Mar 142018

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my imaginary rivalry with Stephen Hawking. We never did get that opportunity to face each other in a cage match aboard the International Space Station (even though my victory was always a foregone conclusion). But I digress. I was truly sorry to learn of his passing yesterday. Not only did he make scientific contributions that will be remembered for decades, but he demonstrated to the world that it’s possible to live a rich, full life with a significant disability. Not all of us will get to be world-class physicists or appear on an episode of Star Trek, but perhaps some kid with a disability will learn about Hawking and realize that her dreams of being a writer or programmer or whatever aren’t so far-fetched after all. Even better, perhaps future kids with disabilities will wonder why their grandparents made such a big deal over Hawking’s wheelchair and speech synthesizer when his mind and sense of humor were his most defining characteristics.

Godspeed, Professor. Eternity beckons.

Feb 252018

So, how were the past eleven months for you? I don’t have any good excuses for my hiatus from this blog other than laziness and inertia. In this age of Youtubers and Instagrammers, I wasn’t sure that my scattershot approach to old-fashioned blogging had much appeal (not that my blog was attracting droves even in the mid-Aughts heyday of the format). But I’ve realized that writing helps me clarify my own thoughts on a topic. And blogging forces me to be more articulate than just tweeting “WTF?” or a string of angry emoji. So I’ll do my best to post here on a semi-regular basis about things that I find fun, interesting, or infuriating.

I’ve spent much of the last year reading more books. It’s been a good distraction from the unceasing craziness of the Trump era and nagging worries about whether Medicaid would be cut. I became more active on Goodreads and barely managed to meet my annual reading challenge of 25 books. I’ll post my latest review after this entry, but the TL,DR is that Lev Grossman is a terrific writer and his Magicians trilogy is worth your time. What’s everyone else reading?

I’ll leave you for now with one of my favorite cartoons from the New Yorker on the subject of blogging. It was published in 2007, but I think it’s still apt:

[Description: A man is standing on a street corner and screaming into a megaphone as a startled businessman passes by. Beneath the cartoon is the caption ‘Blogger Without Borders.’ Below the caption are the following words from the shouting man: “You want my latest opinion about the President? How about my opinion of Japanese enzyme baths? Or breakfast wraps–you need to hear what I have to say about breakfast wraps!”]

Feb 182017

As expected, House Republicans announced on Thursday their plans to cap Medicaid as part of their broader effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid would be transformed from an entitlement program that covers anyone who is eligible to a fixed amount of funds. This fixed amount of funds would not be sufficient to keep pace with rising health care costs or increased need for Medicaid during economic downturns, forcing states to make some combination of cuts to eligibility, covered services, and payments to health care providers.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the plan is that it pits vulnerable people against each other in a scramble for pieces of a diminishing pie. Republicans portray this as an effort to save Medicaid for “the most vulnerable,” but that’s a lie. Everyone–kids, people with disabilities, the elderly, and poor adults–would suffer as a result of these radical changes to Medicaid. Minnesota alone would face budget deficits in the billions of dollars because of these cuts and the consequences would be felt by a wide swath of my fellow citizens. Republicans aren’t really interested in “saving” medicaid for us poor cripples. They view Medicaid as a huge redistribution of wealth that must be cut as deeply as possible for the sake of free-market principles and survival of the fittest. I’m sure that they would protest this characterization, but it goes to the heart of their ideology.

Of course, this policy fight is personal for me. Medicaid has provided me with the supports I need to live an independent and productive life. If the Republican plan becomes law, I could lose some or all of my nursing care. Minnesota could eliminate the buy-in program that allows me to purchase Medicaid coverage and earn an income, forcing me to quit my job as an attorney. It’s conceivable that I could even end living in an institution. These are scary prospects for me, but millions of other people will be facing even more calamitous prospects if they lose their Medicaid coverage. As I’ve noted before, those of us who depend on Medicaid for our survival can’t allow ourselves to be divided in this fight. If that happens, we will have already lost.

