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Dear Senator,


I know you have fought, again and again, for the ACA.  Thank you.  Please continue to fight.


Allow me to tell you about my personal situation.  I am fifty-five, female, and employed.  When I was a child, I was diagnosed with asthma.  These days, I’m mostly fine.  I have a rescue inhaler, but rarely need it.  But that diagnosis is a pre-existing condition.  That means that, if the Graham-Cassidy bill goes through, I could be denied coverage.  When I was in my thirties, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.  I was treated, and am currently just fine; I no longer even need drugs to manage this condition.  It is even possible that the diagnosis was not entirely correct.  However, that diagnosis is in my medical chart, and therefore a pre-existing condition.  Therefore, I could be denied coverage.  When I was thirty-five, I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.  I have a CPAP machine which I use nightly.  It won’t last forever.  I need to replace the mask at least once every six months.  This is a pre-existing condition, and I could be denied coverage.  Any one of these conditions could kill me.  Any one of these conditions could mean that I can be denied coverage.  And not just denied coverage for this condition, but denied coverage at all.  This has happened to me before.  When I lost my job, no insurance company would offer me any coverage at all, because of the bi-polar diagnosis.  I was fortunate enough to live in Minnesota, which offered Minnesota Care.  Not every state has such programs. 


The holy grail, according to the Republicans, for health coverage is “choice.”  As if I, or most people, have ever had any real choice.  I get my insurance through my employer, who negotiates with an insurance company, and those negotiations don’t include me or my interests.  I may be offered a “choice” of tiers.  When my employer and the company they have contracted with parts ways, no amount of pleading will allow me to keep my doctor.  I will be subjected to transitioning care to whoever it is that my employer has contracted with this year.  This has happened to me over and over and over again throughout my working life.  The claim that the ACA has reduced choice is laughable.  Most of us have had no choice, anyway.  What it provided, what it guaranteed, was access.  I might prefer to see the doctor I have been seeing, sure, but I _need_ to be able to see a doctor.    I have preferences, yes, but access is much more important.


Health insurance isn’t like car insurance.  I can choose to pay a minimum amount to cover my old beater, because quite honestly, if it’s in an accident, there’s not much point in fixing it.  This is not true of my body.  I can’t just write off my aging body as not worth fixing.  I can’t decide to buy a new, better body.  Still, we are required to buy car insurance, if not for ourselves, for the people we might hurt if we run into them.  And in this sense, there is a similarity between health insurance and car insurance.  Health insurance means that I can afford to get vaccinated, and treated for serious, contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.  And that protects everyone I come in contact with, including those who are too young, or in too fragile health to get vaccinations.  This is important, and necessary, for all of us.  I really don’t want to die of bacterial pneumonia, and neither do you.  I don’t want to watch a generation of children be crippled by polio, or die of scarlet fever.  And yet, when you strip away the ability to get health care from the poor, this becomes a very real danger. 


Please continue to fight.  Please feel free to share any of the details of this letter with your colleagues or anyone else in this fight for my life. 



Sigh.  My senators are Franken and Klobuchar.  Maybe they can wave their numbers in someone else's face.  

I really don't want to die.  Why do the Republicans want to kill me?

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This actually is much prettier than the pictures show.  Alas.  It is in 100% silk, a pale, luminescent blue, and sparkly silver-lined crystal beads.  I wish I could show it off better.  The pattern was called "Illumine" and it is just lovely.  If it calls to you, do let me know.  As I said, it is actually even prettier in real life.

Illumine, front

Illumine, back

Illumine - splayed

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This was to use up the last bit of the handspun that Beth gave me.  It...didn't work out.  It's not a useful size, it was rather a lot of trouble to make, it wouldn't block worth shit.  But, here it is.  Sigh.

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I really like this shawl.  It is done in a sapphire blue merino and tencel yarn, with those silver-lined crystal beads.  it came out well.  But, as previously noted, I have a sufficiency of shawls, and it is available on the usual terms.  

