Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weather Conditions - no complaints

I'll take weather like this...

Now for Rochester, MN (55901)

Temp: 72F
Feels like: 72F
Mostly Cloudy and Windy
Humidity: 31%
Wind: S at 25 mph
Last Updated: 3/30/10 4:45 PM CDT

For more weather information, visit www.weather.com from your PC or
mobile device.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You can just smell the estrogen

Michael Bublè has taken the stage. The woman swoon and the men...well. Happy birthday honey!!

-- Posted from my cell phone that starts with the i.

The things we do for our wives

For OhCountess' birthday, I got her tickets to Michael Bublè. Here's the warmup act, Natural7. Wow! These guys are talented!!!

More to come!

Not bad seats, eh?

-- Posted from my cell phone that starts with the i.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yet another dudes thoughts on health care reform, Midwest Geek style

I've started a post on this subject and the deleted it so many times. Finding my voice and saying what's on my mind has been so much harder then I ever thought it would be. I have good friends on all sides of this discussion. My self-censoring, biting my tongue was my effort not to strain relationships over this very difficult issue.

Let me preface everything with a disclosure you hopefully already know. I currently work for a very large health care provider. While I'm not a provider of health care services (aka: I'm not a doc, nurse, therapist, etc...) they do sign my paycheck and provide me an opportunity to work. I like that. These thoughts don't reflect my employer, my co-workers, the people that visit here, my wife, or even the guy walking down the street. These are my ideas. Take them as the ramblings of one dude trying to live it right here in the Midwest.

Enough of that.

So what's my take, my spin, my two cents? Well, hopefully it's more like a buck and quarter. I was actually disappointed in the legislation. My liberal friends will be all, "well, duh! It's because you are a conservative," and it wouldn't surprise me of my conservative friends aren't all like, "really? a pinko liberal like you isn't happy?" I'm what you call a moderate libertarian pragmatist. Pigeon hole that biatch.

So what's my beef with this new deal? My biggest beef is we missed a ginormous opportunity here. We could have actually made strides to reform the problems with the health care system. To look at it's failings and strengths and do something truly wonderful.

I know there are people out there, excited for this change. Excited that our government finally did something positive. A good friend of mine, Jennifer over at Poker, Politics & Purpose wrote a piece about some really shady stuff going on in California. Basically, it has to do with laws that shield the insurance companies from the prying eyes of say, their customers. It's some nasty stuff. She's excited for health care reform because it should stop the California health insurance companies from doing this crap. I felt bad she and others have to endure this. She's a single woman, who's self-employed as a writer. I admire her independence.

While I think that's a terrible system there in California, I failed to see why this was a reason to reform our NATION's health care system. I read through that and kept thinking to myself, "why do people live in California? who do they have in their government that allows stupid laws like this to exist? why, oh why have the people of California not revolted and stormed the legislature?" The problem she described wasn't with the insurance companies. Sure, those companies aren't gonna complain about laws like that, but they didn't make them laws. The government did. It's the government's fault they exist and more over, it's the people of California that let their representative government do this. Shift the blame to where it belongs...government.

And yet, we just turned over more of our lives to that entity.

The problem I saw with this whole health care debate was all the evidence, all the research was completely ignored. Emotions were allowed to take over. I've said this here before, it's one of my absolutely favorite questions, "how many anecdotes does it take to prove a point?" (I did a google search on the question, haha, my blog is the only one it returned...) It's a funny question to me, it always makes me chuckle. I laugh easily though. On a more serious note, in formal debate and in the legal system, you can't use an anecdote to prove a point. It's just a story. It's circumstantial and many times, it's emotional.

All the tragic stories in the world, don't prove what's wrong with the health care system. They just muddy the water.

Another friend of mine, Otis at Rapid Eye Reality, shared the story of the birth of his latest child. Otis works in the poker news arena. He's self insured and this story really moved me. The hospital they went to demonstrated everything that's wrong with American business ethics. Those money grubbing scumbags really did go to new lows in screwing over a hard work family in South Carolina. I'd strongly suggest that you follow the link and read the story.It's amazing to what depths a hospital/health care system will go to make a buck.

