The Mole: Finished!

March 23rd, 2010 Posted in The Mole | No Comments »

So there are a few things I need/want to do to get The Mole wrapped up. I need to sand the case, getting rid of the flaws in the surface. I need to prime it, paint it, apply decals and then clear coat it.

Since I have never done anything like this before (I made a couple model cars as a kid, but I’ll be honest, my paint jobs sucked), so I started checking the net for ideas on how to do this. I found a giant thread of completed DIY stompbox project pictures at http://www.diystompboxes.com, and in this thread, I found a post by a fellow that laid out his process.  I thought his results were nice, so I went with it.

1) Sand the enclosure starting with 150 grit. Continue sanding with finer and finer grit. Then sand with steelwool going from coarse to fine.

I cheated a bit here.  I sanded until the case was shiny, and skipped the steel wool. Basically once all the imperfections were worked out, it was good enough for me.

2) Wash box with water and dish soap.

Having worked in the paint department at a hardware store as a teenager, I knew that getting rid of the debris on the working surface was important, so I made sure to do this step.

3) A shot of primer (using Rustoleum). Let dry overnight.

This was a no-brainer. Some paints may have a tough time adhering to metal, so a metal primer makes total sense.

4) Apply spray paint (mostly have been using Rustoleum – have also tried automotive spraypaint from the automotive aisle which works good, but pricey and Testors model spraypaint). Spray once in the morning before work and once in the evening. Typically about 4 coats. Just until the box has good coverage, watching specifically for the edges.

I knew I wanted to use a silver paint with a metal fleck in it, and I knew I could find something that fit that role from Testors. I ended up getting a can of Testors “Diamond Dust” One-Coat Lacquer (1830M) from a local hobby shop.

Here’s where I should warn that I absolutely suck as spray painting shit.  Rather than sticking with thin coats, I second-guessed my approach and ended up overspraying a bit (the metal fleck looked uneven, which led to overspray). So after a few coats, the bottoms of the sides of the enclosure were thicker than I wanted as the paint pooled there.  I let it dry for a few days, sanded it down, and resprayed.  It’s still thicker than I’d like, but much better than it was prior to the sanding.

5) Once happy with paint, let dry for 3 days before applying clearcoat.

This is the hardest step, but it’s the most important.

6) Once I’m happy with the design in Photoshop and I know it will line up with the holes, print off waterslide decal (been using Testors clear decals). I usually do this during the 3 days I’m waiting for the box to fully dry.

This was nice, as it gave me something to do while I was waiting for the paint to dry. I couldn’t find the laserjet version of the Testors decal paper at the local hobby shop (only the inkjet version), but I found another place locally (a model train store) that carried laserjet decal paper under a different brand name (Experts-Choice).

The paper wasn’t cheap ($6.95 plus tax for three 8 1/2″x 11″ sheets), so I was definitely in “measure twice, cut once” mode.  I must have printed 10-20 test prints on regular paper to make sure everything was perfect, but I finally decided on a finished decal design for the enclosure.


(Click image for larger view)

7) Clearcoat decal paper with 3-4 coats.

I knew I was going to be able to skip this step.  The inkjet decal paper needs this clearcoat to ensure that the ink doesn’t run.  The laser decal paper doesn’t have the same issues, however I did read that you can clearcoat the laser paper, if you want, to give the decal a little more rigidity when applying it, but like I said, I skipped this.

8 ) Apply decal. Once dry, apply decal softener. Then once dry again, cut out holes and give it some more decal softener around the holes.

Since I had never done this before, and since I had printed out an entire sheet with copies of The Mole graphics to allow for errors (there was enough space for four copies of the decals), I decided to do a test run on one of the extra joiner plates.  I followed the instructions on the decal paper packaging to apply the decal, and to my surprise, it went on like butter.  The key is being gentle, as the decal it very delicate once you’ve got it in the water.

Without wasting time, I worked on getting the decals applied to the enclosure.  This wasn’t as easy.  The front face went on without a hitch, however the back panel (power, on/off, out) got wrinkled in on itself, and after working with it for a minute or two, failing to unfold it, I gave up and grabbed one of the extras that I printed.  In hindsight, those duplicates I printed were well worth it.  I was able to get the backplate on on my second try.

