Just a Reminder

CBS News has learned more than two million Americans have been told they cannot renew their current insurance policies -- more than triple the number of people said to be buying insurance under the new Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Think about that.  One month in to the ACA implementation, and 2 million people are now uninsured. Keep in mind that this is not an "unintended consequence".  Evidence that NBC News unearthed is that the administration expected somewhere between 40% and 67% - or more - of individual policy holders to have their current policies cancelled this year. 
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. 
So 7 to 10 million people will be uninsured this year, thanks to Obamacare.  How... unfortunate.

Or not.  As the Washington Post points out,
If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560), you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. (With last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent, that means the co-pay could not increase by more than $5.20.) Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010.
So, yeah. Has there been any significant change in your co-pay or overall policy cost in the past 3 years? Keep your eye out for your cancellation notice.  Oh, and if your current policy doesn't include maternity coverage, even if you're a single male who will never, ever, ever need that coverage?  The Magic Eight Ball says there's a notice in your future, too!  Thinking about getting married?  Significant change, dude.  Lose your insurance policy.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Now, I want to remind you that the employer mandate was delayed for a year.  There are an estimated 170 million people in the US who are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.

That means that starting in late 2014, when the employer mandate kicks in, we can expect somewhere between 85 and 120 million more people to get those cancellation notices.

That is not a blip.  That is not a glitch.

That is an order of magnitude change.

That is close to half the freaking country... and it is completely intentional.
"If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period."
... until we decide you can't, peon.

Update: Well, isn't that interesting.  Minutes after I post my simple analysis, I see that Reason has unearthed very similar figures from that bastion of right-wing Teabaggery, the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ten Days?

Ten days without a post.  I feel like I owe someone an apology.

In my defense, it has been an exceptionally busy time.  My wife and I were fighting off the creeping crud for a bit.  This just happened to coincide with our preparation for our annual bonfire.  Meanwhile, I've been trying to keep up with my running, which has been more difficult as the days get shorter.

At work, we have deadlines to meet, as usual... on top of which, we moved our entire office into a new building, with all the stress that entails.  On the minus side, my commute is a little longer (at least until I find the back ways I can take to the new place); on the plus side, the new office is in a great location, much bigger than the place we formerly inhabited, and with lots of room for expansion.

Amidst all the running, planning, scrambling and hosting, the lovely Mrs. Robb and I did get to sneak off and go see the Piano Guys in concert.  Was it good?  Why, yes.  Yes it was.  It was a very small venue (about 300 people) and we were in the third row about 10 feet from Steven Sharp Nelson.  While their whole set was good (I particularly liked Jon Schmidt singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" to the tune of The Imperial March), what blew me away was that they finished it off by performing, live, their cover of "What Makes You Beautiful":

Yes, there were four guys bouncing around and making music with one piano.  It was great fun, and we got to meet everyone after the show, and after a couple of weeks worth of running to and fro, it was a very relaxing afternoon.

Anyways.  Sorry for running silent for so long.  I have a bunch of links saved up for yinz guys, and hope to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule Real Soon Now (TM).

Sloppy Is As Sloppy Does

The Weekly Standard reports:
Healthcare.gov, the federal government's Obamacare website, has been under heavy criticism from friend and foe alike during its first two weeks of open enrollment.  Repeated errors and delays have prevented many users from even establishing an account, and outside web designers have roundly panned the structure and coding of the site as amateurish and sloppy.  The latest indication of the haphazard way in which Healthcare.gov was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.
Frankly, I'm not surprised.  This sort of thing can happen vera, vera easily, especially if you aren't explicitly paying attention to licensing requirements... and even if you are.  All it takes is for one person to check in a file (they are using source control, right?  Right?!?) with the copyright attribution stripped out, and you have a copyright violation.

Now, this is a relatively minor and easily corrected license violation: add the copyright headers back in. I suspect that the copyright holders would be happy with that and an apology.  It does raise the question, though: if someone "sanitized" the code they were using in this instance by removing the copyright attribution, are there any other places where contractors may have cut corners and violated open source or commercial software licenses?

Cool it, old man!

An old-ish (three years!) parody from Jim Treacher.

I am given to understand that this only touches on his vast prophetic powers.  Mr. Treacher is reportedly also able to predict - with 100% reliability, mind you - whether a rock tossed into the air will fall to the earth, and whether or not a person will become wet after immersing themselves in water!

It's just plan eerie, I tell you.


