September 29, 2009

Google Wave

Colin sent you here. I have no idea why. Well, maybe some idea. My left hand (at right) is perhaps, waving? I dunno. It's actually the apex of a trikonasana inside a hot air balloon.

Edit: Oh, I get it. Not completely obtuse. Crowd-Sourcing. Getting users (or in this case, blogs readers) to do your work for you. Duh. Like some of those silly captcha "type the word you see" things that websites use to confirm that a real person is filling in a form. Did you know you were actually working to digitize scanned documents (from the Internet Archive and NY Times archive) when filling out some of these?

Here's the Google Wave link on cnn.com or go to the Google Wave site. I have no more info - I plan to be listening to WNPR tomorrow from 1-2 to find out.....

Bonus, the wikipedia article on crowd-sourcing.

Off with ya. Bloody vikings.

September 28, 2009

Roaring Brook Nature Center Concerts

A note from Stan Sullivan - just spreading the word.....

***********************************************************************************

Welcome to the 30th season of Roaring Brook Concerts! We open with legendary Bluesman, Paul Geremia, this Saturday October 3rd. I guess it's time to dig the rakes out of the shed, the long sleeve shirts out of the closet and set up the sound system at Roaring Brook. All concerts are at 7:30PM on Saturdays with the exception of the two Monday Open Mikes and the October 11, 2009 Family Show at 2:00PM with Mustard's Retreat.

Tickets for all shows: 860-693-0263 and Information: www.roaringbrookconcerts.org

Roaring Brook Concerts
October 3, 2009 Paul Geremia $15.00 Advance and $17.00 door
October 10, 2009 Mustard's Retreat / Stan Sullivan Split bill $15.00 door and $18.00 door
October 17, 2009 Sloan Wainwright $16.00 Advance and $17.00 door
October 23, 2009 Cece Borjeson & Ruth George $12.00 advance and $15.00 door
October 30, 2009 Patrick Ball, Celtic Harpist $18.00 Advance and $20.00 door

November 7, 2009 Atwater-Donnelly $15.00 Advance and $17.00 door
November 14, 2009 Mark Erelli $16.00 Advance and $18.00 door
November 21, 2009 David Mallett $18.00 Advance and $20.00 door

December 5, 2009—Donna Martin $15.00 Advance and $17.00 door
December 12, 2009—Chris Smither $25.00

Open Mikes
Signup at 6:45 $5.00 Admission
Monday October 26, 2009 featuring Pete Prizzi
Monday November 30, 2009 featuring Trainwreck Jerry

Family Show
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Mustard's Retreat 2:00-3:00PM Tickets $6.00 member, $7.00 nonmembers $8.00 door

It was great to run into so many of you during the summer at festivals, thanks for saying hello and for all your enthusiastic and kind words about Roaring Brook Concerts. We are always looking for concert volunteers, so if you've got the time to bake or park cars, set up chairs or write grants, give Jay Kaplan a call at 860-693-0263 or talk to one of us at a show.

Thanks,
Stan Sullivan and all the volunteers at Roaring Brook Concerts!

Hubris

"The Governor and I don't we win (isn't that amazing)" - Lisa Moody, in an email that details how Gov. Jodi Rell decided to ignore legal advice from her own council and that of OPM, and attempt to use her line item veto on a budget she refused to sign. Courant article here

The fact that this particular quote comes from an email originally withheld from an FOI request by the Courant, that it changes the dynamics from either an issue of comptenence (not understanding the law) or perhaps a more innocent misinterpretaton of the legal aspects of this to a willful "we can do anything we want, try to stop us" attitude.

I'm generally not a particularly vindictive voter, and while I generally vote left, I've been known to go center or even right on occasion for the right candidate. But stuff like this makes me actively root for the downfall of this particular regime.

September 27, 2009

John Muir

Watching the new Ken Burns series - National Parks: America's Best Idea

The first hour has an extended segment on John Muir. And as I watched the show and listened to stories of Muir's experience, and quotes of his writings, I recognized the language of enlightenment, the verbiage of the seeker. Some samples, sourced here:

We all flow from one fountain— Soul. All are expressions of one love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all.

I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in "creation's dawn." The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

Might as well be Rumi - touching on Truth. I think I have found a place of exploration.....who knew?