I let it dry and cut out the holes. I then brushed on the decal softener, and much like waiting for paint to dry, this was tough waiting for.  Once the softener goes on, you can’t touch the box, at all. If you do, you risk damaging the decal beyond repair, and would have to sand the case down and start back at the paint steps. I made sure to wait 24 hours before handling the box, and the waiting paid off, as the decal looked sharp!

9) Clearcoat box. Typically 6 coats. Wet sand (under a running tap) with 2000 grit automotive sandpaper after the first 3 coats. Nothing the final 3 coats.

I did at least 6 coats, maybe more, but I was fighting a dust problem.  I’d spray it (using Testors high-gloss clear coat), and while it was drying, a piece of dirt or dust would inevitably end up on the face of the box.  So I’d sand, and respray, over an over.  It finally got to a point where none of the flecks on the surface were noticeable enough for me to OCD over.  The clear coat process was the slowest taking at least a week, as the Testors high-gloss was agonizingly slow drying.

10) After it’s dry (typically leave it overnight), grab my “Mother’s Carwax” and wax and buff the box.

I skipped this.  In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have, but I guess you live and learn.

11) Grab a drink and enjoy!

This was the easiest step, and I certainly didn’t skip it.

Final notes:

I made a big mistake by switching out a part so close to finish.  While on a regular trip to Ax-Man, I found a momentary switch that was bigger and sturdier than the tiny one I had purchased from allelectronics.com. I bought it and instantly worked it into the project.  However, I neglected to move it over enough from the side of the enclosure, so in order to fasten it to the face, I had to spin the switch, leaving the bolt on the backside butted up against the side of the enclosure.  Luckily this worked out for me.  An additional error was made with regards to this switch, as I failed to move the label for the switch on the decal, so with the bigger hole, most of the “KILL” label is obscured. So, if you’re going to add something late in the game, make sure you measure EVERYTHING it will effect, or else you’ll end up kicking yourself.  I got lucky, and things worked out, but next time I might not be so lucky.

Additionally, I wish I would have let this dry for a lot longer before assembling.  If I use similar paint in the future, I’ll probably let it dry for a week or two before assembling.  Right now I’ve already put a couple dings in the paint since it was so soft/not completely cured.  Again, live and learn!

And here’s a video of The Mole in action:

Triggered Drum Light: Transfer to PCB and Initial Casing

March 20th, 2010 Posted in Triggered Drum Light | No Comments »

Much like The Mole, I wanted a detailed diagram of this drum light’s board layout before I started soldering (I still consider myself a newb, and a schematic alone wasn’t going to be enough for me.  So much like The Mole, I started laying things out in Visio.

My original intention was to use the other board that came in the package for The Mole (it came as two 1 3/4″x1 3/4″ boards with a perforation in the middle), but I couldn’t get everything to fit on the board without having some janky in-line components.  Being an impatient guy and not wanting to wait for an on-line PCB order to arrive, I ran up to Rat Shack and bought a slightly larger board measuring 1 7/8″x2 7/8″ (Part No. 276-150).  It had plenty of buses for me to run the project on, the only unfortunate thing is that I still only needed half of this board.  Luckily it’s still small enough to fit in a lot of smaller enclosures.


(Click Image for Larger View)

So I had a layout made, it was now time to get soldering.

I spent about 3 hours meticulously soldering part after part onto the PCB, stopping a few times to clean up solder messes I had made.  When it was done, I hooked up power, hooked up the trigger, switched the power on…

And there was nothing.

I started pouring over every solder point, making sure all components were soldered in nice and good and that my solder sloppiness didn’t create a short. Everything looked good.  Swapped out 1/4″ cable on the trigger.  Nothing. Checked the battery and there was plenty of juice.  Started looking at parts again, and had a “DUH” moment. I forgot to put the 555 IC into the socket I had soldered into the board.  Put the chip in, and what do you know, it worked!

Since I wanted at least a temporary housing for this, when I was at Rat Shack I also picked up a plastic enclosure.  I drilled up some holes and put it in the box.

Here’s another test of the Light, this time with a rundown of controls.

Next step will be getting this mounted to the drum.

Triggered Drum Light: Breadboarding and Testing.

March 12th, 2010 Posted in Triggered Drum Light | No Comments »

Once I had the parts, and once I could clear The Mole off the breadboard, I got started on prototyping the Triggered Drum Light.

