Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday night

Boiled spare ribs tonight. Came out great. Flavored with juniper berries, caraway seeds, celery seeds, garlic powder, peppercorns, salt, seasoned salt, etc. When I go to eat it, I'll add a can of sauerkraut. (My mother used to make this.)

Early tomorrow morning I'm trekking over to the City to write a check for $71.55 so that the plumbing inspector will come back. What a racket. I've been failed twice on the grounds that no one was here when the inspector came. I'll concede the problem yesterday, but some lady at the City told me last week that the first failure was on account of the inspector not getting here due to a bad rain storm--and the people in the condo management office had been here waiting for him and even called me to say he hadn't shown up.

The municipalities are really strapped right now and are sticking people with fees. That's why this simple renovation has been dragging on for over a year now.

Michael Jackson: closet case?

From this story:

He was 29 and at the height of his popularity when he bought the ranch, naming it after the mythical land of Peter Pan, where boys never grow up. There, he surrounded himself with animals, rides and children.

Jackson fled the ranch -- and the country -- after his acquittal on charges that he molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003 at the estate after getting him drunk.

Just because Jackson was acquitted of those charges (and that wasn't the first time he'd got into trouble over this) doesn't mean he didn't do it. I followed the last trial very closely and happen to believe he did. Luckily for Michael, he could afford the millions of dollars to get out of these scrapes.

Despite the fact I found Jackson's "childlikeness" sappy, I can sympathize with wanting to go through life trusting everyone and taking a child's delight in everything. (And apparently Michael Jackson's childhood was all work and no play.) But, unless you're castrated before puberty (as many boy singers used to be), you do grow up to have sexual feelings, and these have to be reckoned with.

I'm afraid Michael Jackson's cultural and familial milieu would never have allowed Michael to come out of the closet as a gay person. Instead he went down the path of molesting male minors. (Maybe if he'd been born 25 years later, things would've been different.)

I feel sorry for Michael that he was never able to grow up. It appears that he spent his whole life running away from who he was--with all the plastic surgeries, prescription drugs, child molestations, etc. I think it's a singularly sad case of a gay person in serious, self-destructive denial.

Tonight I heard on MSNBC that Michael wasn't even the biological father of his children. (It doesn't surprise me.)

Beware of Tylenol

This was the lead story on tonight's news.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday night

Just finished making a big pot split-pea soup. Used a pound of dried peas, two ham steaks cut up, and fresh celery, carrots, onions, garlic, parsley, etc. Used up most of the chicken broth I'd bought for the colonoscopy (1 1/2 qt.). I followed Joy of Cooking and the recipe on the bag of Publix split peas. (Joy starts out with making broth from a turkey carcass.) I used twice as much ham as the Publix recipe called for, so it's really meaty. Came out great!

This morning the plumbing inspector came and the management office didn't respond, so the inspection was failed and I have to go pay the City $71+ before they'll come back here. Next time I'll be here. I got up an hour early this morning so I'd be all showered and dressed and ready for them. They said between 8:15 and 9:00, and I was here waiting. They came shortly after I'd left for work. I'd notified the management office last Friday that the inspector would be here first thing this morning. (The office is supposed to open at 9:00.) I missed them by maybe 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Arizona moves to allow concealed guns in bars

Doesn't sound like such a good idea to me. WaPo story here.

PHOENIX -- There was a time in the Wild West that cowboys had to check their guns before they could pull up a bar stool for a drink - rules that protected against the saloon gunfights that came to define the frontier era in places like Arizona.

But a bill moving through the Arizona Legislature has some bar owners fearful that the state is turning back the clock to the Old West. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow anyone with a concealed-weapons permit to bring a handgun into bars and restaurants serving alcohol.

The bill gives bars discretion to keep gun-toting patrons out, and anyone with a weapon would not be allowed to drink. But the bill has angered bar owners who believe booze and guns are a recipe for disaster.

"This might be one of the stupidest things that I have heard of," said Mike Nelson, who owns Pomeroy's bar in Phoenix and plans to post a sign on his front door outlawing guns in his bar as soon as possible. "Can you think of a single reason guns and alcohol should be intertwined?"

The bill is part of a nationwide push by the National Rifle Association. . . .

What social good does this really serve?

Sunday night

The plumbing inspector is supposed to be here first thing in the a.m. (after 8:00). I'm a little nervous about that. I was going to cook stuff tonight but wanted to leave the kitchen neat for tomorrow. (If I dirty pots, usually I let them soak in the sink overnight and then transfer them to the dishwasher.) Tonight for dinner I had an Angus Third Pounder with bacon and cheese at McDonald's. Pretty good. I also got a couple double Quarter Pounders to take to work. (Quarter Pounders are a better deal pound-wise, but they don't have bacon.)

I hope I'm gone by the time the plumbing inspector comes. The inspectors make me nervous.

I hid the Acer, since there will be strangers here tomorrow. That would be an easy thing to grab. I once had some jewelry stolen by workers. (Not here.)

Watching a Discovery program on the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Terrifying. (It struck in the Gulf of Mexico.) (I knew that.) Hope I don't have bad dreams tonight.

Now watching a new "Renovation Realities," one of my favorites on HGTV. "The Stagers" is on next, my new favorite. (A repeat but still good.)

Republicans Still Dubious About Voting For Senate Health Reform Bill

Via Firedoglake here.

This New York Times article, Little Hope For GOP to Support Health Bill, illustrates the problem with bipartisanship and getting Republican votes. It's like people haven't paid attention to the GOP votes against the stimulus bill, against the ACES bill, and against the S-CHIP bill. Why would they vote for the health bill out of the Senate Finance Committee after showing such a consistent pattern of votes against President Obama's agenda?

And do we really expect them to break form when it comes to health care reform? Not really. And here's a quote from Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina in the NYT article that explains why it's a fool's errand to water down essential legislation for the benefit of a couple of GOP votes, when we might not even get these votes at all.

Asked how many Senate Republicans could sign on to developing Democratic plans, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, author of a Republican alternative, said: “I think right now, none. Zero.” . . .

See here too.

Sunday afternoon

Got up pretty late. It's raining here now and fairly cool. Having a leftover Lime soft taco for lunch. The tacos are $3.50, or you can buy 3 for $9-something, which I did. They're fairly large, but you get a much better deal at Taco Bell.

Had some coffee at Starbucks and then ran some errands.

Contact Sen. Kay Hagan


Just sent this to Kay Hagan

Dear Sen. Hagan,

I trust you will act in a way that best serves the American people in dire need of a responsive health care system and not think first about the interests of the health insurance industry, which so far has not been up to the task. Health costs continue to rise and need to be contained, while millions of people have no health care at all. A public option can improve the performance of the health insurance companies while giving the people a much needed safety net. A vast majority of citizens are counting on this. Thank you for your attention . . . .

Saturday night late

In the Paul Krugman column I referenced below ("Not Enough Audacity"), Krugman begins:

When it comes to domestic policy, there are two Barack Obamas.

On one side there’s Barack the Policy Wonk, whose command of the issues — and ability to explain those issues in plain English — is a joy to behold.

But on the other side there’s Barack the Post-Partisan, who searches for common ground where none exists, and whose negotiations with himself lead to policies that are far too weak.

Both Baracks were on display in the president’s press conference earlier this week. First, Mr. Obama offered a crystal-clear explanation of the case for health care reform, and especially of the case for a public option competing with private insurers. “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal,” he asked, “then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.”

