Speaking of something different, friends swear by Bangkok as city everyone should visit, at some point in their lives. Nonetheless, remind me (please!) to cross it off My Bucket List. 
Warning: Adult content. Well, maybe not, this video might be something only an 11-year-old boy can appreciate.

Fall is a great time to take stock and start something new. Call it mindfulness, call it rejuvenation, it's an important thing to do now and then.

British writer and psychologist Jacqueline Christodoulou discusses her “Do Something Different” plan in a new post on her blog Dirty Sparkle, and I’m passing it along as something worth trying before winter sets in: 

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Doing something different...

I had cause this week to remember a time some years ago when life was pretty much a routine of hardship. I didn't enjoy the rote of predictability that I shouldered for many years and I was desperate to escape. If only for a moment.

Around that time I initiated my 'Do Something Different' regime. When I became intolerably bored and annoyed with life, I literally did something different. This may sound really simple but actually it's quite difficult after the first ten innovations to think of something different to do. I included things like visiting local places I had never been, doing things I hadn't done for ages (like ice skating or swimming), listening to music on my own with headphones on. I started to use my brain and my imagination and open my mind up to other worlds through writing. It may seem like common sense, but to me, living in a world of providing for others, it was a welcome break.

I promised myself I would do something different every week for three months. During that time I visited the library and discovered Martin Amis. I explored my home city of Manchester and discovered many building that made me fall in love with it all over again. I met people on my 'Do Something Different' day who would become lifelong friends. I developed and understanding of people and characters and identity that would have not been possible in my previous closed existence.

Follow this link to the rest of her piece:

We knew all along that reform would not come easy. There are so many issues to consider.

What exactly is fair, and to whom? Can you close coverage gaps without discriminating? 

Here’s something to ponder from Kaiser Health News, a terrific resource for health policy news:  

Fight Erupts Over Health Insurance Rates For Businesses With More Women
From Kaiser Health News

The Pennsylvania home health care company Linda Bettinazzi runs is charged about $6,800 per worker for health insurance – $2,000 more than the national average for single coverage. One reason: nearly every one of her 175 employees is a woman.

Insurers say women under the age of 55 cost more to cover because they use more health services, and not just for maternal and infant care. But Bettinazzi, the president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Association of Indiana County, believes there's something inherently wrong in charging her company more because it hires a lot of women.

"There's a great sense of unfairness," Bettinazzi says. "I feel angry, and maybe betrayed would be a good word."

Gender rating is the norm today, part of a complex formula of risk factors – including health history and age -- insurers say has been necessary to fairly price policies. But advocacy groups for women argue that charging more for women than men is discriminatory and should be illegal.

To read more, go here: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2009/October/23/gender-discrimination-health-insurance.aspx

From Kathy in Massachusetts
I appreciate the info you supply about health care reform on your blog.

From Larry in Iowa
What we clearly do not need is a massive piece of costly legislation that masks the symptoms or creates even more, but does nothing to cure the disease.  What we clearly cannot afford is to put off making these decisions another two or five or ten years or more.

From Joan in New Jersey
Good health is NOT a privilege, it is a human RIGHT.  

From Darlene in Arizona
The only weapons we have to fight the obscene funds trying to defeat meaningful reform are our voices. I urge everyone to repeatedly contact their representatives until a bill is passed.

From Karen in California
Affordable access to medical care for ALL persons to guarantee "life" is implied, in my opinion, by our founding fathers. It's past time for the partisan wrangling to be done so that some serious negotiating can begin for crafting legislation that can pass Congress. 

From Kathleen in Texas
I'd settle for creation of ...non-profit insurance coops giving small businesses the benefits of mass-purchasing--so that EVERY WORKER, from the guy who cuts the grass to the local accountant, can afford insurance and not get cut for pre-existing conditions. Big companies get these concessions from insurance companies because of mass purchasing, why not make it possible for the heart of the American work force?

