To blog or not to blog

I’ve been blogging on and off (mostly on) since March of 2007.  At that time, I had been doing a fair bit of traveling and wanted to keep friends and family updated. My niece Sarah was living in Zambia at the time and I was following her blog with interest. I reasoned that if she could do it, I could do it, so I started to write on Blogspot and sent an email with the link to folks who might be interested. Truth be told, I was too lazy to write update emails to everyone. You can check out the old stuff here. There’s cool stuff there like Hal’s and My Excellent Motorcycle Adventure to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and the Baja Ha Ha sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo with Bob and Phyllis. There are the usual political rants, book reviews, and dog pictures. Even some stuff about old girlfriends and friend-Megan before we got serious.

Looking back, I think I blogged for the same reason that people keep diaries. It was more for me than for my readers. Most of the time I’d get 10-20 views a day. My biggest day ever was 180! So this is not something I used to hone my writing skills with the view to become a paid pundit. YOU TOO CAN MAKE TENS OF DOLLARS WRITING ON THE INTERNET!!! It was something I did to reflect on what I’d done or to expand on random thoughts I’d had. It was a way to document and refine arguments I’d made with facts and figures rather than off-the-top-of-my-head facts and gut-feels.

So after writing only a couple or three posts in as many months, I think I’m ready to get back in the saddle. It will be more of the same. Personal thoughts, grandbaby pictures, dog pictures, political arguments, book and movie reviews, beer and food and more.

2015 is shaping up to be a good year, so I will try to be a bit more disciplined about posting, aiming for two to three posts per week. We’ll see how it goes.

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Poor Little Nikki

P1050745Nikki’s under the covers there somewhere, being comforted by Nurse/Mom-Megan. She had a hard day today with major abdominal surgery to remove these stones from her bladder:

P1050748At first we thought it was just a UTI, but medication didn’t help. No wonder – it wasn’t a routine infection at all. These things are enormous! No wonder she was having bladder issues! We only got a few of them from the vet. The rest went off to some lab for analysis.

P1050747So she’ll be wearing the cone and will be taking some serious meds for a few days.

We’re hoping for a quick and full recovery.

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An American Sniper

I’ve been really lax about blogging lately – mainly because I didn’t find anything interesting enough to make me want to share my thoughts. Maybe it’s just the mid-winter blahs. To blog or not to blog may be the theme of a future post.

In any case, last night daughter-Megan and I saw American Sniper, and my inner blogger felt compelled to write something about the movie. Given all the hype about the movie – the biggest January box office ever, and the all the pro-war and anti-war commentary it generated – I thought I would be in for a treat. (Regardless of my generally pacifist sentiments, I’ve always enjoyed a good war movie. FuryHurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds are good examples of recent war movies that I found compelling and/or entertaining.) And even if the movie wasn’t all that great, it could feed my compulsion to argue its pro- or anti-war sentiments.

For me, the movie failed on all counts. First of all, it wasn’t a very good movie. I found nothing new in its treatment of a soldier who does his duty well and has difficulty returning to civilian life. Technically, it was good in re-creating Iraqi battles, but the scenes themselves didn’t get my blood pumping. In fact, I almost fell asleep during the last battle scene. The scenes from his home leaves are well done, but again there was nothing new that moved me.

As for the political stance of the movie, I didn’t see any. Other than the scenes where Kyle is watching the Nairobi Embassy bombing and later watching the Twin Towers fall on TV, there was no background of his motivation to join the Armed Forces other than being a failed rodeo cowboy. There is certainly no discussion of whether or not the Americans should have been in Iraq in the first place. And even though there is no depth to the Iraqi characters, they are not totally dehumanized either. It’s just a guy doing an ugly job exceptionally well without a whole lot of thought or introspection.

So in my five-star scale, this movie rates no better than two. In other words, wait till it comes out on Netflix, and don’t waste your money at the theater.

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White Trash Princess

Isn’t she precious?

nikki11

Well yes and no. She is a lover and a cuddler, and she’s very smart. You could call her a princess! But she’s also devious. She does things she knows she’s not supposed to do, but she does them anyway. So we put up various barriers to help her modify her bad behavior. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We watch her body language carefully and I built her a dog run, so she no longer pees on the floor. (At least she hasn’t had an “accident” for almost a week now.) She’s getting used to lots of walks, and hasn’t pooped on the floor for several weeks.

But one habit we haven’t been able to help her with is her love of garbage. She discovered she could open the under-sink cabinet door, knock over the garbage can, and PARTY!! So I put child-proof catches on the cabinet, but she figured out a way around that. There was enough room between the latched door and the cabinet for her to get her paw through, snag the edge of the garbage bag, and pull it out in shreds on to the floor. OK, we’ll drag a chair over to block the cabinet door. No problem, she thinks, and moves the chair and gets in the other side of the cabinet, knocks over the dishwasher detergent bottle, and drags out the garbage.

This is the result –

garbage0

So now I installed a couple of cabinet knobs and have rubber-banded the doors together. Let’s see how she gets around this one.

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Boxgiving Day Dinner

For our second annual Boxgiving Day celebration, we continued the theme of anything-but-turkey cuisine from around the world. Last year was Mexican. This year, in honour of the months spent in India in 2012, we chose Indian food (gastrointestinal distress not included).

