Author Archives: Christine Joseph

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Health Care Rationing

Despite the still rampant advertising of prescription drugs, people are pulling back on their health care expenditures like medications because of sheer cost. Proprietary drugs always cost more and it is a known fact that pharmaceutical companies often promote their drugs to doctors and facilities directly for higher levels of market penetration. However, patients are forcibly getting wiser and asking for generic prescription options to save money, but alas, there are still quite a few drugs out there that don’t have a generic version just yet.

So, here is the brave new world of health care rationing. Welcome.

The average person with employer-sponsored health insurance coverage can expect to pay 25% of their health insurance premium costs through cost-sharing, on top of deductibles of anywhere between $500 and $5000. Last but not least, you’ve got co-pays for your visits, cost of medication as well as other supplemental care like vision and dental (if you have anything left to afford these). All of this is being pushed onto the employee more and more without any corresponding income increases. Does that make any sense? It’s no surprise that people are being forced to choose food and home over medication. They are only going to the doctor and buying medications if they absolutely have no other choice. Preventive care is becoming a luxury when in truth, it should be a right.

The 2013 CMS report on the wide-varying costs for a number of hospital visit types, in my mind, underscores an overall need for people to be more informed consumers. As we take on more cost responsibility, we cannot just sit back and go to just any old facility. Just as you would check out a restaurant for its reviews and prices, we should have the mechanism to do the same for doctors & facilities in our areas.

In short, we need some way to price compare our health care. A for healthcare. Not revolutionary, I know, but… do you see that kind of resource anywhere? Not really, although some start-up companies are getting hip to the idea. If people knew they could see a doctor for $200 less than a similar doctor without compromising the level of care, it would be a no-brainer as to who be chosen.

The reasoning for why this doesn’t exist is clear: doctors & hospitals (most anyway) don’t want you to know their base charges. They have no way of substantiating the cost of services. Very often, the trumped-up cost is actually subsidizing other areas of there facilities that aren’t exactly money-makers (i.e., research facilities, etc). For private practice doctors, it is very difficult for them to compare to the massive conglomerate groups that are becoming to pervasive in this health care landscape. They are being systematically enveloped into larger and larger groups because, as ironically as it sounds, they cannot afford to be an individual proprietor anymore.

Many experts agree that the health care system is broken in the United States. It is not about “care”, in actuality. We are a health treatment system. Care implies something way more comprehensive than what the average person receives. True health care involves stronger preventative care to help avoid and deter major and expensive situations. Health care is fully and robustly comprehensive, to include areas like vision and dental care by default. These should not be add-on services, in my opinion. However, as long as the for-profit model exists in the health system of the USA, these are things that will not change. Until consumers find their voice by using their money wisely, we will likely not see the necessary changes to make our medical experiences better. We need to change this model of treating every single ailment with a drug. No one can deny the dependencies and immunity that result with regular use of some drugs. This drug pushing culture has to stop.

Talk with your money and spend it where you get really good care. Don’t expect your local representative to do much, because politics and corporate profits sit way too closely in bed with each other.

Putin signs treaty annexing Crimea
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The New Cold War Convergence Begins

There is a convergence of events occurring right now that could put major hurt on the worldwide economy and inevitably, citizens around the world. If you haven’t been watching the news, you probably should get to reading, and not just from one source.

Remember: all news media should be taken with a grain of salt, whether from the mainstream or alternative media sources. They all have some measure of truth, but it is often a jumble of conjecture and facts. It is up to you to decide what makes sense and what you should believe.

That said, it is hard to deny the impact the Russia-Ukraine-Western Countries debacle will have on the world if political positions don’t change. The US and EU have levied sanctions on Russia in the wake of the successful Crimea referendum. What do the sanctions mean for Russia? Their assets can be frozen, purchasing of foreign goods will become instantly more expense or impossible, and any financial aid they may have received will be halted, depending on how extensive they are deployed. As Newton’s Law dictates, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Of course, Russia will counter such measures by a number of methodologies, including halting oil and natural gas pipelines running through Ukraine into Europe, thereby instantly making oil prices skyrocket. There are so many scenarios and counterarguments that it makes the head spin.