I'll watch the rest of teh series as I can, but it has already proven itself worthy beyond measure!

September 25, 2009

Electronics Recycling - Saturday Sept 26

CRRA holds several electronics reycling collections each year. Bring your broken, unwanted or obsolete TVs, VCRs, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices to one of these collections and help keep electronics out of the waste stream. Best of all, there is no fee for this service.

When: Saturday, September 26, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Where: CRRA Trash Museum, 211 Murphy Road, Hartford

For Whom: Residents of Mid-Connecticut Project cities and towns

What: Home electronics, including: computers, monitors, cell phones, TVs, VCRs, copiers, fax machines, printers, radios, stereos. (Electronics from businesses and institutions are not acceptable.)

Sponsors: Participating municipalities and the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority

More info Here

Jump Start: Jim and Ken Turn 40

Zippy cleaned out the CD rack (that I will be taking with me to the new place) and on it's shelves are a few of my CD's, filed with his. A Johnny Cash box set. Robert Johnson box set. Springsteens "Tracks".

And a handmade double disk, put together by my high school friend Jim (and his friend, Ken), celebrating four decadeds of them.

Disk One is labeled: Youthful Delusion and includes such gems as Runaway, Nancy Sinatra, Sweet, Cher, Led Zep, Lou Reed, Boston, The Knack, Blondie, and the Cars. The music of our collective youth.

Disk Two is labeled: Downward Spiral and here our paths diverge. Early punk / new wave (Sex Pistols, Smiths, Dead Kennedys, Gang of Four) give way to metal and grunge (Korn, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Tool)

Got both disks in the player right now. Just the jump start I need this morning!

September 24, 2009

Condo Update

Not a lot of news. Appraisal came in fine; I wrote a $375 check for that. I delivered a pile of recent back statement to my mortgage broker. No updates in terms or approval or closing, but also nothing bad.....

New Yorker: Pecking Order



I'm pretty sure I'll be photocopying the accompanying article for a certain suburban chicken seeking friend of mine...

September 23, 2009

Adult Science Fair

This particular corporate gig is amusing for its resemblence to that childhood trauma - the Science Fair.

Fifteen speakers got up and talked for 15 minutes about their products, industries, technologies (and how they contribute to the corporation and investor value), while a room full of judges (investor analysts) sat and listened.

Now we've moved on to show and tell, as these presenters are standing beside their displays (poster sessions, really, with a few bits of technology to see or touch) and the analysts are schmoozing.

Head to Toe Black Again

Day two for our intrepid powerpoint princess.

I'm opting for my head-to-toe black again today (rather than my more upscale duds) because (a) my job is to be invisible and (b) I'll be working the out and pushing crates and wrapping cables and stuff. No need to rip a pair of nice slacks or soil a blouse....there are some graphics ops and stuff who white glove it (when the show ends, closing the laptops and walking away, and letting the graphics house handle the out) but that's not me.....there are only 4 of us here (two guys from the graphics house, the director and me) so all hands on deck....

The rehearsal day went pretty well. The client showed up with 20 presentations (labeled A thru U) and I took it upon myself to merge them into two decks - one for the morning, one for the afternoon. No serious problems - PowerPoint sometimes does funky things when merging, but these all started from a common template / master file so the problems were minimal (a handful of rogue characters, some font size issues, and for one presentation, all the text lost it's BOLD) - so a few hours of work to carefully study the originals vs. the merged file to spot differences and consult with the client - all good. So now I mostly sit there and push the space bar.

We have a pretty nifty presentation timer at this gig (counts down to zero, flashes when one exceeds the time, signal light moves from green to yellow to red) so we spent the rehearsal jotting down the presenters times (they all get 15 minutes) - silently cheering on the speedsters who came in under 10 minutes and cursing those who pushed it to 14:30. Nobody exceeded 15 minutes - pretty typical for a corporation that prides itself on operational discipline.

It helps to be an engineering / former corporate hack kind of powerpoint operator _ I can sort of follow along with the presenters and figure out the slide changes myself - the presenters range from very comfortable with the slide clicker to completely unaware of it - so for some of the more awkward folks I anticipate the change for them.