Since the schematic was fairly simple I breezed through things, using jumper wires to hook up the LED, which was actually the trickiest part of the whole project, since the contact pads on the light were so irregular.

As you can see, things worked awesome (aside from me having The Mole on my mind and calling it a “Light Sensitive Drum Trigger”, granted that would be pretty cool too). This is using a small piezo element as a trigger (taped to the drum head), but I was able to plug in a Roland PD-6 drum pad and that worked just as well.  There are two potentiometers on this, one for sensitivity and one for pulse length.  The pulse length works great, but I was having a little difficulty with sensitivity, as anything less than “most sensitive” yielded sporadic results.  I left it in anyway, as I didn’t know how it would perform with the kick trigger, and it would be easier to take it out down the road rather than add it back in.

Next step is working on the board layout and getting this thing soldered to a PCB.

The Mole: Enclosure Prep

March 6th, 2010 Posted in The Mole | No Comments »

I placed my latest parts order, and promptly began working on the enclosure I purchased.  It’s a Hammond 1590B, which is about the same size as a traditional guitar stompbox.  I knew the board was small, so fitting that in would be easy, however, all of the jacks, sensors, switches and pots I was tossing into this made it a logistical nightmare.

I got to work in photoshop, lining up parts and seeing what would fit, how they would fit and if they would clear the edges sides and “screw holes” on the box. I would make one layout and then within an hour or two, I’d find a flaw in the placement of one of the components.

This went on for days. I eventually decided I would make a mock up, using some hardboard that I had laying around in the garage.  The only problem with that is the hardboard is much thicker than the aluminum enclosure, so I wasn’t able to fasten the parts onto the board.

I then figured I would just pick-up some joiner plates (typically used in house framing).  Even though they had holes in them for nails, they’re cheap enough where I could test several layout ideas, to both check if the parts all fit, and to see if they are laid out in a manner that made it easy to use the device.

I finally came to a conclusion on how I was going to lay things out, so I printed out a template on my printer, and used glue sticks (the kind kids or crafters might use) to adhere the template to the enclosure.


(Click image for larger view)

I then used a center punch to mark the centers of the holes so my drill bit wouldn’t wander. Using a step drill bit, I carefully began to drill the holes.  The first thing I noticed was how much softer the aluminum case was compared to the steel joiner plates. I ended up over-drilling one of the holes, but luckily that was a hole that was a little tight anyway, and the mounting bolts would cover the gap.

I just had to put the thing together and see how it looked/felt, and honestly, it was awesome.

Next step is finishing the enclosure.

Triggered Drum Light: Research and Purchasing

February 26th, 2010 Posted in Triggered Drum Light | No Comments »

Kenney and I have been kicking around the idea of setting up a light system in his kick drum for a while now, with the original idea being that we could mount an LED panel in the kick drum and run a DMX line off of Arkaos and control the light from there.  He’s using a drum trigger pedal, so the actual kick drum housing would be just for show.

Unfortunately, my calculations based on the throw distance and the angles on the available LED panels meant that this wasn’t going to be a doable project, as the light wouldn’t fill the entire face of the drum, nevermind the cost of the LED panel and a DMX controller.

I got the idea that I could maybe just use a single high-power LED or a series of lower powered LEDs in the drum, and along with a piezo trigger, run a lower-tech version of what we wanted, at a fraction of the price.

Rather than planning everything out on my own, I began scouring the net to see if someone else had already done this, and sure enough, I found a guy that had done this, and even had provided a schematic to a novice like myself (you need to create an account to view the schematic).

The hardest part to find was the 3W Luxeon III LED, but luckily I was able to pick it up from allelectronics.com for $5.  While I was at it I grabbed the rest of the parts I needed from either there or from Mouser.com.

Now I just need to wait for the parts to arrive.

The Mole: Soldering and More Planning

February 20th, 2010 Posted in The Mole | No Comments »

After finally getting The Mole running on the breadboard and getting the customizations that I wanted worked in to the project, I decided I needed to start mapping out how I was going to transfer this to a circuit board.  The original RS Optical Theremin suggested that the project would fit on a tiny 1 3/4″x1 3/4″ board available from Radio Shack (Part #276-159), but since they did not give a layout, I had to figure this out on my own.

