Sunday, October 2, 2016

Physician-Assisted Suicide and "Of Sound Mind"

I'm right now listening to a story about doctor-assisted suicide streaming on BBC News. Serious question ahead, but first some background.

All the doctors they're interviewing seem to agree across the board that a) the patient must be "old" (to paraphrase), and b) "of sound mind."

That latter point totally begs the question ... if one suffers from severe, clinical depression and, combined with other life circumstances, chooses death as the only way to end the agony, why would that individual not be afforded the same consideration?

We've all been in dark places at one time or another. Some are permanently changed ... or never come back in any recognizable state.

Why shouldn't modern medicine honor the requests of those people as well? What is the foundation of "sound mind" and how does it apply to similar concepts in modern times so as to justify the continued suffering of the mentally ill versus the physically ill?

School me.

Trump and Taxes 2016

I don't begrudge the guy (you know about whom I write) for being informed enough to legally dodge the U.S. Tax Code. Really ... good for him. 

I'm thankful it's so difficult to do apparently, that *everyone* can't do it.

The problem isn't an Orange one (in case you weren't clear and forgot that Mitt Romney is not currently running); it's the system itself. The Orange one promises to fix it if elected, but ...

a) He has zero credibility regarding any and all of his other promises, sans a few things he could accomplish by Executive Order; 

b) He would have to act through an opposition Congress (regardless of which party is in control ... you think all those millionaires are going to excise all the loopholes? Ha!); 

c) It's entirely in his personal interest to *say* that he'll "fix it" to acquire all the votes, BUT is not at all in his business interest to close opportunities for him to avoid future tax levies ... that's just basic common sense.

I do have concerns about his business interests globally and how, as much as he derides Secretary Clinton's being "in the pocket of Wall Street bankers," he himself could very well be in the pocket of high ranking leaders in countries who might design to influence U.S. foreign policy (purview of POTUS, traditionally) in their favor.

This is something that can't be known without careful analysis of his books and tax returns. And please explain to me, someone, why this isn't a legitimate concern.

Back to the Tax Code, evidence abounds that the Code favors the growing base of poverty in the U.S., the relative destruction of the middle class, the rocketing reserves of the very rich and the growing income gap in general.

How do we change it? 

Voting for any POTUS candidate this time around will not effect such change.

Instead, it takes awareness and education resulting in down-ballot votes for more progressive candidates (on any "side") at the Congressional, state, county and local levels.

With enough encouragement, more will opt to run.

With more in the race, more will succeed and advance up the chain. 

With more success, we have a new movement that can seriously hope to make those changes to the Code that truly benefit us regular folks at a national level.

Such a successful movement might require enough election cycles to comprise a generation or more. Most of my peers and I will not see this come to fruition in our lifetime; but we can spark the movement -- again, on any "side" -- that can be taken up by our children and grandchildren.

Don't believe the POTUS-only hype. 

We can make it happen ... eventually.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The “New” Sprint


If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve possibly read my latest saga with our local telecom giant.

My wife and I had unlimited data for many years. On January 30, Kerstin was finally eligible for an upgrade and could replace that cracked screen she had carried around for 10+ months.

Sprint Framily plan DOA - cell tower
Like the Staff of Sauron every two miles
“You know,” the rep said, “you guys would benefit from a new plan we’re offering.”

While he scrolled back through many months of our data usage numbers and explained that we had never approached 1GB of data in a given month on either line, he never mentioned that the plan (the then-unnamed Framily plan) had data caps at 1GB. We walked out of the store with the new plan with the addition of a Samsung tablet/data plan at a rate of just $10 more per month.

Miraculously, five weeks into the new plan, we began receiving email notifications about either or both of our accounts approaching or exceeding the monthly 1GB limit. For a simple $10 more per month (per line), or an extra, mere $480 over the life of the 2-year contract, I was subsequently assured, we could avoid any further overage charges.

Duped is the kindest word I could conjure to describe the situation.

Could this be the culprit?
Given the replacement of former CEO Dan Hesse – whom I understand through several mutual friends to be a genuinely good, well-meaning guy in and out of the corporate landscape – with Marcelo Claure, I have been keenly tuned into the news of late from the Sprint campus.

The new guy is on a mission to shake things up both within the company and in the market in which he competes. And to his credit, Claure is acting at warp speed relative to incoming CEOs of virtually any other Fortune 5,000 company in the last 100 years.

Claure’s recent experience as a member of Sprint's Board of Directors serves him well in this capacity.

