Friday, February 27, 2015

So Long, Leonard

An actor who had a huge impact on my life has died.

Thanks for everything.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How's this for Skin in the Game?

One of the more odious conservative catch-phrases is "skin in the game" which they use to justify the idea of raising taxes on the POOR so that somehow with even less money, they'll pull themselves out of poverty. Conservatives say that the "47%" who pay no income taxes need to have this mythical "skin in the game", as if they don't already pay state and local taxes, property taxes, and sales and usage taxes. It's an awful, cynical, assholish thing to say.

Well, how about this?
Roads are crumbling, bridges require repairs, schools need upgrades and public pension systems remain underfunded. How can states and cities find the money to address any of these problems? One way could be through their tax codes.
According to a new report, if the rich paid the same state and local tax rate as the middle class, states and cities would have hundreds of billions of dollars more a year in public revenue.
Last month, the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the poorest 20 percent of households pay on average more than twice the effective state and local tax rate (10.9 percent) as the richest 1 percent of taxpayers (5.4 percent).  Link
Sounds like the richest 1 percent need to have some "skin in the game", huh?

Psst. Don't worry, they can afford it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Oscars - 2015

I was only planning on watching the opening number on the Oscars, having little interest in most of the films nominated, but it's been a pretty good show so I've watched most of it. NPH is a great host.

All I have to say, though, is this. The Best Animated Feature winner, Big Hero Six, was not nearly as good as The Lego Movie. Not even close.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stranger than Fiction

Did you know that in 1919 in Boston, 21 people were killed by a flood . . . of molasses?

It's become known as the Great Molasses Flood of 1919.
Almost a century ago, a giant storage tank in Boston’s North End ruptured, releasing a massive wave of molasses that killed 21 people, crushed buildings, and tore a firehouse from its foundation.
The Great Molasses Flood of 1919, one of history’s most bizarre disasters, has remained a topic of grim fascination ever since, prompting a range of historical analysis. Now, a study has shed new light on the cause of the collapse, finding that the tank was stressed well beyond capacity and made from a steel susceptible to fracture — the same type used on the Titanic.
Absolutely fascinating.  Check out the whole story here, along with some incredible pictures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

These are the stakes

A total of 11.4 million Americans enrolled for coverage through an ACA marketplace, well ahead of the 10.3 million enrollees the Obama administration projected before this year’s open-enrollment process began. This total, though impressive, does not include the millions of additional Americans who are now covered through Medicaid expansion or young adults who have insurance through their family’s plan thanks to the law’s consumer protections 
Charles Gaba puts the total, including all the young people who've been able to stay on their parents plans, the people who are in expanded Medicaid and the regular enrollees at 32 million.  Link
Remember, Republicans want to take this away from Americans. They'd do it today, if they could. They'd do it without any reservation or hesitation. They'd take away affordable healthcare from families, students, the employed and unemployed, and children. They'd throw millions of people back into uncertainty, ill-health, the lingering possibility of bankruptcy, and in some cases, death. They'd also increase the deficit, skyrocket healthcare costs and hurt the economy.

If you make the mistake of reading the comments following any stories about the upcoming Supreme Court case that threatens to destroy Obamacare, you'll see that conservatives are cackling with glee over the thought of taking away healthcare from millions of people, just to damage Obama's legacy. They literally don't care that people will die from this.

These people are revolting, uncaring, ignorant, disgusting and evil. 

What's Ipecac up to now? Results!

I had my Nucular Stress Test on Tuesday.

Because of the snowstorm, the clinic called and pushed back my appointment to 11AM. I arrived to be first in line and they quickly got me going.

First up, they inserted an IV into my arm so they could inject me with radioactive solution twice during the proceedings. I hate having needles in my arm so this was pretty annoying, but honestly, I got used to it pretty quickly.

After the first injection, I waited for a half hour and then they scanned my heart. I sat in a machine that slowly rotated as the scanner took pictures for thirteen minutes. The goal was to get images of my heart while I was at rest.

