Saturday, December 05, 2009

Why you should never go to the last Google result. EVER. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 41)

Don't forget to comment this post! Three days left in the contest: Comment and win a magazine subscription or book! You can enter more than once. Details here.

It's 6:09 a.m. on Saturday morning. I've given up trying to sleep in on Saturdays; every time I try to sleep in, Mr F and Mr Bunches wake me up to watch Peter Pan with them or to work their little M&M Christmas Toy Fans...

... no, I can't really explain what that is. Instead, let's get to Sweetie's 41st Hunk of the Week,

Giovanni Ribisi!

Wanted in 30 states.

(I hope I spelled that right. I don't speak Italian.) Also, really? Look at that guy. He's creeping me out. Let's try this:

Probably orders
white wine with dinner.

Okay. That's better.

You Don't Know Him Without you have watched Friends, where he played Frank, Phoebe's refrigerator-college-going, older-teacher-marrying, pyromaniac younger brother. Ah, remember the 1990s, when we still understood how kids burning things down and teachers molesting children was funny? Not like today, with all the killjoys insisting those things are crimes and reducing our sitcoms to making jokes about pie.

Funnier than any dessert. Except "flan." THAT's humor!

Yes, Giovanni Ribisi -- whose name I can't type, it seems, without accidentally putting an a on the end of his first name, so that it comes out Giovannia, and then I have to backspace and delete the a, so let's just call him Giovannia -- Giovannia Ribisi, like such other luminescent actors of our generation (Bob Denver, Jerry Mathers, Gary Coleman) finds himself in a bind: On the one hand, he's a great actor (just like Jerry Mathers), but on the other, the only thing people (me) remember him for is playing Frank, which, let's be honest, we probably only remember because Frank was the only Phoebe-based storyline that was ever even remotely interesting, at least until Mike came along.

In fact, Phoebe had the distinction of being the only character I can think of, ever, in a TV show, who was only interesting in relation to who she was interacting with: Alec Baldwin, Mike, Steve Zahn as her gay ice dancer ex-husband, even that widow who didn't want to pay the catering bill when she and Monica started a catering business: all of them were more interesting than Phoebe, who by all rights should've been dropped off the show immediately. The rest of the Friends you could see being Friends, but Phoebe? It was hard to imagine her existing, period. (Nowadays, a real-life Phoebe would have her own reality show and perfume line. But then again, everyone has their own perfume line nowadays. Andy Warhol should have said "In the future, everyone will be given a chance to smell like everybody else.")

(But he didn't. I said that, and don't you forget it.)

You're getting off track. Focus!

So. Giovannia Ribisi, about whom we were talking, has appeared in 77 different things, according to his IMDB resume, including not just Friends but actual movies where he was actually good, but also in things like The Wonder Years, where he played a role called Hulk Arnold, and, also, it turns out, his very first role ever, back in 1983, was playing Duffy Guthrie in...

Still The Beaver! So you see? I was right to link him with Jerry Mathers, just like I always am when I make these offhand remarks that are the hallmark of my genius. I say something half-baked, and it turns out to be true. I'm like a Greek God! And not one of those crummy Greek gods whose job was delivering messages, UPSilon or something; a really good Greek god, who can foretell the future or something, and come up with really good parodies of Andy Warhol quotes.

Giovannia Ribisi's role in Still The Beaver must have been small; the only person lower than him on the credits is Hugh Beaumont, who was dead.

And, I was able to find a clip from Still The Beaver:

I watched it; Giovannia doesn't appear in there. But it did make me nostalgic for the early 1980s, a glorious time when nobody had yet heard of Ewoks, grunge, or Twilight.

From those humble beginnings, Giovannia went on to such other huge roles as a two-episode stint on Blossom, and an undescribed role in Untitled Jason Lee Short, which I imagine is him and Jason Lee sitting around and shooting pool and forgetting that the camcorder was running.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him:
The first things that spring to mind here are the way it's actually impossible to type his name without adding that a on the end, and the question of "how bad do you have to be to get dropped from Blossom after only two episodes?" But I delved deeper, for you:

I Googled Giovannia Ribisi to see what I could dig up on him, since the only reason I remembered him at all was that last night I watched a Friends rerun, the episode where Phoebe ( ugh! What we need is a DVR-style thing that instead of skipping commercials, lets people delete out characters they don't like from old TV shows. Good-bye, Phoebe! Good-bye, Janet! Good-bye, entire cast of Cheers!) tells Frank that she's having triplets, and Frank yells "I finally got my band!"

I'm not kidding. I really did Google Giovannia Ribisi, because I can't type his name without adding that vowel on. I'm sure it's some latent ethnicism in me, adding that a because it seems Italian, and probably is Italian, since, as everyone knows, Italians-a add-a the a onto their-a words-a. So I'm a multilingual Greek god, and probably moments away from my own signature perfume.

Google didn't mind the extraneous a and knew what I was looking for anyway, which is one reason why Microsoft's attempt to pay people not to be listed on Google won't work, (and why someday we'll all work for Google)(I call dibs on the personalized perfume VP job!).