Blue and Sparkly 
Blue and Sparkly, back


Blue and Sparkly detail

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To quote from my Ravelry page:  

05-24-2017, In which I pick a fight with my own brain

It’s all Steven Be’s fault. Really. I went in to try several different types of interchangeable needles, so that I can tell my girlfriend what to buy me for my birthday. They were terribly, terribly nice, and let me try things with some waste yarn. So, after, I looked around for something to buy, and saw this lovely gold/smoke/purple ombre lace weight mohair silk blend. I’ve never worked with mohair. “How hard can it be?” thought I. So, seriously, I don’t know why I bother thinking. Not only does it not help, but encourages me to do stupid things.

Mohair. It’s a lotta damn trouble. Ok, you experienced, skilled knitters, I’m sure it’s not trouble for _you_. Me? It’s trouble. Also, although moss stitch is about as easy as you can get, bar garter, I still had to frog three times to get properly started. I mean, seriously, brain, what is your point? You don’t keep me out of trouble, and then you create needless errors just so I can’t start a project clean. It’s all very well to look wise and say, “It’s my process,” but that’s for the rubes. In point of fact, it’s stupid and annoying and I wish you’d just cut it out.

On the other hand, it did turn out really pretty.  It is also quite warm.  Mohair and silk.  

I think I'm keeping this, but if it really really speaks to you, I could probably be persuaded to part with it.  I kind of have a sufficiency of shawls, just at the moment.

Mohair and Me
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So, this is a pattern I did once before, but i wanted to find out how it looked with larger pinwheels and in a solid color.  Oh,this is also crochet, not knit.  I do still do that.  

Looking at the picture it is apparent that "no dye lot" isn't always true.  This is actually less noticeable in real life, however.  And, bafflingly, the color is called "Pagoda."  This is all acrylic,  Caron Simply Soft, which is a very, very nice yarn to the touch.  Available on the usual terms.

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I think this one is a near miss, and might be a bit better if I re-blocked it?  Not sure.  It's in this really lovely Madelinetosh variegated yarn, called Mockingjay, with these great, sparkly crystal, silver-lined beads.   The Madelinetosh is 80% merino wool and 20% nylon, I believe.  I really, really love the yarn.  Again, available to anyone who asks.  If I re-block it, I'll show new pictures, but first I have to convince myself that reblocking wold improve it.

Stone and Sparkle

I do really love the spine on this one:

Stone and Sparkle, back

And, you understand, once again with the incredibly goofy smile.  Sigh.

Stone and Sparkle, Front

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If I recall, correctly, this was a stop-gap project to fill in the time until I could get the materials for an interim project which I had started because I was waiting for materials to finish the project I was working on.  This was pretty easy, and it's an odd, interesting shape.  I am not happy with the bind-off, but it's not too horrible.  It is in a navy yarn, a mixture of alpaca and silk.  Relatively nice to the touch, but although there's silk, it's very matte and not shiny.  Will give away on the usual terms.  Tell me where you are, an I'll drive it by or mail it to you.

Begonia Shawl

Begonia Shawl and me

Begonia Shawl from back.

I promise, you will not look as fat as I do in this shawl.  That fat, it's all me.  

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This is the traveling project that went with me to London.  It has a 6 stitch repeat, and I used stitch markers, which meant there were almost 40 stitch markers when I was working on it on the train on the way back from York to London.  A very nice tea lady and I talked knitting for a while, and she was amazed at the number of stitch markers I used.  One of the biggest suprirses about London (and environs, I guess) is how bloody friendly everyone was.  I guess I was expecting more...reserve?  The lady on the train was just one example of someone extremely friendly and outgoing.  

This shawl, I'm totally keeping.  Because London.  So there.

London Shawl 

London Shawl back

And me, with an incredibly goofy smile:

London Shawl, front

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I don't swatch.  Since I don't do things that are fitted, I can usually get away with this.  This time, not so much.  It is significantly smaller than it should be.  It was really fun to make, but in the end, the size is a problem.  I may try the same pattern again, with larger needles.  The yarn is a lovely woolen blend, great colors.  If anyone knows a child who would like a lovely blue shawl with cables, I would be happy to give it to them.

This lace, woolen shawl would need to be re-blocked if you ever washed it.  Which is do-able, but a bit irritating.  My general advice is, don't wash it.  

Here are pics.  


Malgven w/me

Back view of Malgven

As you can see, it's too small for me.  It is circular, and about 35" in diameter.  But it's actually really pretty.  So, interesting experiment.  One of these days, I'll start swatching.  Also, pigs will fly and horses will talk.