Since I own Microsoft Office, and since I’ve used Visio a bunch for my day job, I decided to layout the board using Visio. It took me several hours to figure out the placement of components and jumper wires, but once I had something I could use as a guide for my first soldering project, I went at it.


(Click image for close up)

Since some of the parts I am using are panel mount, and need to mount the the front of the “panel”, I decided to leave some parts unsoldered, but solder in their lead wires, for attachment later.  Having the leads on there would allow me to test the unit before packaging it.

I ended up soldering the board in two sections, as I was getting fatigued, and didn’t want my soldering job to look like total horse shit (well at least no more shitty than I knew it was going to look like).  After completing the second half, I used some jumpers to run the leads to the unsoldered parts (the photo-transistors, the LED and Killswitch) and powered the unit on.  Lo and behold, it still worked!

Next step is preparing the enclosure…

The Mole: Planning and Breadboarding.

February 16th, 2010 Posted in The Mole | No Comments »

So, recently I’ve decided I wanted to start making my own little electronics projects.  I’ve got a few in mind, but the first one I wanted to do was the Optical Theremin.

I have wanted an optical theremin for quite some time (rough guess would be 5 years), but the prices on them aren’t cheap (the built kits I’ve seen go for around $100), so I figured I’d see if I could dig up schematics and make my own.

To my delight, I found the RS Optical Theremin.  It generates a square wave, and the tone will vary depending on the amount of light that the photo-transistors are receiving.  Most of the parts for this project will be available at Radio Shack.

I quickly breadboarded-up the schematic on the website, and thoroughly loved the sounds I was getting. However, I wasn’t planning on leaving it as is, so I made a few modifications.

First, I added a power LED and power switch. The LED was handy, so I could tell if the thing was on or not.

Second, I added a volume knob.

Third, I added a killswitch pushbutton, so I could do DJ-like tap-scratching.

Fourth, I added a 1/4″ jack so I could run this to an amp or my sound card.

Lastly, I added a combo 500k potentiometer and SPDT switch.  The switch activates the Killswitch, so I can either have the unit in “Tap” mode or in full-open mode (no cutting out). The 500k pot acts as a pitch ceiling.  I was really liking the super low pitch square waves I was getting with very little light, so I wanted to be able to control the range on the output pitch.  I hooked up a 1Meg Ohm pot and found out the 500k was the sweet zone to get the lowest of the low square waves.

Here’s a schematic I drew up, including the parts I’ve added (click image for closer view).

Next step will be transferring this to a circuit board.

New content and new purpose

February 5th, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

So it’s been over a year since I last posted here, and lately I’ve been wondering what I should do with this space.  I think I’ve finally come up with a solution.

I’ve been posting my projects (electronics, computing, music, etc.) to Facebook, but that would only be accessible to my friends, family and colleagues, and I figure that some of the things I’ve learned might be of assistance to the rest of the world.

So stay tuned, in the next few days/weeks/months I should be getting a bunch of content on here, making this a repository for my nerd endeavors.

Fixing Copyright: My Proposal

January 15th, 2009 Posted in Rants | No Comments »

I am an artist.  I make music, take photographs, design webpages and pretty much just loving creating stuff.  I appreciate that the United States has such a generous copyright law, one that protects artists for a very long time.  However, as a person that enjoys “collage art”* and produces art sometimes culled from other works of art, I realize that the current state of copyright law protects not the artists (in most cases) but the corporate entities that now “own” the original copyright.

* By “collage art”, I don’t necessarily mean pictures cut out of a magazine and glued to a posterboard.  I would say collage art is new art created out of old art, including, but not exclusively, the above example, hip-hop records that sample old R&B & Funk tunes, sculptures made from old doll parts, etc.

Current U.S Copyright law give basically two lengths: Author’s life plus 70 years, or on works for hire and anonymous works, 95 years from publication or 120 from creation, whichever is less.  This is beyond insane, and does not just protect the author’s rights, but the rights of the author’s heirs, and the author’s heirs’ heirs.  It keeps corporately owned works under corporate control for a century.  This is allows entities to profit on material that was created long, long ago, and promotes the hoarding of intellectual property.

So how can we fix this?  Here are my suggestions.

