Apr. 20th, 2017 09:04 am
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 I got a wee Chromebook some months ago for traveling & I've be'en using it for an auxiliary downstairs. It's kind of clunky in the track pad & a bit clunky in the keyboard. The worst part is that the tracking & button features of the mouse are all in the one awkward rectangle so it's confused and not so responsive.

This moment  I'm experimenting with using it as a tablet. It seems to be better at tableting than at laptopping. I'm fonder of laptops than tablets for writing but  I will use this however it uses best.

On another front I think I am done shopping for the trip &  I am almost done sewing. What's left is a few seams on my carry-on bag for my Bipap machine & medicines, and a shopping bag (very quick) for a present for Andrea. If there is time I'll run up the livingroom curtains before I go. Otherwise they can wait.

What I will have made for the trip: 3 presents, all shopping bags: 3 shirts & a nightshirt:: a messenger bag big enough for this wee computer: the carry-on bag: & I don't know if it counts, but 2 skirts I made last summer, my wallet & pussy hat both crocheted for general use. so while I have been so out of it I haven't been completely useless. Everything is from odds & ends, old stash that was free or cheap to begin with, & they fit me. Even the findings, buttons & zippers are found or stored (for example the rings & clasp on the purse are from leashes & harnesses Zluta chewed up in her puppy months). Oh & not EVERY piece is plaid....

On a larger world front, Sarah Kendzior is pissing me off. She's taking every possible opportunity to push a divisive, anti-left, anti-communist agenda. Now that she is a Queen of the Resistance this behavior is dangerous & counter to effective action. But then she's never been as interested in fighting fascism as she is in glorying in its horrors. She remains only interested in foreign interference and not in homegrown oppression.

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It's been a while since I wrote about food. It seems a little wrong to natter about my dinner while we have sociopaths and psychopaths taking advantage of the surge in the class war (that is, the ruling class's war against the other clases), but okay, I'm doing it anyway.

From time to time I write a post about "how I'm eating now." Sometimes the motivation is managing my "multiple issue" health, sometimes it's something else. Right now my motivation is largely frugality again. I refuse to be deprived of deliciousness by mere poverty. I live in the middle of such abundance, and I have all the time in the world since I can't work & lack the strength to do anything else in a sustained way, so making food that meets my nutritional needs, is tasty, and is cheap--though it may be time-consuming--is a reasonable path for me.

A few years ago I discovered that it is quite easy to make a kind of soft cheese from whole milk and an acid (that first time it was inadvertent, my coagulant was yogurt because that was what I was trying to make). At the time I didn't pursue it much because I had no idea what to do with the whey that was left over--depending on details it can be three or four times as much whey as cheese.

Last year I experimented with using whey as the liquid when making bread (using the sponge method outlined by Gail Sher in From A Baker's Kitchen). The results were so good that I started making the cheese (and sometimes yogurt) on purpose to get the whey. I've ended up with enough cheese that I've had to experiment with uses of it. Though sometimes I have more whey than I need for bread, too, so I've gotten in the habit of using whey for any baking and much grain cooking. Since my usual coagulant in Meyer lemons (that being what I have in my yard), all of this food has a little of that fragrance in it.

So all last fall and winter my routine has been, about twice a month or once in three weeks, to make about a pound of this cheese and enough dough for three or four loaves of this bread. I started out with half-white & half-whole wheat all purpose flour, but now I use bread flour for the sponge and a variety of other flours in the later stages. The amount of dough I make has increased, since I now make pizza and dumplings loosely based on pirozhki, or fried bread, or whatever. I bake two or three loaves and put one or two lumps of dough in the freezer for later.

