Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ta Da! 2010 Blog:

It's up: Paper, Plates. My new blog which is all about eating and reading. Two things which I do best. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Abandoned Site

Alas, I finally admit that I have abandoned this blog. It was fun while it lasted. I do indeed have an idea for another one and might actually get it started this afternoon. When I do, I'll post a link.... not that I have any readers left. But 2010 is a fresh start!

Monday, August 31, 2009


Good lord. It's been so long since I've posted that I forgot my log in. I'm not dead, BTW - just haven't been inspired to write. I didn't know a vegetable garden would take so much of my time, but it has been worth it. I've eaten fresh yellow wax beans, blue lake green beans, cucumbers, 3 kinds of tomatoes and some carrots. Dug up beautiful potatoes this weekend too.

Anyway, I've grown a bit bored with this blog. I have an idea for a different one, so will be working on that shortly. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by. Hope it's been a nice summer for you also.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Harvest

Thank goodness for gardens. Tomatoes don't care about dental bills, worn out tires, cats throwing up hairballs, or laundry which has to be done. Sucha bright way to start my day! :-))

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rx: A Big Dose of Beano

In the beginning there really wasn't a defined system. There were a few dedicated bean providers and many bean consumers. Not everyone had access to the bean providers and not everyone had money for the beans. There was a lot of making-do and some consumers suffered and died from lack of beans. But the bean providers increased and became very skilled at providing and eventually most consumers were able to obtain the beans they each needed.

As the demand for beans increased, the providers became overwhelmed. They wanted to study beans, and to research ways to improve beans, and to spend their time dispensing beans. They were very busy and didn't have the time to develop bean sale and collection techniques. That's when they were approached by friendly associates who said, "Let us control and count the beans - trust us, it will be a much better system. We'll collect from the bean consumers and then pay you for your beans. Everyone will be happy!" And so the system was started.

For a while everyone was contented. The bean providers focused on their science, the bean consumers had access to dependable supplies, and the bean controllers hired bean counters and perfected their system. But bean demand continued to increase, and bean research & development proved to be very costly, and the spreadsheets of the bean controllers began to have areas of red ink.

So the controllers met with the counters and discussed the situation. The bean counters reported, "All is well with Consumer A - he consumes very few beans. But Consumer B is becoming a problem - she is consuming much more than her fair share of beans. Consumer C is not a problem now, but might be a problem in the near future." The controllers pondered this and instructed the counters: "In the future, we will screen and exclude anyone who looks like Consumer B. The risk is too great. And we need to watch Consumer C carefully and expel him as soon as problems develops. Consumer A can stay". They were pleased with this plan and voted themselves a substantial pay increase.

The following month, the controllers and counters met again. The problem with Consumer B was resolved, since she was no longer consuming earthly beans. And all potential "B"s had been rejected from the system. But the bottom lines were still not pleasing so the controllers said, "Well, it's unfortunate, but we must cut back on provider reimbursements and increase consumer contributions. We need more coming in and less going out. It's not personal, just business." So the letters were sent and the controllers voted themselves a substantial pay increase.

In the meantime, the B & C consumers were scrambling to find beans. They tried the providers directly but were told, "No, we can't take you. We know you can pay for your beans this time, but there's no guarantee of that in the future. And if we take you now, we'll have to provide your beans forever even if you can't pay. We're very sorry - it's not personal." They tried the charity bean dispensers but were told, "No, we can't help you. You are not poor enough to receive charity beans. We're very sorry - it's not personal." They tried various controllers and were told, "Yes, we can take you. But you'll have to pay 10 times more than our other consumers because you're a risk to the sytem. We're very sorry - it's not personal." So most of the B & C's stopped consuming beans, accepting that the system worked for some but not all. And the controllers voted themselves a substantial pay raise.

But all was not well with the sytem. Neither the bean providers nor the bean consumers were happy. Both sides began grumbling and eyeing each other as adversaries, not partners. The word "reform" began to surface and the Controllers and their counters were not happy. Committees were formed, debates were held, impossible solutions were scattered around like handfuls of loose beans. Bean recipes were developed but turned bitter and unpalatable because of so many cooks in the kitchen. The recipes grew to thousands of pages and no one bothered to read the ingredient lists or cooking instructions. Each committe claimed to have a blue ribbon bean pot but no one could explain how to actually make the dish.

The controllers sent messengers out to sow beans of fear, discontent, and confusion. They said to the consumers, "Trust us, you have the best system in the world! If you change it, you'll have to wait hours in line for sour, defective, expensive beans. You might not even get beans, if you're too old or feeble! Trust us, we will take care of you!" And the consumers forgot that these same messengers were already keeping them from getting beans, and in their confusion they began to turn against the reformers.

In the end, the recipes were ripped, torn, and shredded by committees which could not quell the arguing, shouting, accusing, criticising, and distorting. The controllers looked at the piles of confetti on the workroom floor and nodded to each other. They retired to their board rooms, hung Mission Accomplished banners, and promptly voted themselves substantial pay raises.

