Tag Archives: Economics

Where the women are strong and the living is easy (and never the twain shall meet)

Land of 10,000 lakes.

State of only two seasons: Winter and road construction.

Where all the children are above average.

Minnesota is home to a few hyperbolic descriptions, and most recently WalletHub named it the country’s least stressed state, making it most relaxed, I suppose.

Who is WalletHub to make such declarations? WalletHub monitors credit scores, and its analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 33 key indicators of stress ranging from average hours worked per week to personal bankruptcy rate to share of adults getting adequate sleep.

And Minnesota ranked as No. 51 on the most stressed list.

Are Minnesotans the least stressed people I’ve met in my travels around the country?

I don’t know. If giving a friendly wave or acknowledging the presence of a sojourner with a nod as one’s paths cross is manifestation of lack of stress, then yes, Minnesotans have the corner on a relaxed demeanor. (Frequently outside of Minnesota, I will acknowledge someone with a “good morning” or a “hello”—a fellow jogger going the opposite direction, a guy walking his dog, a woman washing her hands at a neighboring sink in the restroom—and it’s as if I’ve surprised them by having a voice. Or a smile. Some residents of the coasts go out of their way to avoid making eye contact.)

The Minnesota compulsion to greet strangers, some would attribute to the phenomenon of Minnesota Nice. Perhaps. I have heard residents of the state—both natives and short-termers—describe Minnesota Nice as passive-aggressive. I’m skeptical. Minnesota Nice may be passive—”After you.” “No, after you.” “No, please be my guest, go ahead,” ad infinitum—but it’s not veiled aggression. So maybe it is the result of being trusting and assuming the best and getting a good night’s sleep.

One of the factors in WalletHub’s stress index is health and safety related stress factors. Apparently, Minnesotans have among the highest number of psychologists per capita and get the most hours of sleep a night. I come from a family with a long history of cherishing naps and believing nothing good happens after midnight. And that’s to say nothing of the 16 hours of darkness in the long, long winter months. What else you gonna do but sleep? Well, there is something else, I suppose, which might contribute to one of the lowest divorce rates in the country (another stress indicator).

Minnesota also ranks No. 50 in money-related stress factors (only Wyoming is lower), certainly due in  part to the frugal nature of born-and-bred natives. Author Garrison Keillor slyly notes this in his book Lake Wobegon Days: “So the Council changed [the town’s name] one more time, from Lake Wobegone to Lake Wobegon. Businessmen didn’t order new stationery right away, however, not even those who favored the change, but used all their New Albion stock until it ran out.”

In any case, I can take some of my good habits like eating right and maintaining a good credit score with me wherever I choose to settle someday, and the index may offer some insight on where not to settle (let’s just say Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky aren’t exactly calm and soothing places to reside).

If Minnesota is true to form, it’s not taking pride in its least-stressed status.

“Seldom has a town made such a sacrifice in remaining unrecognized so long,” he said, though other speakers were quick to assure him that it had been no sacrifice, really, but a true pleasure.

~ Garrison Keillor in Lake Wobegon Days

$2,569: Another lesson in the healthcare maze

Regular readers may recall my rant about the hidden costs of American healthcare when I discovered a lump in my breast a couple years ago and felt rushed into getting what turned out to be a completely unnecessary ultrasound. Because of the way the procedure was coded, my health insurance was conveniently (for it) let off the hook to pay for it—but I didn’t discover this until after the procedure.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot more about how consumers have no idea how much their health care costs because of the way healthcare providers and insurance companies handle the labyrinth process, which makes the story I’m about to bring you all the more relevant.

Uncle Al wrote up the following story after he regaled me and my Beloved recently with the details of a mysterious little tube of medicine he had on his coffee table. When I read it, I suggested the world needed to know about the sneaky ways American health care gets its money so I’m sharing his story here on Minnesota Transplant.