Obviously I haven't done it this month since I am trying not to leave a lot of stuff around when I fly out on the 24th, but I still have two lumps of dough in the freezer which I will bake up this weekend: one will be a pirog (like pirozhki, only large), to form my dinner, breakfast, and lunch while I am traveling. I have half a roast chicken in the freezer, some of which I will eat on the weekend and some of which will go into the pirog along with what else I have (a lot of dried store mushrooms because the Grey Bears bag had way too many mushrooms several weeks in a row, many onions,  some carrots, some pickled cabbage and kosher dills, and a yard with a lot of small overwintered greens of various types, some herbs, and green garlic in it. I say pickled cabbage instead of sauerkraut because I only let it try to ferment naturally for a few days and then I packed it with vinegar and stuck it in the fridge. It wasn't very nice at first and I was going to throw it away but after sitting in the fridge for a bit it has developed, not the best sauerkraut flavor, but something nice enough for sandwiches and so on).

Gosh, the parenthetical was longer than the rest of the paragraph.

I can say it's really a relief that some of these greens have naturalized in my yard. Most of the year I can honestly take or leave arugula, but right now I can throw it into any melange of food, cooked or raw, and it lends a nice nutty and pungent note to the whole, not to mention being the greenest thing you ever did see and it also grows in pretty little clumps all over the yard which will become immense patches later. I also have some determined feral kohlrabi and celery root that never made roots but which have really nice leaves and stems. The kohlrabi leaves are mild and tender, rather like kohlrabi the root, while the celery root leaves are strong tasting. Zack never saw much point to celery till I made him taste these leaves. I also have parsley, though not much yet, and this year's turnip greens in baby form, and dill seedlings. Since dill never lasts long for me before going to seed (cilantro neither), I decided this year to plant it densely and eat it young.  There are still a few kale plants I missed when I cleaned up the old (three and four year old) ones, and I just grab them whenever I see a nice leaf. 

I also have the usual perennial herbs for my region: oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme, spearmint and also persian mint and lovage and horehound (which I mean to make throat drops of but I haven't acted at the right moment yet). Basil doesn't do spectacularly well for me, but I find mint takes its place quite well especially when mixed with parsley. Parsley is the Great Underrated Herb. I think we're accustomed to seeing the tightly curled kind used as a garnish, where it hasn't been treated kindly before serving because nobody's expected to eat it, and occasionally dried flakes. Its flavor does not keep all that well even when you buy it flatleaved and fresh, but when it is new and lush it has a flavor like heaven. I really like it more than most herbs and vegetables. I keep trying to increase my stock of it but some years it all goes to seed in its infancy and I can't figure out why. 

So these 2 or 3 weeks I didn't buy groceries and I didn't go to pick up a Grey Bears bag. This means I'm being inventive with what I have. I ran out of milk, cream, and even cheese, and then discovered how dependent I normally am on dairy products in general. I still had a pound of chicken livers, so that and onions, green garlic, quantities of greens and herbs from the garden, and three asparagus spears (my asparagus is delicious but not prolific), made three meals. Lentils and mostly turnip greens and arugula but also those same herbs made a nice stew. I'm attempting to cook these recalcitrant pinto beans to make an almost vegan tamale pie. I don't know what I'll do if they refuse to soften (I think it's because I put the dried tomatoes in with them when they were still raw). Maybe drain off the delicious juice and toss the beans and start over with-- what do I still have, garbanzos? I made a salad of tuna, potato, carrot, peas, and all the pickled things I had at the time (the last of the artichokes, some beets, some kosher dills, I didn't think of the cabbage though now I can't stop thinking of it)-- sort of like if you started out thinking maybe you'd make a Salat Olivier and couldn't find all the exact things and then couldn't stop putting other things into it. I made a Waldorf salad (which if you make it right-just apples, nuts, raisins, celery and mayonnaise-or-whatever-dressing-you-prefer, is much nicer than most people think). I made apple fritters. I used up the pizza things I had stashed to make pizza. I used the rest of the tomato sauce I made for that to cook carrots in. 

So most of those things came out well and I've had a good time eating them. The pizza was a little eccentric but I get to have eccentric pizza, right? I made a weird coffee tapioca, having sieved the tapioca to try to prevent the frog-eggs texture which I thought would be weird with coffee, and it tastes good enough but it does have a bit of frog egg to it and it kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG so maybe I won't do that again?

