The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Current Affairs ... Health / Nutrition ... Public Policy ...

About once a week I take the train to work, and I’ve noticed that the NJ Transit stations and the insides of the trains still have advertisement posters, even in this day and age when everything important is on your smartphone. About a year ago, I saw a lot of posters for Oscar, the “new kind of health insurance”.

So it was sad to read that Oscar is pulling out of the Obamacare market in New Jersey (where I live and where my train line is), along with Dallas. They aren’t completely abandoning the Obamacare exchanges; in fact they are expanding their offerings in some places (like San Francisco). But they tried to make ObamaCare work in NJ, and it didn’t happen for them. That’s too bad; I liked their ads. They were cute, especially the big walking bear. If you live outside of NJ, you might see them (supposedly Oscar is still drumming up business right across the river in New York). They are very cute and innovative, and they emphasize Oscar’s tech savvy nature (one ad said “Hi, we’re Oscar. We’re using technology to make health insurance simple, human and smart”). Actually, prior to Oscar I don’t remember ever seeing any sort of advertisement for health insurance! To actually have an insurer trying to convince you to buy their health coverage was very different.

At present, I don’t need Oscar; my Aetna policy from work meets my needs for now, and in a just few years I will be on Medicare. Still, it was nice to see an insurance company trying to innovate, a health insurer that seemingly wanted my business (just in case worse ever came to worst with Aetna). It all seemed like a good sign, an indication that Obamacare was working. Hey, if  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:57 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Current Affairs ... Economics/Business ... Politics ...

America today seems to have a race relations problem; that’s not saying anything new. A lot of people today perceive a worsening in such relations over the past decade.

Perhaps a key factor is the information revolution that has been caused by the widespread availability of video recording to the public, which stems from the rise of smart phones. These phones have been increasingly used over the past 4 or 5 years to video police interactions with the public, especially when there is police misconduct. These recordings have uncovered a great deal of disrespect or improper acts by the police when dealing with African-Americans in a wide variety of contexts, from simple traffic stops to pursuing criminal suspects. Too often, these potentially improper police acts turn out to be fatal. In some of the more “viral” examples of these recent video cases, the police actions eventually turn out to be justified; there was a clear and present danger to the police and public. These videos often do not tell the whole story. But too often, it becomes apparent that the police were in the wrong, and that underlying racial attitudes on the part of police officers and officials may have been involved.

And thus the rise over the past few years of the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM appears to have been spawned by these highly publicized incidents. However, BLM is increasingly trying to transcend the troublesome matter of  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:12 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, August 5, 2016
Personal Reflections ...

I was going through some file cabinet shelves in my apartment, and I came across a cache of old marble notebooks containing my written diary entries from the 1990s and early 2000’s. I don’t want to start going through them right now, as I don’t have much time right now for memory lane. Just staying alive and gainfully employed these days is more than enough to soak up my remaining mental and physical energies. But I found one of them in the wrong place, and while moving it back to where it belongs, I decided to take a quick look. So I came across this little mini-story from early September, 2001.

At the time, my mother was still alive but was just starting to lose her ability to walk. Part of that was because she had steadily gained weight throughout her adult life, and was now pushing her aging muscles and joints beyond their limits. She was living in her own house with my younger brother, but she needed more and more assistance. She could still get up on her feet, but mostly needed a wheelchair to get around. We had just hired our first part-time home health assistant, who stopped by for a few hours most days of the week (generally when my brother was at work). One weekend, my brother was having a day out in Manhattan, and I was sitting in at the house so to keep an eye on mom. I would stay until the home assistant arrived in late afternoon.

Here is my diary entry for that afternoon:

I had to wheel Ma to the bathroom before, and while backing her our out (in her wheelchair), I heard the TV, the narrator of a PBS special about polar bears. As I struggled with the wheelchair, I heard the TV man say “now the problem becomes how to move such a large creature”. Couldn’t help but have a mental grin at that moment.

On looking back 15 years later, I’m sorry if I wasn’t being entirely charitable about my mother’s weight problem. But in elder-care situations, a little mental humor often helps to keep you going.

Ironically, this bit of home-care humor came just a few days before September 11, 2001. I wrote about it the next night, and here is how I started my diary note:

Well, Black Tuesday happened. The WTC in lower Manhattan is gone. A symbol of the business world, a place where Top Gun people wind up. [I had recently completed Chubb’s “Top Gun” computer training camp for mid-career people looking to become business programmers; however, the Chubb placement department had failed me, and so I was back at the non-profit agency in Newark where I had spent the past decade before Top Gun] So yea, I was shaking in the office on Tuesday AM after seeing the one tower standing, pouring out smoke like a chimney at a power plant. Chic [the colloquial name that I used for my boss back then, mostly behind his back] was grim, wouldn’t say hello. Our world was under attack [Chic had worked for a big corporation, and had just made a mid-career change of his own by joining with the non-profit group]. The social fabric was torn.

After reflecting on how my cousin Mike and I used to take little walking tours of lower Manhattan while in high school in the late 60’s, and how we had often passed the business district site where the WTC was being built, I concluded as follows:

Maybe its just as well that Top Gun didn’t transport me into that world.

For now, I’ve put the diary books away. Hopefully, though, I’ll be back.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:42 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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