Friday, August 07, 2009

A primer on health reform

I've been meaning to blog about health reform forever, since that's what I do with my days. But the issue is so big, it's been hard to know where to start. But someone recently asked me for a primer on the issues, so the rest of this post is lifted verbatim from the email I sent him.

One of the challenges in the health reform debate is that the system is such a mess, nearly everyone who works in health policy agrees that we should do SOMETHING, no matter how imperfect. So nearly every reputable source I'm going to give you is going to be in favor of any legislation that comes out of a Democratic Congress.

The other challenge is that until the past few weeks, the proposals for how to make all this happen have been vague, and everyone favors reform but doesn't necessarily care that much about the details. Also, legislative analysis apparently bores audiences, so there's not a lot of specifics on the different legislation for a non-policy audience.

With those provisos, here's my best attempt at a list:

Eight Myths About Health Care Reform - From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a good primer on the disinformation

In Search of Health Reform - An interactive feature that gives a good overview of the problem and the proposed solutions.

The Experts vs. The Public on Health Reform - The CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health policy foundation, takes on how health policy experts view the issues, versus how the public views the issues.

This is the point where I take a break to say that I am a health policy wonk, and that the information I added below might take you into minutiae that you really just don't care about.

Not Enough Audacity - Paul Krugman makes the case for a public plan.

Fiscal Suicide Ahead - And David Brooks argues why we need cost containment, and why we're unlikely to get it.

The Cost Conundrum - A really influential article about the structural problems that Brooks is talking about above.

The Risk Pool - This is an article that Malcolm Gladwell wrote in 2006. It's not really central to the issues being debated right now, but I think it provides a compelling framework for how we think about risk and insurance. Anything risky is best spread out among as many people as possible. This means that buying health insurance is harder and harder the fewer people are in your "risk pool". It's why we have Medicare (old people are terrible risks) and why people want a mandate that everyone have health insurance (more people spreading the risk), and so this issue is what underlies a lot of the fundamentals of health reform.

Finally, I tag bookmarks on Delicious with healthreform when I remember.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pandora Whining

I listen to Pandora a LOT.  Several hours a day, every day.  In July they added a limit to their ad supported service limiting "free" listening to 40 hours a month.  I got an email saying "although this change affects only 10% of our listeners, you are one of them!"

Once you reach the 40 hour limit, you have two options.  You can pay $1 to continue to use the ad supported service for the rest of the month, or you can pay $36 for the year to upgrade to the premium, non-ad supported service.  I actually think this is a fairly nice way to deal with generating more revenue while keeping the service affordable.  BUT I'm annoyed with two things about this arrangement.

First, Pandora has made the interface for the $1 a month option cumbersome.  You have to wait until you actually run out of time for the month and then enter your credit card number.  It enters it as a one time payment, which means you need to type in your credit card number every month.  This is obviously intended to steer you to the $36/year premium service.

Which brings me to my second gripe.  I feel like I am absolutely paying enough for my ad-supported Pandora already.  Somehow from my music taste, Pandora's ads can divine my needs and desires more readily than even I can.  So far, I have purchased Dove deodorant with matching body spray, renewed my passport, and purchased Venus Spa razor blades, pretty much all based off Pandora advertising.  They know about my secret shame, enjoying Bud Light with Lime, and are trying to get me to buy some of that too.

As it turns out, I ran out of Pandora credit yesterday, so I'll be using other free services for another day until it starts over.  It's probably worth it for me to just upgrade to the paid service, but it will take me a bit to feel like it's not being imposed on me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Salad

Quinoa is a South American grain that holds its shape nicely in salads. It's nutty and full of protein. I made this recipe up pretty spontaneously, because I knew I had quinoa and black beans in the pantry and limes in the fridge. I love bean and grain salads, especially in the summer.

I think next time I'd adjust the proportions a bit (more quinoa!) and add some chopped cilantro. I also don't think the roasted corn makes that big a difference. Also, the dressing proportions are made up. I don't measure.

