Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Point of View

You may not remember me. I am Librarian Randy. I haven't posted in awhile but my friend Matthatter has given me incentive. There are few things I care more about than the health of my family. I have a two year old daughter and I hope, as I imagine all father's must, that she will live in a better world than the one I slogged through. I want her to live long enough to enjoy that world.

In a recent statistical analysis of infant mortality showing countries with the fewest infant deaths the United States was not in the top ten or even in the top twenty (U.S. News & World Report 142.11 (March 26, 2007): p46.). Who was in the top ten? Several countries with socialized medicine. Why should that be? We are told that health care is better in the US precisely because we do not have socialized medicine. Because our doctors can turn a very high profit for their work, they must be the best and brightest in their field (The Best Careers for 2007.
U.S. News & World Report 142.10 (March 19, 2007)). So why are our children dieing?

Our hospitals seem to be in trouble too. Though the not-for-profit institutions seem to be doing fairly well economically (Healthcare Financial Management 60.8 (August 2006): p.18) all hospitals in the US are having problems paying the bills. The common source of complaint? Lack of Federal Funding in the form of Medicare/Medicade payments (Physician Executive 29.5 (Sept-Oct 2003): p.6(10)). Hospitals across the country can not afford to pay the cost of the uninsured and under insured. Sadly, the average worker in the US does not earn enough to make his house payments let alone pay the rather extreme cost of even basic health insurance. This is a trend that is likely to continue and increase with the nation facing recession. Who is paying for this? We are. The well insured pay higher premiums and taxes in order to get medical care. The rest of us try to afford what health care we can and still pay higher taxes and get less benefit from what insurance we have. Medicare forms the backbone for most if not all insurance coverage. Current predictions suggest that Medicade/Medicare will fail in the next few years (The Increasing Cost of Health Care.
Health Care System, The. Ed. Barbara Wexler. 2007 ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007) without increased spending. Should that occur health costs will skyrocket to unimaginable heights.

So what are we going to do? My father, an immigrant to this country who traveled the world for most of his life, hated socialized medicine. He constantly told me of the long lines in Holland and the UK just to get an appointment with a physician. Sadly, though I have worked since I was fifteen and have two degrees I was not able to afford regular health care for myself until I turned thirty-nine. I still can not afford adequate insurance for my family and likely never will. I went for more than eighteen years between seeing a doctor. My two trips to the hospital, in that time, drove me into bankruptcy. My situation was not and is not unique. My father's complaints about waiting to see a physician held less and less weight for me when I knew year in and year out that I could not afford a doctor's visit. If we do not change the way we conduct health care in this country soon only the very wealthy will have access to medical care. I want my family to to be healthy. I want my daughter to live in a better world. I want some form of universal health care in this country. I don't care what you call it, mandatory national insurance, insurance cost caps or even socialized medicine, I want better access to health care for my family and child. A single uninsured visit to the hospital cost me my annual salary in 1999. Corporate recompense for employee medical insurance is the reason most American companies site for their inability to compete with foreign goods. Current medical insurance, far from giving us better access to health care is costing us more and getting us less annually. Something must be done. Raise my taxes. I can not enjoy my salary if I can not afford health care for my family.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Things I ponder

Why do people think "Universal/Free/Government" Health care would be a GOOD thing? Because (in theory) you don't have to pay for it? Are we really that delusional? Put aside the paying part for a second though - you want to trust THE GOVERNMENT to run the entire health care industry in this country?! They can't even run one small segment of the market (The VA Hospitals) without rampant overspending, incompetence, and scandal - but lets hand them the entire thing?

I just think people need to step back and really contemplate the size and scope of this thing. The government will destroy health care. It will not look the way it does right now. Would that benefit some people? Sure. Would it screw over a bunch more? Definitely.

And if I can go back to the cost again for a second. Frankly, isn't there something un-American about asking me to pay for my 2-pack-of-smokes, 12-pack-of-beer-a-day neighbor? The one that brags about not seeing a doctor in 15 years? I refuse to feel obligated to "cover" health care for people who choose a different lifestyle. I don't think you should have to pay for it either.

