Archive for August, 2005

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Poverty, Economy and Health Insurance

August 31, 2005

I hate to be little Johnny Raincloud here, but I was surfing the New York Times web site the other day and a headline cought my eye: Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7%. Wow. So I read the article. Here’s what I learned.

Poverty went up. For the fourth straight year in a row. Doesn’t reflect well on GOP-controlled Washington. But, to be fair, the economy is strong so maybe the ship is about to right itself. Then I also read that “the number of people without health insurance edged up by about 800,000 to 45.8 million people.” That doesn’t sound good. But, again, to be fair, the number of insured people went up, too–by 2 million so maybe our health care system isn’t as bad as all that.

On both fronts–the economy and health care–it’s a good news/bad news situation that basically ends up as a wash, right? Wrong. If you read a little closer you find out why.

The gains in the ranks of the insured were made through government-sponsored insurance like Medicaid, while the losses were from private, employment-based insurance. Hardly the sort of thing you can use to defend the private health insurance system we have here in America.

On the economic front, those who want to assuage our concerns about rising poverty by citing the strong economy need also to explain this:

“Most of that growth in the economy over the last couple of years has gone to higher income people and has taken the form of capital income — interest, rents, dividends.” – Tim Smeeding, economics professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University

(And those who continually [and ridiculously] whine about the so-called “liberal media” can no doubt explain to me why the professor’s remark has been mysteriously excised from the NYT story. I had to do some creative googling to find it again. It finally turned up in Connecticut’s The Day. I knew I hadn’t dreamed it! Why was it removed from the NYT article?)

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Another Vice Turned Virtue!

August 31, 2005

…living without coffee is like trying to climb up the outside of your house using suction cups. Why not just use the stairs?
Garrison Keillor

Rejoice! Coffee is finally good for you! So says a new study from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. So drink up! And thumb your nose at all those snooty herbal tea drinkers; it is we who are doing right by our health, not they.

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Take Heart

August 28, 2005

I like oatmeal. And because I’m lazy, I especially like instant oatmeal. Like many grown-ups, however, I find the amount of sugar that companies like Quaker put in their instant oatmeal packets to be excessive. That’s why I was especially delighted when they brought a new low-sugar variety to market a while back. I liked it okay, but some others had grave concerns about the artificial sweetener they used to make up for the loss of some of the real stuff.

I myself don’t share those concerns to any great degree, but I am still happy to note that Quaker has come up with a solution that should make everyone happier: Quaker Instant Oatmeal Take Heart®. It has less sugar, more fiber, more vitamin fortification–and no Splenda®. It comes in two flavors: Blueberry and Golden Maple. I tried the Blueberry and, while it’s ingredients list left me wondering at its paucity of actual blueberries, it was pretty darned good.

Paid for by Quaker Oats. Just kiding.

So I have a new favorite oatmeal, I guess. But now I’m just wondering why they have to name it “Take Heart,” like it’s for 60-somethings recovering from (or anticipating!) their next heart attacks. I’m 36 and I’m in good health. I need to buy cereal that makes direct appeal to my cardiac health in its name just to avoid products that are bad for me? It’s disheartening, that’s what it is. Can’t my cereal just be cereal and not part-of-a-special-lifestyle-guaranteed-to-address-your-every-health-nightmare? Next they’ll have me buying Stop-Loss shampoo. Give me a break!

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Slim Jim Gets In!

August 26, 2005

At 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, Jim Pfeiffer is used to being called skinny. But Pfeiffer’s beanpole status came in handy Monday, when the 25-year-old firefighter slipped into a narrow crevasse to rescue a toddler trapped 9 feet underground.
CNN.com

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Drinking Liberally

August 26, 2005

Stacie over at The Vast Dairy State Conspiracy has put out a call for coconspirators and I have answered that call; I am going to serve as a host, gofer and whatever else is necessary for the first ever Milwaukee area Drinking Liberally gathering. Drinking Liberally is, according to their web site, “an informal, inclusive Democratic drinking club.” I may not be much of a drinker, but I am definitely a liberal so I figure I’m good. More from thieir web site:

Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don’t need to be a policy expert and this isn’t a book club – just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it’s not taboo to talk politics.

Right now we’re planning for 7 pm on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, but nothing is written in stone. Location? Again, nothing is unchangeable at this point, but we’re talking about Club Garibaldi in Bay View.

If you’re left of center and want to meet some like-minded locals come on and join us! If you’re in Waukesha and need a ride, let me know. More details will be posted here (and probably over at dairy conspiracy as well) as we draw closer to the event.

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Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator

August 25, 2005

Lay my head on a surgeons table
take my fingerprints if you are able
pick my brains, pick my pockets
steal my eyeballs and come back for the sockets
run every kind of test from a to z
but you still know nothing ’bout me

– Sting

A decade ago I took a college class on personality. As a part of the class I had to take several personality tests. One of these was the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For those who don’t know the test, it purports to measure one’s personality on four axes: Introverted-Extroverted, Sensing-iNtuiting, Thinking-Feeling and Judging-Perceiving. Back in the spring of 1995 my results were INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging. Here is the introduction to a paper I wrote on the experience:

According to the Meyers-Briggs I am an introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging type (INTJ). Before a discussion of what this type is like and whether or not it fits me well, it should be noted that only two of the scales measured a significant preference tendency. On the I/E scale I scored as an introvert but only with five points. Similarly I scored as a thinker on the Judgement dimension but only by nine points. These low scores represent a weak tendency towards the I and the T and are less relevant than the other two scales.

The remaining scales have higher scores which represent a clearer preference for the type indicated. On the perception dimension I scored as an intuitive type with forty-five points. On the J/P scale I scored as a judger with a score of forty-seven. These preference scores will be much more indicative of my personality.

I recently took one of those web-based MBTI knock-offs and got rated as an INFJ. I guess that can be forgiven as my T-F score was hovering around the middle back in 95 anyway.

So what is an INTJ like? (Presuming that the full MBTI I took ten years ago was a more valid than the web one I took the other day.) Here’s a brief description I got in a class handout:

Usually have original minds and a great drive for their own ideas and purposes. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through with or without help. Skeptical, critical, independent, determined, sometimes stubborn. Must learn to yield less important points in order to win the most important.

What do you think? A good fit for me? Maybe you’ve taken the MBTI or a similar test. What were your results?

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Escape Velocity

August 24, 2005

This post is not about terrific Macintosh computer games. It’s about a movie called October Sky starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko!) as Homer Hickam, a boy who, inspired by Sputnik and against his father’s wishes, pursues amateur rocketry as a means of escaping a small mining town in West Virginia.

It’s based on a true story. Homer Hickam is a real person. He even got a writing credit on the movie.

I enjoyed the movie a lot. It’s inspirational to see someone reach beyond what is given to him, even if others don’t always see the value in it. It occurred to me as I watched that even though his homemade rockets were never made to achieve escape velocity (the speed required for an object to leave earth’s gravitational pull), Homer himself did achieve it; he mustered enough energy to escape the hardscrabble existence of the mining town and the job that eventually killed his father.

Definitely worth renting if you haven’t seen it.

(And it’s about seven miles per second, or 25000 miles per hour. I looked it up.)