Tuesday, September 28, 2010


According to a recent survey, the people most knowledgeable about religion are atheists and agnostics -- not surprising, really; part of understanding why we don't believe is understanding what is is that others do believe and the history of both the religion and the scripture of the major religions, and many religious sects strongly discourage that sort of knowledge, for fear it will detract from faith.

I got 100% on the sample quiz (15 of the 32 questions that were given to the phone survey participants). I'm curious what the rest of the questions were -- they seemed pretty basic (I'm surprised that over half of all protestants don't know that Luther inspired the Protestant Reformation, for example, that seems to be a core sort of understanding of church history).

I'm a little fuzzier on Jewish history, though. One of the questions (not in the sample) was about Maimonides..I had to go look that one up. Although I think I might have guessed he was Jewish, since it was a multiple choice question.

Ah, well. What does this mean? I'm not sure. It certainly doesn't mean non-believers are smarter and believers are stupid -- as some of the comments have suggested. But it might give us a hint into what and why people believe the way they do, and how they approach that knowledge. Most atheists and agnostics are non-believers because they have studied the lessons of the religion they left - often in-depth and often with the hopes of rekindling faith, if you read any of the stories they tell of their passage to atheism.

Interesting, at any rate. And sure to raise a lot of hackles.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've got mine, screw you

Huckabee was blathering yesterday about the republican plan to revoke the 'pre-existing condition' clause in the new health care bill. The one that no longer allows insurance companies to refuse to cover a person because they either have a condition or have been treated for it in the past. Say, you were treated for colitis years ago, and have had a recurrence. An insurance company can refuse to pay for your treatment now and can reject you for insurance. Cancer treatment makes you pretty much uninsurable for any other insurance coverage. People get dropped from insurance rolls, and cannot get reinsured, because of this loophole in the insurance regulations that favor insurance companies.

At any rate, he compared the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions to homeowners insurance companues being required to cover your burned-down house. Oh, it would be a nice thing, but it's patently ridiculous, he sneered.

No, you slack-jawed moron. Your analogy is absolutely wrong, and patently dishonest.

The analogy should be: Having an insurance company refuse you coverage because of a pre-existing condition is like trying to get homeowners insurance when your house burned town ten years ago, and you have rebuilt it, and they refuse to cover your existing house for fire because you once had a house fire.

What Huckabee is describing is what happens when you have no insurance, and finally end up in the emergency room trying to get treatment and pay for a condition that you currently have. He has completely misunderstood (or misrepresented, more likely) the entire issue. But it makes a nice soundbite, though, so I'm sure it will be touted as "truth" in no time.

Once again, the modern conservative movements credo is shining through: I've got mine, screw you. Look, if you dislike the idea of requiring insurance companies to provide insurance, regardless of pre-existing conditions, then argue against it; that's you're right. But do it honestly, eh? If you've got facts and evidence, provide them. If not, fanning the flames of fear and anxiety is not an acceptable alternative.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Pot Rack Incident

We're having another scope creep issue here at Chez Phouka -- remember the pot rack in the old kitchen? The small hole in the wall to add a support for the pot rack ended up the impetus for totally redoing the bathroom?

At any rate, we finally got an offer from Comcast to swap over internet and tv and telephone that was too good to pass up, so we're moving all the services to Comcast from our current combination of Directv and Qwest. We're not unhappy with the service, but saving 70+ bucks a month for faster internet and HD cable was enough to do it.

But we only have one HD television, the projector in the theater downstairs. It's time to consider replacing the 15-year-old television in the living room with a new HD television, we decided.

...which will require getting a new piece of furniture, since the current entertainment armoire will fit the existing 32" CRT television and nothing else. We want a flat screen, and large enough to be worthwhile watching HD television, so it has to go, and we need some other component storage/media cabinet. This is surprisingly difficult for us - that armoire was the first piece of furniture we ever bought, and we both love it, it's just not workable.

...which requires that we either figure out where else it can go in the house, so as not to lose it, or we have to get rid of it entirely, which is emotionally difficult. Sigh. Moving it somewhere else would probably require moving other furniture pieces (I suggested moving it to the guest room, but it's a wee bit too big for that) somewhere else. It's like playing musical chairs with large pieces of furniture.

It's never just one thing, it is? I almost wish I could be that person who changes their house up every few years, new furniture, new paint, new stuff. I'm not. It took us almost a year to negotiate the painting of the living room a new color and the purchase of a new couch. It's not easy for us, apparently.

Wish us luck! We're out to look at televisions today (although we'll probably buy on line for price) and new pieces of furniture. Send any suggestions, we need them!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frankensteinian Medicine

If anyone suggests that you should have a Nerve Conductance Test, make sure you have enough time to drink heavily beforehand. Ow! I now know exactly where all the nerves are, in detail, in my leg and hip... I know this because the doctor stuck little electrodes on me and then used a tiny medical Tazer to ZAP! each of the nerves in turn. Sometimes 10 times in a row.

Ok, it's not really horribly painful. It hurts, but more because that is not something you ever to yourself. It's awfully weird-feeling, though. I kept having the mental image of the Frankenstein monster being 'jolted' to life. "It's aaaaaa-live! Alive!".

Follow it with a muscle response test (which involved NEEDLES stuck in my leg) and my leg now hurts more than when I went in. I think I should convalesce on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Just in case.

But - the outcome is good. The meralgia paresthetica diagnosis from six years ago seems to be absolutely correct, and the new symptom of pain is not damaging anything, just an annoying side effect. It's not even a progression of symptoms -- it may do this for awhile, then subside and go back to just being the weird numb spot on my leg, or it may 'act up' for a long time. My concern was that the pain wasn't a sign that something else was being damaged or something, and that walking wasn't going to cause eventual muscle damage or other nerve damage that might be important. A sensory nerve isn't necessary (in fact, if it gets bad, they can just cut the nerve) but it certainly does make you notice it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Wow! I knew that some universities in the US have made courses available online (via video or mp3, class notes, etc) but I didn't realize the sheer number of classes out there. Yale University, Berkeley, NYU, Oxford, tons of others -- all consolidated at a website called Academic Earth.

Jackpot! Tons of interesting classes by the top universities and colleges -- free.

Damn, I love the interwebs.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Dog Training

Most of the time when I go downstairs to plod along on the treadmill, both dogs follow me. They tend to follow me everywhere (if I let them), of course. I can't figure out what they find so fascinating about me walking in place, but it's cool down there and they like to lounge about while I exercise.

But now, when I announce that "I'm going downstairs to walk..." they both RUN to the basement door and then thunder downstairs to stand expectantly by the storage room door, tails wagging. Why? Because I -- ONCE -- went into the storage room where the dog biscuits are stored to give them a cookie before I started on the treadmill.

Once is apparently enough to convince them this is what 'going to walk' means. It means: run downstairs and we'll get a biscuit! Yeah!.

So, unlike every other dog on the planet, the word 'walk' has nothing to do with outside or a leash or sniffing every shrub for four blocks...it means 'go in the basement'

That's somehow every embarrassing.