I *do* think there needs to be affordable health care available for people. But *free* is not the same as *affordable* and either way I don't want the government involved, at all. I think that's where a lot of people go off the rails. Not to mention, before we go making the government pay for it - why don't we look at why it costs so much in the first place?

Ok so maybe that would be another (long) post by itself, so lets just consider this: People love to demonize the oil companies for all the money they make, right? (Most recent data I found was for 2006, when they achieved a profit of about 9 percent of sales.) But the drug companies?

...ranked far above all other American industries in average net return, whether as a percentage of sales (18.5 percent), of assets (16.3 percent), or of shareholders' equity (33.2 percent). These are astonishing margins. For comparison, the median net return for all other industries in the Fortune 500 was only 3.3 percent of sales. Commercial banking, itself no slouch as an aggressive industry with many friends in high places, was a distant second, at 13.5 percent of sales. Source: "The Fortune 500," Fortune, April 15, 2002, p. F26

Before we try asking the government to run our entire nation's health care, how about we see if they can fix this one facet of the problem to start with? Now that my friends, is something to ponder.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Let's Cook

One thing I really enjoy, is cooking. Not to be confused with *baking* - that's a completely different animal that I don't seem to have acquired a knack for yet. Although if I had a new mixer/blender thing... hmmm...

Where were we? Cooking! Right... Since I write about anything, today I will write about one of my recently-found new-favorite recipes - Roasted Pork Loin w/ Asparagus and Mustard Vinaigrette Sauce. If you like pork loin or asparagus, this might be a winner for you too. I happen to like both, and I count mustard on my short list of "favorite condiments" - so this one is right in my wheelhouse.

Prep on this dish is pretty simple, which is why I like it. Often when I get home, I don't have a ton of time to cook dinner so I like stuff like this that involves hands-free cooking. You can add more flavor to it if time and circumstances allow, but really you can do the basics and get a nice easy meal out of this. Kudos to Real Simple magazine for publishing the recipe!

  • Pork Loin ~1.5lbs or so - a bit more if you want leftovers.

  • Salt and Pepper - Stolen Salt = More flavor!

  • Good quality gin - (Plymouth, Bombay Sapphire)

  • 1 bunch of Asparagus (usually about a pound, good for 2 big servings, 3 small)

  • 2-3 golf ball sized Shallots - 1 small sweet onion if not available

  • Olive Oil

  • Tonic Water (Schweppes is my brand)

  • Over-safe skillet or pan

  • 1 tbsp Coarse-Grained mustard, I like something brown and spicy

  • 2tbsp Cider Vinegar

  • Highball glass w/Ice

So its pretty simple: Pour an ounce or two of gin (depending on your day) into the highball glass. Add tonic to taste. Set aside. Turn the oven on, to 400... turn the stove on to medium high, put a splash of oil in the pan and the pork loin. Season to taste with salt and pepper... I don't put a ton on, but I think the original called for 1/4 teaspoon which seemed way too little for a 2lb pork loin. Drink a bit of gin as a reward - now we're cooking!

Let the loin cook and brown a little on each side, turn it every 3-4 minutes until the outside is cooked all the way around. WHILE the loin cooks, rinse off the asparagus, and slice the shallots (onion) into small wedges. Lay out the asparagus in a single layer on a cookie sheet - I always line mine with foil for easier cleanup. Now layer the chopped shallots over the top... then sprinkle with Salt and Pepper to taste.

By now the loin has likely cooked all around, it usually takes me about 10 minutes to prep the asparagus. Take another swallow of the G&T, then take the entire pan, and stick it in the oven - Set timer for 20 minutes...

At this point, I usually do 2 things. Drink more gin, and change out of my work clothes into something comfy like jeans or sweats. I suppose I could clean up the kitchen a little, but then the Life Partner wouldnt have much to do when she gets home. By the time I return, the timer is down to around ~8 mins and its time to put in the asparagus! Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil, using a couple tablespoons... My tool of choice here is an oil sprayer I got for Christmas. Once its been drizzled (Not jizzled - that's what Pawl does) slide it into the oven. Didn't burn yourself? Celebrate with another swig of gin! Note how much time is left on the timer, too.

