Saturday, October 03, 2009

Since I kind of owe him a favor, you'd think I wouldn't emphasize how UN-Hunky he is. But that's how I am. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 34)

Sweetie's 34th Hunk of The Week is, by Sweetie's own admission, completely unqualified for the post. He is: Louis C.K.

You Don't Know Him Without
You have watched the last few episodes of Parks & Recreation, where Louis appeared as a cop who likes Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope. When I swa him on there, I recognized him in the first episode he was on) as "A guy I thought I'd seen before," and in the second episode as "that guy from last week's episode." Sweetie, though, knows who showbiz people are and instantly realized this was "Louis C.K."

That still didn't ring a bell with me. But Louis' performance was enough to get Sweetie to watch the remainder of the latest episode and announce that he was the reason she liked the show now, which is a pretty big deal around our house. Around our house, "getting other people to like your shows" confers bragging rights over the other people; it elevates the show-chooser to a position of some authority, giving that person the opportunity to lord it over others for a while, until something else comes along to distract us. And "lording it over others" is what family is all about.

Getting other people to like your show also confers on you the right to watch your show, and that's important in our house, too, especially because Sweetie likes all the Law and Order shows, which are always on, and which should really be renamed Law & Boredom. So if you can get Sweetie to like your show, then, when it's time to watch it, you can say "But you like [fill in name of show]" and she can't really argue with you, and then there's a (slim) chance you may avoid watching the 300,000,000th consecutive episode of Law & Order: Bald Guys Frowning At Perps.

As an aside, The Boy has twisted this concept even further. He refuses to watch anything that Sweetie or I say we like, for fear that he'll have to watch it again. So he walked out of Hamlet II when I laughed, and he left the theater during The Watchmen, and he won't even try to watch Better Off Ted. At the same time, The Boy feels personally vindicated when a movie or show he likes does well. Like the time The Dark Knight set some kind of sales record, and The Boy read it in the paper and turned to me and said "I guess that shows you!"

Anyway, Louis C.K. has turned out to be my secret weapon in continuing to get to watch Parks & Recreation, and I'm starting a letter writing campaign to get him featured, also, on The Office, Better Off Ted, Glee, Important Things With Demetri Martin, and Monday Night Football.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmmmm About Him: On his IMDB page, Louis C.K. has a section marked Thanks, under which it's noted that he got special thanks for one episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and for The White Stripes. But more importantly (?) he played, on Late Night, this amazing role: "Nicknames For Conan Guy."

Louis C.K. is also a comedian, it turns out, who is pretty funny:

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: It's obvious, isn't it? Sweetie actually liked my show, but she didn't want to tell me that, because of bragging rights, so she had to pretend that Louis C.K. is a "hunk" and that's what she likes. But I know it's a lie, because of what Sweetie said when I asked her why she chose him, and she said:

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's so sweet. I mean, I don't know him but he's sweet on the show. I mean, I know he's not hunky at all, but he's very sweet."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: See? He's completely unqualified to be a hunk -- he's the first hunk chosen about who Sweetie said "I know he's not hunky at all," which means that he got in there for some other reason, and that reason is:

I win, Sweetie! You LIKE MY SHOW! And also, I know what you ladies really look for from these Hunks of the Week, and Louis C.K. does not disappoint:

Friday, October 02, 2009

One percenters: Day one

I'm still mad and upset about the health care vote the Senate Finance Committee (Motto: Selling our souls to insurance companies since 1971) took the other day.

And I'm mad that President Obama has basically abandoned health care reform in favor of getting a big Olympic party for Chicago. Simply put, Mr. President, it is far more important that people get access to health care as a basic right than that you hobnob with Oprah for a few days. You should be here having town hall meetings and giving speeches and meeting with Senators and representatives to get universal health care, not off in Europe eating crumpets with talk show hosts and corrupt IOC chairs.

And I'm going to do something about it. Health care is the single most important issue facing Americans right now, and I'm tired of sitting idly by while politicians take cash from insurance companies and screw us over.

