It’s lousy, but at least it’s expensive

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sickest of them all? You’ve already heard this:

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity.

So perhaps we should emulate our neighbors to the north? Not so fast:

[T]he second-worst system is Canada’s while the third-worst is France’s. Since Canada is the OECD country that most closely resembles ours culturally and from a lifestyle standpoint, I think that’s a significant finding, suggesting that even if we were to adopt, say, a single-payer system that would be merely the beginning of the reforms that would be needed here if we truly want to have the best of class healthcare system to which we aspire.

It won’t be enough to change who writes the checks. Under the circumstances we might want to consider figuring out what we’re doing wrong and what policies would foster the other changes we’d need to make.

Do we in fact aspire to “best of class”?

Something worth remembering about the Canadian system:

First, the Canadian system didn’t start off as a federal system and still isn’t a federal system. It’s a provincial system. Second, as a JAMA study I’ve mentioned from time to time points out, administrative costs in the Canadian system aren’t as low as some Americans seem to think they are. About 15% IIRC. That’s better than here but it doesn’t provide the savings it would take to cover everybody under a single-payer system without paying a considerable amount more than we do now.

As close as we came to a “provincial” system in the States was, um, Romneycare up in Massachusetts. It cost a godawful sum of money, to be sure; but it didn’t assume that what’s necessary in New England is also what’s necessary in New Mexico or North Dakota, one of the fundamental flaws of just about any Federal program you can name.

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A suicide booth for your old phone

It’s called “ecoATM,” and this is what it’s supposed to do:

ecoATM is the world’s first automated eWaste recycling station. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re a friendly green machine looking to pay cash for the responsible recycling of your old cell phones, MP3 players and tablets. Sell your phone or other device by placing it in the ecoATM kiosk, and we’ll tell you how much it’s worth. What happens next? You get instant cash. With ecoATM kiosks all over the country, and with your help, we’re working hard to solve the eWaste problem facing our planet.

It probably isn’t a whole lot of cash, but it’s something. And what does it cost you?

I had an old phone hanging around and I was going by a mall which had that machine set up. And honestly, the phone is so old as to be functionally useless. If someone offered me a U.S. quarter for it, morals would dictate that I politely suggest they were about to drastically overpay. But I was curious, and so I dropped in, found the machine, and started with the procedure.

First, it asked for my general category of device. Phone, says I, figuring we’ll sort down to the exact model later.

Next, it tells me to see if it has power and that all my personal data has been wiped. Good on both counts.

Then it asked for my driver’s license and thumbprint.

This is the point where the procedure pretty much stopped.

I gently inquired as to why the machine needed this, and was informed it was to make sure the phone was in fact mine and not stolen. Plus a human would check the other end of the connection to see if my license picture matched the live one. Because I was being filmed, a detail which had not been mentioned up to that point. Oh, plus thumbprint, which it didn’t bother going into.

Hang around to see if it’s worth a whole twenty-five cents? No, thank you.

I suspect that pawn shops and such are required to jump through similar hoops, but frankly, I’d just as soon drive a truck over a device as many times as it takes to render said device unrecognizable. At least that way there’s some return on one’s emotional investment.

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I just can’t recall anymore

Are we at the point where we don’t even notice a recall notice?

So far, 2014 has been a year of automotive recalls, beginning with the General Motors ignition recall. After just one company recalled 11 million vehicles, any other recalls just feel like piling on. Experts worry that consumers are starting to tune out and not pay attention to any recall announcements in the media at all.

Research by USA Today shows that most years, there are 21 million cars recalled in the United States by all automakers combined. In 2014, GM has announced 38 recalls totaling more than 14.4 million vehicles, and we’re not even halfway through the year yet.

Some years you don’t see 14.4 million vehicles sold in this country.

One market analyst for KBB told USA Today, “The typical consumer reaction seems to be, ‘My car’s running fine. Do I need to bother?'”

At the other extreme are the nimrods who hang around automotive message boards hoping, even praying, for new recall news, in the desperate hope that the repairs they need will be covered by the automaker. It almost never works.

