Friday, August 28, 2009

Deny the Claim

This health insurance company sent an e-mail to all their customers asking them to oppose health care reform.

I don't understand why so many people are passionately opposed to health care reform, but I suspect it has more to do with distrust of the government than with a deep affection for their insurance company. I can't believe the hassles and frustrations I encounter whenever I deal with my health insurance company are unique to me.

It would be kind of fitting if, now that they need us, we were to deny their claim.

This particular insurance company isn't my insurance company, and I didn't receive this e-mail. But if I did, I would have sent them this response:

Dear Health Insurance Provider,

It's come to our attention that you are facing a threat to your well-being that is costing you $1.4 million per day. After making regular payments to your lobbyists for years, we understand why you expect to be protected from these expenses and entitled to our help. But after reviewing your case, we've decided to deny your claim for one or more of the following reasons:

Pre-Existing Condition. Your last bout with government health care reform was 15 years ago, but according to our records, you've been battling government health care plans since Truman was President.

Treatment not covered by policy. According to the policy book, our job is to pay you increasingly large amounts of money every month, and, if we should get sick, to jump a lot of hurdles to get a portion of our costs recovered. It is not in our contract to petition our legislators on your behalf.

Procedure deemed medically unnecessary. All of our allies in Europe, Canada, and Australia have managed to survive just fine despite having their governments involved to varying degrees in their health insurance.

Treatment sought without prior authorization. We were never consulted when you spent our premiums to buy congressmen.

Improper claim filing (missing information, illegibility). How could you possibly expect us to stick to our side of the bargain if you didn't legibly print the ICD-9 code on the claim form?

If you feel we have denied your claim unjustly, you are welcome to file an appeal. If after a six month review, we determine you are entitled to our assistance, we will provide it grudgingly if you are still alive and not bankrupt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Box of Veggies (11 & 12 of 22)

The last two weeks sort of ran together for me...

Last week we split the leeks, basil, corn, and beets (E&A took the beets, I kept the greens). I kept one of the beefsteak tomatoes and E&A took the others plus the cherry tomatoes; the tomatoes in my garden are coming in now, and I don't really need the CSA ones any more. I also kept the carrots, potatoes, anaheim pepper, onion, and eggplant. E&A took the lettuce, cucumber, and melon.

This week we split the onions and green beans. I kept the potatoes, lettuce, peppers,garlic, squash and melon. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, celery, corn, and tomatoes (but I traded some homegrown romas for another beefsteak tomato).

I roasted the anaheim and mixed it with tomatoes from my garden, onion, and cilantro left over from the previous week's box and made a pico de gallo for the burritos I served during my blackberry picking party.

I made a batch of carrot cupcakes (cup carrotcakes?); they didn't come out as tasty as usual (they collapsed), but we ate them anyway.

We just ate the potatoes, corn, and beet greens fried, boiled and steamed respectively for dinner one night.

On Friday, I made one of my specialty pizzas with garden tomatoes and the basil. It turned out great!

The peppers and squashes were really pretty colors. I followed Yann's advice made ratatouille with them and the eggplant last night - It turned out delicious! Ratatouille is so much more than the sum of its parts (just eggplant, sqash, onions, peppers, and tomatoes). The flavors really complement each other. It's also really easy to make; I followed a recipe that was somewhat fussy about presentation (which I do think is important), but I'm sure you could simply chop the ingredients up and throw them all in the dish together instead of slicing and layering. After a night in the refrigerator, it holds together much better and isn't as soupy.

This morning I made crêpes and stuffed them with cream cheese and a topped them with a blackberry topping I made. Since I'm on a streak of French dishes, I plan on making a quiche tonight with the leek.

That just leaves the green beans, potatoes, and onion left over. Those shouldn't be difficult to find uses for.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What I learned at Gardening School

Last week I took a couple of vacation days to attend the 2009 Gardeners Mini-College hosted by the OSU Master Gardener Program.

I signed up for 7 classes over three days:

1 - Composting and Mulching
I learned that my garden needs mulch and that autumn leaves would be perfect. Every fall, people sweep their leaves into the bike lane to be picked up by the city. As a biker, I find this irksome. I need to figure out a way to get these leaves out of the bike lanes and onto my garden. This October you might see me on the side of the road sweeping these leaves into my bike basket.

2 - Managing Vertebrate Pests
I don't have a surfeit of charismatic macrofauna in my yard. This class wasn't the main reason I signed up for this event, but I did learn which critter is digging the holes in my yard. It's voles (I didn't take this picture - I swiped it from Google images). I also learned that owl stools are chock full of vole skulls.