There is no reason that convicted murderers should get free health care while Mateo and McHale Shaw should not.

So I am going to continue the fight by continuing to build on an idea I came up with the other day, when I mentioned that fifteen senators took insurance money bribes to get them to vote in favor of letting children die.

I'm starting One Percenters, which is my name for anyone who, like me is willing to have their federal taxes increased by one percent of their income in order to fund Universal Health Care. And not just willing to have that done, but willing to tell people they'll have it done -- most notably, tell the U.S. Congress (Motto: The devil can have my own kids if he'll put $250 into my re-election campaign) that they'll do that.

Periodically, I'm going to feature both a Senator and a Representative, and I'm going to urge you to call, write, and email them and tell them this:

I will pay an extra one percent of my gross income if it means that everyone has access to health care.

And, if you do that and send me proof that you did it -- via email, even -- I will periodically pick one of those people out and give them a free copy of one of my books, or a free t-shirt from my store. Here's how easy it is: Email the Senator or representative, and CC me in at "thetroublewithroy[at]" and I'll have proof that you did it.

First up:

Senator Daniel Akaka, Hawaii, and Congressman Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama.

Senator Daniel Akaka says, vaguely, that he is

"committed to achieving comprehensive reform that makes health care more accessible and affordable to all Americans. He supports efforts to eliminate barriers to obtaining care, reduce costs and delivery system inefficiencies, and meet the needs of the health care professional workforce. Senator Akaka believes reform should also protect existing health care coverage, ensure continued investment in biomedical research, and place greater emphasis on wellness, prevention, and early detection services."

Over the course of his career, Senator Akaka has taken in $240,000 from health professionals and insurers. Despite that, there's still hope that Senator Akaka isn't beholden to insurance companies and will vote to implement my simple two-step plan of (1) require all insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, but allow them to charge for it, and (2) allow anyone to buy into the Congressional health care plan, paying a premium based on their income.

To contact Senator Akaka, call his office in Washington at (202) 224-6361, and tell him I will pay an extra one percent of my gross income if it means that everyone has access to health care. Or click this link to send him an email statement. (Then take a screen shot of that and send it to me.)

Congressman Robert Aderholt says: "It's important that everyone has access to good medical care that's reliable and affordable." And he supported the expansion of Medicare to the prescription drug benefit. So either Robert Aderholt is wholeheartedly in favor of government helping people afford medical care, or he's a cynical hypocrite who panders to senior citizens to get their vote.

Which is it, Robert?
I can probably tell you which it is: Aderholt, over his career, has taken in $271,887 in campaign contributions from health professionals, and $34,000 alone from a company called "HealthSouth." Let's hope that Healthsouth, whose stock prices have fallen from $23 in 2004 to $10.96 in 2009, contributed all that money in hopes of getting Congressman Aderholt to vote for the public option preferred by 2/3 of Americans.

You can email Congressman Aderholt by clicking this link -- but he won't reply to you if you live outside his district (unless you work for HealthSouth?) or you can call Congressman Aderholt at (202) 225-4876, or, this being 2009 and Congressman Aderholt being hip, you can contact him via his Facebook page!

you've created very little (Friday's Sunday's Poem)


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see


As The Poems Go
Charles Bukowski

as the poems go into the thousands you
realize that you've created very


Today's poems are by Charles Bukowski, who maybe shouldn't be read on a Friday morning, because he's not very cheery, but then again, if we read stuff that's kind of down and depressing it may make us appreciate our lives a little more, right?

Also, The Boy was studying poetry this week, reading poems by some little-known and not-very-good poet, and I told The Boy that he might like Bukowski's poetry. I told him that because I thought The Boy would appreciate Bukowski's attitude, and the way he takes sad, horrible lives and holds them up as poetry, and somehow the sad horribleness becomes entrancing. In a sad horrible way, but entrancing nonetheless.

It's not beautiful, but it is poetry. I've tried to pick out two of the less-depressing ones.