Interestingly two women at the podium this year (last time I worked for this company, two days of presentations, 45 speakers, no women). Although amusingly when the VP of sales stood up and said "you may wonder why a sales person is presenting at a technical forum" I quipped to the crew "because we needed another woman up here and could not find any in the engineering management team". I don't really fault the company - the engineering this company does is decidely staid and old school, and all the women engineers (and there are many in much demand by companies seeking EEOC sanction and government contracts) get scooped up by companies offering more exciting work. "Operational discipline", whatever it's benefit to the bottom line, safety, and profitability, does not seem like the best catchphrase to woo recruits.

I'm eating poorly (or very well depending on your definition) here. Marriott Courtyard breakfast (eggs and such). Lunch (delayed until 3) was a selection from a grinder / sandwich shop (delivered) - I got a stir-friend veggie grinder (awesome, lots of brocolli, peppers, and carrots with provolone) but it's still a hunk of carbs. And dinners have been a baked whitefish (yum) and last night Italian (a pasta dish, with an arugala salad). Nothing horribly bad but just lots more food than I am used to and late lunches and dinners so I'm hungry....

I'd love to catch yoga up here but I have no car (next time, I drive) there is a local place that has a 6 pm vinyasa class, but its a bit of a hike and we've not been out in time - maybe next time.

September 22, 2009

Head to Toe Black

I'm out in Buffalo on a corporate gig - pushing the space bar for a raft of PowerPoint presentations. It's kind of a long trip (for this sort of thing) - traveled out Monday afternoon, we set up and rehearse today (Tuesday), the meeting is Wedneday, and travel back Thursday (unless I can sneak out Wed night). These things can be either extremely stressful or extremely boring (sometimes both) - I suspect I'll have some work to do this morning as my client called last night; the end client has "6 or 7 presentations and they are having problems merging them together".

Powerpoint tends to copy formats, backgrounds, and styles together - so the presentation needs to be carefully designed to avoid that (typical users have no clue what that means) so I'll either be doing some last minute recreating today or else working out the technical aspects of swapping presentations seamlessly on the fly. Either way, it's why they pay to have someone like me here.

Been a long time since I've done this sort of gig - my last was a flyout to San Diego in March '08 and that was a similarly minimal gig (me and a producer, the rest of the crew locals or gear house). Between teaching yoga, engineering, the economic slowdown (a lot of these clients are in the embattled financial sector), and corporate move to web based meetings - well, not so much demand for this kind of work. I can not remember the last "big meeting" of the sort I used to do 4x or more a year - a big powerpoint presentation to put together (with custom template, backgrounds, graphics and multiple presentations) and a trip to a far city with a full crew - sound, lights, cameras.

Things change. But I'm here; once more into the fray. Hope I still remember how PowerPoint works (or they do not have some crazy 2009 version of it I need to learn on the fly).

Jack Hardy in Watertown

Traveled out to Watertown CT last weekend to see Jack Hardy - my FRFF friend Barbara hosts occasional folk acts in her backyard (barn) as well as in her living room.



It's always wonderful to see talented musician's in intimate settings (sans microphones and sound systems), and Jack was especially wonderful - he has such a deep and long career, and is such a devotee of the songwriting process, that he can just create a set on the fly from his songbook that is diverse, entertaining, and top quality. I really enjoyed the evening.

Jack is one of those artists who I've been brushing up against for years - on compilations (most notably the Fast Folk samplers which I used to get), at concerts, at festivals. I saw him featured at Grassy Hill a few years back, and most recently, he's sat and chatted in the Falcon Ridge merch trailer as I checked in his merchandise. So it was nice to see him featured in a full set and nice to pick up his new CD (Rye Grass) - I'm usually swamped with music at FRFF (and have a limited music buying budget) and try to pick up the CDs of new (to me) artists, and often old friends slip past.

I'm in the process of sorting out stuff as I prepare to move, and just this weekend I packed away all my CDs (I have many; even though I do download music these days I'm still a collector of physical music) - and so I picked up Jack's CD with a little concern (oh no, more "stuff"). But for artists, buying a CD is an act of devotion, a vote of support for what is undoubtedly a difficult (from a financial perspective) life. Maybe we could toss an extra $10 into the pot when it comes to paying for a concert, but that maybe tips the balance into charity and besides, artists want their music shared, listened to, appreciated. So, one more CD for the "stuff" pile.

