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How To Avoid US Election Silly Season

Unfortunately, it’s pretty impossible to avoid US election silly season no matter where you are in the world but there are ways of filtering it out a little.

They say that election campaigning actually being the day of or day after their inauguration, while I’m not sure that this has been true in the past it certainly feels like since 2016. I really have more important things to do than being sucked into US chaos.

So, here is how I am avoiding the US right now.

News

It’s important to know what’s going on in the news but that doesn’t have to be US focused all the time, there are more things happening than what that supposed “superpower” is doing.

The main way I see news is through RSS feeds. Many news websites still have them even though they don’t advertise them. Often you can paste a URL into an RSS reader and it will self-discover the feeds.  I have feeds set up for the BBC, Canadian newspapers and TV news, local news from the UK and so much more.  Some RSS readers have options to display just the headline or the first two lines of the articles as well.

So, which RSS reader do I choose? Actually I switch between a couple but here is a list of ones which are pretty good:

News Blur has a limit until you have to move to a subscription model but it does have apps. I prefer the interface and multiple view options that Netvibes offers.

This is a brilliant video by Chris Were on News Blur:

Television News

It’s not so easy to avoid the US watching television news, where ever you are in the world channels seem to have a blind fascination with the country. There are ways to trim that content down though.

First, don’t watch US cable TV news channels like CNN, Fox and MSNBC, much of their content isn’t really news but editorials with a never-ending supply of so-called experts interspersed with adverts to cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Secondly, avoid international stations that target the US market. I am thinking of BBC World News and Russia Today, both of which package their content with US news as a priority. I do enjoy BBC World News but I really want to hear more news from home, the UK, or at an international level.

Thirdly, consider watching TV news that broadcasts live online from channels outside the US, such as:

There are also many other news streaming services within and outside of YouTube.

Radio

Remember this: No radio station is local anymore. It used to be the case many, including myself, would buy a Shortwave radio to listen to broadcasts from overseas. Many of the stations were run by governments though which for me put fears of being fed propaganda.

These days many radio stations will stream their service online. For me this has opened up a whole new world of news and cultural entertainment especially as Canadian radio has a typical US style of broadcasting intermixed with hundreds of adverts which doesn’t make them at all listenable.  It would take me forever to list all of my the stations I enjoy listening to but simply doing performing a internet search can find a great selection to suit anybodies interest.

I highly recommend signing up for a free account at TuneIn who pool many radio station feeds on their site.

Twitter

As every Twitter user can testify to there is a flood of politically charged content on this platform right now, the majority of it is angry and offensive. So there are ways to filter out some of the vulgarities but there is no way to make it go away for good.

1. Avoid the platform altogether. I believe there are many who are taking this strategy at least until the election is over. This is most likely not an option for some people as they use Twitter for marketing or even an income source.

2. Place those you follow into lists then view them in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. Those in lists may never speak about politics, for example, comic shops or companies.

3. Unfollow users who constantly talk about politics. I know many who do this from the time they get up to the time they go to sleep.

4. Mute accounts until the elections are over. You can still go to their accounts and see their content but it will not cram up your main timeline.

5. Mute words and phrases. You can go to town with this feature and it partly does work although sometimes you will see a placeholder in the timeline where you content doesn’t appear.  See video below on how to achieve this.

TEDx

This TEDx talk is quite good and to quote John Noonan verbatim “people now digest news to validate their own thoughts”. There is so much anger out there it frightens me off contributing to social media platforms but I try to focus on subjects that are either jovial or informative. Unfortunately, everyone wants to say their piece on politics so the less chance there is that people will find my content unless they are specifically interested in that subject.

2020-08-27T21:49:53+00:0027 August 2020|USA|0 Comments

Salvation TV Series Review

For the past 26 weeks, we’ve been watching the TV series Salvation on Netflix, actually, I quite enjoyed it.

Story line

A rich technology genius, Darius Tanz, joined forces with an MIT graduate, Liam Cole, to try and stop an asteroid that is due to hit the Earth in 60 days time. The intense story line is interspersed with relationships between the central characters.

SalvationAbout The Series

The series ran between 2017 to 2018 over 2 seasons and 26 episodes.  The first season was made in Toronto and the second season in Vancouver.  The series was commissioned by CBS but they cancelled it in November 2018.

Actors

The series had a mix of Canadian and British actors in the series with the odd American thrown in. The main cast over the two seasons were:

  • Santiago Cabrera – known for his role in The Musketeers as Aramis now in Star Trek Picard
  • Jennifer Finnigan – won Emmy’s for her performance in Bold and The Beautiful
  • Charlie Rowe – numerous rolls, born and raised in Islington
  • Jacqueline Byers – fairly new actress with a growing portfolio, guest-starred on Timeless
  • Ian Anthony Dale – known recently for his work on Hawaii Five-0.

Review

The second season was better than the first mainly because it was fast-moving and action-packed from each episode to the next.  They had obviously put a lot of effort into the series with regard to sets, some special effects and a challenging storyline thrown in.

