Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Food Religion

or Cooking Dogma

I'm realizing that when it comes to cooking I can be very dogmatic - more so than I usually am since I'm usually quite flexible and sensitive to diversity. I think it's because we are a nation of cooking shortcuts even when it makes no sense to have a shortcut, and the shortcut has worked its way deeply into our culture.

When I was a kid, I though that all Parmesan Cheese came out of a green can. I thought that Cranberry Sauce came out of a can. What it ever a revelation that not only did it not have to always be in a can, it tasted better when it didn't and, (and this is the part that really astonishes me) having either fresh takes almost no further time. Grating a small block of Parmesan takes less than a minute. Making cranberry sauce from cranberries takes 10 minutes of boiling them in water and sugar.

It continues. When I first made a stuffing that called for cornbread I decided to make the cornbread since it was my understanding that making it was pretty easy. It is. Guess what took me a lot longer? Finding the cornmeal in the store. Oh it's there, but it's lost in a sea of cornbread mixes. One gets the impression that cornbread is intrisincally difficult, but I have yet to figure that out. Unlike say buttermilk pancakes for example, there's nothing exotic in the recipe at all. I'm all for convenience - I eat bagged salad all the time., but we're getting "help" with things that we don't need help with really or the help takes just as much time as the more standard method, some help that is. I get the impression that someone has been doing the equivalent of selling refrigerators to Eskimos to us.

But there are other shortcuts that are there just for the sake of capitalism. I'm definitely in the Bagels should be boiled camp. Non-boiled bakery items in the shape of bagels are usually quite excellent, but they are not bagels. Boiling brings the gluten to the surface and a real bagel has a semi hard surface and a delicious interior. Without the boiling (called kettling) before they're baked, you don't get that contrast in texture.

There are times when the shortcut is so entrenched it's difficult to discern what was before the short cut. I like to cook Indian food and I love Indian spices, and have learned from people like Julie Sahi (I'll check the name and get a reference) author of Classic Indian Cooking, that: curry is not a powder, it's a method - a combination of spices. Unfortunately, it's sometimes very difficult to get beyond "Curry Powder" and fortunately I never got in the habit of using it so I didn't have to unlearn reaching for it.

Then somewhere I get more rigid than is likely healthy. Take pesto for instance. It should have 5 ingredients and that's it: Basil, Garlic, Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Olive Oil. Maybe Sundried Tomatoes if you feel so inclined. But parsley? Almonds? Heavens why?

My point? Well I think it was back there around the Eskimos.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sports Specific Muscles

It is a little crazy making that you can be great at one sport and still totally suck at another one that's sort of similar.

Both cycling and skiing are very quad intensive. The difference is that in cycling you're not keeping the quad flexed for nearly as long as you are in skiing and that seems to make all the difference. I rock at Indoor Cycling now. One of my instructors noticed that I was particularly fast and intense yesterday. If I had been thinking on my feet, I would have said that I was compensating for doing so poorly at Tele Skiing, but I just instead gave this slightly embarrassed laugh and told her (truthfully) that it was more a matter of figuring out which abdominal muscles to relax which cuts down on the bouncing you can get at high pedal RPM (while giving her credit for that discovery as I would have never figured that out by myself.)

But I am feeling stymied. I've paid my dues. I'm at the gym 3-5 times a week. I do indoor cycling and group weight workout classes among other things. I'm in very good aerobic shape. And still I struggle at times. I guess that's a "welcome to life" moment. I guess the message is enjoy what you're good at and keep trying on what you're not.

One really nice thing is after the skiing clinic, my legs have recovered and are even stronger than they were. Now about that endurance...

Babes in the Backcountry Telemark Clinic

To say that Telemark Skiing is difficult is an understatement and not quite correct. Learning telemark is difficult. Doing it once you know how is likely not as hard, but I have the feeling that I may never know. But as I've said before: bad skiing is really great exercise.

On Sat Jan 26 I finally got to do one day of my Babes in the Backcountry Telemark Ski Clinic ("Tele Teaser"), and boy am I tired (well I was then).

To be fair, telemark skills are easier than what they were. Since the skis are more responsive these days, you don't have to bend down as far and then distance in between your feet when you're turning is only about 8-10 inches. That said, flexing your quad and keeping it flexed for an extended period of time while holding your weight and turning is a feat. Now when you're better at it, your form will be better and you'll be going faster so you won't have to hold the tele turn position for so long.