But when asked whether the public option was non-negotiable he waffled, declaring that there are no “lines in the sand.” That evening, Rahm Emanuel met with Democratic senators and told them — well, it’s not clear what he said. Initial reports had him declaring willingness to abandon the public option, but Senator Kent Conrad’s staff later denied that. Still, the impression everyone got was of a White House all too eager to make concessions.

I think, from what I've read, that Obama is convinced of the importance of the "public option" and might even veto a bill that doesn't include it. At this stage of the game, however, he's not going to ruffle any feathers in the Senate.

I hate to say it, but I wish Hillary were doing this now. She already went through this whole thing in the early '90s and learned a thing or two. Meanwhile the stakes today are even higher, both in terms of the number of uninsured and the rate at which medical costs are consuming our national wealth. Obama has to be really tough now, and I don't know whether he has it in him. I certainly hope so. A large majority of Americans are fed up with the status quo and expect their elected government to do something about it. Perpetuating the status quo at this point is not an option.

Saturday night

I was busy tonight. Got tacos and a burrito at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. I tried the habanero sauce on the burrito and it was HOT. It burned my mouth so bad that I couldn't taste the food, so I ended up scraping it off. (Brought some leftovers home.) Afterwards I shopped at the Publix. Spareribs were on sale, so I got some of those and will boil them with caraway seeds, juniper berries, sauerkraut, etc. Also got stuff to make split pea soup, including two ham steaks. (Haven't made that in a while.) I hate throwing rotten celery away, so I bought a little bag of celery sticks. They won't go to waste. (But it's probably cheaper to buy the regular celery and let it rot.)

Was glad to try out the WiFi. I'd never used that before. The strength of the signal was "very low," however, and I wasn't able to download certain stuff. (Above is the Starbucks WiFi screen on Firefox.) (The date is wrong--I thought I changed it.)

Eventually I did figure it all out and no longer needed help from the baristas.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On WiFi at Starbucks now

A barista (female) had to help me.

Saturday afternoon

Went over to Starbucks with the netbook. Well, I won't even bother taking it back over there in the daytime, i.e., if I want to sit outside. It's too bright outside to be able to make out what's on the screen. (I practically had to put it under the table to see what was on it.)

As far as the WiFi goes, I talked to one of the baristas (a male) and he explained how that works. First I had to buy a Starbucks card ($5 minimum), then come back home and register the card on the Starbucks website, then sign up for the WiFi through AT&T and create a login and password. (You need the login and password to get on the WiFi.) I'll go back there tonight and see if I can get on (even though the barista said it takes 24 hours for the registration to process). I already received a confirmation email from AT&T. I've never used WiFi before.

Consumer Reports rates netbooks

(You can click on the chart to enlarge.) I got the Acer with the check mark beside it. That means CU recommends it. Portability is "very good." Ergonomics are "fair." Performance, Versatility and Display are all "good." Speakers are "poor," although I found them to be adequate for my use. (I don't care about the speakers at all.)

Paul Krugman

NYT column here.

[T]hat’s why the public plan is an important part of reform: it would help keep costs down through a combination of low overhead and bargaining power. That’s not an abstract hypothesis, it’s a conclusion based on solid experience. Currently, Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance companies, while federal health care programs other than Medicare (which isn’t allowed to bargain over drug prices) pay much less for prescription drugs than non-federal buyers. There’s every reason to believe that a public option could achieve similar savings.

Indeed, the prospects for such savings are precisely what have the opponents of a public plan so terrified. Mr. Obama was right: if they really believed their own rhetoric about government waste and inefficiency, they wouldn’t be so worried that the public option would put private insurers out of business. Behind the boilerplate about big government, rationing and all that lies the real concern: fear that the public plan would succeed.

So Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress have to hang tough — no more gratuitous giveaways in the attempt to sound reasonable. And reform advocates have to keep up the pressure to stay on track. Yes, the perfect is the enemy of the good; but so is the not-good-enough-to-work. Health reform has to be done right.

MoveOn To Target Hagan For Opposing The Public Option

From TPM here.

Just in from MoveOn: ""Given recent comments showing that Senator Hagan is not supporting the public health insurance option, MoveOn.org will be making clear that our 115,000 members in North Carolina--many of whom volunteered for or donated to her campaign last year--believe the public option is the heart of true health care reform. We'll run ads in North Carolina and D.C. asking that she advocate for the public option and support the President in truly solving the nation's health care crisis."

The group did much the same earlier this week to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who has expressed doubts about the feasibility of both the public option and reform in general. The difference--or one of the differences--is that Hagan owes much of her electoral success to grassroots Democrats.


From Digby here.

If Obama doesn't pass serious, systemic health care reform that insures everyone in this country from cradle to grave, this will be what he's remembered for.

Later still

Now that all this information has come out about Michael Jackson's prescription drug use, I'm no longer shocked. Same thing happened to Anna Nicole Smith and probably my friend in Tennessee, who just died at 53 (he had a "pain management" doctor).

A doctor was living with Michael Jackson around the clock.

(I wish I had a doctor living with me.)


I couldn't figure out how to check the battery level on the Acer. There's an Acer User Guide (and a Quick Guide) in PDF accessed through All Programs from the Windows Start button. The User Guide said there was a battery icon on the taskbar. (At this point the computer was still plugged into the wall.) There was no icon, but there was an AC icon in the form of a plug that said "On AC Power". The minute I unplugged the computer from the wall, the plug icon was replaced with a battery icon. Voila! This is not so mysterious.

Now that it's unplugged, it goes right into standby mode when not in use for a minute or so.

I'm glad I got the 10" netbook. My fingers just fit over the keys, with no room to spare. (I can see myself building up some speed eventually.)

Now that the battery icon dilemma has been solved, I can relax. Everything is working as it's supposed to (so far). Knock on wood. I downloaded the Firefox right away, before the malware could start creeping in. (I downloaded it the minute I plugged the Ethernet cable into the netbook--right as Internet Explorer was welcoming me and telling me how great it was). And the anti-virus program was up and running at that point.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Miami priest weds girlfriend in church ceremony

Story here.

Jun 26th, 2009 | MIAMI -- A Miami priest who left the Catholic Church after photos surfaced of him kissing his girlfriend on the beach has married her at an Episcopal church.

The ceremony for 40-year-old Alberto Cutie (KOO'-tee-ay) and 35-year-old Ruhama Canellis was held Friday evening at St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church in North Miami Beach. The two were legally married by a judge in Coral Gables last week.

The priest known as "Father Oprah" was removed from his South Beach parish last month after the photos were first made public. Cutie has said he met Canellis at church, and the two were friends for years before becoming romantically involved.

Cutie gave his first sermon before Episcopalians last month but is not yet an official priest in that religion.