1. Set the base copyright length to 20 years.  This is just a base, and can be altered, as I’ll further explain.

2. Author owned copyrights can be extended after the 20 year period, indefinitely, as long as the author is alive.  Extensions would come in 5 year increments and would require a non-insignificant fee (say $1500 for a five year renewal, which works out to a little less than a dollar a day).  Basically, if the work is still profitable after 20 years, it should be able to cover the cost of the fee.  If it’s not profitable enough to cover the fee, there is no loss to the original artist when it enters the public domain.  This way, the Rolling Stones can still earn money off of “Brown Sugar”, while Gertrude Behanna’s “God Isn’t Dead” would lapse into public domain.

3. Corporate control of copyrights cannot be renewed, and cannot exceed 20 years (which is closer to how patents are observed).

4. If an author dies within the 20 year period, the author’s heirs would assume control of the copyright for the remainder of the 20 years, but would not receive extension privledges.

5. If a public domain work is used, for profit, within 40 years of creation, the original author, if still alive, is entitled to a portion of the PROFIT from the sales of the derivative work.  There are few ways that this can be regulated, either by a flat usage fee (which would seem to be the easiest way) or a more complicated percentage basis.  The fee should not exceed 25% of the profit gained.*  After 40 years, the work would be royalty free (if in the public domain).

* #5 is a loose idea, and I don’t like the thought of using a percentage system, as it encourages people to lie about the profits gained from the material.  A nominal fee for usage in commercial works seems like an easy to implement system, and the fees could be tiered based on how much of the original work is used (aka a small loop of the bassline from the intro of “Under Pressure” would be less than selling the entire film “E.T.”, uncut).

As with any proposed revamping of the copyright system, there are going to be winners, and there are going to be losers.  In my opinion, more importantly, there would also be “nothing lost, nothing gained” folks. So who wins, who loses and who’s even stevens?

Winners:
-Derivative works producers (DJs, VJs, Hip-hop artists, found object artists)
-The public (increased public domain works means more media for people to discover.  Some have labeled this as an increase in “culture”)
-Artists of no longer profitable material (as this would create an easier way for them to receive royalties in the case of a derivative artist using their created works)
-Companies producing out-of-print back catalogs and creating new compilations (there would probably still be value in making these works available to people, even though the works themselves are in the public domain, much like the $1 copies of Nosferatu that you can find at Walmart and dollar stores)

Losers:
-Corporate entities with control of large older catalogs
-Heirs and heirs’ heirs of artists

Even Stevens:
-Profitable (living) artists (Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner)

Basically, the only parties that lose under a new system like this are people that had no hand in creating the original works, and in my opinion, they shouldn’t be protected by copyright laws anyway.

Why Universal Health Care will not destroy our nation.

November 24th, 2008 Posted in Rants | No Comments »

This previous election cycle was filled with a plethora of topics, most of which are divisive issues that will not likely be “settled” in the realm of politics (Gun rights, Religious freedom/protection, Gay rights, etc.).  These divisive issues however, tend to be what our politicos want to argue about, regardless of the reality that they may not be solved any time soon.

However, there was one subject that was brought up, mainly by the left and particularly during the primaries, that I feel there should be no real debate on: Health Care, particularly, Universal Health Care.

It is my belief that the goals of an advanced society is to ensure that it’s people are fed, have access to affordable housing, have access to safe jobs and that it’s people are able to go to the doctor when they are ill.

So what are the arguments against Universal Health Care? (From http://www.balancedpolitics.org/universal_health_care.htm)

  1. There isn’t a single government agency or division that runs efficiently; do we really want an organization that developed the U.S. Tax Code handling something as complex as health care?
  2. “Free” health care isn’t really free since we must pay for it with taxes; expenses for health care would have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, etc.
  3. Profit motives, competition, and individual ingenuity have always led to greater cost control and effectiveness.
  4. Government-controlled health care would lead to a decrease in patient flexibility.
  5. Patients aren’t likely to curb their drug costs and doctor visits if health care is free; thus, total costs will be several times what they are now.
  6. Just because Americans are uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive health care; nonprofits and government-run hospitals provide services to those who don’t have insurance, and it is illegal to refuse emergency medical service because of a lack of insurance.
  7. Government-mandated procedures will likely reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care.
  8. Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc.
  9. A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost insurance industry jobs, business closures, and new patient record creation.
  10. Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay may dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession.
  11. Malpractice lawsuit costs, which are already sky-high, could further explode since universal care may expose the government to legal liability, and the possibility to sue someone with deep pockets usually invites more lawsuits.
  12. Government is more likely to pass additional restrictions or increase taxes on smoking, fast food, etc., leading to a further loss of personal freedoms.
  13. Like social security, any government benefit eventually is taken as a “right” by the public, meaning that it’s politically near impossible to remove or curtail it later on when costs get out of control.