The instructors were great and Claire, the one I spent the most time with, actually skied backwards right in front of me holding my skis in position while I struggled with a turn. The thing that make it really hard was that she took my poles away and my confidence went along with them. I nearly played the MS card saying that I had to have them for balance, but if I'm claiming (correctly I think) that my MS is a-symptomatic, then I wasn't going to go there. I use the poles mainly to tell my leg to tighten for a turn.

After lunch I let them go back to the intermediate slope and I went and got my poles and spent more time on the beginner slope ("Meadow") which at Alpine Meadows is actually not that great since it slopes sideways, but for tele training it's actually fine since to make it work you have to traverse.. I probably could have done the intermediate slope ("Hotwheels") again, but I was pretty trashed so refrained.

So I've been pondering Tele vs Alpine styles and and rethinking my goals. Or more correctly reminding myself what my goals are. What do I want out of this anyway?
  • I would love to learn Tele and intend to do so but I think I want more success (and less frustration) with skiing initially and continuing to improve in Alpine is probably an easier way to do it.
  • My main goal is to be able to safely backcountry ski, and Randonee is Alpine Touring, so the quickest way to that is likely to get better at Alpine and ski Randonee and then learn Tele on the side
The bummer is that this would mean more equipment but the first steps are to continue on Alpine and then decide later about Randonee.

I also need to decide how to spend that day that Babe in the Backcountry owes me. The most obvious is to take the Tele Tuneup at Sugarbowl in Feb. I could bring my alpine skis as well so if/when I got tired, I could switch to alpine.

The other option is to either go with them to Shasta or go on a hut trip, but I'm pretty much already committed to Shasta during the week after their trip so I think the Tele day is winning.

Still Obsessing on Foraker

or more correctly finding out what happened to Sue Nott and Karen McNeil.

(Yes, I'm back at it. I wrote about it earlier here.)

I was looking at a route photo of the Infinite Spur route here:
and a voice kept saying in my head "They're up there."

Not only that, but the route that they took is very rocky (at times) and the places they could have holed up in a snow cave are less than they would be for other routes. Unfortunately that doesn't narrow it down much. The Forest Service thinks that it's up near the top and that looks like where most of the snow is.

I suppose one approach is to get in contact with the families and see if they would be interested in any attempt at finding them and see if McNeil and Nott left anything behind for them (not to bring their bodies down as that's a way hazardous, expensive endeavor).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Parallels in the Dog and Human World

My world's are colliding in a strange way though this time I'm in the majority asking for the rights of a minority instead of the other way around.

AKC is considering opening up to mixed breed dogs. They are debating whether to just let mixed breed dogs compete in performance events along side the purebreds (which is what most of us have been saying they should do) Or creating a whole new registry and letting them compete separately (separate but equal - where have I heard this before?) [Vague ref:]

What's funny is that there are parallels between this and the same sex marriage debate that went on in the queer community (less so now). Right now, I'm in the middle of an email debate with one dog owner (not a reader of this blog) who owns both purebred and mixed breed dogs and her take is that mixed breeds have been discriminated against (my phrase) by AKC for so long that why would they want to join now? Why would they want to give in and give AKC money? - No thanks.

I feel like I'm debating with GL folks like Jane Rule (a Canadian lesbian author who had the option to get married to her partner and turned it down for similar reasons and felt that others should do the same).

My point in both issues is exactly the same. YOU don't have to participate, but if others want to they should have the option to do so.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Will My Digital Magazines suddenly disappear one day?

I subscribe to a digital magazine where I have to read it online (Clean Run - a dog agility magazine). I love the ease of access and that I can quickly flip through it, but I'm feeling paranoid or more correctly wary that my access to those is going to one day up and disappear. Most of us have lived through the Dot Crash era so it is an entirely possible scenario. What if Nxtbooks goes out of business? What happens to all those subscriptions? I wish I could just download the thing as a pdf and maybe I can but I have yet to figure out how.

I love that I don't have to give up more bookshelf space but I hate that too. There's a certain security in holding a book. Oddly I don't have this problem with electronic copies of music or audio books but I own those and my computer doesn't have to check in with another company for authorization.