If you liked the way I was doing posts for the year I was using IFTTT - lots of links, a little commentary, with the occasional meat and potatoes post - then you may find ITINIDKWI worth some attention.  It is the creation of an internet friend, a fairly prolific Facebook poster of interesting tidbits who tired of the social media format:
Trying to have a coherent, thought-through discussion (something that actually used to happen on blogs all the time, young folks… I know you won’t believe it) is mighty hard on social media, especially when you’re trying to do it in Facebook-sized bites (or Twitter-sized 140 character bursts.) 
Didn’t like some of the discussions I was reading, didn’t like some of the discussions I was having or trying to host, and wasn’t proud of how I myself was acting and reacting in some cases.  I’ve greatly curtailed my direct engagement with social media as a result. 
This blog is one way to capture (and share) the stories that catch my eye during the day.
Check it out.  More interesting than I am, for sure.

Oh, the name?
And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Ballad of Accounting

"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
– Romans 14:12 
There is always an accounting.

Some come... sooner than others.

In the morning we built the city
In the afternoon walked through its streets
Evening saw us leaving
We wandered through our days as if they would never end
All of us imagined we had endless time to spend
We hardly saw the crossroads and small attention gave
To the landmarks on the journey from the cradle to the grave
Cradle to the grave, cradle to the grave

Did you learn to dream in the morning?
Abandon dreams in the afternoon?
Wait without a hope in the evening?
Did you stand there in the traces and let them feed you lies?
Did you trail along behind them wearing blinkers on your eyes?
Did you kiss the foot that kicked you? Did you thank them for their scorn?
Did you ask for their forgiveness for the act of being born?
Act of being born, act of being born

Did you alter the face of the city?
Make any change in the world you found?
Or did you observe all the warning?
Did you read the trespass notice? Did you keep off the grass?
Did you shuffle off the pavement just to let your betters pass?
Did you learn to keep your mouth shut? Were you seen and never heard?
Did you learn to be obedient and jump to at a word?
Jump to at a word, jump to at a word

And did you ever demand any answer?
The who and the what and the reason why
And did you ever question the setup?
And did you stand aside and let them choose while you took second best?
Did you let them skin the cream off and then give to you the rest?
Did you settle for the shoddy? And did you think it right
To let them rob you right and left and never make a fight?
And never make a fight, never make a fight

What did you learn in the morning?
How much did you know in the afternoon?
Were you content in the evening?
And did they teach you how to question when you were at the school?
Did the factory help you grow? Were you the maker or the tool?
Did the place where you were living enrich your life and then?
Did you mix among the standing of all your fellow men?
All your fellow men, all your fellow men, all your fellow men

Two Clicks, One Meal

I received an email from a gentleman at a local Pittsburgh Company called Oxford Solutions earlier today, asking me to "Like" their Facebook page.  I get this sort of thing from time to time, but this one caught my attention for two reasons...
  1. It was a real email, from someone I've had contact with before - not a mass-mailing.
  2. They were willing to give me something for the click.
Or, rather, they were willing to give someone something...
Oxford Solutions will donate the cost of 1 meal ($2.34) to Light of Life Rescue Mission for every new "like" we receive on Facebook through December 15, 2013 up to $10,000!
I've checked this out from multiple sources, and as far as I can tell, this is a legitimate campaign. Just two clicks (one to get to the Oxford Solutions Facebook page, and one to "Like" that page) and you can provide a meal for the Light of Life through Oxford Solutions.

Folks, that is less effort than it takes to even look at the latest gegaw being offered up on Indiegogo or Kickstarter, let alone fund it.  Two clicks, one meal.  That's it.

For those outside of Pittsburgh, The Light of Life Rescue Mission is a local homeless shelter and recovery program. A good friend of mine leads our church outreach ministry there. I have had the opportunity to preach to and minister to the men at the shelter many times, and Eldest Daughter has been part of the ministry for years.  So I have multiple points of reference when I tell you: they are good folks, doing good work on the North Side of Pittsburgh, and their efforts mean more than you can imagine for a lot of men who have nowhere else to go and nobody else to turn to.

Please, help 'em get hold of as much money as Oxford is willing to sling their way.

An Unexpected Consequence of the Government Shutdown

I appears that someone turned off the electric fence surrounding the Onion writer's pen, and some have escaped into the wild...

Before service in Afghanistan Lauren Kay Johnson, a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, said she was a fun-loving woman who would organize potluck and karaoke nights for friends.
But when she returned from her nine month-deployment in March 2010, the Seattle native struggled to get to grips with civilian life as the memories of war haunted her.
In the November issue of Glamour magazine, she details how 'long hours', 'drab meals of dry meat and soggy vegetables' and constant 'paranoia' that something could happen at any moment, gradually took a toll on her mental state during deployment.
She is (or was) a public affairs officer for the USAF.  Based on the existence of this article, and the inevitable and very predictable reactions it has caused, I can only assume that she absolutely sucked at her job.

