Smiling in black

August 5, 2008, R.I.P., C.L. Bicking

It is with indescribable sadness that I announce the death of my father, C. L. Bicking, age 93. When I learned of his deteriorating condition yesterday, I arranged to come down and see him, but learned this morning before I could get to Pennsylvania that he passed away.

I am now in Pennsylvania, and will be spending the next few days with my sister dealing with the arrangments. I had a camping trip scheduled this weekend, and many of those who are also going will surely see this post. I have not yet determined that I will not go, but I will make the decision in the next day or so.

Given that father's entire life included frequent, far-flung camping trips across America, it might be a very appropriate activity for me - if I can handle it. As it stands now, I gave no thought to what I would pack, nor do I have anything but the vaguest notion of how to get there. These are issues I expected to be resolving today and tomorrow. Unfortunately, I now have more important things to handle.

Good night.
  • Current Music
    The Silence of my Soul
Smiling in black

From the mists of time

So here I am, going through my paper files looking for things to trash. I do this periodically, as anybody who even bothers to keep files does. I keep scheduling myself to do this semi-annually, but I usually end up leaving it until I litterally can't fit any more information into my files.

I pulled out my old Citibank Visa file, and lo and behold! I found a receipt from 1988 from... SILO! Do any of you remember them? This was the first credit card I ever got, and I still have it. I bought my first CD player (for $300), and a video tape. Wow. This sucker is shredded with all the statements dating back to... 1990. Sheesh. For some reason I kept passing over this one.
Smiling in black

I nearly died last night...

... but only lost my tent(s), in the end.

I should have realized that the fact I was so happy was a clear, neon sign that I was in for disaster. Such is my life. A couple of stallions decided to duke it out last night at my site. During one chase, I had to step out of the way of a charging horse. It had absolutely no situational awareness, and I am sure it would have run right over me had I not moved. Then, they charged into a space next to my tent and went into combat, biting and kicking. One tripped over my tent, got caught in it, and dragged it about 10 feet before getting free.

Fortunately, my CPAP survived. My morale did not. It was dusk and the sun had just set when this happened. About this time, the infamous mosquito swarms struck. Neighbors offered me spare tents, which I accepted gratefully, but numbly. To add insult to injury (other than the fact that this was a new tent), the park staff is not inclined to care about the incident. They are still charging me for today, even though I packed up and left. "No refunds", she said. So not only did I just suffer about $400 worth of property loss, and come within inches (literally) of being a casualty, the park staff essentially told me to "fuck off, and we're keeping your $25, too". Nice. Maybe I'll try the National park campground next time.

Since I got no sleep last night, I'm pretty much wandering around like a zombie today, so no cool activities for me :( I'm off to Rehoboth beach, where I have a 1 night stay at a motel - I hope it isn't crap. At least the time I had was spectacularly awesome, and I would not trade it for anything. I just wish it did not cost so much in treasure and morale.

One last thing: Parasailing is amazingly cool.
Smiling in black

Camping in an Equine Paradise

I'm sitting here at a Panera in Ocean City, Maryland catching up on a bit of email and world news. Once I'm done writing this, I'm going to call up a few places and arrange an ocean fishing trip and some parasailing. I'm staying at Assateague State Park, which is on a narrow strip of land (HA - land, that's a good one! More accurately, a sand bar).

My first night (Monday) was wet. We had spectacular thunderstorms and very strong winds. I'm happy to announce that my Hubba Hubba MSR tent didn't skip a beat. The screened enclosure I bought at Walmart in Easton did not fare so well, but it was still standing when I woke up. Unfortunately, one of those famous wild horses decided that it wanted to examine the contents of the enclosure last night, and ripped through the screen.

Speaking of last night - what a beautiful night! After having a grilled dinner and later, toasted marshmallows, I went to bed with the rain fly partially removed. Since I have a mesh tent, I could see the night sky and everything around. The stars were wonderful, and when I woke up this morning just before dawn, I took some pictures of the red sky, got up and went to the beach and watched the sun rise.