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I wanted to do the Tree of Life Afghan pattern in knit rather than crochet.  I chose a shinier yarn, the Michael's Loops & Threads Soft and Shiny, which feels really nice, but I don't think it looks as good at a more matte yarn would have done.

 Tree of Life Afghan

Here's a detail of the trees:

Tree Detail

I actually did a different border, which I stole from the Yggdrasil afghan I did a while back, as I didn't like the border in the pattern.  

All in all, it came out ok.  It feels really nice, though.  

My environment is still saturated with afghans, so if anyone would like this, I would be happy to give it to you.  I will personally deliver anywhere in the Twin Cities, or will mail anywhere in the US.  Do let me know.  

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I've been really into lacy, beady shawls, lately.   This one is the one I made for my mother.  She really liked it.  Again, me wearing it.  Sorry.

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I haven't posted pictures, lately, because, well, I'm not used to Dreamwidth, and also lazy, and also other things.  So many things.  But here is a shawl I gave to Pamela.  It's me wearing it, it looks better on Pamela.  The pictures don't really show the nice, celery beads as well as I'd like.  <cut>

Sorry for the size of the image, not sure how to make it smaller.  Also, the cut tag is just not working, and I do not know why.

The yarn is a lovely, ombre handspan by Beth Friedman.  At her suggestion, I entered it into the Minnesota State Fair.  Here's the result of that:

<img src='' alt='' title='2017 State Fair Ribbon' />

(Arghhh.  That's supposed to be a DW hosted image of my 3rd place Ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair, but DW is not cooperating, in much the same way it is not honoring my cut tag.  If anyone knows why it's behaving badly, do let me know.)

So, I'm rather inordinately proud of myself, which may be silly, but true.

More craft posts to follow.  Like you do.

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I bought it some years ago, used.  Seller claimed that it had never been out of the box.  I was intending to put it in my office or the media room, but the spaces were not quite right, so it still hasn't been out of the box.  

It is currently in my car.  I will deliver it to any place in the Twin Cities.  At some point, if no one wants it, I will give it to Good Will.   
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So, my computer and my phone arrived on Thursday.  They are both, as we speak, working.  I did not cry.  I did dissociate at least once.  There was also a point at which David asked me a question about my computer, and I was completely unable to answer in words, although I knew the answer.  I picked up various pieces, and demonstrated how they went together, and this was completely explanatory.  David said it was very odd to watch, since I clearly understood the question, and could answer it, but was also clearly completely a-verbal at the time.  Ah, stress.

So, I now have a Motorola Moto 5 Plus.  It is very slick, and nice, and takes an microSD, and has lots and lots of memory.  When I told it to retrieve info from my old phone, it did so very smoothly.  I got to keep my Neko Atsume cats!  It is is a very small thing, I suppose, but I am extremely pleased about this.  I had lost them all during the unmentionable and probably unnecessary failed factory reset.  And while I wasn't very far along at recollecting them, I really didn't want to lose them again.  Also, I'd gone through and done the renaming thing, again, and that matters to me.  (Yes, I have named various virtual cats after my beloved and deceased cats.  Fight me!)  The battery life, when used reasonably heavily, seems to be about six hours.  It does not, however, charge in 15 minutes, which is what I thought the PR claimed.  Either they lied, or they phrased it misleadingly.  Either way, I don't care that much.  I did decide to allow it to read my fingerprint, which I feel weird about.  Amongst my odd, irrational phobias is having one's fingers chopped off, and there's like, zero reason that anyone would need anything off my phone enough that they would chop off my finger, but still, euwww.  Silly assed phobia.

The MacBook Air is, well, light as air.  I love the keyboard.  I love how fast it is.  It is running Sierra, which I guess is fine?  I can do a tutorial to find out all the wonderful things that it does.  Possibly I will do that.  I just love how light it is.  It is also much faster than my old MacBook Pro.  I went with the same screen size, 13", and paid extra to upgrade the SSD drive to 512GB, rather than the 256GB.  I also, somewhat pessimistically, paid for Apple Care.  This was not a cheap machine.  But I love it.  I put it in my knit bag today, as an experiment, and it is really light, and easy to tote.  I restored from a Time Machine backup, and this went very smoothly.  It took almost three hours, but that's fine.  I have all my (virtual) things.  Have I mentioned how light it is?