From Kathleen in Texas
Having a response from the Senate Majority Leader's office is encouraging. No one should have to go without medical care because they can't afford it. 

From Cynthia in California
Recently we had a free clinic here, sponsored by Remote Area Medical, and an LA Times columnist described the scene as something from the Third World. I wish people who oppose reform would …become aware of how desperate so many people are.

From Alexandra in Massachusetts
I'm proud to live in a state that decided no one should go without medical care! 

From Jacqui in the UK
The health identity begins inside with an inherent feeling of self, and extends outwards in times of crisis. In the UK this extension is largely met by a NHS for everyone. I wish my friends in the US the same. .

From Sarah in Massachusetts
As the parent of a child with Down Syndrome and as a survivor of life-threatening illness, I can tell you that one of the most frustrating things about our current system is its inequity. An acquaintance and I, who were being treated for the same disease at the same time (and living in the same state), had very different medication options because her HMO was trying to save money instead of her life. She eventually wound up getting the same medication my docs had prescribed in the first place (which they described as the "standard of care" and which worked beautifully for me), but only after she'd gone to the emergency room to treat side-effects from the substandard protocol. I find this intolerable, and I attribute that kind of craziness to being in a profit-motivated health-care system.

From Deputy Director of New Media, Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
I also wanted to thank your loyal readers for keeping up with this critical topic of health care reform. We need everyone's support!

Why Pregnant Women Should Get the H1N1 Vaccine
By Amy Tuteur M.D.


view from the living room window
It's 41 degrees, cloudy and kind of damp today, but toasty inside and look at the view ...

Here's an op-ed written for The Washington Post and carried in many newspapers today.

Over 50, out of luck in health care 

WASHINGTON - I am a Republican who did not vote for President Obama, but I support his health-care initiative because I have just experienced first-hand our system's dysfunctional wrath - and it isn't pretty.

Recently, I left my job with the federal government - I was a political appointee, so my tenure was limited - and became an independent consultant. Although I have access to health insurance under the COBRA law, the premiums are extremely high and the coverage expires after 18 months. So I applied for individual (nongroup) coverage with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the carrier that covered me while I was a federal employee.

I am a healthy 51 year old. I am an avid cyclist and play in an over-50 hockey league. I don't smoke or drink. During my last physical, my doctor told me that my blood test, EKG and other screenings had been "perfect" and that I was one of his healthiest patients in my age group. Apparently, being healthy and physically fit is not good enough for CareFirst. To my surprise, the company denied my application.

I have borderline hypertension that is well controlled with a minimum dose of medication, and I have mild stiffness in my left shoulder and right hip, for which I take an occasional Advil. This combination of "preexisting conditions" - conditions that millions of Americans my age experience - was the basis for a complete denial of coverage. Not slightly higher premiums (which I would be happy to pay), not a short-term exclusion for the preexisting conditions, but a flat-out denial. However, CareFirst was kind enough, in its rejection letter, to send me an application for a guaranteed coverage policy for twice the premium, with astronomical deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and a $1,500 annual maximum coverage for prescriptions. In other words, even though I am healthy and can afford and am willing to pay high premiums, I can't get comprehensive individual medical and prescription coverage with this company at any price.

Read the entire op-ed at http://www.gazettenet.com/2009/10/23/over-50-out-luck-health-care

from today's New York Times:

October 23, 2009
Senate Leader Takes Risk Pushing Public Insurance Plan
By Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn

WASHINGTON— In pushing to include a government-run  health insurance plan in the health care bill, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is taking a calculated gamble that the 60 members of his caucus could support the plan if it included a way for states to opt out.

Mr. Reid met with President Obama at the White House Thursday to inform him of his inclination to add the public option to the bill, but did not specifically ask the president to endorse that approach, a Democratic aide said. Mr. Obama asked questions, but did not express a preference at the meeting, a White House official said.

Mr. Reid’s outlook was shaped, in part, by opinion polls showing public support for a government insurance plan, which would compete with private insurers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said again Thursday that the House would definitely include a public option in its version of the legislation.