I got 169,000 results for Giovannia Ribisi, which made me curious about two things: 1. Is there really a Giovannia Ribisi? and 2., What's the absolute last result for that search?

The answers to those questions are 1. How should I know? Ask him/her. and 2. This is:

Giovanni Ribisi On My Name Is Earl « Fresh Hotness

Dec 25, 2006 ... I've always loved me some Giovanni Ribisi. He's one of our most underrated actors, and he's pretty sexy. Which is why it was so great to see ... -

That is a link to a site called "Fresh Hotness," which I clicked on only to find that it's a gay porn site, making my search history all the more interesting to the various investigatory agencies that have me on their website. Thanks, Google!

This will go down on my permanent record.

That little search led not just to uncomfortable feelings, but this other thought: Why is there no skip-to-the-end feature on Google? I had to page through manually, skipping ahead 10 pages at a time. Those Google guys are usually so smart, but they really dropped the ball there. Google founders, I will let you use my skip-to-the-end idea if you give me 1% of your total wealth.

(You think I'm a fool for that deal, but each of the two founders has a net worth of $12 billion dollars, so if you gave me 1% of their wealth, I'd have 24,000,000m and could probably afford to hire someone to go into the Babies! room on Saturday morning and start their DVD so that I could sleep in.)

(Speaking of billionaires, consider this: The total cost of one health plan currently being considered by Congress is $1.055 trillion, or this: 1,055,000,000,000. The net worth -- net, after expenses-- of the top 10 people on the Forbes 400 list this year is more than 1/4 of that, $28,055,000,000. If those top 10 were to give 1/2 their accumulated wealth, that would pay 10% of the total cost of universal health care, and leave those top 10 with still $14,049,500,000 to spend. Don't worry about them: if you had $14,049,500,000, you could spend $200 a minute, every minute of your life, and not run out of money, even if you lived to be one hundred years old. Those rich people are hoarding money and they're evil, so don't tell me that we can't pay for health care.)

Anyway, the thing that makes you go Hmmm about Giovanni Ribisi is that if you look too far into his Google results, you get gay porn.

Why do I keep going back to this? Where's Still The Beaver?
I should Google that... on second thought, no.

But that could probably be said about anybody. So really, in the future, we'll all have our own signature fragrances and be linked to gay porn. Thanks, Google!

The Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Giovanni kind of came out of the blue. As I crawled back to bed for 10 minutes of snoozing after fixing the Peter Pan DVD, I asked Sweetie what the name of her original hunk, a guy who didn't make the cut but who looks kind of like Darren from Bewitched, was. She said she didn't want Not-Darren anymore, and instead wanted Giovanni Ribisi, and I immediately assumed that because I watched that Friends episode last night, Sweetie had fallen asleep and dreamed about Giovanni Ribisi all night... gay porn dreams.

They probably began like this:

Then moved into more dangerous territory:

The Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's just so cute."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: That was also Sweetie's exact reason for liking Hunk 14! And she says I never pay attention to her!

Also, consider this:

Also, my signature perfume fragrance will include hints of french toast.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The thaw comes on at Candlemas: I know... (Friday's Sunday's Poem, 38)

It's back! I know I haven't posted a Friday's Sunday's Poem in a while, but circumstances intervened. Anyway, the FSP makes it's triumphant return with the first of a couple of Christmas poems. People seem to think that the only Christmas poem, ever, was the poem that Clement Moore might have stolen from someone else and seized credit for, the way Orange Julius has been taking credit for my idea all these years. But that's not so, as today's poem and the upcoming FSPs will prove:

Sir Galahad, a Christmas Mystery
by William Morris

It is the longest night in all the year,
Near on the day when the Lord Christ was born;
Six hours ago I came and sat down here,
And ponder'd sadly, wearied and forlorn.

The winter wind that pass'd the chapel door,
Sang out a moody tune, that went right well
With mine own thoughts: I look'd down on the floor,
Between my feet, until I heard a bell

Sound a long way off through the forest deep,
And toll on steadily; a drowsiness
Came on me, so that I fell half asleep,
As I sat there not moving: less and less

I saw the melted snow that hung in beads
Upon my steel-shoes; less and less I saw
Between the tiles the bunches of small weeds:
Heartless and stupid, with no touch of awe

Upon me, half-shut eyes upon the ground,
I thought: O Galahad! the days go by,
Stop and cast up now that which you have found,
So sorely you have wrought and painfully.

Night after night your horse treads down alone
The sere damp fern, night after night you sit
Holding the bridle like a man of stone,
Dismal, unfriended: what thing comes of it?

And what if Palomydes also ride,
And over many a mountain and bare heath
Follow the questing beast with none beside?
Is he not able still to hold his breath

With thoughts of Iseult? doth he not grow pale
With weary striving, to seem best of all
To her, "as she is best," he saith? to fail
Is nothing to him, he can never fall.

For unto such a man love-sorrow is
So dear a thing unto his constant heart,
That even if he never win one kiss,
Or touch from Iseult, it will never part.

And he will never know her to be worse
Than in his happiest dreams he thinks she is:
Good knight, and faithful, you have 'scaped the curse
In wonderful-wise; you have great store of bliss.