On Monday, the beginning of his second week as Grand Poohbah, he and other C's took the ALS ice-bucket challenge, hosted a somewhat spontaneous BBQ for the ~14,000 campus employees, and started a price war with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. Most of us upon starting a new job are still exploring which floor has the least stale coffee and deciding which pocket of the company-supplied desk organizer will be the lucky one to hold the contents of our complimentary box of paperclips.

Claure also declared the Framily plan dead in the water.

"There will be no more Framily plan," he more or less said, and just like that, those endless agency-produced spots simply vanished from the airwaves leaving more time for other companies to tell me what meds I need to ask my doctor to prescribe for me for conditions I had no idea I had, or that were conditions at all.

Yeast infections sound really bad. Though I haven't had one yet, I should probably ask for hellacoochie difloxinase hyperbieberstatin asperodite by name next time I go in just to be safe. But I digress.

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of my bleeding bank account for which, sadly, there is no Big Pharma remedy.
All about the Benjabytes
We have two smart phones, a vigorously dormant Samsung tablet, and a WI-Fi hotspot which serves me well (mostly) in various coffee shops and chain restaurants where outlets are plentiful.

I asked my overly friendly Sprint rep for details about the new plan options and whether we would be automatically switched out of the Framily fiasco on the day of its apparent demise.

"Oh, the Framily plan still exists for those like you who are on it."

--> needle scraping vinyl <-- br="">

"Well, you'd better be moving us off of that plan today or you’ll lose four current and at least two future lines tomorrow."

Though we "never" came close to 1GB on either mobile phone before the January switch according to several discussions with other Sprint reps in the recent past, my wife and I have been using a combined 5.5-6GB since then (with zero change in our daily usage habits – a topic we explored ad nauseam).
My reaction to death, taxes, war, or dealing with the phone company
The Sprint rep, therefore, recommended moving us to the new plan with a combined 8GB cap for $70/month.

"Seventy bucks," you're thinking. "That sound great! Sign me up!"

Not so fast.

With the Framily plan, we paid approximately $228/month not including taxes and overage fees. With tax alone, that monthly bill was just north of a quarter of a thousand dollars.

Under the new plan, he gave me the following breakdown:
  • $70 for 8GB shared
  • $25 - iPhone line access fee
  • $25 - Galaxy 4 line access fee
  • $10 - Samsung tablet line access fee
  • $20 - WI-Fi hotspot line access fee
  • $13 - Insurance - tablet
  • $11 - Insurance - Galaxy 4
  • $11 - Insurance - iPhone
  • $30 - installment on the Galaxy 4
So, $215 plus taxes and surcharges and mysterious couch-cushion, change-sucking fees. [Clearly, these individual charges are not going to mirror your own bills or pricing plans, but I hope this post delivers enough information for you to accurately apply the appropriate charges to your own experience and get the best deal possible.]

After all of that, we basically negate any overage fees and lower our rate by $14 (rounding).

"That's a start," I say. "Talk to me about the 20GB option."

To keeps it brief, all details above remain the same except:
  1. 20GB shared data costs $100/month ($30 increase)
  2. Only at the 20GB tier, there is a price break on the line access fees for the two cell phones - $15 each instead of $25 each. ($20 decrease)
Net?

We're now saving $4 over what we were paying for the frailed Framily experiment with 10 times the amount of data. This will help as we add a line for the boy and loose the tablet from its heretofore perpetual time out.

Aside from the Sprint rep's probing for and fruitless psychoanalyzing of any major life changes that would have altered our data usage in the last eight months – there were none – it was largely time well spent amidst a time of spending largely.

I just thought this was cute.

So, what has your experience been with the Sprint revolution?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't Ruin Thanksgiving!

[This post responds to several posts and comments I've seen on Facebook in the last 24 hours surrounding the "reality" of Thanksgiving. While the comments and cartoons are in and of themselves incisive and funny in varying degrees, I contend that the protesters are misguided in their application of justice on this one. Here I am responding to one friend in particular whose Facebook post showed a photo of a Native American and a written statement quoted below:

"White men tell the children that their ancestors settled here. When the truth is that they invaded us, they murdered us, and they raped us until we barely existed. Happy Thanksgiving."]



Normally, I would fully support this, Chad. I have a degree in U.S. history and a minor in African and African-American history. I attended graduate school specifically to earn a degree in military history and completed everything but my grad thesis. In all that time, I extensively researched oppressed cultures around the world including slavery in the U.S., European Jews through the first half of the last century, the Northern Ireland cluster, the destabilization of South Africa, and yes, "Native Americans."

