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Jul. 1st, 2009

Say it with me, albeit through clenched teeth: "I am already paying for Universal Healthcare."

I have a much larger post in me about my friend Alan, but I had an interesting thought this morning that I felt I had to share, especially with the Libertarians on my list.

For all the liberals decry our healthcare system, as much as they complain that we're the only industrialized nation without Universal Healthcare, I have good news: we HAVE Universal Healthcare.

Wait, what's that? What are you talking about? No we don't!

Yes, we do. There is already a government-run healthcare plan in this country. Let me explain.

On Thursday, Alan texted me that he needed help. He was horribly sick, he'd been throwing up all day, he couldn't keep food down, his stomach was in terrible pain. I rushed home and told him that I was taking him to the emergency room. We took a taxi to our local hospital's E.R., and after seeing him briefly they admitted him. They ran several tests but everyone had the same basic guess what the outcome would be. And they were right - appendicitis. Fortunately, his appendix hadn't ruptured, so it was a pretty simple lathroscopic surgery. We spent the night, and then one more night, while they observed and he healed from the wound.

Now, add it up. E.R. visit, tests, CAT Scan for the appendicitis, anesthesia, surgery, more tests, a two-day hospital visit, lots of hospital food, lots more tests. How much do you think that cost him? Answer: nothing. It didn't cost him a dime. Why? Because he has no health insurance, but also because he has no job. He's freelance consulting right now, and what little money he gets is instantly eaten away. And when I explained that to hospital billing, they smiled and said "Oh, ok, no problem. We'll just bill Medicaid." That's right, remember Medicaid? The government program for medical funding of people with no or limited resources? They're paying Alan's hospital bill in full.

And that's the thing: no hospital in this country will refuse a seriously sick patient, whether they can pay or not. And when they can't pay, the hospital requests and receives a reimbursement from Medicaid. And that means YOU'RE paying for Alan's appendectomy, and the thousands of other surgeries and complicated procedures that hospitals perform every week on patients who can't afford them.

So, Libertarians, it's time to stop thinking of this as a battle against Universal Healthcare. It's time to stop complaining about the horrors of Socialized Medicine and how it'll f*ck everything up. You lost that battle in 400 BC when the Hippocratic Oath was written, and you have been paying for poor people to get medical treatment ever since. You need to start thinking about this as a battle to make Universal Healthcare cost you less in taxes. The question you need to ask is this: would you rather pay $40,000 for Alan's hospital weekend because he has absolutely no coverage; or would you rather pay $10,000 because while he WAS working he, and you, were paying into a more concrete Universal Healthcare system that ultimately drove down those costs for everyone involved?

Jun. 15th, 2009

Trust me.

Here's a hypothetical: you're walking down the street in a major city when you see one man suddenly snatch another man's briefcase and bolt. In fact, the briefcase snatcher is bolting right past you - you could easily stick out your leg and trip him. Would you? Decide now.

. . .

Now, what if, somehow, you already knew that the briefcase was actually full of bribe money, and that the snatcher was an FBI agent who was "stealing" the money as part of an operation to prevent that act of bribery from taking place? Would you trip the agent and prevent him from carrying out his mission? Decide now.

. . .

Now, what if, somehow, you knew that this particular FBI agent was deeply corrupt and planning to disappear with that money. Tripping him would disrupt the operation but also give the FBI the time it needed to uncover this agent's motives and arrest him. What now? Decide now.

. . .

Now, what if the FBI had planned this entire scenario in order to entrap this corrupt agent, and tripping him would disrupt this, the real operation?
What used to be a simple case of misdemeanor robbery is suddenly a complicated tangle of variables, none of which you could truly be privy to. And yet, in the first scenario, you were perfectly comfortable with sticking your leg out and tripping the thief, weren't you?

Humans are inherently egotistical. We know damned well that every person and situation we encounter is woven together by a complex web of infinite variables, yet we are perfectly comfortable with taking the two or three variables we've seen and making a final, iron-clad decision based on them. And woe be unto the person who challenges our notion of what we believe so thinly! That's why you'd proudly stop the briefcase snatcher, but if you were watching someone stop the briefcase snatcher on a show about stupid bystanders getting in the way of government operations, you'd rail on the idiot who stopped the snatcher. In each case, you have a certain number of variables, and even though in neither case you have ALL the variables you are still convinced that YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, and everyone who doesn't agree with you is a FREAKING MORON.