Everything wise should be on a t-shirt. (3 Good Things from 10/1/09)

It's Friday! No further introductions are needed...

1. I remembered to take my quarters in to get sample candy at the grocery store last night. I've always loved the "3-for-25-cents" candy samples, but I always forget to bring a quarter in with me when I go to the grocery store. Last night, I remembered, and got my candy samples.

2. I got to wear my corduroy pants yesterday! October 1 marks the start of "It's Okay To Wear Cords" season. That's the only good thing about cold weather: Corduroy pants. When I live in Hawaii some day, I'm going to periodically turn the air conditioner way up just so I can wear cords before I go lounge on the beach.

3. The phrase "Why Did I Have To Contemplate The Stupid Cheese Whiz?" on Subnormality's latest comic. That's a question for the modern era, if ever there was one. It deserves to be on a t-shirt.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Of Angsty Jazz Hands and Proof That I Am Smarter Even Than Really Smart People (Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs)

The newest trend... well, maybe not the newest trend, but a recent trend which is new enough that I can call it the newest trend... on Broadway is to take a mishmash of popular songs from artists who can dredge up some nostalgic feelings and get people to shell out a lot of money to watch the songs they loved as young adults be brought to life through the magic of interpretive dance, people in leotards, and jazz hands.

Hence, musicals based on Billy Joel's music, Abba's music, and... well, there's probably others. I remember something about 1950's songs being made into a musical, too, but when I tried to Google that, I found it's a lot harder to google up a list of Broadway musicals than it would seem to be.

I also found that there is a "musical theater" page on Wikidiotpedia, which contains this definition:

Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called simply, "musicals".

But, as unnecessary as that may have been, that page did actually provide helpful information in the form of a list of the musicals I was thinking of:

Another trend has been to create a minimal plot to fit a collection of songs that have already been hits. Following the earlier success of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story, [note: Not the one I was thinking of] these have included Movin' Out (2002, based on the tunes of Billy Joel), Good Vibrations (the Beach Boys), All Shook Up [also not the one I was thinking of, but I'd probably go see it!] (Elvis Presley), Jersey Boys (2006, The Four Seasons) [that IS the one I was thinking of, and don't bother telling me they didn't sing in the 1950s, because I'd rather believe something than know something] , The Times They Are A-Changin' [honestly?] (2006, Bob Dylan), ... Mamma Mia! (1999, featuring songs by ABBA), Our House [that's a joke, right?] (2002, based on the songs of Madness) and We Will Rock You (2002, based on the works of Queen). [probably the pinnacle of human civilization right there, provided that they had an actual "Bicycle Race" between "Fat-Bottomed Girls" onstage. If they didn't, then they just wasted everybody's time.]

Anyway, the reason I'm thinking of this today is because of today's Awesome Cover of Already Awesome Songs. The song is: Lovecats. Originally by The Cure:

Awesome, is it not? But here's the Awesome Cover, by Tanya Donnelly and "Dylan At The Movies:

When you listen to the Tanya Donnelly version, you realize that even though they wrote it, The Cure never realized the full potential of "Lovecats." Tanya and Dylan at the Movies do, though: they make it into a mini-production, one you can easily see being put onstage with a legion of dancers. First there would be the two singers, who would be in a tight spotlight, one on each side of the stage. Slowly, as they sang, as the music picked up, other dancers would come out, all posing in strange, artistic, vaguely-disturbing-but-still-sexy poses on the margins, each lit by a different colored spotlight, while the two singers moved among them and sang.

You also, when you listen to that song, realize that we are at best about 5 years away from when the mopey, angsty 1980s kids, like me, start demanding that our music be made into musicals just like that, so that we can take our wives to see them and spend a night feeling nostalgic and ansty all at once, and then go get an Appetizer Sampler platter at Perkins.

After all, it would write itself: Standing On A Beach: The Music Of The Cure, Brought To Glorious (But Still Angsty) Broadway Life.

Also, just to point out what a genius I am, and how I'm smarter than everyone else, I am going to bring up something else that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post.

