Saturday, July 26, 2008

And they're OFF!!!!


It's vacation time!!

Davey Dogs, Los, Schue, some others friends and I are headed outta dodge on a road trip to the Outer Banks for the next week. 10 hours from now I'll be sitting poolside sipping a big ole fancy cocktail.

One of the highlights of the trip will be a stop at my favorite gas station in the world -- Dixieland. It's on the border of MD and VA, and it has the most interesting collection of crap for sale that I've ever seen. One year, Schue and I bought furry horse head magnets ... another year, Aunt Jemima spoon rests. I'm hoping for a good find today!!!

Alrighty folks ... have a good week! Stay cool!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Age of a Child

As someone who is both a consumer of healthcare, and employed by the industry I'm very interested in the future of our healthcare system, and the ongoing debate about how to reform it. How can you get better healthcare to everyone at a price that's affordable to consumers and our government?

I know I'm in the minority here, but sometimes I find myself irritated with the media for presenting such an incomplete description of the problems with our system. I'm not here to defend insurance companies, but I will say that our nation's healthcare crisis isn't something that was single-handedly created by insurers. I believe that lawyers, providers, consumers, and even "advocates" have a hand in exacerbating our problems.

So you know why I'm interested in healthcare, but what's my point? Well, I've made a few observations about some of our public policy and I have a theory I'd like to test on you. (Yes, I realize this boring editorial may scare off my few precious readers, but I'm gonna go for it anyway.)

Well here's my theory: The way we currently define a "child" is costly. By creating a consistent definition, there could be cost-savings and other benefits.

Wow .... that's a mighty deep thought for first thing on a Tuesday morning, eh??

Indulge me, pretty please, for a moment while I share a few observations:
  • Driving age -- 16 (set by the states, but I think this is pretty much the standard)
  • Legal age to join the military -- 18 (or 17 with parental consent)
  • Legal age to drink -- 21 (again, set by states, but 21 is the norm)
  • Age considered a "child" for statutory rape -- 17
  • Age at which an individual can file for emancipation from parents -- 16
  • Age considered a "child" for the purpose of establishing Medicaid benefit packages and requirements for child services -- 21
  • Age to vote - 18
I could go on, but I think I've made a point that the way we define a "child" is all over the place. And in some cases it looks like we tend to pick an age that is most favorable to the child .... from a child's point of view. Not necessarily what is best for the person as a whole or the rest of society.

Let's give you a car at 16, but we'll consider you a "child" for another 5 years for the purposes of your entitlements in the health and welfare system.

Then there's the age old debate -- you can go fight and die for our country at 17/18, but you can't legally drink a beer until you're 21. Doesn't favor the "child", but doesn't exactly make sense either.

What does this have to do with reforming our healthcare system? Well, what made me want to write about this was a review of one presidential candidate's views on healthcare, and what he would do to reform our system. (And I'm neither endorsing nor taking a pot shot at either candidate.) Someone is proposing mandated coverage for "children " up to the age of 25.

25 !?!?!?! Holy camoly? There's a new one!!! When I saw the number 25, I kinda flipped out. (in my head, of course. I don't do real back-flips anymore.)

Has anyone thought about the impact of picking a number like 25 ... say, over a number like 21 or 23 or 16 or any other number? Based on my experience in working with public health programs, I can tell you that "children" are entitled to just about any service they want or need, and there is hardly a limit. The public health and welfare system is like a big ole endless pu pu platter for anyone defined as a child.

Now, before you start thinking I'm some kind of monster who doesn't like kids, or you think I derive a sadistic pleasure from denying and limiting healthcare services, I can assure you that's not the case. However, I do take my responsibility as a steward of the public tax dollar very seriously. It pisses me off to see waste, not to mention fraud or abuse. It also pisses me off to know there are 50M people in this country who don't get any healthcare at all unless they have some threat to life or limb that sends them to the emergency room. Pretty shitty healthcare, eh?
Anyway, benefit packages for the demographic known as "children" -- however you define it -- are vast and virtually unlimited in government-funded programs. "Vast" and "unlimited" are not something that I consider responsible stewardship no matter how old a person is.

Sure, in an ideal world everyone could get unlimited benefits. Everthing you want, and as much as you want of it. Like the free ice cream truck at the company picnic! Yay, wouldn't that be nice?

