Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not so anonymous after all


Blogger Unmasked
, a story from the Boston Globe, has an extreme, but relevant example of how even an "anonymous" blog can boomerang.

Talk about instant karma. The doctor's blog entries, posted anonymously, became the lynchpin in what sounds like major lawsuit. Attorneys threatened to show the jury what he'd posted; the case was settled the next day.

In light of the recent flurry of local bloggers arguing the merits of anonymous blogging, it's interesting how this story illustrates the tenuousness of privacy.

It may also illustrate the suggestion that just because you think something, doesn't mean you have to say it. Or write it.

Say hey

Thinkingthings is moving up in the high-tech blog world.

As if.

I have, however, added an email link to this blog: thinkingthingsblog@gmail.com.

It'd be cool to hear from my vast pool of readers, so my best bud, says: e-yak away!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It was 1938

when Buick invented the turn signal for its spiffy new automobiles. Almost 70 years later drivers in the Ozarks are still a bit reluctant to use this new-fangled device. Maybe it is the conservative, "show-me" nature of native Ozarkians that causes them to shun such inventions--especially ones that the government requires. Or maybe it just takes too much energy to use the signal.

It isn't very hard, though, to move your hand, or even just your fingers slightly to the left of the steering wheel and flip the little lever operating the turn signal. In spite of the fact that you don't see a lot of folks actually using them in these parts, turn signals are installed on all street-legal cars.

All of them, straight from the factory.

To pass the driving test for a Missouri license, you have to not only show the instructor you know where the turn signal is located in your car, you also have to use it consistently when you make a turn. So it is not a huge leap to assume that drivers licensed in Missouri truly do know how to use the turn signals on their steering column. So why don't they?

I'm an Okie -- you don't need to show me everything, thanks -- I have no qualms about using the tinker tonker as my scientist dad named the signal. I figure letting other drivers know I'm going to turn, and knowing a little in advance when someone else is going to turn is actually a pretty darn good idea. It's safe.

Then again, whether you're in the Ozarks or LA, maybe it is just too hard to hold a cell phone to your head, reach down to get your half-caf-mocha-caramel-latte, steer that gas-guzzling SUV and use your blinker at the same time.

So put down the damn cell phone already. And give me a little hint that you are about to jam on the brake to make the next left, or that you're going to slow down to about 2 mph before inching into the right turn lane to head on over to the K-Mart.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How much is that headache worth?

I get headaches. Bad ones. I'm aware that Amerge, the medication which works best for my head pain, isn't cheap, but when I refilled the script today, I was stunned to be charged $45 for 4 pills. Four. Eleven bucks for one dose. Last time I filled the script, I paid $45 for nine pills, and I thought that was crazy -- clearly I was being naive.

The pharmacy tech obviously thought the situation was out of hand, and spoke quietly to me about how appalling it is that in the USA, supposedly the richest in the world, the government refuses to provide universal health care.

When I left the store, I called my insurance company, United Healthcare, to ask why they would not allow me to purchase the nine pills my physician prescribed. Of course they couldn't (or wouldn't) tell me -- "a recent policy change" was the best answer I got. They gave me a PO Box in Salt Lake City to "appeal" their decision to limit this medicine.

When I looked again at the prescription, I discovered that without insurance, I would have been charged $109 for four tablets. $27 per dose. That seems like robbery, and in reality it is probably at the low end of the out-of-control cost for medication.

I am incredibly grateful that my employer pays for me to have insurance, but even with that benefit, I have to think long and hard before I decide that my head hurts enough to, in essence, swallow a ten dollar bill.

If United Healthcare allowed me to see a physician of my choice, I would choose a doctor who practices at St. John's. They can, and do, give sample meds to patients. Because I have no choice but to see a physician associated with Cox Hospital, I don't have access to that option. Cox apparently had some sort of problem with fraud and abuse, and have been told they can no longer give out sample medications. Cox isn't being punished with this, the patient is.