Please welcome guest blogger (and entertainer) Uncle Al:

$2,569 — always ASK your doctor

I’ve had this little mole shaped like a pencil eraser right in the smile line of my right front cheek for a while. It was a problem because I smile a lot and I also managed to nick it with my razor on a regular basis, too … ouch! With its plentiful blood supply, the mole—once nicked—bled for about 10-15 minutes … and then would start bleeding again if I touched it later in the day. How embarrassing for someone else to tell you over lunch that what you are eating is making your face bleed!

So in January, I went to the dermatologist for a “whole body” mole check (something my sister recommended—she’s a retired RN), and they found a suspect, possibly precancerous mole on my shoulder. I also asked about that pesky facial mole, and another mole right in the middle of my chin (which I have almost successfully shaved off over the past many decades—I won’t say how many!). And I also mentioned that I have this seemingly overly-sensitive spot on the very top of my head which I cannot see (girls: I don’t have a hand mirror) so I asked the nurse to look at it. Minutes later “Pssst!” went the liquid nitrogen on three of those spots up there and after a bit of slicing and cauterizing, both those facial moles were gone. Other than a little pin prick to numb things, all went well as far as any pain. Gone. Thank you, Lord!

The nurse practitioner (never saw the dermatologist) is the sweetest, nicest lady. She performed the two facial mole-ectomies. She also suggested a cream to prevent any future cancer spots on top of my head. I thought, “Cool, I better pay attention.” She commented that it was expensive. Since I opted to go directly (no referral) to this dermatology clinic (based on an excellent experience my son also had with them about a year ago), I asked how much the medical cream would cost. She didn’t know and said not to worry—that my medical provider would cover it: “No problem … since you have a precancerous mole and these tiny sensitive spots on the top of your head, it will be covered. We will do a biopsy so we know for sure.” I thought, heck if it is that expensive, maybe I’ll just pay for that ointment or cream today, write a check … what’s a couple hundred bucks for some ointment and no hassles from my insurance provider (since I did not go there on referral from my primary physician).

Again, I said, “I understand there’s a deductible, and it’s expensive. How about I just pay for it today?” I’m still thinking a little tube, the size of a Chapstick container cannot cost that much money, now can it!?

So she suggested again that I just allow the dermatologist’s office, to submit it to the pharmacy and my medical provider will likely cover it completely and then I can deal with any questions later. Seemed logical, so I paid my doctor visit portion of the bill and walked out the door with just a little circle Band-Aid where that pesky “used to be bloody mole” was located … a new man! I felt so good!

A week later, the doorbell rang. I had to sign for the prescription, and I eagerly opened up the box, slid out the 30-gram tube of medication (for us Americans that is 1 ounce) and read the instructions and side-effects carefully. I put a dab on my finger after I opened it (no returning it now you know) and … no pain. Hmmm…not bad. I continued treatment.

Two weeks later I got a notice from my healthcare provider. Yep, they paid it all! Phew! Good! Then I read the second page of the billing statement dated January 22, 2015. This is 10 days after my appointment. I read that with one prescription I had almost exhausted my prescription drug plan coverage and with another $131 of prescription medicine expenditures in 2015, they will move me into the next higher class of coverages (meaning I pay much, much more for any medicines needed in the “remainder of the year.”) WT*? (Pardon me!) What the hell has just happened? I’m only into the 22nd day of the year. The bill for one ounce of CARAC CRM 0.5% costs … get ready …


Can you hear the expletives still echoing?

Yes, $2,569 for a tube of Chapstick in cream form! OMG. I wish she would have said, “Be sure to bend over when the postman arrives!” because that cost would have caused me to rethink my decision to get the medicine!

I think Americans, including myself, have lost sight of what medications actually cost out there in the market place. We are all “neatly hidden” from the actual costs of medicines, and we are allowing drug companies and insurance companies to screw us over. Ditto to the hospitals that charge us for each tissue, Q-tip (excuse me, “sterile swab”) and every time our blood pressure gets checked (by a machine nowadays).