Unfortunately, the ice cream truck can only hold so much ice cream. So if some pig decides to take 10 ice creams, even though they can only eat 2 ...that means the truck is going to run out sooner and some people probably won't get any ice cream at all. And just because you can eat 2 doesn't mean you should get 2. If you're an adult, someone will likely point out that there's a limit of one per person and you should put back the extra. But if you're a "child", I bet nobody would say anything about going over your allowed amount -- even though it still meant that some other person didn't get any ice cream at all. Is that how things should work? In my book, no. I'm the ice cream steward that would tell the kid to put back his extra ice cream and everybody would think I'm a big ole meanie for telling the kid "no."

Enough of the ice cream analogy, you get my point: the bucket of money available to pay for benefits isn't endless, so we need things like defined benefit packages, limits, authorizations, etc to help make sure that the services being used are really necessary. It's certainly not a perfect system, but it's better than nothing. Everyone can't have everything when there isn't enough money to pay for it.

Except children. Our laws are structured to give the vast and limitless to "children." I believe litigation over the years has virtually eroded whatever boundaries may have existed -- but that's a whole 'nuther subject. By expanding the definition of "child" to age 25, it expands the vast and limitless to a whole new segment of the population. I can't even fathom what the increased cost of healthcare would be just by tacking 4 years onto the current definition of a child.

If we're going to arbitrarily create yet another definition of the age of a child, I wonder if we'll also .....

..... raise the drinking age to 25 since everybody younger is still a child? (How many livers would be spared? How many bars would have to close?)
.... pull the kids under 25 out of the military? (How secure would our nation be then??)
.... get every kiddie under 25 off the road? (Hey, it would reduce fuel consumption and pollution problems, not to mention our roads would be a safer place? Wouldn't it lessen overall car insurance premiums too?)

Personally, I think 25 is too old for someone to be considered a child. I mean, you're just not a kid anymore when you're 25. Yeah, you may be a 20something still going to high school proms, or maybe you're on your 7th year of college. You're just not a child at age 25, and you certainly shouldn't be entitled to the legal benefits afforded to "children." How in the world can someone know when it's time to accept and learn adult responsibility if the age is so blurred? I hope we're not creating a society of Peter Pans.

If I ruled the country, I'd legally define a "child" as under 18. Then, any law (state or federal) that pertains to a child would have to apply my definition. I'd also create some exceptions because, let's face it ... the world ain't black and white, it's lots of colors and shades of grey. Example of an exception: a person who goes on to college and remains a dependent of their parents could have an expanded definition for certain programs (like healthcare) until they turn 21, or maybe even 22.

After that, grow up. You're on your own!

Ok, that's the end. Am interested to hear your thoughts .... if anyone made it this far.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What is it about me ....

.... that mosquitos love so dearly??

I am sitting on my couch trying to work and drink my coffee, and I'm being dive bombed by these treacherous little creatures.

I don't know how they even got into my house, but they're here so I've got to deal with them. They're in my backyard jungle too, so every time I step outside I get chomped.

Some people could walk through a mosquito festival and they'd never get bitten. Unfortunately, I'm not of that variety.

I read somewhere that mosquitos can smell a victim from 30 yards away. I believe it. I must be like a plate of prime rib to a mosquito.

Maybe it's that my blood is full of tomatoes, wine and fontina cheese. Is that what's attracting them?

Is it my charming disposition ..... or my sparkly earrings? Are they coming to listen to Madonna with me? Or maybe they like the groovy new shade of orange/red/pink I'm sporting from my 2-week old pedicure?

Whatever it is about me that they love, I wish I could figure it out. These little red blotches all over my body are itchy and so very unbecoming. Not to mention, I'm tired of smelling like Off! and Witch Hazel.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Greetings from the sauna ... oops ... city of Philadelphia!!!

It hasn't been a bad week, but I can also say I've had better. Here's my headline news of the week ....

On Tuesday, I started my day with my daily routine -- coffee, shower, hair, make-up, work. Except I never got past the hair part of the routine. In the middle of doing my hair, I dropped my brush on the floor, went to pick it up and felt a really horrible pain in my knee. I thought I'd walked it off, so I finished doing my hair and headed down my steps to start on make-up in front of the big fan.

Well .... when I took the first step I had a pain that mostly closely resembles fire or lightning, shoot through my body. Thank goodness I fell backwards on the top step instead of forwards!