I've mentioned on this and my other blogs, on frequent occasions, the fact that nobody ever researches anything anymore; everyone just googles it and goes with whatever Google says about the thing they were looking up.

Here's an example: In discussing which is The Best Olsen Twin: Googling things proves your point every time. As an example of that, if you Google “IMDB,” Christopher Lee’s IMDB page is on the front page, top 5 of results. And I don’t even know who Christopher Lee is. So I clicked on it, and it turns out he’s Saruman! And I described googling as "my usual exhaustive research techniques" when I discussed The Best Groovy Instrument, and I used Google to prove the existence of "birch syrup."

So you might think Well, sure, but that's you, and what have you ever done that's noteworthy or scientific or great? To which I will say: I proved the real answer to the Monty Hall problem, and to which I will also say: Real smart people also prove their point simply by Googling it, and I will provide evidence to back that up, in the form of Richard Dawkins' new book on evolution.

Richard Dawkins has written a book called The Greatest Show On Earth, in which he undertakes to prove that evolution is really a real thing.

I didn't think that needed proving -- if evolution isn't real, how do people explain selective breeding? -- but Richard Dawkins thinks it needed proving, and he set out to prove evolution by, in part, googling things.

Specifically, Dawkins wanted to prove that he was frequently misquoted (or quoted out of context) by creationists. How did he prove it? Let him speak for himself: Dawkins looked at the phrase that was frequently (he felt) wrongly used by creationists, and did this "experiment:"

On a whim, I just searched the World Wide Web for "It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history" and obtained no fewer than 1,250 hits. As a crude control test of the hypothesis that the majority of these hits represent creationist quote—minings, I tried searching, as a comparison, the clause that immediately follows the above quotation: "Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does represent a very large gap in the fossil record." I obtained a grand total of 63 hits, compared to the 1,250 hits for the previous sentence.

There you have it! Richard Dawkins, noted smart fella, has just proven that "science" is, at least in part, founded on Googling things and drawing inferences from the number of hits.

Or, as I -- noted smarter fella -- said, long ago:

Googling things proves your point every time.

Also, if you google the phrase "Richard Dawkins loves The Cure," you'll get 40,200 hits. But if you google the phrase Richard Dawkins sings Cure songs to his pet cats every day, you get...8,860,000 hits. Richard, I hope you're singing Lovecats to them.

And doing jazz hands. Angsty jass hands.

Everyone's funnier as a basset hound (3 Good Things From 9/30/09)

I'm not entirely over my anger about the Senate yet, but I've tried to move on, and focusing on my 3 Good Things from yesterday -- and continuing to try to choose non-family-related things -- helps. Which is the point, right?

1. I'm an awesome runner, and I proved it again last night by upping my treadmill run to 25 minutes, from my previous world record of 20 minutes. And I did the 25 minutes in under-10-minute miles, without music, as my iPod's battery wore out. If you think running 10-minute miles for 25 minutes while watching a Kelsey Grammar show is easy, you've got another think coming.

Also, I think you'll find that everything you do is so much cooler if you refer to it as a world-record, which it is -- if you are selective about how you describe the world record, or about who gets to compete for that record.

2. My Brett Favre Vikings Jersey arrived. Technically, this happened on Tuesday, but I didn't do a 3 Good Things yesterday, and also, I saw the jersey again last night, hanging in my closet, waiting to be broken out to wear while watching next Monday's Vikings-Packers game. But, to be perfectly accurate, this should be "my Brett Favre Vikings jersey which arrived on Tuesday continued to exist on Wednesday."

3. I liked Conan O'Brien's "Dr Phil as Basset Hound" impression on The Tonight Show.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Update on the 1001 Ways: 15 Senators Vote To Let Insurance Companies Kill Your Children.

I'll be back to the usual mishmash of songs, dumb jokes, stories of the Babies!, and obscure superhero references tomorrow, but for today, this is important enough to take over all my blogs.

Fifteen Senators Voted Yesterday To Let Insurance Companies Kill Your Children.