Anyway, nothing I can do about it now. The minute I signed for that postal package, I was screwed. I can’t return it. I didn’t have a bill yet to even know what I was actually signing for when the medication arrived at my door. I learned a valuable medical life lesson in this little mole-ectomy experience, and I hope you now did, too:

Always ask how much any medication actually costs!

I am not convinced I really need to put a little $85 dab on my head each morning (then, like a good beer, in minutes it’s gone!)

Are you kidding me? Ask!


Minnesota Transplant note: Uncle Al is a dear man living in a beautiful place where his head is regularly exposed to sunshine. Let’s hope his ridiculously expensive skin balm does the trick in one tube. Because there won’t be a second!

‘Loss aversion’ as it relates to pet ownership

My tolerance for loss might be lower than most people.

And most people have low tolerance for loss.

It’s called “loss aversion,” and it’s a powerful motivator, according to Brigitte Madrian, a Harvard professor who appeared recently on NPR’s All Things Considered. “The literature suggests that people are twice as sensitive to losses as they are to gains.”

NPR was examining loss aversion as it relates to investing for retirement, but since I heard the story I’ve been examining my life in terms of my loss aversion.

People who know me well would describe me as competitive. For example, while playing a simple card game with my 6-year-old nephew last week, I actually weighed in my mind the relative benefits of winning. Really? Beating a 6-year-old was somehow important to me? (Just to prove I’m empathetic as well as competitive, I’m compelled to tell you my nephew won the game. Fair and square. Mostly.)

Am I competitive because I want to win? Or am I competitive because I don’t like losing even more? “Loss aversion” would suggest it’s the fear of losing that drives my impulses.

My aversion for loss explains a lot. Why did I get straight A grades in high school? Because I hated Bs more. Why do I hate weight lifting so much? Because as an ectomorph, I’ll never be good at it. Why did I tolerate bad behavior for 16 years in my first marriage? I did it not because I wanted to stay married but because I didn’t. Want. To get. A divorce.

I’m particularly conscious of my inclination toward loss aversion this week as I’ve attended to a health crisis in my sweet little dog.

chloe epilepsyRegular readers will remember the seizures experienced two months ago by my 6-year-old miniature schnauzer, Chloe (read that story here). We thought the incident was caused by a pain medication prescribed to her after a dental procedure. We thought Chloe was healed of her seizures. We were wrong.

On Wednesday, she started seizing again, and in the period of 22 hours, she had nine seizures. I’ll spare you the description of the sleeplessness, hand-wringing, financial repercussions and sorrow. Here’s the short version: We consulted our hometown veterinarian who referred us to an animal neurologist (!), who administered Valium to stop the seizures, diagnosed her as having idiopathic epilepsy (read: seizures of unknown cause), recommended hospitalizing Chloe overnight and prescribed Keppra, an anti-seizure medicine. Chloe will have to take anti-seizure meds forever.

Chloe is back home this afternoon. She’s not having convulsions, but she’s not herself.

Only time will tell if Keppra is the solution to Chloe’s epilepsy.

In the meantime, I’m left to question: Am I trying to save my dog (to win?) or am I trying to avoid losing my dog? Am I properly motivated to look out for Chloe’s health and, too, make sound financial decisions? Or am I willing to spend any amount to avoid my own emotional pain? If the medication causes permanent personality change in my little dog, am I willing to embrace a new normal or will I forever be mired in the grief of losing the sweet, healthy little dog I used to have?

I don’t know, and to be honest, not knowing feels like losing, too. Given my loss aversion, I need to remind myself that closed doors mean opened windows. And other bits of wisdom.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

~ Winston Churchill

Benefits of electricity aggregation or how to stick it to ComEd

Whatever you call it — electricity aggregation or utility revenge — it saves customers money and it’s an example of our democracy at work for its residents.

I appreciate the power of electricity (excuse the pun) to transform my life (and transmit this post to the blogosphere, for example), so when I think about paying a hundred bucks a month for electricity in my home, I think I’m getting a good deal in any case. But why pay more if you don’t have to?

