Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Take that, random Trump supporter.

September 20, 2016

Just saw my first “Trump that Bitch” yard sign in Rockford today.

I’m guessing the guy who’s proudly displaying his complete lack of basic decency would revel in knowing that his dumb sign pissed of some bleeding-heart liberal like me.

However, I’d also like him to know that his juvenile advertisement for misogyny inspired me to do something more productive with my time and resources. So here’s $25 to each of the following organizations:

  • The League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford, whose voter registration booth outside the Hononegah High School cafeteria back in 2004 first got me registered to vote. Donate here.
  • Rock Valley College, whose Refugee and Immigrant Services program works to find employment for refugees coming to our area. Their free interpretation services for their clients has been an incredible help for me and my colleagues at work. Donate here.
  • Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rockford, who provides numerous services for refugee and immigrant families in the Rockford area. Donate here.
  • Planned Parenthood of Illinois, who gets an incredibly unfair and undeserved reputation thanks to some idiot politicians and activists. Planned Parenthood provides crucial healthcare services for millions of people and is a great advocate for scientifically-accurate health education. Donate here.

I know it’s not much, but I hope these small donations and this self-congratulatory blog post can help bring a little bit of civility and progressivism to this election season.


Farewell, Dave

May 21, 2015


Tonight I said goodbye to my all-time favorite late night talk show host, David Letterman. The web and TV have been full of much-deserved tributes to Letterman in the lead-up to his final Late Show broadcast. Even though he wasn’t always the most watched or even most liked host, it’s nice to see all the appreciation for his absurdist humor and deliberately prickly demeanor.

Letterman leaves behind an incredible legacy, but his greatest contribution to late-night comedy is unfortunately the least emulated. Letterman’s show was smart. Not just because he was smart, but because he assumed his audience was too.

A perfect example of what set Dave apart from his competition can be seen in every opening monologue. Content-wise, there was little difference between Letterman’s openings and anyone else’s–same format, same cheesy and predictable punchlines, same shallow mockery of celebrities and politicians. The difference was that Dave knew these jokes were dumb, and he knew his audience knew it. Leno, Fallon, even Conan all tried to play these awful bits for big laughs. Dave knew better. He knew they were lame. He knew that making fun of Bill Clinton or Kim Kardashian was low-hanging fruit. If a joke didn’t hit, he’d just give a wry smirk and move on. In fact, he sometimes seemed to deliberately parody the format and style that he helped institutionalize.

Additionally, Letterman brought on smart guests and had smart interviews. Short of Sterwart and Colbert (who will be a more-than-worthy successor), no other host brought on more artists, political leaders, or writers. And even if it was just some Hollywood actor, Dave never let an interviewee get away with simply plugging their project.

My absolute favorite interview Dave ever did was with then-Presidential candidate George W. Bush. Letterman had been trying to get a Bush/Gore debate on his show for months. Supposedly Gore agreed to it immediately, but wound up appearing on the show alone. Eventually, a terribly unprepared Bush came on just a few weeks before the election.  I was 14 when I saw this broadcast, and it’s the exact moment when my political consciousness was born.

I could go on and talk about how much my sense of humor or taste in music was shaped by Dave. But I can’t imagine recreating ‘Will it Float?’ in the school cafeteria or being introduced to Warren Zevon because of Late Show are unique to me. Instead, I’d rather give credit to Dave for teaching me that there’s no need to dumb yourself down for anyone else’s sake; people are generally smart enough to figure things out. And if someone isn’t, the people who are probably think it’s hilarious.

Thanks, Dave.

Dumbest. Article. Ever.

May 2, 2014

If you’ve ever wondered what the fastest way for me to unfriend you on Facebook is, it’s posting any “X Things That Only Y Type of People Will Understand” article. I get what they try to do: provide a unique group of people with a sense of community and pride for their quirks. The problem is that every item on these lists apply to a much broader audience than the author thinks. Here’s a particularly egregious one that’s making the rounds on Facebook: “10 Things Only People From Illinois Will Understand.” The author’s points are in bold, and my snark follows.