I wouldn’t have classed it as 100% science fiction as it had a general drama, espionage, strange cult and soap opera quality to it as well. There were technology and some special effects on the show but it was more in the background.

Some of the soap opera type content seemed a bit much, who is having an affair with who, whose baby is it, broken relationships that get back together then break up again.

I thought Santiago Cabrera was much better in this series than he is in Star Trek Picard, I guess he is the lead actor in Salvation as he should be at this stage in his career. The only other actor I knew was Ian Anthony Dale who played Adam Noshimuri in Hawaii Five-0 – he was also better in Salvation although both his characters had a certain borderline evil trait about them.

All in all they did a grand job with the series and I would definitely recommend it.

2020-08-21T22:40:31+00:0021 August 2020|Television, USA|0 Comments

Shreddies vs Shreddies vs Chex

One of my favourite cereals that I must have is Shreddies. Over the years I haven’t noticed a change in the taste, at least since I’ve been eating them which is probably for almost 50 years now.  I only eat Shreddies in hot milk, I know some people like to mix it up with dried fruit and other cereal with cold milk but this isn’t for me.

So who has the better Shreddies?

Shreddies UKUnited Kingdom

Production of Shreddies in the United Kingdom began in 1953, much later than in Canada. They were first manufactured by Nabisco until they were taken over by Nestle.  This is probably the best of all the Shreddies, as in better quality and flavour profile.  I enjoy two of their products, both Original and Frosted.  I don’t care for the Coco flavour but haven’t had the chance to try their Shreddies Max product. The price of Shreddies is GBP£2.00 for 415g, at least this is the current price from Tesco, the cost is very reasonable. [Shreddies UK]

Shreddies CanadaCanada

Production of Shreddies in Canada began before that of the United Kingdom, in 1939, by Nabisco.  Post Cereal went on to buy them out. This hasn’t got the same taste as the UK version but its pretty close, however, I still enjoy this product very much.  I only like their Original Flavour, they don’t do the Frosted variety in Canada as much as I have lobbied them to introduce it into this market. The price of Shreddies in Canada is around CAD$3.97 for 100g but depends where you buy it from, there are always deals and sales. [Shreddies Canada]

Wheat ChexUnited States

Shreddies isn’t sold in the United States so when I lived there the closest I could find was Wheat Chex, this is manufactured by General Mills. The taste is very different, more bitter, is harder and just not as enjoyable.  I don’t enjoy any of the other Chex products.  I bought Wheat Chex when it was on sale and would eat it occasionally. Some Chex products are available in Canada but not the Wheat brand.  Chex isn’t available in the United Kingdom.  I’m not sure of the price of Chex in the US. [Wheat Chex]

So, who wins in this contest?  Yes, British Shreddies. Canadian Shreddies coming in as a close second. US Chex is third.

2019-02-12T01:16:54+00:0012 February 2019|Canada, Food, United Kingdom, USA|1 Comment

US Health Care Saving Money

Health care companies in the US are commercial enterprises who want to make money off their patients.  Regular or hidden charges can build up or take you by surprise leaving you feeling ripped off and penniless. So, it’s really a good idea to be an “intelligent customer” to ensure you are getting your money’s worth.

Here are some tips about avoiding larger charges that I have learnt.

  1. Try to get an estimate for the services you are going to use.  There are two reasons for this: a) when your bill comes along and you think you have been overcharged you have a basis to question it, b) you can shop around to other places that will provide the same thing.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to get an estimate from administrative staff so go through your own general practice if you can, they tend to be more helpful/competent.
  2. Stay within the network.  Treatment outside of your insurance network will be much more expensive, obscenely so, ensure that whatever you are going to have done stays in-house.
  3. Always ask the price, whether you have got an estimate or not, prior to your treatment.  I have been caught out thinking the service should be free, as in preventative, when days later I receive a huge bill.
  4. If something looks odd on your invoice then question it with the company. By doing this I found out that some companies don’t charge for a service that is less than $5.
  5. Use telehealth services. Often seeing the doctor face to face can mean a deductible or other charge. Consider using the companies telehealth service, that means to speak to a nurse on the phone or online. Often you can upload pictures so nurses can see the ailment to be checked out. Telehealth services might be free, check with your provider.
  6. When going to a practice observe how many people come to attend to you. It doesn’t take 5 nurses to take your blood pressure. I have always questioned why they provide multiple staff when it’s possible for one person to perform that simple task.
  7. Do you really need to see your doctor? Often a nurse can provide the service you need, this saves the doctor time and lowers your cost, probably.
  8. Question the price of medications. Buying drugs at your local pharmacy with GoodRx coupons could be cheaper than charging it to your insurance.  This has been the case with all my medications. Often independent pharmacies are already linked to the GoodRx system.

I hope you find these tips useful. They may not be relevant for all occasions but when doing business with a company that is providing a service you want to make sure you are getting a fair price for a high standard. Don’t be shy. Question everything. You are the customer.