Yea, what if Father Launcelot ride out,
Can he not think of Guenevere's arms, round
Warm and lithe, about his neck, and shout
Till all the place grows joyful with the sound?

And when he lists can often see her face,
And think, "Next month I kiss you, or next week,
And still you think of me": therefore the place
Grows very pleasant, whatsoever he seek.

But me, who ride alone, some carle shall find
Dead in my arms in the half-melted snow,
When all unkindly with the shifting wind,
The thaw comes on at Candlemas: I know

Indeed that they will say: "This Galahad
If he had lived had been a right good knight;
Ah! poor chaste body!" but they will be glad,
Not most alone, but all, when in their sight

That very evening in their scarlet sleeves
The gay-dress'd minstrels sing; no maid will talk
Of sitting on my tomb, until the leaves,
Grown big upon the bushes of the walk,

East of the Palace-pleasaunce, make it hard
To see the minster therefrom: well-a-day!
Before the trees by autumn were well bared,
I saw a damozel with gentle play,

Within that very walk say last farewell
To her dear knight, just riding out to find
(Why should I choke to say it?) the Sangreal,
And their last kisses sunk into my mind,

Yea, for she stood lean'd forward on his breast,
Rather, scarce stood; the back of one dear hand,
That it might well be kiss'd, she held and press'd
Against his lips; long time they stood there, fann'd

By gentle gusts of quiet frosty wind,
Till Mador de la porte a-going by,
And my own horsehoofs roused them; they untwined,
And parted like a dream. In this way I,

With sleepy face bent to the chapel floor,
Kept musing half asleep, till suddenly
A sharp bell rang from close beside the door,
And I leapt up when something pass'd me by,

Shrill ringing going with it, still half blind
I stagger'd after, a great sense of awe
At every step kept gathering on my mind,
Thereat I have no marvel, for I saw

One sitting on the altar as a throne,
Whose face no man could say he did not know,
And though the bell still rang, he sat alone,
With raiment half blood-red, half white as snow.

Right so I fell upon the floor and knelt,
Not as one kneels in church when mass is said,
But in a heap, quite nerveless, for I felt
The first time what a thing was perfect dread.

But mightily the gentle voice came down:
"Rise up, and look and listen, Galahad,
Good knight of God, for you will see no frown
Upon my face; I come to make you glad.

"For that you say that you are all alone,
I will be with you always, and fear not
You are uncared for, though no maiden moan
Above your empty tomb; for Launcelot,

"He in good time shall be my servant too,
Meantime, take note whose sword first made him knight,
And who has loved him alway, yea, and who
Still trusts him alway, though in all men's sight,

"He is just what you know, O Galahad,
This love is happy even as you say,
But would you for a little time be glad,
To make ME sorry long, day after day?

"Her warm arms round his neck half throttle ME,
The hot love-tears burn deep like spots of lead,
Yea, and the years pass quick: right dismally
Will Launcelot at one time hang his head;

"Yea, old and shrivell'd he shall win my love.
Poor Palomydes fretting out his soul!
Not always is he able, son, to move
His love, and do it honour: needs must roll

"The proudest destrier sometimes in the dust,
And then 'tis weary work; he strives beside
Seem better than he is, so that his trust
Is always on what chances may betide;

"And so he wears away, my servant, too,
When all these things are gone, and wretchedly
He sits and longs to moan for Iseult, who
Is no care now to Palomydes: see,

"O good son, Galahad, upon this day,
Now even, all these things are on your side,
But these you fight not for; look up, I say,
And see how I can love you, for no pride

"Closes your eyes, no vain lust keeps them down.
See now you have ME always; following
That holy vision, Galahad, go on,
Until at last you come to ME to sing

"In Heaven always, and to walk around
The garden where I am." He ceased, my face
And wretched body fell upon the ground;
And when I look'd again, the holy place

Was empty; but right so the bell again
Came to the chapel-door, there entered
Two angels first, in white, without a stain,
And scarlet wings, then, after them, a bed

Four ladies bore, and set it down beneath
The very altar-step, and while for fear
I scarcely dared to move or draw my breath,
Those holy ladies gently came a-near,

And quite unarm'd me, saying: "Galahad,
Rest here awhile and sleep, and take no thought
Of any other thing than being glad;
Hither the Sangreal will be shortly brought,

"Yet must you sleep the while it stayeth here."
Right so they went away, and I, being weary,
Slept long and dream'd of Heaven: the bell comes near,
I doubt it grows to morning. Miserere!

[Enter Two Angels in white, with scarlet wings; also, Four Ladies in gowns of red and green; also an Angel, bearing in his hands a surcoat of white, with a red cross.]


O servant of the high God, Galahad!
Rise and be arm'd: the Sangreal is gone forth
Through the great forest, and you must be had
Unto the sea that lieth on the north:

There shall you find the wondrous ship wherein
The spindles of King Solomon are laid,
And the sword that no man draweth without sin,
But if he be most pure: and there is stay'd,

Hard by, Sir Launcelot, whom you will meet
In some short space upon that ship: first, though,
Will come here presently that lady sweet,
Sister of Percival, whom you well know,

And with her Bors and Percival: stand now,
These ladies will to arm you.

