There's a meme running through TikTok of people recording their face before and after watching a short animated film on Netflix called If anything happens I love you. It's parents dealing with the aftermath of their daughter dying in a school shooting.
The "before" shots are mostly TikTokers with a normal look on their face... or whatever passes for "normal" now-a-days. The "after" shots are always people in emotional distress... crying and looking helpless. Some people even recorded an occasional reaction during the movie. Bawling their head off halfway through and whatnot. Suffice to say, there's a lot of crying going on in TikTokLand.
And while I thought it's a lovely little feature with excellent animation and really nice music... I felt... nothing.
Well, maybe I felt anger. It's tough not to be angry when there are people so damaged that they would shoot up a school, and we have a society content to let it keep happening. Mental health problems are stigmatized and mortally underfunded in this country, and that just fuels our horrific, upsetting, terrifying, and profoundly sad violence-laden world. Unfortunately, this is exactly what our "normal" is now.
Well... then-now. Not now-now due to school closures during the pandemic. Probably future-now though, because we never learn a damn thing.
And it's because of it that I feel mostly nothing when I see the raging debate over guns reignite once again.
I've gone over my feelings on this subject many times before on this blog. Banning guns is a painfully short stop-gap measure which will ultimately fail. We are this close to being able to 3-D print an assault rifle in the comfort of our own homes. THIS. CLOSE. So unless people are going to be monitored 24-7 to make sure they aren't crafting weapons in their basement to use or sell, we have a serious problem on the horizon whether current weapons are factored in or not.
I don't pretend to know what the answer is, but it doesn't take an Apple Genius to see that diffusing the hate that's escalating every damn day is a good start. Whether that happens by getting our leaders and media to stop being such hate-mongering assholes... working mental health into our education curriculum... destigmatizing mental health problems... making it easier and free to get mental health assistance... providing better monitoring of those with a violent history... stopping creation of conditions which drive people to the kind of desperation which can result violent acts... or one of a hundred other things. Because if we don't start doing something Real Soon Now we're in some deep shit. Or rather we're in deeper shit than we already are.
But hey. We can't even get people to wear a damn mask so the moisture from their breath isn't spreading a potentially lethal virus. How the fuck are we going to get people to give a shit about the mental health of other people or, more importantly, themselves?
Good luck with that.
Because just like people who only believe that COVID exists when their lungs are failing, they're not going to give a shit or think it's a problem... until it happens to them.
For reasons I don't really want to get into, I had to get a COVID-19 test today. Given the abundance of precautions I've been taking to not contract the virus (and the fact that I have no symptoms), I would be shocked to find out that I've got it. If I do, that would suck mightily considering how I've locked myself away in quarantine for five months. But it's not like it's outside the realm of possibility given that I still have to go grocery shopping and the majority of people here in Redneckistan still think it's all some kind of overblown Democrat hoax or whatever. Never mind that hospitals are filling up and deaths are reaching all-time highs, it's all fake news!
Until it isn't, of course.
The area where I live has made the news lately because there were COVID-19 employee outbreaks at a warehouse and at the local Walmart (to name two). Apparently Independence Day Weekend was just too much temptation for Redneckistanians who want to show Governor Jay Inslee that he's not the boss of them. Never mind that the guy is just listening to scientists who study this crap in an effort to keep everybody safe... he's Hitler for mandating that people wear a mask!
What's interesting is that the spike in infections mean that our local healthcare conglomerate has had to take over an old bank in order to create a massive drive-thru testing service in order to keep up with demand.
The facility opened at 8am but I was warned that it's busy first thing in the morning, so I waited until 8:45. I pulled into the (former) bank parking lot where a cigar-chomping man on a scooter was unnecessarily directing me to a lane to queue in. There were about 8 cars ahead of me in both lanes (total) and the wait only took about 15 minutes. First you pull up to a guy verifying that your doctor requested a test, then you pull forward to wait for a technicians to walk up and give you a lobotomy.
Well, not really, but it feels like you're getting a lobotomy.
After you lean your head back, they shove a long Q-tip up your nose into the back of your sinus cavity...
(Original) image taken from WBEZ.org
Then they start twisting it for six seconds so they can get a sample of mucus from deep, deep, deep inside your nasal passage. And what seems like a sample of you brain tissue for good measure.