I hadn’t delved into cooking Indian food in the years since we returned to the USA – maybe the memories were still too fresh. But now, almost three years later, I was brave enough to risk a PTSD episode. Somewhat surprisingly, it all turned out quite well, and I got to use a bunch of the weird spices that had been lurking in the back of the spice cupboard for who knows how long.

Chicken curry –

curry

Saag paneer –

saag

 

Naan

naanRice and dhal -dhalIt was all quite a lot of work, but well worth it. For me the strange part was having to follow the recipes closely. My style of cooking usually entails a little of this and a little of that, but since making this food is way out of my comfort zone, I figured I’d better pay attention.

Thanks to Paige, Trevor, Hunter, the two Megans, and Hal for letting me experiment with their taste buds.

 

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This is way too complicated

Since it’s almost time to renew my health insurance plan, I spent some time on wahealthplanfinder.org today. I wanted to see how much the rates went up, and what plans are available. It’s a daunting task, and not just because the website still really sucks. More on that later. First of all, I have SIXTY-FIVE plans to choose from! Who was that said Americans want choice and control over their health care options. Bullshit, I say. So many plans to choose from is bewildering, if not paralyzing. For 2015 plans range in cost from $164.80 to $1077.80/month. (That assumes I get the same subsidy I received for 2014.) Out-of-pocket expenses (not including premiums) range from $5000 to a high of $13,000. I could probably find a lower cost plan, but I’d have to be really careful when shopping. The plans all have different co-pays, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. And not only that, but all of the plans have their own networks of doctors and hospitals. Not all plans accept all healthcare providers. Like I said, bewildering.

The problem I have right now is that I may require surgery for my tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is an in-hospital, out-patient procedure. I asked the podiatrist how much the surgery would cost. He didn’t know, but guessed $25-30k in total. His portion of that would be $1750. He gave me the procedure code and the number to call at Swedish to get their costs. Their charges are approximately $24,000, so the doc’s guess was right on. So in renewing my insurance, I’d want to minimize my out-of-pocket and monthly premium expenses. I started poking around and could find cheaper insurance, but then had to do more poking around to make sure the new plan would cover my current doctors. All that poking around was getting painful, so I figured I’d probably do nothing and stick with the plan I have. Things would just auto-renew, I’d get a new bill, and that would be that. Right?

Wrong! I called the Washington Health Plan today to get my home address changed because their still-sucky website wouldn’t allow me to do it on line. After going through all the phone menus and the requisite perma-hold time, they told me that my address was correct, even though it displayed incorrectly on my home page. OK, nothing more to be done. Not so fast, she said. You have to complete the application. What application, I said. Apparently when I tried to change my address, the website thought I was applying for a new plan. So I went through it all with the person on the line and finally got it all done. That’s when I asked her about auto-renewal. She said there was no such thing, and that I’d have to apply all over again for 2015.

It shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t have to choose from 65 plans to meet my needs. I shouldn’t have to spend hours on line and on the phone to make it all happen. The average person without healthcare doesn’t have the time or the energy to go through this process year after year. I shouldn’t have to base my plan choice on my current medical needs and current financial condition, and do it year after year. I just want health insurance at a reasonable cost and minimum hassle.

I think the Washington Health Plan is going to lose a lot of their clients when it comes time to renew. I think a lot of people are going to throw up their hands (after they finish throwing up) and say, “Screw it, I’ll take my chances.”

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First Snow at the CITW

first snow2And no, the tree in the yard is not on fire. That’s the reflection of a very cozy fire in the window.

I hope we get lots of snow this winter (Buffalo could send some our way). The winters around here are hard to predict. There’s usually quite a lot of snow, but snow conditions often aren’t that dependable. Snow can be late in coming or unseasonably warm weather and rain can wreck the snow that does fall. I was only out on the snowmobiles twice last winter. And as for downhill skiing, I didn’t get out at all last year. I think the folks running the Stevens Pass ski area a half hour from here spend a lot of time pulling their hair out. They had a late start last year, and then got a bunch of snow when the season was almost over.

I came up to the cabin a couple of days ago to take care of a few things. #1 on the agenda was to brew another batch of beer for the holidays. I chose to do a farmhouse ale, a style of beer I’ve never done before. The other night I dropped by the Urban Family brewery just down the street from us in Magnolia. They’ve just opened a tasting room, and I wanted to see what they had. I chose their Citron Noir, and was blown away by it. So I got the brewmaster’s email address and asked him for the recipe. He was kind enough to reply with enough information for me to give it a try. It’s a dark beer, not very hoppy but with some citrus notes, and a bit of the sour flavor characteristic of Belgian Saison beers. The brew day went reasonably well, and now the beer is happily bubbling away in the Fermenator.

Another thing I wanted to do was to change the water in the hot tub. The tub gets used a lot more in the winter than any other time of year, so I tend to start the season off with a clean tub and fresh water. There’s nothing better than relaxing in the hot tub with a glass of the adult beverage of your choice after a hard day of playing in the snow .

But wait, my chores aren’t over yet. Megan is on her way here today to do some master bedroom renovations. It seems everyone but me hates the wallpaper trim. So this weekend it’s coming off and some paint will be put in its place.IMAG080loons4It’s not THAT ugly, is it?

 

 

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