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10 November 2016

Trumpcare: For the Rich and Healthy

I was looking at the presumed plan which states "Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts".

What does that mean for the average consumer?  Most employers offer HSAs as an option to their employees. Let's take a closer look at an actual first-hand use case.

First, we must understand that the 'H' in HSA stands for High-Deductible.  The trade-off is usually lower monthly bills. In most plans, you can assume that high deductibles can only benefit you if you never need to file a claim.  This is true whether it is health insurance or car insurance.

Many companies make you work for a full 1-2 pay periods before you get your first paycheck.  When I started Sharp Labs the second time, I was paid monthly.  That meant I had to work for two full months before I got my first paycheck (sucks, I know).  Once I started receiving pay, I would have to get caught up on bills - so I decided to try the HSA.  Lower monthly bills and saving some money tax-free sounded like a good option.

I don't honestly remember what the numbers were on the plan at the time - so let's take a look at the most likely comparable that Providence is offering in 2017.
HSA Qualified 6000 Bronze [PDF]
$257/mo premium + up to $500/mo into HSA
Individual deductible $6000 in-network
Medications 20-50% after deductible

So using this one as an example, I would pay $757/mo to have the health insurance.
One of my meds at the time was $2000/mo (it's down to $1500/mo now). 
This HSA will not pay a dime towards it until I have paid $6000 of my own money towards my medical bills. (I'm pretty sure my deductible was much higher back then)
Since I was not able to pay $2757/mo for health insurance and just one of my medications, I was unable to pay for my medications and doctor visits.

Doctors were upset that I was skipping all my appointments (couldn't afford them on the HSA).
Doctors were upset that I was not taking my medications (couldn't afford them on the HSA).

In August of that year, I was hospitalized for 2 weeks because I couldn't afford to take my medications.
The hospital and doctor bills (multiple, not aggregated) would take me years to pay off.
The cost of that visit was high enough that the HSA finally kicked in.
For Sept-Dec, I was finally able to pay only $1000/mo for that medication (using the example 2017 HSA above).

So, long story not-so-short... If you are never sick, never see your doctor for anything and never take any medications; HSA can seem reasonable.  Any other situation, and it's basically a scam. 

Personally, I won't even accept a job that only provides HSAs for medical.

09 August 2016

Social Media takes a Step Forward

Normally, we hear sirens or see a fire and then social media explodes with guesses, questions, conspiracies, etc. 

Last night was different.

There was a hostage situation down the road from me (literally 1.0 miles on my street). I read what was going on via from concerned neighbors warning people to stay away from the area. About 5 minutes later, a couple police cars sped by.

Let me reiterate that - I knew why the police were speeding by before they did so.  That's new.

22 January 2016

Hint Water subscription: Blood Orange

In the last two posts, I mentioned that I had bought 12 different flavors of hint water.  I have finally decided which one is my favorite and setup a recurring delivery.

And the winner is: Blood Orange.

I don't get the "water" aftertaste. It smells nice. I've tried it room temperature, cooled and slightly frozen.  It has a nice mild aroma and taste.  Where I have tried a few bottles of each of the other flavors, I am almost completely out of this one... so there you have it.

If anyone else is interested in trying some, this coupon code will give you $5 off.

17 December 2015

Hint Water v2

Recently, I posted about my attempt to start drinking water via Hint Water.

While I have not finished off the two cases I have received, I am to the point where I am drinking a bottle a day, on average.  I've decided to try some additional flavors.  Once I narrow down my preferred flavors, I'm likely to do a subscription - so I'd prefer to be able to compare and contrast.

The new flavors on the way:
  • crisp apple
  • peach
  • grapefruit fizz
  • pomegranate
  • blood orange
  • peppermint

23 November 2015

Hint Water

As most of you probably know, I don't really drink water. Ever.  I know I should, but it usually tastes like I am drinking burnt charcoal.  I have tried quite a few different types and brands.  There have been a couple that tasted OK, but had more sugar than my soda.  Most were just downright bad.  Climbing up Mt Shasta and drinking runoff was much better than any of the bottled water I had tried.

Nevertheless, I know I need to.

A month or two ago, I bought a bottle of the Blackberry Hint water from a Kaiser vending machine.  It wasn't bad.  I think I could actually handle it cold.  So what's the damage?  Checking the back - no sweeteners (diet or otherwise), no juice, no anything really. 

So, I've decided to give this a shot.  I ordered (no one near my house carries it) 6 different flavors.  I'll post an update as I try each one.  Here are the ones I am trying initially:

  • blackberry hint water (the one I know I liked)
  • blackberry hint fizz (will try one fizz, based on the one I like, before trying the others. in general, I don't like sparkling water)
  • raspberry hint water
  • black raspberry hint kick (this one is caffeinated)
  • pineapple hint water
  • lemon cayenne hint kick (caffeinated)

Once I decide which flavors I like, I'll probably setup a regular subscription.  If I like enough of them, I may try the flavor-of-the-month subscription.

If you'd like to give them a shot, here's a $5 off coupon.

28 October 2014

Ubuntu + Gnome 3.14 = lots of crashes?

During an upgrade the other day, my Gnome Classic login started failing. The normal Gnome login worked, but that looks too much like Unity.  After trying to fix it for awhile, I just went ahead and upgraded Gnome from 3.12 to 3.14.

That fixed the login problem, but random apps would crash when I right-clicked or used the menu bar or hotkeys.  Turns out this is being caused by overlay-scrollbar.  If this is happening to you, try:

sudo apt-get purge overlay-scrollbar
That worked for me. Everything is working great now.