I'm employed, and I have insurance. I am very lucky in both respects. I've met hundreds of people who don't have insurance, many of whom work harder in a day than lots of white collar executives work in a month. These folks don't just think long and hard about taking a $10 pill for pain, they think long and hard about whether or not their child is sick enough to see a doctor. They put their own health care needs aside, and ignore serious symptoms. Avoiding health care because of cost is definitely not just a phenomenon of people living in poverty. Middle class Americans, who have no access to Medicaid (which is supposed to provide healthcare for the poor), sometimes battle these decisions even more often.

I know other folks who, though they have insurance, don't go to the doctor because they can't afford the co-pay. $25 or $30 is just the start -- what if the doc says you need lab work or an x-ray? Or medication? Surgery? What if they say you need to take time off work? Americans really do face the decision of whether to buy medicine or groceries. That is a sin.

It is telling that when legislators asked him where Missouri would get the money to fund Medicaid managed care, the managed care rep had a ready answer: Prescription medications. The profit margin is so high for medication that the state could take millions to fund managed care contracts and the drug companies wouldn't really even feel it.

The price of medication is a barometer for the status of health care in our state and our country. The pressure is rising out of control.

Our only real recourse is to elect people who will take the health care crisis seriously, and make the changes to create a system that works. For everyone.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Leave my name out of it.

Since I lasted posted about blogging anonymously, I've heard even more people talk about problems caused in their daily life because of blog posts. And I've become even more aware of how opinions posted by folks can backfire.

A piece in today's Springfield News-Leader, however, opines that bloggers should use their names. Click here: Our Voice to see the full text.

The way I see it, if I want my opinion published in the Springfield News Leader that badly, I will write a signed letter to the editor, or submit something for the Voice of the Day segment. I can put my name on that specific piece, and know (with the exception of what the staff edits in or out) what might appear for public scrutiny. Sending a signed letter of my own volition allows me some control over what is connected to who I am.

Is it disingenuous for me to blog anonymously? Apparently the folks at the local paper think so. But they're being paid to write their opinions. If they upset people, they're less likely to experience serious ramifications (like losing a job), they can just fall back on the old adage that "all publicity is good publicity." Not so true for folks who are paid to do virtually anything else.

Occasionally I might have something important or thought-provoking to write. An internet blog enables me to write words that may be far-reaching, and might even touch folks I will never meet. Whether or not they know my name is totally irrelevant. I think it is relevant, though, that people be spurred to think.

thinkingthings...the title pretty much speaks for itself--it is thinking things, not "thinking about the author." I blog about some important issues and and no doubt some pretty trivial ideas. In my opinion, ideas -- even the trivial ones -- trump ego every day.

And in the final analysis, I'd like to think I can maintain a little bit of privacy in this cameras-on-every-street-corner, cell phone tracking, GPS world of ours.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Stephen Stills is right, Paranoia strikes deep.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Blogging in private

Blogging can be a great way to spread information, stir up discussion, provide a little humor or perspective, give or get feedback -- it's even a good way to have a little self-therapy. It can be risky, though, just like virtually everything else we do on the internet.

Recently a fellow blogger gave me some grief because I write this blog anonymously. Lots of local bloggers know who I am, but I don't purposefully advertise my identity on thinkingthings. I've got reasons for this, not the least of which is that I'm a mental health professional. I hate to think that, even as deeply as I disguise information in some of my stories, a reader might believe they recognize something or someone in what I've written.

I worry about bloggers who so freely list their full names and locations or where they work, especially when they write about intimate or controversial topics. There've been several news stories recently about people losing jobs, licensure and certifications, even college scholarships because of what they wrote in their blogs. Is having a little readership of my rants about politics and social work, or my written "processing" of what happens in life worth potentially losing a reputation or a livelihood?

No way.

Maybe spending so much of my career listening to and guarding other's private thoughts has made me more cognizant of how so-called "facts" can be misinterpreted. I don't choose to limit who has access to my blog, so I can't control how what I've written is perceived. I knew that going into this project, but I also like the idea that maybe, just maybe, the stuff I blog about might cause someone who just happens onto thinkingthings to, well, think.

