to their preferred network of providers.
And the more you need them, the more likely they are to jack up their rates or drop you entirely.

Maybe insurance really is a basic right. Maybe there should be a publicly funded option.

You’ve heard all this before, I know. But in my case, I’m talking about car insurance.
That’s right. Remember what it was like to buy insurance as a young, unmarried male? And if you have had an accident in the past you may need to sell a couple vital organs when the bill comes due.

Seen from the point of view of the insurance company though, they’ve got years of data that backs up the fact that a young man  driving a Nissan 350zx or a Mustang is more likely to get in anMUSTANG_HIGH accident than a 40 year old married woman driving a Honda Odyssey. And they have equal stacks of data that tell them that it costs more to fix a door ding on a Bentley than a smashed up Celica.

And if you don’t like their service, you can move from Progressive to Geico (as we did some years ago). If you want a local agent that covers all your insurance needs, feel free to pick State Farm.

I hope to most people, the idea of national car insurance seems ridiculous. But, really, is it any more ridiculous than national health insurance?
Some would say that medical care is a basic human right. After all, the Declaration of Independence says “life” is an inalienable right. But it says the same about “the pursuit of happiness”. Despite decades of light-rail dreaming from social engineers and city planners, a car is the gateway drug to the pursuit of happiness in America.

Most people value the fact that we can pick a company, coverage, deductibles and payment terms that suit our car insurance needs. Why would we accept less from our medical insurance choices?
Some of you may remember when you could buy a so called “major medical” insurance policy. That is, a policy with a high deductible and affordable rates that was really intended to kick in to cover very significant medical bills. This was a great choice for young people who were generally healthy but wanted a degree of insurance protection. In most states, this type of policy has gone by the wayside as states have placed heavy requirements on insurers.
For example, here are the Mandated Benefits as dictated by Washington State and Federal Law. Note that mammograms are covered, as is chiropractic care and prenatal screening. I’m sure this is a great comfort to any young single man who thinks chiropractors are nuts. And yet, there is no provision (as near as I can tell) for changing benefits or rates based on gender or other such factors.

We don’t need more government intervention in health care.
What we need is more choice and more market forces. And the ability to charge rates corresponding to the projected consumption of services. If choice is good enough for your car, isn’t it good enough for your health?

Liberty…so easy a caveman could do it. (and another of those inalienable rights, by the way)

Some resources for the health care debate:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

6 credits - the easy way

Yes, yes...I'm still working on my Bachelor's.
I'm trying to wind it up quickly though and so I found a couple tests that would count toward some missing upper division credits in social science and electives.

I just took and passed the DSST test "The Civil War and Reconstruction".

Minimum passing was 47. I got 66.
Took about an hour and cost $80 but that is way better than taking a class for a couple months and spending $1500!

The questions are pretty detailed. Not just the major battles and policies, but many questions about relatively minor points.

For prep I used my high school AP History book (The American Nation by the late John book ever) and Ken Burns' PBS series. If you could do just one thing, I think watching the 11 hours of the Burns series would give you what you need to pass the test. There were some questions that were direct quotes.
(Side note, I just discovered that Garraty passed away in December 2007. That's too bad. Stephen Ambrose and then John Garraty - truly a pair of outstanding historians.)

I will say you should be cautious about some of the prep materials out on the web for this test. I looked at some and there were some wrong answers on some of the questions. If this were an area I didn't know as well as I do, I probably wouldn't have known that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Top 5: Replacements for Waterboarding

In this kinder and gentler era of dealing more politely with people ignorant savages who would like to kill us all, I thought I’d take a moment to suggest a few practical replacements now that waterboarding is passe.

5. An HGTV House Hunters International marathon
4. Four words: Middle-Seat, Full-Flight.
3. Sleeping in a hotel bed without untucking the sheet around your feet.
2. Taking a toddler on a “Father-and-Sons” campout.

…and the number one replacement for waterboarding…

1. Spending a night in a flannel-lined sleeping bag while wearing jeans.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My first finalized patent - #7548895

inventor Well, I guess I’m officially an inventor now. :-)

I’ve got several applications pending, all related to my work at Microsoft, but this is the first patent that has made it all the way through the process.

It’s called Communication Prompted User Assistance and you can take a look at the patent documents. If you want to see the full patent with diagrams, you need to create a free account, but here’s the cover page:


So the idea here is that when you are talking on the phone and you say something like, “Yeah, I need to schedule a follow-up meeting with Bob on Thursday and send out the project plan.”
This mechanism would be “listening in” on your conversation and then when you hang up, your phone would ring again and when you answer, it would be your phone asking, “Would you like to schedule a meeting with Bob?”
When you say, “Yes”, the voice would respond, “You don’t have any time on Thursday, but you are free 1-2pm on Friday. Would you like to schedule a meeting with Bob at 1pm on Friday?”
After that, it asks you if you’d like to add a reminder to send out the project plan. And so on…