August 27th, 2009


[links] Link salad wanders into another day in scenic Omaha

A reader reacts to the Escape Pod reading of my short story, "Skinhorse Goes to Mars" — Not so much with the liking.

Nun study updateLow idea density and low grammatical complexity in autobiographies written in early life were associated with low cognitive test scores in late life. Low idea density in early life had stronger and more consistent associations with poor cognitive function than did low grammatical complexity. Huh.

Marfa Lights — I've seen these, actually. (Snurched from Dark Roasted Blend.)

Best Wank and Gaza: this year's top exam howlers — Academic follies redux. (Thanks to danjite.)

A dark sky over Sequoia National Park — More APOD awesomeness.

Changing A Cell's Biological Battery — Hacking mitochondrial DNA.

Nudges by chopstick — A relationship between BMI and Chinese restaurant behaviors.

Cheney's Breathtaking Reaction to Holder Terror Probe — Once again, facts and conservative rhetoric are not located in the same area code.

?otD: Who's the boss?

Body movement: 65 minute suburban walk
This morning's weigh-in: n/a (traveling)
Currently reading: The Real Wizard of Oz by Rebecca Loncraine; Acacia by David Anthony Durham

Originally published at


[politics] A few simple questions about healthcare

I'm back to politics, but I'm taking a different tack today from my usual snarky critiques. I thought I'd approach the healthcare reform issue from the top with a series of simple questions for people to think about. Some things to consider, no matter what your political (or apolitical) stance might be.

  • Do you or your family rely on health insurance through your workplace?

  • Would you have trouble affording COBRA extensions to your health insurance if you lost your job and did not have a paycheck to cover the premiums?

  • Do you or your family have any chronic health issues, such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and so forth, that would make finding affordable market-based insurance difficult?

  • Would you be under significant financial stress if you or someone in your family ran up thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in medical bills?

  • Do you have to think carefully about what you can afford before going to the doctor or the emergency room?

If your answer to any of those questions is "yes", then even if you have good health insurance today, you stand to benefit strongly from a constructive reform of the American system of healthcare finance.

  • Do you or does anyone in your family participate in Medicare or Medicaid?

  • Do you or does anyone in your family participate in the VA health system?

If your answer to either of those questions is "yes", then you already are part of a major government healthcare initiative. Medicare is a "public option" payer, following the Canadian healthcare model, that covers 45 million Americans today. The VA is a government owned and operated healthcare system following the British model, that covers millions more.

Ask yourself how Medicare and the VA have affected the American healthcare system. That's all the "public option" does, which is to say, extend benefits already enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans of all political convictions to more of their fellow citizens without disrupting standards of care or physician choice or availability.

It's all pretty simple. We can do more of what we're already doing, and offer compassionate, life-enhancing medical coverage to everyone in our society. The real debate isn't whether we should have healthcare reform, it's how we should go about it that benefits everyone at the most efficient and responsible cost.

Originally published at