I don't know how else to put it. Health care -- access to health care, access to doctors -- is a universal, inalienable right. We in America don't treat it as such, but it is, and the sooner everyone realizes that we should all be able to get medical care without worrying about it, without having to decide whether to pay the electric bill or the doctor bill, the sooner our world will be a better place.

Too bad 15 senators -- who I can only assume sold their souls to insurance companies, and who probably right now are counting the piles of unmarked bills dropped into their limos yesterday morning -- don't care whether you can get medical treatment for your children.

Yesterday, the "Senate Finance Committee," (a/k/a Pawns Of The Insurance Companies) voted 15-8 against the "Public Option." That is, they voted not to have a government-sponsored health care plan that would compete in the marketplace with other insurance plans.

They voted that way despite polls showing that 65% of Americans want that option.

And they voted that way despite the fact that Senators and prisoners -- who are, as far as I'm concerned, moral equivalents -- get public health care. Senators can buy a "public option" that provides fantastic health care. Prisoners get health care at no cost to themselves.

So, to put it bluntly, 15 Senators think child molesters deserve better health care than your children.

And the Senate Finance Committee voted that way even though Nikki White died.

It's doubtful that you know about Nikki White, and it's even more doubtful that those 15 Senators -- who I hope rot in hell-- know about Nikki White. They'd have to stop counting their campaign contributions to notice Nikki White, in part because Nikki White is dead.

She didn't have to be dead. Nikki White had an illness, lupus, that is treatable and not always fatal. But she's dead anyway, because Americans would rather spend money seeing a stupid Diablo Cody movie than pay for health care, and she's dead, anyway, because Senators and Congresspeople would rather line their pockets than provide health care.

Nikki White was employed, and working, and taking advantage of her employer-provided health care coverage when she was diagnosed with lupus at age 21.

Lupus is a totally, completely, manageable condition, if... if ... IF... the person suffering from it can get a doctor's care.

Nikki White soon became unable to work, and because she was unable to work, she wasn't able to get health care coverage anymore; not being employed, she was denied health care coverage, since for some reason stupid Americans and evil, child-hating Senators think that health care should only be given to the employed (and not even to all of them.)

Nikki tried, unemployed, to get health insurance coverage. But she was denied coverage for her lupus because it was a pre-existing condition.

So Nikki didn't get treatment for her lupus, at least not at first. She suffered and struggled with it and finally she collapsed one day and was taken to the emergency room. By law, emergency rooms have to treat people with life-threatening conditions, so that's good to know, right? While Senators are rolling, naked and greedy, in piles of insurance company money like pigs in slop, they've at least ensured that you'll be taken care of, if you're near death.

By then, though, there wasn't anything they could do to save Nikki's life. Nikki died of a treatable condition.

Nikki wasn't alone in dying because she lacked insurance coverage. The Urban Institute estimates that in 2006 22,000 people died because they didn't have insurance.

Think about that, Senators, when you get up from your slop-money rolling: 22,000 people in one year died because you didn't want to provide insurance coverage. Think about that, Americans who spend $5 for a cup of coffee but don't want to pay anything to provide health insurance for everyone. Think about that, free-marketers who have no freaking idea just how an actual free market works (and that we don't have anything near a free market when it comes to health care or health insurance.) Your $5 cups of coffee, re-election campaign funds, and stupid blown-dry Hannity Hair are killing 22,000 Americans a year.

But it's not just that they're dying. I want you to think about how they are dying, by knowing what it was like for Nikki White to die of lupus.

Lupus is a disease that causes the body to attack itself. This disease, which is rarely fatal if treated, causes arthritis, a painful swelling of the joints, muscle pain and weakness, fatigue, sun-sensitivity, hair loss, rashes, fever, anemia, and headaches. It can attack the organs of the body, as well. Patients get swelling in the wrists, feet and hands first, and then it can spread to ankles and shoulders and knees. Back pain is common as fluids leak from the kidneys and cause inflammation and leg swelling, too.

