HSA

It’s a new year and one of my resolutions is to give this woefully neglected blog a little more attention.  So what have I decided to write about on this auspicious kick off you ask?  Well I’ve decided to write about:

The shiny new health insurance policy we have been blessed with this year.  My employer, and in their defense this is a national trend,  has switched us to a HSA/High deductible plan.  It saves a little on your premium, it saves a lot on the company’s premium, and you can save up for when you get sick since the HSA or “health savings account” can roll over into next year if you don’t use it.  This sounds good right?  We’re pretty healthy, well here comes the sticker shock.  Since you will be paying 100% of the first $3000 you might be surprised to find out that the doctor visit is between $60 and $90.  Multiply that  times how ever many are in your family and it adds up fast.  Now just suppose you need a prescription every month, thyroid around $160 per month, suppose you have a child with ADD, $330 per month, suppose you have more than one.  You’ll burn through that $3000 pretty fast this year…and next year and the year after.

The move to shift health care costs off of employers is national, and I can’t say it’s bad, but the shift to the employee is awful.  I can afford this, or at least it won’t break me, but what about all the people just getting by?  Obamacare was supposed to fix this but it seems like it just made it OK for employers to shift the costs faster.  Wages are stagnant, costs are going up, this system is going to crash and crash hard.  The sad part is it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Fun Size

Well, it’s the day after Halloween and we are left with the “cushion” of several bags of candy that we got just in case the handful of trick or treaters that make it down our 200 yard driveway somehow morphed into a shuffling mob of candy zombies. Well they didn’t so I’m here in my office mustering the courage to set all that chocolate free…unfortunately some of the “Fun Size” bars aren’t going to make it, I am weak!

In the course of my culling of the candy herd, I have notice that the Fun Size bars are…thinner. I think they are the same length and height, the wrapper is even the same size, but the thinner bar has a lot more freedom in the wrapper than it used to. I can only assume that:

  1. They have managed to pack more fun in a smaller package.
  2. They have reduced the fun by about 20%.
  3. There have been cases of too much fun in years past and thank god now we have some regulation.

I suspect it’s number 1 because I seem to be here in my chair just jittering to go release some of this stored fun.  Apparently they contain plenty.  An informal poll of parents of small children indicate that there has been no reduction of wall bouncing fun.  Well I gotta go.

“The Question” and Yo Mama

If our society is to continue with any resemblance to what we think of as traditional American Society, we, as a people, need to start using “The Question.”  The Question is what you should ask yourself when given a choice or opportunity. It’s a simple thing really, you turn to yourself and ask, “Is this the right thing to do?”

I’ve had long talks with one of my more conservative coworkers about this and he tends to get hung up defining answer, but I contend that the important part is that you ask, with heartfelt sincerity, The Question. The answer, born of whatever rationalizations you can convince yourself of, is for you to work out. For instance, we’d like to give you $30M a year to be our CEO…is this right for the company, for myself, for my family, for the country? Can I justify my taking money that could go to hard working employees or for growing the company?

How about this, if I lay off a division of my company my bottom line will be high enough this year to get a big, multimillion dollar bonus. Is this good for the long term life of the company, or will short term gain benefit me at the cost of many. If you can convince yourself it’s right than do it, the answer to The Question is not nearly as important to society as that you asked, wrestled a little and then decided on an answer you believe to be honest. There are too many situations to make rules, but we have to find a way to institute a societal effort to do the right thing, an expectation that everyone is doing what they think is best. Think about this, if we disagree with someone, say a company president, a politician, or and insurance adjuster, but you believe they are doing their best to answer The Question, we are far more likely to cooperated to find a way to work together.

How is this different from what we have now? After all, we have laws and rules. True, but is it legal, or will I get in trouble, are not questions upon which a good society is built. Game theory has shown time and again that cooperation is mutually beneficial to all, individual benefit at the cost of others is a short term, unsustainable approach…unless you have so much power that others are forced to play on your terms. There have always been those who take at all costs, it’s just that now many of these individuals are out of reach of society as a whole. Worse, the example is bleeding down into society in general and the altruistic are seen as chumps.

Hence, part 2 of our problem, the Mama. If you are in a position of power, wealth or authority, and you are using it to acquire more power, wealth, or authority without asking “The Question,” your Mama should be calling you up and telling you, “Son (or daughter), you are shaming me by taking advantage of all those people.” Instead, it’s more like, “we are so proud of our son (or daughter), they are doing so well, look at what they bought me.”

