Value as Currency

I wish that the currency in the world was value rather than money. I think people have a lot of value to contribute to the world that is not easily convertible to cash value. I would gladly come into the recording studio and play bass on songs for 10 to 12 hours per day. I have been doing that this weekend as I record songs with the DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS. I think the value of my efforts and the resulting songs is quite high, even though there is no monetary compensation. It is possible this effort will translate into cash value in time. The intellectual property, once created, appreciates in value over time because the songs can be used to promote the band's music to acquire paid live gigs and the studio quality of the recordings means they could be used in music licensing applications and the like, maybe even getting picked up by a country artist or singer/songwriter, with subsequent royalties. In most of the latter instances though, the studio musicians don't get a cut of royalties unless they were involved in song writing. So my current efforts are pro bono, but they have high potential value. I simply have to bend the cosmos around to the direction of converting value to money.

Centrism

What if humans really are at the center of the universe? I don't ask this question for any religious reason, but rather for logical ones.

When we look out at the universe in any direction, we see that it is expanding away from us at about the same speed all over the place. We also know that in our viscinity of the cosmos, the laws of physics are remarkably consistent and stable.

But what if this is not true everywhere? What if the universe is an expanding continuum and as you get closer the the edges, the laws of physics break down or become increasingly bizarre and inhospitable to stability?

Sure, when we look out toward the edges of the cosmos with telescopes, the space there appears to be similarly stable as it is here. But the light from there is billions of years old and way back then those parts of the cosmos may have fallen in the stability zone, and that's how we see it from our spot still in the stability zone. But in our "now," those parts of the cosmos might be gone or at least so unstable that they don't transmit light or energy as we know it and are thus functionally out of sight.

Maybe the only reason our part of the cosmos is still around is because it resides near a sort of equilibrium point, or center, in however many dimensions are needed to create an expanding cosmos like ours. I am not saying the earth is the center of the cosmos, just that on a grand scale maybe it resides in or near a stable center of an expanding continuum of instability.

We have only been observing the cosmos at a deep level for a negligible amount of cosmological time. The light and energy reaching us during that time is still racing through a very stable part of a massively huge beyond all comprehension cosmos.

Just a thought.

Obamacare Donut Hole Exposed

I have been going through the process of obtaining affordable healthcare via Obamacare. The most affordable plan I could get that met my needs was $342/month, causing me to re-brand Obamacare as "the Unaffordable Care Act." Actually, I can afford it with my current income level, but being self-employed, there may come a time when Obamacare coverage begins to deplete my coffers. As of now, it will be about 10% of my estimated income for 2014 if everything goes to plan (i.e., I stay more or less gainfully employed by others for about 10 months out of the year, which is highly optimistic, though doable).

My buddy, Todd, works in customer service at Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, enrolling people in Obamacare. He guided me through the online process of enrolling, selecting a plan, and paying my first month's premium. I signed up for a Deancare plan in Madison WI, and it is supposed to go into effect on April 1, though this conflicts with the ACA site information, which said it should start May 1, since I enrolled after the 15th of the month (March). I have a printout that says April 1 though, so that is what I am going for.

As I was going through the process, Todd showed me the blatant donut hole in the ACA coverage for people in Wisconsin. ACA rejects anyone with an income below 139% of the poverty line, and says they must go on Medicaid (Badgercare in WI). Last year, Governor Scott Walker and the WI Republicans changed the Badgercare eligibility in WI to be 100% of poverty (it had previously been 200% of poverty). That means people with an income of between 100% and 139% of the poverty line cannot get health insurance coverage from anywhere. They are completely disenfranchised unless they lie about their income or maybe even quit a job so they fall below the poverty line.

I know a lot of self employed musicians in Madison who are able to make a sustainable living, but I imagine a few of these people may fall in the donut hole. That is not good.

The mainstream media is likely to ignore this serious lapse in healthcare coverage in WI, with the exception of maybe NPR/WPR, since they are beholden to corporate America and don't really care about the poor and needy. The people in the donut hole will be forced into emergency rooms when they need care and since they will be unable to pay the high medical bills, the premiums of insured people will go up as doctors and hospitals raise their fees to cover the losses.

So keep this in mind if you care about the poor and next time there is an election, vote the bums out.

As for the Obamacare enrollment process in general, it is not terribly hard to do online if you are web savvy. However, answer the questions carefully, because there are some things that may disqualify you. If you tell them you have the option for COBRA coverage from an employer, they will boot you out, even if the COBRA coverage is too expensive and not what you need. So I recommend fibbing about COBRA availability if it will reject your Obamacare eligibility.

