The entrepreneurial case for national healthcare

From my post in October 2008 about my election issue wishlist:

Universal Healthcare. Everyone I know that freelances
or works a day job and wishes they could quit and follow their dreams
of launching a company complains about the lack of healthcare. Whenever
I used to talk about freelancing at tech conferences, the first
question was always about healthcare coverage. I've heard that in
places like Berlin where you don't have to worry about where your
healthcare is coming from or how much it costs, up to 35% of working
age adults are freelancers. It may sound crazy and anti-capitalist to
consider healthcare for all, but if we flipped a switch tomorrow and
everyone had health coverage I swear a million small businesses would
launch overnight. I know lots of people that keep a job just to get
healthcare that are wasting their creative talents because they had a
cancer scare or were born with a defect or otherwise are deemed
uninsurable on their own.

I remembered this because I'm hearing about an ongoing debate about National Healthcare and seeing an economy growing in fits and starts but one that could use a shot in the arm. I still believe we are losing a great deal of innovation, we are living in a world without inventions, and we're stagnating in an economy that could benefit from entrepreneurial expansion. The global economy is constantly changing and though the US used to export things, we now just export ideas, and America could continue to lead with ideas and innovation if the business environment was a welcome place for new entrepreneurs wanting to jump in.

I still know scientists, programmers, designers, photographers, and musicians that hold jobs and dream of someday walking away to work on their real dreams, but the question of how on earth will they pay for healthcare (stories like this are abundant when you consider 50% of bankruptcies arise from healthcare bills) is a major hurdle.

I don't see how someone could be strongly pro-business and not see an upside to extending the already existing national healthcare for seniors down to age zero. How many more Googles, Facebooks, and Twitters are we missing with the way things are?

Cyclists: don’t ever buy anything from Bike Nashbar

Nashbar In April of this year, I was walking into a market and glanced down at my phone to see two new emails. I read them only to find out that two really weird looking purchases were made on a credit card sitting in my pocket. I thought "aw crap, someone ran my numbers on some purchases" and I called the credit card company immediately to cancel the card and investigate the two most recent purchases.

Back in 1996, someone ran my ATM/VISA's card numbers halfway around the world for some jewelery purchases that emptied my bank account. Luckily, my bank noticed immediately and refunded the money and canceled the card. In this new case, it looked like someone bought two get-rich-quick ebooks online, but refunds were on their way. It felt like a problem solved enough that I continued my day.

A couple weeks later and I started getting phone calls from people on my private cellphone number and they knew my name. They were selling get-rich-quick systems and they were calling to "set everything up to start making money" because I had "purchased their wealth creation system". I started to freak out a little because running random numbers in credit card scanners is one thing, but knowing my name, credit card number, and private phone number is a heck of a lot worse. I began to freak out a bit. I ordered credit reports and started tracking my credit profile at various agencies. I changed every password on every online service I use and I began to be very cautious about signing up with new services.

I wracked my brain for months trying to figure out how and who might have access to this sensitive information. I spent the last couple years weeding out get-rich-quick scammers from MetaFilter and had sometimes publicly mocked cash gifting scammers in my twitter stream. Perhaps one of the people I banned from my site for spamming had somehow gotten my information?

An epiphany came when I read this news item at Bike Portland about Bike Nashbar's customer database being compromised (which Bike Nashbar did not inform customers of for SEVEN months while the security hole was open). I rarely shop there because they are obnoxious about advertising and send endless home mailers to you. Then I remembered that a set of very specific tires I couldn't find anywhere online for sale I ended up buying through late last year. I wondered if maybe I was one of the compromised customers, so I looked up my old credit card records to find the transaction. I looked at the card, and it was the one that emails me on new purchases.

A temporary wave of relief washed over as I finally figured out who my faceless hacker/stalker was that had my personal details: it was some website cracker that broke into Bike Nashbar's webservers and since I canceled the card within minutes of its first use, the nightmare was over.

Or so I thought — It turns out the moment my chargebacks were credited to my account four months later (it's a very long process), it appears each company in the get-rich-quick e-business game sold my information along to try and recoup some of their lost income. As a result, I've been getting 2-3 calls per day from people with various important sounding company names saying they just picked up a card I submitted saying I was interested in the exciting world of work-at-home business. Every time I tell these people it's a mistake and to please remove me, I only hear one thing: a dial tone.

It turns out people in the business of scamming people into thinking they can make thousands of dollars at home doing virtually nothing aren't big on customer service or helping people out.

To make a long story short: Bike Nashbar's poor programming resulted in thousands of credit card, address, name, and phone details getting into the wrong hands and they took months to acknowledge, fix, and notifiy customers (in my case I was never notified). I will never do business with them again, but I hope anyone reading this heeds the warning as well. Several months later, I'm still living with the daily headaches caused by Bike Nashbar's fuckup over a single purchase made last year and there are thousands of others like me.

Don't ever shop at Bike Nashbar.

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy

Philips I ordered this Philips 9" LCD iPod/DVD/SD video player from Amazon a few days back for $99 and I'm astounded by how good it is considering the Amazon reviews. Right now, it has three and a half stars average and all the featured reviews are negative.

I had an earlier iteration of this, a 7" DVD player with a iPod slot that only fit two specific older iPod models. It worked great for the past year or two on road trips and plane trips, but the battery was so-so, the video screen was low quality, the picture quality was too bright and contrasty, and the iPod controls through the unit were buggy (I never could get widescreen video to play properly). It had a speaker but it was very small and very quiet and the whole thing was a clamshell design held by a flimsy hinge.

The new model is pretty incredible. The screen is much better in terms of picture quality. At 9" it is approaching laptop size. The battery is lithium ion and appears to be much better so far. The controls are nice and easy to use, widescreen video gloriously fills the picture. The new model has stereo speakers that do a decent, if tinny job. It fits not just older iPods but also most every new model including iPod touch, classic, and nanos. The iPhone will work, but it's just barely too tall to shut the dock door and hide it completely. The stand on the back works great and the unit itself has a large substantial feel that is close to the personal video players you sometimes get on planes for an extra charge. I can't wait to take it on my next plane trip for viewing movies and TV.

I say this all not because anyone at Philips paid me to (they didn't), but because the negative reviews for the unit rank so high in Amazon I doubt too many people have bought it. The whole thing reminds me of Louis CK's famous bit last year about people being ungrateful about technology advances. This new model is ten times better than the old one but you'd never know it from the reviews. I also can't believe this is only $99. It even comes with its own neoprene case!

I gladly give this five freakin' stars.

BMX Nostalgia

BMX WORLDS 2009 VIDEO from on Vimeo.

I can’t believe Blyther can still do decent airs on a tiny quarterpipe. I can’t believe Ron Wilkerson tried all those crazy drop-ins he used to have down pat. I can’t believe Dave Nourie can still do every flatland trick in his 80s routines.

There’s nothing that isn’t awesome about this.