So, I'm feeling good about things.  Pretty much every time I make a major upgrade to my life, something happens that I think of as my happiness tax.  I get that this is rank superstition.  This time, I forgot to attend a class that I had paid $85 for, and which is non-refundable.  So, my happiness tax is, I hope, $85.  I was able to find a comparable class to take tomorrow.  So, hopefully the tax is entirely money, and no blood or serious pain is required to cover my new technological lease on life.

Thank you, everyone who sent me contact info.  I'll be working on getting that into my new phone.  I really appreciate it.  

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My phone has gone all flaky on me.  It can't seem to maintain a cell and data connection.  It is fine on wi-fi.  This does not work for playing Pokemon Go.  In the process of attempting to troubleshoot, I attempted to do a factory reset.  Seriously, the less said about that, the better.  Turns out, Google back-up kinda doesn't, very much.  So, I lost all my Neko Atsume cats, and a whole host of other items.  Of possible interest to you, evidently at some point I was saving my contacts to my phone rather than to Google, and so I lost all that, too.  If you think I should have your phone number, I probably don't, anymore.  If you want me to have it, you could email it to me at lydy at demesne dot com.  Or, you know, call me.  Phone number remains the same.  

After the failed factory reset (we're not talking about that, remember?) I also had Ting (who have been uniformly wonderful) send me a new sim card.  I installed it last night and, nope, didn't help a bit. So, in a spasm of frustration, I bought a new phone.  

Said phone should arrive Thursday or Friday.  My new Macintosh Air is also due to arrive Friday.  So I predict Friday shall be  Tech Tears day.  (Technology makes me cry, a lot.)

And lo, I am woe.   
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If you know me in person, I apologize.  I'm going to tell a story that I'm sure you've heard from me before.  I think I heard the original on NPR some time ago.  

It was a profile on Christiania, the weird city-state-anarchy in Denmark.  It started in 1971 as an occupation of an abandoned military property.  It has been a functioning, reasonably stable anarchy for more than 40 years.  It is neither the paradise anarchists hoped for, nor the hell-hole that everyone else assumed it would become.  It exists in strange symbiosis with Denmark.  Here is my favorite story about Christiania.

A couple of dude-bros (or, as we called them back in the day, skinheads) went to Christiania to buy drugs.  Christiania, being an anarchy, is a pretty good place to buy illegal pharmaceuticals.  The dude-bros went decked out in the regalia of their people which included jackets with large Confederate flags on the back.  I am unpersuaded by Americans who argue that flying the Stars and Bars is a matter of heritage, rather than racism, but in Europe, there is absolutely no ambiguity or plausible deniability.  The Confederate flag is frequently deployed as a stand-in for Nazi symbols in places where those icons are outlawed.  

Some of the residents of Christiania took it upon themselves to beat the ever-living snot out of the skinheads, and toss them over the city line.  The dude-bros said, roughly, "Why the hell did you do that?  I thought you guys were anarchists."  To which the anarchists said, approximately, "That's why, you idiots."

I am afraid of violence.  I am not physically fit, and have a low tolerance for pain.  I am fond of my reasonably comfortable life.  In a reasonable world, I would pay my taxes, and my taxes would pay for cops to protect me, and everyone else, from violence.  As we can see in Charlotteseville (and especially when contrasting it to Durham), this is not the case.  Which leaves...the Antifa.  Who stood up, and put their bodies physically in the way of the actual, real-live, terrifying Nazis.  And so here we are.  Is this dangerous?  Oh my god, yes.  Civil violence is terrifying, and it can spin out of control.  But the institutions, with their checks and balances and accountability...are not accountable.  Not functioning.  They murder with impunity, assault without accountability, and any discussion of "both sides" has to start with the fact that the state is on the same side as the Nazis.  And so, Antifa.  

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Well, at least, probably not.  

The doctor confirmed that PVCs are a benign arrhythmia.  I didn't happen to be having any when I saw him.  Blood pressure just fine, heart rate just fine.  12- lead EKG pretty fine.  There's a non-specific abnormality of the T-wave.  These things happen.  He agreed that the tightness in my chest and my shortness of breath were probably respectively muscular and asthma.  On the other hand, he also agreed that 6 to 12 PVCs a minute was a lot, and that maybe we should do some tests.