The main point of all this is that the game of chicken doesn’t really end at Crimea joining the Russian Federation. Far from it. I am more interested in what the United States and the EU will do if Russia takes things a step further and assets further claims on now-sovereign nations like Estonia and Ukraine. If the US and EU really wanted to put pressure, the sanctions would have been more encompassing and harder hitting. Instead, it was effectively a slap on the wrist. The bigger picture for both the US and the EU is, potentially going to war with Russia over these nations… is it worth it? What does it prove?

Cui bono? Who benefits?

As we continue to look at this unfolding story, keep asking yourself that question. Somehow, somewhere, there is something to be made: money, more land, resources. Is it safe to call this a new cold war? Well, I prefer to call it a cold war convergence, for things are coming together in what will be major decision time for the team of Russia and China (let’s just call it what it is) and the Western “powers” (used VERY judiciously).

Do we sink the ship? Or only wound it? And if the ship sinks… are we ready for what’s next?

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Goals for 2014

As we gaze upon the budding horizon of 2014, I want to briefly reflect on 2013. By all accounts, it was a lackluster year for me. It started off promising, lulled for a good portion of it, then picked up closer to toward the end. Still, it was not complaint-worthy; I’m still here, aren’t I? 🙂

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Bitcoin, Gold & Future Currency

It’s hard to argue that Bitcoin has taken the world by storm and even I can’t refute the possibilities of this cryptocurrency as an alternative means to our rapidly devaluing fiat currencies like the US Dollar and the Euro.

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Today, I’m 35.

Today is my birthday. So… why doesn’t feel like it? It feels like just another day to me. Yeah, I was born this day 35 years ago, but what does that fundamentally mean? I came across this quote and shared it on Facebook with folks:

“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating.” – Jarod Kintz

Reading this, I realize that this is probably the most true statement about celebrating one’s birthday. You are celebrated on Day 1 for making it here. Everything after that is defined by your accomplishments, how you make those days worthwhile. The self-reflective questions I love to ask, “What did I accomplish this year?” are in line with this sentiment.

I must admit though, this year went by super fast. The older you get, the faster time seems to move. And yet, the slower your perception of that time becomes. Life is spent mostly as an adult, so childhood is a blip on the radar of life, yet it is the most formative time in one’s life. We become the adults we spend our lives being because of what occurs in childhood.

We are quick to say we’ve got time, when in actually we don’t. As I wrote in one of my stories (a novel to come very soon) “Time is the greatest of illusions”. Time itself may go on into eternity, but our lives are finite and bound by physical constraints. It’s time to reassess the things that are really important, do and be with those important things, and live a life that is worthwhile. I don’t want to come back to Year 36 and say I haven’t accomplished anything. On the contrary, I want to have a whole long list of things that I’ve done or seen or met. It’s time to keep learning about the world, gain more knowledge and experience new cultures. It’s time to give back to those that need help and to be a blessing upon the world by living a life of service.

How can I be that change… to make the world a better place than I left it?

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The Black Friday Lure

There are two types of people that engage in Black Friday shopping: those that have waited for dramatic price drops in higher priced items, and those that believe shopping is a competitive sport. I’m of the former camp.

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Let The Writing Frenzy Begin!

It’s been 3 years since I did National Novel Writing Month (affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo — gotta love acronyms), but I didn’t actually get through the entire month to reach the 50,000 novel length. If I remember correctly, I made it about halfway. Not bad considering I’d never done something so intensive before. Still, it was amazing to write with that level of regularity; every day, hunched over my laptop trying to get my story moving gave me a huge rush that perhaps I did have what it took to create a full-length novel.

So, here I am again… older and presumably wiser. Presumably. I’ve come to the conclusion that preparation and support during November are incredibly key. Many of us have regular day jobs, so what writing we do has to be done before/after hours, on tablets/smartphones while traveling to and from work… and on weekends. Yeah. For my region in New York City, they do write-in events which I fully intend to participate in this time around. I know for sure I’ll be at the November 1st write-in at Whole Foods Tribeca and several of the Brooklyn write-in events, depending on their location.

My plan is always as follows:

  1. Ask myself: “Self, what the heck are you gonna write?”
  2. Create the outline for the story, chapter by chapter
  3. Plan out exactly when I will be writing (set the time in the calendar)
  4. Eat well and healthy (because writing for 4 hours without drinking water, eating a snack or not peeing is never a good thing)
  5. Exercise! (Like my trainer would actually let me off the hook.. smh)

This needs to happen, folks. This novel is BEGGING to be written. Want to follow my writing on the National Novel Writing Month site? Check it out:

So, to those of you taking part in NaNoWriMo this time around, GOOD LUCK!! We’re gonna need it! Embrace the insanity!