The beans I'm cooking are really really yummy and I think they are cooked but they will never be really soft. I wonder if they will cause stomach distress if I use them anyway?
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This surgery wasn't quite as entertaining as the orthopedic ones, but I didn't expect it to be. There was some problem with the wire locator insertion. This is a thin wire, the size of beading wire but stiffer, that they thread through a fine hollow needle (lengthwise, not through an eye), and ine up with the titanium marker that they put in when they did the biopsy. I had two markers because I had two biopsies, and the doctor had to confirm that it was the cylinder and not the hourglass one-I knew that! but the techs answered, of course. By the way, the techs are great. They are so competent and professional and considerate, you couldn't ask for more.

It was hard for the doctor to get it to line up properly and then it kept bouncing out of position before the confirmation photos could be taken and the wire could be taped down on the outside. And then there was also some problem with the mammorgram machines, one of which wouldn't take pictures at all reliably. So a half-hour procedure took two and a half hours and we had to move three times (once because of the racalcitrant machine, once to change to another type of machine so I could lie down and gravity wouldn't be affecting the wire or something, and finally back to the original machine which the techs were told had recovered from its sulk, though I noticed that it two three tries to get the machine to taken the final picture). But that wasn't too bad from my perspective. Just for a while there my toes were complaining about standing in a fixed position for a long time while encased in ohmydear shoes.

The dye injection wasn't bad. It was supposed to happen first, but there was some issue with being able to get the nuclear medicine room (btw: recall how all the right-wing people you meet on the internet are always raging about how MRI had to have its name changed because ohmydear nuclear couldn't be in a medical name? But--here I am, going to the fourth floor to the Nuclear Medicine department, and later I'll be going to the Radiation Oncologist, so what's with that theory?) and they sent me downstairs to radiology/breast imaging first. Then when we finally got the breast wire taped down we went back upstairs and got the shots.

By the time we got to the hospital proper it was the time I was supposed to already be under anasthesia in the operating room but nobody was upset about it. One of the nurses said it happens all the time, which I can clearly imagine.

I had a different anasthesiologist, which would have been a mite disappointing but I liked him a lot too. He read me the Act about getting myself checked for sleep apnea (because of how I stop breathing when I'm given sedatives), so somehow I have to get that squeezed in between the hand therapy and the cancer therapy (& by the way, the cortisone shot in my right thumb has all but cured it, so it's not so bad that I haven't gotten the hand clinic lined up yet, I guess: I might ask for a repeat in the other thumb as it's getting pretty bad too).

As I said, the surgery itself...well, what do I know, I was unconscious, but to all accounts it was unremarkable and I certainly feel fine now. One good thing I wasn't expecting is that the incision for the lymph node removal isn't in the armpit but a couple of inches below. This way they don't cut the arm muscles, they just retract them, and the area is dryer than the armpit so it heals better. It might be why it doesn't hurt.  I haven't had any pain medication because I honestly don't need it, and so therefore instead of being woozy and tired from that, I'm having the same kind of happy rebound I get from giving blood.

On another front, I had an entirely pleasant revelation. I can submit to non-paying and token-paying markets this year, instead of piling everything up for next year (I'll still pile up some stuff, and my main writing time is going to two books I swear they will be short enough to write in a year). But it does mean I don't have to completely lose momentum. Not that I had much.

So therefore I am writing short stories about Crow Girl and Pigeon Girl! (Libiena and Mily, respectively)

Also, yesterday there were entirely too many yellow wild oats and foxtails for the end of March and there is no rain on the horizon  and this is a blot on my otherwise sunny mood. It is way too soon for summer to start.
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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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My roommate's pillow burst, and I had an extra one.

And that is why the minimalists are wrong.