Swelling in the joints where the sternum meets the ribs causes intense pain that makes many sufferers think they're having a heart attack. Then lupus can attack the organs and cause them to swell. There can be sores in the mouth and light sensitivity. The symptoms are worst in the morning.

Most people who suffer from untreated lupus die of overwhelming infection (probably cause the bodies' antibodies are all killing the body, not the infecting agents) or kidney failure.

So that was Nikki's life, for eleven years: Swelling joints, pain, rashes, sores in her mouth, organs ballooning up, leaking fluids, headaches, and light sensitivity, all of which was worse in the morning, so that each night, when she went to bed, instead of looking forward to the next day, she had to dread it.

Until she died, that is. Until she died of a treatable disease.

There was a way to cure her, and it's simple. It requires just two laws.

First, pass a law that any insurance company which does business across state lines must cover pre-existing conditions. They can charge whatever they want, but they can't deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

Second, make the same plan that Senators and Representatives -- those greedy pigs -- get access to available to anyone who wants to buy it, but means-test the coverage so that if you earn very little, you pay very little. If you earn a lot, you pay a lot.

Doing those two steps, which are very simple, would guarantee that everyone gets health care if they want it. Everyone. And we'd all have access to the same health care as the child-killing senators who don't want you to have health care.

Doing those two steps does nothing more than level the playing field between all insurers. It does nothing more than impose the same system that we have with package delivery -- where there are private carriers and a public options -- with student loans (private lenders plus a public option), with schools (public schools haven't ended private schools) and hospitals (VA hospitals haven't put private hospitals out of business.)

There is simply no reason that health care shouldn't be provided. There's no reason those laws shouldn't pass. No reason beyond Americans are greedy, and Senators are stupid, and insurance companies have paid off those who are in charge of getting us to that point.

So if you are one of the people who believes that there shouldn't be a public option, if you are one of the people protesting higher taxes because you'd rather buy a $5 cup of coffee than pay a little more on your tax bills, if you are one of those stupid, mean, greedy people who thinks things are okay the way they are...

... then take a moment to think about Nikki, and how she died. Then go drink your stupid coffee and see how it tastes.

In the meantime, EVERYONE should be calling their senator or representative and telling him or her: I will pay a little more for my taxes if it helps save a life. I am personally volunteering, right now, to pay an extra 1% -- one percent, one measly percent-- of my gross income if it can help fund universal health care.

If you'd like to be a one percenter, if you're willing to see one less movie per year and brew your coffee at home so that people like Nikki don't die in agony, then call your representative or senator, or both, and tell them I'll pay one percent of my income in taxes if it means universal health care.

And then call these fifteen people who would rather see your children die in agony than vote for a public option, and tell them that, too, and tell them you'd rather they save lives than line their own pockets or protect their own careers:

Max Baucus: Call Max at (202) 224-2651 and tell him that you don't want him to let insurance companies kill your children.

Kent Conrad: Call "Senator" Kent at 202-224-2043 and tell him that lives are more important than his re-election.

Blanche Lincoln: Call Blanche at 202-224-4843 and tell her that her website's claim that she's trying to address health care is a lie.

Bill Nelson: Call Bill at 202-224-5274 and ask him why child molesters get public health care but you don't.

Thomas Carper: Call Tom at (202) 224-2441 and ask him if he knows who Nikki White was, and why that's important.

Chuck Grassley: Chuck claims to be interested in ferreting out wrongdoing in goverment -- so call "Chuck" at (202) 224-3744 and tell him that 15 members of the Senate Finance Committee, including him, appear to be wholly owned by the insurance industry.

Orrin Hatch: Orrin said on his website that "we should do exactly what American families are demanding." So call Orrin at (202) 224-5251 and tell him to do that. Then remind him that 65% of Americans are demanding a public option.

Olympia Snowe: Olympia claims to focus her energy on "key issues" that matter to Maine. People in Maine: Call Olympia at (800) 432-1599 and ask her why she thinks you want your children to die just so she can get re-elected.

