Archive for May, 2008
Disclaimer: If you work for an insurance company, my apologies.
Let me explain the high wire act that people with medical conditions and people of modest means must perform to a) earn a living and b) be able to pay medical bills. I require an immune system medicine that costs between $1,000-$1,500 every three weeks. If I don’t have it, I’ll wind up in the hospital within 3-6 months. I make enough for a family of three to pay the bills, especially if the other spouse works, which my wife does. Long before I got married and before I was earning any significant amount of income, I was enrolled in Medicaid to help pay for this medicine. The program covered all of it and almost all of any other medical bills, prescriptions, etc. I also received a check every month of about $550, as I recall. The caveat to this, however, was that if one actually wanted to get a full-time job, that job must be a menial one. The Social Security Administration put a cap on what a person could make each month and still receive benefits. I think the cap was about $1,100 per month at that time. But say a person actually wanted a real career and had the opportunity to make quite a bit more. This was certainly possible, but one would lose not only the check, but the medical coverage. So, say one gets a job making $1,500 per month at a place that doesn’t offer employee benefits … or if that person was technically part-time, but still made more than $1,500. Nothing changed about their medical condition. Other than needing the expensive medicine, they are otherwise fairly healthy. They simple desire to work to try to make a better way for themselves.
Obviously, I am referring to myself and others caught in this go-between. To such people, Social Security leaves you out in the cold. If you make over their set amount, you are cut off regardless of whether you can afford medical coverage some other way (which you likely can’t because of your dire need for the expensive medicine.) So, in essence, Medicaid rewards people who are resolved to sit at home, bring in a check and not get out and try to work, when in fact, it’s the people who get out and try to work that Medicaid should reward for attempting to make an honest living by continuing coverage up to a certain earning level (which should be much, much more than $1,100 per month. How can anyone making under $50,000 or even $100,000 per year afford $1,000-$1,500 every three weeks?
This brings us to health insurance. At my former position, I was able to cover myself and my wife for about $160 per paycheck. This was somewhat reasonable, and for a period, we were both able to go to the doctor using my insurance. I recently got a new job, and since I have been there three months, I was eligible to apply for insurance. At the meeting, I found out that insurance for just myself would be $76 and to add my wife, another $226, which amounts to about $400 per paycheck. That’s $800 per month. I was astounded when I learned how much it would be. Tack on vision and dental and add $40 more to the equation. Not to reveal what I earn per month, but suffice it to say that, not only would I not be able to afford to pay the bills, we would probably have to fold up shop, quit my job, leave town and stay with my parents until we figured out what to do.
I admit, I was angry when I found out how much it would cost. And what’s more, the medicine that I require every three weeks is not covered on this $400 per paycheck insurance. So I’m resolved to the fact that insurance companies of all creeds are nothing but scavengers. Luckily, I can stay on my father’s insurance for now, but that by itself does not cover nearly the entire amount of this medicine per treatment.
I’ve been thinking about something else. Folks can decry the trappings of universal health care all they want, about how it would raise taxes, would be run poorly, etc. but at least alternative methods to tackling pharmaceutical and insurance companies are being developed. Republicans can mention “God” in every other breath as much as they want, but the truth is, people in this country are hurting financially, physically and in other ways, and the current leadership has taken steps to contribute to that hurt. The administration has overseen the mishandling of billions in war that could have been better used elsewhere and gas prices, largely because of that war, have risen dramatically: so much so that people are being forced to make life decisions at the pump.
There is something very un-Christian about what is happening. Make no mistake. I’m familiar with the rhetoric. Republicans say: Let’s have limited national government and let’s let local government and individual communities take care and minister to each other. This way, government will stay out of your way and allow churches, civic organizations and individuals to care for those in their own communities. Well, here we are: eight years into that ideology. Are people in their individual communities reaching out to others, caring for the sick and helping the poor? Some are; more aren’t. I’m quite familiar with the potential for government programs to be inept (see above), but perhaps a sound leadership can help fix the ineptness, weed out the erroneous policies and let the government stop mismanaging money and help people who are hurting here at home, instead of spending billions on a people who would rather have us out of their country in the first place.
Sorry this was terribly long. If you got this far, thanks. If you didn’t, I understand.