[FIRST LADY, putting on the hauberk]

That I may stand so close beneath your brow,
Margaret of Antioch, am glad.

[SECOND LADY, girding him with the sword.]

That I may stand and touch you with my hand,
O Galahad, I, Cecily, am glad.

[THIRD LADY, buckling on the spurs.]

That I may kneel while up above you stand,
And gaze at me, O holy Galahad,
I, Lucy, am most glad.

[FOURTH LADY, putting on the basnet.]

O gentle knight,
That you bow down to us in reverence,
We are most glad, I, Katherine, with delight
Must needs fall trembling.

[ANGEL, putting on the crossed surcoat.]

Galahad, we go hence,

For here, amid the straying of the snow,
Come Percival's sister, Bors, and Percival.

[The Four Ladies carry out the bed, and all go but Galahad.]


How still and quiet everything seems now:
They come, too, for I hear the horsehoofs fall.

[Enter Sir Bors, Sir Percival and his Sister.]

Fair friends and gentle lady, God you save!
A many marvels have been here to-night;
Tell me what news of Launcelot you have,
And has God's body ever been in sight?


Why, as for seeing that same holy thing,
As we were riding slowly side by side,
An hour ago, we heard a sweet voice sing,
And through the bare twigs saw a great light glide,

With many-colour'd raiment, but far off;
And so pass'd quickly: from the court nought good;
Poor merry Dinadan, that with jape and scoff
Kept us all merry, in a little wood

Was found all hack'd and dead: Sir Lionel
And Gauwaine have come back from the great quest,
Just merely shamed; and Lauvaine, who loved well
Your father Launcelot, at the king's behest

Went out to seek him, but was almost slain,
Perhaps is dead now; everywhere
The knights come foil'd from the great quest, in vain;
In vain they struggle for the vision fair.

The path Mr F is on is now all covered by snow. (3 Good Things From 12/4/09)

YOU CAN ENTER MORE THAN ONCE, you know. Still 4 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

It's Friday, last night's snow didn't stick, I've got
Vampire Weekend playing, and I'm not going into the office today. I don't need my 3 Good Things to be happy, but I've got them anyway...

1. I ran 3.6 miles in 35 minutes last night. I'm no Read.Dance.Bliss -- yet-- but I'm getting there. I upped my regular workout by 5 minutes last night, and burned 411 calories... or about the equivalent of the slice of pecan pie I had for dessert. (Sweetie said she read somewhere that a slice of pecan pie can have as much as 1500 calories; I prefer to read articles extolling the health benefits of dessert. So someone please write one of those articles...)

Speaking of RDB, I think she's still accepting donations to raise money to help fight blood cancer; she'll do the running, you just have to do the pledging, so help her help others.

2. I got to watch Fitzy play football a little! I rarely get a chance to watch the Buffalo Bills play live -- since I don't live in Buffalo and since they're so god-awful they really shouldn't be televised, but last night's game (which I found out about around five p.m.) was just such a chance, and I indulged almost 15 minutes (before falling asleep) of rooting for the Bills' new QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, to do something. He didn't, and the Bills are still terrible, but at least the game was close.

3. Did I mention Sweetie made a pecan pie and I had some? Sweetie wanted to make a pecan pie for brother-in-law Charlie, and to make sure the recipe worked, she made a second one for The Boy and I to test out. I happily accommodated her. The Boy announced that pecan pie was "too rich" and had a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles instead.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Fifty-One

51. Sometimes easier is harder (and dumber.)

Not everything needs to be supereasy. Take my car keys, for example. My car keys have three buttons on a little tab. One button locks the car, one button unlocks it. The third button is an alarm. The salesman sold it to us with this tantalizing tip: If someone tries to carjack you, you hit the alarm button and throw the keys as far as you can. That way, they have to search for the keys and the alarm is going off.

Since then, two things have been true: 1. I've really wanted someone to try to carjack me so I could try that maneuver, and 2. I've hit that alarm button, which is on a hair trigger, over and over and over, causing my car to honk and lights to flash at inopportune times, like 5:45 a.m. or 10 p.m. or when I'm trying to leave work early.

That alarm button doesn't need to be so close to the other buttons, and doesn't need to be a button at all. It could be a switch that must be flipped to work; that would still work in an emergency.

Then there's my home computer mouse. That mouse has, for some reason, tiny, thin buttons on each side (in addition to the two usual buttons and the wheel.) Clicking the right button skips the Internet ahead a page; clicking the left skips the Internet back a page. Clicking both turns on a magnifier-effect.

The buttons are situated so that they're easy to click -- too easy, as they're set up so that your fingers are resting on top of the buttons while you use the mouse. I frequently bump or accidentally press them and skip ahead or back from the page I'm on, which can cause problems if I'm, say, writing a blog post that I haven't saved. And, to make it worse, clicking the buttons slightly out of synch activates all the features, so I can find myself suddenly back two pages with a magnified, distorted computer screen and I have to stop and undo that.

Why are the buttons there? Is it so difficult to move the little arrow pointer up to the top of the screen and click the Back or Forward button? Who decided that computer users should move even less than we already do?