Acer customer review at Consumer Reports Online

Very good little computer

By Tim
from Sonoma, CA on 5/13/2009

160 GB hard drive, Bright screen, Fast start up, Light, Long Battery Life, Priced right, Take anywhere

No optical drive built in, Smaller keyboard

Best Uses:
Internet searches, email, Light work

How long have you owned it:
A month or less

Bottom Line:
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

Got this for my wife. I have the new Macbook Pro with bells and whistles for my work. I was considering getting her a little Macbook, but she doesn't need that much computer (for the $$$). She does mostly Internet searches, insurance claims, Medicare, banking, ordering products, printing recipes, etc. She had a 2001 Dell laptop but it kept dropping her wireless connxj and was SLOW. So that's the comparison. I got her an Acer Aspire One netbook to try. It's been great. Sure, it's limited, but it does a lot. The Intel Atom processor works well and is fast to load from start (which she liked about my Apple.) She can print from it wirelessly. It stays connected. Battery life is MUCH BETTER than my Macbook Pro (5 hrs.+) It has Windows XP Home OS which works fine and allows all the tweaks and adjustments. The screen is bright, crisp, and VERY nice ... it's glossy, but she can use it outside during the day. I'm used to the MBPro screen, but I'd give the Acer screen brightness and crispness a B+. Yes, its small, 10 inches, but workable. Web pages have to be expanded. Hook up an external mouse and it's even easier to use. You can type on it AOK, too. Emails can be typed. You wouldn't want to work on it all day, but in a pinch, you could. I bought an accessory pkg that included the mouse, a nice slipcase, and an optical drive. (It has no built-in CD/DVD drive, of course.) Anyway, I bought it with the idea that she would try it and return it. Wrong. We're very impressed. It's a cool little product for what it does and for the money. I guess you can add another 1 GB RAM but it ships AOK as is. Comes with AC adapter with an adequate cord. Gave it 4 stars cuz its a little netbook, but otherwise no reservations.


OK. Firefox is loaded and the McAffee virus program it came with (60-day trial) is working. Also Outlook Express is configured to work with my BellSouth account. Now I'll just let it charge a while. (It takes 3 hours for a full charge.) Then I'm supposed to unplug the battery from the wall outlet and use the computer till I get a low battery warning, then turn it off and fully recharge the battery again. It keeps a charge for 9 hours, which is the best among the netbooks Consumer Reports tested.

Radio Shack threw in a free anti-virus program (CA Internet Security Suite Plus 2009) which I'll use when the free McAffee expires. Since the Acer has no disk drive, the program came on a memory stick that plugs into a USB port (there are three on the Acer). The cover on the Acer, by the way, is a dark metallic blue. Cool.

Now I can go over to Starbucks with the Acer and surf the web there if I want to, since they have free Wifi there. The computer detects wireless networks on start-up, but there's also a button on the computer to check for them. (I tried to get on some of the wireless networks but I needed a password.) (I had thought N. Miami had Wifi but apparently it doesn't.) (I don't know where I got that idea--maybe just the library has it.)

Speaking of Starbucks, I'm going to get out of here for a while.

Friday night

Bought the Acer at Radio Shack after work today. I'd planned on going to the gym after a nap, but couldn't take a good nap. Too excited about getting the Acer going. First thing I'm going to do is download Firefox. Will have to disconnect Ethernet from here and plug it into the Acer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday night

Farrah Fawcett R.I.P. too. (I hate to say, I was never a fan and never watched, e.g., "Charlie's Angels.") I've thought it's been kind of lugubrious the way they've been documenting her demise on TV and haven't chosen to watch any of that. (It seemed like people were trying to make a profit off her exit, which I just found distasteful and incredibly sad.)

I liked most of Michael Jackson's stuff starting from the time of The Jackson Five, when I collected their songs on 45 rpm records (like "I Want You Back").

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

What the hell happened to Michael Jackson?! (We won't find out until the autopsy results come back.) What a shocker.

Thursday evening

I did some quick research and have decided to get a little netbook computer. Consumer Reports recommended something that costs only $329--an Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165. (Asus netbooks are even smaller and cheaper.) The battery life on the Acer is 9 hours vs. 6.5 and 5.5 for two Asuses that Consumer Reports reviewed. (That would be an important consideration for me.) One of my co-workers just bought a Dell netbook and paid extra for longer battery life. She said she spent around $500 for everything, including a mouse, etc. (I would also get a mouse for it, since I read that the built-in thing is almost useless.)

Here are some reviews of an Asus at Best Buy.

There are also some reviews of the Acer at Consumer Reports online, but you need to be a subscriber there.

The Asuses measure 8.5" wide vs. 10.1" for the Acer. It would be easier to type on the Acer.

Anyway, Radio Shack sells the Acer model at the above price, so I got off the bus on my way home from work to check it out. The clerk said they'd been selling briskly and couldn't find one in stock (and they'd had one stolen today). So they'll get one for me from another store and have it ready for me to pick up at the same time tomorrow. (She took my phone number also.)

BTW, the plumbing inspector lied to Home Depot about coming here on Tuesday and not being able to reach me or anyone else. I talked to the City today and they said there had been a problem with the inspector getting around that day on account of the rain, and that, as a result, he just failed the inspection. He's coming on Monday morning.

Beware the Eviscerated Public Plan

From GoozNews here. (Emphasis added.)

Princeton University's Paul Starr, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Social Transformation of American Medicine,"in recent weeks has been warning fellow progressives that a poorly designed public plan could backfire by becoming a costly dumping ground for the uninsurable near poor and chronically ill. He's now developed those themes in a new article on The American Prospect website. "Private insurers make money today in large part by avoiding people with high medical costs, and in a reformed system they'd love a public plan where they could dump the sick," he writes.

Starr's critique hinges on the use of insurance exchanges, established in every state, to broker access to all health insurance plans including the public option. He warns:

  • What if firms with a young, healthy workforce could buy insurance outside the exchange? That would force any insurer in the exchange, including the public plan, to cover an older and sicker workforce and their families.
  • Since the public plan wouldn't market the way private insurers do, a second level of adverse selection would then take place within the exchange. The public plan would become, in essence, a dumping ground.

"This double jeopardy of adverse selection could then more than nullify the advantage the public plan derives from its lower overhead (as a result of less money going for salaries, profits, and marketing)," he wrote.

Starr repeats what I've said many times in this space. For the public plan to work, Congress will have to regulate the exchanges to mitigate adverse selection. At the least, that requires insurers of high-risk patients to receive risk adjustment payments. Another option is to establish an aggressive government overseer for private insurers to prevent them from avoiding high cost patients. A third way is to tax insurers who cherry-pick healthy customers from the risk pool.

If Congress follows the Senate HELP committee bill and establishes 50 exchanges, how many states would be willing to follow any of those approaches? What would happen to the public plan in those states that allow it to become a dumping ground for the near-poor sick without employer paid health care? "There are a lot of ways to defeat reform, not just by blocking it entirely, but by setting it up for failure," Starr concludes. "Those who think a public plan is a good idea no matter how badly designed are not thinking ahead."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday night

Today was pleasant enough, as far as the weather was concerned and otherwise. Napped after work and then went to the gym after putting a sirloin tip roast in the oven. Later I carved up some of that for tomorrow's lunch. Had a great lunch today, by the way, and not the frozen Stouffer's I'd brought from home (although that's good). A Greek restaurant downtown makes a (meaty) spaghetti Bolognese every Wednesday, so I ordered some of that and a slice of their spinach pie in phyllo. Both were excellent.

Work has been urging me to take a vacation--I guess I need one. I haven't taken a vacation in over two years, and that was just a long weekend with B. to visit my father upstate. I'll try to take the week of Labor Day off and make a trip to Savannah, GA (I'd fly there since I'm not big on driving these days, and it's not a short drive from here). I've never been there and would like to see it. (Plus I'm a fan of Paula Deen's.) (Plus it's gay.) I'll leave the cats here in the apartment--my neighbor and I take care of each other's cats when we go out of town. I'll put down plenty of cat litter so he doesn't have to deal with that chore, what with Bootsy's kidney problems.