Of course, from where I sit, the propagandizing minimalists all look to be people who don't have friends who can't afford to buy a pillow.
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Lately I stay in bed for a while after I wake up. I can do my morning surf in bed now because of my cute little obsolete barbie-pink laptop, and I can also write there for the same reason. This allows me to keep from dangling my legs from the chair for that time (which is lousy for all the sixteen jillion billion things that are wrong with them) but it also means that I don't get moving until my bladder or the telephone force me out. Or the dog needs something, but she's happily adapted to sleeping in as long as I'm available to warm the bed for her. Yes, I sleep with my dog. 1) I haven't slept alone on a regular basis since I was eighteen, so it would be a sacrifice to not have her in the bed 2)anyway when she was a puppy it was the best way to keep her out of trouble at night so we were already in that habit 3) mutual warmth.

Anyway when I finally did get up this morning I thankfully hadn't flushed when I noticed the lack of water because I usually save flushing the toilet till after my bath when I refill the flushing buckets (I do not require everyone else to flush the toilet with buckets but I prefer to). So I noticed when I tried to run a bath. Because of my history my first thought was that the water bill had somehow not been paid but when I called the water department they said there was an emergency shutdown and it should be back online in an hour or so. The customer service guy did not know the ultimate cause of the shutdown. The thing about an emergency shutdown is that since it is an emergency shutdown there is no guarantee that your buckets and pitchers will be filled. Moral of the story: keep the buckets and pitchers filled at every moment.

Coincidentally my morning surf had mostly been about how to stop my toilet from running besides buying a new apparatus (I think I have to buy a new apparatus) and also how to weatherstrip my windows. But I think I'm not going to go out and buy the stuff I need for those jobs today because I have A Brand-New Mysterious Leg Pain and I'm going to rest the ridiculous thing until I see the doctor tomorrow. This time there's also a newish not-mysterious leg pain, as I tweaked either the IT band or the hamstring doing somewhat more difficult dances Friday night (but I had fun!). And then last night my stupid ankle swelled up quite suddenly and also quite suddenly started producing the kind of pain you can't ignore or walk through. So, against my uncharacteristic desire to be up and doing today, I am resting. If I'm feeling up to it later, I'll do a bit of hardware store shopping when I go out to take the dog to the vet.

What has happened is that I have gotten some of the money from the sale of my stepmother's house, and I am judiciously spending about half of what I have gotten on necessary repairs to the house, the car, the dog, and myself. I also paid the flood insurance and the property taxes, two expenses I have trouble with (but they don't let you break down into smaller payments or pay years in advance either). I am saving the rest for future insurance and taxes and for travel expenses.

There has been no rain at all this rainy season. There was one paltry storm at the opening of the season and nothing since. There could still be some rain, especially since the season appears to have been moving later and later over the last few years, but I think we are looking at a real drought this year, and not just those near-drought "dry years" we've been experiencing lately.

So, since I have a bit of money now (and never will again), I wonder if I should get a second-hand modern water-sparing washing machine?

edit: other money I have spent and will be spending: refurbishing my banjo, buying an actual new autoharp, refurbishing my bicycle. I will probably replace some of these windows, but that has to happen in the summer. Also getting the damned house painted, and the bathtub fixed (leaks, and also needs a hand-held shower because you can't put a stationary shower there because of the window)
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Well, I was all about to write a whiny post about how much the "Covered California" plans were going to cost me and how much they wouldn't cover when I went back to check the exact numbers and found that I had somehow been directed to the wrong chart yesterday. Maybe. It looks like the new plan is actually going to work for me.

Currently my doctor and my pharmacy have been giving me hefty "uninsured discounts" and my medicine is actually costing me a wee bit less than it did when I was insured (not my doctor visits, though: they're almost three times as much, but still less than they could be). But according to this chart and the calculator on the site, I'd be paying about $75 a month for coverage, and then well less than I'm paying now for medicine and very much less for doctor visits than I paid before when I had insurance. Which is cool. I'm not one of those people who hangs around endlessly bugging their doctors, but I would like to be able to go in an discuss the complex of ongoing issues I have on a more regular basis. And maybe address with him a couple of them that I've just tended to grit my teeth or apply home care to because the big ones demand our attention.