18 April 2014

error: symbol 'grub_term_highlight_color' not found

I really need to consolidate my blogs. I wasn't sure whether to put this over at the server blog or the android blog or.... well, anyway, this one is generic enough for anything...

I had upgraded my laptop to Ubuntu 14.04 awhile ago -- but today my desktop had the auto-prompt asking me if I was ready, so I took the plunge.

Upon reboot, I got the dreaded grub recover error: symbol 'grub_term_highlight_color' not found.  This seems to be more common with people who dual boot, with grub auto-installing to the wrong drive.

Looking online, everyone said the easiest fix was to boot to a live DVD and reinstall grub.  Sure, no problem, I still have the bootable laptop.  Except it appears that it can't burn since upgrading to 14.04... odd...

well, to save everyone all the steps I took to troubleshoot this....

1. Use the BIOS to boot to the drive that had grub successfully installed
2. sudo dpkg-reconfigure grub-pc
select both drives (not any subpartitions)
3. reboot =)

Now if I can only figure out why my BDXL burner can no longer write discs...
Update: seems to be a Brasero problem. This works instead:
sudo apt-get install xfburn

27 December 2012

Kenmore/Sears: The Con

You are all used to stores like Sears trying to upsell you extended warranties and such.  When I bought my Kenmore Elite in April of last year, I decided to just stick with the manufacturer warranty; because I figured that if it broke down that quick, I probably didn't want to continue using that brand/model.

Less than 18 months later, the dishwasher quit working.  No matter what we did, it said that the door was open.  Take out all dishes, take out the racks, close and... no, still thinks it is open.  I look online and see that this appears to be a common problem.  Everyone said that the repair was hundreds of dollars.

I had a few days off, so I decided to call technical support.  Maybe there is something they can suggest I try.  That's when the run around began.  While trying to find a number to call them at, I notice that others are saying that all Sears would do is send a technician out, who then would tell them it would be $300-600 in repairs.  I call, wait on hold.  The message says that I can talk to someone immediately at  Well, hey, maybe they'd have an idea what to try.  I hang up and check out the site.  The chat page redirects and hmm -- no way to chat with them... 

I call back and wait on hold again.  They answer, take my information, and transfer me.  I wait on hold.  They answer, take my information, and tell me that they can't look up the machine because the warranty expired a couple months ago.  Evidently it was a 1-year manufacture warranty, and it worked for about 4 months more after that date. The technician tells me that the best he could do is send a technician out.  Sounds familiar, eh?  How much, I ask, will that cost?  He said that if I reject the repair estimate, then only $80.  I complain, and he sends me to the "Kenmore Technical Specialist" phone number.  That number answered by saying that it was only for Water Softeners and Water Purification products.  Hit 2 for technical support, and I am back on hold for the first Sears number.

So, let me get this straight.  When you sell a product, you try to upsell a warranty that extends beyond the manufacture (subsidiary of you) warranty.  When the warranty expires, the electronics and LCD report a failure in just a couple months.  When the customer tries to fix it, it's going to cost another $80 to get a $600 quote?

I claim scam.

I think instead of repairing this Kenmore dishwasher, it's time to replace it with a different non-Sears-owned brand.

21 May 2012

CrossOver and inability to resize

At work I am running an Ubuntu laptop.  I'm required to run Microsoft Office (as opposed to say, LibreOffice) and Outlook.  While I could manage the Wine config myself, I have found CrossOver to do a pretty good job.

One of the things that always annoyed me was that many times, with Microsoft Office apps, I would no longer be able to adjust the size/position. I had fixed it in the past by going into regedit.  This solution seems much easier:

From here:
  1. Open Crossover Manage Bottles.
  2. Select your Office bottle from the list on the left.
  3. Click the Control Panels tab. Open Wine Config.
  4. Under the Graphics tab uncheck Control & Decorate checkboxes.

18 April 2012

Numpad stopped working in Ubuntu

While the home machine is now running LMDE, I am still using Ubuntu at work. Recently, the numpad completely stopped working.  No numbers, no ctrl+ for zooming, etc.

I looked around and people were saying that I needed to disable MouseKeys, but apparently that tab no longer exists.

The way to fix it is [Shift][NumLock]

27 January 2012

Google Body Browser?

So I noticed today that the Google Body Browser has moved to When I went to run it, however, it didn't work.  It reported that my system didn't support WebGL, which is odd because it used to.

Then I found this link:

The easiest way to enable webgl/ work aound In Ubuntu is as follows

1) If not already placed there by you: Place the chrome/chromium starter in the (upper) starter panel.
( Drag it there from the applications > internet  dropdown menu, or 
- from the dropdown menu rightclick "add starter to panel¨ or exact english wording may very- i am using the dutch version)

2) right click it > properties > commandline 

3) Copy '--ignore-gpu-blacklist' (without the quotation marks)

4) Paste/insert it in the commandline just before the '%U'

5) close

6) start Chrome/Chromium bij clicking the starter Icon

That worked for me - so if you are having issues, give it a shot.

22 December 2011

AI Class

Woot! ;)  After so many years out of college, it was weird to do homework and midterms and finals again =)

08 June 2011

Sometimes, Kickstarter Projects Don’t Make It

In general, no one likes to fail or even hear about failures.  I found this story, though about failure, to be quite encouraging.  They were trying to raise $20k, but only got $3k worth of pledges; thus the failure.  Someone who had seen them on the site invested $200k; and thus the encouragement.  I guess it's a sign that even failures can be a good thing -- in their case giving them a 10-fold increase in desired investment.