Sunday, May 28, 2006

True Statistics?

The AP says that about 1,500 climbers have made it to the top of Mount Everest in the past 53 years, and some 190 have died trying. Is that possible? If so that's almost as exactly as bad as playing Russian Roulette (1:7).

Of course the 1500 doesn't include all those that have tried an failed. I wonder what that number would be.

I also wonder if the Sherpas are included in this statistic. I sure hope not.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Le No Makeup Look

...otherwise known as Le Bare Face Look - are apparently French terms for the current French vogue, at least so says the NY Times.

It struck a chord with me, because I'm finding myself going in that
direction as well. I guess I was influenced by the Zeitgeist even before I
knew where it was going.

Other French terms that I love are Le Marketing, and Le Brunch. I was seriously once asked by a French cousin whether I knew what Le Brunch means.

Monday, May 22, 2006


I'm somehow mesmerized by the story of Barbaro - the Kentucky Derby winner that twisted and fractured his ankle yesterday in the Preakness. News reports are that a lesser horse would have been euthanized on the spot - horses usually don't survive these types of injuries because the long resting period required for healing causes other health problems that are usually fatal - but because of his extraordinary value as a stallion, every attempt is being made to save him

The terminology is great. First of all - at the start of the race he jumped out before the starting gun. However, apparently he didn't hurt himself in that false start, and was "reloaded". After the first 100 yards of the race his leg suddenly moved out at a strange angle, and his jockey stopped him, apparently averting further injury, although the vets also say that the injury was "about as bad as it could be". New reports list other horses that were "broke down" in races - broke their legs and were "taken out" - euthanized. But the hope is that he can be saved because horses like him are worth at least $100,000 a "load" - a load of sperm that is...

Of course, what I'm wondering is this: While he's convalescing, is he still providing "loads" at $100,000 a pop? How many can he provide per day? It would be a good way to pay for his medical treatment if indeed the outcome is fatal - which of course I hope it's not.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Cathy Seipp has been writing about her frustrations with medical insurance - her insurance company raises the yearly maximum out of pocket payment to $7,500, forcing people who are ill to pay this yearly sum, while favoring the healthy, and then, refusing to pay for a treatment labeled as experimental for her type of cancer.

I completely sympathize on both accounts, however, in the argument, Cathy makes a somewhat self-righteous remark indicating that all this is happening to her even though she did the right thing - bought insurance when she was still healthy, and maintained it throughout the years.

That's where I feel her argument falls flat. She's putting herself in the category of those who have done the right thing - bought insurance - vs. those that haven't. But's that's not the way these things work.

The irony is that freelancers like Cathy, who have been doing it since they were quite young, have bought into insurance policies that cannot drop them like a hot potato when medical conditions arise.

Let's compare to your average corporate employee - the low or middle or high income person who has insurance through their workplace. Now let's assume that for whatever reason (illness or layoffs or desire to do something independent), this person lost their job.

Well, they have health insurance for another 18 months through COBRA, (they have to pay for it, but they do have it), but after that, all bets are off. It can be virtually impossible for them to find insurance. They've been dropped from the rolls of the insured and that's it.

So what's the solution? Well. Ideally, everyone would buy insurance privately when they're young, just like the freelancers, and then they too could not be dropped if they lost or left their jobs. Why don't people do it? Because most people who are employed by corporations have the majority of their insurance fees paid for them by the employer. Buying it on their own doesn't seem to make sense.

And what's the solution - instead of having company's pay for their employee's insurance, they give the employee an allowance that the employee can use to buy their own. Then they're not subject to the whims of hirings and firings and job changes. Of course employers are somewhat loath to do that, they know that insurance can tie people to their jobs, but from a public interest perspective, that's the way it should be done.

Consider the other benefits. Singles won't feel that they're subsidizing the health insurance of their married and/or married with children co-workers. And people will be able to buy the insurance that they want - if they want a more premium policy, they pay more.

But of course the major benefit is the first one that I talked about. The insurance company cannot drop them or exclude their pre-existing conditions, as long as these conditions did not exist before they first obtained the policy.

And what about people who already have pre-existing conditions? I'll have to write about that in a separate blog entry.

But here's a bit of info. The IEEE (the professional association of Electronics Engineers) offers its members insurance with no pre-existing condition exclusion as long as they've been members of the IEEE for at least two consecutive years. And California extends COBRA coverage, through Cal COBRA, up to 36 months. So guess what an electronic engineer with a pre-existing condition and COBRA coverage can do...

I know most readers here are not engineers, but perhaps your professional organization has something similar...

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I was so not planning on seeing United 93, but the rave reviews drew me in and I'm glad I went. I found the film fascinating. What fascinated me was not the depiction of events on board United 93, but the way the film traces the unfolding of the terror attacks on September 11th from the perspective of the observers - air traffic controllers, the FAA control room, army headquarters.

The question of how one would react when the totally unexpected happens has always been intriguing to me. How long does it take to figure out what has happened, what other ideas go through your head, how long does it take to believe the news enough to actually take action?

For example - how long from the point of realizing that a plane has hit the World Trade Center and that other hijacked planes are in the air, to the point of deciding to ground all U.S. Air traffic? And how long from that point to the decision to shoot down a civilian plane that is believed to be hijacked? How exactly did the events unfold, and how and when were decisions taken? The film seems to answer these questions. I wonder of their data is correct, but I'm assuming it is.

The almost comical element to me was that CNN was apparently the source of breaking news. Both the army and the FAA had CNN up on their screen, and CNN was the first source of their knowledge that the World Trade Center had been hit... Amazing. Or maybe not.

The most shocking - that almost an hour after the first hit on the World Trade Center, the U.S. Military had only four fighter planes, two without missiles, above the eastern seaboard. If the passengers on flight 93 hadn't attacked their captors and forced a crash, it would have (despite having been 30 minutes late for departure) crashed into the Capitol.