The effort to make everything easier makes things harder and dumber. And it's pointless. All this effort going into reengineering a mouse or keychain when it wasn't all that hard, in the first place, to do those things. Anything that can be done easily can be done accidentally, and some things ought not to be done easily.

Still 5 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Also: I updated Way Number 3...

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.

Poor Richard's Got Nothing On Me (3 Good Things From 12/2/09)

I spoke a little too soon yesterday; today we're supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow... but you know what they say: "When life hands you snow, make snowmen. Then think to yourself, "boy, that sure was a lot of work and it's not even a very good replica of a person." Then go inside and watch Christmas specials on TV."

Yes, I have a bright future as an aphorism writer. Here's my 3 Good Things from yesterday.

1. Sweetie's internal alarm clock luckily replaced my external alarm clock. I don't know what happened Tuesday night; I was sure I'd set my pointy fish alarm clock, but apparently I got so engrossed in an article about the US debt problems that I did not set it. Yesterday morning, Sweetie woke me up and said "What time is it?" I said I didn't know, and asked why she wanted to know, and she said "It seems a little too light out." So I checked the time (by turning on the TV and going to CNN and adding two hours to the Pacific Time they showed on the screen) and realized it was 6:45 -- or an hour after I usually get up.

(Don't worry: I didn't have to rush around or do any crazy Dagwood running-out-the-door; all waking up that late meant was that I had to skip the usual hour of 'puting in the morning.)

2. This line from Modern Family: Spoken by a character calling an emergency line: "We've locked our daughter in the car and people are judging us!" I watched that show for the first time last night after hearing it was like Arrested Development, and while it's nothing like Arrested Development at all, critics, it's pretty good.

3. While grocery shopping, I found sour cream that was forty cents less than the sour cream I was going to buy at the grocery store. Sometimes, it's the little victories in life that count.

Still 5 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Gambling Is In My Soul, Which Means My Money Is In Your Pockets.

So you want to play some poker, or do some other gaming, but you live in the Midwest? Or Canada? Or some other boring place that's not Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and therefore not just a hop, skip and jump away from incredible gambling action?

In the past, you'd be limited to trying to find one of those groups of dogs that are so good at poker, and who wants to play with them? They're sharks, not dogs. (Confidential to the Labrador: That was my mortgage money, you jerk!)

But now, thanks to a site I found you can find a great casino online and gamble to your heart's content without ever having to think to yourself Where'd that Scottie come up with four aces?

This site -- Best Online Casinos-- finds and checks out online gambling and gaming sites and provides quick and easy-to-read reviews of them, with links. They've got big featured reviews, like the one today for "Online Vegas," and they'll tell you what to expect and whether the site is worth your time. Plus, they offer bonuses for finding the sites through them (today, you can get $5,000 free to play at Online Vegas, for example.)

Whether you're a novice like me or a pro like I'll be in just a few short weeks, Best Online Casinos has sites to while away those boring hours at "work." And they provide news about other sites that you'll need, like information on the scandals that plague some online sites (but not this one.)

It's perfect: One click/one view shopping for online gaming and gambling sites, great insider information, and bonuses for downloading the programs.

Pretty soon, I'll be able to take those dogs down a peg or two.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

One Percenters Day Four: Yes, I'm still on this, and you should care because you're going to go bankrupt.

One percenters are those people who are willing to say "I'll pay 1% of my gross income as higher taxes if it means providing universal health care so that nobody dies sick and alone due to a lack of insurance."

Day Three is here.

Consider this argument made against allowing the government to run health care: The government is inefficient, people say.

I think that the IRS, the Post Office, the US Military, and NASA, say otherwise. But whether or not the government is inefficient isn't really the point, because private insurance companies are equally inefficient.

That's the message I get, at least, from the Newsweek article about the Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic, as detailed in that article, is a marvel of private industry efficiency on the medical provider side; they routinely reduce health care costs by as much as 50% through use of high-tech approaches, novel compensation packages, and other measures (like not hiring smokers -- a genius idea, since smoking should be outlawed).

But the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most efficient of private medical providers, runs into a massive glacier of inefficiency when it hits the private insurers that pay for much (but not all) of the care they give. As Newsweek reports, the Clinic employs 2,000 doctors... and 1,400 clerks to take care of billing.

Why so many clerks? One reason is because private insurers make it difficult to make claims: They count on rejecting a certain number of claims out of hand, to keep the money in their pockets longer.

Imagine if you could take all the bills you get this month, and simply reject them, and then pay them next month, with no penalty and no interest, while your money remains in the bank another 30 days earning you interest! That's what private insurers do, and they do it on purpose-- they deliberately make the claims process difficult (efficient? HA!) and refuse to clarify it. Newsweek reports that "Lyman Sornberger, executive director of patient financial services [at the Cleveland Clinic], keeps asking the insurance companies for their rules so he can submit a "clean claim," but without much success."

To paraphrase: The insurance companies won't explain their own rules on billing. Then they use breaches of those rules to reject claims.


Another reason that so many clerks are necessary is that each insurer has its own rules for what it will cover and what it will pay for what's covered, making it necessary to have different kinds of billing procedures for different insurers.