3 - Organic Gardening
The garden I inherited when I bought the house was organic, so I took this class to see what I need to do to keep it that way. I learned that I don't need to do anything. I can do that.

4 - Preserving Food
I was already going to try canning this year. This class wasn't so much of a 'how to' as much as a 'what to buy' class. It did convince me that I would use a food dehydrator if I bought one. The pressure canner is still under consideration.

5 - Raising Chickens
As I've mentioned before, I've been seriously considering keeping chickens. It's sort of trendy these days. This class made a good case for it, but I'm still not sure. It's an investment of years, and we will more than likely be moving out of town in three years or so.

6 - Edible Landscaping
This lady had some incredible slides, but her yard requires a lot of maintenance. She does this for a living.

7 - Making Herb Teas
This class focused more on medicinal properties, and I was more interested in culinary aspects. But her website is a good resource.

Although not an official part of the event, I also went to see an appropriate movie called Food, Inc. this week. It's a documentary about industrialized food production, and I highly recommend seeing it. It was a scare-doc in the same genre as An Inconvenient Truth, and I got the feeling there was another side to the story that I wasn't getting (to be fair, industrial food companies frequently declined to participate in the documentary). Even so, it made a compelling case that we should buy as much of our food locally as possible (shop at farmer's markets), grow a garden (even a small one, even in the city), and buy organic and in-season produce.

Other things I learned at this event:

Gardening is more than just thowing some seeds into some dirt. There's an entire system that doesn't begin or end with the pretty flowers or tasty food (although that is the best part of the cycle). It involves various other aspects: maintaining the soil via composting and mulching; turning kitchen scraps into fertilizer via worms, chickens, or rabbits; managing pests and weeds; keeping trees, bushes, vines and plants healthy and productive; and preserving what you grow by canning, drying and freezing.

Gardeners like to talk. There were hundreds of master gardeners in attendance, and they were the majority of the folks in the classes. The typical class would start with the speaker talking for only a few minutes before a gardener would raise her hand and want to share her related experience, which would lead to other gardener's following up and comparing notes. This isn't a criticism of the class - it was always very informative. I got the impression that these folks spend so much time alone in their yards obsessing about minutiae that they jump at the opportunity to interact with other humans and share their thoughts.

I learned that I have a lot to learn. Each class was less than 2 hours, and each was complex enough to be a seminar on its own. I think I was one of only a handful of beginners in attendance. It wasn't exactly discouraging; it was inspiring, in fact. I kept the handouts, and wrote down some notes, but I'll have to revisit these topics if I ever decide to try any of this stuff out.

Gardening can be simple. For most of the attendees at the event, gardening is a way of life. Several days of being immersed in obsessive-gardener space can be intimidating. I kept wondering if my compost is too nitrogen rich, and where was I going to get saw dust and oyster shells to compensate for it. And would chickens and rabbits provide enough fertilizer or should I get a goat too. And what blooming plant could I grow to lure beneficial bugs to my yard. But then I came home to my yard and saw the tomato plants bursting with fruit even though I've never done any of these things and I realized that I could make this as complicated as I wanted, but sometimes gardening is just throwing some seeds into some dirt.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Box of Veggies (10 of 22)

We split the onions, shallots, cilantro, and tomatoes. E&A took the potatoes, carrots, lettuce, and melon. I kept the tomatillos, jalapeno, purple pepper, summer squashes, and cucumber. I intentionally kept all the salsa ingredients (I also have tomatoes from my garden), and plan on making the green salsa recipe that came with this week's newsletter.

I'm having friends over next Saturday for a blackberry picking party, and I plan on serving Mexican food. The tomatillos, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro will be made into the green salsa, the purple pepper and onion will be fajita filling, and the squash and tomatoes will be mixed with corn for calabacitas.

I have nothing special planned for the cucumber, and I have potatoes and celery left from last week. I'll just snack on them as is.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Box of Veggies (9 of 22)

We split the lettuce, onions, celery, and green beans. I kept the potatoes, eggplant, squash, and blueberries. E&A took the carrots, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

I want to roast the eggplant and make sandwiches with pesto-mayo (I'm trying to recreate a favorite sandwich I used to get at this place in Boulder). I don't plan on doing anything fancy with the green beans and potatoes - just cook them straight up and serve them as side dishes to something. The squash will be pizza if I have time, or teriyaki if I don't. The blueberries will be pancakes, muffins, and/or scones depending on my mood (the blackberries in my yard are ready as well). I haven't come up with a plan for the celery.