September 18, 2009

Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps

Went to see the performance art of Scott Turner Schofield this evening at Real Art Ways.

Pretty freaking awesome - from the opening (I won't spoil it, but I called it) to the concept of having 127 different stories to tell, chosen at random by the audience, so the piece is different every night. I'd go back again tomorrow (were I not heading down to see Jack Hardy at a house concert) just to see what other stories he has up his sleeve.



Wonderfully conceived - from the set piece of a childhood fort (did we all do that?) to the acrobatics on the draped fabric (I most certainly did not do that, but if I ever have a high ceilinged yoga studio I am damn sure gonna rig it up for that sort of aerial exploration). Scott (or is it Turner?) passed out his props before the show (and called them back from the audience as needed) adding another level of participation and intimacy.

Quibbles - the audio tracks (ripped from voice mail or an answering machine, seemingly) were often pretty fuzzy and hard to hear, similarly, the video backdrop was a little soft (focus as well as prominance).

But all in all, a definite "not to miss" performance. Tickets will go fast for tomorow night - so if you are planning to go, call and make arrangements ASAP!

September 13, 2009

Le Morte du Blog

Colin McEnroe is doing a show on CT Bloggers tomorrow (Monday). The preview bumper talk about local bloggers perhaps stepping back a bit - losing a step so to speak, and challenges us to step it up. In his words:

On Monday's show -- from 1 to 2 pm -- I want to look at the State of the Blog. Specifically, I want to look at where blogging and other online communication/journalism is -- especially here in CT -- roughly five years down the road from the first real ascendance of blogs. Old media seems shakier than ever. Do you bloggers feel ready to step up and fill the vacuum? Are there better models on the proving grounds of the internet right now?

And news consumers -- do you use online journalism and other forms of 'net info?
Our studio line. 860 275 7266.

Do call in! I'm trying not to book guests and to have spontaneous contact with callers.

Simon Owens from Bloggasm and Kevin from We The People are among the people I THINK will call.

I have some theories regarding the slowdown in the local blogosphere.

1) Twitter. And Facebook. Even though I'm only a sporadic tweeter, and I've linked my blog to both Twitter and Facebook, it's a dilution of online energy and time. I can post a quick Facebook update to a captive audience (my 157 Facebook friends) as opposed to a blog post that may or may not get looked at. So I see a certain stratification of updates - Twitter gets the short things, Facebook gets links and videos and stuff, and my blog gets longer posts, reviews, etc.

Evidence of this - the quote from Colin above came via Facebook - not via his blog.

2) Lack of a Big Enemy. Bush was a fine target for bloggishness. Lieberman was as well, especially in the Lamont era. Not sure that Eddie Perez' travails or Jodi Rell's languor are juicy enough. And stuff like Global Warming and Wall Street are a bit too diffuse and overwhelming to feel empowered to do something about it via blog.

3) The Economy. Blogging is for the most part an unpaid activity and a labor of love, and is a luxury for many. When times are tough and people are hustling to keep the money coming in or the rent paid (or perhaps are a little less keen to be caught messing around online at their day job) it's more difficult to spend the time blogging or justify the time / energy.

I'm sure there are other ideas out there. I'll tune in (and I think I committed to calling in) and you should too....

My September 11 Story

Not sure I've ever written this one down; I was not blogging at the time and my story is not all that interesting. But might as well spend a few minutes in between the purging, sorting, and tossing.

The week of Sept 11, 2001, I was headed out to Chicago for the annual power quality conference. Not sure if I flew that morning (if I did, it was a dawn Southwest hop into Midway) or the night before. But 8:00 am chicago time found me parked outside an office supply store waiting for them to open so I could get a cell phone charger. I was listening to public radio when I first got word; quickly buzzed over to AM. Then I called my friend Robert (balloon and private pilot) to tell him to turn on CNN because "some moron flew his cessna into the world trade center" - which is how it seemed to be reported, initially.

Robert, taking a look at the news, told me "that's a lot bigger than a cessna" and while we were on the phone, the 2nd plane hit the other tower. He got off the phone to call his brother in the city, and I headed to the conference, listening to the radio.

