Affordable Care Act: Good For Women and Kids

Gianna at the Park

In researching more affordable health insurance options yesterday morning, I learned that we’ve been being screwed by our insurance company.

On one hand, we’re to blame for not bothering to look into better options sooner, but basically it comes down to this: the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, forces insurance companies to pay for well checks for women and kids from age 0-21.

Of course there are a few loopholes, like in our case. If your policy started before the law took effect in March 2010, you are “grandfathered” in. We didn’t change our plan once we had Gianna, especially since after her birth our deductible was met through the end of 2011.

If your plan is old, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for “well checks.” If you don’t have kids or aren’t a woman, you may not know how damn expensive that stuff is. Gianna’s first round of shots and one office visit cost $700. That’s right. $700 for maybe half an hour and a few shots.

I’m not talking about whether or not you think it’s fair that the law works this way. But I do want people to realize that their well checks are covered by their insurance.

So hey, educate yourselves and don’t trust your insurance agent to let you know that your old plan sucks and you’re not taking advantage of a better plan.

The Great Divide: Smugness, Stupidity, and Villains.

The Great Divide

This is for all the arrogant, self-righteous Americans among us.

Stop being smug, get down off your high horses, and think about improving the world. People who disagree with you are not fascist followers of Adolf Hitler (if they’re conservatives) or socialist Josef Stalin (if they’re liberals). Disagreeing with you doesn’t make someone evil, or stupid, or un-American. Stop clamping your hands over your ears and ignoring people who don’t agree with everything you stand for. I’m talking to everyone here–right wing whackos, left wing loonies, and the idiots in the middle.

We all have enemies out there, maybe politically, maybe religiously, whatever. But not every atheist, Christian, Muslim, liberal, or conservative is an evil bastard, whether we’d like to pretend they were or not. Some people are bad. Some ARE anti-American. But it’s not because they’re pro-life or pro-choice or worship God 5 times/day (or never) or go to mass or whatever.

I’m a critical, judgemental person. I love to argue, and I love to debate. Like most people, I know I’m right and you idiots are wrong. But over time, as I’ve been exposed to more people with different viewpoints, I’ve learned to be more open to other people’s ideas. Even I’m tired of being part of widening the Great Divide between the right and the left.

I’m tired of being part of the problem.

As the election draws near, we’re becoming even nastier. The Opposition has morphed into the Dark Lord Sauron. They’re even more un-American, evil, and stupid than before. They don’t understand us, they hate us, they want to destroy our way of life, enslave our children, and make us just like them. Of course we’re smug, self-righteous, paragons of society, and since we’re always right, we clamp our hands over our ears and ignore everything they say (while screaming in their faces).

Actually, we would scream in their faces, except for the fact that most of us don’t usually spend much time with the Enemy. We do see them on Facebook, though, so we attack the hell out of them, troll them, smear them, call them stupid, etc.

After all, they want to destroy America.

So stop being so smug. Stop calling anyone who disagrees with you “stupid.” Your opponents aren’t all nasty villains bent on ruining your country.

Talk to people who don’t agree with you. Be objective. Stop widening the Great Divide. Have discussions. Figure out why other people think differently than you. Let’s figure out how the hell to improve the world instead of just tearing it down.

Above all, stop being smug.

*End of Rant*

Instead of Fighting Against Gay Marriage, Go Do Something Useful.

Rodin's Thinker

Last night, I saw an argument against gay marriage that was predicated upon the idea that marriage is inherently a religious thing.

I despise the idea that just because the Founding Fathers, Jesus, Little Bo Peep, or Saint So-And-So used to do something a certain way or for a certain reason, then we should just keep doing it the same way now.

Times change, people. We learn as time goes on (I hope). Slavery went away. Black people became people. Gay marriage is inevitable.

The only argument against it in the United States in 2012 comes from right wing Christians. In saying that, I’m not being biased against them. I’m merely stating a fact. The movement to marginalize gays comes from them–they’re trying to defend the “sanctity” of marriage only because they’re afraid of gays. They have an agenda, and it doesn’t include letting gays get married.
Most reasonable people I know, including my extremist Christian friends, think it’s fair for gay people to get married. They don’t support gayness, they think it’s a sin, etc, but they agree that gay people should have rights. If they didn’t we probably wouldn’t be friends. Why? Because I’m biased against stupid assholes who think they should tell everyone else how to live.
Anyone who desperately wants to deny gay rights should do some serious self-examination and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. Instead of wasting time trying to deprive other people of stuff, they should go do something useful/create something new/brighten someone’s day.
That’s it for now.