But while that story drives me to anger, I still don't think it's a reason to prosecute an entire industry. The story reads like any business horror story. If it had been any business doing this, other then a hospital, we'd be reading about how terrible THAT hospital is. What evil, deceitful people work at THAT hospital. We wouldn't just apply that story to a whole industry. We'd find out how common this is. We'd pressure the industry into changing it's practices, heck, we might even send an army of lawyers into their offices and investigate them for fraud.

I work at a different hospital in a different state. The laws are different here. You make a quote in any business, you have to stick to it. It's the law. Let's fix those laws and make sure that everyone has to play by the same ethical business practices that we expect.

The list of bad beat horror stories of our health care system are long. So long, you'd think that no one ever gets good, quality, affordable health care. I also started to notice just how many stories showed a change that we have been experiencing for a long time. Personal responsibility.

On NPR yesterday, I heard the conversation between a show host and two doctors. The doctors were chosen because one was for the new health care reform and the other was against. It was the usual pundit banter. One question really caught my attention. The host asked the guests if they had any personal stories to share about what's wrong with health care (more friggin' anecdotes...geez). The one doctor told the story of his dearly departed mother. She's had been a widow for a while. He checked on her from time to time and had discovered that she wasn't taking all of her medication. When he confronted her about this, she told him she was trying to spread them out because she was worried about the cost. This was his example of why we needed health care reform like the one just passed.

I sat there shocked. (not really, I've heard this before) The reason that we need to force everyone to buy health insurance, to tax everyone that already have it, to take away some benefits from seniors was because this man was too damn cheap to take care of his mother. He expected me, and everyone else to pay her bills. Why doesn't he step up to the plate and pay for her pills? It's his mother!

Health care should never be free because free is an illusion. The old Soviet union had single payer, nationalized health care. The lines were huge and no one wanted to be a doctor. Doctors got paid peanuts. Why do that when you could do something else, make more money, work less hours. One of the dirty little secrets about Medicare/Medicaid is that they are just price fixing schemes designed by the government. Most health care facilities raise their prices for everyone else to make up the difference they are losing because of the Medicare patients.

Here's how that system works. A dude, most likely in a suit, in an office in Washington DC looks at the menu of medical services people get. Next to the description is a box, the column header says, "Amount we will pay providers." He writes a number in that box. When a person goes to the hospital for something on that list, the hospital submits the bill using codes that date back to the 80's and can expect to get paid what that dude wrote in the box. When congress looks to save money on Medicare, they tell that guy in the office to make the numbers smaller in the box. He does that. Hospitals get smaller checks. No one bothers to check what the service really costs. You know, for things like, wages and benefits for the workers, the medicines and supplies. Many things that people have done every day cost more then the reimbursement paid by Medicare. Hospitals do the only thing they can, they raise the prices on everything else for everyone else.

Here in lies my rub with the new legislation. None of this is ever mentioned. Your doctor could totally suck. He might not even be able to treat a simple cut correctly. It doesn't matter, he'll get paid what ever that box the dude wrote in says he should get paid for doing what he did. Why didn't we fix that? Opportunity missed again.

One thing I do know, when people have no skin in the game, they take the game for what ever they can. The part of the system that I never once heard mentioned needing fixing were the people you see in the mirror. We, the people, are our own worst enemies when it comes to creating costs in the medical systems. When people have free (as in beer, to them, again it's really not free) health care, they go to the doctor for EVERYTHING. It used to be, we only went to the doctor when we were actually sick and needed one. Now, we go to the doctor, the doctor tells us we have a virus, like a cold, we demand that he fix it. He says there's nothing he can do, we say sure there is doc, you prescribe a pill to me and I'll come back later for more worthless visits and you can get paid for them too, if you don't I'll go to your competition and you won't get my, I mean my insurance companies, money. Doctor complies.

This may seem small or just a little stupid but it's costing everyone big dollars. That visit cost money, you know, staff, lights, that paper thing on the bed, clean equipment (that's now needing to be cleaned again cuz you touched it)...hopefully you see what I'm talking about. We've just expanded the number of people that will have access to do this to system more. More money wasted.

Again, another topic not touched.

Why didn't we look at what is really driving up cost? It was just assumed that the evil hospitals, greedy doctors and corrupt insurance companies are the root of all evil. We the people can't possibly be the source.