[on further checking]
There is a way to save it on your system (either Mac or PC) and it creates a stand alone browser. What I don't really understand is: It runs slower than the online system. I wonder what it's trying to do? I suppose I should take this as an opportunity to learn more about computer security since it's something that I'm supposed to know more that a little about. :)
I'll have to set up software to alert on attempts at outgoing connections as the slowness symptoms are indicative of a program trying to make an outgoing connection, failing, and giving up and doing the right thing eventually. This is not a unique phenonmena, Microsoft does this with Windows Update even though the computer is configured to use a firewall proxy, it still tries to make a direct internet connection first (Duh). So the simplistic way is to try the viewer on a PC (Mac should work too these days) and keep running "netstat" and see if any outside connection attempts show up.

Cirque du Soleil - Kooza

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza has left San Francisco bound for San Jose, so I feel a little more free posting about the show.

Warning Spoilers. If you haven't seen the show and are planning on seeing it stop here.

I'm hooked on Cirque. The athleticism, the artistry, the music, the pageantry, the creativity. Pretty much everything. While I have yet to make the trek to Las Vegas to see the resident shows there, when it comes here I now make a habit of seeing it twice. That way I see much more as the first time I'm just dazzled and the second time I see more detail.

However one has to accept that you will see more of the underpinnings of the show especially if you're paying attention.

Kooza is a wonderful show full of all of the stuff that I love like aerial acts. There's one called "Wheel of Death" that has a couple of rings rotating vertically on an axis looking like a couple of escapees trying to evade the police at a carnival, and it's thrilling. Another photo of it is here. There's another act called the Teeterboard which is vaulting from a seesaw that's marvelous also.

And as always the clowns are a kick and the reason that if you're going you need to be seated at least 15 minutes ahead as the clowns are often out in the audience 10 minutes before. If you get there late or just merely on time you risk a clown ushering you all over the place to everyone else's amusement.

But that is pretty much the only unpredictable part of Cirque and that is actually what I'm writing about. Similar to Dralion, Kooza made use of a volunteer from the audence who is a plant (someone from the show pretending to be an audience member). Unlike Dralion, they didn't own up to it. Also unlike Drallion, they used multiple audience plants. I counted 4 myself.

I'm still not sure what I think of this. In every case there seemed to be something essential that the audience member had to know in order not to freak out and ruin what the creators where trying to show. One in particular was downright risky and I could see the Cirque lawyers insisting that that not be an unsuspecting person. However it still feels weird. Like there was a deliberate deception that the creators found it necessary to do. It's like they don't trust me or something (to take it all a wee bit too personally.)

The other odd thing was that the main guy of the very talented Highwire act found it necessary to fake a partial fall in the exact same place both times I saw the show and I later got an usher admit that it's part of the act. It did increase the response from folks to see him redo the trick successfully but it felt a little cheap too.

But all in all I'd still see it again. Twice.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tiger Attack - Darwin Award

Right after the tiger attack at the SF Zoo, my sister (who doesn't live here) asked if there was any local information on the attack that hadn't made the national press. I told her that accounts were conflicting, but those involved were relatively young and not career criminals so odds were very good that the truth would come out soon enough.

In today's SF Chron is an article where Paul Dhaliwal admitted that they not only taunted the tiger, but stood on a railing and waved their arms while doing so.

While this doesn't excuse the Zoo's wall being too low, it does suggest that some sort of Darwin award is in order here - though it's sad that the least drunk one of the three was the one who died.

Western Medicine - My Discomfort with Being an Icon of It

The quality of my life would not be possible without Western medicine and it's funny how uncomfortable that makes me. While I'm grateful, in a way life feels so tenuous because of it, and it's an easy guess that I'm not the only one feeling that way.

The two drugs that make my life so different are Rebif (an MS medication) and the famous/infamous Prozac. Rebif helps keep my MS in remission, it helps keep my feet from dragging, my head from spinning/drifting, my thinking clear. Granted, I bring a lot to the health table by taking excellent care of myself and that makes a huge difference, but the Rebif keeps my immune system considerably better behaved.