To Rant or Not to Rant: That is the Question

Camperdowny Elm

I am pretty damn opinionated.

This is well-established among people who know me, and probably among those of you who only know me from reading this blog. I

Guy With Sword Statue
I always feel like a have a sword ready to unsheathe on people. I try to control myself, especially on the blog. Sometimes I fail.

tend to dislike bullshit language that sugarcoats unpleasant things. I like to look at things in black and white, although I recognize that there are shades of grey out there. I make generalizations pretty often, and I really like to rant (which is an indulgence I am trying to control, both in person and online).

It would be so damn easy to turn this into a rant blog as opposed to a motivational little spot, but that’s not what I want to do. I don’t think that’s productive, and I don’t think it helps people, which is really what I want to do. I want to do my best to empower other people to feel better about themselves, to create things, to make themselves the best they can be.

I’m saying this today since I often talk about things that get people fired up, and I’m pretty sure I hurt some feelings now and then, whether I’m talking about politics, religion, or being fat. Even though I may discuss some things without much regard to other people’s feelings, it’s not my intention to hurt anyone.

I love to discuss our differences, which is something I didn’t really engage in until the last few years. And really, since I started this blog, I’ve become a lot more open to other viewpoints.

 

I’ll Do It . . . Someday.

Justin in Oregon 2003

Boy, have I been lazy this winter.

Really, I’ve been lazy for way longer than that, but at least I kept going to yoga and running off and on for about the last year, which managed to keep off some of my excess fat. But this winter, I stopped working out at all, stopped running, and “took some time off” from yoga.

I don’t like being fat. Nobody does. But I sure do love indulging myself–I’m a glutton.

My Dad and I in Oregon 2004
Here I am with my dad in my fat days. Compare that to the pictures of me in Hawaii. I was fat.

I’ve been drinking pots of coffee with half and half instead of skim milk lattes, which has helped me binge on the stuff, swilling down WAY too much of it. I’ve also been eating far too much unhealthy food (and even when I eat healthy stuff, I’ve been a glutton). I’ve had to switch from wearing medium shirts to large ones, and my 34 inch waist pants don’t really fit very well. I know to many people, probably most, this won’t sound like much. I’m not 250 or 300 pounds and I’m not in serious danger of dropping dead from a heart attack.

But you know what?

In America, we have a seriously skewed idea of what “fat” is. We call it being “big,” or pretend that as we age, it’s normal to get fat and out of shape. I think this is more of a facet of modern American society–we eat high calorie food, drive everywhere, watch tv all the time, etc. I don’t need to go into detail, do I? We all know what’s wrong with the picture of American Health these days.

And sugarcoating it with soft, non-offensive language doesn’t help anything. It only serves to massage weak egos and fool us into pretending that we’re fine. Everything will be fine. Please pass me another cheeseburger or another bowl of ice cream. I’ll walk a little more tomorrow. We wait for “someday.” That mythical “someday.” Someday I’ll start eating right. I’ll exercise. And I’ll like it. Someday. Maybe. meanwhile, we’re getting older, our bodies are breaking down, and we tend to get fatter.

Justin in Oregon 2003
Here I am in Oregon 2003. I was pretty fat then.

I say “we” since it applies to me like crazy. I spent my 20s weighing about 220 pounds. I ate fast food multiple times/day. We used to leave the paint store in the mornings then stop in at Burger King for a Double Whopper with cheese, King-sized fries, and a huge Coke. I used to drink at least a 6 pack of Coke every day (and usually way more than that due to free refills at every damn restaurant). We’d have lunch about 3 hours later at some other awful fast food place (or sit downs. If we could swing the time, we’d drop into a sit down and eat, eat, eat). We ate like kings, so it’s now surprise that I looked like Robert Baratheon.