Needless to say there was not much of a conference. We hung out that morning kind of making a show of it but were drawn to the few televisions in the hall - by mid morning I packed it up and went to the hotel to keep vigil. For the rest of the week I holed up in the hotel, got online, and hung out a friendly gay bar near the conference center - sitting at the bar, siping a drink, watching the news, chatting with the other few folks just looking to be with others. I remember a flame war erupting in one group I was moderating (over something silly; people were on edge).

I recall being kind of broke at the time so as the reality of things hit and air travel was shut down, I started to fret about paying for the hotel for an extended period. About the 4th day, I decided to drive back - not even bothering to call my rental car company (better to ask forgiveness, than seek permission) and I made the long drive back from Chicago to Connecticut. Think I did an overnight in a small hotel in north central PA; taking a northerly route to avoid NYC.

I never did get billed for the rental car - I think the folks in Chicago handed me the wrong paperwork so I had a car and someone else's contract, and when I got to the outlet at the CT airport, there were scores of people lined up to check in cars, so I just left the keys and contract and figured they'd sort it out. I suspect they just gave up on a lot of stuff that week....

September 12, 2009

Cassette Tapes - Fini

I've gone from about 200 cassettes to 100. I initially started to just toss 'em all, but thought better of it. There is some local and difficult to recreate history there - Berlin Airlift? The Stompers? Go Van Gogh? early Dar Williams (pre Honesty Room)? early David Johanssen? the New York Dolls? And I am envisioning a different life once I move into my own place - with hopefully space and time for more conscious music listening. So I decided to hang on to some stuff.

I ended up tossing anything (purchased or dubbed) that I had access to in another format (CD or digital). Tapes that folks have given me over the years that I never really listened to (mostly folk artists). Exceptions were made for Springsteen and The Clash. And I probably chucked a few things that I did not have another copy of but was not really interested in.

I ended up going over to the CD rack quite a few times. Do I really have Marc Cohn? Freedy Johnston? Specific Indigo Girls or Suzanne Vega CDs? Most often, yes, I did have them.

I was struck by some unusual trends. I'd consider myself a big Warren Zevon fan - yet I only have two CDs - Greatest Hits and his penultimate Sentimental Journey. His debut and Excitable Boy - cassette only. Similarly, a lot of Neil Young on cassette only (although a lot of CDs as well) - because back in the day I'd find and buy his stuff in the cut-out bin. The Clash (as I mentioned) - all their stuff through Sandanista on cassette. I do not own any Talking Heads except on cassette. I think I own one John Hiatt CD (greatest hits) yet probably 3 or 4 dubbed cassettes (my ex, I recall, was a big fan). I own no Joni Mitchell, yet 4 of her early works made it into my dubbed cassette collection.

And a lot of the dubbed stuff that I copied from vinyl (long since sold) - I remember owning the albums. So a little bit of a trip down memory lane. And I still have a dozen or so cassettes of my usical history (a tape of a sophomore year in college jam session, an entire evening of music (180 minutes) at the Westboro KofC hall, a tape of studio recorded songs, and perhaps a 6-8 tapes of me solo - open mics recorded from the board or just hacking around with a small cassette recorder. need to go through those more carefully.

A more or less successful cleansing. Although later tonight I was in the basement working on another project in preparation for the move and found a showbox full of more cassettes. Doh! I went through those as well....

Cassette Tapes

I have close to 200 cassette tapes carefully stacked in those wooden wall racks I picked up at Strawberries (back when there was a Strawberries, and one's music choice was Vinyl or Cassette). The cassettes come in three flavors:

1) Cassettes I purchased (maybe 30%)
2) Cassettes I made (usually dubbed from vinyl, 2 albums to a tape, from either albums I used to own and got rid of or albums borrowed from friends). Yes MPAA, shoot me now. (maybe 65%)
3) Cassettes of myself or bands I have been in (maybe 5%)

Back in the day when I had a cassette player in my car (not all that long ago, my 96 Saturn had one until maybe the last year or two of its life, and I kept the car on the road until 07), I did listen to cassettes. But it should be said that I these racks were sealed with duct tape for 5-6 years; I think I pulled out one cassette to listen to it a few months back. And yes, I still have the means to play tapes - a nice Philips dual cassette deck in my stereo rack and a couple of small boom boxes with cassette players.