Several months ago, village residents approved a plan for electricity aggregation in the village of Hampshire (aha! a direct benefit of showing up to vote!). This allowed the village to purchase electricity in bulk for all its residents and theoretically pass the savings along to users.

In the case of Hampshire, residents are indeed saving money. Just looking at my bills for the past two months and comparing them to the same time last year, I saved 4% in October and 23% in November even though I used more electricity in 2012 than last year.

How it works: First Energy Solutions provides the electrical supply at a rate 38% less than ComEd. ComEd continues to deliver that electricity (and, of course, charges for that service) and provide the billing. So without lifting a finger, residents of Hampshire are paying less for their electricity.

I wondered if ComEd increased their delivery charges to account for not supplying the electricity, but no; deliver charges are actually down slightly. I also wondered if the village was taking a cut. No on that count, too. Some municipalities add a surcharge, but not Hampshire.

How cool is that? Power to the people!

The economics of breast lumps and peace of mind

I found a lump in my breast.

Now before this statement causes you to wail and gnash your teeth because you’re a faithful reader who would miss my blog if I no longer posted weird recipes and old diary entries, I’m OK. If you’re a mute lurker who’s gleefully rubbing his hands together ready to take in all the details of my imminent demise, you’re going to be disappointed.

This post is about breast lumps, health insurance and the price of peace of mind.

Two weeks ago during a shower, I noticed a bump on my breast. I wasn’t willing to call it a lump because a breast lump is WAYYYYYY too scary to ponder.

The bump appeared suddenly, my breast was sore, the area around the bump was red and the bump was not under my arm. For the record, I’m 45, and I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family.

A thorough review of Google revealed this bump had almost no chance of being cancerous. But still, it was a bump. In my breast. And every woman who’s ever seen, worn or touted a pink ribbon knows that’s no laughing matter.

So I made an appointment for an annual exam, which was about 14 months overdue anyway (I’m generally pretty healthy and occasionally pretty lazy — I could use a haircut, too, but I haven’t scheduled that either). Since I was traveling last week, the appointment didn’t occur until Monday, 16 days after I found the bump.

Over the course of those two weeks, the bump got progressively smaller and painless. Another indication that whatever was in there, it wasn’t cancerous.

I arrived at my doctor’s appointment Monday morning, and as the nurse was assessing my health, the conversation took on a distinctly ominous tone when I mentioned I found a lump (yes, I said “lump”) in my breast.

I’ve never had such a fast pap smear in all my life. She was getting the unimportant stuff out of the way so she could concentrate on this Lump. The Lump had now taken on the sort of importance that brings capitalization along with it.

She felt around and announced she knew as much about my Lump as I did from my Google search: “Well, there’s a Lump there — it could be a cyst, but we both felt it — so you’ll need a mammogram and maybe an ultrasound before we can determine what it is. Then, if necessary, we’ll get a biopsy. Only a biopsy can determine if it’s something more serious than a cyst.”


She had all the information I did: That every indication pointed to something other than cancer. But she was talking about “biopsies” and “something serious.”

She sent me off with a prescription for a “diagnostic” mammogram (as opposed to a “screening”) and an ultrasound.

I called the hospital and as soon as I described to the scheduler what I needed, she announced she had an opening available the next morning.

So on Tuesday, I arrived bright and early at Sherman Hospital and handed my paperwork to the receptionist.

I don’t know if it was because my prescription said “breast lump, left” or because they’re nice to all their patients, but every single person I encountered at the hospital was friendly, kind and helpful. They showed me where to wait and how long I might have to wait. The mammogram technician told me they would make a determination about my lump that day so I would know whether or not I would need a biopsy before I left.

If I really had breast cancer, I certainly couldn’t have complained about the service.

I’ve had two mammograms in the past, so I knew what to expect. Except in addition to the stickers to mark my nipples (just in case it isn’t clear?), they added a sticker to mark the spot of the Lump, which by now, 16 days after its first appearance, I could hardly feel anymore.