Let me tackle these, one at a time.

There isn’t a single government agency or division that runs efficiently; do we really want an organization that developed the U.S. Tax Code handling something as complex as health care?

By this logic, we should completely disband the Government (Federal/State/Municipal) and move to a system without overhead (aka Anarchy), since there isn’t a single agency that runs efficiently.

This is just ridiculous.  For this nation to survive, there needs to be infrastructure: Roads, Police, Sewage, Fire, etc. One can make the argument that a line needs to be drawn somewhere, but to assume that a new government body will not be efficient because all government bodies are inefficient is just incorrect.  If you compare the public sector to the private sector, how much more efficient is the private sector?  I would argue that the private sector is just an (in)efficient as the public sector, it’s just that the private sector isn’t subject to the same transparency that most of the public sector is subject to.

“Free” health care isn’t really free since we must pay for it with taxes; expenses for health care would have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, etc.

This is at least partly true.  We would have to pay for UHC with taxes, which would mean higher taxes for everyone.  However, this would also mean no insurance premiums for anyone, and for most of America this would equate to almost no change with regards to how much we are paying (on a percentage basis) for healthcare.  It would also mean that the large out of pocket limits that current HMOs use would be a thing of the past, and when there is urgent and/or expensive care needed, the people will be able to get it and not be worried about how they are going to pay for it.

Profit motives, competition, and individual ingenuity have always led to greater cost control and effectiveness.

This again is partly true, but it ignores several things. First off, the other side of profit motives is greed.  As an example from 2002 to 2003 there was a 52% jump in profit for HMOs according to a Weiss Ratings study.  Even if you knock that down to say, I don’t know, 25%, does anyone seriously believe that with a 25% profit jump there would be a 25% jump in quality of care?  Usually profits are inversely proportional to the quality of care and breadth of services offered. 

I also find the statement that UHC would hinder individual ingenuity laughable.  How have Kaiser Permanente, Aetna, United Healthgroup et al advanced and improved healthcare?  They are obfuscating groups.  They are nothing more than the Tom Smykowskis of the world (“I’VE GOT PEOPLE SKILLS!!!”).

Government-controlled health care would lead to a decrease in patient flexibility.

Because the current HMO-ran system is completely flexible?  With my current HMO, I’m still given a list of people I can go to.  If I go to someone else, that’s my own damn problem.  What kind of flexibility would UHC negate?  If anything, those with smaller HMOs would see a huge increase in flexibility under a universal system.  They could find and use providers out of their local area (say if they fell ill while visiting family in another part of the country). 

Patients aren’t likely to curb their drug costs and doctor visits if health care is free; thus, total costs will be several times what they are now.

And this would be a bad thing?  OH NOES! SICK PEOPLES ARE GETTING THE MEDICINE THEY NEED!  I don’t really consider myself a Christian, but I was raised with Judeo-Christian morals, and I’m pretty sure the scriptures, from both the old and new testament are pretty explicit that when we have the ability to help the sick, we should do so, and to fail to do so, would be immoral, and I agree with that.

Just because Americans are uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive health care; nonprofits and government-run hospitals provide services to those who don’t have insurance, and it is illegal to refuse emergency medical service because of a lack of insurance.

This is true, but it doesn’t mean you will escape a potentially crippling bill from said institution.  Unfortunately, health care isn’t only about the service you receive from doctors and nurses, but how much you have to pay to get said service, and in the case of free-clinics, how long you may have to potentially wait for life-saving service.  Free clinics aren’t funded to the same levels as non-free-clinics, and thus, you pay a price by having to wait for care.

Government-mandated procedures will likely reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care.