Reconsider the same scenario above. You're walking down the street in a major city when you see one man suddenly snatch another man's briefcase and bolt. In fact, the briefcase snatcher is bolting right past you - you could easily stick out your leg and trip him. Only, before you can, someone taps you on the shoulder. And it's Barack Obama. And he says, "listen, I know what you're thinking. And I can't explain everything that's happening because of National Security reasons. But trust me. I know what's going on. And you absolutely MUST let that man steal that briefcase." Do you trust him?

Ok . . . what if Barack Obama came to you and said, "Listen, I know what you're thinking. And I can't explain everything that's happening because of National Security reasons. But trust me. I know what's going on. And you absolutely MUST let me detain some of those suspected terrorists indefinitely without a trial." Do you still trust him? Ah . . . now you're not so sure, are you?

Liberals - and I include myself here - have been really, really pissed at Obama lately. But I am cowed by a singular notion - that Barack Obama is the only man in the country who has all the variables - or at least, all the variables any of us COULD have. I didn't elect him to do everything I say (largely because I at least have the good sense to know I'd make a lousy president). I elected him because I examined him and his record and his convictions, and based on them, I decided that he is most likely to come to the same conclusions that I would if I DID have all the variables he has. And that's all we can ask of any president.

Now, I'm not saying that we as citizens should abandon our responsibity to ask The Big Questions - I still hold to Roosevelt's notion that absolving the President against criticism is morally treasonous. But I think we all need to take a couple of steps back and realize that, years from now, when all the variables are finally in, we might well be the self-certain armchair politicians watching this whole story with a lot more variables and saying "See? Of course Obama was right to prevent the release of those Abu Ghraib photos. And I knew it all along."

Jun. 8th, 2009

(no subject)

In other news, something amazing happened this weekend. I finished a project I have been working on for about five years now: The Ultimate Playlist. 2000 songs, carefully selected and rated and evenly distributed by mood. There are as many loud, angry songs and sweet pleasant ones; the list includes every genre from country to hip-hop to speed metal to opera to teen pop to blues to jazz standards. You'll find every song you love here, and a few you never even realize you loved.

You can find the list here: http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1178057/Mudkips.xls

A couple of notes on the Moody tags: Moody is a tag system developed by Crayon Room. Their basic premise is to divide your song collection using the letters A through D (Loud through Quiet) and the numbers 1 through 4 (Sad through Happy). So a song labeled "MoodyA1" would be very loud and very angry, while a song labeled "MoodyC4" would be relatively quiet and very happy. I modified their system somewhat for my purposes:

If a song is energetic enough to jog or party to -AND- it's butch enough that my straight friends won't make fun of it, then I labeled it A; if it's not butch enough to play around straight guys, I labeled it B. If a song is NOT energetic enough to jog or party to -AND- it's quiet and pleasant enough for my grandma to appreciate, I labeled it D; if it's not quiet enough for grandma, I labeled it C.

If a song is sad or angry or depressed, then I labeled it 2; unless it's DISTRACTINGLY sad or angry or depressed (meaning that you tend to focus on the song instead of whatever else you're doing), in which case I labeled it 1. If a song is happy or joyful or optimistic, I labeled it 3; unless it's DISTRACTINGLY happy or joyful or optimistic, in which case I labeled it 4. (As an aside, I also labeled songs 3 if they would otherwise be labeled 4 but contained language not suitable for kids.)

The resulting categories created a framework for building dozens of PERFECT playlists based on mood. Don't believe me? Try it. Download the spreadsheet and play with it. Example: use the Autofilter to isolate MoodyA3, MoodyA4, MoodyB3, and MoodyB4. That's the upbeat playlist, music for working and keeping a good mood. Here's another one: isolate MoodyC3 and MoodyC4. That's my Morning After playlist, pleasant music for entertaining an "overnight guest". Also try MoodyC2, MoodyC3, MoodyD2, and MoodyD3 - that's the Dining Room playlist, background music for having guests over for dinner. Or try just D1, my "Sad and Alone" playlist, for when I'm feeling super-emo. Or A4, "Ben's List" - music my little brother will like but that doesn't contain any lyrics that would piss off my parents.