You really are a bit of a whiner, aren't you, dear?

"I am a far-right moderate social libertarian"

Via Borepatch.

According to the poll, I am far more right than libertarian... which just seems off, to me.  I'm pretty sure that I am nowhere near as authoritarian as this makes me out to be. I will cop to being that far right, though I think I get there via the civilization/barbarism axis, as opposed to the common American political views of left vs. right.

My Political Views
I am a far-right moderate social libertarian
Right: 8.21, Libertarian: 1.74

  My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 0.71

My Culture War Stance
Score: 2.91

C25K: Finishing Week Four

Well, we had a bit of a delay in our running schedule.  Being on vacation took a toll, in a good way - it was hard to muster up the energy to run when we were exhausted from swimming all day.  We returned home rested and ready for week three, when I did something incredibly stupid (at least, in hindsight).

I bought some new inserts for my shoes.  Nice, cushy inserts with a wonderfully padded heel.

They felt wonderful when I was running.  The following day?  Not so much.  Both my knees were effectively immobile, and I felt like I had hot needles sitting just under inner portion of my knees.  A discussion with my boss at work (who's a marathon runner) about shoes gave me an inkling of an idea that the inserts might be a problem.  So when I got home, I took them out, and the pain in my knees diminished almost immediately.

Sigh.  OK, trash one set of inserts.

Even with that, the pain in my knees persisted - I treated them with Aleve and ice for several days before I felt like I would be able to run again.  At that point, I decided that while my current shoes were comfortable, they were pretty much too trashed to continue running in.  So my next step would be to find a pair of running shoes to that would let me run without further destroying my knees.

After soliciting recommendations from various runners, I found a store that would do a gait analysis, and tell me what kind of shoes I should be wearing.  Which is exactly what I wanted, since I was completely ignorant and unable to answer the questions that experienced runners asked me about my arch, roll, and what-have-you.  They managed to set me up with a nice pair of Nikes, which felt great.

At which point, halfway through week three, we all got sick.  Bleah.  This seems to be an inevitable consequence of the start of the school year.  There's a reason why the Lovely Mrs. Robb and I refer to kids as "cute little petri dishes".

Anyways - that knocked us back, yet again.  So doing Week 3 of the program actually ended taking up... um.  Two and a half weeks?  Closer to three weeks?  Something like that.  Eldest Daughter and I ended up repeating a day of the Week 3 program, just because it felt like we should.

We kept up with it as best we could, though, through bum knees, bad shoes and a bad cold.  The end result being that this was Week 4, and we're now running (well, jogging) for 5 minutes at a time.  I measured it - that's a whole half of a mile that I'm managing to blast through; not once, but twice during a session.


We still have one more day of Week 4 to complete, then we get into Week 5... where we will be hitting what is (for me) a major milestone at the end of the week: ramping up each day until we are running for 20 minutes straight.  I will be very honest, and say that if I can manage that by the end of next week, I will be freaking amazed.  I suspect that it will take a couple of tried before I am able to reach that goal.

I am incredibly happy with the progress we've made, though.  To top it all off, I've also managed to loose about 10 pounds in the process - though I think that is more an result of making the effort to eat more salads and fewer french fries.  At 220 right now, I am hardly svelte, but frankly, this is the best shape that I have probably been in for two decades.

Which makes me quite happy!

Life and Lemons

You know, lots of folks seem to be focusing on the 800k "unnecessary" employees furloughed.  On how amazing it is that the government has this many non-essential employees, what good they are, what they actually do, etc., etc.

I've got a few thoughts about the situation.

First, keep in mind that "non-essential" does not neccesarily mean "useless".  Just because Sally or Bob got furloughed, that does not mean that the job they were doing had zero value.  What it does mean (at least, ideally) is that the job they were doing was something that could be postponed for a while.

Think about it this way - there are many different kinds of inspections, reviews, audits, and the like that various agencies are responsible for.  If the shutdown only lasts for a week or two, their work schedule gets pushed out a couple of weeks.  Yearly inspections that should have been done this month get done Job next month.  If your job involved you being part of a multi-year or even decade-long process that can be put on hold for a bit without any serious consequences... well, welcome to an unpaid vacation of indeterminate length.