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In the meantime, we have weather

A semi-elegant thought experiment on the question of carbon dioxide:

[I]f one goes back to (say) 1850 and spawns a parallel universe in which one instantly and without pollution kills all the humans, then runs the clock forward to today, is there more CO2 in our universe than in that parallel universe’s 2014? In that case, my even-money bet would be “yes”. But I don’t feel hugely strongly about that. I also don’t care or think it is germane to much of anything.

We would like to disclaim, expressly and in full, any responsibility should some farking maniac transport himself back to 1850 and destroy all of mankind. If we wait long enough, we can do it ourselves, thank you very much. And we’ll probably do it with financial derivatives and similar bogus constructs. This is the way the world ends, not with a whim, but a banker.

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You’ve seen one, you’ve seen Amal

Or maybe not. George Clooney’s never had any shortage of girlfriends, but Amal Alamuddin seems different somehow. Born in Beirut in 1978, she’s a brand-name barrister at a major British chamber; she has represented Julian Assange, of Wikileaks fame, and former Ukraine prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. And here, at the Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict last week, she demonstrates an unusually pronounced ability to stay awake:

Amal Alamuddin at the Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict

Rumor has it that the pair will wed at a palace in Venice this fall, after one year together, and that Clooney’s been looking for a lovenest in the south of France.

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Spread too thin

I tend to pay no attention to my dreams unless they’re really off the wall. But what if one of them might be trying to tell me something?

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Some weird hybrid appliance

This particular example of comment spam is perhaps a tad less illiterate than average, and each paragraph can stand on its own — but the combination of the two makes no sense:

So no matter how large your laundry load is, rest assured that every article of fabric is going to be getting thoroughly washed. When you have a washer that is this massive, you will likely be able to wash up to three times more laundry in comparison to a top load washer. This system actually helps you save money by conserving your water and use.

It will depend on the screen size and also the whether the device is standard resolution, the kind of backlighting (LED, plasma, or fluorescent), and the size in the TV.

Of course, a top-loading washer has room for a TV screen on the front, but — dear God, what am I thinking?

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Strange search-engine queries (437)

While the attention of the world is focused on the World Cup, I’m busy sorting through the last 3600 or so log entries, trying to find what possible reason your search string ended up here. I’m figuring I probably work best uninterrupted.

coaxed pronunciation  See, for instance, Hamlet: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you: trippingly on the tongue.” Any more coaxing than that and it would border on coercive.

320porn .com:  This is less than 360, so I assume there are 40, um, activities not covered.

paray full naked pictures:  Must be from one of the 40 not covered.

Is Frosty Troy a socialist?  Naw. But if you need to find one, it won’t be difficult.

waldorf records corp 10″ dean martin LP cover:  Truth be told, and given the fact that Waldorf, despite its name, was purely a budget label, they might have sold it in a plain sleeve.

spendophobia:  A common disease among the middle class, though the US Congress, curiously, has a natural immunity to it.

busty.mobi/young-french-21yr.html?interstitial:  Don’t be picky. There are some perfectly lovely French women over the age of redacted.

Should i drive with hold on 93 626:  Look at it this way: the car’s over 20 years old. You can’t make things much worse than they already are.

anna swenson equestrian:  And a princess, no less.

how to set up weatheradio model 181b:  Short version: install battery, turn it on, turn tuning knob until you hear something other than noise.

one is never too old to yearn meaning:  Meaning you’re probably too young to understand.

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The Death Star comes through

You’ve already read about my downed phone line, and also about my failure to read my trouble ticket correctly:

I got the “Monday” part correct; what I didn’t catch was which Monday. Turns out to be, not yesterday, but a week from yesterday.

Or, in other words, tomorrow.

I am pleased to report that AT&T actually beat their predicted repair time by a whole 24 hours. The tech explained that they were actually caught up from the stormage. The repair was completed in less than 15 minutes.

What still amazes me after a decade is that the phone line and the cable line actually cross, halfway across the yard — the poles are about 35 feet apart — and what has amazed me this month is that the cable line wasn’t affected when the phone line went.