Again, let's translate this into the "real world" Stupid Mean Insensitive Child-Killing Republicans love to talk about. Imagine if Bank of America, one of the largest mortgage lenders and servicers, had to bill mortgages to you and me the guy up the street and everyone else, but each of us imposed our own system for billing. So I would insist that BofA had to send me an itemized statement with two receipts, while you simply want a quick disclosure form, while the guy up the street says his has to be received in triplicate at a different address... how efficient would BofA be, if they had to do that?

Suppose grocery stores had to do that: Tote up costs for each person based on how that person wanted items rung up: When I check out, I want my produce rung up first, and separately, then all the carb-loaded items billed individually so I could write a separate check for each. How much would the cost of groceries rise, and how much longer would grocery shopping take?

But medical providers have to bill every insurance company separately and count on separate reimbursements and different reimbursements. They have to have, essentially, billing specialists on staff to determine how they're going to get paid!


The Cleveland Clinic tried to make the system better: they said "Let's have package deals," telling insurers that for each procedure, say, giving birth, they'll accept one consistent payment -- say, $10,000. Some births, they know, will be more expensive. Some will be less -- but the Clinic figures they'd even out in the end, and the Clinic figures they, and the insurers, would save on money and transactional costs.

That sounds efficient, right? That sounds like the kind of private efficiency that even Mean Stupid Child-Killing Republicans could get behind.

But not the insurers. They rejected it. They rejected the chance to simplify, to efficiency-fy, their billing procedures.

So. Efficiency, that hallmark of private industry, has been rejected by private industry.

Keep that in mind when the Mean, Stupid, Child-Killing Republicans (and some Mean, Stupid, Child-Killing Democrats) continue to oppose health care reform on grounds that government is inefficient. It is private industry that is inefficient, and private industry won't change. (Government can change; we can vote it to change, as voters have done from time to time. But you can't force private industry to change. If the Cleveland Clinic can't do it, you certainly can't.)

Efficiency, though, is not the only hallmark of a good health care industry. Efficiency isn't the only thing we should be striving for. We should be asking: What do we, as a people, want for our own countrymen when it comes to healthcare?

Another Newsweek article a while back argued that a country's health care system reflects the moral values that country has. That article pointed out that, alone among developed countries, America's moral values are expressed as this:

The poor get only emergency medical coverage. The rich get everything they want.

is the moral value that opponents of health care reform are standing for: They will let poor people get emergency care that might bankrupt them, while protecting the right of the rich to get any medical care they want or need.

With medical bills being the cause of more than 60% of all bankruptcies -- middle class bankruptcies -- we can expect more poor people in the future, as our efficient medical system bankrupts the middle class and makes them poor, while America continues to protect the rights of the rich to get any medical care they want.

Consider this, from a study of bankruptcies and their causes:

"The medical debtors we surveyed were demographically typical Americans who got sick. They differed from others filing for bankruptcy in one important respect: They were more likely to have experienced a lapse in health coverage. Many had coverage at the onset of their illness but lost it. In other cases, even continuous coverage left families with ruinous medical bills."

Demographically typical Americans: That's me and you.

"Even continuous coverage left families with ruinous medical bills."

So you think that you, because you have coverage, are immune to problems, and isolated from this debate?

You're not. You could end up bankrupt, too. You just have to get sick and be denied coverage, or have coverage lapse, or simply hit the limits of your insurance, and you'll be in bankruptcy court, some of you no doubt arguing still that government is inefficient.

Health care is not only an economic issue, as countless billions of dollars get wasted on billing inefficiencies of private industry; it is a moral issue, as America grapples with the question of whether the poor and middle class are just as deserving of medical care as the rich. Every other developed country in the world has answered that question with a resounding yes. America, so far, has said Suck it, poor people.

Time for that to change: Today's politicians to contact, as the Senate gets prepared to debate a bill that only nibbles at the edges of the problem:

"Senator" Max Baucus: Remember "Senator Max," voting down the public option in the Senate Finance Reform Committee, and opting to let your children die in the street?

Want to know why Max wants to let your children die while insurance companies get rich? Here's why: "Senator" Max has taken in over $3 million bucks from insurance, health professionals, and other health lobbyists; those groups make up six of his top 8 lifetime contributors. Three million bucks is the going price, it seems, for letting kids die. Contact "Senator" Max by clicking this link, or by calling him at 202-224-2651, and ask him how much you would have to pay to buy a vote in favor of letting people live; maybe you can outbid the insurance companies for Max's soul.

Since that's unlikely, tell Max, too, that you support a public option insurance plan and that you're willing to pay a nominal amount more in taxes (1% of your gross income) to support it.

The representative for today is "F" James Sensenbrenner, from my own state of Wisconsin. "F" James said this about the House's health care bill (which he voted against):

I voted against this terrible piece of legislation because it is a government takeover of health care that will raise taxes, cut health care services, and perhaps most alarming, set our nation on a dangerous path in which the government encroaches on our lives even more.

"F" James then goes on to say:
"The U.S. Constitution declares “We the people,” not “we the government,” and in my opinion, the government and the United States would be better served by us remembering that."