1/2 c. dry quinoa, rinsed
1 c. water
1.5 c. canned black beans, rinsed
1.5 c. frozen corn kernels, thawed (I used Trader Joes roasted corn)
1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
juice of one lime
2 T. (?) olive oil
dash of hot sauce
1/2 tsp. oregano (Mexican if you have it)
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Add the quinoa and water to a pan, bring to a boil, turn down to low and let simmer until water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and let cool. Add beans, corn, and peppers. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add dressing to salad, stir, and put in the fridge to chill. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Web Browser ABC Meme

I just discovered the "Page Info" stuff in Firefox 3.5. I'm not sure if this is new or not, but it allowed me the opportunity to see how many times I've visited certain domains. Apparently I reload Facebook an average of 57 times a day.1 Oops!

And with that in mind, I now bring you the ABCs of my AwesomeBar.

(Instructions: type the letter ‘a’ in your browser location bar and choose the first match from the dropdown. Repeat for each letter of the alphabet.)

B: Blind Pig Music
C: Chalk, Cheese, and a Beard
D: Delicious
E: Etherpad
F: ubiquity-firefox | Google Groups
G: Troubleshooting Ubiquity Interface Problems
H: ubiquity-firefox: log
I: isoHunt - the BitTorrent and P2P search engine
J: Jonathan Coulton
K: Pulling it Together: 19.7 - Kaiser Family Foundation
L: Mozilla Labs » Ubiquity
M: Ann Arbor, MI to Monson, Massachusetts
N: NYTimes
O: Orbitz Travel: Airline Tickets, Cheap Airfare, Hotels, Vacations, Car Rentals & Cruises
P: planet ubiquity
Q: Twitter / Search - ubiquity
S: Songza
T: The Ride - Ann Arbor Transportation Authority
U: ubiquity-firefox | Google Groups
V: How We're Releasing Ubiquity 0.5 on Vimeo
W: Wowhead: You'll be back.
X: xkcd - A Webcomic - Form
Y: YouTube - Hey Paul Krugman (A song, A plea)
Z: Shoes, Clothing, Handbags, Sunglasses | Free Shipping

Only surprise is that Pandora didn't show up, although the URL of planet ubiquity is filled with Ps. Other than that, it looks just like my life. Music, ubiquity, nerding. I guess I feel like I read a lot more health news and a lot more wikipedia than this list would indicate.

1: Is it wrong that I want to put a methodological note here? I've had this Firefox profile for 305 days, which I guessed with terrifying accuracy and then actually checked with a date calc.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Delicious. I have resisted this for some time, because I hated the URL for the most part, but also didn't grasp the value of saving my bookmarks on the web. I even blogged about how much I hated it.

Fast forward to today - I signed up three weeks ago and I LOVE it. Not only is it a great way to make my bookmarks searchable, but I also can share things I like with friends. The Firefox addon means it's integrated into my existing browsing habits almost seamlessly, and the tagging feature is actually fairly useable.

I'll admit part of the appeal is that I read so much on the Internet these days, I kind of want a way to catalog that. So when someone is like "how do you know this?" I can actually just be like "go read what I have read".

Here's my regular bookmark feed:

I've been tagging things "eggnog" for sharing with family and friends that are about the stuff I'm interested in, but for a more general audience. You can find those things here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Silence of the Lamps

This is the first "web comic" I ever went crazy for, back in 1997.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Weekday Banana Walnut Oatmeal

I saw a post on Summer Tomato for Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal labeled a "weekend breakfast", since cooking regular rolled oats takes a little while. Like Darya, I prefer real oatmeal to instant or quick, and I also am not really a bright sunshiney person in the morning. If it's more complicated than turning on the coffeemaker, I will probably not do it on a weekday morning.

This oatmeal recipe is that easy. And cheap! And tasty! I use Trader Joe's unsweetened soymilk, so the honey makes it tastier. It can certainly be remixed with any combo of toppings based on your whims and what's in the fridge.

Banana-Walnut Oatmeal

1/2 c. rolled oats
3/4 to 1 c. milk or soymilk
sliced banana
1 tbsp. honey

The night before you want to eat this, put the oats and soymilk into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

In the morning, take it out and stir, then pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove, stir, and microwave another 1-2 minutes. Top with banana, walnuts, and honey. Yum!