I don't see any reference to dental or vision on there, though, and that's unfortunate, because teeth are such a vulnerable space -- you get mouth infections and they go to your heart, and that's not good. Also, glasses and quality of life, you know. (on that front, I've applied to the Lions club for vision subsidy, and I'm sure I qualify, but the big question is do they pay for the kind of glasses I need -- trifocals, continuous blend, and a prism? That's a pretty expensive ticket right there. My frames are good, but I've rarely been able to reuse them because they keep changing the shapes of the lens blanks so much that you just can't match them)

On another front, I am making oxtail and beef shank stew with plum wine and the usual vegetables and herbs. I used to eat a lot of oxtail when it was cheap. It was cheap this time, I don't know why.

And can I brag about my daughter? She's spying on penguins for the aquarium these days, that and scrubbing shit off rocks and tallying fish. But it's what she's always wanted to do, and the fact that she can do this now is a step closer to her being able to do it for a living.
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I can't get through to the Unemployment people even at eight o'clock precisely because of the volume of calls, and I have not received an answer to my emails.

I'm guessing that perhaps nobody in the entire state of California got their checks in the month of February.

On another front, I'm investigating doing some medical tourism while I am in Prague. I have three molars with chunks that have fallen out of them (yet another resemblance to Nanny Ogg!) and even with insurance I do not have enough to cover getting new crowns on them in the United States.

On yet another front, it rained last night! It rained a couple times in January, once in February and now once in March. This is when we're supposed to get all our rain. March is our last month of true rainy season: April and May are wind-downs, with diminishing chances of rain each week after the solstice. But my plum tree is blooming beatifully.

oops, I got in! It only took fifteen minutes.

now I am listening to a long, long recording about the sequester and federal extension to unemployment payments.

but no, crap, they only get me into the automated system. This is supposed to be the number that gets me the human being. No. wait, the human being is buried under "other," the last option after a bunch of increasingly unlikely options. No, they throw me out again. "Too many calls."

Dialing again. Have to listen to the whole lecture again and go through the whole menu again. Why can't I cut through the lecture since I've already heard it and it doesn't apply to me ?

This time I got further, I got all the way to "please hold for the next available operator" before they trhrew me out. I thinkI have time to try one more time.

My calls are going faster because I know the numbers I want in the menu, but they still make me listen to the whole sequestration lecture every damned time.



I am not really listening to the lecture but I have it memorized. There may or may not be a 10.7 percent cut in federal extension payments. It will be higher if it is implemented later. Don't ask any questions about it, it will be on their facebook and twitter accounts.


Just googled California unemployment benefits in the news. A Bakersfield television station ran a piece last month about how people aren't getting paid and they can't get answers.


I've run out of the time I arranged. But I'm calling one last time.

Well, screw it.

I'm just going to have to face up to the fact that I'm never going to see that money.

I guess it's a good thing I have a job now.
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I had never really thought about the Pew report until I saw a link to this (by way of Eschaton) . I had never thoguht about "net worth" either. But really, if you think about it, I have a pretty big net worth, if you blinker yourself and just look at the assessed value of my house and how much I owe on it. I live in an area with incredibly inflated housing prices, so my little old house is assessed at six hundred thousand dollars. (I might actually be able to get more than five-fifty for it if I sold it).  I owe less than ninety thousand on it.

So my net worth is like five hundred thousand dollars, right? I'm a rich lady. If I sold the house, I'd still have to live in a place with an inflated housing market. But I could actually pay rent on a room in a house for the rest of my life on that money, if I could find one I could move the dog to. I might even be able to afford the rent on an actual  house, now that I look at it, at least if I live thirteen years or less.

That wouldn't pay the rest of my expenses, of course, but that's another problem.
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Did my taxes this morning.

It took like two hours, much of it was spent doing the dishes in a fit of pique because, as usual, the instructions did not address my situation. Came back and winged it, and probably ended up doing something that will be corrected and not in my favor later. But it's done.
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I cut down the watersprout that was coming from below the graft on the almond tree in time for the gtreencycle pickup, which leaves me free to fill the can again this week, which I definitely ought to do.