Like the poor care they receive in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany…. Well the entire civilized western world?  Is our current system really the best care in the world?  Do we have the longest life-expectancy in America?  No, we are 46th, and on average have a life expectancy 3 years shorter than our neighbors to the north.  Do we have the lowest infant-mortality rate in America? No, last among western nations.  For the most part, the only direction is up.

Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc.

Again, this is true, but us healthy folks will also be paying for accidents that healthy folks have, emergency procedures that normally healthy people have (appendicitis, tonsillitis, etc), and most of those fat smokers will be working and paying taxes as well.  To me this is another lower-my-taxes argument that doesn’t hold up really well.  As a tax paying citizen, there will often be many services that one does not use throughout their lifetime.  Heck, we all pay for public schools, but as tax payers, we aren’t currently attending public school, so why should we have to pay for that?  You know why:  Because the smarter our society is, the better off we are as a whole.  You know what uneducated folks do?  They either fill menial jobs, fill the ranks of welfare or turn to a life of crime.  Aside from the fulfillment of menial jobs, none of these make our society better. 

But I digress. We pay taxes for things that our society uses.  If you’re healthy and you don’t use it, consider yourself blessed.

Not to mention, under the HMO system, we already pay pay for the burden of those who smoke (unless, of course you don’t use medical insurance).

A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost insurance industry jobs, business closures, and new patient record creation.

There would have to be a transition period, but it hardly has to be painful.  As far as lost jobs go, there could easily be an initiative to incorporate current HMO employees into a new UHC system, potentially limiting the job losses.  Any jobs lost on the whole should be considered a victory for those against UHC, because the government would be showing that it can trim the fat of the HMO. I kid of course, but it’s nice to point out the flawed logic when discussing the efficiency of our current HMO-based system.

Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay may dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession.

This isn’t the case in other western nations with UHC, so why would we be damned to this fate?  It is my belief that many in our current medical system are pained by the current care that is offered to their patients.  Many procedures are dictated not by need, but by cost.  Should a patient needing two root canals need to wait until January for their dental insurance to reset to get the needed work done?  Does the dentist really want to see a patient turned away because of money, or does he/she want to see them with a healthy smile?

Most people get into medicine because they have a passion to help others.  Much like school teachers, they aren’t getting into it for the money (but if the money is there, that’s icing on the cake).  If one is getting into medicine solely for the amount of money that is to be made, I don’t believe I want that to be my doctor.

Malpractice lawsuit costs, which are already sky-high, could further explode since universal care may expose the government to legal liability, and the possibility to sue someone with deep pockets usually invites more lawsuits.

Without getting into a debate on “frivolous lawsuits”, I will say that malpractice is a concern, but this will always be a concern.  Right now, the HMOs and large hospital conglomerations already have deep pockets, so moving from one deep pocket to another is a negligible difference.  Hiring capable doctors and nurses should always be a priority, whether it be in the public sector or the private.

Government is more likely to pass additional restrictions or increase taxes on smoking, fast food, etc., leading to a further loss of personal freedoms.

Cigarette smoking is already a pariah’s cause, as several states have already passed smoking bans, and this is without UHC.  Smoker’s rights are disappearing, and arguing that UHC will make it worse is laughable.

As far as fast food, this is a silly slippery slope argument.  What western nations have banned or increased taxes on fast food?  The only mentions I have seen are in the USA, and it’s to battle the out of control obesity problem this country is facing.  Increased taxes on fast food could happen in America without UHC.

Like social security, any government benefit eventually is taken as a “right” by the public, meaning that it’s politically near impossible to remove or curtail it later on when costs get out of control.

Well, this is true, at least the part before the comma.  Social Security is in trouble, but it’s not as simple as “costs are out of control”.  Population growth has declined, which is a huge factor.  Couple that with the idiotic choice to pool Social Security income with the general fund, and no nest egg kept to pay future retirees, and you have a recipe for disaster.

However, with UHC, we’re unlikely to have issues like that, as everyone is covered and any new group of covered people will likely have a large number of tax generating individuals.  Also population growth will likely stay flat. 

Some people are afraid of UHC, because of the bogeyman word, “Socialism”, which is of course, code for Communism, but the fact is that we already have elements of socialism in our nation (Social security, Medicare, Welfare, Unemployment Insurance) and this would just be another level of protection for those who need help.  It would cut the fat of middle men (HMOs) removing profitability from the equation, and concentrating on care over cost.