But the Rebif doesn't make me nearly as uncomfortable as the Prozac. If I didn't have access to Rebif I probably wouldn't notice it for weeks. Prozac on the other hand I notice that day, though initially it's just a withdrawal effect and not depression, but the depression comes back fairly soon. It's amusing to think what a horrible hostage I would make if I didn't have access to Prozac. Kidnappers depend on the fact that normal hostages fear for their lives and will work to keep it. With many depressed people regard for one's own life disappears. Kidnappers if they had any sense would just shoot me out of hand.

Every so often I test the waters by not taking it and see how I feel. I do this because the circumstances that caused the onset of my depression (a breakup) happened long ago and I'm very happy right now. The reason it continues is likely due to (a) MS or (b) I'm just miswired that way. I'm trying it today and initially I just get this squeezing sensation in my forehead which is a withdrawal effect. But kidnappers beware. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Privacy vs. Secrecy

I often hear about how our privacy rights are being eroded and how we need to defend them, and while I agree I always feel myself bristling a bit and have been pondering why.

The reason is that "privacy" has been a way to oppress queerfolk for, well, centuries (I wish that were an overstatement). "They should keep that private." "It's a private matter." What they mean is: secret. They should be ashamed and keep it secret and hidden. The less private glbt people are, the less we're oppressed. Over the last 4 decades (in particular the last 2) societal tension about being something other than heterosexual has eased and a big factor about that was more glbt folks being willing to Come Out publically and on a national stage. If we all had chosen to stay secret and if there had been no AIDS epidemic to force the issue then it's a pretty easy bet that glbt rights would be much less further along.

Another reason it makes me personally bristle is that secret keeping has not served my family at all. My parents (esp. my mother) are hugely private people. Obviously, I'm not (though I will [mostly] respect their desires in this post.) This is forever causing disagreements between my mother and I as I always seem to trip right over some privacy hot button that had never even occurred to me.

This of course leads to situations hurtling to the absurd (in my opinion). One example was that while traveling, my mother was knocked flat by a hotel automatic door. The paramedics were called and they decided that she may have had a slight concussion but that it probably wasn't serious, but advised a trip to the hospital (which my parents turned down). So the paramedics advised her to take it easy for the evening. I immediately asked if it was ok for her to take medication X which she takes regularly. (It was.) After the paramedics left, my mother took me to task for divulging private medical information. I was trying not to laugh as a pointed out we were talking to a paradedic right after she had fallen. It seemed a little relevant - you know? She wanted to be the one to decide whether to disclose that and while theoretically I fully support that, over the years she has show positively horrible and inflexible judgment about that. She hides things that these days are complete non-issues. As usual, we just have to stop the discussion in a stalemate as we'll never agree and we don't even agree to disagree.

Privacy doesn't serve abuse victims, rape victims, alcoholics or addicts. The list goes on. It's where "Breaking the Silence" catch phrase comes from.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Obsessions I really don't need to have

... and am currently resisting (for the most part)

I'm listening to a somewhat distressing book called Desperate Journeys which is litany of people having a seriously bad time of things. It's a collection of true stories about being marooned, lost, cast away and being nice enough to write about it (whether or not they survived the ordeal). I'm going to have to keep this book in mind when I find myself on one of my own misadventures as I like my misadventures to have a way out. You will not see me on an "Into the Wild" type of adventure, as that has no allure. (And I'm always asking people (let's be honest: men) about the attraction of tossing most of your possessions away and trying to live life as a hunter gatherer in the wilderness.)

But I do have this thing about remote places particularly mountains and islands and Desperate Journey's is full of remote islands. If I could afford it I would love to go explore every single obscure island that I could get to.

Ascension Island:
St. Helena:
Spirit Island:
The Galapagos:
Easter Island:
Kona (the Big Hawaiian Island) - will write more about this one later
Most of the Caribbean
and on and on and on

I have been to Orkney and Lewis (in Scotland) to look at stone circles and monuments. That's an obsession I allow myself as while you're trying to go to the ends of the earth there will at least be something to see and speculate about. On Lewis are the Callanish Stones (pictured) and while Google Earth photography has gotten miles better, you really have to see them in person.

Some islands have nothing on them which is actually kinda sad. Islands are supposed to have something special about them - that's the allure. But the reality is that they're just as often accidental pieces of exposed ocean floor such as the paradise turned ecological disaster area nation of Nauru is and many a Hawaiian atoll.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sir Edmond Hillary - an inspiration

Sadly, Sir Edmond Hillary passed away

Mountaineers, especially the ones that climb big mountains, are stereotypically very selfish to the point of stepping around a stricken climber. Hillary wasn't, and he dedicated his life to making the lives of the Shepas who make climbing the mountain possible. He raised money, built schools and had a huge impact on the quality of life in the Sherpa community.