Then on Easter 2005, after gorging myself on tasty food, I was lying on the couch at my grandma’s house watching Foodtv. I felt

terrible (of course I had eaten WAY too much). We were watching a marathon of this show where they gave these fat people a trainer, a dietitian, and a plan for a few months (they followed them from beginning to end). They whipped these people into shape, even this extremely obnoxious guy who lost 40 pounds in 3 months. Seeing this idiot do it spurred me to decide to get in shape.

At the same time, my wife was training for her first marathon, so she was running all the time, which helped motivate me too (she is very fit). So. I ended up eating right and exercising, and I lost 2 pounds/week. I went from 225 to 172. I wasn’t ripped, but I had

September 2005 at a 5k in Maui
Here I am weighing 172 in Maui 2005 just before running my first 5K race.

abs with no fat on them for pretty much the first time in my life. In fact, I was on the skinny side–I was running too much and not eating enough protein.

Then I started lifting weights and doing yoga and got up to about 190, which I stayed at until about 2 years ago, when I started

going to a trainer with my brother. With him, we managed to condense a week’s

worth of weight lifting into 2 hours/week, but once we got too busy with work and had to stop, I rested on my laurels. I gradually lost my strength and my aerobic conditioning. I still went to yoga until last autumn, which helped keep me up somewhat, even though I had crept up above 200 pounds again. Then, like I already said, my winter of hedonism shoved me up to 221. After one week of eating well and exercising, I’m down to 216 right now (I think I tend to hold on to a few pounds of excess water when I’m being unhealthy).

So what’s my point?

Justin in Portugal
Here I am in Portugal. I was fit then (I knew how to maintain it).

Well, I have a few today, I guess. Get off your ass and do something. Move around. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you’ll always have time to get healthy later on. You certainly might, but hey, get to it. Don’t do like I have been. Don’t ignore yourself. Look for balance in what

you do, and try to make a positive change. I don’t want to see you drop dead from being unhealthy.

In my case, I think I may have flipped the switch back to “go.” I think. It’s hard to say, but I feel motivated about it right now. I DO NOT want to look and feel like I have been. I don’t want to be an unhealthy example for Gianna. I want to be there for her when I’m old. I want to look good. I want to feel good. I want to be able to run half-marathons again.

I’ve also noticed recently that my once excellent memory is really fading. I have been having a really hard time remembering if I’ve done things I meant to do or not. I think it’s related to my bad diet and lack of exercise (I sure as hell hope it is, anyway). I’m 36-years-old, so I think it’s a bit early to start shutting down.

Coloring Easter Eggs
You can see that I've gotten fat (if you don't see me in real life, that is. If you do, you know I've gotten fat again).

So. make that “someday” today. Get off your ass and go for a walk. Eat less. Eat better. Just do it for yourself. You owe your future self some health.

Women Are People Too, Aren’t They?

Lincoln Memorial

It continues to shock me that a number of groups in the United States REALLY want to diminish or remove women’s rights.

As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I spend a fair amount of time creating lying, tricksy bad guys who tell you they want one thing (such as your freedom) while they actively pursue the opposite. They’re masters of propaganda, double-speak, and firing up their followers, building their hatred of the enemy by scaring the shit out of them.

It amazes me that all across the country, in the real world, people have elected (or are about to elect) many of these unscrupulous, double-talking assholes. They preach about protecting your freedom while presenting themselves as glowing examples of morality. They use fear of “the Other” in an effort to galvanize their followers into a conservative, judgmental, self-righteous Army of Christ.

They preach about the Bogey Man (or woman).

The current Bogey Man is a gay socialist “slut” who has abortions every fifteen minutes, hates Jesus, and wants to destroy your

Grandpa Rod Home on Leave in WW2
Is This the Bogey Man? Actually, it’s my grandpa Rod Thorning, WW2 Navy Veteran home on leave from Guadalcanal, but if someone said that jaunty sailor smoking a cigarette was gay and that the guy walking next to him (his younger brother who worked at Boeing for over 50 years) was gay, half the country would want to kill him. My grandpa was totally not gay at all, but I’m just illustrating a point here.

perfect marriage. He desperately wants to subvert your children, your wife, your church, your very way of life. He hates the American Flag and everything America stands for. He hates bald eagles, red, white, and blue, and George Washington. He loves Iran, North Korea, Osama Bin Laden, internet pornography, and President Obama.

