the cost of end-of-life care.

So the new Japanese finance minister said something about not keeping old people artificially alive because it incurs unnecessary public costs, and some folks went predictably ballistic over it. See? This is an example of socialized medicine! They’ll just discard old folks when they’re no longer useful! ZOMG DEATH SQUADS!

Here’s the thing I don’t get about a lot of Conservatives, who are for the most part stringently against socialized health care:

Most of lifetime Medicare costs are incurred in the last year of life and palliative care. You can’t bitch about the insane costs of the health care system and then not have a problem with taxpayers being on the hook for a quarter million dollars so that a 93-year-old lady can live for another five months in a nursing home, bedridden and unaware of her surroundings. (Ask anyone who works in one—a lot of those places are about “let’s bill what we can while the patient is alive, because at death, that money is ‘wasted’.”) But suggest that it may not be a wise expenditure to buy Grandma another five months of morphine-hazed semi-sleep with a suitcase full of looted public cash, and people flip out. How dare you quantify the value of a life! That’s a slippery slope! You want to disconnect feeding tubes and respirators next to save a few bucks?

Well, if every life is so valuable that no amount of public money should be spared to extend the life of a 93-year-old hospice patient a few months, then STOP BITCHING ABOUT TAXES. And stop bitching about socialized health care. If five months of your grandma’s life are worth an unlimited amount of taxpayer cash, so are five months of life for the bum under the highway bridge who pickled his liver with cheap hooch for twenty years. Anything else is a slippery slope, right?

It seems to me that if the pro-life Conservatives were consistent in their views on the priceless nature of life, they’d be flag bearers for socialized medicine.

dadcation again, and a request for a friend.

I get to spend a good chunk of today’s Dadcation at the tire place while letting them perform the biannual ritual known in New England as the Changing of the Tires. Because the all-seasons on there are down to “questionable” status after almost five years, I’m having snow tires put on, which means my wallet will be lighter by about $450 when I get out of here.

Luckily, we have the change budgeted in, and we usually don’t break out into cold sweats when we have to replace some essential item in the household. We also have killer health insurance—benefit of the wife’s position at a local hospital—so medical expenses are never really in the back of our minds either. That makes us pretty lucky in today’s economy. (Gold-plated health plans are a pretty rare thing to have for writer-types.)

Some people don’t have great health insurance, or indeed any insurance at all. My friend Tamara recently came down with basal cell carcinoma, and her health insurance is pretty much a sticky note on her laptop that says “Don’t get sick.” I know that a lot of the folks reading this blog also read Tamara’s blog over at View From The Porch, so I’m going to put out a request for you to go over there and see if you have some change in the couch cushions that you can dump in her PayPal account to help her cover the expenses that go with being restored to cancer-free status. There’s a “Donate” tip jar button there, so it’s quick and easy to contribute a few dollars to repair the Snarkolator and keep the snark flowing.

(Like my friend Matt says: if you have enjoyed Tam’s wit over the years, you’d take her out for a dinner if you had her in the neighborhood, right? Just buy her the dinner in advance to make sure she’ll be around.)

I thank you in advance. More later, when I’m not dying a slow heat death in an overheated tire store lounge. At least they have WiFi so I can publically document my slow desiccation.

the standing desk, one year later.

Last May, I started the big standing desk experiment to help me beat my by-then chronic sciatica into submission. I started out with a coffee table on top of my regular desk, and a month or so later, I liberated two standing desks from Borders at their Everything-Must-Go sale. That means I’ve been using a standing desk as my main workspace arrangement for twelve months now, so I figured it would be a good opportunity for a long-term opinion on the whole standing desk thing.

After a year of standing up to work, I wouldn’t want to go back to a chair. In fact, whenever I do sit down in an office chair, my lower back and butt start to get progressively more uncomfortable, until I get to the point where I have to stand up and move around again after ten or fifteen minutes. It took about two or three weeks for my legs and feet to get used to all the standing, and for the first month I had a bar stool nearby so I could rest my lower chassis for a bit whenever things started hurting a bit. After a month or so, my legs adjusted, and then I was able to stand pretty much for eight or ten hours without problems.

You don’t really stand for that long in front of the standing desk, which is sort of the point. You shift your weight and change positions all the time, and it’s very easy to step back from your work, stretch or do a lap around the room, and then get back to your work, all without the inertia inherent in having to push back the chair and getting out of it. I feel less fatigued during the day, and the afternoon slump is no more.

What has it done for my back? I am pain- and symptom-free the majority of the time. In the last few months, I’ve had two instances of careless lifting where I tried to move heavy boxes by myself without help, and both times I gave myself that stabbing pain in the lower back that usually gets progressively worse and then sidelines me for a few days. This time, I kept moving and walking after the incident, and in both instances, the pain had subsided completely within a few hours. I really do think that standing at my desk for a year has strengthened the muscles in my lower back enough to keep things on the straight and narrow, as it were, although I’ll always have to be careful with heavy lifting and remembering to bend the knees and not the back.

So yeah–standing desk? Huge fan, and definite convert. If you have lower back issues at all, you may want to give the standing setup a try. Just give it a week or two at first, because during the first few days, your brain and your feet will definitely insist that it’s a dumb idea, that you OMG CAN’T WORK LIKE THAT, and why don’t we sit the hell down already? Also, get one of those rubber anti-fatigue floor mats to stand on, and your feet will thank you, especially if you have laminate or hardwood floors in the house.

I mentioned that I have two standing desks from the old Borders in town. I got to keep one, and the second one has been confiscated by my dear wife, who is also a standing desk convert now. She’s thinking about requesting a standing setup for work as well. And a bonus benefit is the fact that the standing desks clutter up the place less than the regular desks we had in the living room before. The standing desks have a smaller footprint–both of them side by side are just a little bigger than my old office desk by itself–and you don’t need to use the space in front of them for chairs.