The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones
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Review: The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones

Honestly… where do I begin? I’m still rather stunned by all that occurred tonight seeing “The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones“. Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of the series and I like Cassandra Clare’s writing style for this genre. Yes, I’ve read all of the books in the The Mortal Instruments series to date, as well as her other arc, The Infernal Devices. (I must admit I haven’t read The Bane Chronicles yet, but I will.) However, the adaptation of the book to the big screen just didn’t cut it for me. I understand that the author usually doesn’t have much say in how a book gets adapted, but by all accounts, her various social media feeds made it seem like she cosigned on how the screenplay progressed. (Yes, there are SPOILERS — does this shock you? It really shouldn’t.)

Oh how misled the fans of this series have been. Some of you may have enjoyed the movie, and I don’t begrudge you that opinion or sentiment. But even you (said fans) must have realized there were some seriously egregious portions of this movie that had to leave you wondering WTF.

Point 1. The screenwriting was done in such a way that it was very difficult for someone that had never read the books to follow exactly what was taking place. They tried to explain things – they really did – but it just came across as not cohesive at all. Talk about choppy.

Point 2. Did someone forget the introductions? I mean, Isabelle’s name was said maybe 5 times during the whole movie — 3 of them by Simon. In the book, Jace did introduce himself, well before the point where it takes place in the movie. Not to harp on those things, but…

Point 3. Where was my egotistical, narcissistic, jaded, cynical and aloof Jace? I love his character simply because he defines all of these qualities in the first part of the series. Instead, what we got was a quippy character with lovey-dovey tendencies. Really? Sigh.

Point 4. The bond between Jace and Alec is never explored, much less explained. Their parabatai bond actually is an important part of the Shadowhunter existence (as very clearly described in The Infernal Devices series). All you get is Alec coming across as bitchy whenever Jace is mentioned or around. Zero explanation.

Point 5. The pile-on over-the-top dramatics grated at me like rough sandpaper. They simply were trying too hard to make it compelling instead of organically developing the characters properly to create the right level of drama. Cue: random love song music as flowers open to full bloom and the world twists around into a boundless vertigo. Grr. The campiness was a bit much for me.

Now, for what I LIKED:

Actor choices for the roles. That was a definite winner; I like the cast a lot, actually. It wasn’t the acting that was an issue, I think — that was all screenplay. No matter how you put it, Jace (played by Jamie Campbell Bower) is scrum-diddly-umptious!!

Magnus Bane. Nuff said. He’s sexy and awesome in the book. He’s sexy and awesome in the movie. The end. We need more of him and luckily as the series continues, we do get more!

Costume Design. I LOVED the outfits. I fully expected them to be in line with Isabelle’s flashy style, but they were quite lovely. Even a few pieces that I’d consider buying for myself.

The Action Scenes. As resigned as I am to admit this, there is a lot of good action in the movie. Thankfully the CG isn’t too cheesy.

All this raises a good point about a second movie, which they’ve probably already committed to. They ought to do better promotion and get a better screenplay. Perhaps consider a test audience prior to releasing another movie. Strongly consider a test audience (please?). The ending of the movie didn’t give you that “there’s gonna be a sequel” feeling. Nada. It was just riding off into the veritable sunset back to the Institute where the Shadowhunters live in New York.

Can’t you just FEEL my disappointment? But in defense of the movie, critics really need to stop calling this a Twilight rehash. Let’s be real. Twilight (the book) wasn’t that great to begin with. At least Cassie Clare’s book is a more compelling read.

Oh. And that subway scene in a non-NYC train car… lame. You could have done better than that, Director. You get the pooty face for that one.

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The Perfect Storm Approaches

I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but a storm is coming unlike anything we’ve seen in a very long time. In fact, most of us have never seen something like this in our lifetimes. What is it, you ask? The perfect storm of epic proportions that will change how every single American lives.

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Staying Out Of Debt

The average American does not understand their relationship to money and debt. The impact was felt very directly during the dot com and mortgage bubbles, forcing many for the first time to recognize that debt is not their friend.

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