I had a lot of sprouted garlic, so even though they say to plant in October, I put them in the window box with the alyssum. Also I planted snap peas, pole beans, and yellow chard, in paper egg cartons and a pierced tofu box respectively/  The kale I planted a few weeks ago is still at the cotyledon stage, but they are tall cotyledons and ought to bedeveloping true leaves any minute. Naturally, the parsley is still thinking about whether or not to sprout -- it looks like three or four have decided to try it out, and the others are waiting to see how it works out. I had a lead on free kale starts, but I have so much kale in the egg cartons and more seeds after that, so I don't think I should follow up on it.  Give the other guy a chance, you know.

Really, six vegetables is pretty optimistic, considering that most of my yard is still suffering under the piles of construction debris. Anyway, my absent-mindedness in years past is serving me well this year, because I have all these seeds to plant. And yes, they all seem to be viable.

Speaking of peas, I have a two-pound bag of shredded iceberg lettuce from Grey Bears, so I have decided to make peas, lettuce and herbs soup, especially after reading that this would be a way to use up the three cups of whey I have after converting my roommate's sour milk into ricotta (I thought I was making yogurt but I let it get too hot so I got actually quite nice ricotta, which is probably better, given that ricotta is more expensive than yogurt anyway). It's quite simple, by the way: I had three cups of sour low-fat milk, to which I added a third of a cup of natural sour cream and two-thirds of a cup of natural whole milk yogurt, and then I let is sit for a while, and then I warmed it up and tried to keep the temperature in the recommended range but it got a little hot and it separated more than yogurt ought to so I warmed it up some more and then I scooped it into a napkin spread on a sieve and squeezed all the whey out. I tried to make "whey ricotta" out of the resulting whey, but there wasn't enough left. I realized afterwards that the whey that the blogs were talking about was from making cheese with whole milk, and not low-fat milk, so not the same thing really.

Am I an insuifferable foodie? Or just bored and poor? I only make jam from free fruit. I only made my own peanut butter (at home, instead of in the machine at the hippie store) because decent peanut butter reached six dollars a pound. (it was not an unqualified success -- the nice inexpensive peanuts from Trader Joe's apparently have a lot less oil in them than regular peanut-butter making peanuts)

When I pruned the plum tree I brought in some budded branches, but they haven't advanced much. The almond tree looks like it's thinking about bursting out any moment. It's not long until other people's plum trees will be blooming, but mine is always last, and so are my plums (they are not ready until August). I had a dream about racking and bottling the wine, and among my stepmother's effects I found a half-drunk bottle of my best year's product, and it tasted pretty good.

Also: Andrew Marvell has been talking to my lemon trees. My, I have a lot of lemons. I have not counted them, but they seem as numerous as my mother in law's used to be, and she used to get a thousand lemons a year. These are not quite ripe, in general, but they have dropped a huge number of nice ones. That's unusual, and I think it is because of people trying to reach the best ones up top and knocking some off. My next door neighbor on the other side has carte blanche to use as many as she wants, and she is short like me and getting frail. Anyway, my kitchen has rather too many lemons in it at the moment, especially considering I still have a lot of marmalade left from last year.

head thing notes: I found a forty-six dollar check from the last time I was on unemployment a year and a half ago. It was good for a year. . .
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An explanation of why the cost-of-living discussion seems so divorced from reality.

The article I got it from, which tells us what we already knew about why people don't buy as much these days as the retailers want us to.

Really, you can't just keep on taking money out of the system, and laying people off, and cutting their wages, and cutting off their hopes of promotion, and cutting the services you provide to them, and expect them to have money to spend on things.

And while I'm talking about this, while I'm worried about myself and my contemporaries too, I do wish we'd take a moment out of discussing what they're doing to us old folks (threatening out lives, actually) to talk about what they're doing to the young folks (throwing them under the bus altogether). When you cut public spending in the areas of basic services, and infrastructure, and education, and research, you not only bring down the present quality of life and throw all these people out of work who are in the prime of their life, you choke off the early careers of an entire generation coming up. People who ought to be getting their start as young public servants are marking time with their degrees, squeaking by on partitime jobs they are way over-qualified for. People a bit younger are not even getting the qualifications because the colleges have cut back on the classes or simoply become too expensive to attend.