It burns a little bit, but not so much that I was ready to start screaming or anything. What bothers me is that I was still feeling it for hours after it was over. Like the Q-tip was left up my nose or something. It was a good five or six hours before I felt quasi-normal again.
I'm told that I should have results back in 3-5 days. The clinic will call me directly if I test positive or it's inconclusive (at which point you have to act as if it was positive). If I never hear from them, that means I was negative and my results will be posted to MyChart so I have a record of my being perfectly positively toward the negative. Or however the fuck our dumbass impeached president has convinced his cult you're supposed to say it...
The entire world has done everything they can to get a handle on the pandemic and halt the spread of this virus that's killing us. Well, almost the entire world. Here in the USA, we've got leadership that has been propagating misinformation and unleashing a steady streams of bullshit from day one. Which is why we're leading the known universe in coronavirus infections and deaths.
I hope to God that people remember this come November.
As I previously mentioned, the organization I work with keeps insisting that I have my measles vaccination verified. Given the way the disease has come roaring back, they don't want us volunteers ending up with it while we're out trying to do good. Since I very much don't want to get measles at this stage of my life, I'm all for it.
So I got my childhood health records together and asked my doctor if I needed to worry. He suggested a measles titer test which will check for antibodies in my blood. Cool.
Yesterday afternoon I dropped by the clinic to get a cost for the test in case my insurance won't cover it (I was told by the charity it may be as high as $60). After I make my request they have to run and get billing codes (5 minutes) then I have to take a seat while they figure out how to bill it out (10 minutes). They then hand me the quote and it's THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE FUCKING DOLLARS!
So I call my insurance and ask how much of that will be covered. They won't even speak to me unless I have a "diagnosis code" and an "NPI code." So while I'm waiting for my tires to be changed, I go online to see if there's a testing lab nearby that might be cheaper. Google presents an ad for a $12.95 test...
So when I message my doctor and ask for the two codes my insurance is wanting... I also ask if he thinks that a $13 online test would be accurate. He said "The online tests are accurate and if you can get that done for $13 I'd do that."
And so I did.
There's an $8 blood draw fee I have to pay... and there's no draw center near me. But there's one near the airport in Seattle for when I fly out next week, so no big deal...
And there you have it. The test is going to cost me $20.95, which means that the actual cost of the test is probably around $10 or less. Which means that my local clinic has a minimum $365.56 markup on it. And I believe this calculates out to a THREE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE PERCENT MARKUP!
And it's shit like this that makes my blood boil when it comes to the American "health care" system.
Our health... our very lives... are not in the hands of doctors any more. They're in the hands of insurance companies. Hospitals have to charge insanely high prices to cover the shitload of costs involved in getting their money out of insurance companies... and then add cost on top of that because they know that insurance companies are so powerful that they'll never agree to pay for the full amount it costs the hospital. If hospitals don't charge a shit-ton of money, they'll end up losing money.
Health insurance companies are massively, massively profitable. They are so profitable that they are able to spend billions buying off our politicians to keep our "health care" in the incredibly broken state it's in now... and has been in for a very long time.
So if you're saying to yourself... "Wow. Sounds like if we'd just eliminate health insurance companies and have hospitals bill patients directly for the actual fucking cost of what they do, we'd all be better off! And that's a fair assessment. Except if you end up with a health crisis that's so incredibly expensive that even fair direct pricing is more than you can afford. Hence insurance can be a good thing.
The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country — but not with better health outcomes.
And it's the fucking monsters at our insurance companies that took us there.
In the case of my measles antibodies test, I am grateful that I have options. Far, far, far more affordable options. But my next health-related expense likely won't have many options. Possibly even zero options. And, even though I have health insurance now, I could still end up bankrupted if the problem was serious enough. Because health insurance company profits must be protected at all costs, after all.
And what if I end up losing my health insurance one day? What then?
It's questions like this which have me advocating for a single-payer health care system. Despite the lies we're told, it works well for many other countries. Countries which have health care rated better than ours. And I am done buying the lies of politicians who would tell us otherwise when their asses are bought and paid for by insurance company lobbyists...
Our health care system IS shit. And getting worse. But we don't seem to want it fixed badly enough to do anything about it, so we get what we deserve.
And for some of us... that's a preventable death because we aren't profitable enough to live.