No, seriously:

Non-intersection

The actual electrical power line doesn’t come close to either of these, but of course it has had its own issues with trees.

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More green for those greens

It wasn’t all that long ago that hipsters discovered quinoa, with one predictable result: the price skyrocketed. The same thing seems to be happening to collard greens:

They’ve become a “superfood,” a catchphrase embraced by yuppies who think they can eat their way to health, and they’ve also become something edgy and hip that hipsters eat — these brave new explorers on the food frontiers who miraculously “discover” things like inexpensive, nutritious fruits and vegetables from exotic locales like the backyard gardens of the people they kick out of gentrifying neighborhoods, or offal. Hipster menus are increasingly filled with foods that were once considered discards by the middle class, things that people disdained as soon as they could afford not to eat them.

Consequently, something troubling is happening in the grocery store aisles. As foods get popular with people who have more money, grocery store owners are raising the prices on these foods, secure in the knowledge that they now have a higher-paying audience for them. This, in turn, makes it harder for the poor communities who once relied upon them to afford them. The price of kale went up 25% after it became a hipster food, and this was in a recession, when even many hipsters were struggling to make a living in an economy that was collapsing in on itself. What can collard greens expect?

Having grown up as a less-than-affluent Southerner, I’m of course familiar with the stuff, and once swore, in sort of a sideways-Scarlett style, that as God is my witness, I’d never eat it again. I am not prepared to see it as a seven-dollar side dish, though vendors of soul food are going to have to make up for price increases somehow.

Oh, well. At least they haven’t dubbed it “Dalmatian cabbage.” Yet.

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Not your mom’s shoes

Something called the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society Gala took place at New York’s Central Park Zoo, and Chelsea Clinton, somewhere around 16 weeks pregnant, put in a vaguely Kardashianesque appearance:

Chelsea Clinton at 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society Gala, New York

This prompted some Smitty snark:

We’ll let Dustbury review the footwear, but how about the trou? As Obama’s fundamental transformation of our country continues to move us off that pesky Constitution and pave the way for Rule By Overlords, it’s important that the peasantry be afforded at least the hope of distraction by fashion.

As Her Majesty uncoils from her torpor and prepares for residence in the Oval Throneroom, the peasants can be pleased at the style on display by the underpaid, pauper princess.

I should be so underpaid. Maybe then I, like Chelsea, could afford shoes with a four-figure price tag. (I do well to be able to buy — occasionally — something in the low three figures.)

Still, this is a pretty standard, as distinguished from custom couture, Christian Louboutin peep-toe pump:

Close-up of Chelsea Clinton's shoes

And, unlike some of her ostensible Hollywood peers, she seems to have gotten close to the right size. I’ll give her a B-plus, knocking off a couple of points for that weird blue stuff on her toes. As for the trou: like I said, Kardashianesque, although Kimmie always creates the illusion that she’s had something — collagen, helium, Oreo Double Stuf — injected into her seat, something one simply does not look for behind a Clinton. Besides, there’s the question of whether leggings actually qualify as pants.

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At the very least, they’re not pleased

That chap on the left looks vaguely familiar.

Update, 7 am Monday: Tweet has been pulled. However, there are other resources, and so:

Very angry birds

Should have gotten this before I posted, I know.

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No, a fence intended

Municipalities in this state have always been fond of the process known as “fenceline annexation,” in which the town surrounds an otherwise unincorporated area by a narrow strip of land within the corporate limits, thereby blocking other towns from annexing the area themselves. The high, or low, point of this exercise came in 1999, when Seminole annexed a strip of land along the west side of OK 99 to the right-of-way of I-40, a strip approximately ten miles long and three feet wide, which drew a lawsuit; Seminole was eventually forced to back off, and the state started tightening the rules after that.