One of the local newspapers here (in Upstate South Carolina), the Anderson Independent-Mail, has decided – and already instituted – a new paper format they call, “Going Green.” They say it’s more environmental friendly, it wastes less paper and that paper itself is environmental friendly. But I ask: at what cost to a) the news hole, which in news-speak means the amount of space alotted to news and b) journalistic integrity.
Here is a screenshot of the new format:
While a giant picture and no text may appeal to fourth-graders, it shouldn’t be satisfactory to anyone with a high school, and especially a college education. To a journalist, it’s truly a road to crisis. But the worst isn’t the front. The front actually looks decent, that is, if you are OK with no stories on the front of a newspaper. I’m not OK with that at all.
Other distressing signals rest inside. Here, content is fleeting. The reader finds 100-word stories and 10-point font that looks cartoonish amidst tiny tabloid-esque newspint. (Note: Say you are a publisher of a fairly sizable daily and you want to make a name for yourself by making a radical change in your format. If that format includes a smaller newsprint, by all means, decrease the size of the type by a point or two. It will make your product look more professional, to the extent this is possible.) As it stands, the font is too big for the format. And by the way, where did the opinion page go? That all important forum for letters to the editor and alternative viewpoints was relocated to the back of the A section.
But maybe I’m just a century behind the times. Maybe I have too much faith in folks. I believe folks want content more than they want a comic book. I believe newspapers have an important and serious calling: to increase the knowledge and understanding of its readership and to give them the tools necessary to make informed decisions. From my observations of the paper itself, this product no longer measures up. A friend of mine told me a few days ago that it’s no longer a newspaper. Frankly, I probably wouldn’t take a job there if it was dropped in my lap unless I was given the freedom to induce a major shakeup — which I wouldn’t be — to instill the kind of changes needed to turn a dumb-inducing paper into an intelligent and well-informed one. Apparently, a shakeup has already occurred, and it was not a good, but a sad day.
After naming my blog “Our daily train,” I thought it appropriate to try and explain myself. The reference is from John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.” It is taken from the poem’s nineth book, in which Satan tells Eve:
Wonder not, sovran Mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole Wonder, much less arm
Thy looks, the Heav’n of mildness, with disdain,
Displeas’d that I approach thee thus, and gaze [ 535 ]
Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feard
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retir’d.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker faire,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy Celestial Beautie adore [ 540 ]
With ravishment beheld, there best beheld
Where universally admir’d; but here
In this enclosure wild, these Beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discerne
Half what in thee is fair, one man except, [ 545 ]
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen
A Goddess among Gods, ador’d and serv’d
By Angels numberless, thy daily Train.
I fell in love with the poetry of John Milton in college. I was familiar with him in high school, but at that time, to read and understand Milton was too lofty a goal, although as a teenager, Milton himself already had Greek and Latin under his belt and was writing poetry by age 15. According to his brother, Christopher, John:
When he was young, he studied very hard and sat up very late, commonly till twelve or one o’clock at night.
Samuel Johnson, in his Milton biography, “Life of Milton,” says Milton would often retreat to bed at midnight or so and then get up at 5 a.m. to start his day replete with studying. What if we all had that kind of drive and hunger for knowledge? I mean not just the folks at the forefront of learning (i.e. scientists, philosophers and doctors), but everyone. Where we would we be as a culture and society? But, of course, I am no John Milton, and neither are many of you (though we may desire to be in some ways). I wish I had the motivation to spend every waking hour – other than when I’m working – to study and learn. I try, of course. I read the paper. I watch the news. I read The New York Times. I comb over The Associated Press postings everyday at work. But Milton’s dedication goes beyond picking up the latest headlines of the day. He delved deep into knowledge; so much so that he even personified knowledge in “Paradise Lost” and made it second fiddle only to God himself. To Milton, there was God, raised high and supreme, and just a tick below, sat knowledge. As Milton writes in “Areopagitica: A speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the parliament of England:”
The worthy man, loath to give offence, fell into a new debate with himself what was to be thought; when suddenly a vision sent from God (it is his own epistle that so avers it) confirmed him in these words: Read any books whatever come to thy hands, for thou art sufficient both to judge aright and to examine each matter. To this revelation he assented the sooner, as he confesses, because it was answerable to that of the Apostle to the Thessalonians, Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. And he might have added another remarkable saying of the same author: To the pure, all things are pure; not only meats and drinks, but all kind of knowledge whether of good or evil; the knowledge cannot defile, nor consequently the books, if the will and conscience be not defiled.