After that, I went in for the stress test proper. I was wired up to the ECG and a blood pressure cuff and the doctor started the treadmill. Last time I went for eight minutes before giving up and I vowed to improve that. The doctor told me to tell him when I estimated I could last for two more minutes so he could inject the second batch of radioactive solution. At six minutes and thirty seconds I told him to go. I then hung on until nine minutes had elapsed. Go me!

After the stress test, I was told I could eat some breakfast bars I brought and I waited for a bit before undergoing a second thirteen minute scan. This would reveal my "active" heart, which would give them a point of comparison for the at rest scans.

After that, I met with the Doctor to review the tests. The report on the computer monitor showed a few dozen thumbnails of various "live" cross-sections of my heart as well as a full color, 3-D model. The pictures showed that an area near the bottom of my heart wasn't getting full blood flow when I was resting. This could be because my diaphragm was pushing against a lower blood vessel, or because there was a blockage. My active heart, however, had much less of a blood flow restriction, which supported the diaphragm theory. He said that if there is a blockage, it's relatively small and not problematic at this time. Basically, I am in no danger and don't need to take any further drastic action except occasional ECG's to check if there are any changes. I do need to lose some weight and improve my diet, but that's always been the case.

So good news. All in all, an interesting and educational experience.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What's Ipecac up to now?

I haven't posted anything regarding my health in a while.

A couple of weeks ago I had my first annual physical since our family doctor retired and we switched to a new practice. Everything looked fine, except for an anomalous reading in my ECG (the heart "ping" machine). So, my doctor referred me to a cardiologist.

Nine days ago, I went in for a stress test. I did pretty well on the test, getting my heart rate up to 170 bpm, and my ultrasound showed no problems other than a small heart murmur. But near the end of the stress test, one of the little lines on the ECG which was supposed to go up, was going down. This indicated that my heart wasn't recovering quickly enough when my heart was racing.

The doctor said it might be completely normal for me, but since I am diabetic, he wanted to run another, more comprehensive stress test, the nuclear stress test. So this Tuesday, I will have radioactive gunk injected into my bloodstream through an IV and then undergo another test. This will include a look at the blood flow into my stomach so I'll have to eat during the test at some point, and I'll be at the cardiologist for four to five hours. Oh joy.

(I should note that all of this preventive medicine is possible only because I have good health insurance. Having to pay full price for these procedures without health insurance would be financially devastating, and I make more than your average American. If I were to forego the tests because of cost, and eventually have a heart attack, the financial toll would be much higher for me, for my employer, and for the economy. That's why even poor people should get access to affordable healthcare. Even if you can't find it in your heart to help out the poor in America, it's cheaper for everyone if they have healthcare rather than go into the Emergency Room after a traumatic medical event. There are no losers when everyone in America has affordable healthcare.)

So, that's my update. I'll let you know how it goes.

She's got my vote

If I had to choose someone to take over for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, it would be current TDS correspondent, Jessica Williams. She's fantastic.

Looks like I wasn't the only one to think of that.

Most Awesome Moments from The Daily Show

In honor of Jon Stewart's annoucement that he's leaving The Daily Show, here are the clips from the funniest night in Daily Show history. Just awesome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I really hoped he was going to pull a Carson and be there for thirty years

Do you remember when humorists Mark Twain and Will Rogers quit after fifteen years as America's moral compasses and conscience? Yeah, neither do I.

Of course, the terrible news of the week is the announcement of the departure of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. Someone will certainly take over the show, but it won't be the same. This is a huge blow to reason and truth and the loss of a clear, sane voice during this insane time in America.

First Colbert, now this. Aargh.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Obamacare - King v. Burwell Plaintiffs

If you're interested in the upcoming Supreme Court case against the Affordable Care Act, or if you just want to be REALLY DEPRESSED AND APPALLED, this article is a must read.