Once you select a plan, you have to pay the provider's first month premium to be officially enrolled. However, there is no communication between the ACA site and the provider's site, other than an ID number that ACA gives you, which you then type into the provider's payment page. Presumably, when you have successfully paid the premium, the provider sends a report to ACA's database with a record that the account with your ID number has been successfully enrolled in Obamacare. But there is no confirmation of this, so it leaves you highly insecure that everything has gone to plan.

Deancare did accept my debit card payment, so as far as I know they have to cover me. It is illegal if they don't. The only concern is whether ACA knows I have coverage, so they do not hit me with the tax penalty for not enrolling. Certainly that penalty of $95 for the year is cheaper than the $4,000+ for the year of being covered, even if you never go to the doctor. I would almost say not being covered is a better bet for young and healthy people, especially those with low income.

I was not able to find a decent dental or vision plan so I just passed on those.

Oshkosh Police Encourage Drunk Driving and Deter Tourism to Make a Buck

I was the designated driver last night. I didn't drink so my friends could. In exchange for that good deed, I got a parking ticket.

I was visiting Oshkosh as an out of towner, so I did not know about the onerous and exploitative tactics of the Oshkosh police, who encourage drunk driving and penalize out of town visitors who don't know about the traffic laws.

The city has an ordinance that you cannot park your car on the downtown streets from 2 AM to 6 AM, or you get a ticket. This is purely so the Oshkosh police can make money, but it encourages drunk driving.

The bars close at 2 AM. If you have a car parked downtown, you either have to drive it to move it, or get a ticket. $15 might not seem like a lot to most people, but it can be a huge burden to a poor college student.

At 2 AM, the cops swarm the streets to target people who are forced to drive their cars to avoid getting a parking ticket, looking for DUIs. I am sure some of these people have had too many and should not drive, but the parking laws encourage them to do so anyway, especially poor college students.

As I was pulling out of my first parking spot, a cop aggressively zoomed up and stopped a couple of car lengths behind where I was parked, presumably to see if I made any rookie mistakes so he could pull me over in hopes of nailing me with a DUI. I kind of wanted him to pull me over, since I was sober, and maybe while he was distracted by me, some other people could avoid the harassment and get home. But I signaled my intent to pull out and did everything right. Douche denied.

Anyway, my friends wanted to go to a private party after hours downtown. So I parked near the location where there was no signage saying parking was restricted. We stayed at the party for a little while, and sure enough, when we left, I had a ticket. Punished for being responsible.

I am sure there are people who drink too much and decide taking a cab is a better idea than driving their cars home after the bars close. Those people also get punished for their civil act of kindness by getting a ticket.

So I am just advertising this to the world. Be warned about the draconian Oshkosh cops when you visit that otherwise very nice town. Also be warned that the police encourage drunken driving after the bars close by restricting parking downtown after 2 AM. So the streets are less safe.

You can't win for losing. You are damned if you do (DUI if you don't have a DD) and damned if you don't (leave your car safely parked and take a cab). If they really wanted to encourage people to drive responsibly, they would encourage after hours parking and offer to drive people home if they could not afford a cab.

Someone is going to respond to this post with some rationale that justifies Oshkosh police behavior. Fine. It's a free marketplace for discussion. I am just telling you what I observed.

Daily Digest

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SPACE MONKEY HEAD

I love that there is a Monkey Head in space, even if it is referring to a huge nebular cloud that scientists say is a star factory, which in and of itself is awesome.

TERROR TUNNEL

Israel says it has discovered an underground tunnel used by Palestinians to infiltrate the Jewish state. Maybe the Palestinians were just using it to access stuff like food, which Israel often blocks from Gaza. I think Israel needs fewer terror tunnels and more love tunnels. Are you with me?

THE OCEAN IS BIG

The search for the missing Malaysian 777 has yielded a lot of pictures of amorphous looking blobs floating in the Indian Ocean. Then when they look again...nada. Someone just find the plane, OK?

SNAKES

Speaking of planes (sorry, I could not resist), check out some of the world's biggest and/or deadliest snakes.

Curious Things...

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OBAMACARE HEADACHES

I am not really digging Obamacare, which I am shortly going to be applying for. It's too damn complicated. But, maybe this was Obama's diabolical plan all along. If it gets too cumbersome and everyone hates on it, then liberals will push for a simpler and cheaper single-payer system that everyone just pays into via a healthcare tax (Note to less astute readers: That system exists now and it is called Medicare and we are all already paying into it via payroll taxes - 1.45% of every single paycheck we earn - but only those over 65 are benefitting from it...just saying.).

