Jan. 20th, 2016

ritaxis: (hat)
My friend Glen Fitch decided I needed to read Master and Margarita so he ordered it for me and I regret that because it's a nice hardcover edition and it couldn't have been cheap but...I didn't last fifteen pages. I am allergic to stories where the Devil shows up to caper around and claim that whoever the author doesn't like is in cahoots with him. And I just didn't like it as a block of stuff to read. Not much of an Ambrose Bierce fan either, which it reminds me of. When it comes to satire, I kind of like stuff more on the line of The Good Soldier Schweik (or Švejk) or Iceland's Bell (as difficult as that can be to read: it's pretty grim).

What I bought myself is an immense tome, part cookbook and part social, ecological, and economic history: A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright. I love it. I'm on the second pass. The first pass I read the parts I thought would be most interesting first--it's really immense and I was a bit daunted--and when I had read all of the book in that piecemeal way I started again at the beginning. You can probably tell I love it. I got it at the used bookstore for $7.50! That's downright amazing. I already had what I think is a fix-up of notes he took while researching the book (though I don't know this for sure), Mediterranean Vegetables. That one is in encyclopedic form and it drives me crazy because it is so raw and unedited and full of errors I can catch (the pointless little errors that arise when you're doing a large work very fast) but it's also magnificent and lots of fun to reread and I do reread it frequently. The bad editing made me worry about A Mediterranean Feast but I've only found a couple of that kind of errors in it so it's more relaxing to read. His main premise is that historically the Mediterranean was anything but a feast, and it's the poverty of the land and people that drove history in such a way that it seems to be the center of a lush life now.

It's interesting how shallow the Mediterranean food tradition is. I've already wondered foir a long time what the food was like there before tomatoes--it seems it was completely, utterly different. I would have thought that tomatoes would have pushed out other fruits in traditional sauces and it seems like that is not the case. People weren't eating the same sauces with plums or something in the tomato position. And while durum wheat and dry pasta has been known in the Mediterranean for centuries, it wasn't such a popular thing in Italy and elsewhere until the nineteenth century.And so on.

He looks at the cooking history of Spain, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia, with peeks at other places--he picks these five because of the documentation that exists and their importance at various times in the history. He includes a little information about classical Greece and Rome, but there's not as much information that far bacl and the story really gets cooking in the thirteenth century an on. The sixteenth century is a big focus. The book is arranged according to topics, and each region is visited in each topic, and their interrelationships are heavily explored too.

I heartily recommend the book, and now I have a hunger for similar books about other places.  The food I've been most interested in these days is Central/Eastern European and Western/Central Asia, and I enjoyed reading Please to the Table, about Russian cooking, but it's not anything like as deep or scholarly as A Mediterranean Feast. Any suggestions? Mostly for things I can get from the library...

On another front: I bought my membership to FOGCon. There is a story behind this I'll tell later.

Still another front: Zluta Zluta Zluta all the time. If it was up to her, we'd be walking ten miles a day. She is almost a year old and has become markedly mellower but she's still excitable and high energy and she demands something every forty-five minutes to an hour and a half.

Oh, and I'm like a day or two away from having the semi-final draft of The Drummer Boy ready for beta readers. If you were thinking of being one of them, contact me. I'm actually finishing off another few of my bagatelles also, so that I have something to do when I have to stop and think about the main project.

I have more evidence that Affordable Care is an imperfect system and we really need single payer, but I'll give that its own post.
ritaxis: (hat)
I'm probably overthinking this.

So I got a bill from Blue Shield for over two hundred dollars for my first month of 2016. Considering that my original fee had been a dollar a month, and last year's had been $22 a month, it seemed out of line. Granted, percentage-wise it was less of an increase (a bit more than 2000% the first year and a bit less than 1000% the second year)...and of course my income has not risen at all and my other costs keep increasing too.

So I called to straighten it out, and eventually, after a couple of days of bad connections, frightening error messages, and lots of apologetic confusion from the stalwart souls who staff the front lines at the Blue Shield and Covered California call centers, it emerged that I didn't belong on Covered California because I don't make enough money. I was supposed to go to Medi_Cal instead.

California residents will understand my mixed feelings when I got this news. Medi-Cal is free, the coverage is fine...but doctors generally don't take Medi-Cal patients. I mean they flat-out don't, or they say they do "but we're not taking new patients just now." Plus, there's the issue that if I make any money at all, I'll be kicked off again and have to go back to the exchange and find a plan I can afford that will cover what I need.

First things first: according to the website, my primary doctor takes Medi-Cal. So if that works out, I'll be fine.

But let's return to my eligibilty. This freaks me out no end, because: Covered California uses line 37 of the tax return to determine eligibility, and Medi-Cal uses gross income. And if I understood all those people correctly the lower limit for Covered California this year is $16K+something. I can't confirm or correct this number looking around online: it seems to be a secret that you only learn if you dip below it. Meanwhile, according to the letter I got from Medi-Cal, if my income goes above $13,354 a month, I'm no longer eligibile. That's almost the same number: it might be exactly the same number.

However, line 37 on the tax return is the adjusted gross income and it is lower than the entire gross income. Why this matters to me is that my Covered California income is therefore under $10K a year, while my Medi-Cal income is about $20 a month less than the cap. If I get a job or sell a story will I have to change medical coverage again? I was thinking that since my legs work again I could be a substitute teacher. Will I have to change medical coverage during the school year and again in the summer? If I sell one story, I'll be over the limit for Medi-Cal that month but under the limit for Covered California for the year. I'm afraid to ask about it, actually. I considered dropping olut of the system but my barebones prescriptions (5 medicines, the rest are OTC) are four hundred dollars a month without coverage. I've been working towards dropping more drugs, but I can't drop them all.

Can we say it together? SOCIALIZE THE GODDAMN MEDICINE. Save your grandma!

Which reminds me of the thing I think is going on with the right wing: they really, really, really hate their mothers. Everything else derives from that.

On another front, it has rained sixteen out of twenty days here, but we're still running lower than average in rainfall totals and we're still at 67% full in the reservoirs here. It's worse in some areas. 

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