This is only the opening shot in the war on Medicaid. Formal legislation has yet to be introduced and it must go through a lengthy process before it becomes law. But in the meantime, we need to tell our stories to our representatives and senators. They need to understand how Medicaid has made our lives better and how funding cuts could make our lives worse. Those stories need to be told via phone calls to congressional offices and at town hall meetings with your representatives. If enough of us tell our stories, we may be the ones who actually save Medicaid.

Jul 262015

Is that a big number “50” I see on the distant horizon? That can’t be right. I’d better enjoy my early forties before I stop buying new music altogether and start watching an inordinate amount of CBS programming.

And no, I haven’t abandoned this blog, at least not yet. But I need to figure out how to make it interesting to me again. It’s become much too convenient for me to tweet out whatever snark is on my mind. Compared to that, writing complete and cogent paragraphs is hard. I’m on vacation this week, so perhaps inspiration will hit me while I’m playing my nth game of Hearthstone.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes.

Jun 092015

The AV Club is doing a pop culture retrospective of 1995, a year that has a special significance for me. It’s the year when I first began to feel like an adult. I graduated from college that spring and moved to Minneapolis a few months later. When I wasn’t trying to comprehend the basics of contract law and torts, I spent quite a bit of time navigating this newfangled thing called the Internet.

And now all of that is 20 years ago. Ugh. I’m going to put on some Oasis and order a sports car on eBay.

Feb 272015

Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has long been a touchstone and role model for me. In Spock, I saw an outsider like myself who still managed to earn friendship and respect despite his alien attributes. His accomplishments were rooted in his intelligence, but he was no robot. He abhorred cruelty and a strong undercurrent of compassion ran beneath his cool facade of logic. I will never be as smart or rational as Spock, but I could do my best to follow his example. I could be another outsider who manages to find a place in the world and achieves some degree of success. I could try to approach problems thoughtfully and remain calm when things go wrong. I could be serious without being humorless.

It might have taken me a lot longer to figure this out if I hadn’t met Mr. Spock via reruns on TV. And I’m so saddened that Nimoy, the man who breathed so much humanity into the alien, is now gone. But Spock endures and that gives me some comfort. As long as people strive to be a little more rational and a little more decent to each other, Spock endures.

Feb 062015

My new voicemail greeting is cooler than yours.

I gave money to LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter last summer and received a personalized voicemail greeting as a reward. This is likely going to confuse telemarketers and my parents, but I don’t care because OMG LEVAR BURTON FROM STAR TREK IS SAYING MY NAME!!!!!

Now, how much cash do I have to shell out for Gillian Anderson to have dinner with me?

Jan 282015

I’m spending a good portion of today exiled from my condo without my wheelchair. The reason: bedbugs! My cleaning guy found a few last week and an exterminator confirmed that I have an infestation. The treatment requires that my place be heated to a high temperature, including my wheelchair. So I’m camping out in my buiiding’s party room while I wait for the all-clear. Even worse, there’s no wi-fi here (I scheduled this post to go up today after writing it last night). I may be wasting away from boredom even as you read this.

My building has had previous bedbug infestations and I suspect that a few stragglers sought refuge in my unit. Unfortunately for them, amnesty will not be granted. This experience has also taught me that exterminators probably make a quite decent living.

Jul 232014

41. The number doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I’m happy to be here. Yesterday, a lovely young woman complemented me on my curly hair, so decrepitude hasn’t completely set in yet. Let’s hope I can keep it at bay for a while longer.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes. And now I must call my attorney to ensure he remains on call this evening.

Jul 162014

After much waiting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping, I drove home in my new Honda Odyssey earlier this week. Automotive technology has advanced considerably since 1999. My Caravan’s engine always made its presence known with a steady rumble, but I can barely hear the Odyssey’s engine. Everything is very sleek and digital and unobtrusive. It’s like commuting via the starship Enterprise. Even the modifications have a futuristic feel. With a single button on the key fob, the sliding door opens and the ramp deploys. The ramp is stowed within the van’s floor, so I no longer have to listen to it rattle beside me.

I’m on vacation next week. I believe I will spend it driving around the lakes and inviting random attractive women to join me.

Pictures will be forthcoming. Of the van, not the women. Unless they’re into that sort of thing.