1. You Cringe Every Time You Hear Someone Say “Il-eh-NOISE” Everyone in the country knows that it’s “IL-IH-NOY” just like they know it’s “AR-KAN-SAW.” Everyone in the country should cringe if someone says “IL-EH-NOISE.” Besides, what’s far-and-away the most annoying pronunciation of the state’s name is “ELL-EH-NOY” and like half of everyone does that. 

2. You’re Either A Chicagoan or A Northern Kentuckian Not sure who in the state identifies themselves as a “Northern Kentuckian,” especially considering Kentucky doesn’t make up huge part of Illinois’ border. I know that a lot of us up-state folk like to lump everything south of I-80 as “southern Illinois,” but after spending four years in college smack-dab in the middle of the state, I know there’s a lot of “central Illinois” pride.

3. Rubbing Honest Abe’s Nose Is Second Nature Personally, I prefer to high-five his kid.
high five

4. Ketchup And Hot Dogs DO Not Go Together This one might have made sense on “Ten Things only People From Chicago Will Understand,” but not on this list. Clearly the author has completely forgotten the title of her post.

5. When It Comes To Baseball, There’s No Such Thing As A Fairweather Fan Sure, we love our baseball. But if you read on, the author claims “For Illinoisans, you’re either a Cubs fan or you’re a White Sox fan.” Again, forgetting there’s more to the state than Chicago, the author is ignoring the wide swaths of the state dominated by Cardinals fans. Take a peek at the NY Times fascinating interactive map on the geography of baseball fandom.

6. You Wear Shorts One Day And A Down Coat The Next As if Illinois is the only state that has weird weather. The entire northern half of the country could claim this one. I mean, how many lame stand-ups have used the same joke that whatever city they’re in that night is the “only city in the country where you can experience all four seasons in a single day.” Scientifically speaking, there are a number of states that experience wild temperature fluctuations more often then Illinois, particularly those  affected by Chinook winds.

7. Orange On The Highway Means Summer The orange the author is referring to is construction cones, and apparently she thinks we’re the only state who does road work in the summer.

8. You Can Tell Corn From Soybeans In A Split-Second Yeah, Illinois is among the top corn- and soybean-producing states in the country. But so are Iowa, Indiana, and Nebraska. And a much higher percentage of their population lives in the rural areas. So they’re probably much more likely to differentiate those crops than us.

9. Starved Rock State Park Is The Most Beautiful Place Ever Alright, I’m not going to argue with this one.

10. Speed Limits Are Only A Suggestion The author goes on to say. “Illinois is pretty much the Autobahn.” Really? There were stretches of Montana highway that famously had no speed limit for a while.

Long story short: The people who write these articles aren’t as funny or special as they think they are. Let’s leave the top ten lists to Letterman.

A few more open letters…

October 16, 2013

Dear Jenny McCarthy,
You want us all to believe that vaccines are poison, but you’ve got no problem hawking e-cigarettes. Hey, I just read an article that I just made up that links silicone to chronic hypocrisy. Seriously though, you know what actually is a toxin? Botox. The ‘tox’ part literally means ‘toxin.’ And it may be beside the point, but your old tv show was awful and I blame you for ruining Jim Carrey’s movie career.
Love, Ryan
Originally posted on Facebook, 9/29/2013

Dear John Boehner,
Remember when the country had a chance to vote for a President who’d repeal ‘Obamacare’ in 2012? How’d that go? Remember how your party’s legislators vowed to repeal it and you guys lost 2 seats in the Senate and 8 in the House? In fact, more votes were cast for Democratic representatives in 2012 than Republican ones. (The only reason you held your majority was because of good ol’ fashioned Gerrymandering.) Did you notice how a majority of the effects of ‘Obamacare’ have already gone into effect for people with insurance, and when polled on those effects, they actually like it?
I’m not here to argue the merits of the Affordable Care Act. I’m just here to tell you that your basis for shutting down the federal government because "The American People don’t want Obamacare" is a complete and utter lie manufactured by a radical wing of your party. If the government shuts down in six minutes, it will be single-handedly your fault.
Love, Ryan
Originally posted on Facebook, 9/30/2013