How is this supposed to fix an economy?  It'll fix the economy, yes, in the older sense -- stick it tight so it can't move.
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My thermostat says 66 degrees, which is traditionally really quite warm enough for me, but I'm here in two sweaters and fingerless gloves (and thank you, Emma, for the large stash of fingerless gloves you have made and given to me over the years! I have dry ones tonight because of that!)

My friend Bonnie's staying the night again.  She's wandering off to Asia next week, but today we walked to the wharf and back and watched the seals and sea gulls being adorable.  It's like I'm on vacation, because there are no jobs to apply for.  The last summer's baby gulls are pretty much grown, now, though they still have juenilve feathers and behavior.  The nice fellow used to call animals like that "Archies" after the Archie of the teen comics world. So these Archie seagulls are going up to their parents -- who are no bigger than they are, and making cute little baby-bird sounds and bobbing their heads in the general direction of the red spot on daddy's beak, and the mommy or daddy gull makes a parenting chuckle noise and then goes "what? No! You're old enough to get your own fish!" and flies off and the grown-up baby seagull goes "tweet! I am a baby bird! Don't leave me!" and follows.  This was going on all over the wharf.  I never noticed it before.

The seals, meanwhile, were all sacked out on the lower rungs of the pilings, of course, but there were a few that were barking and barking.  I told Truffle, "Look, they're just like you -- they sleep and they bark.  If they're not sleeping, they're barking.  If they're not barking, they're sleeping." She was underimpressed, but mildly curious.  She did eat something objectionable on the wharf and spend fifteen minutes after we got home trying to upchuck it, but I don't know what it was, I only became aware of it after it was too late.

My neighbor across the street begged us to try to get some of his figs because there are a lot of them and he is busy at work and doesn't have time to get them all, so Bonnie and I tried.  There is an art to picking figs with a pole harvester, expecially if the fig tree hasn't been properly started off in life by a little old Italian man with a ready pruining knife and the fig tree has grown as big as a mighty oak, which is what they do if you leave them alone.  The stem of the fig gets sturdier as the fig gets riper, which is just plain stupid, but you can't expect trees to go out of their way to be convenient. And of course the fig is very soft and vulnerable to the tines of the pole harvester, so if you're not in control of your technique you rip the little thing to shreds. Nevertheless we did succeed in collecting a few figs. 

I am not really nanoing.  I am writing.  But I have to take days off to digest what I am learning about the work of a soldier during battle of this kind, and I keep having to discard chunks of work that I messed up.  So it's more like normal writing, rather than intensive writing.

I went and spent a couple hours with the nice fellow's military history buff friends and learned a lot. They got what I was asking, too, and didn't insist on telling me history buff things.

One thing I keep asking myself over and over every time I learn something new about the way war was actually conducted on the ground is, why weren't there a lot more mass desertions?

Actually, I don't really want you to try to answer that question, okay?  Because there's a direction that discussion leads that I don't want to go to.  But if you have anything to offer me about latrines, trenches, the maintenance of weapons, supply trains, water supply, or whatall, I'm happy to read it.

I'm not, actually, writing a book that is about anti-war. It's about Yanek's experiences and evolution, how after fighting all through childhood to be a man that is respected and included, he succeeds in becoming something else, not quite human, but respectable and essential in his own right, in a new place he couldn't have imagined as a child. So war is in it, and of course war is horrible, and war is bigger than anything, but the story is bigger than the war, for Yanek.

on another front: I can sit cross-legged on the floor again.

and another thing: I have the loan modification papers, and unlike the unemployment website, they are written in normal language and laid out comprehensibly.  They're still intimidating.

