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Is this thing on?

Let’s see, it’s been about 5 (?!) years since I’ve written anything here.  Since then, I’ve gotten married and now have a two year old daughter.  My old company was acquired by a large defense contractor, I left a few months ago and I’m now working on machine learning for a medical device company.  This space may wind up being used to make machine learning notes to myself.

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Holy crap… yes we did!

Almost three months ago to the day, I wrote about the senate health care reform (HCR) bill, how they had achieved cloture and would vote on Christmas eve.  Since December, things haven’t looked all that good for HCR.  A weak candidate in Massachusetts lost to a republican underwear model (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and the Democrats started doing the Democratic thing, which mostly consists of herding all of the cats into a circle and giving them guns to take shots at each other [1].  At one point in late January, the chances of any sort of HCR passing were very close to zero (Intrade was giving it around 22%).

Since then, President Obama has gotten more involved, and Nancy Pelosi (who love her or hate her will go down in history as one of the most effective Speakers of the House in recent memory) started working on her colleagues and the odds went up significantly.  In the past week, it looked almost certain that the House would pass the Senate’s bill and then fix the worst budgetary issues in reconciliation.  It was looking so certain, that the ignorant cretins in the teaparty were out in force, spitting and hurling racist and homophobic comments at legislators.

In spite of all that happened, last night the House did vote to pass the Senate bill.  Then came a Republican motion to recommit the reconciliation bill in an effort to spike the whole thing by driving a wedge between the pro-choice and anti-abortion wedges of the Democratic party.  That failed after Bart Stupak gave an impassioned speech saying that he believed that the current senate language plus the president’s executive order did uphold the Hyde amendment and that the bill was pro-life.  In his words, the bill was pro-life because it not only protected children before they were born, but it helped to ensure that their mothers received pre- and post-natal care, that the children would have insurance and that we know that children and families with insurance are healthier than those without.

Over the past few months, I’ve called Stupak a wanker on more than one occasion, but last night he stepped up and helped to pass health care reform for everyone.  After the vote to recommit, I went to bed (it was after 11pm and I was a bit tired), but the reconciliation bill was voted upon and also passed!

What’s next?  Well, the senate will probably pass the reconciliation bill today.  That will clean up the crap that they had to stick into the bill in order to overcome a republican filibuster.  The President will sign the bill Tuesday.  Then we’ll start seeing some changes.  The bill was begin to close the doughnut hole for drug coverage that the Republicans put into Medicare Part D.  It will begin to limit the insurance companies’ ability to shaft policy holders.  And by 2014, we’ll see the mandate that everyone must have insurance coverage, even if it is subsidized for the poor. Sometime between now and 2014, Democrats will hopefully start to improve the bill.  We still may not get to single payer any time soon, but we might get a public option.

From my standpoint, not too much will change.  I’ll continue to receive insurance through my company.  The congressional budget office (CBO) projects that my company’s costs for insurance will go down about 3%.  Best of all, I stop having to worry about losing insurance if I lose my job or decide to change jobs.  Hell, this even gives me some freedom to consider starting my own business without worrying as much about how to afford health insurance.  All in all, passing HCR was an amazing effort and I’m proud to have watched it happen.



[1] FWIW, this is why I still consider myself to be an Independent, even though I almost always vote Democratic – the Democrats are just too fearful of the political consequences of their own popular platform planks?!  Personally, I prefer a much more muscular liberal set of policies than the Democrats are usually willing to consider… even if they agree that those policies would be better for the country.

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Happy Festivus!

Just a reminder of that it’s the 23rd. Bring on the feast and the airing of grievances! After dinner, all of the pets in the house will have to try to pin me in the feats of strength 🙂

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS7-jcsB_WQ[/youtube]

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Boycott!

I’m officially boycotting any retailer using “Santa Baby” in their commercials.  Yeah, it’s an empty threat since I wasn’t going to the mall anyway, but there you are.  Now to get the idiotic song out of my head.  Maybe the Mighty Mighty Bosstones?  Failing that, a power drill may be my best bet.

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The lonely possum sketch

If only we could get Carol Burnett to highlight the plight of the lonely possums on the muppet show.  Of course, she would get all interupted by Gonzo’s dance marathon, but hey, rehabbers will take what they can get.