So a lot of these folks are not useless employees; they're employees who's work can be easily suspended for a while.  Yes, I am sure that there are some functionally useless federal employees that got furloughed.  Just as I am sure that there are some functionally useless useless federal employees that are still managing to collect a paycheck. Despite that, a lot of them are simply people who were doing useful, but not urgent, work.  Work that the federal government just can't pay for at the moment.

Now that you have that thought in mind - that "furloughed" does not mean "useless" - try looking at it this way.  As of Tuesday, there are nearly a million people who are at least temporarily out of work.  A lot of these folks are highly-educated, well-trained and experienced individuals who also happen to have a lot of experience with how the federal government does business.

And right now, they are getting seriously screwed over by their current employer.

How many of them do you think might - just might - be interested to hear about opportunities in the private sector?

This sort of thin happens all the time in the private sector, doesn't it?  Just a year or so ago, there was a major tech company in Pittsburgh that folded up its local office and laid of umpteen-hundred people.  When they organized a job fair for the departing employees, other companies jumped at the chance to attend.  "A few hundred well-educated, talented, experienced folks who are looking for a new job?  Heck yeah, we'll be there!"

Here's a chance to reduce the size of the federal government, at least temporarily.  Not by forcing them to cut jobs, which seems to be all but impossible; but just by hiring away the people that they've laid off.


You've got to read it in context, I think, but...
Normally I would observe that giving political power to giant, evil, intelligent rats hell-bent on the destruction of civilization may not be the healthiest course for a society to take, but we’re the country that elected Barack Obama so I don’t really have the high ground here.
That's pure gold, right there.


On a FB comment thread about the shutdown, one David Burkhead provides a succinct answer to the accusation that the efforts of the Republican House to avoid funding the ACA are "unconstitutional":

Let me be perfectly clear. When the House of Representative says "this is what we will fund and this is what we won't" they are not engaging in dirty tricks. They are not trying to do an end-run around the Constitution. They are _using_ the authority given to them _by_ the Constitution to do. their. job. 
Their ability to say "no, we won't fund that" is a feature, not a bug. It's one of the "checks and balances" built into the Constitution.

Diary of a Shutdown Survivor, Day 3

Spent the night in the wilderness.  Cold.  Alone.  Forsaken.


I think that I bedded down in a clump of poison ivy, no doubt growing rampant due to lack of federal government funding.  That's what the mushrooms told me.  It was kind of odd that they didn't start talking to me until after I ate them, but it all makes sense now.  Now I know.  And knowing is half the battle!

Thankfully, my cell phone battery is holding out, so I am able to spread my message... flee, flee, ye fools, from the wrath that is to come!

It is only a matter of time before cell phone towers start falling, killing everyone in their wake.  Bridges and roads and monuments and buildings and all that start decaying immediately if they're not kept in the presence of a soothing flow of federal government money.  Soon rabid squirrels will run rampant through the streets, infecting everyone with the zombie plague, just like the NIH warned before they went dark.

Went dark.  Dark.  Dark.  Cold.  Itchy.

You would think that everyone would know all that, wouldn't you?  I am pretty sure they covered that in high school civics class.  Or maybe it was in health class.  Whatever.  It's common knowledge.  Lack of federal government spending equals climate change, rampant erosion, acid rain, plagues of locusts and ravening hordes of post-apocolyptic barbarians fleeing from mutant rabid squirrels.  Ipso Facto, E Plurbus Unum. Cruscio Reductio! Fuego!  Fuego!  Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

The mushrooms are telling me I should probably not eat any more of them.  Just in case.

I itch.

Diary of a Shutdown Survivor, Day 2

Slept poorly last night.  It was cold and dark.  Raging hunger gnawed at me like a live rat in my belly.  My need for sustenance drove me to acts of desperation so depraved that I pray for oblivion.  As the evening wore on, I eventually curled into the fetal position next to my ruined and burning car, eking out whatever parcel of warmth I could while wrapped in scraps of tattered cloth.

My wife is hysterical, in denial.  She is putting on a brave front, trying to pretend that we can still have a normal life, but she can't see that she is just going through the motions.  She acts as if we still have a home to live in, food in the pantry, kids to get off to school in the morning.  I know that these are just illusions.  The Shutdown has come, and all that we once had is naught but a memory.

Later in the evening, she began pelting me with a litany of nonsense questions over and over.  Things like "Why are you half-naked?  It's freezing out here!  Come inside!" and "Why did you set our car on fire?  How are you supposed to get to work tomorrow, you idiot?" and "What do you mean, 'We have to flee into the woods to escape the wrath that is to come'?" and "Honey, would you please tell the nice man why you're sitting outside naked, next to our burning car, and OH SWEET HEAVEN ARE YOU EATING THE DOG?!?"