Which is not to say that the practice is obsolete or anything:

The Town of Slick has begun proceedings to create its own fenceline annexation in an effort to circumvent and nullify the City of Bristow’s annexation made this past March. At a press conference held Friday afternoon, Clayton McKinzie, the chairman of the Citizens Against Annexation announced that shortly after Norman attorney William Dill filed a class action law suit against the City of Bristow, it was discovered that there was a “hole” in Bristow’s legal description of its newly annexed lands, which left a physical gap in Bristow’s line. The fenceline annexation has been described by Bristow officials as a protective border around the unincorporated boundaries of the city to protect from annexation from outside entities. Officials say that the “fence line” would protect potential growth areas or areas where the city already has substantial investment, for example a new water line. According to the Citizens against Annexation, this is exactly what they want to prevent.

And water, not surprisingly in Oklahoma, even the relatively damp-ish eastern half, is the issue:

According to McKinzie, the CAA is concerned that the annexation makes it possible for Bristow to start drilling wells and pumping water out of the area which could affect the area’s water table. As a result, the CAA filed a class action lawsuit in April to stop Bristow’s annexation. It was then that the hole in the fence was discovered. Attorneys for the Town of Slick drew up their own version of a fenceline annexation, slipping their boundaries in through the hole in the Bristow fenceline and creating a line just inside the City of Bristow’s, essentially cutting Bristow out of its own annexation and nullifying its line.

They don’t call that town “Slick” for nothing.

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Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb

And sometimes it takes 70 years to finish the job:

A bomb dropped by the US Air Force on Leipzig during World War II was blown up on Thursday morning. It was discovered on Wednesday night near the east German city’s main train station… The 75-kilo bomb was found during building work on Wednesday and it could not be defused so was blown up instead.

Then one of life’s little jokes kicked in:

Bomb disposal experts from Dresden blew up the explosive shortly before 10.30am.

Dresden? But of course.

(Via Fark.)

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Hemline news

It has long been a tenet in these parts that the legs are the last things to go, and further, that women are generally aware of this. To illustrate this premise, here is a 1988 appearance in Esquire by Meredith Vieira, who was then working on the CBS news show West 57th:

Meredith Vieira in Esquire magazine

At the time, she was thirty-four. Compare to this shot from March of this year, when she appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson:

Meredith Vieira on The Late Late Show

This fall — she turns 61 in December — she’ll be hosting her own daytime talker, distributed by NBC Universal. And the keyword here is “daytime,” which pretty much guarantees that they won’t stick her behind a desk.

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Quote of the week

“If only” seems to bedevil all of us at one time or another. (If you’ve managed to avoid it thus far, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.) Sometimes it goes like this:

I wish I were one of those “successful” bloggers. You know. The kind who can paint a pretty picture of their lives — they have lovely kids, they are super-good at their work, their hobby projects always turn out lovely and just as they planned them, they never seem to struggle or agonize. All their pictures are nice and none of them turn out to have a bit of the laundry basket peeking out in the corner of the picture of something else. When they bake bread, it looks like a picture in a cooking magazine. But I don’t have enough perfection in my life to be able to do that — it seems like my whole life is a big hot mess, and so all I can do is show the slightly-more-successful parts of the hot mess here. Maybe if I had a spouse or family close by or lots of close in-person friends I could talk about the stuff that bothers me instead of posting it here, I could be one of those serene bloggers who seems to have a perfect life. I don’t know.

Truth be told, I think the warts-and-all approach is much more appropriate, at least at this level, where you’re not counting on the daily bloggage to pay for your daily bread. I often wonder how much I’d have to scour this place if I were trying to make a living from it, instead of writing off some insignificant sum each year. (By “insignificant,” I mean “somewhere in the high two or low three figures.”) Besides, we have the example of Adobe Photoshop to guide us. In the smallest possible doses, it can shed light on important details. Overused, it creates a monster.

On the term “hot mess” itself, I like this below-the-top paragraph from Urban Dictionary:

No one set of guidelines can perpetually determine what distinguishes a “hot mess” from an above-average train wreck. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are typically conspicuous, and obviously they are always awesome.

And you know, if you’re going for a train wreck, you might as well go for above average.

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