Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Friday

Hopefully my blogspurt from the last few days has sated all of your appetites... because we're heading up north for a whole week so we'll be back to radio silence until mid-July.  Unless of course you follow me on instagram, in which case you can expect copious amounts of photos of all the Americana, swimming, food and festivities of the coming week!

Here's some parting, feel good photos to help renew your faith in humanity; because, let's be honest, these days I think we're all feeling less and less sure in the decency of our fellow (wo)man.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

I can't take credit for the following summary of the President's healthcare bill which was upheld by the Supreme Court yesterday but this is just too good not to share!

What people call "Obamacare" is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

However, people were calling it "Obamacare" before everyone even hammered out what it would be. It's a term mostly used by people who don't like the PPACA, and it's become popularized in part because PPACA is a really long and awkward name, even when you turn it into an acronym like that.

Anyway, the PPACA made a bunch of new rules regarding health care, with the purpose of making health care more affordable for everyone. Opponents of the PPACA, on the other hand, feel that the rules it makes take away too many freedoms and force people (both individuals and businesses) to do things they shouldn't have to.

So what does it do? Well, here is everything, in the order of when it goes into effect (because some of it happens later than other parts of it):

Already in effect:
- It allows the Food and Drug Administration to approve more generic drugs (making for more competition in the market to drive down prices)
- It increases the rebates on drugs people get through Medicare (so drugs cost less)
- It establishes a non-profit group, that the government doesn't directly control, [1] PCORI, to study different kinds of treatments to see what works better and is the best use of money. ( [2] Citation: Page 665, sec. 1181 )
- It makes chain restaurants like McDonalds display how many calories are in all of their foods, so people can have an easier time making choices to eat healthy. ( [3] Citation: Page 499, sec. 4205 )
- It makes a "high-risk pool" for people with pre-existing conditions. Basically, this is a way to slowly ease into getting rid of "pre-existing conditions" altogether. For now, people who already have health issues that would be considered "pre-existing conditions" can still get insurance, but at different rates than people without them.
- It renews some old policies, and calls for the appointment of various positions.
- It creates a new 10% tax on indoor tanning booths. ( [4] Citation: Page 923, sec. 5000B )
- It says that health insurance companies can no longer tell customers that they won't get any more coverage because they have hit a "lifetime limit". Basically, if someone has paid for health insurance, that company can't tell that person that he's used that insurance too much throughout his life so they won't cover him any more. They can't do this for lifetime spending, and they're limited in how much they can do this for yearly spending. ( [5] Citation: Page 14, sec. 2711 )
- Kids can continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance until they're 26.
- No more "pre-existing conditions" for kids under the age of 19.
- Insurers have less ability to change the amount customers have to pay for their plans.
- People in a "Medicare Gap" get a rebate to make up for the extra money they would otherwise have to spend.
- Insurers can't just drop customers once they get sick. ( [6] Citation: Page 14, sec. 2712 )
- Insurers have to tell customers what they're spending money on. (Instead of just "administrative fee", they have to be more specific).
- Insurers need to have an appeals process for when they turn down a claim, so customers have some manner of recourse other than a lawsuit when they're turned down.
- New ways to stop fraud are created.
- Medicare extends to smaller hospitals.
- Medicare patients with chronic illnesses must be monitored more thoroughly.
- Reduces the costs for some companies that handle benefits for the elderly.
- A new website is made to give people insurance and health information.
- A credit program is made that will make it easier for business to invest in new ways to treat illness.
- A limit is placed on just how much of a percentage of the money an insurer makes can be profit, to make sure they're not price-gouging customers.
- A limit is placed on what type of insurance accounts can be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs without a prescription. Basically, your insurer isn't paying for the Aspirin you bought for that hangover.
- Employers need to list the benefits they provided to employees on their tax forms.

- Any health plans sold after this date must provide preventative care (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) without requiring any sort of co-pay or charge.

- If you make over $200,000 a year, your taxes go up a tiny bit (0.9%). Edit: To address those who take issue with the word "tiny", a change of 0.9% is relatively tiny. Any look at how taxes have fluctuated over the years will reveal that a change of less than one percent is miniscule, especially when we're talking about people in the top 5% of earners.