Because I am in a purging, detooxing, cleaning my life out kind of place in preparation for a move to a place with a bit less storage, I'm considering a wholesale tossing of cassette tapes. My options:

1) Toss 'em all
2) Sort through them and toss some dubbed cassettes (based on artists) but keep some, keep the purchased cassettes, and keep the ones of my music
3) Toss all the dubbed cassettes, keep the rest
4) Toss all the dubbed cassettes and purchased cassettes, keep the ones of my music
5) Toss 'em all.

Your thoughts?

For background, I'm a bit of a technological dinosaur - I still buy CD's, and although I've owned a few MP3 players and more recently an iPod touch (which has been MIA for a while now), and download music occasionally, I've never made MP3 my main music source. So if anyone were going to hang on to obsolete media, it's me.

Rock Band: The Beatles

Much ado about the release of The Beatles Rock Band. I think I've played once (at my sister's house) and got PWNED by my nephews and nieces. And while it's kind of cool to be jamming to familiar tunes rather than shooting at realistic human or stealing cars via video game, I did not catch the bug.

I guess I am one of those cranky musicians who hate rock band - because I've had some rock and roll salad days - a senior talent show where I got to play that slide lead to "Freebird" as people screamed in the audience. A nighttime graduation party where I led the band through Jonathon Richman's "Roadrunner" and Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" and there was much applause. Long hours spent in the studio laying down tracks on a 4-track reel to reel as we duplicated the Beatle's "Rain" (including the backwards guitar part and bakcwards vocals at the end). Innumerable nights on an acoustic open mic stage where people actually seemed to be listening.

So picking up a plastic guitar and pushing buttons in response to colored cues is kind of - meh. Maybe if they had a "real guitar" option where I could plug in a strat knock-off and play real notes...and maybe the full tracks of Lou Reed's "Rock and Roll Animal"

It's all a moot point. According to one fan, Rock Band and Guitar Hero are Doomed

September 11, 2009

If I Were a Good Blogger...

I would have had my camera at the ready as Mayor Eddie Perez came up behind Colin McEnroe for a handshake and a quick hello at last nights CARC (CT Aids Resource Coalition) Summer Camp event, at Sully's. Would have been good blog fodder....

Instead, I did capture a photo of Colin on stage with OPM, doing the Beastie Boys'
"You Gotta Fight"

Nice night, nice event. A little under-attended (come on folks, it's a great cause).

On the plus side, I did walk away with two lovely pottery pieces (little urns or pots with covers) by David Wilson and 8 tickets to the Thomaston Opera House (anyone wanna go see Mame?) via the various raffles....

September 10, 2009

Health Insurance

Inspired by my friend Helen's recent blog post Here's how it is for me.

I've been self employed since 1995. Before that I had nice corporate health insurance (that I rarely if ever used). At that time, I accepted a voluntary separation package (ironically, I was working for a medical imaging company, and the downsizing was driven by the health care industry freeze-up at the time of the Clinton health care initiatives). I took advantage of Cobra for 18 months (I guess) and then I was out on my own.

In the past 14 years I have had a variety of health insurance plans ranging from:

* Cobra corporate insurance
* Crappy self employment insurance through NASE
* No health insurance
* Full health insurance through Anthem BC/BS
* A high deductible policy with a Health Savings Account (HSA)

This last is my present insurance. I switched over a year or so ago as the regular self employed health insurance premiums rose past $500 / month - I pay less per month, I sock away $3K per year tax-free towards some future health crisis, I get no deductible preventative care, and preferred pricing on drugs and stuff. Win Win Win.

It helps that I have been in good health these past 15 years - I don't really use health insurance. I have an annual check-up with my endo / PCP, an annual gyno appointment. Some fairly low cost maintenance meds. An annual set of blood work. Knock wood - so far nothing chronic, nothing catastrophic. And though I carry around estra weight, I also hit the yoga mat for a vigorous practice 4-5 times a week, hike walk, or bike regularly, and remain more or less physically active.

I will say that my health insurance leanings do run a little right of center, in a couple of ways.