Remember that old campfire game where you whisper a secret from person to person? When you get around the fire, the story has usually changed significantly. That's just human nature, I guess. We all exaggerate or change information, especially if it makes the "story" more interesting, or funnier, or more dramatic. When I hit the "publish" button I give up control over what I've written, and I've figuratively sent the blog post around the campfire. Even without the whispering part, I am offering my words to other's interpretation.

Maybe the bottom line is that I am a private person. I listen to secrets, but I don't pry. I process other's private thoughts, but I don't volunteer my own. (A truly good therapist is always a tabula rasa for clients.) My opinions are just that: Opinions. Yeah, I want people to read my blog. I even secretly wish Tony Messenger would kipe what I've written to add to the "Voices" section of the News-Leader (wait! I think I just volunteered a secret) but not badly enough to add my name to my blog.

I want thinkingthings to be a catalyst. I hope that at least sometimes what I write might provoke some thought or discussion.

In the end, though, I want thinkingthings to provoke thoughts and discussion about what I've written, not who I am.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Paradigm shift

In 1981, MTV was shiny and new. In 1981 most kids were very aware that the Soviets had nuclear missiles aimed at us, but they also understood that, like a "cats" game of tic tac toe, ala War Games, the Cold War could never be won. We'd survived the energy crisis, the fall-out from Vietnam and Watergate, and were smack in the middle of British Invasion punk and new wave music.

In 1981, Kim Wilde's song "Kids in America" was an anthem of sorts. In a way, it described the zeitgeist of life in the early 80's.

Here's a taste of the lyrics:
Friday night and everyone's moving
I can feel the heat
But it's shooting
Heading down
I search for the beat in this dirty town

Down town the young ones are going
Down town the young ones are growing


Chorus :

We're the kids in America
We're the kids in America, whoa-oh
Everybody live for the music-go-round

Bright lights the music gets faster
Look boy, don't check on your watch
Not another glance
I'm not leaving now, honey not a chance

Come closer, honey that's better
Got to get a brand new experience
Feeling right
Oh don't try to stop baby
Hold me tight


You can find all the lyrics here

Now, fast forward 20 years. In a coup that history will no doubt judge harshly, George W. Bush took the presidency from popularly elected Al Gore. Planes smashed into buildings--taking thousands of lives and changing America to its core.

In 2001, "Christian rockers" P.O.D. released "Youth of the Nation." This song--the lyrics and the music--is drastically different from the now-seemingly upbeat words from 1981.

Check this out:

Last day of the rest of my life
I wish I would've known
Cause I didn't kiss my mama goodbye

But who knew that this day wasn't like the rest
Instead of taking a test
I took two to the chest

Call me blind, but I didn't see it coming
Everybody was running
But I couldn't hear nothing

Except gun blasts, it happened so fast
I don't really know this kid
Even though I sit by him in class

Maybe this kid was reaching out for love
Or maybe for a moment
He forgot who he was
Or maybe this kid just wanted to be hugged
Whatever it was
I know it's because

[chorus:]
We are, we are, the youth of the nation

Who's to blame for the lives that tragedies claim
No matter what you say
It don't take away the pain

That I feel inside, I'm tired of all the lies
Don't nobody know why
It's the blind leading the blind


Read all the words here.

The twenty years between these songs span two generations, and seem like a chasm between two vastly different worlds. Have the "advances" made during these years really made society better? People are still starving, wars are still being waged, kids get shot in schools, other kids blow themselves up in the name of their God. We have instant access to information now, but does that really mean we're making better decisions?

The way young Americans view their lives and their world has gotten much darker. The zeitgeist these days is one of powerlessness and anger.

In the twenty-first century it takes work to maintain innocence.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another blogger hits the mark

Uri, via Lovely Leah,posted a beautiful quote from Mother Teresa:

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."

Our priorities shape who we are, just as much as who we are shapes our priorities.

What are your priorities on this day?