This is when a lot of the really big changes happen.
- No more "pre-existing conditions". At all. People will be charged the same regardless of their medical history.
- If you can afford insurance but do not get it, you will be charged a fee. This is the "mandate" that people are talking about. Basically, it's a trade-off for the "pre-existing conditions" bit, saying that since insurers now have to cover you regardless of what you have, you can't just wait to buy insurance until you get sick. Otherwise no one would buy insurance until they needed it.
- You can opt not to get insurance, but you'll have to pay the fee instead, unless of course you're not buying insurance because you just can't afford it.
- Insurers now can't do annual spending caps. Their customers can get as much health care in a given year as they need. ( [8] Citation: Page 14, sec. 2711 )
- Make it so more poor people can get Medicaid by making the low-income cut-off higher.
- Small businesses get some tax credits for two years.
- Businesses with over 50 employees must offer health insurance to full-time employees, or pay a penalty.
- Limits how high of an annual deductible insurers can charge customers.
- Cut some Medicare spending.
- Place a $2500 limit on tax-free spending on FSAs (accounts for medical spending). Basically, people using these accounts now have to pay taxes on any money over $2500 they put into them.
- Establish health insurance exchanges and rebates for the lower and middle-class, basically making it so they have an easier time getting affordable medical coverage.
- Congress and Congressional staff will only be offered the same insurance offered to people in the insurance exchanges, rather than Federal Insurance. Basically, we won't be footing their health care bills any more than any other American citizen.
- A new tax on pharmaceutical companies.
- A new tax on the purchase of medical devices.
- A new tax on insurance companies based on their market share. Basically, the more of the market they control, the more they'll get taxed.
- The amount you can deduct from your taxes for medical expenses increases.

- Doctors' pay will be determined by the quality of their care, not how many people they treat.

- If any state can come up with their own plan, one which gives citizens the same level of care at the same price as the PPACA, they can ask the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for permission to do their plan instead of the PPACA. So if they can get the same results without, say, the mandate, they can be allowed to do so. Vermont, for example, has expressed a desire to just go straight to single-payer (in simple terms, everyone is covered, and medical expenses are paid by taxpayers).

- All health care plans must now cover preventative care (not just the new ones).
- A new tax on "Cadillac" health care plans (more expensive plans for rich people who want fancier coverage).

- The elimination of the "Medicare gap"

Birthday Parties

With great power comes great responsibility... or, in Eva's case, with great popularity comes great birthday party invites!

Eva is at the point in her budding social life where she receives invitations from friends at school and not just kids of my friends.  This month alone she's had 3 birthday parties to attend.  They are always tons of fun for her and fun for me if the parents happen to be my friends because it's a wonderful excuse to see them as well :-)

Princess bounce house!

And another bounce house. They are a must have for bday parties these days!

Love the smirk :)

Oh and she even gets invited to baby showers as well. Here she is totally hamming it up at my childhood friend Ava's baby shower this past weekend (it got a little interesting watching two heads turn every time someone said their name lol)

Thursday, June 28, 2012


There was a lull in views there for a few weeks while we moved but we're back in the saddle with my blogspurt from today and have now passed 12,000 views- keep on checking in!

Wedding Photography

At the request of my coworker and friend, I took my first stab at wedding photography this past weekend!  It was actually a lot of fun and the setting and sunlight were damn near perfect.  I've got a long way to go before I'd ever charge a non-friend but I'm working on it.

Here are my favorite shots- as always, click on any photo to view them in full screen mode :)


Uber International

So my post from a few weeks ago about the blog going international was actually less impressive than I should have reported.  I was only looking at that week's stats when it said that people from two other countries had viewed the blog.  Turns out people from nine other countries have visited and they have done so more than once.  My previous comment still stands, if you are here just to browse- awesome- but if you try to steal any of my superly duperly amazingly awesome content I'll pull a Liam Neeson from the Taken movie on you.

Here's the countries with total views for the life of the blog- pretty cool, huh?
United States- 10,944
Germany- 783
Canada- 36
Thailand- 27
Dominican Republic- 19
South Africa- 14
Russia- 12
Hungary- 10
France- 8
United Kingdom- 6

And here's the map... I feel such solidarity with you all, in fact, if any of you foreigners have the desire to join the blog as an official blogspot follower I promise to research your country of origin and do a really cool post about it ;-)

I Made a New Word... trademark pending ;-)


[verb]: the act of not uploading a new blog post for days, weeks or even months and then rapidly adding multiple new posts within a single day.

blogspurted / blogspurting

[noun]: blogspurter - one who does not blog for long stretches of time and then rapidly adds new posts, thereby inundating their followers with too much to read and causing great annoyance.

Examples of blogspurt

Man, I totally blogspurted today.

When are you going to blogspurt Rebeccah?

Get off my back, I'll blogspurt when I have the time! 

Firecracker Baby

It'll be 5 years this September since my cousin Karli died in a car accident.  She was born on the 4th of July and it was quite telling of the life she'd go on to lead.  Like a firecracker, Karli came into the world with a bang, illuminating everything and everyone around her... she burned so brightly and lived so vibrantly that you could barely keep up... and then just, like a firecracker, her light was gone... leaving you with that burned image in your eyes from having watched something so spectacular.  You close your eyes and try to hold on to the image just a little bit longer, not wanting the beauty that had once been to fade.  It breaks your heart to open your eyes back up, knowing the firecracker's light can never be lit again.

But it doesn't need to be lit again because, just like a firecracker, the point of life is not to burn the longest- it's to burn the brightest. To make the most of the time, however short or long, you are on this earth.  So whether you're here for 2 months, 22 years or 102 years, the greatest memories we have are of those firecrackers in our lives.  The breathtaking ones who always make people happy, who laugh and cry in equal parts, who make people want to be around them and who, when their stunning light does go out, leave so many tears from their family and friends that you could fill the ocean.