While the last of the timer counts down, mix the Cider Vinegar, the Mustard, and 1/3 cup Olive Oil together to make the sauce. A whisk works awesome for this - you need to aerate the oil to get a good mix, and a spoon won't cut it. Just takes ~90 seconds of whisking, and your sauce = done. Did the timer go off yet? No? Well then we should take another sip...

Ding! Timer! Your pork roast should be about done - you can get fancy and check it with a thermometer if you want. Now reset your timer to 15 minus when you put in the asparagus.... hopefully something around 10 minutes or so. The pork needs to "rest" for at least 5 minutes before slicing... I don't remember why, but all the good cooking books say to do it. Maybe its for the cook to rest? I prefer to drink while I rest... your call though.

Once the timer is down 5 mins, I start slicing the pork and plating it. (That's a fancy cook term I learned watching Iron Chef) By the time I get a couple plates cut, the timer goes off, and I add a pile of asparagus and shallots to the plate. To top it off I drizzle (again, NOT jizzle) the Mustard Sauce over the meat and veggies... and viola!

I like to serve it with a crusty bread on the side (as you can hopefully see in my picture) that I dip in olive oil on the side. Pork, Asparagus, Bread. Ready in 35-40 minutes, and really pretty easy...

Some customization ideas: If you plan ahead, you can also marinate the loin the night before, giving it some added flavor. I have used Teriyaki and a Garlic/Balsamic Vinegar mix before. And the Asparagus can take some added flavor too if you like - squirt some lemon juice on there in the last 5 minutes of cook time, or add garlic cloves to the shallots at the start. Roasted Garlic? Mmmmm... I better go eat now.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Its Friday...!

I rebuilt my PC yesterday. The results? Wow. I'm not half-bad at this computer thing... haha!

Ok seriously - from looking into it a little further, my machine had been running on the same installation of the OS for FOUR YEARS! I had files stacked upon files upon files, all over the drive. I had 62GB worth of games - many of which I haven't played in 3+ years, some of them I thought I had uninstalled(!) previously. What made me do it? Just a general feeling that it was time and a few specific things...

Stuff like trying to open "My Computer" and it sits there for ~30 seconds before it actually OPENS the window. Bizarre things like, opening a Word document, and waiting a minute before stuff appears on screen. It still played games Ok, mostly, from what I could tell... most of my gaming is done on my laptop these days so I can't say for sure.

Past experience has taught me that regular rebuilds of Windows are a GOOD thing, for system health and sanity. Imagine your operating system as say... the hull of a ship. When you plop it into the water for the first time everything is (usually) pretty tight. But then ... there are some "patches" released, for holes you didn't notice before. Then a few more patches... then a Service Pack.... maybe the odd "tool" that they "recommend" you have. Ohh and hell - why not a full blown browser overhaul! Fast forward, and you can barely see the original "hull" with all the shit plastered over it! And face it - the patch jobs are never as stable as the original...

SO with this in mind, I rolled out a fresh XP Pro install yesterday, which ended up taking most of the day. Did a complete re-format, reloaded the OS, and by last night I had all the basics back on there. Only had time to install a couple things - Office 2007 and RACE 07 (new driving game) - but files opened instantly, and the gameplay was smooth as butter... noticeable improvement!

I guess the moral of the story is... rebuild your box every now and then, if you want to keep it running in top shape. Its not terribly hard if you prep yourself before hand. A quick and dirty prep list:

  • Gather CDs for everything you want to reinstall. The OS, Office, Anti-Virus, etc
  • Pull all of your data together on the drive, to make sure you have all of your stuff. Then backup the data to another machine or external drive.
  • Open the Device Manager, and document all of the critical hardware make/model information: video card, ethernet/network card(s), and motherboard chipset are the Big 3.
  • I prefer to download the latest drivers for all my stuff - and do it BEFORE the wipe! That way you install only the freshest drivers from the start - as opposed to reloading old versions, then patching to the newest.
  • Finally, before pressing "L" ... let someone you trust, or another user of your computer (Life Partner) look it over before you go. Never hurts to check twice!