I love the 3rd photo - the shine in his eyes is so touching.

Monday, January 07, 2008

American Gladiators - No Stick Figures Here

I so rarely see my body type on TV (muscular, kinda tubular, not the hourglass type), so when I do it really surprises me.

We were just shutting the TV down after watching The Amazing Race and for some reason I flipped over to NBC and caught a glimpse of the premier of the new version of American Gladiators and was immediately entranced. I was looking at myself, albeit younger, and leaner, and in even better shape (a scary concept given how much I'm usually at the gym). The contestant I was watching was Jessie Foster. And unfortunately, she got hurt during the first competition so I didn't get to see much of her, but it was strangely encouraging to see, and a good inspiration to keep working on losing the 10 pounds I want to drop (even if it will make me colder in the snow).

I (and a whole lot of other people) am also really intrigued by the Gladiator named Crush (whose real name is Gina Carano). Carano got her name from doing well in the seriously butch Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) AKA Cage Fighting which is such a non-appealing sport to me, but granted I haven't seen Carano doing it. What I like about Carano is that she's beautiful and also doesn't have the typical hourglass figure. She's not in a swimsuit, but more of a body suit with a corset instead. I must admit that I wonder if the corset wasn't there if she would have a waist at all. :)

And all of the female gladiators (well besides the completely intimidating looking Fury) do have a little body fat which makes them look more human. In the past, they all would have been mandated to look like Fury, who while being astonishingly athletic, could also do a stint as a model on Deal or No Deal, which for years is the only female body type I ever saw on TV (beside comedic roles). Over the past decade this has been changing - finally.

And what American Gladiator post on female body images would be complete without talking about Hellga, more correctly: HELLLLL-GAAA!! (You can't help, but say it that way - whoever invented that character is brilliant and has my congratulations.) Hellga in real life is Robin Coleman originally from Texas. She's 6'2" and 205 pounds and can life up one side of a car. In Texas she said that dating was difficult, but no longer now that she's out where the show is broadcase (Los Angeles I think). People love her. In the audience I saw a guy with a sign that said: Hellga Marry Me. She said in an interview that even before she went on the stage for the first time that someone told her that the audience was chanting "Hell-ga, Hell-ga." Not bad girlfriend. Not bad at all.
  • Her MySpace page is here
  • Here Wikipedia page is here
  • Her own site is here

I'm sure Gladiators is really bad TV, but it's a campy hoot and I'll watch it for as long as it lasts and no where near as appalling as fake wrestling. Who'd have thought it would be so validating and a good source of positive female body images.

Sugarbowl Poststorm

This is the same scene as from "Where the Weather is the Sport" entry. The busy little Sugarbowl beavers/elves have managed to clear the patio off. I checked on Sunday and while there were a few intrepid (obsessed, driven, psycho?) skiiers there, Sugarbowl wisely refrained from clearing the patio until the storm had moved on. Oh and note the snowblower in the center. Funny how they're not putting it away just yet.

Cotton Kills

... even at sea level

The cotton lobby must be very strong. First of all, I love cotton, I love the feel and the comfort of cotton clothing. However, cotton has a dark side that outdoor activity folks know all about, but the general public (including my mother) don't seem to be aware of and in fact have a hard time believing.
It's so insidious, cotton feels so warm and friendly when it's dry, but when it's wet it becomes this cold, clammy, evil body heat stealing thing So I should rephrase the statement: Wet Cotton Kills

It doesn't have to be that way. More modern "wicking" polyester fabrics (such as Coolmax, Polartec, ...) will still insultate even when wet. I have been completely soaked through from rain and still warm. This is not the bad leisure suit polyester of the 1970's.

My friend Bill had a bad run it with cotton that he describes (with permission):
.... I excused my cotton Levis and
non-waterproof boots by thinking "it's just a short work session, how
bad can it get?" No rain pants, no polyprop underlayers.

Most of the day, whether it was raining or not, we were standing in
3-inch deep water. When it was raining, my levis got saturated, my
underwear too, and of course my socks (all COTTON).