As expected, they want to do a Holter monitor (only 24 hours), and a stress test.  I am grateful he decided on the Dobutamine stress test, rather than the treadmill one.  He says that it will give a better picture of my heart.  It is also unlikely to give me an asthma attack, unlike the treadmill one.  Both are scheduled for a week from today.   

He also referred me to a tool to help monitor and adjust my drinking.  I know I drink more than I should.  I am also uninterested in becoming a teetotaler.  He said that AA has one model of dealing with problem drinking, but it doesn't really apply to everyone.  We bonded over the issue.  The site he recommends is Drinkaware, which is based in the UK.  They evidently have a nifty app for your phone...which is not available in the US.  WTF?  There's a website, and I'm exploring it now.  I've been bitching for years that I wanted some tools to help me moderate my drinking, but the only things I ever found were total abstinence sites.  So, here's a tool.  I hope it will help.  

Follow-up in two weeks to make sure that I'm really not dying.

All in all, a short, cheerful, useful encounter, with expected outcomes and an actually helpful conversation about one area of my life that I do need to do some work on.  

Oh, and he also doesn't think that Allegra is likely to be causing my PVCs, nor does he think I drink too much coffee.  I suggested, and he concurs, that the reason I'm seeing more PVCs between four and six in the morning is because that's my down time, and I'm just more aware of them.  

So, yay for good stuff.  Yay for being unlikely to drop dead.  
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I have a known history of PVCs.  PVCs are "premature ventricular contractions" which basically means that the ventricles of my heart get a little over-excited and jump the gun.  Hence the "premature."  It is usually a benign heart arrhythmia.  They were noted on my sleep study, which was done three to five years ago.  Known history.

For Reasons, I got rather drunk Saturday night at Fourth Street.  While I was trying to fall asleep, I felt just plain weird, and I thought to feel my pulse.  I was missing every eighth beat.  That's...a lot of PVCs.  Since then, I've been noticing occasional tightness in my chest, a very slight something that one might call shortness of breath, and a lot of missed beats.  Now, at least some of the weird feeling in my chest is almost certainly muscular.  I don't wear a bra, I am old, and the muscles attaching to my rib cage are a bit stressed.  And some of the shortness of breath may or may not be related to asthma.

One night at work, with entirely too much time on my hands, as my patient was coming in late, I hooked myself up to the amplifier, just running the EKG.  (This cost my work exactly two disposable snap electrodes, one alcohol wipe, and one sani-wipe.)  Yep, my heart was throwing PVCs.  One morning, I was throwing between six and twelve a minute. 

Possible triggers:  alcohol, caffeine, and Allegra.  So, I've stopped taking Allegra, stopped having a nightcap after work, and reduced the caffeine.  I tried eliminating the caffeine, but that caused me to become depressed, and there's literally no future in that.  I switched to Claritin, which doesn't work as well, but man I need to not claw my eyes out.

I repeat: PVCs are almost always a benign arrhythmia.  There are tests.  I should probably have them done.  Possibly a Holter monitor, probably a (shudder) stress test.  Ick.  Probably expensive.  Sigh.  After a month of monitoring my pulse for missed beats, messing about with my chemical profile, and whinging and moaning about not liking doctors, I sent an email to my doctor through the automated system, describing my symptoms, providing the above information, and asking for an appointment.

And now we get to how health care is really not a consumer good.

I get back an email stating that they cannot schedule me an appointment based on my reported symptoms, and I need to talk to a nurse, first.  I roll my eyes.  I call the clinic's Nurseline, and go through all the above information.  I assume she can also see my email to my doc, but who knows.  She asks me a series of questions, the answer to most of them is "no."  Am I in pain?  Does the pain radiate? Am I dizzy?  Do I feel nauseous?  No, no, no, no.  She then says, "You should go to the Emergency Room."  I explain that I will not do so.  I point out that PVCs are almost always benign.  (When they aren't benign, they still aren't a terminal rhythm.  They're a symptom of cardiomyopathy or some other serious damn thing, but not instantly fatal.)  I am still paying off my last visit to the ER, eight months ago.  The nurse tries to insist.  I tell her that I will, under no circumstances, do any such thing.  We get rather cross with each other.  She states that their guidelines do not permit them to schedule an appointment for these symptoms, the guidelines require that I be seen on an emergent basis.  I point out that this is health care, and I can refuse any damn thing I want. 

