Posted by bernicky - August 11th, 2009

It has been 5 years since I started running. Just thought I would mention that – it is something of a little miracle that I’ve managed to stay with something so healthy for so long. Just kind of cool.

An atheists formula for happiness – 3 rules

Posted by bernicky - August 4th, 2009

Some people believe that atheists do not have a spiritual side but that is not true. Love, awe, ecstasy are all part of the life of an atheist as is happiness.  Happiness is not a difficult concept but it seems to be something that many people pursue with vigor without catching it.

I am generally a happy person and sometimes marvel that others are not. I have my own formula for happiness which has probably been around for centuries so I will not lay claim to having invented it.

Physical activity, nutrition, mental activity. It should be obvious but for many people they often lose sight of how much better they felt when they were younger and don’t make the simple connection that when they were younger they were more physically and mentally active and probably eating a balanced diet. So rule one is: Take care of yourself in the most basic sense.

Gratitude, forgiveness and altruism. The funny thing is that most of us already know this stuff intuitively but we lose track somewhere along the line. We say “It is better to give than receive” by rote rather than with belief but giving of yourself, and being thankful for what you have and abandoning thoughts of ill will and vengeance are more self serving than we can possibly imagine. The second rule: Take care of those around you.

The third rule is the simplest and the most difficult: Want less. We rarely distinguish between want and need but we should. Once we start to distinguish wants as unnecessary then when we do want things (it is almost inevitable) we can be far more relaxed about whether or not that want is realized. We have all fulfilled wants only to discover that the joy of that fulfillment is short lived and almost immediately replaced by another want. Wanting less gives you more happiness.

This is the way I try to live my life most days with success and some days less so but for the most part I am happy and wanting less.

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The Canadian Health Care System

Posted by bernicky - August 4th, 2009

I originally posted this on Facebook but wanted to make it available to more people since it seemed to generate some interest on Facebook.

The health care debate in the United States is turning into a Canada bashing festival with orchestrated attacks from the insurance companies, HMO’s and the independently wealthy. The odd Canadian has also been solicited to make damning statements about the Canadian system. Personally I don’t care one way or the other if Americans get universal health care coverage. That Australia, England, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Ireland, Iceland, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, Greece, Oman, Switzerland all have universal health care coverage should be an indication that it is not a recipe for social disaster. In fact the US subsidizes universal health care in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of their approach to smoothing the transition to democracy.

I can only speak from my own experience and will offer this and wonder how an American family in the same situation would have fared.

Our family income is well south of the Canadian average. We own a small home, have a mortgage but no car payments. My wife works in the arts and I work in the public school system which means being laid off with no salary for 6 weeks every year. We have two school aged children. We will leave off the table for a moment my children’s health and my own health and deal just with that of my wife.

In the summer of 2003 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 3A), had a radical mastectomy with reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation therapy plus recovery. Cost wise it would have looked roughly like this:

50 doctors visit
150 mammogram
12000 Radical mastectomy with reconstruction
18700 Radiation therapy
15500 Chemotheraphy
8580 Neupogen injections
4280 Recovery in hospital after surgery

So 58560 dollars later my wife could have come home only we don’t actually have that kind of scratch. At the time the Neupogen was an experimental drug and the government did not cover the cost which drained our bank account but in the end Amgen the manufacturer came through heavily subsidizing the cost for us yes I went begging. All the numbers (other than for the Neupogen) are ball parked  don’t quote me on them.

That was then. Four years later my wife had a seizure at work and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Whoops  not quite free and clear. This time out there was no chemo though which was a good thing. The costs would have also been lower.

2100 Multiple CT scans
1700 Multiple MRI
4800 2x PET/CT
16000 Crainiotomy
3852 Recovery in hospital
9600 Stereotactic radio surgery

The actual number of CT and MRIs I have lost track of over time but roughly speaking to get over the little bit of nastiness at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 we would have been hit with a bill of a little over $38000. This doesn’t even begin to cover the bank of medications that she now has to take and the myriad of emergency room visits and doctors visits in recent months. In simple terms I cannot imagine having to deal with medical bills totaling in excess of 90K in a period of 5 years. We either would have been living on the street or hoping that things got better without medical involvement.

More to the point though is that my wife received all of her treatment in a timely manner. We never had any complaints about care or treatment. The horror stories that I hear in the US media do not reflect our families experience in the least. It is easy to complain when everything comes to you with ease because the least little roadblock will suddenly look insurmountable but realistically speaking we have it very good here regardless of what those trying to manufacture discontent in the US have to say about it.

Addendum: Canadian medicine is not socialized medicine it is single user pay medicine. Users have a right to choose their physician, to shop around, get second opinions and the government pays. Also there is not a single Canadian system but rather 14 systems with each province and territory overseeing their own medical care system not a single central federal bureaucracy managing everything from afar.

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Posted by bernicky - August 4th, 2009

Summer is on its way out. Today may only be the 4th day of August but the summer so far has been cool and rain drenched and seeing the back of it will not come too soon. Typically such a summer usually foretells a sunny and hot return to school which will be nice for me but not so much for the students returning to school as schools are not air conditioned.

I am looking forward to the reopening of school for the same reason that support staff in all schools looks forward to the return to school: Salary. The public often comments that it must be nice to get six weeks off during the summer but what they don’t know is that it is six weeks without pay and the return to action is a return to getting paid. The way the employment insurance system works in Canada you cannot file multiple claims in a 12 month period which makes it essentially impossible for a claim to be filed by a support worker for the six weeks they lose in the summer because most of us are also at will workers working on yearly “contracts” which can be terminated on a moments notice. This situation makes it unwise to file for EI when there is the possibility that you may need it later in the year.  The result naturally enough is having a little bit of a tight time financially as summer draws to a close.

Seizure encore

Posted by bernicky - August 3rd, 2009

Well Lynn has finally had the series of tests to find out why she has been having increasingly worse Jacksonian seizures over the last few months. She had the PET scan just before we went to NYC then after we got back she had a head CT and then an MRI and will meet with her oncologist soon to find out what is going on with her.

The worry of course is that the brain cancer has returned which would not be a good thing though not entirely unexpected as the doctor who did the stereotactic radiosurgery had warned that a return was practically an inevitability. We are hoping that it is either a build up of scar tissue around the area where she had the craniotomy or perhaps a build of of water in the same area: When you think about it we are kind of hoping for something bad instead of something worse. Her last seizure lasted almost ten minutes and freaked out the people she works with because when someone is seizing there really isn’t anything you can do about it except stand by and watch. As always only time will tell.

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