I'm not denying the point made, nor am I condoning the circumstances of "the first Thanksgiving." I know the history. We white people tend to suck in hindsight.

What I offer as a counter is this: Particularly in my years on these here social channels, not once -- ever -- have I read anyone's championing of this day as the day we (white folk) took over the continent.

That many of our ancestors did is as indisputable as the tens of millions of Native American lives lost in the process. Though if we wanted to maintain the veneer of full denial, we could blame most of those losses on bacteria and viruses and natural elements like the weather which accelerated their propagation.

What I *have* read (and written) hundreds of times each year in this social world of ours is a collective expression of love and goodwill to all from my hundreds of Facebook friends/family. Further, this is combined with an outpouring of love and appreciation mainly for time spent with family and close friends, and even mourning of those who can't be present for various reasons.

Long story short, the vilification of Thanksgiving is better and more properly reserved for Columbus Day. In our age and presumably for a few generations before us, the day of Thanksgiving is understood to be a time at which we can all come together with our specific gene pools and remember old or make new positive memories.

Let's enjoy this one nonreligious, otherwise socially non-confrontational day for what it has become while knowing all along that it, like many other traditions, was borne out of tragic circumstances and ill-conceived motivations.

I'm proud that my 10-year-old understands that Columbus was a mega douche on a Hitlerian scale. That is reality and not revisionist history. The first Thanksgiving is a fantastic, patriotic hook upon which many children's books, stories, and cartoons are based. We also teach our kids to believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and "God."

Columbus Day celebrates at a national level a specific invader whose legacy begat the destruction of the indigenous people. We've since proven that Vikings landed in North America long before Columbus, yet they apparently didn't introduce the same devastating diseases upon the locals. Why is that, I wonder? I have my theories.

I implore you to please let us have one positive, uncontested holiday which, socially, is already accepted as a coming together of families so strongly that the days preceding it are among the top travel days across the country.

To some, traveling home (or away) for T-Day is perceived as an obligation. As Cinderella sang, you "Don't Know What You Got (Till [sic] It's Gone)." Hate T-Day as you will, but when asked later about missing loved ones, I wager many people would cite memories forged on that fourth Thursday of November as some of the most significant and resilient in terms of family history, tradition, and bonding.

Save the disdain for Columbus Day and leave my annual family/friend feast alone. In fact, let's please change the name to something even simpler: Family Feast. Doesn't that accurately sum up the gist of the intent? I believe it does. And it removes and tragic connections to the past ... for ... one ... day.

Institutionally, we'll all know the history, but in this case alone I argue, let us please accept the day for what it has become. Let this one day be a positive one (disregarding the stereotypical family feuds, of course). And let us thank whomever that we enjoyed the experience or at least have a great story to tell. Okay?

What are your thoughts on this? I'm eager to learn the opinions of my readers.
 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tonight I walked out of the garage and around the corner to toss a bag Into the trash can and passed through the Mother of Charlotte's Parka of spiderwebs. Steeling myself I completed my duty and again rounded the corner wondering upon which pass Charlotte camped out on my neck or shoulder or toe.

As I'm again standing at the mouth of the garage, this time, flailing wildly to rid myself of the arachnid anal sinew I pause to admire the nearly full moon. It's my thing. It's what I do.

To my left, trotting along and coming toward me is a middle-aged fox -- not a baby and not yet(?) a parent. It stops one foot in front of me, looks up, realizes I'm not a light post and bolts across the neighbor's front lawn. In the time it took me to type this I expected that by now a grizzly bear would have pulled up the driveway in a Toyota Corolla, exited, and asked where my next student loan payment is. It's been that kind of night.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Who's your Dunbar now?



Who are your “150”?

Here’s your Tuesday exercise. I read an article in December shared by a friend on Facebook. The author interviewed a medical professional – psychiatrist, psychologist, I no longer recall – about the capacity of the human brain to maintain meaningful relationships with other humans as applied, of course, to online behavior.

The “expert” deduced that our internal computer could handle only 150 significant relationships.

What the expert and the interviewer never specifically cited was the well known Dunbar number. According to Robin Dunbar, you can connect in depth with only 150 people. Apparently, he tested this in apes, mice, roaches and such. The roaches were off the charts! I kid.

Seriously, that a hack would “originally” surmise such a concept well known to professionals in the field of marketing offended me just a smidge. I was inspired however to test the theory unscientifically.