A) Competition. When I had corporate or full health insurance, I'd go down to my local CVS to fill my prescriptions. I'd chaff a bit, because there was often a line of folks at the pharmacy of my big city CVS - most (judging by overheard copays) on some form of medicaid / medicare / state insurance. I, and they, never thought about about the price of our prescriptions - we were happy to lay out the copay. But when I got my HSA, and started to pay for my own prescriptions, I started to price shop. Came to find out that the CVS price was incredibly high compared to where I go now (Target); that because I was not incented to price shop, my insurance company was paying a higher price. In one case, my copay at CVS was higher than the full price at Target! And the insurance company was paying $30-$40 bucks a month on top of that!

So I'm all in favor of driving a little consumer awareness and incented price shopping into health care; of making it a little more financially painful for folks with health insurance to opt for convenient, yet expensive, consumer choices.

In another case, back in the day when I had health corporate insurance, I twisted my ankle. Pretty sure it was not broken, but I went to the doctor who confirmed that. But he wrote out a form for an MRI. "Why are you doing that?" I asked. "Just to be on the safe side...." he said. I interpreted this to be "cover my butt so you won't sue me" medicine. "And what happens if there is something there?" I continued. "We wait a few days for the swelling to go down, then come back and we'll decide how to treat it"

"And if I don't get the MRI?" Well, in a few days if the ankle is not feeling better, you'll want to come back, we can do an MRI then. So basically, the MRI was not going to change the treatment at all, but it made the doctor (or more likely, his malpractice insurance company) feel better. I signed a form saying "no thanks, and Imn not goign to sue you", and the ankle healed fine. Hundreds of dollars of health care expense avoided. So I am also a big fan of tort reform in the health care field. There is clear malpractice and then there is the art of medicine (where sometimes doctors do all the right or prudent things and the patient does not recover optimally) - and I'm sick of this "if something bad happens, I get a big check" society (this extends to accidents and injury as well). When I see those "get the money you deserve" ads on TV I begin to think Shakespeare was right about lawyers..... Just because we own a big freaking MRI machine does not mean we need to use it for every scrape and bump.

And finally, I'm all for incenting healthy lifestyles - be it around weight, exercise, preventative care, sin taxes on junk food, etc. You want your double quarter pounder with cheese or your blooming onion? It'll cost you an extra buck or two, with the proceeds going into the health care kitty.

I'm actually kind of in favor of a two tier system. I have no problem with a no frills, public health option that is heavy on preventive / basic care, and perhaps not so generous when it comes to extraordinary treatments (thinking things like transplants and aggressive cancer treatment with little hope of recovery). You want that stuff, and are willing to pay for the white glove insurance (or have the bucks to pay out of pocket), by all means.

And I *do* like the idea of death panels - because nobody wants to accept or embrace what is, for all of us, pretty much a sure fact. And I think someone with a little distance (and no financial incentive in terms of payment for services or procedures) ought to be able to suggest "hey, we think it's time". If you've never put a dog or cat to sleep, you are not qualified to make end of life decisions....IMHO. And if there is no factoring in of cost for these extraordinary procedures to extend life few more hours or days, with little regard for the quality of life, well - no wonder we are spending so much.

I don't say much about stuff like this on the blog - because I'm kind of a cold hearted realist in some ways who is a less afraid of death than most (go to an enlightenment intensive - join me!). So I accept the inevitability of my own death and the death of others. I embrace the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. I look at a heart transplant and think "hm....how many 100's or 1000's of lives can we save if we spend that money on pre-natal care". And that sort of thinking is dangerous and heresy.

But now you know.....

September 07, 2009

Up to the Cape

Spent Friday - Sunday up in Mashpee, MA, at my sister's newish (purchased this year) beach house. First off, beach house does not do this place justice. To hear her talk about it when they bought it, I imagined this small 4 room, nonwinterized shack on a cramped street near the shore. In fact it's a lovely home, with plenty of room for her family (three kids, two adults) and guests (my mother and I stayed over). Smallish kitchen but a nice dining area, big living room with fireplace and cathedral ceiling. Loft sitting area with a fold out cot, a master bedroom for the parents, a side bedroom with a divider for kids / guests (and three beds), and a huge basement with more sleeping room.