ASIAN CARP ARE UGLY

These fish are invasive and destructive in rivers and scientists say if they get into the Great Lakes, it will be bad. My B.S. in biology in no way qualifies me to be an expert on this, but I do remember learning that the Great Lakes are oligotrophic, which means they are low in plankton and algae. So maybe these carp don't even want to go into the Great Lakes because they will starve. But, knowing humans, they will probably get into the Great Lakes and wreak havoc, no matter how hard we try to stop them. Electric fences? For real?

RUSSIAN BANKS KIBOSHED

So we know Obama has the power of the pen to kill banks when he wants to, anywhere in the world, kind of like "the pen is mightier than the drone." He used this power to jab Putin in the financial rib cage recently. But why didn't he kill the American banks when they fleeced our economy? Enough said.

ZEN STORIES

I came across this cool sampling of zen stories on StumbleUpon. Quite enjoyable.

Curious Things...

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THAT COULD BE ANYTHING

I don't know...I am looking at this satellite image of what experts think is floating wreckage from the missing Malaysian plane (aka "possible object"), and I am thinking, "What are they seeing that I am not?" This could be anything. A school of fish? A whale? just the playful dappling of sunlight on the ocean waves? If this is the best lead, I am worried. Your thoughts?

HOW IS OBAMACARE WORKING?

You don't hear health insurance companies complaining much about Obamacare, and why would you? These companies basically got 5 million new customers by government mandate. Now these insurers are saying they are going to increase premiums. That would be troubling, if true. But what's to stop them? I don't know what to believe anymore. All I know is I am probably going to hook up some Obamacare here pretty soon and I don't want to lose an arm and a leg in the process. That kind of defeats the purpose.

A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING

Scientists are now offering "clear and accessible evidence" for climate change, which proves only one thing. They do not understand the average American's mind. Reason does not appeal to people, and emotional beliefs trump rational thought every time. What they need to do is appeal to peoples' vanity or values, and convince people that climate change will make them fat or give them wrinkles or endanger their children. Oh, wait...that last one is actually true.

Your Daily Digest of Things I Think Are Cool

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WHEW, THAT WAS CLOSE!

In 2012, a huge solar blast came this close (*holds thumb and index finger almost touching) to annihilating the planet. Well, that's an exaggeration. It came close to knocking out a bunch of Internet stuff though and for some people that is almost worse. Why the scientists waited two years to tell us is anybody's guess.

BIG BANG CONFIRMED

Scientists say they have confirmed the Big Bang based on some new evidence, but it is still virtually incomprehensible to the average person. So, I guess we just...have faith in them?

GREEN FLASH OF SUNSET

The green flash that occurs just as the sun disappears below the horizon is real. A photographer in Australia managed to capture it on film. Being color blind, I will never be lucky enough to see one of these in any way other than a picture, so thanks Aussie guy.

WHERE IS THAT @#$%-ING PLANE?

The whereabouts of the missing Malaysian plane is a quandary. Australia thinks they might have a clue, but who hasn't had some sort of clue the past week or so. I hope they find the thing soon. This distraction is allowing politicians to do all manner of bad things while no one is watching them. One might almost think...well, no, never mind. That's a conspiracy theory.

Your Daily Digest of Things I Think Are Cool

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NOSTALGIC FOR COLD WAR

It's kind of sad to watch world leaders fall back on their old rhetoric and try to bring back the Cold War with the whole Crimea thing. It's the 21st century, old rich white men (and women). Buy a clue. We the people reject your attempts to bring back the Red Scare. Pizza parties and beer is the new diplomacy (RE: The Party Party).

BAD CABBIE

Always pay attention to what you are signing for, is the moral of this story about a college student who got swindled by a Chicago cabbie. Or maybe the cabbie was from the Czech Republic and was thinking in Kuronas ($1 = 20 Kuronas). Even so, a steep fare. I hope she gets her money back.

UNRATED

If you have a softcore porno film that you want to get released as a mainstream film, don't involve the Motion Picture Association's rating scale. Just bypass them and release it as "unrated." Apparently, unrated trumps all other designations. Take your kids! (That was facetious...DO NOT take your kids...)

STEPHEN HAWKING FLOATS IN ZERO GRAVITY

Scientist Stephen Hawking is pushing the people of Earth to boldly go where no one has gone before, like in Star Trek. His point is that the research and technology of space exploration also leads to betterment of people right here at home. Plus...well, space battles with aliens would be epic.

Writers Should Always Be Self-Employed

In this day and age, there is no excuse for a competent and professional writer to be unemployed or working for THE MAN. A writer can and should be self-employed, because a writer can generate valuable intellectual property using only his/her mind and creativity.