In fact, President Obama is the Bogey Man, isn’t he? I mean, he’s a secret Muslim who wasn’t born in the US, after all, right?

But hey, if anyone reading this feels threatened by the Bogey Man, don’t worry–if you elect the right candidate for office, they’ll be your knight in shining armor. They will protect your freedom by legislating the Bogey Man away. They’ll get rid of his gayness and her right to choose what to do with her body, whether it’s abortions, birth control, or choices about how to handle her pregnancy. They will strip employees of all rights and put them back in the hands of employers where they belong, especially if an employer’s religious sensibility is offended. They’ll bring prayer back into public schools. They’ll de-fund Planned Parenthood. They’ll fix the gas prices (sound good to you yet?).

In fact, they’ll tell you there never was a separation between church and state after all and that as an Atheist, I’m just living in the United States because they allow me to (which I’ve been told, believe it or not).

By God, they’ll make this a Christian country Jesus would be proud of after all. Now, I don’t mean to attack the common Republican. I really don’t, even if you agree with taking rights away from women and gay people. I just want you to take a good hard look at this crazy movement and make sure you agree with it. If you do, why? What are your reasons? Are you afraid the Bogey Man will subvert your children? Your wife?

What Would Jesus Do?

Seriously. What would he do? Would he persecute people? Would he hate? Would he try to lovingly change them? To bring them to God? As an atheist I surely don’t know, but it seems like he would be more forgiving . . .

I know that with abortion, some of you believe you’re truly “fighting the good fight” and protecting unborn future humans. You believe the rights of the fetus trump the rights of the mother. I can see how you’d believe that. I may disagree with you, but I can understand it. We will never agree on abortion, and that’s that. But contraception? The birth control pill? That has nothing to do with morality at all.

There is a huge, subversive Christian Extremist political movement in this country. It’s my enemy. Not Christians, not Republicans, not political parties, but specific subversive elements who want to give America a make-over and turn it into a theocracy. They usually quote the founding fathers and talk about the Constitution and feel like they are the sole inheritors of American freedom, justice, patriotism, all those buzzwords that belong to every citizen of this country.

I despise that, and I REALLY despise the way they operate.

Even though the founding fathers wouldn’t give women the right to vote, they have it. Women are people. They deserve the right to control their own pregnancies, regardless of some odd religious belief you may have. If a health plan covers an old guy’s Viagra, it should also cover the birth control pill.

Sorya Chemaly says it far better than I could in this excellent post: Legislators: Women Are Not Cows and Pigs.

End of story.

You Can’t Choose to Believe 2: the Onion Analogy

Rodin's Thinker

Last week, my post about the nature of belief (check it out here) drew a lot of disagreement. Yes!

I think a lot of it came from me trying to tackle a gigantic subject in few words. Well, I’m back to try again from another angle.

Faith is like an onion.

It has layers. When I say that we can’t choose to believe or disbelieve in something, I’m talking about the very center of the onion, deep down in there beneath conscious thought.

At this level, you either have it or you don’t. There is no thought involved. No decision-making. You can’t select anything at this level. The religious/spiritual decisions you make (like which religion to follow) happen a few layers up.

To be clear, when I say you can’t choose to believe in something, I’m not talking about life experiences that change you. I’m not talking about the church you go to, or the philosophies you like. I’m talking about the very core of belief or disbelief that you can’t just consciously change in an instant (like I said before, just choose, right now, to disbelieve your faith–nobody addressed that in my previous post and I’d like to see someone who claims they can just choose at will not to believe in their faith).

I’m not saying people don’t change religions throughout their lives–they certainly do. We all see it all the time, don’t we?

Just not spontaneously.

The question of missionaries came up as a response to my previous post. I am not saying you can’t be talked into changing religions. You obviously can. You can “see the light” and convert and start going to a church. You can suddenly, through new experiences, new exposure, whatever, shift your beliefs.

BUT THAT’S MY POINT!

That isn’t you selecting a new religion. It’s something shifting inside you because of these new experiences and exposure to new stuff. You didn’t just suddenly decide, “You know, today I’m going to see the light and become a Muslim.” Nope. You didn’t decide that. Life changed you whether you liked it or not.

