RIP, Ric Ocasek

Ric Ocasek died yesterday at the age of 75, and it made me very sad. The Cars are a quintessential American rock band from an era that is long gone- with short singable songs and good guitar with a nice mix of synth, and when I listen to them it always brings me back to a good place when I was a kid and listening to them on the jukebox at the college inn or listening to their albums while lying on the floor of the college radio station. They are probably best known for their 1984 album Heartbeat City which featured the song Drive, among others, but for me The Cars, Candy-O, Panorama, and Shake it Up are a pretty amazing four album stretch, and there is literally not a bad song on their debut self-titled album The Cars.

I’ve always considered myself a closet Cars fan, as I have all their albums and frequently have them on my iphone rotation. When I say “secret,” I don’t mean out of embarrassment, but because no one ever comes out and says “OH MAN I LOVE THE FUCKING CARS THEY ARE THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD” because everyone, including me, will look at you and say “No, they’re not.” But what they were was a GREAT band that really fit the time and the zeitgeist, and after listening to five albums from The Cars (1978) to 1984’s Heartbeat City, it is a timeless sound that will still be worth a listen in another 30-40 years. That’s something pretty impressive, and there is something to be said for music like the Cars, which is very accessible to the masses (Marshall Crenshaw comes to mind). You don’t have to be a pretentious music snob to like the Cars- you just have to have ears.

RIP, Ric. Thanks.

Open Retro Thread: Westinghouse Medallion Electric Home

Colorado Governor Polis posted this on FB yesterday. I am loving how adept at social media he and First Gentleman Marlon Reis have been since the election. Using for both fun and education. Comes in handy when they need to rally everyone for a vote. Or oppose a recall.

Last week they took their kids to southern Colorado for the annual Tarantula Migration, and posted photos of the critters crawling all over them.

Yesterday Polis posted this video and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

Jared Polis

This mid-1950s Westinghouse ad for “The electric home” shows a vision for a home of the future. Here we are almost seventy years later, and it’s fascinating to see what they got right and what they got wrong. Even to this day, electricty is only used as the primary source of heat and cooking in 38% of US homes. Gas remains the most common home heating source at 48% of US homes, with heating oil, wood, and propane used for the rest. From an environmental perspective, gas heating and cooking had the edge for most of the 20th century because natural gas burns cleaner than coal. But with the electric grid phasing out costly coal and rapidly increasing clean renewable energy, electricity is fast gaining the edge. Electricity is also generally safer than gas for home use, as gas has higher risk of fires, explosions, and carbon monixide poisoning. I especially wish I could push a button that “selects the latest hit record, and play it automatically,” but alas our electric reality has far surpassed this nostalgiac vision.

I just thought I’d share in case you’ve never seen this before. Reading the comments on the FB post, guess there are quite a few medallion homes in the area.

Afternoon open thread

A Big Middle Finger in the Eye of the Lost Causers

This is fabulous:

We need to do this for every damned one left in the country if we can’t just tear the damned things down.

Fixing Medicare Part D

At the New England Journal of MedicineDrs. Stacie Dusetzina, Nancy, Keating and Haiden Huskamp review several of the possible redesigns for Medicare Part D.  Right now Medicare Part D is not truly insurance.  It is a payment assistance program that has insurance like features for broad segments of the population but there is ongoing catastrophic exposure.  This catastrophic, open ended exposure is becoming more and more important as ultra-high price drugs are becoming more common and more broadly prescribed.

Right now, Medicare Part D has a deductible, then a region of spending where there is a 25% coinsurance paid by the patient, and after that first co-insurance level, a smaller, but never capped 5% coinsurance paid by the  patient. For most people, this is not too relevant as they are not taking $100,000 or more year drugs.  But for the folks who are on $100,000 to $500,000 year drugs and more importantly are on them for the rest of their  lives, it is a significant failure of insurance as it is not protection against a tail risk, but protection against a mid point of the distribution.

There are three proposals to provide some catastrophic protection.  These proposals all have trade-offs.  If we are holding actuarial value constant and providing a catastrophic  limit to the few people with very expensive claims, then the money has to come from somewhere.  And that somewhere is from people who have lower levels of claims or the entire covered population.

Holding lower claim spending benefits constant means higher premiums or a new infusion of federal money.

Medicare as it is currently constructed is a weird set of choices that have their roots in either the 1964 Blue Cross and Blue Shield business model or jello wrestling between Capital Hill and the Congressional Budget Office to get a good enough score. Without supplements, Medicare is not true protection against catastrophic claims. It is usually good enough for most enough, but not good enough for the most unusual. Medicare Part D just shows this even more bluntly than it is evident in the hospital component of Medicare.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

Another “lost” submission. I’ve had to trash two dozen more that never worked, sadly.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

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Monday Morning Open Thread: Best We Can Do Is Persist

Some days you’re Walter, some days you’re the (confused) goat…


Onward Christian Soldiers

Weird how Trump complains about the US getting “ripped off” by NATO and says our military can’t be “the world’s policeman” when confronted with the costs associated with Republican predecessors’ foreign misadventures, but when violence affects Saudi oil production, he’s all “locked and loaded” and “how high, Mr. Bonesaw?”