Since I'll be traveling alone, maybe I should get a laptop before I go. Or maybe take a vacation from the computer, too.

Tonight on MSNBC it's mostly about Gov. Sanford. Another gay-bashing right-wing hypocrite. (Link includes videos.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feinstein has to get with the program

See story from Brian Beutler here.

Tuesday night

The weather today was completely different. It's actually pleasant outside right now, and I was going to go over to Starbucks for a Wild Sweet Orange tea with honey (to soothe my throat), but the outside lights were out all over the shopping center and it would have been impossible to read. I wasn't going to sit there in the dark like an idiot. (And here I was "all dressed up.")

Madeleine Albright on Rachel Maddow says Obama is doing everything right about Iran. I believe her.

This morning, as I was getting ready to leave the house for the bus stop, a monster thunderstorm was passing through at 35-40 mph. The local news said to wait till 9:15 before venturing out of the house. Meanwhile I put on my waterproof hiking boots and got out a light jacket. When I got downstairs, I could see I wouldn't be able to make it across U.S. 1 to the bus stop without getting drenched (umbrella would definitely have malfunctioned and probably my boots, too). So I decided to wait in the porte-cochere until it slacked off some. I missed my regular bus--I saw it barrelling down the road, empty (it appeared). I caught the next bus and arrived 18 minutes late.

My cold is not getting any worse. I think it is what it's going to be, mostly an annoyance.

Yesterday I never heard back from Home Depot's general contractor about a plumbing inspector coming through today and figured the inspection was postponed. So I was surprised when I got to work and had a phone message from the City saying the inspector would be coming today before 4:00, and if that wasn't convenient to call them back before 2:30. To make a long story short, we were all ready for him, but he never showed. Just as well since I had a few dirty dishes sitting in the sink (which I've since put in the dishwasher after emptying that).

I almost missed a new "Stagers" tonight. It's one with the mother and daughter. Good but I like the ones with Matthew better.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday night

I think this strange weather we're having has shocked my system and caused me to come down with some kind of a cold. Not feeling so great. Coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose. Using Cepacol.

Was bored with Obermann and Rachel Maddow. Mostly about Iran, and we shouldn't be involved in that (i.e., supporting one candidate over another). According to what I heard tonight (including I think from two Iranian scholars living in the U.S.), if the Iranians detect that we are meddling in their affairs, the conservatives there will prevail and nothing will change. Iranians want democracy, but they won't countenance meddling from outside. They've had that from us already and rejected it. That's how they got the anti-American government they have now. Obama's done everything right on this.

Spent time reading up on the Persian language. I studied Sanskrit in college (among other languages). As an Indo-European language somewhat remote from English, modern Persian seems relatively uncomplicated (except that it's written backwards in a modified Arabic script with missing vowels). There is no declining the noun except in the accusative (they have a short particle for that). And apparently they don't have articles (as we have in English, and which in German, e.g., are declined in four cases, and in Greek, I think five). There are no genders (German, Latin, Sanskrit, e.g., have three) (French and Spanish, two). I did see what looked like some cognates with English and other Indo-European languages I've studied.

"Hardball" on now. Obama has to concentrate on health care now. As Chuck Todd said, a large majority of people want a public option as a "safety net." Obama's got to get back on top of it. (He will tomorrow.) Some recalcitrant Democratic Senators have to stop grandstanding and get in tune with the American people and get with the program. This is the single most important thing that Obama and the Democrats in both houses of Congress can get accomplished at this time. (And they'll get the other important stuff done too, like doing something about climate change.)


Poll: Overwhelming Majority Of Americans Support Public Insurance Option

From Brian Beutler at TPM here.

The New York Times sort of buried this over the weekend, but reform advocates have taken note--a vast majority of Americans favor a major overhaul of the U.S. health care system, including the creation of a government-run public insurance option.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector....

The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan -- something like Medicare for those under 65 -- that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

The news has helped to shift the politics back into favorable territory for reformers after a week of bad news had many concerned--however briefly--that the public option was dead in the water. Democrats want a bill ready for President Obama's signature before the August Congressional recess, and the intervening month promises to be full of political whiplash along these lines. More on that in just a bit.

See here too. Paul Krugman here.

Obama Signs Anti-Tobacco Bill, Mentions Own Stuggle

From Jeralyn at TalkLeft here.

President Obama signed the anti-tobacco bill today. He mentioned his own struggle with smoking.

But he didn't say how his own struggle was coming since he moved into the White House. And aides were no more forthcoming.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says Obama "struggles with it every day." An aide says they still pack Nicorette for him.

And though White House aides pack nicotine gum in their jackets to help him resist, they also refuse to give a clear answer to the question of whether the president still sneaks a smoke now and again.

Obama says he was never a heavy smoker, just 5 cigarettes a day.

"I've never been a heavy smoker," Obama told The Chicago Tribune in 2007. "I've quit periodically over the last several years. ... I've been chewing Nicorette strenuously."

Strenous Nicorette chewing and a continual struggle for 5 cigarettes a day? Sounds a little over the top, no? Good for him for addressing the problem, but it sounds to me like he's minimizing the amount he used to smoke.

Monday evening

Maybe I'll go over to Starbucks and get a Mocha Frappuccino. But I really don't want to sit outside in the 90+-degree heat.

Record-breaking temperatures here

"100 degrees in Fort Lauderdale; ties all-time high"

Story here.

A record that was set during World War II -- six decades ago -- was tied Monday as temperatures reached 100 degrees at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and parts of South Florida.

The mark was recorded at 3:35 p.m., tying a record set on July 21, 1942, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

The mark was recorded at 3:35 p.m., tying a record set on July 21, 1942, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

In the coming days, the weather service is predicting a weak cold front moving in, which will bring more seasonable temperatures -- in the lower 90s. Thunderstorms are likely. . . .

Meterologist Gordon Strassberg explained that while many people associate Miami with high temperatures, it is unusual for it to reach the upper 90s.

''It's not like in Texas or Arizona, where they are in drier climates,'' Strassberg said. ``Here most of the time, our highs stay in the low, perhaps mid-90s. The sea breeze helps in the afternoon and also just the fact we're in a very moist and humid climate, we're not in a desert climate.'' . . .

HIV, chemo therapies combine for new AIDS-fighting approach

Sounds complicated. Story here.

Treating HIV/AIDS with a combination of antiviral drugs and chemotherapy seems to destroy both the circulating virus and immune cells in which the virus hides, a team of Canadian and U.S. researchers has found.

In Sunday's online issue of the journal Nature Medicine, Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly of the University of Montreal and his colleagues report finding cells where HIV hides from existing treatments.

Anti-AIDS therapies known as highly active anti-retroviral treatments, or HAART, target the virus's replication process but have been hampered by these reservoirs of immune system cells hiding the virus.

Once HIV becomes hidden in an immune cell, it needs the cell to live. Destroying those immune cells could allow for the hidden parts of the dormant virus that escape from existing HAART treatments to be eliminated.