Price: Roughly $277. Or, at least, that’s what a screening mammogram costs. Plus the price of reading it. And a “diagnostic” mammogram might cost more. That’s what I was told, but costs came up only because I brought them up. Why a diagnostic mammogram is coded different is beyond me (do they let the interns read the “screening” mammograms?), but it’s bad news for me because I have high-deductible health insurance that covers annual exams and screenings for free, but I’ve got to pay for everything else up to $3,000.

Now $3,000 would be pretty cheap if this Lump turned out to be breast cancer, but it’s a pretty big hurdle to clear when you’ve a struggling author who’s got to pay for it yourself.

Afterwards, the technician brought me back into the mammography room and told me firstly, to remove the stickers from my breasts. Then she said the mammogram wasn’t showing anything and in any case, it didn’t appear to be a solid mass (read: “solid mass,” as opposed to a fluid-filled cyst, is very bad news). The radiologist who read the mammogram suggested we go ahead with the ultrasound “just to be sure.”

At that point, sitting there without a bra in a cotton wrap being handled so delicately by every medical health professional within ear shot of my “breast lump, left” prescription, I just wanted to be sure, too.

Logically, I knew this bump was not a Lump. It was getting smaller and the mammography revealed nothing ominous. And I knew I would have to pay for the ultrasound because it wasn’t a screening procedure so I was on the hook for it, only to have it applied to my deductible. An ultrasound cost $517.60 plus the price of reading it (presumably by someone other than an intern).

But emotionally, all I could think about was my nephew, who was brought into a hospital 10 years ago with a suspicious sore on his arm. Looks like nothing. Probably is nothing. Little boys get hurt sometimes. The odds of it being something serious are slim and none.

But he was diagnosed with leukemia that day and ended up undergoing six months of intense chemotherapy and hospitalization.

He lived (lives!) but nearly every other child I saw on that hospital floor during my nephew’s hospitalization didn’t make it.

So I followed along dutifully as the mammogram technician handed me off to the ultrasound specialist.

After a huge smear of warm jelly (even the jelly was warm! but on the other hand, for $517.60, it better be!) and less than three minutes of undergoing the ultrasound wand, it was over.

Five minutes later, the ultrasound tech returned to tell me it was nothing. Not a solid mass and not even a fluid-filled cyst.

The Lump that now was barely even a bump was nothing.

Ah. Peace of mind.

End of story, right?

Emotionally, sure. She lived happily ever after. The end.

But logically, it’s not the end.

Despite three procedures (manual exam, mammography, ultrasound), no one knows what the bump is (or was) and why it happened.

Could be hormones. Could be trauma. Could be too much caffeine. Could be a cyst that exists in my breast all the time that decided to be unruly and get inflamed.

My health insurance company (which will presumably cover the doctor’s exam) and I spent $1,000 or more to learn exactly as much as I knew after 30 minutes with Google.

So the Big Question (yes, important enough to be capitalized) is: Is peace of mind worth $1,000?

If I had standard health insurance, I would be paying 20% and the health insurance company paying 80%. For $200, I positively would have undergone the ultrasound. Which is a terrible thing to admit because it costs $1,000 either way.

With my deductible, I’m paying for at least $517 of it. If peace of mind is worth $200 to me, is it worth $517+?

Well, the answer is yes. I knew how much it was going to cost, and I went ahead with the procedure. In retrospect, I should have waited a week before determining to go ahead with the ultrasound. My gut was telling me it was nothing, and I wasn’t losing sleep over it. In a week, the bump would have been gone altogether.

But I didn’t wait.

This is a huge issue with why health insurance costs so much. Not a single one of the health insurance professionals I encountered recommended a “wait and see” approach. Even if it had occurred to them, they probably would not have said it because the last thing they’d want is to be sued by the estate of the struggling author who had breast cancer but was told to “wait and see” and ended up dying an untimely death.

So here we are: Paying high prices — either directly or indirectly — for well-trained professionals with very expensive machines (and stickers and warm jelly) to perform procedures “just to be sure” that, frankly, still leave a lot of unanswered questions both about breast bumps and about the cost of peace of mind.