The best part of the 4th of July is not the food or the American flags or even the day off from work- the best part is the thrill of the fireworks.  They are always the best part, making every one ohh and ahh.  And that was Karli, making everyone she met ohh and ahh at her joy and sparkle.

I love and miss you Karli, but every time I see a burst of light in the night sky I remember you and your smile... and I know I'll see you again.

North Side

I grew up in north Minneapolis and I loved it.  It was a thriving, diverse, close knit community where you had the phone numbers to every family on your block and could go out from 8:00am to 8:00pm in the summer without a worry in the world except making sure you had enough money to get into Webber pool.

It's not the same anymore.  Six months ago 3 year old Terrell Mayes was killed when a stray bullet went into his house.  And on Tuesday, 5 year old Nizzel George was killed by a bullet while he slept on the couch in his living room just 3 blocks away from the house I grew up in.  These were not 18 year old gang bangers or even 13 year old kids out causing trouble.  They were babies, in what should have been the safety of their own homes, shot dead.  My heart breaks for the families of these boys.  For the moms who have to let go of the little body of their child for the last time, knowing they will never hug them again, or kiss them goodnight, or smell their hair after a bath... and my heart also breaks for the community that has died.  How can you connect with your neighbors when you don't even feel safe at home? How do you take a proactive, positive role in your community when you are afraid to live there?  How do you stop the mass exodus of good families when crime is so high that people cannot afford to live there anymore?  My mom finally moved out of our old house when I was away at college because she was broken into multiple times over a 3 week period and had everything of value, that could be easily lifted, stolen- in broad daylight! Not a single neighbor said they saw anything.  That wouldn't have happened in the neighborhood of my youth.  Someone couldn't drive down our block too fast without someone seeing and yelling at them to slow down.  As my childhood friend said about the recent shooting, "Can you believe what our old neighborhood has turned into? We use to be able to run free as a bird and let the neighborhood raise us, now babies cannot even sleep on their grandmothers couch... I am hurt!"

I believe with all my heart that growing up where I did was pivotal in who I am today.  With best friends all within a few blocks that we're Hmong, Native American, African American, Latino and white, I feel that I grew up learning the value of a person as a person.  I also learned how different families operate and things like you don't say no to roasted duck at a Hmong home, even if it 110% grosses you out. Or you do not sass back to a black mom or she will spank you, even if you're not her child. Or that Dia de los Muertos is not just something you learn about in 3rd grade social studies class; it is, in fact, a big deal in Hispanic homes.  All of these interactions and more formed my weltanschauung and I'm eternally grateful for it.  Yet eternally sad, as I know I won't be able to give Eva the same experience.  Gone are the diverse, safe neighborhoods where a normal family can afford to live and raise a family.  The city is overrun with crime and the suburbs are overrun with monocultural, sterile interactions.

So which do I choose? Do I risk my child's safety in the hope she'll grow up as eclectically as I did?  Do I chance her being shot by a stray bullet so that she too learns how to act in a Hmong or Sioux home?  Do I move back into my old neighborhood and pray she doesn't end up a statistic on the Minneapolis Police Department spreadsheet? It's just not a risk I'm willing to take.  So I do what so many others have done; I leave for the safety of the suburbs.  I move away from any semblance of diversity, not out of desire, but out of fear.  And it breaks my heart.  I know the northside will only be saved when families like mine move back in and take a stand and say we won't hide in our homes.  That we will be active and vigilant and if you commit a crime, someone will see you and will call the police and you will be caught.  I know what needs to happen, I'm just too afraid to be the one of the families who does it.  Shame on me and my cowardly heart, but the thought of losing Eva is too much to bear.

All the Colors of the Earth

All the Colors of the Earth
By Sheila Hamanaka

Children come in all the colors of the earth –
The roaring browns of bears and soaring eagles,
The whispering golds of late summer grasses,
And crackling russets of fallen leaves,
The tinkling pinks of tiny seashells by the rumbling sea.

Children come with hair like bouncy lambs,
Or hair that flows like water,
Or hair that curls like sleeping cats in snoozy cat colors.
Children come in all the colors of love,
In endless shades of you and me.

For love comes in cinnamon, walnut, and wheat,
Love is amber and ivory and ginger and sweet
Like caramel, and chocolate, and the honey of bees.

Dark as leopard spots, light as sand,
Children buzz with laughter that kisses our land,
With sunlight like butterflies happy and free,
Children come in all the colors of the earth and sky and sea.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Current Reading

Okay my last post about books for myself, I promise.  Here's the list I'm currently reading, little bit o' vampires, magic and economics to keep it eclectic:

Wah Wah...

As a follow up to my favorite book review post, I figured I'd fill everyone in on books I did not love.  The list isn't very long since I'm huge on reading reviews of books before I get them but some slips through the cracks nonetheless.  Also, some of these books are fine books, classics even, but they just didn't keep me engaged enough to spend my reading hours on them.