"For the first time, this study proves that the HIV reservoirs are not due to a lack of potency of the anti-retroviral drugs, but to the virus hiding inside two different types of long-life … immune [memory] cells," Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, a hematologist with the McGill University Health Centre, said in a release.

"There are several types of HIV reservoirs, each necessitating a different treatment to eliminate them." . . .

(My friend in Canada sent me this.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday night

Watching "Real Estate Intervention." (See here.) I saw it last week and liked it. "Renovation Realities" is next (which is basically a comedy show).

Did have a burrito at Lime earlier. The beef was back. The last one I had was a whole lot of lettuce.

Went grocery shopping afterward at the Publix down the way, then back home to do laundry, clean the cat boxes, etc. Talked to my lawyer friend with the schizophrenic BF and the erstwhile paralyzed dog. Dog is doing fine but doesn't like the heat. She sleeps by an A/C vent these days. It didn't rain in Broward today as it did here--it was 100 degrees in Pompano, a couple of blocks north of where my friend lives. That's not a normal temperature for Florida. My friend and I are both Miami natives (and belong to the same church downtown) (although we no longer attend church) and we remember it didn't use to be so hot here. I remember that getting above 90 was rare (a "heat wave"), and now we're above 90 all the time these days in the summer. My friend said it was 96 in Miami today. (He watched the news.) I believe it. When I took the elevator downstairs and went outside to go to Starbucks, I was almost bowled over by the heat and humidity (and then the thunderstorm rolled in, thank goodness). I always welcome the rain here in the summer. It cools the place down.

My friend and I discussed Firefox and he acknowledged it was the industry standard nowadays. I'm very happy with it and my system is running like I have a brand-new computer (and it's 6-7 years old). All that malware is gone. And Firefox is fast and doesn't use a lot of memory. My friend in Canada said my blog comes up more quickly on his system now (he's been using Firefox for a couple of months).

Rationing health care

See Digby here. (See here too.)

Other countries have systems that prioritize health care treatment on the basis of need --- a triage system. We prioritize health care on the basis of who can pay. And in the most perverse form of rationing there is, we make the sickest people have the most difficult time getting access to health care. (The sickest, after all, can't hold down a job, so the employer based system doesn't really work for them, at least not in the long term.)

The idea that the US doesn't ration health care is absurd. We certainly do. We just make people do it to themselves out of economic hardship. I guess that's supposed to be a tribute to our sense of individualism and personal freedom.

Wealthy, Healthy George Will Pretends America’s Health Care System Is Just Fine

From Oxdown Gazette here (includes video).

George Will has decided to bring his and WaPo's destroyed credibility on climate change and arctic ice melting to the health care reform debate. You see, the wealthy, healthy, fully covered George Will has concluded that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with America's wonderfully competitive health care system.

Will apparently believes the current system isn't broken, even though the industry itself admits it is and is scrambling to offer "reforms" to avoid more radical changes. Will adds that if there are minor tweaks that might be helpful, the best way to do that is to make sure government does not force the private insurance system to compete with a public option.

Above all, Will pleads, save us from a government-sponsored health option, even though varieties of successful public health systems exist all over the world, providing universal coverage, equal and/or often better care than the US system and costing only half to (at worst) two thirds of what America pays.

Will fears that if people had the choice of a public plan, they'd choose it because its cost structure is inherently more efficient. In Will's contorted philosophy, that's not fair competition, so the solution is to deny that choice to protect the inefficient. . . .

Report: Violence common among Scientology managers

Full story here.

Jun 21st, 2009 | CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The leader of the Church of Scientology struck his subordinates numerous times and set an example for physical violence among the tightly controlled religion's management team, four former high-ranking executives told a newspaper for a story published Sunday.

The executives who have since left the organization told The St. Petersburg Times that they witnessed David Miscavige, chairman of the board that oversees the church, hit staff members dozens of times, often without warning.

"It was random and whimsical. It could be the look on your face. Or not answering a question quickly. But it always was a punishment," said Mike Rinder, who oversaw the church's legal and media relations operations. Rinder said he was hit many times by Miscavige and that he also hit others before leaving in 2007. . . .

Marty Rathbun, who served on the church's board and was a top lieutenant of Miscavige's, said he was often ordered by Miscavige to attack others.

Tom De Vocht, who for years oversaw the church's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, estimated that during one three-year period, he saw Miscavige strike staffers as many as 100 times. He left in 2005. . . .

British government spells end of 'i before e' rule

Story here.

LONDON -- It's a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned - "i before e, except after c."

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions.

The "Support For Spelling" document, which is being sent to thousands of primary schools, says the rule "is not worth teaching" because it doesn't account for words like 'sufficient,' 'veil' and 'their.'

Jack Bovill of the Spelling Society, which advocates simplified spelling, said Saturday he agreed with the decision.

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.

(Via TalkLeft.)

Sunday afternoon

Had a long talk last night with my friend in Canada. Stayed up pretty late. Got up this morning and called father to wish him happy Father's Day. Got him caught up on the latest news. Everything's fine with him and his wife (she answered the phone). I asked him about my brother, and he said he hasn't heard from him in months.

Later I walked over to Starbucks with the magazine, just in time for an exquisite thunderstorm that cooled off everything. It lasted the better part of an hour. I sat outside under the roof, but I had to keep moving to keep from getting wet. Had two cups of coffee, which were free for the guys for Father's Day. (Refill also free.)

Finished an interesting article on romance writer Nora Roberts. I've never read any of her work. (She also writes "futuristic police procedurals" as J.D. Robb.) She's written a total of 182 novels. Wow! She's 60 and smokes "Winston Filter 100s" and eats Cheez-Its and drinks Diet Pepsi from a liter bottle when she writes. She also cooks dinner at 5:00 every day. Her current husband (she's had two) was a carpenter when she met him--he'd come to her house to build some bookshelves. (She'd been divorced at the time.)

Earlier I watered the plants and did some sewing (with needle and thread). I'll eventually go to the store. Maybe I'll get a burrito at Lime.

Pharmaceutical patents targeted in Venezuela

Story here.

Jun 21st, 2009 | CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan officials plan to invalidate some pharmaceutical patents and allow domestic manufacturers to produce licensed medicines, an action that could cause shortages and scare off foreign investment, industry leaders said Sunday.

Edgar Salas, president of Venezuela's pharmaceutical business chamber, warned that abolishing patents could prompt the world's largest drug manufacturers to stop exporting medicines to Venezuela. . . .

Saman said the measure is aimed at making the interests of powerful drug companies secondary to the needs of Venezuelans suffering from diseases such as cancer or AIDS.

"We cannot allow transnational medicine companies to impose their rights on the Venezuelan people," Saman told state television. "Patents have become a barrier to production and we cannot allow barriers to the access of medicine." . . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Norvir story: A look into how the drug companies operate

From Wikipedia here.

[The HIV drug] [r]itonavir is manufactured as Norvir by Abbott Laboratories. Research that led to the drug's development was financed by a $3,500,000 federal grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and over $200,000,000 by Abbott Labs. Most of the $200,000,000 figure cited by Abbott paid for clinical trials--despite NIH offering to pay for them--because Abbott was concerned about "public interest" responses to the high prices they projected Norvir would command.[1] The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ritonavir on March 1, 1996, making it the seventh approved antiretroviral drug in the United States. In 2003, Abbott raised the price of a Norvir course from USD $1.71 per day to $8.57 per day [NYT reports from $1,500 a year to $7,800*], leading to claims of price gouging by patients' groups and some members of Congress. Consumer group Essential Inventions petitioned the NIH to override the Norvir patent, but the NIH announced on August 4, 2004 that it would not invoke its legal right to allow generic production of Norvir, citing potential adverse effects on the pharmaceutical market.[2]

*"An annual Norvir dosage in Belgium . . . costs less than $720 a year." See New York Times story about this controversy here.