Using Facebook as a playground of sorts, I endeavored to whittle down my then 579 friends into a comfy 150 with whom I have regular or occasionally meaningful contact. Okay, I’m a bit more social than many. I get it. It’s kind of my job. But how many of my social interactions are truly “meaningful”?

I methodically downloaded my Facebook friends list to an Excel spreadsheet. (Two hundred of you are snickering right now. Stop it. I can see you. I know where you live.)

It took a week and five passes:

  • First pass: 329. Easy. Mostly family and people I know in real life (IRL) and hope to interact with amicably from time to time, plus high school friends, recent business associates and potential clients. If you don’t ever post anything or if your content is racist, largely misogynistic or homophobic, welcome to the wayside. The freedom of the web also brings out true colors. I pay attention.
  • Second pass: 296. A thinner version of the first pass. How well do I really know you? Do you ever post meaningful shit on Facebook or elsewhere?
  • Third pass? 248. Now it’s getting tough. You’re a couple and I like you both a lot. But one of you posts regularly about your lives and the other is a ghost. Call this third stage the Spouse Slicer. I know if I keep the active spouse in my list the other, equally cool spouse will likely hear about anything interesting I’ve written. That's a wash in a mildly comforting way. Nevertheless, hard feelings will happen in several cases.
  • Fourth pass: 176. Damn, this was a hard one! Splitting hairs here. Seriously, this phase was challenging, as challenging as finding the favorite five albums with which you’d like to be stranded on an island assuming you had a working, sand-free turntable and unlimited electricity. How well do I really know this person? Can he help me out in the future with a job hook-up? Can she fix my plumbing in case of a major leak? Did he contribute to a major milestone in my life like participating in my billiard binges or teaching me how to jailbreak a Twinkie?
  • Fifth pass: I’m in misery here. Utter, complete misery. I’m cutting out family members and old, lost friends to make room for those interesting personalities embodied by a handful I’ve not yet met. I’m forced to zero focus on those who really stand out based on dedication, loyalty, and personality.

What I learned? As difficult as the whittling was, once I steeled myself to reach the 150 mark, it became suddenly easy to go beyond. As hard as it was to approach 150, it became less challenging to apply the same brutal criteria to reach 136.

Don’t get me wrong. This exercise evoked some serious, if passive, mental anguish. It was an exercise in mental curiosity after all. I had to close the laptop lid and walk away a few times, though. I value the interactions I have, I experience, I create. On Facebook in this case, most of my meaningful interactions occur behind closed doors.

I live in the world of private messages precisely because “the world” doesn’t need to know my every thought. In fact, of the 579, if I’ve never interacted with you by private message or publicly, leave a public comment on my profile. I guarantee it will be fewer than 30 people, most of whom – by their preference – don’t spend time out there anyway.

Bottom line: For the purposes of this exercise, who are your Facebook 150? Who are your IRL 150 (family, friends, coworkers)? Instagam? Pinterest? Twitter?

I thought about these different platforms – and real life – and found the results to differ, as they must. From a purely anthropological perspective, we must adapt to a particular environment to survive socially. With one billion Facebook users, I figured that would be the best place to start.

If you’re reading this, I am happy – honored even – to have known you for some period of time long or short. To each his or her own.

Concluding this experiment, I will send a message out to the list I created based on the final 150. I’d be interested to hear thoughts whether positive or not. And I challenge you to do the same, to create your own Dunbar list. I hope to find a spot on it, but will understand if I don’t.

More than ever, I'm interested in the feedback you'd care to share on this topic in the comments below.

peace

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

Growing up in Illinois and loving history, I developed a strong admiration for Abraham Lincoln as a child.

I wrote an 80-page report on him in 6th grade with proper footnotes and citations, because that's what I do. I read a good chunk of the Lincoln-Douglas debates -- from a worn and musty volume published about this time last century and passed down from my grandfather -- trying to hear Lincoln's voice. I stared at Lincoln's photos stretching my mind to imagine what it was about him that commanded such reverence, from one side at least. More than a handful of Civil War-era courses in college rounded out the formal education.

Still, nothing prepared me for the awesomeness of seeing Daniel Day Lewis on the big screen made up to look like the President, affecting that slight Kentucky twang, and showing just a bit of the angst the real Lincoln must have felt watching his union being torn in two.

It takes quite a bit for me to get lost in a 2-D performance. Lewis as Lincoln was the epitome of right-place-right-time casting. Don't miss it.