We missed a golden opportunity to actually fix the system. To make it work better. To find the real costs that make this so expensive. We found the scapegoats. We beat them into submission. Truth be damned. Pragmatism, what's that?

I would have loved it if we took the time to really understand the issues. To find the money leaks. I'm sure I missed something, this has been building up in me for weeks, and just now, I puked it onto the keyboard. I'm really hoping that people will understand my point of view. I was hoping to find more research, I had seen somewhere, that the MD Anderson Center in Texas spent more money on research then the entire nation of Canada. I worry that as we move to a single payer system, research will disappear. Much of that research is done here. Nations with single payer systems tend to spend far less and rely on others to do it. I hope we don't head that direction.

I really wanted to know what we spend trying heroic measures to keep our loved ones alive when, in the real world, there's no hope. We spare no expense, do what ever it takes to keep them alive. I have no idea how to fix this, but I have to believe there's a way, we as humans can learn to let go.

I should probably quit rambling. To those I've mentioned here, know this, I respect your opinions very much, I just chose to see them differently.

One more big block of ice removed from my ice jam otherwise known as writers block, out of the way. You feel better, I do?

Thanks to NapWarden at NapWarden Designs for the custom soap box graphics! You're awesome!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things you may not have know

Where does the time go. The writers block continues. I've sat here and started so many posts only to just abandon them. Keep up on reading everyone else's blogs has become increasingly difficult as well. My unread posts in Google Reader is getting ridiculous. Heck, Twitter and Facebook only really get updated now by automatic processes. C'est la vie. Our kids continue to grow and amaze me each and every day. Maybe it's old age (I know, I'm not, just sayin') but my usual time to write was in the evening, but by 9pm, my brain is ready to go into neutral. Zone out to some TV, play a little poker and fall asleep while doin' it.

But I have so much I want to say. I'm still really stuck on the whole health care reform debate. I have a very strong opinion. I know my opinion isn't popular. My reasoning is different from everything most people have heard. Ugh. This is so frustrating. All I hope to do is share my ideas in a way that doesn't immediately piss people off. I'll keep working on it. Hopefully before Sunday's ridiculous vote.

There's another problem I've been suppressing and I'm finding very difficult to talk about. It's something I'm very sensitive about but usually just express with cold, dead silence. I think the only way I'm ever going to talk about is just to lay it out there and let the cards fall where they may.

You may know this, you may not, but I write software for a very large, not-for-profit health care provider. I'm assuming you are all are smart enough to figure this out on your own. Google really does index well. Sigh.

Any ways, this place is, in many ways, a truly amazing place. There's definitely parts of my job that suck. I have to wear a tie and "business formal" every day. I satisfy my inner-rock star and disdain for this by wearing a lot of Jerry Garcia ties. Yo, make me wear a tie and I'll wear one designed by a highly respected hippie.

Writing code all day can be a grind. In my last job, I wrote software for money grubbing scumbags. They weren't all scumbags, but many that I met were definitely soulless people. In this job, I write software that helps cure people of cancer. It's an amazing feeling. I found out that one the projects I did saved 15 minutes on a patient treatment. I can't go into too many details, but that's actually are really good thing for the patient, it also meant we could see one more patient a day. I know there will be some people out there that read this as a money thing. But we look at it as one person potentially cured. You see, no one here gets paid by the patient. We ALL get salaries. The Doctors, nurses, technicians, therapists...everyone. Seeing one more patient just makes us work a little harder for the same pay. I'm sure the foundation makes a bit more, but amazingly, we just keep pouring that money into research....to cure more people.

Like I said. This place amazes me every day. I see miracles. I see hope in people's eyes that had no hope. For many, this place is there last hope. We are the biggest hospital in the middle of the corn field. (Technically, this is one of the biggest medical facilities in the world...besides being located in the middle of a cornfield...but hey).

One of our driving principals is the mission, "The needs of the patient come first." Here, they mean it. There is also a philosophy that every cog in this giant machine is important. From the chief surgeon to the person greeting you at the door to the guy that makes sure the signs are straight, every job is vital to our mission, "The needs of the patient come first". I wish every medical facility was run like this. I'm sure there are stories where someone feels they were wronged by this organization. There are 35,000 employees at this location alone, someone is bound to screw up the mission.