Order The $800 Million Pill: The Truth behind the Cost of New Drugs here.

Obama praises drug deal, says it's 'turning point'

I take it, the copyeditor is off today. Hell, running the spellchecker would have helped. Story here.

Jun 20th, 2009 | WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama praised the agreement has been reached between Senator Max Baucus and the nation's pharmaceutical companies intended to rerduce costs of prescription drugs for millions of America's seniors.

He called it "a turning point" in the nation's efforts to change health care.

Obama praised the Montana Democrat Saturday for the deal to extend discounts on prescription drugs to millions of seniors who currently are subjected to heavy out-of-pocket expenses in the yearly amounts they can pay for medication.

Baucus has been negotiating with numerous industry groups for weeks as he tries to draft legislation that meets Obama's goals.

Baucus' announcement said drug companies would pay half of the cost of brand-name drugs for seniors in the so-called doughnut hole -- a gap in coverage that is a feature of many of the plans providing prescription coverage under Medicare.

Why is there a "doughnut hole" at all?

Saturday evening

I had to get out of here so I got cleaned up and walked over to Starbucks at around sundown and had two cups of coffee and some ice water. Before I left here, however, I inadvertently shut Lucky up in the master bathroom. I hadn't seen him run in there (he's lightning fast). Poor thing. He was in there for well over an hour, in total darkness. Now he's on my lap, purring and licking my fingers.

When I just left Starbucks, there was only one other person sitting outside. Not a lot of traffic there today. The weather is not exactly pleasant, ever after sundown.

Having leftover chicken gumbo for dinner. Not much of that left.

Bootsy's been spending a lot of time out on the terrace lately. He apparently prefers the balmier weather.

Lucky today

Here's something you can do to support the public option

Email your Senators and ask them where they stand on the public option. It's quick and easy. See here.

Saturday afternoon

See Robert Reich's Memo to President Obama here. ("Six things you must do to save universal healthcare")

(From Digby)

"Co-ops" are not the answer, either.

(From LiberalOasis)

See here too ("The dangers of a fake public health insurance option"). (Updated here.)

The public option is anathema to Republicans and corporate Democrats, because it would give consumers more choices. In most parts of the country, one or two companies dominate the health insurance market.

Also, a government-run plan would have lower overhead costs than private insurers, especially for-profit insurers that need to reward shareholders. Experts predict that tens of millions of Americans would choose the public option. Private insurance companies would have to change their business practices in order to compete. . . .

I'm all for Congress allowing people to form health insurance cooperatives if some people believe in that model. If they work well, they will grow in popularity. However, cooperatives should compete alongside (not instead of) a real public option. Citizens need the option of buying into a nationwide plan like Medicare on day one, not years after discovering that the local cooperative is a raw deal.

Also, I can't see how a policy from a state-level member-owned cooperative could be portable for policy-holders who move across the country. . . .

As I understand it, using reconciliation would force Congress to revisit the issue in a few years, when the political climate might be less favorable for health care reform.

I see a lot more downside to weakening the plan in order to get Republican votes. On May 27, I spoke with Dean by telephone and asked him about efforts by Senator Ron Wyden and others to create a health care plan without a public option, with the goal of getting 70 to 80 votes in the Senate. Dean said "there's no great grace in getting 70 votes" for a bill that doesn't do anything. "All that's going to do is bankrupt the federal treasury." . . .

Democrats control the legislative and executive branches, and if we get health care reform right, we could achieve political realignment in our favor. If we screw up this chance, voters will hold us accountable. No one will remember how many Senate Republicans voted for the bill. . . .

See here.

Early Saturday morning

I'm glad this week is over, but that's usually the case. I just don't like people invading my space, even when I consent to it. A man's home is his castle, right? Here's a tidbit from Australia:

The saying “A man’s home is his castle” came from England and is a very precise description of the way people subconsciously feel about their homes. Everyone wants to see their house as a comfortable and safe shelter, where they can hide from wild forces of nature.

I think it's interesting that the third amendment to the U.S. Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights--the first ten amendments) "prohibits the government from using private homes as quarters for soldiers during peacetime without the consent of the owners." And the fourth amendment says "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . ." (From Wikipedia.) In other words, we don't much care for people invading our space. I'm glad the plumber did what he had to do and I look forward to the inspections being over (I hate being here when the inspectors are here). Then I'll reclaim the kitchen for myself and finish it off. It'll be fantastic. I think I might change the handles to something simpler, however, but I'll put in the backsplashes, etc. before I make that decision.

I think I'm going to try to quit smoking. I bought some generic Nicorette gum at Walgreen's but don't know whether I'm ready. Meanwhile I'll talk to my doctor about it next month when I have a routine appointment. I've smoked off and on (usually on) for years. I wonder if Obama sneaks a cigarette every now and then. He'd said he wouldn't smoke in the White House (but it has a big lawn).

I would quit smoking for the following reasons: (1) my health, (2) my cats' health, since they live with the second-hand smoke, even though I try to keep it away from them. I would like to do whatever I can to avoid medical problems in the future. There's also a consideration about the cost of cigarettes (which has gone up), although I smoke cheap, locally made cigarettes (ultra-light, mind you*). There's also the fact that my health insurance company charges extra for smoking (which amount is deducted from my paycheck). (But what about people who are overweight or who engage in certain risky sports? I don't think they pay extra. Also, I take public transportation and am at less risk for being injured in a traffic accident (whether I'm talking on my cell phone or not). Maybe I should get a credit for that. (Are you kidding?))

At any rate, I'm glad the weather is getting less conducive to going over to Starbucks and reading and smoking while sipping hot coffee or tea.

I did serious shoulder exercises at the gym tonight and didn't have a twinge of pain from the left shoulder that had the calcium deposit that was jabbed with the big needle by the orthopedic surgeon a few weeks ago. (Again I'll say, OUCH!)

Looking forward to calling my father on Father's Day. I haven't talked to him since his birthday in March. Meanwhile I sent him a really nice Father's Day card. I sent it early since I'd sent his birthday card late. He and his wife are retired up in Homosassa, FL.

*If I smoke a regular cigarette, it makes me dizzy.

Indiana lawyer found asleep in trash can

Lawyers are funny. See story here.

Jun 19th, 2009 | JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. -- An Indiana lawyer who was found asleep headfirst in a neighbor's trash can after a night of drinking has apologized and says he's embarrassed. No charges have been filed against Larry Wilder, who is the Jeffersonville City Council's attorney.

Wilder said he had dinner and drinks with friends in nearby Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday night. He said he was driven home in a client's limousine but remembers little that happened after that.

A neighbor found Wilder in the trash can early Wednesday and called police, who helped Wilder home.

Jeffersonville Police Chief Tim Deeringer said no crime was committed and that Wilder was cooperative and not a threat to anyone.