Once I collected myself and came out of my fog, I realized I couldn't move my leg. So I slid down the steps on my butt, across the floor and hung out there while trying to figure out a game plan.

The Acura car inspector and a cab driver ended up picking me up off the floor and putting me in the cab to visit the ER. There, I learned nothing. All I got was a pair of crutches, a knee brace and a big pile of pain pills. "Go see a specialist", they said.

Fast forward to Thursday ..... the doc says I tore my meniscus and will need a short arthroscopic procedure to fix it. The good news is, it's fast and doesn't have a big recovery time. I'm also really not in any pain until I try to sit/stand, sleep, and I can't drive. Walking is not much of a problem, I only use the crutches if I have to venture out of the house. I'm also lucky that I can work from home, so I'm not using my vacay time on this bullshit.

Speaking of vacation ....... I'm still going on my vacation in a week, so that means I'll be having this little surgery when I get back. I am WAYYYY excited for vacation .... will be writing about that next!!

So yesterday, I had my MRI then cabbed to lunch with a business associate. I hit a convenience store a block from the restaurant to pick up a jar of mayo -- a requirement for all the tomato sandwiches I've been consuming lately. I couldn't find a cab home, so I ended up walking home about 8 blocks in the 100 degree weather with a plastic bag filled with MRI results and mayo swinging from my crutches. I WANT MY SEXY BACK!! If something had happened to me and somebody found me like that, what would they have thought?!?!?!! I can only hope that I lost 10 pounds on that hike ...... not fun!!!

All things considered, I'm lucky that it's not worse and I'm not in any real pain. I can get around, and just have to be careful I don't do anything to make it worse.

I wonder if anybody else could do such damage to themself just doing their hair???????

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet ... sorta

These things .. sort of ... have been consuming me for the past few days. How? Well ...

Baseball - I got sucked into watching the Home Run Derby, which featured one of those tingly sports stories that I love. I've never watched any of the All Star festivities in the past, but decided to check it out this year. The story that got me was about a guy named Josh Hamilton (who's been all over the news for the last 2 days, so this is probably a little late to report ... but it's my blog so I can tell stories that everybody's already heard as much as I want to ... right?).

This guy played in the majors for a couple of years, then started boozing it up and doing all kinds of drugs. Apparently he blew somewhere around $4M on crack,heroin, alcohol, tattoos and whatever else before he found God and sobriety. He ended up getting back into the minor leagues 3 years ago and fought his way back to the major league. On Monday night, he hit 28 home runs in Round One of the Home Run Derby which broke the previous record of 24. He was like a machine, and people went nuts as he hit ball after ball went into the upper deck. Me thinks his story will end up a movie someday ... apparently he plays like this in regular games too.

Hot Dogs - OK, I haven't been consumed by -- or consuming any -- hot dogs. But it would've messed up the title of my post if I didn't throw them in here.

Apple Pie - On the theme of apples -- not apple pie -- I have a new recipe that must be shared. It's for Stuffed Pork Chops, and the stuffing is made of apples, bacon, celery, and onion. As a time saver, you can just plop the stuffing on top and forget the whole ordeal of trying to cut a pocket in the middle of a slimy raw pork chop (ew!). Nevertheless, it's delicious. Here's the stuffing: (I made this for 2 pork chops)

  • Cut 4 strips of bacon into pieces and fry em up in the pan. (You can shortcut in the microwave if you want to save time, but it's not as tasty when you don't cook the onions and celery in the bacon grease.)
  • Add some diced onion and celery to the bacon and saute until soft. Don't be afraid to let it burn a little to get that crsipy brown stuff that tastes so good. Use broth (chicken or whatever you have on-hand) to deglaze the pan.
  • Add a lil salt, pepper and thyme. Just a little -- taste test it later, you can always add more.
  • Cut up one small apple into little pieces (take the peel off unless you want it stuck in your teeth). Add the apple to the saute, and sprinkle some sugar (~1 tablespoon is probably good).
  • Salt & pepper pork chops on both sides.
  • Once the apple is soft, push the stuffing to the side of the pan and crank up the heat. When the pan is hot, add the pork chops.
  • Sear for ~2 minutes on each side, then lower heat. Add a little chicken broth to keep things from sticking (just a little), cover and simmer for ~15 minutes. (Note: you may have to adjust the cooking time for the thickness of your pork chops. I did 25/15 for 1- 1/4" chops. If you want to be very speedy, grill or broil your chops and just add the stuffing at the end.)
  • Anyway ...... Turn em over then cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes (again, adjust the time as needed)
  • After you flip (the chops, not a handspring), add some bread crumbs to the stuffing and mix it all together. You should be getting something that looks a little dry with a touch of carmelization -- not stuffing that looks like soggy bread. Don't worry, it won't be dry when you eat it.
  • I served with sliced Jersey tomatoes and baked beans. Bon appetit!