Since I diving into this online world of blogging, I've seen so many good causes and people working really hard to change there part of the world. I've been quite moved by much of it. For the non-poker people reading this, you'd be amazed at just how generous the poker world is. It could be our complete disregard for the value of money and our keen insights into the psychology of people, but what ever it is, the poker world opens up all the time to help people and causes.

And here in lies one of my own personal struggles.

I am a person that absolutely LOVES to help others. Working here has been fantastic. I get to help people every single day. I'd never seen a place give so much back to the world until I came here. There are miracles every where. People from around the world come here for treatments, lots of the for free. We do all kinds of events to raise money/awareness/or just do something. You want to sell raffle tickets for a good cause, they'll be sold in minutes here. When I go for my walks at lunch, you walk past The Ronald McDonald House, The Gift of Life House, and many others I can't remember. These are places that allow patients and families to stay for free or stupidly cheap fees for as long as they need care. In this town, we raise funds all the time.

So, I open up Google reader, and I read about something that just tears me up. It's a story about someone that really needs help. I feel torn inside. I'd love to help, but frankly, I'm tapped out. Some of the people looking for help are people I consider very good Internet friends, aka - invisible Internet friends.

I've tried very hard over the years to do what I can to promote some of these events and causes. I have a platform that will reach some people. I can do that. I'll retweet, post links, but sometimes I feel terribly guilty because I've not sent the check or click the send button in PayPal. I just have to have some limits.

Working here, I've realized that there are just too many people in need for me to help everyone. There are an endless supply of causes that need attention. I'll do as much as I can, but sometimes, people may just need to understand, there's only so much many of us can give.

I don't really know why I'm writing this. I don't really know if people will even understand where I'm coming from. I just thought I'd put it out there, kind of a disclaimer about why, sometimes, I may seem like someone that doesn't care or isn't working hard for some issue. It might be that I'm just booked working on something else. In the end, I really do care. Sometimes, you may just find me be quiet angel in the back. Anonymously giving through an account you don't recognize. I don't want and don't care if I get recognized.

Thanks for reading this far. This one more thing done that I know was blocking up the works. Clear out the clutter and I might just get back to writing more regularly. Now, go out there and give back! Pay it forward! Just Do It! I've got code to write, maybe we can be out of work because we've cured cancer. I could only hope. That unemployment check would absolutely rock. By the way, if this makes absolutely no sense what so ever, yeah, my stream of consciences go like that sometimes. Try living inside this head...yeah...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm feeling the green of my ancestors today. Hopefully the snakes are still gone where you are. And...be careful out there. It's amature night at the bars. These kids have no idea how to drink large quantities of green beer and Irish whiskey!

-- Posted from my cell phone that starts with the i.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I love these seats

Made it to the game. Not a bad view, huh? Let's play hockey!!!

Location:W Kellogg Blvd,St Paul,United States

Let's Play Hockey - Dad's A...

I don't know what it is. but it's been really hard for me to get words on this page. Writers block is a bitch. There's been no lack of ideas just a problem getting the ideas out and satisfactory. Hm.

Today, OhCountess and I are off to the see the Minnesota Wild play some hockey. Should be an awesome time. My bet, I'll be posting random pictures and thoughts while there. It happens.

The pain of showing the kids the video of the Hamster Dance continues. I hope to never make that mistake again. Please. I beg you to follow my advice. Ear worms aren't funny.

Heard in the car yesterday:
As usual, I have no idea how the family conversation started but there we were talking about the Chinese animal associated with our birth year. I'm always a bit touchy about this. Each of our kids proudly told us our animal, they even knew mom's. I get really nervous when we talk about this. You see, I was born in 1969. When we take the kids out for Chinese, those place mats are lots of fun. There's definitely more then one name to call the animal of 1969. The place mat calls the animal a "Cock". Yeah, not exactly what we want our daughter to say, "Yeah, my dad's a cock." Face palm. OhPrincess2 was very proud to say she knew what dad was. I was preparing to get hit with a pot. My face all scrunched up, cringing from hearing my daughter say that word. Here it comes....

"Dad's a hen"

That's better, right?