UPDATE: Oh here we go. This is from the UK side of the issue, but it has a scathing commentary on the lies which are being forced on Americans. Thanks to Jan for the video link...
The Trump Shutdown may be only temporarily suspended, but don't let that get you down... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Vax! =sigh= I was fully vaccinated as a kid, but it's been recommended that I get the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shot again because of a measles outbreak here in the Pacific Northwest. Since it's highly contagious, I never had it as a kid, I regularly climb into a confined metal tube with lots of people, and I only received one shot (not the series that's now recommended)... it's better safe than sorry I suppose. Fun! Thanks, anti-vax parents, for continuing to bring back diseases with gusto that we thought we had dealt with long ago. Polio, anyone?
• Just Die! And... apparently another idiot missionary is rolling the dice. If forced to choose between the death of a tribe of indigenous persons who are not equipped to handle the germs, disease, and overall bullshit that the outside world brings when it intrudes on their lands... or the death of some piece of shit missionary who KNOWS that it's illegal and KNOWS their actions can cause irreparable harm... I'm going to root for the asshole missionary to die. Hopefully in the most brutal way possible as an example to other assholes who might have similar ideas. Except that didn't seem to work the first time, because you just can't fix stupid. In the meanwhile, these Christian groups calling for the tribe to be arrested can go fuck themselves.
• Other Other! When I first heard that SNL alums Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider had a new series coming to Comedy Central, I was intrigued. Shows that fall out of Saturday Night Live talent are hit or miss, but the ones that hit are usually the most interesting and imaginative stuff to appear on television. And now The Other Two has arrived and it is about the funniest thing I've seen in a while...
Yes, that's Molly Shanon as the mom, and she's as good as you'd expect. And, yes, that's Wanda Sykes in there too (Lord, I wish they would find a starring vehicle for her that's worthy of her talent). It's a raunchy show to be sure, so it's not going to be for everybody... but, if you're intrigued, you can watch the first episode for free over at Comedy Central.
• London! I've wondered about London's airports for a long, long time. At last there are answers...
And... part two...
This guy's entire "Unfinished London" channel is gold.
• Out of Network! Regardless of where you land on the health care debate, this is essential reading. Now more than ever you have to be very careful about what care plan your doctor comes up with for you. It's critical that you know to question everything so as to avoid getting blindsided by outrageous medical costs.
• TransBan! The irony is not lost that President Trump (AKA Cadet Bone Spurs), who dodged the draft with a fake ailment, is in charge of deciding who gets to serve their country now (yes, it was fake... the daughter of the physician who signed off on his foot problem came forward). His desire to strongly curtail (or outright ban) transgender persons from serving was recently upheld by The Supreme Court. To those who understand that a strong military requires talents from all sorts of people, this makes no sense. So what is the president thinking? Not surprisingly, there's a series of tweets to explain it...
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
— President Donald Trump
Huh. Looks like our Commander in Chief doesn't know how the fuck our modern military works. But what does he understand? Let's hear what an actual fucking soldier has to say...
"When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter on that dusty field in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, male or female. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind."
— Senator Tammy Duckworth
Oh, and forgive me for completely discounting his fucking bullshit about the "medical costs" being a disruption to our military. It's not like he gives a shit about the millions of taxpayer dollars our military spends shuttling his fat ass to golf courses around the world.
Have a pleasant week, everybody!
I'm just going to come out and say it... health care in the United States of America is a festering pile of shit that is impossible to navigate and increasingly impossible to pay for. I'm sure this will come to a surprise to absolutely nobody, because we've all needed medical attention at some point in our lives... if not for us, for a loved one.... and then had to deal with the fallout.
Health care is a monolithic, byzantine maze of bullshit and corruption that's enough to make even the smartest person insane.
Take where I'm at, for example.
My health insurance deductible is huge. Thousands of dollars. I never get out of my annual deductible because I'm relatively healthy and, apparently, lucky. What this means is that I have to pay for absolutely everything medical-related out-of-pocket. But apparently I do get some kind of discount that's been negotiated between my insurance and my local clinic. What is this discount? Who the fuck knows. I've been trying to find out the cost of making a consultation appointment FOR TWO DAYS and have gotten nowhere.
This is how the system is designed.
The clinic doesn't want you to know the cost because you might not schedule an appointment if you knew. The insurance company doesn't want to commit to coverage for a future appointment, because they might need to increase their profits by reducing (or eliminating) their coverage before you see the doctor.
