Category Archives: Thinking out loud

The “horrors” of socialized medicine

During our visit to Cuba, the thing the people were most proud of was their healthcare system, despite the older equipment and difficulty in getting medication (because of the embargo). I had to go to the hospital while there, and because I wasn’t a citizen, I had to pay — about 15 bucks in American dollars. In England, people complain about their health care until they hear about America’s.

The US is one of the only countries in the industrialized world without universal healthcare. No system is perfect, all systems have their problems, but ours lags behind and is one of the most unnecessarily expensive in the world.

From the LA Times last November:

Op-Ed I had a health crisis in France. I’m here to tell you that ‘socialized medicine’ is terrific

Let’s get to the bottom line. In addition to my surgery, I underwent an MRI, had a probe inserted in my upper thigh and extended into my heart, twice had a camera shoved down my throat to take photos of my valve, and more blood tests, electrocardiograms and sonograms than I can count. For all this, I was charged nothing.

la-nismedley-1479430975-snap-photoI did have to pay for my hospital beds, TV, telephone, WiFi and meals. I spent a total of 47 nights in hospitals and rehab. During the second half of my stay at the Grands Prs, I switched from a double room to a single so that I would have more privacy to write. Naturally, that was a bit more expensive. In the end, this entire ordeal set me back about 1,300 euros, or $1,455.

Granted, it’s taxes that make such low out-of-pocket costs possible. My individual burden, however, is far more reasonable than an American might assume. I pay an annual income tax of about 23%. All things considered, that’s fine by me.

I sometimes wonder how my health crisis would have played out had I returned to America instead of deciding to stay in Paris more than 20 years ago. Me, a journeyman writer with no university or corporate insurance coverage. Would I have been kept under observation in intensive care for two weeks? Before Obamacare, my valve problem could have been considered a “pre-existing condition,” allowing insurers to deny me support for the surgery.

Of course, I will never know what would have happened had I chosen to settle in my native country instead of in France. But the choice I made might well have saved my life.

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Life will appear to go on

There is a misconception that if we lose our rights life will grind to a halt. It’s not true. As we lose the right to collectively bargain, the right to have our votes counted, the right to say what happens to our own bodies, everything will still seem almost normal. As we lose the right to a clean and healthy environment, the right to safe food and water, the right of a free press, the right to not be discriminated against because of whom we love or what religion we believe in (or not at all), life will go on. Reality shows will continue to air, the latest fashions will still be in the stores, and pop stars will still lip-sync forgettable ditties. Life will go on. We’ll hardly notice the important things we’ve lost until it’s too late.

I fell off the horse

I fell off the horse. Everyone told me to just get right back on, but I didn’t do that. I sued the horse. Sued the pants off him. The lesson? Don’t try to ride horses who wear pants. I mean, c’mon. That’s just nuts.

This moment of free association brought to you by glue. Glue. It’s what’s for dinner.

Thanks, Brain.

Brain: Watcha doin?
Me: Trying to sleep. Leave me alone.
Brain: You know the door’s unlocked, right?
Me: (Goes to check, door is already locked, gets back in bed.)
Brain: Is your alarm set?
Me: No, I don’t work tomorrow. Don’t need alarm.
Brain: Yeah, but maybe it’s going to go off and wake you up.
Me: I don’t care! I’m going to sleep!
Brain: Are you sure you don’t work tomorrow? You better go check the schedule just to be sure.
Me: Dammit, I just want to sleep! Why are you doing this to me?

(with a h/t to Wil Wheaton, who understands my sleep deprivation)

Fearing artificial consciousness

Some scientists say we’ll have artificial intelligence more advanced than us by 2050. I prefer to call that “artificial consciousness,” because that’s what we’re really talking about.

But these scientists warn that the coming of artificial consciousness could mean “the extinction of the human race.”

The only reason we freak out at the prospect of sharing our world with artificial intelligence is projection: We naturally think anything or anyone more advanced than us is going to wipe us out — because that’s exactly what WE have done to anyone we perceived as lesser than us.

That’s why our science fiction is filled with stories about alien invasions wiping out humanity, supercomputers taking over the world, and the like. We assume that more advanced aliens and artificial intelligence will have the same morals we do. And that’s what we’re afraid of.

But it’s not necessarily so. It could very well be that the coming of artificial consciousness may be the next step in our evolution, and perhaps help us survive our more murderous and suicidal instincts as a species.


It all hinges on if artificial consciousness shares our morality. If it does, we’re cooked.

I think, therefore I am, but only for a little while

We don’t exist, then we do until we don’t again.

The idea of nonexistence doesn’t freak me out. I didn’t exist for trillions of years before I was born, and I seem to have come through it unscathed. I imagine not existing after I die will be a lot like that.

Are people really grousing about Starbucks holiday cups?

Really? Are people really grousing about Starbucks holiday coffee cups?

Yes, apparently so.

Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor who calls himself a “social media personality” (there’s a clue right there), posted a video on Facebook last week, accusing Starbucks of taking “Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups.”

That’s just not true, because the original design of the cups had NO religious iconography in the first place, so Starbucks hasn’t removed anything “Christian” from the cups. Also, Starbucks sells a “Christmas blend,” and it’s called “CHRISTMAS blend” for cryin’ out loud. So it doesn’t look like Starbucks has “removed Christ” at all. He’s right there, in the name of one of Starbucks’ seasonal blends (see below).

I suspect Feuerstein is deliberately scamming people. I think he’s just trying to build a brand for his social media, increase his hits and followers, and maybe even raise some cash from gullible people.


There’s “Christ,” right there in the name of the blend.