Two decks outside (perfect for yoga, although there is also Yoga on the Beach in season), an outdoor shower (adding to two full baths inside), and a fully wooded lot (in fact, my brother is law is working to put in a lawn; the property had been mulched just because it's so shaded). They are talking about adding a pool during the off season. Plenty of privacy. It's, let's be honest, gorgeous!

A bit of a hike to the beach - although not too far with a wagon (walking) or bike. And though the ocean proper (with waves and stuff) is blocked by a little piece of land called Martha's Vineyard (so it's more like Long Island Sound beaches) it's still beautiful. We all went swimming on Saturday (gorgeous day, hot and sunny with end of season warm water) and I think it's the first time we've been at the beach together in 30 years.

In between, just hung around, relaxing. My nephew Sean and I took a bike ride to the candy store (his choice of destinations) where I picked up some candy necklaces (which look like Mala beads, there is an inside joke there) - then my niece Sara stole them (thinking they were Sean's, apparently fraternal theft is permissible) which was pretty funny. We played some games - Patriot's Uno (in which all the cards bear Tom Brady's likeness, and there is a new card called the "Passer" (he's a quarterback get it) wherein everyone passes their hand to the right. Definitely makes the game more chaotic.

We also played a homemade game I introduced called Categories which was fun (even if I was pretty unbeatable) - I remember playing this game 40 years ago with my Long Island relations. There was frisbee, tossing the football, croquet. A shopping trip to the little touristy shops nearby and a seafood lunch (some shared lobster roll, I opted for clam strips)

We had a big lobster dinner (for my brother Tom's birthday, his choice) although my brother and I opted for a rare tuna steak. Corn on the cob, cole slaw, tomotoes and cukes. Cheesecake factory dessert. Yummy.

It's been a 25 year or so since I've done a beach vacation. It was a fun couple of days. And Kathy and Tom have offered the place as an off season weekend getaway, which I just might take them up on...it's lovely there.

September 06, 2009

Yoga on the Beach

My holiday weekend Cape Cod trip was sweetened by Saturday and Sunday morning on the mat with Nancy and Don from Yoga on the Beach. They hold a morning practice at the New Seabury Beach Club (next to the Popponessett Inn), near my sister's summer home.

Saturday, Nancy led a more conventional yoga practice - perhaps a bit more Yin, centering on the hips. Not exactly hot / power as I'm used to it but quite lovely, and although I feared some lower back stuff (lot of forward folds) my concerns were unfounded. Sunday, Don led a Yoga Rhythm practice - not quite as bouncy as Kriplau Danskinetics but quite fun and flowy. Between the two practices - I had a lovely yoga weekend with my sister.

September 04, 2009

Labor Day Updates

The weekend plans, for those who care.

Today, I teach two classes: my 10:45 AM Power class (thankfully continuing into the fall, so do come!) and my popular 12:15 PM Gentle class. We're gonna move for the power class; not sure about the Gentle yet (I often play that one by ear depending upon who is in the class and what people are bringing into the studio in terms of energy, injury, and places they want to work).

Right after, I am ostensibly heading east towards Mashpee, MA, where my sister and hubby own a summer home; I have not yet been to visit but apparently it can sleep 14 (and room for a pony). Big birthday weekend - I blew off my nephew and niece this summer (they are getting cash) and my brother celebrates his this weekend. My sister assures me there is morning yoga on the beach, so I'm bringing my yoga duds and mat....(do you use a mat for beach yoga?)

In the meantime - work, a largish project to crank out before I leave, and plenty of smallish tasks as well. Although we've officially settled on a price for the condo I have yet to sign a contract or hand over additional deposit money; and I'm thinking that might have to happen between now and when I leave.

Last night I spent a few hours with little (4 pounds 9 oz, 18 days old) Andrew snuggled in my arms and on my belly as I hung out with his parents. It's the little things in life that matter; this time very literally. I drove home with baby smell on my hands and trust me; it's not something you want to let go off too quickly. What a sweetie.

With any luck I'll be heading home Sunday night (avoiding the Monday afternoon rush off the Cape) and hanging out on Monday - West Hartford Yoga has two Labor Day classes - Power I with Nykki @ 9:00 AM and Gentle with Shankara @ 9:15 AM.

Have a great holiday weekend, all!