I also watched a herd of horses stop by my site to munch on grass, witnessed two stallions have a slight disagreement, and had the unusual experience of seeing a couple of horses "get it on" not 10 feet from me (I really didn't want to see that). Except for the last part, I have pictures of it all.

On Saturday at Tilghman Island in the Chesapeake Bay, I went fishing for "Rockfish". After I caught my first one, I realized that is "mid-Atlantic speak" for "Striped Bass" :). Our expedition of four plus the captain managed to catch our quota despite the slow fishing day, and I still have about 2 pounds of filet to eat before it goes bad (life is rough). Still, I lost a huge one when the captain was attempting to net it. The swivel on which hooks are attached actually broke, releasing the beast. It was a big one, that I didn't see clearly with my own eyes, but it was a real challenge reeling it in! The guys were ribbing me for the rest of the day for letting that one go (everyone knew it wasn't my fault).

If you ever decide to go fishing in the Chessapeake, take a look at Harrison's on Tilghman Island. You won't be dissapointed.


I have a couple more days here, and the day's flying by. I'll check in later if I have time.
Smiling in black

tort reform and the healthcare industry

I had a long, drawn out political discussion with a teammate at work today (he just wouldn't let it rest, either). He pretty much insisted that the only thing we as a nation needs to do to improve our health system is "tort reform", because it is putting doctors out of business. He also has nothing but bad things to say about any health system other than our own (He's Ukranian by by birth, moved here in 1988).

So, since he wouldn't accept any of my figures from memory, as soon as I got home, I did some research (excluding Michael Moore (Sicko), because everybody knows he's a commie wacko)

Oh, and he says no Democrat has ever proposed a plausible reform package, so I threw in a presidential candidate comparison chart. Not perfect, but they are proposals with some attempt at cost estimates.

I decided to upload the links I emailed to myself at work for posterity. Some of you might be surprised at the information here, others will shrug and think "you mean this isn't common knowledge"? I know it always amazes me when people spout propaganda points and insist they are irrefutable facts.

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This one balances the points of view. The tort reform is crap, but so are outlandish insurance seller profit figures.
http://www.factcheck.org/politics/insurance_industry_ad_makes_fishy_claim_about.html

This debunks Bush's cost claims:
http://www.factcheck.org/president_uses_dubious_statistics_on_costs_of.html

This one points out that malpractice costs are a serious problem, but also that .5% (that's right - 1/2 of 1 percent) of U.S. health care costs are caused by them. Also points out that premium costs are rising FASTER in states with malpractice caps. See also section on drug costs in America vs Canada.
http://dkosopedia.com/wiki/Health_Care#Malpractice_Litigation_As_A_Source_of_Rising_Health_Care_Costs

Reachable from the above Wiki, this page points out several real statistics as of 2005, and states that 44% of health care costs are paid by the government, despite there being no national health care.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/6/20/18596/5352

Note, any malpractice figures from Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, a consulting firm that is paid by insurance companies, are suspect. (there are a LOT of articles using their figures as evidence that tort reform is critical to the survival of our medical system)


Hmm... except for the recent stock correction, health insurance company stock value seems to have a trend...
http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/quickchart/quickchart.asp?symb=hmo&sid=0&o_symb=hmo&freq=2&time=13

Aetna: 7.6%, 8.1%, 39.9% profit growth for the last three years. The 2004 figure excludes a one-time "income from discontinued option" benefit. (2007-2004)
http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/quotes/financials.asp?symb=AET

Humana: 71%, 64%, 9.6% profit growth for the last three years. (2007-2004)
http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/quotes/financials.asp?symb=HUM&sid=2451&dist=TQP_Nav_financials