For books are as meats and viands are; some of good, some of evil substance; and yet God, in that unapocryphal vision, said without exception, Rise, Peter, kill and eat, leaving the choice to each man’s discretion.
And this is the greatness of knowledge, of books, of learning:
Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was the reason why our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and yet abstain.
I am not qualified to surmise what I think Milton may have thought of censorship in our modern era – I certainly know his position in his own time. He was “agin it,” as they say in the north Georgia mountains. Read “Areapagitica” and that becomes apparent. But of our new brand of vileness, he would, I feel, remain unmoved in this statement: “That we might see and know, and yet abstain.” This is not a call to voluntarily view every piece of filfth available to us just so you can “know,” but it is a call to know it exists (and its existence is inevitable in a fallen world) to not be naive about our culture, and yet, choose to think on something better for our eyes, our hearts, our lives.
That was a bit of a sidestep, but at last, I come to “thy daily train.” You can read the passage and decide for yourself, as none of us – ok a few of us (not me) – are experts on 17th-century English, but I think it simply means, “our daily life.” Our routine. Our way of doing things. In essence, this is what a journal is. It’s a record of our lives and how we view it through our own lens, and in so much as possible, we should attempt to view it through others’ lens, to attempt to better understand and love them. For if you live in a bubble, the tendency is toward embroiled misunderstanding.
I hope to convey my thoughts, my relationship with Christ, my hopes, my fears, my haunted retreats, “through certain half-deserted streets,” in “muttering retreats” in these pages. Fail I might, but try I will and take my daily train. Read the rest of this entry »
We all search for meaning to life, and if-if we would even have a discovery that there is a habitable planet, let alone life on it-I think it would uplift the human spirit. – astronomer Daniel Goldin, quote from the “Nova” Public Broadcasting Service program
Whether you are atheist, Christian, or whatever, it is astounding that we live in an phantasmal and seemingly infinite universe, yet, we are, at least officially, alone. Let me repeat again: alone in an infinite universe; not one single-celled organism that we know of, anywhere. Picture tumbleweeds and a dried up spacescape of photons, rock and gases.
I often wonder what would happen to the Judeo-Christian tradition if life, even in its most simplest form, was discovered in a body of water on another planet or moon. Scientists think that simple-celled organisms could exist on Mars, as evidenced by this 2005 story published by NASA: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_life_050216.html
One of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, Opportunity, bolstered the casefor water on Mars when it discovered jarosite and other mineral salts on a rocky outcropping in Merdiani Planum, the intrepid rover’s landing site chosen because scientists believe the area was once covered by salty sea.
Scientists, then, think where there is water, there is life. This presents an interesting picture with regard to opening lines in Genesis, where we find this passage:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. (NIV)
Here, obviously, mention is only made of Earth. In fact, the assumption of the entire Bible, from creation to Revelation, is that the narrative of the Old and New testaments takes place on Earth and only matters on Earth.
So, I ask, what effect might the discovery of life on another planet have on the Judeo-Christian world or other monothiest religions? Would it be catastrophic to the entire belief structure or is the possible existence of life on another planet irrelevant? Would such discoveries fall in line with accepted Biblical thinking about the origin of life and our place in the cosmos?
These are questions in which I don’t have the answer. So, I suppose, just stay tuned and stay informed.
As I exclaimed here:
I admit that I have a user account on blogger.com. I have another at deviantart.com and another on myspace.com. I mostly use the former two sites for viewing artwork and photography, while the other, I rarely visit anymore – too many weird-ies lurking about.
Needless to say, I haven’t quite felt the need to board that overcrowded train headed for blogger-town just yet. I am amazed, however, at how many colossal news outlets feature the vignettes and quips of their reporters.
From nytimes.com to washingtonpost.com to the Anderson Cooper 360-degree blog, the amount of bandwagon-boarding is at once astounding and a bit frightening for journalism in general.
in this column: http://jeremystyron.blogspot.com/2006/09/bloggers-go-koo-koo-for-cocoa-puffs-by.html, I originally had a lack of positive energy for blogging. Hogwash, I thought. Millions of kids, adults and college students pretending to do journalism when many have never stepped foot on a hallowed, coffee-stained newspaper floor? Millions of sounds of fury, signifying nothing, I thought.