K got in a solitary young opossum last night.  Sad little girl (the possum, not K… at least to my knowledge).  Dehydrated (definitely the possum) and underweight (both actually!).  Hopefully she’ll make it (both again):

dsc_4724.jpgdsc_4725.jpgdsc_4726.jpgdsc_4727.jpgdsc_4728.jpg

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Annotate Flickr

A while back, Luis Villa asked about a script to add creative commons licensing information to an image.  My first thought was to just use ImageMagick.  That works pretty well, but assumes a command line, image magick, etc.  My next thought was a piece of javascript that you could include on a webpage.  The javascript would scan all <img> tags and for each that were of the class “cc-license”, it would grab the “license” and “attrib” attributes.  The img would be replaced with a canvas that had a transparent license image and the attribution in the corner. That worked pretty well, but again, didn’t really change the image, so if you were loading it into a presentation, etc., you were out of luck.

Okay, thought the third.  Why don’t we take the canvas idea (idea #2 for those keeping score at home) and wrap it in a GreaseMonkey script.  The script would run on Flickr pages and, when triggered, would grab CC license information, along with the picture name and creator from the Flickr API and shove it into a canvas.  That canvas could be downloaded as a png (don’t blame me, using png as opposed to something else is an HTML5 issue).  Okay, this might work.

Basic use:

  1. install and enable GreaseMonkey in firefox
  2. download the script – GreaseMonkey should pick up the fact that’s it’s a script
  3. go to Flickr
  4. follow the instructions for getting a Flickr API key
  5. install the key through the GreaseMonkey -> User Script Commands menu
  6. find an image you like – either the main page image or on the “All Sizes” screen
  7. click the “Click to Annotate with License Link”
  8. you should see the image with the embedded license info
  9. right click to save

I wrapped up the first version tonight (October 4, 2008).  New features should eventually include the ability to change colors, degree of transparency, location, etc., but for now it’ll work.

Version 1.0 – annotateflickr.user.js

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Projects

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We are all socialists now

Welcome to the new socialist state… comrade.

From Propublica, an inflation adjusted comparison of bailouts.

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Happy birthday to the U.S. Constitution

Oh, on an entirely unrelated note, the U.S. Constitution was signed 221 years ago today – happy birthday!  Okay, it wasn’t ratified for a couple of years after that, but still…

If you’ve got some time, take a read.  It’s still the most impressive government document I’ve ever read.

A few years ago, I wanted to start a project that took the individual clauses of the constitution and traced the arguments for and against them back to the original sources or at least to the debates between the signing and ratification.  The Federalist Papers , Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison and many of the documents collected in the two volume Library of America’s Debate on the Consitution would have featured prominantly.  Never did have the time to kick that off.

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Baton Rouge – good news, bad news

So, one more update on Gustav in Baton Rouge and then I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled odd musings, rants and wildlife pictures.

First, the good news – I got a text message from my mother last week.  They got power back!  Only 10 days without power.  I suppose that’s not too bad.  No word from K’s parents, but they had moved into K’s sister’s condo that did have power, so I’m guessing they’re still there.

The bad news is that my parent’s 100+ year old pecan tree that was struck by lightening a few years ago (and dying) just couldn’t take the hurricane.  Too much concern that the root structure was loose and that it was going to fall on a house and completely crush it.  So, they had to have it taken down.  Three nice sized pecan trees in my parent’s yard – all gone, along with most of the limbs on an old magnolia and their Japanese magnolia.  🙁

The ironic news is that even though I knew they had power, I couldn’t get in touch with them on Monday to wish my father a happy birthday.  So last night, I called my mom’s cell which was answered by my dad.  Odd, but okay.  I wished him a happy birthday and told him that I was sorry that I couldn’t reach him the day before.  It turns out that I couldn’t reach him because their power was out again.  Apparently the tree service accidentally dropped a limb on the power lines and took out power for them and the 3 or 4 nearest houses.

Somehow I’m imagining that a self-inflicted power outage is not going to be too high on the power company’s list of priorities.  Fortunately, they are down to a manageable number of outages in Baton Rouge, so even with the majority of the power assistance now going to Houston/Galveston for Ike, my parents might still get power back soon.

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