The City Council president said she will call a special meeting next week to discuss Wilder's status with the city.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday night

After work I took a nap and went to the gym. And afterwards to Publix to pick up some of their fried chicken. I hadn't had it in a while. It must have just come out of the fryer, since it was absolutely delicious. I had a breast and it was still hot and juicy. The breasts are my favorite piece only when they're fresh out of the fryer. Otherwise I prefer wings and legs. (I'll cut up the thighs for Bootsy and/or make chicken salad.)

While I was napping I had a dream about a plumbing job. The plumber was supposed to come and fix something while I was out of the house. I came home (not this place) and noticed there was a form-fitting stainless steel cover over the steel sink. I didn't even know I had one, and I thought, what do you know, how tidy. Then I looked down under the sink (the cabinet door was open or else there wasn't one) and noticed the disposer was missing. Then I looked up on the counter and saw it sitting back there in a clear plastic box. I thought, what the hell, what happened now!? So the plumber's going to have to come back another day, and meanwhile I can't use the kitchen sink! Right about then, the alarm clock went off.

(When the real plumber was here last fall, he first told me he couldn't install the new disposer I'd just bought, since the bottom of the disposer was lower than the trap--then, as you can see, he made it work.) (But see here.*) (You can also see, top left, the hole the cabinet guys had to chew in the cabinet so that the plumber could do what he had to do up there--install a new valve or something.) (You can click on the photo to enlarge, if you're interested.) (The blue thing is the detergent container for the built-in detergent pump on the counter.)

Meanwhile, today I called the Home Depot general contractor and they'll call me back on Monday about scheduling a final plumbing inspection, probably for sometime next week. As I said, I don't have to be home for that.

After eating the chicken, I did go over to Starbucks with the latest New Yorker, which came in the mail today, and had a green tea, despite it being warm and muggy outside. I didn't linger there long.

(I wonder why the text isn't wrapping around the photo.)

*The plumber and I actually discussed this phenomenon. I said I thought that the force from the disposer would keep the trap clear. (But what do I know?) (So far, so good, however.) (This doesn't seem to be a major thing, but knock on wood.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Study: Miami Amongst 20 Weakest Metro Areas

Also from the New Times here. (Includes chart.)

Here's the bad news: According to a new study of the 100 most populous metro areas in America by the Brookings Institution, the Miami area, including the rest of South Florida, is one of the 20 economically weakest metro areas in the country. Here's the good news: We're only 82, and doing better than almost everyone else in Florida. [Only Orlando is doing better.] . . .

Che Guevara's Granddaughter Poses Topless for PETA

From Miami New Times here.

Just yesterday, PETA tried to jump on the coattails of the cat killer case by pushing their anti-dissection agenda, but we've got a feeling the fallout from their latest stunt is really going to make certain corners of Miami explode with outrage.

They've convinced Lydia Guevara, granddaughter of Che and a vegetarian, to pose topless for a campaign with stylistic nods to her infamous granddad. In a preview pic obtained by El Mundo, Lydia is decked out in Che's famous red beret, a set of carrots displayed like bullets in a bandoleer covering her breasts, and holding up a fist.

The campaign, PETA's first foray into Spanish marketing, will debut later this year in South America, and an English version is planned. No word on whether they plan on putting a billboard up over Calle Ocho.

PETA miffed at President Obama's fly "execution"

Story here. (You can see the fly-killing on the blog here.)

POLITICO (Washington) - The president has been getting lots of kudos for a lightning-fast, Mr. Miyagi-worthy swipe he employed to slay a pesky house fly that was buzzing him in mid-interview during a taping with CNBC that aired Wednesday. . . .

But now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling it an "execution," wants the commander-in-chief to show a little more compassion to even "the least sympathetic animals." . . .

The group has sent Obama a device that traps a fly so it can then be released outside.

"We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Freidrich explained. . . .

I agree, but what was I supposed to do about the weevils? (I'm drowning the last of them that are flying around and landing on the TV and the monitor.) I had no remorse as I was vacuuming them up. I don't kill flies, however--I hardly have any flies here. I don't even own a fly swatter or use bug spray. (We have an exterminator service here for roaches, etc. Roaches I will kill on sight.) Anything that flies in from the terrace, however, I try to capture and release back outside so Lucky won't kill it. But generally we have no insect problems. It's true that I did let a fly into the apartment the other day to let Lucky play with. (This must be fly season.) I won't do that again, since Lucky could get sick. (The fly acted sick.)

This whole idea about right to life and right to kill is very complicated and is not a black-and-white issue. And also I do have a PETA sensibility to an extent. (But I'm omnivorous at this time, yet don't wear fur--no real need in Miami--but wear leather shoes.) I don't think human beings are more "exalted" in the Animal Kingdom and have some "God-given right" to "lord over" all of Creation. Animals like cats and dogs, for example, which are highly intelligent, emotional beings capable of love, deserve our protection in society (and are thus protected by law). I think some human beings are "lowlier" than they are. But then I think that people who intentionally inflict harm on animals (and perhaps go on to murder people) are mentally defective--they're psychopaths or sociopaths. Maybe there's a cure down the road. (Meanwhile, they have to be locked up.)

(Years ago I had a big roach in a little-used closet and left it alone. But then it multiplied and I put out Roach Motels. I had no remorse.)

Thursday night

I was so elated that the ice-maker is working and the cold water flowing again that I couldn't even take a nap. (I didn't even try.) Getting that fixed made my day. I'd been worried all day long about some foul-up with that, since there have been so many foul-ups with the kitchen remodeling.

The sound of ice dropping in the freezer is music to my ears.

I am having a frozen beef and cheese chimichanga for dinner. That should be enough. No tea tonight at Starbucks.

A reader commented on my last cat killer post and I commented back. I would also like to add that cruelty to animals is a characteristic of serial killers. "They are involved in sadistic activity or torturing small animals." (See here.) Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, is a noted "zoosadist." (See here.) "The Dahmer family moved to Bath Township, Ohio when Jeffrey was 8 years old. There, he would spend most of his time in the woods near his house, mutilating small animals and road kill." (See here.) Dahmer "[a]lso enjoyed killing small animals, disecting them and eating them. He was a very strange guy. Try to see a rerun of him on E!. Its really freaky." (See here.)

Did what I had to do tonight: cleaned out the cat box and treated Bootsy's ears. I also located and destroyed an infestation of weevils (?). I'd started seeing these bugs more and more (as had Lucky), and they fly around and land on the TV screen and the computer monitor. There was a whole colony of them in and around a bag of buckwheat pancake mix sitting on the bottom shelf of the new pull-out pantry. So I threw out practically everything on the shelf (including bread crumbs and potato pancake mix) and then vacuumed up the rest of the bugs and the buckwheat flour. I also vacuumed up a little laundry soap, hoping that will kill the bugs inside the vacuum cleaner bag (which I'd recently changed).

These things are tiny--maybe a little bigger than a flea--so they're not scary, and they don't bite. I've had them here before, in the gravy flour, which I now keep in the fridge. What was I thinking when I put the buckwheat flour in the pantry?!

Thursday evening

The ice-maker and water dispenser are back up and running. Yea! I'd missed a cell phone call at around 2:45 from the front desk here and had a message saying Home Depot was here. I immediately called back, telling them the manager or maintenance person was to let them up to my apartment. They were already on top of it. So apparently that went well. I'll call the manager tomorrow and ask her whether she talked to the plumber about the proper "compression coupling." (Sounds like I should have had a copper water line vs. a plastic one, but I had no trouble with the old plastic one. And I was never given a choice between plastic and copper.) (Sears installed the first (plastic) line.)