There are probably some further explanations and comments I could make on those steps but I have reached my lunch-time! A Jimmy John's sub and cold medication awaits....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sick = Sucks

I hate getting sick. It happens like clockwork every spring though, when the first really warm day hits. I've been told its a mold allergy - when the dead shit that was frozen all winter thaws and rots - I get hit. Sinus pressure, nasty drainage... its a rotten week ahead for me. I sound like I have been smoking for 15 years right now. Wonderful.

Anyways, tax season is almost over - a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, The Life Partner will be around again, for more than evening meals and 20 minutes of conversation. On the down side, The Life Partner will be around.... hahah! It just means an end to my pseudo-bachelor status. Less Wii and PC, more "doing stuff" and TV. Hmmm...

The last 2 years, she has literally gone and lived elsewhere for days at a time, to be closer to work. It was a nice break, and I didn't get to see all of what goes into her seasonal grind. This year I got to see it all.... I think we came out OK.

And as it happens, the Subie is coming out of its almost-5-month marathon session at the repair shop on the 15th - same day tax season ends. Talk about painful. I wasn't going to drive it this winter anyways... but its costing BIG coin to fix/upgrade/maintain, which isn't too fun. Still, it should be worth it to get it back. The motor is essentially refreshed, lots of new internals. New hoses, new clutch, new turbo... its going to be wicked fast!

Have to go now though - need to finish up at work so I can go spend my week-night with the Kids. Think we'll go to BW3 for dinner tonight... they dig it, and its Kid's night so there is free ice cream involved. Wooo Hoo!


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Right, Ok then.

Since this space is basically dead, I'm posting here. Its a writing exercise. If that's not OK just let me know, Librarian Lord Randy.

Sometimes, I daydream.

Sometimes it involves a vaguely-Asian, slightly built housekeeper in a french maid outfit, and.... well never mind those. Other times, mostly while sitting amidst traffic calamities, I daydream about posting driving aids along the freeway. I fully admit - I am probably in the minority when I see this as a "problem" since most people tend to blunder along from point A to B without thinking about it.

But I'm starting to think Steve Jackson was on to something, putting guns on cars 20+ years ago. I have to believe it would cut down on the number of lunatics out there. And hey - I'd compromise, say maybe just legalize paint-rounds or something else non-lethal. But damn... some people out there need a shot.

I drive with a few basic concepts in mind, that you could easily put on signs: Don't get in anyone else's way. Don't make other people crash. Drive in the lane you belong in.

Its a pretty simple set of concepts, I think. If I am pulling out into a road, I look to see who is coming like anyone does - and then I think about what *I* am driving. Is it my POS Cavalier? I better have a wide cushion there. Is it my Land-Rocket Subaru? I'll be doing 50 before they could finish calling me a motherfucker, and there will still be 40 feet between us. If I make someone hit the brakes to accommodate me, I fucked up.

On the freeway, I drive as fast as traffic allows. I don't expect to do 80 on the morning commute, and I drive accordingly. I always get a chuckle out of the guy who is weaving like mad in the morning - only to end up 3 cars ahead of me, on the off-ramp. Whats the point, at times like that? If you're in a real hurry - just use the damn shoulder and be done with it. On a related point: why are you driving like a madman in a goddamn MINIVAN?! That thing is a roll-over waiting to happen, you don't need to do 90mph and make it that much more likely... People need to think about what they are driving!

When traffic is lighter, off-hours and weekends, I go a bit faster. If I'm in the left lane, where I belong, why not get out of my way? I do it for others, especially driving the Cavalier that tops out at ~75mph... just looking for some reciprocity out there! If your exit is coming up, say within a mile, GET OVER! Waiting until the ramp is in sight, to try your 3-lane-change is just fucking STUPID. I'm willing to give some people the benefit - maybe they were zoned out there - but when its Captain Swerves-Alot that ends up doing it... well, I find myself reaching for the trigger on my non-existent Anti-Tank Gun. People should pay more attention to where they are at on the road, not just where the road is taking them.

I think its pretty simple, really. Which might be why so few people "get it" - people try to make driving seem like such a hard complicated thing. I can accept that most people don't CARE enough to learn the rules of the road, but I did mention I like to daydream, right....?

Ahhh well, back to my Asian housekeeper fantasy....