Dear Fox News,
You can’t pride yourself on being "America’s Most Watched News Channel" while simultaneously bashing the "mainstream media" without looking like idiots. Then again, logic has never been your strong suit. And it’s not that you’re stupid people (save for Fox & Friends). You’re just lazy journalists. I just watched Megyn Kelly conclude that the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis are solely President Obama’s fault based off of an out-of-context clip from an interview conducted by ABC News. Makes me wonder if her high school English papers were about how "To Kill a Mockingbird" had great tips on hunting or that "The Jungle" was an exciting rainforest adventure. And it may be beside the point, but what’s with all the pretty blonde anchors? I’m not saying attractive women can’t make great journalists, but when your on-air talent is responsible for more sexy magazine spreads than Pulitzers, Peabodys, or Emmys, you’re not a news channel–you’re a joke.
Love, Ryan
Originally posted on Facebook, 10/16/2013

A Short Rant on Health Insurance and Health Care

June 22, 2013

So now that I’m a “grown up,” I’ve become the holder of several insurance policies. Some by legal requirement, others by choice—but for the most part, I want them.

I pay State Farm every month for car, home, and life insurance policies, even though I hope I never ever have to file a claim. It’s not a lot of money, but I’m still forking it over with the intention of never getting anything back. Nothing directly, anyway. I’m paying for the peace of mind that if something catastrophic happens, I’ll be fine.

This is obvious, though. Everyone knows how insurance works: many contribute a little for the few who will need a lot. Most people won’t total their car, have their house burn down, or die at a young age.

But why has our society accepted this model for our health care? Health care is something that literally every single human being on this planet will need at multiple points in their lives. Some will need it for the unfortunate life-threatening injury or disease. Most of us will need it sooner or later for minor, but chronic conditions like allergies or arthritis. And all of us should be seeking out health care for regular check-ups and preventative action.

So how does the insurance model work for an industry in which everyone will be trying to cash out their benefits? The answer: it doesn’t.

Premiums and deductibles have been rising at a crazy rate, leading to a rise in the uninsured and a decrease in the privately-insured (see Figure 12). Family spending on health care costs has reached an all-time high, resulting in fewer people making trips to the doctor. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m seeing little evidence that the private insurance model is an efficient way to provide health care to Americans. I mean, insurance providers don’t even provide the actual health care. They’re simply the gatekeepers to accessing it. Gatekeepers whose incentive isn’t providing access to health care, but simply making a profit.

In fact, the only positive gains in health care coverage are thanks to public programs or mandates. SCHIP programs have ensured that virtually all children have health coverage. Medicaid and Medicare enrollment increases nearly every year. Even the increased private coverage for 19-25 year olds over the last couple of years is due almost entirely to PPACA (I hate the term Obamacare, but I’ll get into that another time).

But what really bothers me is that we have many other models for serving public needs that we’ve ignored when it comes to providing health care to Americans. Taxpayers fund schools, roads, the military, and hundreds of other public services that we all rely on (whether directly or indirectly). And we already provide public healthcare to children, the poor, and the old. Why not Medicare-for-all?

But if that’s too “socialist” for you, how about an independent agency that’s part taxpayer funded, part customer funded? The United States Postal Service has been working under that model for a long time (over 200 years in operation, more than 40 as an independent agency). And before you tell me that the USPS isn’t doing so well, let’s remember that that’s entirely Congress’s fault.

So maybe the USPS is a bad example, or we want to keep our health care providers privately-owned. Why not just regulate consumer costs, provider profits, and guaranteed service? We already do it all the time with electricity, gas, and water—even cable TV and phone services. So why not add health care to the list of necessary utilities that Americans get with strong, mandated consumer protections.

I really don’t know what will fix the health care problem in this country, but I’m sure that the private insurance industry isn’t helping. It’s making it worse and it shouldn’t be part of the solution.

Notes: While researching stuff for this post, I came across an article by Nobel Prize-winning Economist Paul Krugman. I’m basically making the same point as he did a few years ago, but his piece comes at it from a fairly different angle. Plus he has a freaking Nobel Prize so his is probably better. Probably. Also, that CDC article I cited above is pretty fantastic. You should nerd out and read it all.

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