Please Mr. Postman (and thank you)

Who doesn’t love mail?

Sure, you can find a lot of crap in your mailbox — bills, advertisements, newsletters from your Congressman — but the idea that a handwritten letter might be in there draws you to check the box the first minute the postman, er, letter carrier, steps away from the porch. Or curb. Or vast bank of bland letterboxes.

Email might preoccupy us the same way we used to obsess about snail mail, but the yearning to discover “you’ve got mail” is more intense for a delivery that comes only once a day.

As my postmistress was weighing letters for me this morning, I told her how much I appreciate her. The post office here is as little as the village, and thank goodness, it’s not in danger of closing like thousands of other little post offices across the country as the U.S. Postal Service overhauls its operation to cut costs. We’re notorious customers in Hampshire. My commercial insurance agent husband sends and receives enormous envelopes of paperwork almost every day. We use mail-stops regularly, sometimes for weeks at a time, and when we were traveling in the South earlier this year, we used the mail forwarding service which shipped our missives to us — wherever we were — once a week. And our preoccupation with eBay forces our carrier to step out of his vehicle to place the latest deal on our porch on a near daily basis. We’re the kind of customer that wrings every penny out of those stamps.

Who else delivers items of almost any size to your door six days a week for as little as 44 cents? Brown comes close, but I can’t send birthday wishes via UPS unless I include a gift. For goodness sake, it takes $3 plus a tip to get our Chinese food delivered from the Iron Wok a mile away. The envelopes I mailed today will be in New York by Saturday morning (find out what I mailed on my other blog about my book aspirations). I can hardly drive to New York in two days.

While some people might decry the postal service as going the way of the dinosaurs, I am not among them. I will miss Tuesday or Saturday delivery should the USPS decide to cut back. The people who work at the post office really work, unlike some government bureaucrats I’ve encountered, so postage is one “tax” I’m more than willing to pay.

One last note to this rant: The people who complain the loudest about how the only mail in their mailboxes is junk might look in the mirror before they look into their empty letterbox. If you’re not receiving handwritten letters, you’re probably not writing them either.

Steve Jobs changed my life … and he did it for $1 a year

The newsroom of the my college newspaper was dominated by little Apple Macintosh computers, all in a row. That's me, large and in charge with the flowing mane in the bottom right corner of the picture.

At the time, newspapers editors loved and loathed the power the cutting-edge little Mac computer held.

Instead of leaving the petty job of gluing together headlines and stories on a newspaper page like a puzzle to a union typesetter, an editor could do the job on a computer screen. It was tedious work but powerful: One could play endlessly with headline content or size and cut copy with reason and logic instead of just loping off the end of a story at the nearest period.

This power came packaged in an Apple Macintosh computer with Quark Xpress software, and “pagination” was transforming the newspaper industry when I was editor in chief of my college newspaper. For all the complaints I heap on my alma mater, St. Cloud State’s mass communications department did the right thing by investing in Macintosh computers in 1988, just four years after their introduction by little Apple Computer company created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Apple IIc Plus = $1,100

Those little machines with the 9-inch monitors gave tremendous desktop publishing power to copy editors and made the role of the human typesetter obsolete. I might have gotten my first post-college job as a reporter without that Mac experience, but I never would have landed the job as newspaper copy editor four years later without it. Oh, how I loved those enormous G3 monitors!

Even today, I am obsessed with the total design control afforded by Quark Xpress, now loaded on my PC. My headlines are exactly 1 pica above the story, I can save a whole paragraph of copy by deleting a single word in six other paragraphs, and I can create a drop letter in two clicks.