Wellpoint / Anthem net income/profit growth: 8%, 25.6%, 256% profit growth over last three years (2007-2004)
http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/quotes/financials.asp?symb=WLP&sid=1881894&dist=TQP_Nav_financials
Articles:
http://milwaukee.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/2004/04/26/daily22.html
http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-1918995/Anthem-Inc-and-Trigon-Healthcare.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D00EFDB1631F933A05757C0A9649C8B63

side-by-side comparison of presidential candidates' plans - including how to pay for them:
http://www.health08.org/sidebyside_results.cfm?c=5&c=11&c=16

40% - 60% of health expenditures in USA are paid by our government (as of 2004);
http://www.globalhealthfacts.org/topic.jsp?i=48

USA has the highest per capita health expenditure in the world (2003).
http://www.globalhealthfacts.org/topic.jsp?i=45

One staggering point in this healthcare primer is :
The U.S. spends substantially more on health care than other developed countries. As
of 2004, health spending in the U.S. was about 90 percent higher than in many other
industrialized countries.

Despite this relatively high level of
spending, the United States does not appear to achieve substantially better health
benchmarks compared to other developed countries

http://www.kff.org/insurance/7670.cfm


I could go on, but it is Friday night and I want to relax.
Smiling in black

Back from Paradise

I made it back at 3am this morning. I had an amazing time and took around 500 pictures. I'll put them up on flickr soon. For now, I need to start adjusting to reality again. Michelle called it "Civilization Reintroduction Disorder" or CRD. It's going to be rough.

For those of you who plan to visit Belize, I can supply recommendations - but more on that later *yawn*

Where's my coffee?
  • Current Mood
    exhausted exhausted
Smiling in black

Castle Party 2008

http://www.castleparty.com/history.php?str=1&lang=en

Okay all you Goth/Industrial/Darkwave freaks - WHO WANTS TO GO? This is in Poland.

I am seriously considering this trip. I have a CD that came out of a previous party, and absolutely love it. If I go, I am going to make this a part of a one or two week trip.

If there's anybody out there who is interested, we can reduce our collective costs by sharing accomodations and renting a van or something. A couple of bands going that are shaping up as personal favorites are Cruxshadows (whom I saw in Phila in 2005) and In Strict Confidence. Their Holy album is awesome, and every song on their MySpace page is really good, too. Persephene is another band I have, and they're more Darkwave (mellow, sad, and heavy on string instruments).

Seriously - if you're interested, write me here or at my home email. If I get a few interested parties, it will be more likely that I will follow through and do it ;)

Hmmm. I'm going to see if Within Temptation has any concerts in the area around that time...

Well, they don't list past February. I'll check again later, though I just discovered they're "The Howling" song was made for the game Spellborn. I might give that a try :)
  • Current Music
    In Strict Confidence - Seven Lives
Smiling in black

Turning Indian?

Oddly, I have the lines from "Turning Japanese" running through my head...

I think my nearly two years living in "little India", coupled with a peer group that is often as much as 50% Indian, I've finally started to ... "go native?".

I'm enjoying a nice home made dish of Chicken Tikka Masala, with my delish cool drink of home made Mango Lassi. Mmmm-mmmm, Good!

Gotta go - gotta eat!
  • Current Music
    Revenge www.TechnoMusic.dl.am by DJ Dado from Dream Dance Vol.04-CD1
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Smiling in black

"Chuck"

I just saw this premiere.

Well... as usual they run on "MovieOS". It reminds me of Jake 2.0, and if I looked closely at who produced or wrote this, I might find a connection.

My opinion? Well, you know me - I love schlock. This first episode was derivative and made no attempt to even feign realism. Still, it was fun, and it looks like they're going to take a slightly comedic approach. I'll watch it again, and surely laugh - both where I'm supposed to, and where I'm not supposed to.

Jeez - they couldn't do any better than a visual database download into his brain? Yikes, these guys are weak. At least Jake 2.0 had some degree of plausibility with the nanotech and the physical enhancement (no, I'm not including the wireless control of computer systems).

I think I was permanently warped by Rocky Horror Picture Show. Ya - that's it! That's the ticket!