Eventually, she says that she will have to talk to my provider, and will call me back.  I point out that I evidently have a condition so dire that I must be seen on an emergent basis, but if I refuse, they will not permit me to see my own damn doctor, and how does that even make sense.  We became even crosser with one another. 

I wake up to a voice mail stating that I can call my clinic and schedule an appointment.  By this time, of course, the clinic is closed, and after hours people cannot schedule. 

So, this morning, I call the clinic.  And am offered an appointment at 9:40 a.m.  I explain that this simply doesn't work, as I have to go to work tonight, which means I need to be in bed by 11:00 a.m.  The nurse asks why that doesn't work.  I point out that even if I get in and out in an hour, I'm still not home before 11:00 a.m., and that means probably not in bed until 11:30 or noon, and that assumes that they don't decide to do a bunch of stuff, and what's the chance of that?   She allows as to the justice of my remarks, and offers me...Urgent Care.  Yeah, no.  While not as expensive as the ER, it a) doesn't solve my problem with needing to be in bed, and b) IT'S NOT AN EMERGENCY, FFS.  She says that the guidelines are that I be seen same day.

Quick note:  You know how I know that this isn't an emergency?  Because every time the nurse attempts to make me go to the emergency room, they say, "guidelines."  If it really were an emergency, they'd be talking about, you know, death.  (I did have a nurse say that to me once, in reference to a possible case of tetanus.)  The fact that the nurses sound vaguely unhappy about the guidelines is also a tell.

We go a couple more rounds.  My normal provider doesn't work on Thursdays, is full on Wednesday, and is also completely booked on Friday.  It is suggested that perhaps I call back on Wednesday morning and see if anything has opened up.  I point out that the system is completely broken.  The nurse agrees.  Eventually, she asks, "Do you have to see your usual provider?"  No, I don't.  I mean, I like my doctor, but I'm willing to go to someone else.  So she schedules me for 7:40 (oh god) a.m. on Thursday with some guy I've never seen.

I am a price sensitive and informed consumer of health care.  And at every turn, the system is trying, desperately, to shunt me into a high cost alternative, for no good reason.  Additionally, I already know that there is no point in asking what any of this will cost.  The provider has no idea what my insurance will cover.  The insurance company typically will not answer these questions.  Moreover, once I surrender myself to the professionals, they will run whatever tests they think wise, and I will have almost no say over them.  I will certainly not be given enough information about the test, the cost, the possible results, and the potential treatment to make an informed decision about whether or not the test is a cost-effective choice.  I have less control over my own health care, and less information, than I have about my cat's health, where they will cheerfully lay out exactly what the tests cost, what they might reveal, what the treatment path would be based on various scenarios, etc.  The other thing I have very little control over is my insurance.  I get insurance through work, and it is both expensive and not very good.  I have a $3500 deductible, and the things it covers at only 80% (after deductible) is long and irritating.  Nor can I, as an individual, shop around for a better deal. 

Health Care is not a consumer good.  A consumer good responds to market forces if the consumer is informed, if there is information available, if there are alternatives, and if the primary driving force behind the consumption is rational rather than emotional.  Most importantly, the consumer needs to have some control.  None of this is true about health care. 


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Slightly edited from comments I posted on File 770:


The biggest objection to Steven's statement at Opening Ceremonies was not about content, but about context. Context controls meaning. "How are you?" can be a polite place holder, the opening to a bit of small talk, or an invitation to talk about something serious going on in your life. Opening Ceremonies is a time for the staff of the convention to welcome people, thank people, provide some administrivia, and set the tone. It is not a time for conversations. Those happen later in the convention. It is supposed to be a feel-good half hour to ease people into the space that Fourth Street wants to create. What Steven did was an abuse of power in several different ways. In the first place, possibly inadvertently, he made it sound like his particular issue was, in fact, Fourth Street policy. I'm not sure what it says about Steven that he didn't understand before it was pointed out to him. I can think of both charitable and uncharitable explanations, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is what he did.