Apple iBook = $1,599

I left newspapers in 1997 to become a marketing executive. When other non-creatives were using PCs in the late ’90s, I stubbornly hung onto my Macintosh computer. For a while, I had two computers — a PC desktop and one of those pretty blue iBook laptops — until finally I was lured in about 2002 to the cheaper, more universally compatible world built by Bill Gates.

iPod Shuffle = $79

Still, Apple was changing the world with a little novelty called the iPod. I resisted that innovation until 2007 when my parents decided their runner daughter needed an iPod shuffle as a Christmas present. Now, I rarely hit the streets without my trusty iPod and its iTunes library of Natasha Bedingfield, Queen and the soundtrack from “Mama Mia” (yeah, I probably oughta replace that Abba stuff with something else).

My Beloved just got an iPhone, and I can see one replacing my Droid any day. And we’ve already been shopping for an iPad, impressed with all it brags of doing.

Apple CEO’s value = Priceless

Apple products have been inextricably influencing my life in one way or another for 25 years. The announcement yesterday of Steve Jobs’ departure from the CEO role with Apple reminds me how his vision has affected my career, my hobbies and my relationships.

How much value can one assign to a man like Steve Jobs whose work has affected the lives of so many people?

I read the other day that federal regulators were drawing up new rules regarding CEO pay in an effort to thwart financial abuses uncovered in the 2008 economic crash. One of those rules requires the disclosure of the ratio between the average pay of all employees and that of the CEO. Some CEOs are paid 300 times as much as their average employee, and some people think that’s unfair.

To be sure, not all egomanaical CEOs deserve that kind of ridiculous salary. In fact, some greedy racketeers who climbed to a position of power because they were lucky enough to rub elbows with the right people don’t deserve to be paid twice the salary of the average employee let alone 300 times.

How much money have I earned because of Steve Jobs? How many hours of enjoyment has the work of his company brought me?

Having worked for one CEO who cashed in her company stock and sent the company into a spiral that ended in bankruptcy and for another CEO who lamented his pay cut to $80,000 a year as “not worth coming into work for” while he was paying his employees weeks late, I idolize a CEO like Steve Jobs.

You know what Steve Jobs’ CEO salary was? He probably got a salary when he was leading Apple in the ’80s, but since 1998, Steve Jobs has been paid $1 a year.

Of course, he owns billions in Apple and Disney stock (according to the Associated Press, he got the Disney stock when he sold Pixar Animation Studios to Disney in 2006), but Steve Jobs deserves every cent.

Hollywood at my pace

Maybe television viewership of the Academy Awards was down this year because it’s too damn expensive to go out and see movies in theaters.

Of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture this year, I had watched one: “Inception.” I saw that one on Netflix.

Oscar ratings were down 10 percent from last year. Thanks to a nonexistent cable connection, I was among non-viewers. But honestly, it was hard to get excited without having seen most of the movies. I couldn’t even tell you the latest Hollywood projects for hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco.

Maybe I’m out of the loop. Or maybe other people are choosing to re-prioritize their entertainment dollars.

My Beloved and I went out to the movies tonight for the first time in ages. We enjoyed Best Picture nominee “The Fighter” with Best Actor Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. (Who, really, was the fighter in this movie?) The boxing movie was about family ties. “Blood is thicker than water,” Tyler summarized. (We enjoyed it.)

We took in the 6:50 p.m. showing, so we paid full price: $10.50 per adult. And no movie is complete without shared popcorn, Diet Cokes and Peanut M&Ms for the appalling total of $21. Ouch. That’s $42 for a night out, plus the gas to get us there: About $5 at the going rate in the gas-guzzling Durango.

With Netflix, we can exercise a little patience and spend about $3.33 to $3.99 per movie (depending on how many we end up seeing a month). And Tyler makes a lot better popcorn than that styrofoam stuff with Golden Flavor they provide at the theatre.

Sure, if I had waited to see “The Fighter” until it was available on Netflix, I still wouldn’t know why Bale referenced Dicky Ecklund in his Oscar acceptance speech, but … (pause for emphasis) … I didn’t see Bale’s speech anyway.

While I’d still like to see “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network,” I’m going to wait until I can see them in the comfort of my home on my own “big screen” with a glass of Riesling and real butter on my popcorn.