I do remember the plumber griping last fall that the water line Home Depot had had me buy was too flimsy and he showed me a more preferable, thicker plastic line. (But the plumber griped about everything.)

Tomorrow I'll call the general contractor so they can schedule the final plumbing inspection. I don't need to be here for that either, but I'd like to be around for the final general inspection.

Today for lunch I skipped the gumbo and ordered a bowl of scallop bisque and a barbecued chicken breast sandwich (comes topped with bacon and Cheddar cheese) and French fries. The piece of chicken breast was enormous. There was almost as much chicken outside the bun as under the bun. Don't need to eat dinner tonight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More on the stomach thing

From a NIH website:

Overall, 10 to 20 percent2 of Americans experience GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease] [acid reflux] symptoms every day, making it one of the most common medical conditions. People of all ages can have GERD. . . .

Barrett’s esophagus can only be diagnosed using an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy to obtain biopsies of the esophagus. In an upper GI endoscopy, after the patient is sedated, the doctor inserts a flexible tube called an endoscope, which has a light and a miniature camera, into the esophagus. If the tissue appears suspicious, the doctor removes several small pieces using a pincher-like device that is passed through the endoscope. A pathologist examines the tissue with a microscope to determine the diagnosis. . . .

People with Barrett’s esophagus have a low risk of developing a kind of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma. Less than 1 percent3 of people with Barrett’s esophagus develop esophageal adenocarcinoma each year. Barrett’s esophagus may be present for several years before cancer develops. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is frequently not detected until its later stages when treatments are not always effective. . . .

Periodic endoscopic examinations with biopsies to look for early warning signs of cancer are generally recommended for people who have Barrett’s esophagus. This approach is called surveillance. . . .

Wednesday night

Kitchen is clean enough and I got some exercise too. First I vacuumed and then cleaned the floor on my hands and knees with a rag. I also cleared off and cleaned all the counters, etc. I'll let them pull the refrigerator out tomorrow. I see that the manager has posted notices everywhere announcing that the kitchen water line for the apartments directly above and below me will be shut down from noon till 3:00.

Now it's time to relax.

The doctor told me today that the new recommendation for a follow-up gastroscopy for the Barrett's is now seven years--it used to be less. But he wants to do it sooner. Does that perhaps have something to do with why Miami has the highest health care costs in the country? (See here.) Or, if his practice is not a so-called "profit center," is he just afraid of being sued? (Or all of the above?) (BTW, my primary care physician does not carry professional liability insurance and posts a notice to that effect in the office waiting room.) (He's also a lawyer.)

On that note--some people are calling for tort reform to go along with Obama's new health plan. This is from a doctor commenting at The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog:

Tort reform will be necessary and automatic once single payer interstate health insurance based on medicare is instituted. Common medical records software will analyze outcomes and rate doctors and hospitals based on their value and success in maintaining health, surgery, medical cures. Outcomes will allow a free market compeition which will in turn improve quality, productivity, efficiency and decrease prices. The lawyers will need to be kept away from this outcome data in order to use it for the common good which is improving the performance of doctors and hospitals. If the lawyers have access, all underperforming doctors and hospitals will be sued and we’ll be unable to approach these individuals or insitutions with suggestions for improving their practices and performance. The common billing software and electronic medical records software will also allow early recognition and response to bio and nuclear emergencies, which is a good thing in this dangerous world we live in.

I'm looking forward to having my ice maker working tomorrow, but I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Poll: On Health Care, Public Trusts Insurance Companies More Than GOP Leaders

See here. Includes chart.

Wow. With the health care debate gearing up, some new numbers from Gallup suggest that the public doesn’t exactly have a tremendous amount of confidence in Republican leaders on the issue. . . .

Only 34% are confident that GOP leaders Congress will make the right decisions about health care reform — less than the insurance companies (35%) or the pharmaceutical companies (40%). By contrast, more have confidence in Dem leaders (42%), and even more trust Obama (58%).

In fairness, the gap between GOP leaders and insurance companies is within the margin of error. But still, being statistically tied with the insurance companies is pretty bad, and suggests that GOPers aren’t exactly heading into this fight with the wind at their backs.

Teen accused of cat killings set to leave jail

I don't know what the police know, but it sounds like he did it. His parents are divorced, and one parent lives in South Miami-Dade County (where the cat-killing was originally going on) and the other parent lives in an area of Broward (where it was subsequently going on) and he spent his time between both parents. Story here.

Jun 17th, 2009 | MIAMI -- A judge in Miami says a teenager accused of more than a dozen cat killings is "competent" to be released from jail under electronic monitoring.

Tyler Hayes Weinman had already posted bond before Wednesday's hearing, but the judge would not release him until the 18-year-old's psychiatric evaluation could be reviewed.

Judge John Thornton ordered Weinman released during a brief hearing. He said the 18-year-old "does not appear at risk of harming himself or others." Thornton said Weinman would be allowed to attend counseling as recommended by a doctor.

Weinman's father told TV reporters he is "absolutely sure" his son is innocent.

Weinman is accused of a brutal string of cat mutilation killings that terrorized two suburban Miami communities.

See here too.

Weinman is charged with 19 counts of animal cruelty, 19 counts of improperly disposing of an animal body and four counts of burglary in the spree of cat mutilations and killings throughout Cutler Bay and Palmetto Bay.

The 18-year-old also had to post a $249,500 bond to secure his release until he can be tried on the felony counts. He'll be released at some point today, but will be required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet and be under house arrest until his July 6 arraignment. . . .

I'm glad he doesn't live around here, and my cats don't go outside anyway, except on the terrace.

AMA avoids firm stance on health insurance option

Interesting. Story here.

Jun 17th, 2009 | CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association has declined to take a firm position on President Barack Obama's proposal to create a public health insurance program.

The AMA delegates meeting in Chicago agreed Wednesday to support health care reform alternatives that are "consistent with AMA principles," which include freedom to choose health insurance and universal access for patients. But they didn't specifically support a plan for public health insurance. . . .

Wednesday evening

Back from the gastroenterologist. He said I have "Barrett's" and I asked what's that? (For the full answer, see here.) In my case (as I understand it), it's a result of having had acid reflux disease. The bottom of the esophagus,where it joins the stomach, becomes lined with acid-resistant cells which do carry a risk of developing into cancer. He said to keep taking the Prilosec and have another gastroscopy in three years. I also had one precancerous polyp and will undergo another colonoscopy also in three years (the two procedures will be done together, as they were recently).

As the doctor explained, one out of 10 people with acid reflux develop Barrett's.

Well, the Home Depot plumber is coming here tomorrow between noon and 3:00 to fix the water line to the fridge. I won't be here. I talked with the building manager today and she said she'll be available to let the plumber in and out of my apartment. Today she had to cast doubt once again on Home Depot's installation of the water line last fall. I played dumb, saying I wouldn't know anything since I wasn't a plumber (and neither is she, by the way). I'm glad I'll be out of the picture tomorrow--she and the plumber can hash things out between themselves. Tonight I'm going to do some cleaning and tidying up in the kitchen, so no gym.

In Firefox, when you open a new window, Firefox automatically creates a tab for it on the tab bar. A good feature which I'm getting used to.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009