Jon Kyl: Jon thinks that you don't deserve the same health care that he gets. Even though he's elected by regular people, he thinks he's better. Call him at (202) 224-4521 and tell him he's not.

Jim Bunning: One Kentuckian dies each day because he or she doesn't have health insurance. Jim Bunning, "Senator" from Kentucky, obviously thinks that's okay -- call him at 202-224-4343 and ask him why he's willing to let his own constituents die at a rate of one a day.

Mike Crapo: Call Mike at (202) 224-6142 and ask him if he has the public option for his health insurance.

Pat Roberts: "Senator" Pat Roberts recently voted to give money to help people find housing. Call him at (202) 224-4774 and ask him how people are supposed to live in those houses if they keep dying of treatable diseases.

John Ensign: John Ensign, a horrible human being, is bragging about how he voted to let people die just so he could get re-elected. And he's smiling about it. Call him at (202) 224-6244 and tell him you can't stand him and hope he loses his health care.

Mike Enzi: Mike's website today brags that he's fighting to keep down health care costs. By letting people die, Mike? Call him at (202) 224-3424 and say that.

John Cornyn: John Cornyn claims he's trying to improve your security and pushing PATRIOT Act extensions. If I was writhing on the floor of an emergency room in pain because all my swollen organs are shutting down due to an autoimmune deficiency treatment, I wouldn't care much about wiretapping issues -- which is fair, because John Cornyn doesn't care much about people who are, quite literally, dying for health care. Call him at 202-224-2934 and tell him to get his priorities straight.

That picture above is Nikki White before her troubles. This is her after she struggled with the disease:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Forty-Three

43. Launch people to Mars. Or even further.

If there's one thing we can learn from history -- and I'm not entirely sold that we can learn anything from history-- it's that mankind benefits from exploration. Every great advancement in society can be directly traced back to mankind's desire to see what's over the next mountain, across the ocean, on the other side of the world... and, eventually, outside of our own planet's orbit.

I'm tired of the Space Bus. I'm tired of sending radio-controlled skateboards to other planets. I'm bored with satellites that pretend to see other planets through the motions they create on the stars. All of that stuff is lackluster, boring, and, ultimately, unhelpful.

What do we learn when we launch a tiny globe out into the middle of nowhere? Nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing challenging. What do we learn when we turn our space program into the equivalent of the Disney World tram, transferring people between and this place and that place? Nothing.

Instead of all that rinky-dink stuff, we should be getting all the industrialized countries in the world together, and planning to send people to Mars. We should be building giant rockets and planning how people are going to live for a couple of years in space while they head to Mars, and we should be planning how they're going to live once they get there, and we should be doing that, right now, taking actual steps towards having people walk on Mars. And then we should aim for other planets and other systems, send whole colonies of people out into the universe, people who will live their whole lives in unimaginable but fascinating conditions, people who will inspire us to follow them, or to at least do something a little better back home.

The benefits are not just that people are put back to work, and put to work on something useful and long-lasting, but also that we will actually have a goal that the entire world can work towards, building bonds between countries and focusing our energies on something productive.

And, more importantly, the benefits are that then, someday, humans will again walk on an entirely new surface, some place no other person has touched yet (or no other person they know of), and doing that leads people to open their minds, to dream of new things, to look at life in a new way.

Exploring is in our blood. It should be in our future, too -- and our present.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

I don't know why I never bothered to ask where the supplies are. (3 Good Things From 9/28/09)

It's occurred to me that many of my 3 Good Things involve the Babies!, and more involve my family, which could give you a skewed vision of what my life is like. Yes, it's true that 97% of my day is blogging and 2% is playing with the Babies!, but I'm going to focus, for the next few days at least, on Good Things that have nothing to do with family, to show you that good things happen all over the place...

1. After at least three months of looking, I found out where we keep our office supplies, and was able entirely on my own to not only restock my stash of file folders (with green ones!) but also to replace the toner on my printer.