If you don’t want to pay higher taxes and don’t care that the young, the old, the sick and the poor are taken care of (and can afford it), then sure, our system is great.

But for everyone else, it’s a joke.

American League MVP… Vote for the winner… OR ELSE!

November 21st, 2008 Posted in Rants | No Comments »

As many of you may know, I am a huge baseball nerd.  I follow the sport closely, especially my Minnesota Twins.  Well recently, the end-of-year award winners were announced.  The American League Most Valuable Player, as chosen by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), was Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.

In certain years, there is a clear cut winner of the MVP award.  For example, in 2007, Alex Rodriguez won the award by being named 1st place on 26 of the 28 ballots cast.  In cases like this, where a player was clearly superior to the rest of the league, you expect said player to be on all 28 ballots, but potentially not in first place on all of the ballots.  In 2007, ARod appeared on all 28 ballots, earning 26 first place votes and two second place votes.

This year however, there was no clear cut winner.  Dustin Pedroia, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Kevin Youkilis and Carlos Quentin were all decent choices, but none of them were slam dunks, and all of them had flaws depending on the voter’s individual viewpoint.

Well, Pedroia won, appearing on 16 of the 28 ballots as the first place pick.  Apparently some people out there feel this isn’t good enough, and are outraged that the “unthinkable” has happened: Pedroia didn’t appear at all on one voter’s ballot.

I’m an avid listener of XM 175 (aka. Home Plate on XM/Sirius satellite radio), and since the results were announced on Tuesday, I’ve heard host after host in a twitter over the results: “This guy who didn’t vote for Pedroia should have his post-season awards privileges taken away!”  “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”  “This is the most unbelievable (BBWAA) voting error ever!”.

Similarly, one week ago, the AL Manager of the Year awards were announced, and one voter chose Ron Gardenhire (from the Twins), while the rest chose Joe Maddon (from the Rays).  Regardless of what my thoughts are on the two managers, both took teams that performed below .500 in 2007 and turned them into contending teams.  Maddon’s team convincingly won their division, while Gardenhire’s team came within one game of the playoffs despite being heavily predicted to finish well below .500.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Gardenhire should be deserving of a few votes.  Why is there a need for unanimity, especially on a topic that lends itself to differing opinions?  Instead we get “This is injustice!”, “They shouldn’t be able to vote”, “I think we need to setup a commission to deem whether these voters should be allowed to vote, based on past votes”

Cut the fucking hyperbole folks.

First off, isn’t this the whole reason there is voting in the first place?  As a group of people, there are bound to be differences in what is viewed as “Most Valuable”.  One person may view power as an important factor.  One person may view clutch hits as an important factor.  One person may view the player’s impact on their team (aka would the team still have won without him).  There are many ways to come to the conclusion on who is most valuable.

Secondly, as I’ve stated above, there was hardly a clear-cut winner, so the omission of a single player, who did play well, but not well enough to be a slam-dunk, should not be as devastating as the talking heads are making it out to be.

I could understand the outrage if Pedroia was a clear-cut winner, but when you look at it, he may not have even been the most valuable player on his own team (teammate Kevin Youkilis placed 3rd in the voting).  This isn’t like the Hall of Fame voting in 2007, where Cal Ripken was inexplicably left off of 8 ballots.  Pedroia was flawed (no power, played on an already talented team, one that may have been playoff bound even without him) and to be insulted that he was left off of one ballot is just downright ridiculous.

Basically, I want to say I support Evan Grant, the voter who left Dustin off his ballot.  He shouldn’t feel that he’s obligated to vote for anyone, and should vote with his heart, regardless of whether it is the popular choice or not.

The Beginning of a New Blog

July 20th, 2008 Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Lately I’ve been pondering setting up a blog to air my grievances with the world. However, the more I thought about it, the more I became saddened by my complete and utter lack of proper maintenance on my photo blog. So I figured, why not combine the two, maybe then I’ll actually post things in a timely manner.

I could’ve just as easily done this through myspace or facebook, but the lack of control (and the creepy thought of the monetization of my blog by Murdoch et. al) made me decide otherwise.

So this will be my spot for photos, art, ramblings and other things I deem interesting.

Hopefully this time things work out.