"F" James probably didn't have time to read any farther in the Constitution than the first three words; if he had read farther, he'd have gotten to the part about how the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution to "promote the general Welfare," and that as part of that they were granting to the Congress the power to "provide for the... general Welfare of the United States," to "regulate commerce" and make other "necessary and proper" laws to do those things.

In my opinion, we'd be better off without faux-scholars like "F" James in Congress. But we're stuck with him, so you can email "F" James by clicking this link, or call him at 1-800-242-1119 and tell him that the Constitution allows the government to regulate industries, and that you're in favor of the public option and true health care reform.

Just don't expect him to listen: the insurance companies are his second-biggest contributor and have given him over a quarter-million bucks. (Apparently, "F" James can be bought for a lot less than "Senator" Max.)

Still 6 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Don't quibble with me, meteorologists. You know I'm right. (3 Good Things From 12/1/09)

Still 8 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Yesterday, December 1, was the start of winter. (Go back and read the headline before you argue with that.) I can't stand winter; I hate it so bad that it made me say, this morning, that I wished I lived in Dallas. And that's a lot of hate. So to try to remedy that, I've decided to come up with 3 Good Things about the start of winter...


Okay. Here we go:

1. My winter coat helps keep my briefcase strap from slipping. I have a leather briefcase that's more like a satchel ...

... yeah, like that, but bigger. Ordinarily, the strap slips off my shoulder, making me have to either keep pulling it up, or sling it over my neck like Jim on The Office, only not quite as cool because my hair's not tousled.

But with my winter coat and it's collar, I can put the strap on my shoulder, tuck the collar around and under the strap, and the briefcase stays on. Like magic!

2. As of December 1, Christmas commercials and specials don't seem weird. Ever watch a Christmas movie or Christmas episode of a TV show out of season? It seems kind of strange. That's how I feel about Christmas movies and specials shown, or advertised, before the calendar says December/Winter. But as of December 1, it all makes perfect sense and I like seeing the Christmas commercials and shows, even that one of Jim Nabors singing.

I note, though, that I don't restrict listening to Christmas music to just December. I listen to some "Christmas songs" year-round, including "Christmas of Love" by Little Isidore and The Inquisitors, which you can hear by clicking this link, and I also really like Brian Setzer's Angels We Have Heard On High, which once had a video but now doesn't. You can listen to it by clicking this link.

(I have both those songs on my running playlist.)

3. It hasn't snowed yet. That's something, anyway.

Tuesday Present List: Yesterday's was:

A Grinch Who Stole Christmas Christmas tree ornament, which Sweetie uses for decorations around our house. This was to replace the three ornaments she got for her birthday, ornaments which have been seized by Mr F as toys to play with.

Last week's, given on Wednesday because I was late, was Broccoli & Cheddar soup and a salad from Panera Bread.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Here's one that for a change doesn't involve leftover pizza. Well, not directly, anyway. (3 Good Things from 11/30/09)

Still 8 days left in the contest: Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

There's only 31 days left in 2009. Here's how I spent the 32nd-to-last day:

1. I won a contest! Over on Muruch, one of the best music-and-entertainment blogs around, I entered and won a contest just by commenting. (Boy, how easy that is... hint, hint.) Just by reading Muruch and taking advantage of the author's niceness and free music, I get a Wolfmother t-shirt and button pack.

(If you want to read Muruch, click here to add your thoughts on the year's best albums.)

2. I had some delicious pizza.
I went to visit Mom and see my brother from Tampa and my sister from California, and stayed for dinner. Tampa Bay Matt suggested we go to "Baribiere's" on Blue Mound Road, and since I wasn't paying I had no real vote in the matter. Matt said I'd love the pizza, and he was right; it was truly excellent. The only downside to it, in fact, was that I couldn't figure out a way to take the leftovers home with me, so there is, in Milwaukee, a bunch of leftover pizza calling out to me telepathically.

3. I only had to hear, rather than experience, Sweetie's trip to the health club with the Babies!. I was on the road and in court all day, but called Sweetie around lunch to see how her day was going. She said that she'd taken the Babies! to the health club to play in their playroom while she worked out, and that upon leaving had been met with their greatest display of passive resistance yet: Mr F successfully took down every single magnet on the bulletin board outside the day care, while Mr Bunches laid prone at the top of the opposing staircase. Then, once she'd corralled them for the trip down the stairs, they both tried to make themselves heavy and otherwise slow them down (including Mr Bunches' trick of, in Sweetie's words, "deliberately tripping himself" 8 different times, prompting her to ask him whether he had his "new feet" on that day), only to get to the front door of the club and realize that she'd forgotten her car keys up at the playroom and had to go back and do it all over again.

Meanwhile, I was driving and listening to the radio and eating leftover Chex Mix.

So you say you want your wedding invites to stand out, but you're not sure how? Read on...

What's missing from most traditional wedding invitations? The fun and pizzaz, that's what. Your average wedding invitation is a fancy-shmancy card with a bunch of confetti in it and probably a generic image of a bride and groom from the neck down, with maybe a rose.


Why not supplement your traditional wedding invitations with customized photos, music, and more, using the Modern Day Invite website.