I’ve tried to teach my kids that doing the right thing has a cost. It might be that you don’t take that last dollar for something you’re selling, but instead ask for a fair return. It might be that you give something back that you don’t have to, like the wrong change at the supermarket; the cashier might have to make your “windfall” up out of her pitiful pay. It might be that you don’t take all of that raise you are offered because the gas prices are hitting the lower wage workers harder than you. It might be that you are injured or even killed trying to help someone.

Sure we’ll get hammered by some opportunistic scum from time to time, but eventually they will be found socially unacceptable, instead of being held up as examples of captains of industry. We can’t wait for others to change, we can only change ourselves…and put pressure on those around us.

We, as a people, need to hold those who are willing ask “The Question” and to pay that price in esteem, instead of that they are somehow naive chumps, so our mama can call us up and say good job, I’m proud of you.

Racin’

Well, the dirt eatin’, ears ringin’, heart poundin’ season opened last Friday. Yup, the 2008 season started at the local 3/8’s mile dirt track. As it happens, I share a stock car, ol’ 94, with another guy and we trade off driving. I gotta say, it’s more fun than humans should have.

This is our third year, and I have to tell you that stock car driving is one of those things that looks easy from the stands but really takes some getting used to when you are in the fast chair.

For starters, you can’t see. That’s probably the biggest difference between stock car racing and just going fast on the road. You have on a helmet, which may be tied to your seat, so you can’t turn your head. Instead of glass you have screen in the windshield and net in the side window, not bad when you get used to it but at first it’s hard to see through it. There are no mirrors, you kind of “use the force” to know somebody is coming up behind you, and come they do! You think you’re just flying, “wow mom look how fast I’m goin’,” and all of the sudden swoosh, a car passes you like you’re stopped.

All your instincts are wrong too. Suppose you’re on the freeway, and there is a car on each side of you but just say a fender length ahead of you. Now suppose the freeway narrows down to two lanes and the two cars begin to move into your lane. Well of course you’ll back off the gas and shift back behind them, defensive driving and all that… well not on the track, if you’re on a good line and headed into a corner, you push on the gas. It’s ok to rub a little and you can rub your way right past them because you’re on the fastest line through the turn, assuming you don’t all spin. And you haven’t lived until you’ve spun in the middle of a pack of cars.

Now since I share driving, I also share watching. You see a lot of interesting people in the stands. Of course there are the experts who have never been in a race, but they’re just boring. The amusing people are the ones, usually crew or family, who sit in the pit stands and try to give signals to their driver. Now I can tell you, in the car you don’t even SEE people in the stands, they are just something not to hit. There’s too much going on to see somebody waving their hands around off the track. The funniest though is when they try to signal the driver to pass, just what the hell do they think he’s doing out there. There is really only three things the driver is trying to do:

1. Pass the guy in front of him.

2. Don’t get passed by the guy behind him.

3. Don’t smash up the car, at least not real bad.

Pretty much in that order.

Now I would never tell them that their driver can’t see them, in fact I’ve advised them that they most certainly can be seen but they have to make the signals big, REALLY BIG! Heck, now it’s almost like watching one of those modern dance routines.

Paintball!

The large red welts are finally healing. I took a bunch of Boy Scouts and their friends paint balling the other day. My youngest son had been blowing the whole week about how he hadn’t taken a direct hit the last time we were there, just splatter. Well we went to get his girlfriend, who was going with us, and he started telling her the same old tired story. I told her, “he’s been like this all week, don’t stand too close to him cause he’s got a target painted on him and he’s going down.”

So, there I was, my son on one side and me on the other in a 3 on 3. I told the other two guys that my boy was all mine. The only thing I hadn’t planned for was I had loaned my heavy shirt to his girl, who had only worn a T-shirt, which left me in…. a T-shirt.

The attack started, I moved up well. My boy and I were trading fire but neither of us could get a hit. I decided to take drastic action. I charged, gun blazing (can a paintball gun blaze?). We traded fire getting closer and closer, and finally I achieved my goal, my son had experienced “several” close range, direct hits, at the cost of several for myself. In the normal way of men, I feigned indifference to where I was hit and made my way back to the dead box. I am here to confess to you though, IT HURT LIKE HELL!! He nailed me good and with only my light T-shirt, I might as well have been naked. Paintballs make these goofy rings when they hit you, and I actually had bleeding rings on my chest side and belly. Did I stop? Nah, after a few minutes they got numb (till the next day) and the testosterone poisoning kicked in I went a couple of more rounds, after all, I’ll heal.