Meet the Unusual Plaintiffs Behind the Supreme Court Case that Could Kill Obamacare
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit designed by conservative advocates to destroy Obamacare. If the plaintiffs prevail, about 8 million people could lose their health insurance. Premiums are likely to skyrocket by 35 percent or more, threatening coverage for millions of others. Health policy experts have estimated that nearly 10,000 people a year could die prematurely if they lose their coverage. Obamacare itself could collapse.
Make no mistake, the asshats bringing this case are doing so out of animosity towards the President, and in pursuing this hateful agenda, millions of people will lose their health insurance and thousands will die for lack of health care. Yes, die. Because affordable healthcare saves lives. Incidentally, this will also explode the deficit. Nice going Republicans!

This paragraph is about one of the four plaintiffs in the case.
When I asked her if she realized that her lawsuit could potentially wipe out health coverage for millions, she looked befuddled. "I don't want things to be more difficult for people," she said. "I don't like the idea of throwing people off their health insurance." 
Well guess what, dumbass. You're about to do just that. Nice going. I have no sympathy for people so stupid that they will hurt millions of Americans, intentionally or not. Even more incredible, this plaintiff is paying $1500 a month for health insurance because she refuses to choose an Obamacare policy. If she did, her premiums would drop to $148 a month. So not only is she unthinkingly hurting millions of Americans, she's also screwing herself over. Idiot.

Read the article and despair. There are just no words for this level of evil.

When you can gay marry in Alabama, the game is over

Give it up, bigoted douchebags. It's over. Same sex marriage is here to stay.

Despite idiot Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore, gay marriage has come to Alabama. Honestly, I would have thought it would be the last state, but a federal judge said the ban was unconstitutional and the Supreme Court declined to change that.

It's pretty clear that the Supreme Court is going to overturn all same sex marriage bans when they get around to hearing the case before them. In the meantime, all you conservatives fighting against it are just making people's lives miserable. But then, I guess that's your goal.

Thirteen states to go!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Ask the Atheist - What would you say to God?

The question of the day is, "If you found yourself dead and standing before God (as an atheist you were obviously wrong), what would you say to God?"

Despite Stephen Fry being completely wrong on women, I agree with his response here in every way. Watch the face of the interviewer, Gay Byrne. Priceless.

This is an excellent answer to a stupid question and I would answer in exactly the same vein. Why would anyone want to worship such a being?

How dare God indeed?

Trouble in the Atheist Movement

I've written about this problem before.

The atheist movement, which is basically a bunch of people who don't want your religion shoved down our throats, is growing in both numbers and influence. Inasmuch as there are leaders of the movement, they tend to be old white guys, something which is hopefully changing quickly.

Unfortunately, what we've been learning over the past several years is that many of these leaders are misogynistic asshats. These are well-spoken, thoughtful people who I've admired in the past. Richard Dawkins doesn't recognize his privilege and thinks that women are being overly sensitive about having to deal with harassment every day. Penn Gillette often disparages women in offensive ways. Stephen Fry has a low opinion of women and is unafraid to express it. "Mr. Diety" Brian Keith Dalton, whose short videos I used to really enjoy, is a rape apologist. And Michael Shermer is the aforementioned (alleged) rapist.

I guess it would be surprising if there weren't some unsocial, nasty people with terrible ideas in atheism. But it's disappointing that so many are the public face of atheism.

I just don't get misogyny at all. Why the hatred for women? Women are great and improve anything they're involved in. Plus, they represent about half the human race. I believe the atheist movement, one based in rationally observing the universe, should do better.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Fun with Signs - The End?

After a few weeks of people inexplicably wandering the halls after hours, I finally had a chance to change the sign again. This was intended to be my final one, kind of a plea to pass the torch, but I'm sure no one will actually grab the torch. So I'll change this one when the mood hits me.