I got really cold - I'd say hypothermic. We started about 10:00 and
didn't finish until about 4 PM. By about 2 PM, my thinking was muddy
enough that I couldn't contribute many ideas, and was mostly following
directions. By 3:30, I was reduced to standing miserably in a hangar
out of the wind, stomping my feet.

I should note this was at sea level at a populated location (an airport - packing up airplane parts). He was not in the mountains, not in the wilderness. It was during a torential rainstorm, but it wasn't so much the rain as just having wet cotton fabric laying on his skin that was slowly lowering his body temperature.

Fortunately he's fine, but he's going to be buying polypropoline stuff now.

It has to also be said that wool insulates when wet. It's just heavy when wet (itchy too). I personally prefer SmartWool.


Friday, January 04, 2008

A (paper) chain letter - how retro

Some naive person named Jimmie made the ill advised move of sending me, a scam fan, a pyramid chain letter. Now Jimmie wasn't specially singling me out, but had purchased a mailing list that had my name on it. Bummer for Jimmie: sending it to a blogger who makes a habit of analyzing these things and writing out the details.

This is a classic old school chain letter. Hard luck story turned around by participating in this simple scheme. Send one dollar to the 6 names on the list. Remove the top name and add yours at the bottom. Buy a mailing list and send out 200 copies of the letter.

Of course it includes the claims that it's legal under US Postal code, Title 18 Section 1302 which ironically, is the exact law that says this type of postal slight-of-hand is illegal.

Oh and of course "This is not a pyramid scam!!" Actually, that's exactly what it is.


This letter that I have refers to the boy making 71,000 also. Though the rocky grammar in mine makes it more special: "If a 15 years old boy ..."

Here are the names and addresses in my letter. According to the law, all these people may have broken the law. In practice, the gov't usually doesn't care unless someone actually loses money and I would be willing to bet it needs to be more than $6. According to Google maps all of the places really do exist. However, none of the names come up in telephone directory searches. My comments are in [].
  1. Stephen Growers, 701 W. Grove Parkway #160, Tempe AZ [Pinnacle Ridge Apts]
  2. Carole VanLuvender, 20 Rocky Ridge, East Stroudsburg, PA [a house]
  3. Carolyn L. Halliday, 701 Garfield St., Lamont WA [exists - can't tell what it is]
  4. Diane Thompson, 9002 W. Lisbon Ave #203, Milwaukee, WI [large apt. building]
  5. Dennis Thorne, PO Box 7423, Loveland, CO
  6. Jimmie Gaddie, 209 Risen Ave. Campbellsville, KY [exists - can't tell what it is]
Jimmie's name is last on the list and the letter came from "South Central" KY, so it's likely Jimmie is the sender.

This bit of infamy is likely all Jimmie is going to get out of the deal. What I find interesting is that if I were a scammer I would have made up the first set of 6 names and had each of the addresses be mail drops. This is why I went to the trouble to look up the addresses - I was really surprised that none of these locations was in a commercial district.

I am puzzled that I'm getting no matches on any of the names, so I started to do some searching on just the more unique last names like VanLuvender and Gaddie and I do see some correlation with the surname and the alledged location. VanLuvender has a eerie, almost spooky connection. One month ago a hunter named Lee VanLuvender of East Stroudsburg, PA was murdered and his murder is under investigation:
In the article or the obit I didn't see mention of a Carole.

I can only hope someone isn't deliberately using the names of the recently deceased to try to make money.

When the weather is the sport

We're having quite the storm for the Bay Area area. Kron4's weather broadcasts are strongly resembling a sportscast. I don't know is this link is useful beyond today, but here it is:

Unsurprisingly, my Telemark Ski clinic was postponed as Tahoe is essentially a no go / no leave zone. Alpine Meadows is closed. Sugarbowl has one lift open - the beginner Nob Hill.

Glad I'm not on the road right now.


Rain has let up some and I just again checked one of the Sugarbowl cams as the sun sets.

If you're familiar with this view (see the larger version), you'll know that that rail you see just before the sign is at hip height.

I can see the Sugarbowl crew is going to have a lot of digging out to do. And the third storm hasn't hit yet.