Just six weeks ago the public option appeared to be dying, under fierce attack by the insurance industry. A clear majority of Democratic senators favor a government-run plan. But public statements by other senators indicate that the proposal lacks the 60 votes ordinarily needed to secure Senate approval for hotly contested legislation.

Democratic champions of the public plan, like Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, have urged Mr. Reid to take an aggressive posture, by putting the public plan in the bill and forcing opponents to try to strip it out.

“There is a growing sense that we need to lead on this issue and not wait for it to be offered on the Senate floor,” a senior Democratic aide said. “The idea is that it’s better to show some fight.”

As word of Mr. Reid’s intention spread Thursday, centrist senators from both parties said they had come together in an informal group to resist creation of a uniform nationwide public insurance program.

Leaders of the group, including Senators Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, said they wanted to be sure the bill was not rushed to the floor.

One of the centrists, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said: “I am pressing to get a government-run, taxpayer-supported public option out of the bill. I want to rely on a reformed private marketplace.”

Go to The New York Times for the rest of the story:

Hey, Twitterers, here's your chance to leave little messages for fellow readers, without the hassle of counting your characters.

On Chirps, our new page, you can leave short messages on ANY topic (at the discretion of the moderator).

I've started a few topics, but am happy to take suggestions and expand in any way you like.

If the big, heavy issues are getting you down and you just want to offer a word of support to someone, share a recipe you've just invented, tell a joke, pass along a helpful tip, or boast about a milestone in your life, go to Chirps and leave a comment. 

I'm working on ways to make it more flexible but until then, please use the Open Season post for anything that doesn't fit a category. 


Female passengers were banned from United Airlines’ “executive flights” from New York to Chicago, and in some states women were barred from jury duty lest time spent in the courtroom “encourage lax performance of their domestic duties.” “Hell, yes, we have a quota,” admitted a medical school dean. “We do keep women out, when we can.”

New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins has a new book out tracing how far women have come since the 1960s. In case you forget what life was like then, here's part of a review from the October 21 edition of the The New York Times:

Giant Steps for Womankind, but Still Miles to Go

One conclusion that could be drawn from the popular TV series “Mad Men” is that the early 1960s were a great time to be an American male. How the show’s strivers and schemers relish their rowdy bonhomie, as well as the gladiatorial power games conducted in the near-total absence of female contenders. And what a solace it is for these harried executives to return home to wives who exist solely to cook their dinners, raise their children and look stunning at parties. Meanwhile, viewers can enjoy the joke of understanding, as the characters do not, that this idyll of testosterone-fueled entitlement is about to end forever.

Gail Collins’s “When Everything Changed” points out what the women on “Mad Men” know: that period in our history was less enjoyable for the ladies. Ms. Collins, who edited the editorial page of The New York Times (the first woman to have held that position) from 2001 to 2007 and who now writes an Op-Ed column for the paper, begins her informative survey with a panoramic look at how women lived in 1960 — recent history, we might think, until we note how many practices then in fashion seem, by current standards, positively medieval. 

Female passengers were banned from United Airlines’ “executive flights” from New York to Chicago, and in some states women were barred from jury duty lest time spent in the courtroom “encourage lax performance of their domestic duties.” “Hell, yes, we have a quota,” admitted a medical school dean. “We do keep women out, when we can.”

The practice of paying women less for doing the same jobs as men was not only accepted but routine; a wife’s credit card was issued in her husband’s name; and women had trouble securing bank loans to buy a house or even a car. The National Press Club was off limits to women until 1971.

No one much questioned these regulations and customs — the dress codes requiring women to wear skirts instead of pants, the firing of airline stewardesses who gained too much weight — nor was there vocal opposition to the sort of prohibitions that we decry when they appear in dispatches from some benighted emirate or sheikdom.

To read the rest of this review, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/21/books/21change.html?_r=1&hpw