Play around with it. And if you find you've built any genius playlists of your own from the Moody tags, let me know.

He ain't scary, he's my brother!

So, my little brother told me a couple months ago that he and his friends were making horror movies. And I thought, "Aw, how cute, they're playing pretend with their video cameras."

Ok, granted, it was a little condescending of me. But it's hard for me to think of him as growing up. Until now.

Holy. Freaking. Christ. These are impressive. Especially when you consider that Ben is fifteen years old. And for the record, he did all of the sound and music editing.

Here's part 1 of his first movie, "Swine". That's him, playing the killer.

Here's part 2, the much creepier, gorier part.

Here's his next movie, "Basement". The other kid is D.J. - I went to school with his mom. And that's my bedroom window he's trying to crawl out of.

So proud. SO PROUD.

Apr. 24th, 2009

Question of the Day: What's Brown and Rhymes with Snoop?

Answer: Dr. Dre.

Now, hit me with your funniest jokes that are still safe for work.

(Bonus: What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.)

Apr. 19th, 2009

(no subject)

It occurs to me that some of you are not on Facebook or Twitter, and so may not have heard the news. So to you I say . . . I am, once again, employed. You can thank GridPoint, a fantastic private company seeking to build the legendary "SmartGrid". And today is my first day.

Wish me luck!

Apr. 6th, 2009



This is it - we have one chance to stop the social media giant that laid off my buddy Alan for b*llsh*t reasons.

Go here: http://famousdc.com/

Vote for Michael Turk.

That's all you have to do. And if you do so, I will edit this post to include your LJ, and I will personally tell you one thing I think makes you awesome (besides the fact that you helped me and Alan out).

Thanks for your time.

Oh, PS - you have until 3PM EST. That's ONE HOUR.

internofdoom: Thanks Joe. I love that, while we don't always agree politically, your arguements are genuine and intelligent and thought out. If anyone could convince me to become a Republican it would be you.

sidhedevil: Thanks Meggie! I love your sense of style and poise. Whether it's in a game or just over lunch, I feel like I'm hanging out with a Paris supermodel.

sparklypoof: I totally love that you haven't quite grown up yet. You remind me to never take life too seriously.

fiducia: Thanks Vickie!! Oh man, I have to come up with ONE thing I think is awesome about you?! Ok, um . . . yer hot. Something else . . . yer mom makes AWESOME breakfast pizza! :D HERS WHAT I LOVE!!

absurdhero: Thanks Nick! I am always impressed by your ability to passively examine an issue and make a determination impartially and without prejudice. It's something I aspire to. You should be a judge.

UPDATE: Ok, time's up. He didn't win the raw vote, but he still has a chance, and you all definitely helped. I still owe some thanks (including to Mike Grey, who I forgot last time he tried to help), so I'll do a separate post explaining all this soon.

Apr. 2nd, 2009


Please click here: http://www.bit.ly/gagnonftl and vote for Patrick Ruffini. This is very important to me.

Mar. 31st, 2009



Please go here: http://www.famousdc.com

Then, on the "#FDC Overtime Poll: @patrickruffini vs. @matthewgagnon" poll (it's right up front), select @patrickruffini and vote.

This is VERY easy, it'll take you two seconds. And you'll be helping my buddy Alan take down the douches who let him go, and reminding them why he's better at Social Media Networking than all of them put together.

Mar. 20th, 2009


Sorry I've been silent for a week - I've been working. Well, temping. And I'm still doing it, so I still owe you a long post. But let me say this: I completely underestimated my body/mind reaction to going to work again. I thought I'd be pissy and unhappy having to temp for less than a third of what I made when I was steadily employed. But I forgot just how crucial it is to be needed somewhere, to have a responsibility and people looking out for your help. I can't tell you how good it feels to get my hands dirty again. And a regular paycheck doesn't hurt.

If you have an administrative background, let me recommend Keepers (2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington - (202) 223-4855). You won't get nearly the per-hour rate you would from another staffing agency, but they'll GUARANTEE you 30 hours a week. I have my name with two other agencies for two weeks now, and I've gotten one call for a two-day job from ONE of them. The work just isn't out there in this economy. Keepers will send you out to multiple and varied places so companies can see how much they like you. And that just might land you a job.

Good luck to the job hunters. I'll post a long article about the last week soon. For now, off to work.

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