Must be the Orb. 🙄

Election 2020 Open Thread: Hometown Welcome for Warren

This is significant, because traditionally the old-guard Democratic Party in our Peoples’ Republic has been very misogynistic. There’s a long tradition where only extremely ‘go along to get along’ female candidates are given the chance to rise in the party… and then when they fail to catch fire, the old bhoys in the legislature and their media enablers announce it proves Massachusetts voters just aren’t ready to vote for some broad.

These tweets are from the official convention for professional MA Democrats, and clearly the misogynists have been overpowered, at least for now.

Traditionally, Massholes have not exactly been receptive to candidates of color, either — and I doubt it’s a coincidence when Warren reminds the Official Party Leaders how much *that* dynamic is changing, as well:

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Site Update / Ask Me Anything #2

Good morning!

The first two threads this morning were a good reminder that the current site continues to be a source of frustration at times and that it’s been 2 weeks since the last update.

So here’s another Site Update / Ask Me Anything combo thread.

For anyone who missed the last one, or for anyone who would like a refresher, these two paragraphs from last week will likely be useful:

“The site rebuild project continues apace. The new Balloon Juice site is in place and pretty much fully functional on the Development site. And by that I mean that the design is done and the coding is pretty much complete. I’d say we are down to details there, like the auto publishing of new posts to John’s twitter, and working on bug fixes.”

“Even as we complete that, we are now in the phase [GoLive] of combining the new design/programming with 18 years of balloon juice posts, a zillion images, the 5 million comments, and the entire contents of the WordPress database, merging it with the newly developed site. That takes time. To avoid surprises when we go live, we are doing this merging and the database conversion on the actual infrastructure where the new site will reside when it’s live.”

Last week we started our second test run of the GoLive server – which I call GoLive v2 – and I was quite pleased with how well it went.  The build of GoLive v3 should be complete sometime tomorrow or Tuesday.

Until last week, the only access to the new site was with a WordPress login.  As of last Monday, I have finally been able to test the site without a login, so it’s been great to get in that way and be able to determine what worked when logged in but doesn’t work the way most everyone accesses the blog.

I was very pleased to find that nearly everything that worked when logged in also worked when not logged in.  The one exception was the new On the Road submission form – which I love, by the way! The developers are of course working on changes to resolve that issue.

So I’d say we are a lot closer (to rollout) this week than we were last week, but what I wrote last week still applies here:

“At this stage of the game – in this second phase where we’re converting the database and merging all the data – it’s not possible to accurately predict how long all of that will take, because you never know exactly what you are going to run into. I wish I could tell you that testing will start within a certain timeframe, but that prediction would be worthless. Could testing start in a week? It’s within the realm of possibility. Could testing start in 3 weeks?  Quite possibly.”

So –  Ask Me Anything – and in the meantime, I will share details in the comments that I think might be of interest.  If you prefer to ask questions by email, you can send email to my nym at

Election 2020 Open Thread: Kamala Harris Continues to Impress

Cancel, Cancel, Cancel

This thread from Jon Lovett sheds more light on how the Times mis-handled Ramirez’ accusations:

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Pretty in Pink

Thanks, as always, to the magical Ozark Hillbilly for another amazing sequence:


What’s going on in your garden(s), this week?

Late Night KKKlown Car Open Thread: The GOP Retreat (But Trump Found Them Anyway)

Even though it meant not live-tweeting during the DNC’s Houston debate, where he was guaranteed a (considerably less flattering) large audience. Per the Washington Post:

With the president speaking here Thursday to a closed-door retreat of House Republicans, scores of protesters gathered to express opposition to White House policies and outrage at Trump’s recent tweets calling Maryland’s largest city “the Worst in the USA.”

The visit by the president — who maligned Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” — was limited to a dinnertime speech kicking off the GOP retreat at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Harbor East.

House Republicans selected Baltimore as the location for their three-day conference long before the president’s attack on the city, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1. Well before the White House announced that Trump would attend the conference, a coalition of advocacy groups calling themselves the Baltimore Welcoming Committee had planned days of rallies to protest GOP policies on immigration, climate change and other topics. There was to be a singalong, a light show and a dance party. Organizer Sharon Black said Trump’s scheduled appearance “upped the ante.”

“This is about the remarks about Baltimore and his policies. You can’t really separate the two,” she said…

Of course, Donny Dollhands goes nowhere without a few of his devoted sycophants…

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Schlemazel Memorial Service Information

Schlemazel’s niece, who you may remember from comments as Laura Too, emailed me earlier today with the information about Schlemazel’s memorial service.

I have permission from my aunt to share this. Mark’s memorial will be on Saturday September 28th 12:00 Skyview shelter at French Park in Plymouth, MN. Anyone who knew him is welcome to come, and anyone who wants to write a memorial to him I will print out like I did for him at the hospital and put in a form for his family. Please let me know if you need anything else for this, I’m not very good at it, and it hasn’t got much easier. Thanks for making such a wonderful family!

So if you’re in the Plymouth, MN area and want to attend, please do. And if you’re not, but would like to write a few words about him for his family, do so in the comments and Laura Too will print them out for the rest of her family to read.

I’ll repeat this post a couple of times during the week so everyone that would like to gets a chance to leave a memorial comment.

Open thread!

Houston Debate Open Thread: We Have A Winner

Probably a couple winners, actually — but the immediate standout has been decided…