It’s easier than ever to self-publish a book via digital media these days. It is virtually free, depending on how you do it. You don’t even have to be a great writer, just pretty good. What you really need is to be prolific and highly motivated, making sure you put in a lot of hours of writing every day so that you get good at it and produce the necessary content. If you love writing, this is not hard.

A published piece of writing can be considered a “product,” even if you also consider it to be art or information. People need art and information. The hard part is getting people to want or need your art/information product and to then pay money for it.

Informational products are the most desirable to people. Entertainment products can be appealing too, but they have to be pretty darn entertaining. Informational products appeal to peoples’ reason: I want to be able to learn or do A, so I need to purchase B. Entertainment products appeal to peoples’ emotions: I want to have feeling X, so I need to purchase Y. In a general sense, non-fiction is informational, while fiction is entertaining, although there is a lot of overlap (creative non-fiction or historical fiction are two examples).

Once published, you just need to get potential customers in the door to inform people you have a product they may want, and that is often the hardest part. Online, you can attract people in numerous way, via blogs and social media. Once they get to your web site, they are “in the store.” Then you just need to show them the product (passively) and communicate in some way why they should want or need it (information or entertainment). They were drawn to your web site for a reason, so make the mental connection easy for them. Also make purchasing easy. Provide a visible thumbnail on your web site with a short description: Check out my book on [INSERT SUBJECT MATTER HERE]. It’s a call to action but not a sales pitch. The free content on your blog or web site is what brought people there. Clearly, they are interested in the subject matter on your site, so it is not a very large leap of logic to get them to think your book might also have some even more valuable content.

Offline, you may need to give seminars or do promotions to get people “in the door.” Public speakers will often give free talks on their subject matter and have books and other products available at the seminar location, for example.

Your Daily Digest of Things I Think Are Cool

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FIRING YOUR JOB

Apparently, a sign of a growing economy is the rate at which people are quitting jobs to try something new, and it's going up. During hard economic times, people cling to less than optimal jobs out of fear. Not anymore, baby! Yea for the economy.

MERCURIAL

If Mercury did not already have an inferiority complex among the other planets of the solar system, it does now. It's shrinking, and faster than scientists thought.

COURTNEY LOVE'S MISSING PLANE THEORY

Courtney Love's amazing powers of deduction have done what teams of experts could not. That last sentence is probably false. Would someone please find the @#$%ing plane?

BIG BANG EVEN BETTER

The Big Bang left a wake, say scientists. New evidence supports a theory called inflation that says the neonatal universe expanded not just fast but SUPER FAST.

Ciao.

Your Daily Digest of Things I Think Are Cool

Hi Everyone.

The 2 Minute Reader brings you a synopsis of stuff.

PUNY HUMANS

Scientists have four (4) planets in their sights (literally and figuratively) that fit all the criteria for having life. They are all located in our Milky Way galaxy and are, as Goldilocks might say, "just right." The thing of it is, they are all a tad bigger than Earth. So if they do have life, the inhabitants might refer to our blue world as "puny." Ironically, though, due to the higher gravitation on their planets, they will probably actually be midgets, so if they still call us puny after they meet us, it will be due to an inferiority complex.

BOARING

North Carolina is well known as a hog producing state, but whatever they put in the water to fatten the domestic pigs has apparently trickled down to the wild pig population. This wonderful, magical animal will provide not just bacon, but ham and pork chops too.



THE NEW COSMOS

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is hosting a new rendition of the famed (if you are a child of the 80s) Cosmos series. The first episode seems a little hokey, but I think Neil was probably going for that, because Carl Sagan's original was uber cheesy. Neil was recently declared "similar to God" by Facebook. For realz yo.

A Quick Scan of Today's Most Interesting (IMHO) Mainstream News Headlines

Hi Everyone.

The 2 Minute Reader brings you a synopsis of stuff going on.

A Yellow Hypergiant
Astronomers found a cool (literally and figuratively) gigantic star 12,000 light years from Earth. It's 1,300 times wider than our sun and it has a partner star that actually "touches" it. When scientists say that, they just mean the atmospheres of the two stars of the binary system are in contact and interacting in weird ways. The star is almost visible from earth and may resemble a peanut, because of how close the two stars are to each other. You have to wonder about the mythology of the people who live around that star. Nutty Butter cookies are probably a divine sacrament.

Missing Plane

I kind of hope the Malaysian plane passed through some kind of rip in time/space and the people aboard are living comfortably on some alien planet somewhere. Maybe the aliens will taxi them back to earth. I kind of don't hope it's a situation like Stephen King's "Langoliers."

Harshing the Gig

It is just sad that some dickhead would spoil a rock-n-roll party at SXSW in Austin, TX.

Well, the two minutes is up.

See ya.