Chevrolet - .... is not the car I decided to purchase. After a month of research and negotiation, I decided to get another Acura TL. I love this car -- it's comfy and the technology is practical, and best of all I've figured out how to use it (after 4 years). One thing I learned -- was very helpful in my purchase and in the long run led me to options I may not have otherwise considered. In the end, I saved $113/month on my car payment and negotiated a bunch of freebies that I otherwise wouldn't have thought about (free oil changes, extra miles, free inspections, free wiper blade changes, etc). One dealer had a low price, another one had the freebies -- I got the dealer with the low price to throw in the freebies (in writing, of course)! I also ended up with a dealer I hadn't seriously considered in the past because I assumed they'd be more expensive because they're in a high-fallutin' area. That would've been a bad assumption -- their customer service and prices were unbeatable.

The moral of my car story is: it pays to do a little homework no matter how much you really hate it.

I'm hoping the new car will be delivered to mi casa today. Why am I not going to pick it up myself? Will report on that tomorrow.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Donate Shmonate

I did get over my irritation the other day, but now find myself irritated again! AGAIN!

Actually, I'm excited to be headed to the shore in a few short hours for Girls' Weekend, but as I sit here drinking my coffee and watching the news, I find myself wanting to punch the TV.

Why this time? The news story goes something like this:

Barak is not only campaigning, but spending time on the trail encouraging people to "donate" money to pay off Hillary's campaign debt.

That is friggin ridiculous!!

The woman traveled all over the country for 2 months after everybody knew she had a flea's balls chance of winning. Now, she's "broke" and needs help paying for the bill she racked up. If I had 500 million gazillion dollars, I wouldn't give a penny. I'm sorry, but if you can't run a fiscally responsible campaign, how the hell would you have run the country?!?! And why is Barak wasting his breath trying to bail her out? Doesn't that detract from what he should be doing on the campaign trail??

I'm a huge proponent of giving to people and causes in need, but this ain't one of them.

And for the record, I NEVER check the box on my tax return that asks if I want to "donate" a dollar to the presidential campaign fund. We already get bombarded with commercials and signs ... I'm NOT paying for more.

Okay, my rant is over. Time to head to the beach!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Irritation and Insomnia

Last night I was in a bad mood. It was a frustrating day at the office, then I came home and found my fridge leaking inside. And mosquitos attacked me every time I stepped outside. And I had to go to Shop Rite, which always makes me want to ram somebody with my cart.

I finally decided to cut my losses, call it a night and go to bed on my freshly laundered sheets with the AC running. Sounds good, right?

Well .....

DD was so hot he nearly spontaneously combusted. He couldn't cool off. Just as I was almost asleep he decided to turn his body completely around and lay the opposite way in the bed so he could get more AC. This meant his feet were up near my head, his head near my feet, and the covers were all jacked up.

I had two options: go completely ballistic and start thrashing around or get up and move until he could settle down and fall asleep.

After a big "What the hell are you doing?", I decided to take the high road. He'd been more than patient with my ugly mood, so I decided to cut him a break and let him get some air and sleep. (Pretty damn nice of someone who felt like mowing people down with her shopping cart, eh?) I ended up on the couch all night with a bout of insomnia. Should make for a pleasant Barbra Peapod today.

Actually, despite my frustrating and sleepless evening, I feel surprisingly mellow this morning. Maybe I just wore myself out being irritated last night .... or my coffee hasn't kicked in yet. Either way, let's hope for a happier day today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


In the wake of my TV induced stupor, I failed to mention something fun I did over the weekend. On Saturday, DD and I took a ride "downashore" to visit our friends Linda and Richie in the Villas.

They had a "Vinyl" theme party ... very creative, eh?