We just talked to Terri's mom Treva who is in Redding. She had said earlier in email that her gutter downspout was laying in the yard after the windstorm. While we were talking I offered to come up and repair it. She said "Well it's actually not mine." Oh my. Watch out for flying downspouts. She's going to go around to her various neighbors to find out whose it is. Those are the sort of tasks that amuse me no end because of their inherit absurdity. Sling the thing over your shoulder and walk around saying: "Excuse me. Are you missing a downspout?"

Treva says "It's like a glass slipper." I like it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Health Net Follies

To be fair, this is not a health insurance horror story. It's not even a bad dream. For one, I have health insurance. It's more just frustration with insurance bureaucracy and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

It hadn't even occurred to me to blog about this and I think it was mostly out of a stubborn will to not let this become a hassle. It's like writing it down will give it power and I don't want it to have any more power than it has.

Another reason that I haven't written about it is that the story is just too dern complicated, so I will summarize. (You're welcome).

My co-pay for my MS medication is expensive. It's now over $500/month. But the total amount that I am obligated to pay per year is $1500. Once I've past the 1500 I file a form with an appallingly long name called Maximum CoPayment Liability Notification, and my copayment goes to 0. Sounds simple right? Well it should be.

I've done this dance for 3 years and this year has by far had the most snafus. First hiccup was me sending it to the Kentucky claims processing address and not the Van Nuys address (My bad, but you would think they would be capable of sending it on to the correct dept - nah). Then I sent it to the Van Nuys address, heard nothing. Called. No record of it. Sent it again. Nothing. Discovered that I could send them email so I sent them email to check. Still no record. Argh. I asked if I could fax it. They said I'd be most welcome to fax it (phew.)

This time it finally got scanned into the system and when a rep looks it up it shows it. Great! That should be it and they will "process" it and send me the now large reimbursement check. In a month I called to check and it said still processing. Then next time i called the person I talked to said that the claims dept needed verification from the Medical Group and she'd call them but wouldn't be able to get back to me for a week, but she'd call me then.

Stupid me let a week pass and no call, so I called and made the person answering call them while I waited on hold.

So now we're up to more hoops to jump through. The Medical Group says that I have to be the one to fax the request in and then they'll fax it to me and then I have to fax it to health net.

And you wonder why health coverage is so expensive?

So I faxed off the request and this is where it stands right now.

Health Net owes me about 4k so this is really starting to bite.

Stay tuned (or not).

Divide and Conquer - such a powerful concept

... especially in politics.

Us liberals are especially prone to it as we are willing to at least listen to many viewpoints, but sometimes have trouble when it comes to having a united front. Ralph Nader being my most famous example, I still blame him some for the whole Bush Co. nonsense getting a foothold at all. During the presidential primaries is the time for many view points, but once a party has a candidate, I think it's time to focus on keeping those other people (read: psycho, god-abusing, neo cons) out of power. You have to a make moral compromises and Terri (a Green who votes her conscious) and I debate about this all the time.

Another example is Cindy Shehan who is running for congress against Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, despite her refusal to consider impeaching Bush, is a very popular representative and I think it's safe to say that Shehan has no chance and I wonder if more the point is to impress upon Pelosi that she may want to really reconsider impeachment. However I think there has to be a better way as no doubt BushCo is all for Cindy Shehan running as it's more Divide and Conquer. Encourage the other parties who oppose you to fight among themselves and they won't have the focus to challenge you.

What's ironic this election season is that the Republicans, who are usually very good at uniting, are not at all in agreement as this article in the LA Times talks about:,0,6857177.story?coll=la-home-center

Now it's still the primaries, so it's shouldn't matter that they can't agree yet as in the past they have shown amazing ability to make all sorts of moral compromises to support the White Man of someone's choice to the point of supporting a candidate who doesn't have their interests in mind at all, but the article talks about historically the party that agrees sooner does better in the election which is something I didn't know. (Sorry for the run on and on sentence.)

I don't know how to do it, but we really should encourage the religious right to split off from the Republicans and form their own party. It may be distasteful to listen to them, but they will have less power if they are not associated with the Republican Party.

And for the first time in a while, the Democratic Party has a plethora of possible candidates most of whom would make an excellent president. Interviews of Democrats in Iowa (hear on NPR) describe being thrilled about not being able to decide who to choose knowing that any of them would be fine.

Let's hope so. I'm leaning towards Obama myself.