Monday, February 02, 2015

You can roleplay cowboys all you want

There are no words for this stupidity.
An elementary school student was suspended from school last week for making a ‘terroristic threat’ against another student — he told the student that he had a magic ring that would make the boy disappear.
Kermit Elementary School suspended 9-year-old Aiden Steward after he allegedly threatened to make a classmate disappear by placing a ring on top of his head. The weekend prior to the incident, Steward’s family watched the third and final installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, in which Bilbo Baggins wears a ring to become invisible. Although the school’s principal declined to comment on the terms of the suspension, this is the third time Steward has been suspended in a six-month period. The fourth grader was previously penalized for bringing an encyclopedia that had information about pregnancy to school. He was also disciplined for calling one of his peers black.
Needless to say, this happened in Texas, bastion of Freedumb.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, schools in Texas also bans numerous books about magical creatures, including wizards, witches, and vampires.
Book banning and suspending kids for imaginative play. Hypocritical idiots. If this happened in a blue state, they'd be going nuts.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Why does Jeep hate America?


I'm watching the third quarter of the Super Bowl and Jeep just had a lovely commercial featuring beautiful scenes of people and places, including America, China, Brazil, Vietnam, and Europe set to the American anthem, "This Land is Your Land".

As Coca Cola learned last year, you don't have furners sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" in languages other than English without invoking the wrath of the American right-wing.

Jeep, prepare for the conservative shitstorm.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I'm guessing he doesn't have any children

In Texas, it's legal for teachers to carry guns, because I guess the Apaches might attack any second. You can't protect your fort without your guns. But if that wasn't crazy enough, ponder this.
... the Teacher’s Protection Act, would authorize instructors to use “force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator.” Instructors would also have the right to use deadly force “in defense of property of the school that employs the educator.” Moreover, civil immunity would be granted to those who use deadly force, meaning they would not be liable for the injury or death of student. Link
The State Rep. who proposed this, Dan Flynn (guess which party he belongs to), thinks that school teachers should have the right to shoot their students, not only to protect lives, but to protect PROPERTY. And the teachers would have automatic immunity from prosecution. That sounds like a delightful and safe environment in which to raise your children. These gun fetishists are sick bastards.

Seriously, what kind of mind thinks up such a horrific thing?

Elections have consequences

I live in a reliably Blue state which means we usually have progressive policies and rational government. Maryland was the first state in which voters approved same-sex marriage, after all.

Unfortunately, to my shame, this past November we elected Larry Hogan, the Republican candidate for governor. He wasted no time enacting his regressive policies.

Within FOUR HOURS of being inaugurated, he rescinded environmental protections for the Chesapeake Bay, because who needs that watery, crab-filled thing? He also stopped regulations limiting pollution from coal power plants, that the coal plants HAD ALREADY AGREED TO. And just to prove his conservative bona fides, he also killed regulations designed to protect LGBT people from discrimination, because why not?

Getting rid of the pollution controls will actually cost the state money, so any argument for fiscal responsibility fails. Killing the LGBT regs might not have any economic impact, he was just proving he's a douchebag.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SOTU Awesome

There should be a cable channel dedicated to this.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

American Exceptionalism! (We're excepted from being smart.)

Ladies and gentleman, the new Chairman of the Senate Environment Committee!
Wednesday was a big day for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). In the morning, he officially took the gavel as chairman of the Senate’s Environment Committee. In the afternoon, he took the Senate floor for a long speech about how human-caused climate change is fake.  Link
"Climate is changing, and climate has always changed," said Inhofe, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. "There's archeological evidence of that. There's biblical evidence of that. There's historic evidence of that." He continued: "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful, they can change climate. Man can't change climate." Link


Yeah, we're boned.

That Blackish, Holish Thing

In 1979, two years after Star Wars and the same year that Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien were released, Disney made its bid to become something other than a "kid" studio with the release of the PG rated, adult-themed science fiction movie, The Black Hole. I was 14 years old when I saw it in the theater. I had some problems with it.

I've seen it once or twice since then but it's been years. I remember liking the music a lot and the general atmosphere so I've been wanting to see it. Tonight I watched it.