As for the bean consumers? They made-do and some suffered and died from lack of beans. The reformers went home, hoping to never discuss beans again. The system survived and adapted to it's chronic illness. Sales of Beano increased and no one lived happily ever after.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Garden Gloves

First harvest, other than lettuce and herbs: 2 lemon cukes, 5 pickle cukes, handful of yellow wax beans, and 6 SunGold tomatoes. And all it took was 6 weeks of soil, fertilizer & compost, mulching, watering, weeding, training, supporting, and protecting. Awesome. Next up: carrotts, green beans, big tomatoes, and potatoes. Awesome. And not a single, slimy, slithering slug. Really really awesome.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Slip Sliding Away

Planning, planting, and harvesting a backyard garden is such a learning experience! I've already learned that 18 lettuce plants for 1 person is about 15 plants too many. And I've learned that tomatoes will not stay in their tidy wire cages, preferring to sprawl over the edges and dominate shorter, more polite vegetables. I've learned that cucumber vines will cooperate only so far in climbing their shiny new trellis before becoming bullies of the raised bed - apparently they love shoving, fighting, and strangling the other kids in the sandbox.

I've learned that tiny, pudgy, slimy slug babies love Bibb lettuce and I've learned the absolute meaning of "squeamish". The slugs have given me OCD. I start channeling Monk when picking lettuce - inspecting every groove and curve in the delicate little leaves. Then it's into the kitchen sink for a good soak and rinse under running water, where every groove is inspected again before a violent cycle in the salad spinner. It's highly unlikely that one of the slimy creatures could get past my Navy Seal worthy screening techniques.

And yet, every single time, about half way through eating my salad or turkey roll-up with fresh lettuce, I start thinking "what if?". What if a slug is still attached to this green leaf? Would I know if I bit into it, or could I have swallowed one whole? Would it crunch... or squish... or feel like the raw oyster I once tried to swallow in an attempt of culinary coolness? (Notice I say, tried to swallow.) What if I see one crawling along the edge of the salad bowl? What if, what if, what if. One time I added sunflower seeds to my salad and that was a nerve-wracking lunch. I had to watch each kernel and make sure it wasn't moving. Sheesh.
Maybe backyard gardening is going to be too stressful for me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Drag Me to Hellthy

I'm not a fan of horror movies so won't be seeing the latest bloody blockbuster. Besides, having just completed our health insurance renewal at work, I've already experienced enough frayed nerves and screaming for a while. It was a two month process of receiving the annual premium increases, researching potential options, revamping the benefits package again (twice in 3 years), holding a general staff meeting to explain the changes, and then meeting with employees individually to make sure they understood the information. I'm telling you, it's draining.

It's coincidental that our renewal period is happening at the same time as the health care reform "debates". Although it's a bit masochistic, I try to pay attention to the issue because it affects me both personally and professionally. Sorting through the various voices and opinions is not easy - and no one, including the current administration, seems to actually have a solution. When I was in management classes (almost 20 years ago!) I was taught to define the problem and then keep backing away from it until I could identify a root cause. At that point, it was possible to start developing an action plan. But that technique doesn't seem to be working on a problem this massive. Perhaps it's because we haven't clearly defined the problem - is it that health care in the US is too expensive or is it that too many people are uninsured? Is it the chicken or the egg?

Some pp think the insurance companies are too greedy and profit motivated. Some pp think that doctors are overpaid and focused on "lifestyle" rather than health care. Some pp think the American public is to blame for their unhealthy addictions to junk food, alcohol, tobacco, and lazy-boy recliners. Some think it's the fault of illegal immigrants and the uninsured who are using the health care system and contributing nothing. Some feel it's the fault of Medicare/government programs for underpaying and forcing inflation by other payers. Some pp think it's Big Pharma, or research expenses, or elective, unnecessary procedures, or...or...or - it goes on and on with no workable plan in sight.

I read three columns in the Wall St. Journal recently explaining why Obama's plans won't work. After pondering those for a while, I reached the conclusion that those particular writers don't think there is a problem - the current system is working fine for them apparently. Several days later, in the same publication, I read a well written column on page A13 by the CEO of Safeway claiming that the company wellness program had eliminated premium increases for his company for the last 5 years. Impressive. But on page A11 there was a news article stating that extensive research has shown that wellness programs have minimum impact - companies report less than 5% overall participation and cannot show any measurable improvement in employees' overall health. So the "consumer-driven health plans accompanied by wellness programs" are not effective in keeping costs down. Which is it gentlemen? I'm confused.

My company carries insurance with United Healthcare, one of the largest providers in the USA. Depending on perspective, UHC is a life saver or a b*ll buster. Some of our local MD's won't work with UHC. According to Forbes magazine, the CEO of UHC earned $124.8 million in 2005 through a combination of salary, perks, and stock options. (I have no idea what my young, hardworking primary care doc makes, but I'm pretty sure it's not $125 million.) But at the same time, UHC is paying for my co-worker's cancer treatment and is providing close, personal support. His final bill for 10 days of immunotherapy treatment: $593,000. He was responsible for $1,500 of that. So, insurance company bad? or insurance company good? Depends on perspective.

I have more, but I'm tired of writing right now. I'm going to try not to think of health care reform today. I don't know what the solution is and I don't want US citizens to keep suffering. I would like to see some positive changes come from the reform process. Otherwise, we might as well be dragged to Dante's hell and "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."