2018-12-08T21:51:08+00:008 December 2018|Health Care, USA|0 Comments

Americans and Canadian Prescriptions

Upon a visit to our local pharmacy, I discovered how some Americans are buying their prescriptions up here in Canada, I did not realize they were allowed to do this.

I learnt that American’s will drive up to Canada and visit Walk-In clinics specifically for a doctor there to write them a prescription. The clinic will confirm with the US-based Doctor that the prescription is legitimate and they need it according to their medical history. Americans will then visit a Canadian pharmacy to fill their medication. This happens a lot in the town where we live, Newton, British Columbia; I won’t mention the particular pharmacy but it is an international chain.

Why do American’s do this?

  1. Canada buys drugs from pharmaceutical companies at an agreed rate which makes them much cheaper than the US. Therefore, American citizens will save themselves thousands of dollars by buying them this route. For example, 3 months supply of a branded medication in Canada will cost a months supply in the US.
  2. American citizens cannot afford their medication in the US so it’s cheaper to drive or fly up here to buy them.
  3. The US health care system is screwed up, and getting worse under Mr Trump, which leaves Americans without any choice to do this if they want to live.

Americans will pay full price for their medication in Canada. Canadian’s get their health coverage from the universal system and pay their rate for medication. There is also extended health coverage in Canada, such as through private insurance, which makes it even cheaper. Even at the most expensive rate, Americans will still save money on their prescriptions.

Is it legal?

Technically it is illegal for US citizens to do this as they might be considered importing drugs which, according to the law, should only be done by manufacturers.  From what I understand there some flexibility under that rule whereby the drugs must only be for personal use, no greater than 3 months supply and that particular brand/generic has been signed off by a US doctor.

However, from what the pharmacy was suggesting the supply that the US citizens are buying in Canada go well beyond 3 months, in fact, they are buying thousands of dollars worth of medication in particular insulin. It’s very doubtful that American’s are declaring the drugs to customs officials when the cross the border.

There is pressure from the US that the drugs bought overseas do not meet Federal Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and can seriously affect the health of those buying them. Unfortunately, due to the prices in the US, it seems that people are willing to take that risk often not having any choice.  If going through the proper process American’s should get 2 copies of a prescription from their local doctor, hand one into the Canadian pharmacy then declare all the necessary paperwork, including the copy of the prescription, to Customs and Border Patrol agents. However, people should understand the potential illegality of what they are doing.

Fix

The US really needs to fix this situation so people don’t have to travel or rely on overseas countries. There will come a time when people won’t be able to travel, due to changes in age or ability, and should be able to buy decent priced medication in their local area. The US is supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world, you would think they can resolve something as easy as this.

2018-08-06T17:10:17+00:0025 July 2018|Canada, Health Care, USA|0 Comments

Trump vs NHS

This feels like a “here we go again” with Mr Trump who makes inflammatory comments without thinking things through or have any facts to back them up.

So, today started off like any day for Mr Trump and that is watching Fox News aka Trump TV.  On it was much hated British politician Nigel Farrage who said that the NHS is in crisis due to immigrants flooding in and not enough staff to back it up.  Then shortly after that came this:

Trump supported Universal Health Care but since he ran as a President on the GOP ticket he has been against it. Its not the first time he has made anti-NHS statements when really he doesn’t know anything about it. He doesn’t form his opinion by normal methods, such as reading reports from advisors, but by snatching sound bytes through Fox News and this should not be a methodology that decides the future of the US.

The NHS isn’t perfect and there is no healthcare system that is. The NHS are going through a tough period through various reasons such as short staffed due to Brexit and mis-management by the Conservative Party.   The conservatives have always wanted to privatize parts of the NHS but so far hasn’t worked out very well, for example Virgin taking legal action against them for £2m for not winning a contract. However British people love the NHS and an attack by Mr Trump feels incredibly personal.

Many countries have different needs and will have a model that supports that. So in reality the NHS or Canadian model might not meet the needs they have in the US.  However, Americans tend to look at the UK to write off Universal Healthcare in the US even before discussions have taken place, and before any draft strategy documents are written up.

This decision process, or the lack thereof, is heavily influenced by private companies in the US, big bucks going to legislators from healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. So, its very difficult to fight for universal healthcare, or even bring it to the discussion table, when Americans are being influenced by huge propaganda campaigns by these companies. Also, the US is an extremely divisive country right now, and has been prior to Trump, from one end of the spectrum to the other, in other words no one talks to each other.  Its tough to get anything achieved in this environment.

So, I don’t really know what will happen in the long term, certainly under Trump life will get worse for those with healthcare needs in particular rising prices. People might have some minimal advantages under the new tax reform bill but any money made there will be a drop in the ocean to pay the different in healthcare costs. Blaming the NHS will get Trump nowhere except make the country more divisive which I assume must be on his agenda, the more chaos he creates the more he is on the news. I feel sorry for him and the American people.

2018-08-08T04:21:14+00:006 February 2018|Health Care, USA|0 Comments