2. How I Met Your Mother mentioned Moustache Marshall as one of the group's dopplegangers; I appreciated both the concept and the use of the word doppleganger, which is underutilized in everyday conversation.

3. In my Entertainment Weekly I saw that Nick Hornby released a new book; Nick Hornby is one of the few authors whose books I would rush out to buy, and I've been anxiously awaiting another one from him.

I hope the makers of "Fantastic Voyage" are not in a litigious mood when they read this post.

All last night, I thought I had a loose filling in my tooth, and it was really worrying me. Everytime I tried to chew something, or talk, or growl and bare my teeth at Mr Bunches as we played Raaar Monster, I'd feel a little twinge back in my mouth and think Oh, man, if that filling falls out, I'm dead.

I'd be dead because I don't have dental insurance of any kind. I've thought about it from time to time, and I even got a brochure for a company, but I've never bought it because who thinks about the dentist? Nobody -- I brush my teeth, I floss once a year, I try to avoid getting punched by heavyweight boxers, but I don't go to the dentist or think about the dentist.

Until I think a filling may fall out, and then I wonder just how much it's going to cost if I have to run to the dentist the next morning and pay full price.

Living in Wisconsin, I've got little I can do other than call insurers and ask if they provide dental insurance, spending hours at it, which is another reason I never get it. I've got a life to live, here! I've got music to listen to, blogs to blog, Babies! to growl at... I can't spend 10 hours a day calling insurers and comparing plans.

But if I lived in the UK, I could use Dental Buddy ( to find a dental insurer, quickly and easily, with an easy-to-read comparison chart that tells how much each plan costs and what it covers. No more reading through policies and talking on the phone; just click and compare and get insurance.

Which is what I'd like to do, because it turns out the loose filling was a false alarm -- it was actually a tiny spaceship that had been shrunken down to try to go inside my body but had gotten lost and ended up lodged in a molar, something that happens to me more often than you might imagine -- but that didn't help me last night, when I was still worried about the insurance.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The phone call was made to avoid the need to make a phone call. (I Get Paid For Doing This, 5)

Last week, there was supposed to be a "status conference" in one of my cases. A "status conference" is where the Court checks in with all the parties to see how the case is progressing, so that cases don't just linger out in the ether forever.

This particular case had, in fact, lingered out in the ether for a very, very long time, and most recently the parties had all gotten together to try to settle it, and we had, in fact, settled it, just the Friday before the "status conference."

Having settled the case, there really was no "status" that needed to be conferred about, especially when the conference required a whole conference call with a bunch of lawyers and a judge, so one of the lawyers wrote the Court about the settlement and suggested that we no longer needed the "status conference." To save time, this lawyer suggested, and avoid the Court having to call anyone, we should just not have the status conference.

Then, on Wednesday, just as I was getting in to the office, I was told that the Court was calling for me -- about 15 minutes earlier than the conference had been scheduled. So I rushed back to my office and took the call, having not even set down my briefcase or turned on my office lights.

It was the judge's clerk.

"Mr. Pagel?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, and she said "I was just calling to let you know that the status conference for this morning was, after all, cancelled."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The picture is from the hill, but in the late winter. You get the idea, though. (3 Good Things From 9/25, 9/26, and 9/27)

I lost my fantasy football game, my Bills lost their game, I lost the football pool, and I got charged $6.75 for about 8 fried cheese curds...but I'm still happy because of my 3 Good Things from the weekend:

1. Friday I got off work early and got home at four, on a weekend when I was not going into work Sunday, for an extra-long break.

2. Saturday Sweetie and I took the Babies! to get new shoes, a trip made necessary because Mr F lost a shoe somewhere in our house and we can't find it, but made fun by the way Mr F enjoyed his new shoes, and

3. Sunday Mr F and Mr Bunches and I hiked all the way to the top of the tallest hill on the nature trail. We hadn't been planning on doing that, but Mr Bunches struck out into the field and headed up the hill, so Mr F and I followed him, and made it to the top, where we also saw a pheasant.