Which, if you live in an underserved region like I do, could take months to get an appointment.
What amuses me about this bullshit is that these are the bad things that people who don't want universal healthcare try and scare people with! It'll take forever to see a doctor? It takes fucking forever right now. We can't determine how much it will cost? We can't determine how much it fucking costs right now.
My issue isn't life-threatening. Well, I suppose it could end up there, but no... not really.
But what if it were life-threatening?
Well, the way it works in The United States of America is that you just have to sign on for treatment blindly and hope you don't have to declare bankruptcy so you can live.
And don't get me started about people who get sick and could be easily and cheaply treated in the beginning... but they can't afford it... so they wait and wait until they are near death and it's horrendously expensive to treat (if it's treatable at all) so taxpayers ends up paying for their bills because they end up losing everything. What fucking sense does that make? Give everybody healthcare so everybody is healthy and problems are fixed when they're cheap! As a taxpayer, I'd rather pay for what's cheap than what's horrendously expensive!
Maybe one day politicians will take a break from sucking lobbyist cock long enough to figure out how to make health care affordable for everybody.
Because the only people benefiting from the system we have now are insurance companies. And the politicians being paid off by insurance companies. Considering their health care is free and they don't give a fuck about anybody else, I don't expect them to stop sucking that lobbyist cock any time soon.
This is also how the system is designed.
An abundance of sunshine is headed your way... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Gnats! I don't live in the South. But this video made me LOL because most every year gnats show up for three or four days here and it's exactly this...
Another thing that came my way that got me to thinking is this story link, which is exactly the kind of thing you want to be thinking about since mid-term elections are seven months away.
• Four-Twenty Day! This is seriously funnier than most stand up specials I've seen...
• WHCD! This year they had another Daily Show corespondent host the White House Correspondence Dinner, Michelle Wolf. In my humble opinion, it was a less than stellar performance. Not because the things she said weren't truthful or relevant... I think she hit the right notes there... but because her humor wasn't landing. Skewering people is fine, that's what the dinner is for. But you have to make it sound more lighthearted than just being mean. I think back to Hasan Minhaj's brilliant commentary last year where he totally killed it without going vile, and feel that's a better take on how to do it...
Of course, everybody pales when compared to the absolute master of the White House Correpondence Dinner... President Obama...
Too good to be true in so many ways.
• Good Medicine! Then again, no fancy dinner can compare to a solid dose of truth delivered in desperate times...
This is where we are. The current administration is doing nothing to fix anything.
• Faux Friends! As for the actually president of these United States of America? Still unhinged, completely detached from reality, and bat-shit insane...
I have no idea... none... how anybody supports this deranged shit show.
• New Twins! It's no secret that one of my favorite bands of all time is the Thompson Twins. Which is why it's no surprise that I was thrilled when the group's front-man, Tom Bailey, started touring again. And now? New music!
If you want to support his efforts (which will hopefully be more like a new Thompson's Twins album than anything radically different), you can head over to his page on Pledge Music.
Until next week, just keep swimming...
Just got the bill for my first eye surgery.
Thank heavens my insurance deductible is so huge... I was worried I wouldn't find anything to do with these piles of cash I've got laying around.
And to think I was actually considering building my savings account back up! How silly of me!
So... I worked straight through all day and have been completely out of touch with the world. Anything happen while I was gone?
Well, other than Olive Garden's 2 for $25 Italian Dinner Special... WITH UNLIMITED SALAD AND BREADSTICKS!
I just wish they didn't mandate that you have to pay for the dinner in order to get the unlimited salad and breadsticks. Why should I be forced to pay for something I don't want just to be able to get unlimited free access to something I do? I mean, it's nice they made it cheaper and easier to get, but who knows when I'm going to eat that breadstick... I may end up never eating it! And that means I was forced to pay for dinner for nothing!
Sure, I still get all the benefits of dinner that will get me all the salad and breadsticks I need if I ever end up needing some... and, yeah, it wouldn't be fair to just wander into Olive Garden and demand unlimited salad and breadsticks when I didn't pay for any dinner... and, certainly, it's the money that's coming in from the dinners that allows Olive Garden to provide the unlimited salad and breadsticks in the first place... but forcing people to buy something is totally un-American! It's like a socialist plot invented by... oh, dunno... the Italians or something!