So there you have a little more of my thoughts on faith. What do you think?

Finding Bigfoot: Hidden Giant of the Woods or BS?

Tonight I got stuck watching a few episodes of Finding Bigfoot.

I want to believe. I do. I love the idea that the woods are a mysterious place we haven’t fully explored. It would be cool if

Clyde in the Snow
Oh my god! Is that Bigfoot?!?

sasquatches wandered around in the woods, wouldn’t it? As a kid, I always thought they did. I’d see them out there in the woods, especially on the legendary “Indian Land” adjacent to our cabin at Flathead Lake.

Indian Land is property owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Native American tribes.We weren’t officially allowed (by our parents) to slip through the barbed wire fence and go exploring on Indian Land, and in general, we didn’t. We knew bears roamed the woods, as did cows–we’d hear them mooing almost every morning. Sometimes we’d see them wandering through the trees. A badger took up residence along the edge of Indian Land one spring, adding a measure of danger to the whole thing. Looking back, I’d say that the forbidden nature of that stretch of the woods just added to the mystery of what sort of creatures lurked there.

I knew Bigfoot lived there with fairies and werewolves and witches and elves and other secretive things. Maybe even dragons.

But nowadays?

Well, I’ve walked those woods and many other forests. I’ve spent time wandering the hills and absorbing nature. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff, but I haven’t seen any of these things. Does this mean I’m sure they don’t exist? No, it doesn’t. But it makes it a lot tougher to believe any of that stuff is actually hiding out there, doesn’t it?

I suppose I feel like an adult who left Neverland and forgot about the magic.

So back to Bigfoot and the really terrible tv show Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet.

I’d like to think that Bigfoot lurks somewhere out there, but the odds are stacked against it, especially in this technologically advanced age. The people on this show . . . let’s just say they annoy me. They go around looking for Sasquatch, or Sqwatch as they say, implying some sort of easy familiarity between them. They present themselves as foremost experts on Bigfoot, and pretend to have vast experience with them. They have all the modern techno devices a Bigfoot hunting team should ever need: infrared cameras, 360 degree nightvision cameras, microphones, you name it. They are so geared up that they should be able to find any 7 foot tall creature in the woods.

So where’s their proof?

Branches and the Moon
"Now that's a Squatch-ish moon, if I ever saw one"

I watched them wander around Georgia and Minnesota, looking for signs. They found some tracks they thought were evidence of Bigfoot, but no hair or imagery or anything else. Even at night with nightvision and infraread–they found nothing at all. What they did have were a lot of stupid sayings:

“That’s a very Saasquatch-y sort of thing to do . . .”

“Sasquatches have flat feet. Not an arch, like us. That’s what I look for.”

“Sasquatches tend to find a place they like and keep coming back.”

‎”This is what I call Sqwatchin.”

Now, a reality show is only as good as the people on it. These days the subject of the show doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as the personalities of the people you’re watching. I love Swamp People. I don’t really care so much about alligators, but I really like following the people.

The idiots on Finding Bigfoot are extremely annoying. They rub me the wrong way and make me want to disbelieve in Bigfoot.

I want to believe. What about you? Do Sasquatches exist? If so, how do they manege to elude us? Why don’t we have more definitive proof?

Give People a Break

Clyde the Great Dane at Elm Park

I don’t usually give people breaks, even if they deserve it.

No, I certainly do not. I tend to judge people very quickly and get caught up in getting things done, accomplishing goals, and making progress to the point that I hold everyone to the standards I set for myself (of course I don’t live up to my lofty standards all the time either, but that’s another topic).

I get fired up about things to the extent that I can be a bastard if I perceive that somebody isn’t holding up their end of the deal–I usually rip them a new one. I have a pretty well-deserved reputation for this, especially when it comes to MisCon (the science fiction convention I help run in Missoula).

When it comes to making the convention happen, I let myself become ruthless. If I think they’re not getting their work done, I might snap at people, hurt their feelings, etc.

I need to take some advice from myself: give people a break sometimes.

You know, sometimes, it’s good to give people a break, however small. You might be helping them out. I resolve to do so today at least once (if given the opportunity).

What about you? Do you give people breaks? Or are you the opposite? Do you let things slide too much?