For its time, some of the effects are pretty good. The beginning of the film contains some nice weightless scenes, the stylish blue tint to star-filled space is unusual, and the black hole itself is a whirling funnel of color. The mysterious spaceship found by our heroes, inexplicably sitting placidly by the black hole, the Cygnus, is a great interior lit model, and the sets, while ridiculously impractical for a spaceship, are cavernous and interesting. I still liked the atmosphere of the film a lot.

As for the music, I love the main theme by John Barry, the man responsible for James Bond's signature theme, but the "heroic" action-adventure music is cliched and awful. That same music is used in the film's overture, a touch I didn't remember, and it reminded me that Star Trek: The Motion Picture also had an overture. They were among the last two films to do it.

The movie itself is pretty short, without too many surprises and some really dumb mistakes and plot points. Early on, the female lead, Dr. McCrae, says that the Cygnus's mission was to find "habitable life" rather than habitable planets. And I knew I was in trouble when early on the Captain asks Dr. McCrae to contact their robot, VINCENT, with her ESP. Oy. The heroes mostly seem unimpressed with Dr. Reinhardt's incredible discoveries and are weirdly paranoid from the moment they meet him. The cool villain robot, Maximilian, for reasons never explained, doesn't follow the orders of his creator, and at one point Dr. Reinhardt inexplicably asks Dr. McCrae to protect him from his own robot.

Then of course there's the ridiculous translucent orange meteors and the crew walking out on the surface of the ship (in space!) and not dying.

So not too much improvement over my earlier memories. I do love the look of most of the film and the spooky atmosphere. But much of the rest of the movie is a mess.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 - State of the Union Dissent

Here's a partial list of the things Congressional Republicans did NOT clap for during President Obama's State of the Union address:
  • An improving economy
  • A soaring stock market
  • Americans getting health insurance
  • Mention of "solar power"
  • Tax cuts for working families 
  • Affordable childcare
  • Tax cuts for families with children 
  • Equal pay for women
  • "America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined."
  • A "free and open internet"
  • Rewarding companies that "invest in America" 
  • "Working Americans"
  • A resolution for the use of the force against ISIL
  • "Trying something new" with Cuba
  • Acknowledging that climate change exists
  • Prohibiting Torture
  • Not persecuting "people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender."
  • Closing Gitmo
  • Making "voting easier for every single American"
Just to be clear.  They did NOT clap for these things.

Tell me again why anyone would vote for these asshats.

Thanks to DailyKos.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pope gets it half right

Like many public figures, Pope Francis spoke out last week about the massacre in Paris.
The Pope stressed that there was no justification for the killing of 17 people in three separate incidents, including a massacre in and around the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailants were reportedly Islamist extremists, some of whom called out "Allahu akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great," as they singled out the magazine, French authorities and Jewish people.
"One cannot make war (or) kill in the name of one's own religion," Francis said on his way to the Philippines. "... To kill in the name of God is an aberration."  Link
That's absolutely true. It's absolutely hypocritical to say you believe in a god, then destroy his creations. Way to go, Pope. 

But then he went too far.
"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith."
Sorry, Pope, but that's 100% untrue. Religion is fair game for satire. 

If you say that the Universe was created by one guy who sees and knows everything and sits in judgement over us, poor humans, ready to sentence us to eternal torture, then you are fair game for questioning, provocation and insult. One should be respectful of other people, but ideas are fair game.

I've never understood this. If you really believe in an omnipotent, omniscient guy who controls the universe, then why do you think he can't stand being questioned or made fun of? I'm pretty sure that if such a being existed, he wouldn't give two craps about some puny human making fun of him.

The fact that you're offended on his behalf, says more about you then it does about him.

Hermione (and Emma) kick butt

Since Hermione is my favorite Harry Potter character, I thought this was great.

If Hermione were the Main Character in Harry Potter: Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy

(Spoilers for Harry Potter, of course).