I should be able to refuse to buy dinner and instead fucking starve to death because I can't afford to pay the $200,000 for a salad and breadstick emergency... which is how much something like that costs when you didn't purchase the dinner plan. I mean, it's my right as an American to gamble my life away! That's why we're the best country on earth and leaders of the free world!
And it's also my right to decide I don't want to die... and to change my mind at the last minute if an unexpected salad and breadsticks emergency happens... and to then shame this country for killing its citizens just because they made the mistake of not getting dinner when they had the chance. Would Jesus allow a man to die just because he had no dinner and couldn't afford emergency salad and breadsticks? I think not!
I dunno. I just don't get it. What's next... is Olive Garden going to force me to buy Justin Bieber albums? Or force me to do some other random thing that sounds crazy but has absolutely no bearing what-so-ever on Americans' access to unlimited salad and breadsticks?
Bad enough that I am forced to buy dinner... but the fact that some of my dinner money is going to provide salad and breadsticks for the poor is what really pisses me off. Because they're poor. They should just be allowed to starve to death because feeding the poor is socialist. I'm pretty sure that's in The Bible.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat AT TACO BELL. Where real Americans eat American food like American Nacho Burrito Supremes... just like our American Founding Fathers did.
U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Thanks to everybody for their kind comments and support of Thrice Fiction. It was a lot of fun (and a lot of work!), so it's nice to see people enjoying it.
When it comes to my "literary" contributions, I wrote two stories.
One, called "Too Many Days" was written after everything else had been completed, as I wanted something to tie-in with the cover I had made. I've always been fascinated by the rise of the Roman Republic and the days before the Roman Empire, so it was a good opportunity to play around in that arena.
The second, called "The Exit Interview" was written just four days after RW and I had decided on a theme for the debut issue of Thrice. The first draft was very different than what eventually got used. Originally, it was about a genetic scientist who planned to come up with a toxin which would rid the world of anybody carrying any genetic traits she considered "undesirable." I worked very hard to make the lead character a woman which people would absolutely loathe. She was vile, evil, racist, bigoted trash. She discriminated against absolutely anybody which didn't fit the mold of what she considered to be an "acceptable" human. The twist at the end would be when some aliens came to earth and found her genetic makeup didn't live up to their standards.
Eventually, I decided I wanted a more complex story, and the whole "genetic master race" plot was streamlined to a simpler world domination plot. That way, I was able to add more elements and play with the idea of telling the story in reverse-order. I still left in hints of how the geneticist character was originally written... she seems to have an obsession with genetic defects, for example... but the more obvious "she is evil" elements were removed.
The idea for the story came while watching some health debate on television. In it, there was a woman who remarked that she was tired of her tax dollars going to pay for other people's health problems. To some extent, I agree. If somebody does something stupid and breaks their leg, why should my tax dollars have to pay for their dumbassery? But this woman wasn't talking about that. She was saying she "didn't want to pay for other people's sick kids because she was paying for her own kids."
Which is all fine and dandy when the extent of your kid's sickness is the flu or something.
But what about kids that have devastating health problems that your average family can never pay for... even if they have insurance? Should these kids be tossed aside to live miserable lives of pain and suffering for something that's not their fault? Or should society say "We're better than that!" and try to lend a hand and give them the best life they can have?
I would hope that everybody would vote for the latter, but I honestly don't know. Some people simply lack compassion (which, ironically, I consider to be the ultimate genetic defect).
The woman who "didn't want to pay for other people's sick kids" has apparently been blessed with (relatively) healthy children. But what if one of her kids had cancer? Or muscular dystrophy? Or cystic fibrosis? Or any number of other tragic diseases? I'd think that if her children had catastrophic health problems which she couldn't pay to care for, she might be singing a different tune.
For my story, I took this woman's argument to the extreme and concluded that, if she had her way, all these "sick kids" would be wiped from the face of the earth. She only wants there to be "perfect" healthy kids like hers so she doesn't have to pay extra taxes.
Sometimes reality is so much scarier than any fictional villain.
In a perfect world, charities and foundations, not taxes, would provide all the money needed to help people when they're struggling with overwhelming health problems. But we live in a far from perfect world, so sometimes society has to step up and say "We're better than that!" and pick up the slack.
Because the next "sick kid" may just be your own.