Now I know you're probably wondering what a vinyl party is -- no, we didn't wear vinyl tablecloths or shower curtains. Everyone had to bring an album ..... not a CD, not a tape, not an iPod, mp3, radio, or blueray .... but an old-fashioned album!! They broke out the record player and we listened to all kinds of records all afternoon and evening. What a great theme!!!

All of my albums are at my parents' house in Maryland (still .... sorry Mom and Dad!), so DD and I stopped at Goodwill to pick up our party contributions. Here's what we brought:

The Doobie Brothers
Air Supply

Here's a big shout out to Linda and Richie for hosting another great party! Thanks for inviting us .... it was a great time!!!!!

(And speaking of theme parties, anybody have any other creative theme party ideas? You know party planning is right up my alley, and there's a big one in the works for later this year ..... )

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sunday Television

Whew, it was a nice long weekend ... capped off by a full day of couch-lounging and TV watching. This was me yesterday .....


I'm not sure how it happened, but I got sucked into watching bad sports -- not by DD, but all on my own. The sport du jour? Mennis.

Yes, that's Men's Tennis. For hours I sat watching the men's match at Wimbledon, even waiting out the rain delays. ?!?!?!?!! I never watch tennis -- it's boring and slow. But yesterday I was completely hooked on what commentator John MacEnroe called the greatest match he's ever seen. And it was exciting, I must admit. In the end, Roger Federer's 5-time Wimbledon winning streak came to an end and Spainard Rafael Nadal captured the cup. Here he is .... (it reminds me of Mike Tyson biting an ear ... but not)

Another boring sport I managed to get sucked into watching was the Phillies game. I don't how I can watch baseball, but sometimes I can. This just may be this year's MVP .....

So the afternoon became a 3-way channel flipping extravaganza between mennis, baseball, and "American Gladiators" on MTV. I don't know why, but I love this show. Some of the games look like fun. Example: I'd like to try the one where they shoot you out of a rocket up in the air and you have to try to dunk a ball in a basket while being chase by a superhuman-looking gladiator.

As if that wasn't enough sports for the day, I later tuned into the Olympic Trials for swimming and track n field. One of the big stories was Dara Torres, a 41-year old woman who just made the US Olympic team for the 5th time in swimming -- completely demolishing competition half her age!! Pretty amazing. This kind of story is precisely the reason I get hooked on watching sports --- it's the real-life Rocky ... the classic underdog triumph. What's not to love about that?

Next was the piece de resistance -- the kickoff of "I Love Money" on vH1. This show has a bunch of MTV and vH1 reality show losers pitted against each other to try to win $250,000. Contestants are the best of the worst from "I Love New York", "Flavor of Love", and "Rock of Love." A total train wreck, and I love it! Here's Mr. Boston .....

The evening was capped off with an episode of "Entourage" which is onDemand. Eight more episodes out there for my mind-numbing viewing pleasure.

So that's it folks ... sorry I don't have anything more exciting to report. Any other Sunday couch potatoes out there?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Random Wednesday

Well, I'm pretty much fresh out of ideas. So what happens when I have nothing to write about? I go with the random.

Here goes:

  • I twisted my ankle last week and wiped out in front of a crowd of people. It was a horrific scene -- me, face down on the ground with my shirt all hiked up ... my backpack on my back but hiked up around my neck, and legs and arms everywhere. Tomorrow I'll be getting my thumb x-rayed .... I don't think it's broken, but I still can't move it very well and it's been over a week. Nice eh?

  • Starbucks is closing over 600 stores, 12,000 people nationwide losing their jobs. I can't say I'm surprised -- I mean did they really think people would continue paying $5 for a cup of coffee -- that's higher than a gallon of gas. And for the record, Wawa coffee is better anyway.

  • I have a crush on Sean Murphy the traffic guy on Channel 9's morning news. He's a funny, sarcastic, real-life kinda guy who doesn't act like the typical "carved out of cream cheese" tool on TV. Check him out sometime.

  • I have to give a shout out to thank my friends Pam and Larry for a great party this past weekend. They have a beautiful home in Delaware, with a kick ass pool. Lots of great people, music, food, drink, complete with a round of "Olympic Water Volleyball" in the pool at night. DD and I had a great time -- thanks for inviting us!!!

  • Am excited not to have any plans for this weekend, other than a BBQ Friday night. Am looking forward to just going wherever the wind blows me for a few days.
So what random stuff is going through your head today?