Although Steven claimed to be trying to start a conversation, everything about his action was designed to shut down conversation, rather than open it up. He spoke from the dias, at an event which is designed as a presentation, from a written speech. It should also be noted that Fourth Street has a single track of programming, most of the convention was at Opening Ceremonies, and probably 20% of the attendees were new to the convention. The fact that several people questioned Steven and pushed back at his behavior is not to his credit. Instead, it underscores how completely outside accepted norms his behavior was. It was sufficiently upsetting that numerous people broke the semiotic frame to challenge him. Alex, also sitting on the dias, could see people being visibly upset, some in tears. Her decision to shut Steven down was probably based, in part, on watching the damage he was doing happen in front of her eyes. If she did it less than gracefully, again, think about the frame. And think about the fact that this was completely unexpected. It is rare for the Safety Coordinator to have to operate in crisis mode. Usually, we are notified of harassment well after the fact, well after the actual crisis is past. This, this was happening right in front of her eyes.

The specific language that Steven chose, most especially "safe space", appeared to be carefully designed to undermine an entire department of the convention. Fourth Street uses the safety model, they have a Safety Coordinator, and they are doing a pretty good job of addressing issues of harassment and bias in the convention. To have someone, from the dias, in a presentation, essentially say, "These are not really Fourth Street's values," was shocking and unacceptable. If, as I gather elsewhere, this was the result of Steven losing an internal political battle, my god was this not the appropriate response.

I prefer to use consent as a model for dealing with crappy behavior in conventions. Using this model, what Steven did was completely beyond the pale. He foisted on an unsuspecting and unconsenting audience and incredibly complicated and uncomfortable topic, and did it in such a way that objecting was very hard, and conversation nearly impossible. Let's say you want to, for example, have a conversation about whether old white guys should be allowed to bang on about cultural appropriation. If it is on the schedule, clearly marked, and the panelists identified, a body could make an intelligent choice about whether or not one wanted to have that conversation. Or a body could decide that they don't have enough spoons for that particular conversation, and not go. It is not ok to try to force other people to talk about the things you want to talk about.

It should also be noted that there are conversations that are not valuable. No one needs to have another conversation about whether or not the Nazis were right about the danger of Jewry destroying Western Europe. No one needs to have another conversation about whether Jim Crow was maybe a good thing for colored people. These conversations give oxygen to toxic concepts, and yield no light. Fourth Street may well decide that some conversations are not likely to yield much enlightenment, but likely to cause actual hurt to attendees. This is not avoiding difficult concepts, this is properly budgeting time. There's a limited amount of Fourth street, an infinity of really cool things to talk about, and I get down on my knees in gratitude to editors who are good at their jobs.

Terms of Art:

I would like to point out that “safe space” is neither a literal nor a metaphorical phrase. It is a term of art, coming out of various complex discussions about how to deal with racism, sexism, and kierarchy. Like the term “positive reinforcement” which, in operant conditioning, doesn’t mean what you think it means, “safe space” has a specific, technical meaning. And the attempt to treat it as either literal or metaphorical completely misses the point. Deliberately so, in most cases.

I have problems with using the term safety to discuss harassment and its attendant issues. However, I am really, really annoyed at the people who use the term “safe space” as a stick to beat people doing real work. And seriously, pretending I don’t know what metaphor is is just not on.

In its most basic sense, “safe space” just means a place where we don’t have to have 101 conversations. A safe space for women means not having to constantly explain why we are fully human, not having to do the work of explaining why harassment is bad. A safe space for people of color means much the same, a space where people of color don’t have to explain their life and experiences and reassure the anxious white people around them. Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is, in point of fact, a “safe space” for fantasists, a place where writers and readers don’t have to explain why this stuff is important, don’t have to justify their passion for fantasy. That conversation is very much off the table.

Term of art, for fuck’s sake. It really chaps my ass to watch people attempt to abuse language in this fashion, especially people who claim to be professional writers. Sententiously insisting that they are speaking metaphorically, while simultaneously insisting that other people are speaking literally.

Language does weird shit, especially when you try to create precise terms. Writers do weird shit to language; it is their stock in trade. Pay some fucking attention. The language is going at right angles again. Like it does. All the fucking time.

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