She doesn't understand.  It is the shutdown.  The Shutdown.  The SHUTDOWN.

Thank You, Democrats!

Washington, D.C.  As leaves turn and autumn weather rolls over the capital, a Democrat president looks towards the Congress, where the House and the Senate are engaged in a bitter legislative battle over health care.  A key point of this contention: abortion funding.

Driven by member of the House who oppose the use of  federal tax dollars to fund abortions, disagreement between the chambers of Congress creates a legislative deadlock.  Although the House passes legislation to keep the federal government funded and running, the Senate refuses to pass any proposed compromise legislation that does not include federal funding for abortion.  As a result, the federal government is left unfunded.  While most offices are kept open, all non-essential workers are temporarily furloughed until the issue is resolved, and Congress can pass an appropriations bill.

The year?  1977.  In three separate events that fall, the federal government was shut down for over five work weeks while the Democrat-controlled House battled the Democrat-controlled Senate over over the Hyde Amendment [1].  A few years later, based on a interpretation of the Anti-Deficiency Act of 1884,  the Carter administration ruled to limit the power of unfunded federal agencies, thus requiring the shutdown of non-essential functions of the federal government in the absence of Congressional  appropriations.

Now, your political inclinations may lead you to side with one side or the other in the 1977 debate over the Hyde amendment.  You may also argue that the Carter-era ruling on the ADA was either entirely appropriate or hideously incorrect.  Be that as it may, you cannot deny this fundamental truth:

The current government shutdown would not - could not - exist, were it not for the actions of the Democrat party in the fall of 1977, and the Carter administration's ruling on the ADA.

So here's a hearty "Thank you!" to the Democrats of years gone by, who made it possible for the current House to not only force the issue on the funding of the ACA, but also seriously torque off Harry Reid.  Because seeing Harry froth at the mouth in frustration is one of the gifts that just keeps on giving, y'know?

[1] Just a quick question: were the Democrats in the House who opposed federal abortion funding then wrong, or are the Democrats in the House who support federal abortion funding now wrong?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Diary of a Shutdown Survivor, Day 1

I spent the morning huddled with my loved ones, weeping quietly. Venturing to work - trekking through the howling, government-free wilderness - left me drained and numb. I wonder why I bothered, as I am completely unable to concentrate. My mind is continually drawn back to contemplate the horror of a country in which the national parks are now closed. Based on the news reports I am seeing, I expect that I will have to resort to cannibalism in order to survive the day.

Quotes, Glorious Quotes!

At the suggestion of a friend, I have collected and created a page consisting of quotes that I have highlighted on my Facebook wall and elsewhere.  Some of them are cute, wome are snarky, some still make me chuckle.  YMMV, but I think there is enough there that you will probably find something you can appreciate.

There is a new Blogger widget over at the top of the right-hand sidebar that lists the blog pages that includes a link to the new "Quotes" page, which I will endeavor to update roughly whenever I can get a round tuit.

It Will Be A Cloudy Day

We are starting week 4 of the C25K program, after taking a week off for vacation and a slow weeks due to illness.  Eldest Daughter is still feeling poorly, but the Lovely Mrs. Robb has gone out with me in her stead a couple of times.

Yeah.  She has started running at the place it took me two months to get to.  Sigh.

In any case, it looks like running in the morning stimulates the old noggin.  I was contemplating this old news about how the German Pirate Party managed to crash a drone right in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign rally.

I came up with half a dozen ways that drone could have killed her, and possibly everyone around her, before I got out of the shower.

None required explosives.  None required guns.  Most required a basic knowledge of chemistry, a little skill, and (ideally) some planning.  One only required a decent grasp of physics.  Being an engineer by inclination and training, I also spent some time thinking about how you might defend against these sort of attacks.  There are possibly defenses.

Well, if I am being honest, not so much defenses as mitigation actions.  Heavy, impermeable blankets and breathing apparatus, for example.  Throwing your body over the Chancellor to protect her when a drone pops up may be heroic, but it isn't going to count for much if the drone starts spewing out an aerosol containing a nerve or biological agent.

In every scenario I could come up with, reaction time, followed by immediate movement, was key.  If you look at the image attached to the linked article, above, I would say that Merkel's security detail could have had half a second - maybe - to react to the drone before it did anything dangerous.

That is nowhere near enough time.

Easy to obtain.  Easy to deploy.  Easy to weaponize.

Incredibly difficult to defend against.

It is a much scarier world all of a sudden.  At this point, I think it is only a matter of time before a major political figure is assassinated by drone.