Archive for September 2007

Broadband, REAL Broadband

September 22, 2007

For many years now we have paid the price for cable. Not cable TV but cable access to the internet. Cable is good, reliable, but expensive especially if it is not included as a package deal with cable TV.

Cable modem speed is around 1500kbps download and 300kbps upload. Since we do more downloading than uploading, we never considered the lower upload speed a problem. The worst thing about cable internet access is the high cost, but it can also slow down in speed during peak hours, and our local ISP has changed hands about four times

We looked into DSL several times but never followed through. It was either not available in our area, too much trouble to fool with, or did not offer any cost advantage over cable.

We started with Direct TV many years ago. My son got a Direct TV installation package for Christmas from a friend and never used it. He gave it to us. We installed it and made it work but it only had one reciever and no PVR capability.

We upgraded to Dishnetwork and got the second, and third, recievers as well as PVR capability. The cost for that was higher than what we were paying for Direct TV but still much cheaper than going to real cable TV. The only problem with Dishnetwork was the free installation cost us $50 and they did not provide us with all the local stations. Seems we needed a second dish to do that and they found excuses not to install it. We finally gave up and told them we did not want the local channel package. We had and still have a perfectly good outside TV antenna that does well for local station reception. No point in paying someone for something you already have.

About six months or so ago our neighborhood was wired for optical fiber. Originally only the telephones were connected to the new fiber optic cables. Later and very recently ATT offered wifi internet service and cable TV packages that were about half the price of anything available elsewhere. The U-Verse 100 package is what we got along with an extra receiver to support the TV in the bedroom. That way if one of us wanted to see a favorite program on one TV the other could watch a differenct favorite program on the second TV.

The ATT internet is not DSL. They call it broadband and it runs at 1500kbps download and 900kbps upload. About three times the upload speed of the cable modem. The ATT wifi works fine but the wireless modem/router also has wired ethernet ports and usb ports. It all comes out of the big box they provide. The box runs off the fiber optic box outside through catagory 5 cable. The settop boxes for the TVs run off the wireless modem/router which also provides wifi for desktops and laptops equipped with wifi capability.

The ATT solution is about half the cost of cable modem and dishnetwork combined, provides the same service, and seems to be faster than either the cable modem or the dishnetwork stuff. No more loss of signal when it rains.

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Health Care and Insurance

September 10, 2007

Be careful not to confuse the two. Health care is very different from Health insurance.

Like all types of insurance, health insurance is merely a way of easing the financial burden of health care expense. At least that is what it was designed to do initially.

It does not insure that you will remain healthy. Remaining healthy is more of a personal responsibility. Health insurance is supposed to provide funds for when you get sick. How well it does that can become questionable at times. It should be called sick insurance for more than several reasons.

Here is how health insurance has worked for me over the last 30 or so years. While employed and healthy my employer provided health insurance without any contribution from me. It was part of my benefits of being employed.

It worked well. If we were ill we could go to the doctor. Since we were young, healthy and safe, the heaviest charges for medical care were for the birth of my three children. All was paid for as well it should have been because there was considerable monies going for ‘Health Insurance’ every month.

As time progressed, we were introduced to PPOs, higher premiums, less employer paid for insurance, higher medical costs, and co-pay.

PPOs were created as a way of health insurance companies providing less than adequate care at a much reduced cost to them.

Higher premiums became the norm because of an unhealthy growth of the insurance industry. The larger it gets, the more money it wants.

Higher medical costs were largely from the burdensome overhead of paperwork generated by insurance companies. There were other factors involved not the least of which was inflation. (Inflation – the ability of government to print money without backing.)

Co-pay was a means of charging the insured monies over and above the premiums being paid for insurance.

The trend has been more money for the insurance companies and less medical care for the insured.

As we developed medical problems with age, the insurance premiums had a significant increase. Up to 1500 dollars a month at the end. So now we had to make a choice between using that money to provide our own medical care or giving it to the insurance company.

We no longer have health insurance. We cannot afford to pay for health insurance and medical care at the same time.

The real tragedy is that we have turned over thousands of dollars for health insurance over the years and have not received the medical care that they promised to provide. All that money is lost to us and now we find that it would be useful to provide the medical care we may need yet we have no recourse to recovering any of the funds that were stolen.

Now we are told that EVERYONE should have health insurance and I have to question as to why. Other than providing for the birth of three children our health insurance as done very little FOR us. If anything it has cause an unhealthy financial situation.

We are told that 47 million US citizens do not have health insurance and that is a bad thing. Yet that means that 253 million US citizens do have health insurance and I am not so sure that is a good thing.

When health insurance companies control our access to medical care, our medical care becomes marginal.

Now the government wants to take over the health insurance business and provide health insurance for all. In fact it is to become a requirement like taxes.

That is sort of like requiring all citizens to have homeowners insurance regardless of if they own a home.

No good can come of such an action.

TXU and Power

September 4, 2007

Our neighborhood has been suffering from power outages for several years now. It seems to occur whenever it rains hard which has been fairly frequently in the last few months.

Power is never off for long. The longest outage was about 24 hours.

Evidently there is something about rain that causes the circuits to short out. Power is again restored when someone comes to reset the breaker or replace fuses.

Turns out that the main problem is tree branches. Most of the trees in this area are over 30 years old. The last time they were trimmed out was more than 5 years ago.

Recently I received an email forwarded to me detailing some of the emails published by other neighbors. The bottom line on the emails was that tree trimming services were to be available sometime in the fall. We were also cautioned that to prevent disfiguring our mature trees we might want to consider doing the trimming ourselves.

That is what I was doing last Saturday. I was trying to trim some branches of an oak that had grown into the power lines. I figured that cutting the branches at the trunk would allow the rest of the limb to fall to the ground. That did not happen because the offending branch had grown around and entrapped the power line.

An hour after shorting out the line by pulling at the branch, an Oncore bucket truck arrived to take care of the power outage that the short had caused.

The lineman inspected the situation, cleared some additional tree branches from both the sycamore as well as the oak. He inspected the wires below some of the branches from the sycamore and found burn marks on the wires. Signs that the limbs had caused the wires to touch. The limbs were only in proximity of the wires, but they sag when wet and wind could easily whip them into the wires causing shorts.

The lineman also discovered that both of the transformers in our alley were connected in parallel off the same circuit. Not the best situation since two circuits were available. Each transformer should have been running off its own circuit. One of the transformers also appeared to be original equipment. Original to the day it was installed about 30 plus years ago. The lineman submitted an work order to have these situations remedied.

That was last Saturday. Imagine my surprise when a three man crew showed up shortly after nine this morning to replace the old transformer and correct the primary connection. They were done in under an hour.

I consider that proof positive that the power company is not as unresponsive as some of us have thought. They are as much interested in providing reliable power as their customers are in receiving reliable power.

Once the problem was demonstrated, they reacted quickly, positively and effectively.

Additional tree trimming has also been scheduled. This to be done by professional tree trimmers.

This morning I saw a large orange tree trimming truck pulling a chipper rolling down Laguna. I sure hope they don’t get lost.