As the column states, I still feel there’s a lot of bogus stuff in blogs. And, the reason: blogs are really nothing more than journals that have been publicized into more than they are. Bloggers can write anything about anyone or anything without any professional checks or balances which exist inside newsrooms across the country. Writers and editors feed off each other, keep each other sharp and challenge one another to continually improve in integrity and quality of product. Blogs are absent of all this. Sure, some writers do genuine reporting, while others use the space as more of an op-ed free-for-all, as I’m not-so-eloquently doing here. Needless to say, I have fallen prey to this fascination. While I have no desire, inclination or time to write a real journal – as in sitting down with tangible pen and pad in hand, and waxing philosophical about my life, activities and thoughts contained therein. I do have that inclination here for some reason. Perhaps it’s because of convenience that I have, at last, boarded that overcrowded blog bandwagon bound for cybertown. Perhaps it’s because it’s a public and easily indexed way to communicate one’s thoughts. Perhaps its because, as I don’t write at my current position at work, as most of my time is chewed up laying out pages and editing others’ writing, I have to write. As others need water and food, this is a simple, yet undeniable need of mine. I have to either be in the process of writing or have an idea hatched to be written at all times. I do believe this is at the heart of it all. I have to write, and if I don’t, I shrivel up inside. If I don’t, ideas pile up, weigh heavy on my shoulders, then eventually, and tragically, they are either forgotten or die like a supernova balled up tight. And this, my friends, is the clanging, necessity-laden, wordy enclave in which I live everyday.
Joseph Addison had The Spectator; I suppose I have this space.
We’re getting older and older and older
and always a little further out of the way
You look into her eyes
and it’s more than your heart will allow
And August and everything after
you get a little less than you expected somehow. – “August and Everything After,” unreleased, Counting Crows
Since I’ve used this user name in various capacities over the years, I thought it might be appropriate to go ahead and get this out of the way. I came up with the name “everythingafter” years ago, and it comes from the Counting Crows’ 1993 album, “August and Everything After.” The album title is the name of a real Counting Crows song just released in a concert only a year or two ago – the lyrics of which are published (in fragments) in a handwritten type on the cover of the album.
Many, many people know this album, so that’s probably all I need to explain. I will also note that this band has helped me get through many difficult times in my life, when I have questioned myself, my life, my faith, everything. It’s poetic imagery and heart-draining lyrics often cut me to the quick and made me numerous times nearly break down whilst singing out loud, in my car, alone, to “Anna Begins” or “Time and Time Again” or “Sullivan Street.”
The key line in the song is “In August and everything after, I’m after everything,” and to me, the song is about having all these expectations from love and life and then realizing that few, if any of them, are actually coming to fruition.
All of the sudden she disappears
Just yesterday she was here
Somebody tell me if I am sleeping
Someone should be with me here
(cause I don’t wanna be alone) - “Catapult,” “Recovering the Satellites,” Counting Crows
During my school years, I was nuts about girls. I was also shy and insecure in my abilities to talk to them. As a result, every year, August was the time that we all went back to school. This meant for me new opportunities to at long last muster up the courage to talk to someone new. This, of course, never happened in high school or college, and this album embodies that disappointment for me, and probably explains why I relate to so many lyrics from that album, and others, from the band.
But “everythingafter” has another meaning for me. It’s about everything that comes AFTER we are done with this life. My grandmother recently succumbed to a long battle with various ailments, particularly Alzheimer’s. She now knows for sure what we on this side of the everafter don’t know for 100 percent fact. She either knows nothing and ceased to exist on that fateful Mother’s Day when she breathed her last. Or, she knows about everlasting life. We may think we know about the afterlife, and believe with all our being that something - in the Christian tradition, that would be heaven and hell – exists after this life, but until we get there, we certainly aren’t God, and our knowledge is limited to our own environs. So in that, this user name entails the knowns and the unknowns of what happens after this physical life is over. In essense, it entails what happens in august and everything after And everything that happens after “everything.”
With that, I begin.