Modern Day Invite's high-tech approach lets you make email wedding invitations that are fun and personal and creative. They can do a photo montage, set it to music that you like (like, say, your favorite song or songs), and otherwise customize the experience for you and your guests -- and they'll do it all with photos of YOU, not some random person in a tuxedo.

You can use their service to save the date notifications, too, and to send thank you notes that are fun and personalized, so your entire wedding experience can be upgraded to take advantage of the technology we have and the emotions you have.

For you save-the-earth types, keep in mind that electronic invites, save-the-dates, and thank-yous helps avoid unnecessary use of paper and conserves resources in the delivery. But for the rest of us, these serve as additions to the traditional invites and Thank Yous: you can still send the hard copies, but now the invitees will get a fun little reminder of your wedding and the gifts, with actual photos of you and music.

So make your wedding invites more fun and more personal with Modern Day Invites.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I get to go back to eating sandwiches tomorrow. (3 Good Things From 11/27-11/29)

Comment on this post! You could win a book or magazine subscription (details here) and you'll be making me happy (details on that here.)

Back to work after my first four-day weekend in years...but my 3 Good Things from over the holiday are keeping my spirits up.

1. Mr Bunches and I like the tuba & drums alone, but Mr F prefers the entire band. One of the new games Mr Bunches, Mr F, and I found over the weekend is this excellent Fisher Price music game where kids (and sometimes dads...) can click on various instruments in a band and turn them on and off as they play folksy versions of The ABC Song, or the funkiest mix of Itsy Bitsy Spider you'll ever hear. Check out the synthesizer on that spider song. Seriously. We listened to that over and over on the weekend. It's good potato-peeling music.

2. I quarterbacked my nephew and niece to touchdowns in "Pass Defender." "Pass Defender" is a football game that can be played with only three people: One QB, one receiver, one defender, four downs to score a touchdown. As the quarterback, I managed to get touchdowns out of my nephew and niece before subbing in The Boy as quarterback so I could play chase with Mr Bunches. (Mr F preferred not to come outside.)

3. Sweetie's carrot cake. I'm not baking anymore. I thought I was a good cook but first Sweetie made a great pecan pie for Sweetest Day, and now she baked a carrot cake over the weekend that was awesome, and which made my Lemon Meringue Pie look like... well, a soggy lemon meringue pie. From here on out, Sweetie handles the baking duties and I will handle the eating duties.


Have you bought something from Elizabeth's Etsy Store yet? Here's the final piece featured here on 3 Good Things: From her "Festive Fun" collection, it's "Snowmen and Peppermints Russian Doll Necklace," $25.00 and the perfect gift for St. Nick's Day, which is coming soon!
If you've got something of yours you want featured on "3 Good Things," let me know. Thanks, Elizabeth and James, for supporting me.

Giving and getting were never easier.

This time of year, everyone's preoccupied with giving gifts to friends and family (and, to be honest, getting gifts from friends and family.)

But maybe you could broaden your scope and think about giving free stuffto people you don't even know, while still getting stuff in return -- something you can do with

Listia is an auction site, but not an auction site like you know already. You don't pay for things on the site, and if you list your own stuff there, people don't pay you. Instead, you list stuff to auction off (and others list their own stuff) and people can bid "credits" on it, credits they get for either giving away their own stuff or by donating money to charity.

In other words, everything you give away or get on Listia is free and helps charity. You can put your old stuff on there, stuff you'd just have sitting around cluttering up your house, and once it's on there, people can bid it up using credits they get for joining, for giving away things, or making donations to charity.

The stuff there is really good, and really necessary this time of year -- like the Free Baby Stuff section where you can get (or give away) much-needed baby items. You know you'll never use the car seat or high chair again, but don't throw it out because someone needs it. Instead of wasting it, list it on Listia and help out someone else this holiday season.

In return, you'll get not only a good feeling but also credits yourself, so you can go buy new stuff to replace your old things.

Join now and you'll get 100 credits just for being part of the group. Since things are going for just a few credits there -- the bouncer pictured here is 15 credits -- 100 credits is a bonanza!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm a marketing genius.

One thing I've always wondered: Since we use bikini-clad women to sell beer and potato chips and, as I've recently seen on TV, GUNS, why don't we use supermodels to sell mattresses?

Take the blog entry I just read about these
memory foam mattresses from Classic Sleep Products. Sure, they're mattresses that will help you stop waking up with pains all over your body, because they'll use the memory-foam they're made of to support your entire body, eliminating pressure points and the aches that go with them.

And yeah, the picture looks classy and comfortable there, so nice that you can imagine that mattress sitting on your bed, just waiting to cushion and cradle you to sleep like the blog post put up by Classic Sleep products promises it will.

Too, I know from reading that post that this Memory Foam Mattress has an Amish-made support base of solid spruce and an anti-microbial foam base with Visco Elastic Memory foam, a dense, 10" thick layer of support that will allow me to rest comfortably all night long and wake up refreshed instead of tired and achey, and that the foam will even regulate temperature better so I don't get too hot or too cold.

But wouldn't all that sell better if it had Giselle lying on it? How come nobody ever consults me about these things.