That quote

Jun. 12th, 2012 08:34 am
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That quote, "I've never been hired by a poor person . . ." the thing they quote to justify the idea that rich people are "job creators" -- well, I have.  I don't believe I've ever been hired by a rich person.  Ever.  Mostly I've been hired by struggling middle-class people, either bureaucrats or the managers of small businesses.

and my jobs were not even ultimately created by rich people.
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Yesterday I wrote 2000 words and got a tremendous lot of story business accomplished. Today it's almost eleven, I've written 1700 words so far and I'm on a long break trying to get my unconscious brain to figure out what bridges what I just wrote with the next thing I know. After perilously close to 40 000 words the first on-screen utterly overt fantastical thing is about to happen. And it's something I've been looking forward to for a long time. But I'm kind of stuck in this little lull before the event, and I should just fling in the crisis and end the chapter right now on the cliffhanger.

But there's another event that I thought would happen in the same calendar year, and I can't figure out how it fits in with the disease outbreak that's about to dominate everything. So I'm dithering about it. It involves the music tutor changing his mind about folk music and suddenly becoming Bela Bartok. Yeah, the same music tutor who was a tossed-off line a few chapters ago: now this transformation has tremendous consequences for Yanek, mostly indirectly . .

On another front.
After reading that one in three Americans are living in or near poverty, I went looking to find out what the actual poverty threshold is. I found a nasty wikipedia article that claimed that poverty is overstated because the people we call poor in the US buy unnecessary things and own small appliances that some middle-class people don't, I finally found the US Census definitions. You have to wade through a lot of pages that tell you other things before you can find the one that allows you to download a spreadsheet with the actual numbers on it. There's also a link to the poverty levels that are used to determine if you can have benefits -- those levels are different. For some family sizes, the threshold is higher for benefits, but for people like me the HHS level is considerably lower than the census one. So you can count towards an understanding of how many needy people there are, but you can't get help.

Anyway, the surprising thing to me is how very low the poverty threshold is. For a person in my condition -- single and under 65 -- it's $11,344. For a family of four with two kids under eighteen it's $22,113.

Personally, it turns out, I am nowhere near the poverty line. If I had any kids, though . . . I'd be real close.

On the other hand . . . rent for a small apartment in Santa Cruz runs over thousand dollars a month: mostly over fifteen hundred a month. So a family in Santa Cruz would likely have four thousand dollars or less to cover everything else. And if I didn't have artificially low housing expenses due to having lived in the same house for thirty-four years and never being sucked into a variable-interest refinance scam, I would be living in my car at that level. Which would not be running, because I wouldn't be able to maintain it. And by the way, living in your car is extremely illegal in Santa Cruz. Fortunately for everyone, I am not living on eleven thousand a year and I do have artificially low housing expenses.

Do I have a point with this? Oh, right, if a third of Americans make little enough money that they could not both feed themselves and rent an apartment, are we still the richest country?

Now I have to figure out how to end this chapter and get out of bed.

edit: so I did it! I got to the end of the chapter, I got the cliffhanger introduced and effected, and the next bit should be pretty obvious tomorrow.

Actual day's total: 2600 words, chapter is 5200, book is I think 39 600 or so. I'll do an accurate-ish count on another day.
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In 1977, the nice fellow and I bought the house I live in for $46,900. We both made about $4.75 an hour.

Ooh, looky:
In 2010, the relative worth of $4.75 from 1977 is:
$17.10 using the Consumer Price Index
$14.00 using the GDP deflator
$15.50 using the unskilled wage
$17.60 using the Production Worker Compensation
$24.10 using the nominal GDP per capita
$34.00 using the relative share of GDP

In 2010, the relative worth of $46,900.00 from 1977 is:
$169,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index
$138,000.00 using the GDP deflator
$153,000.00 using the unskilled wage
$173,000.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
$238,000.00 using the nominal GDP per capita
$336,000.00 using the relative share of GDP

So in order to meet the conditions that the nice fellow and I encountered in 1977, our kids would have to be making something like $16 an hour each and they would have to find a house worth something less than $200,000.

That might be doable.

This is not what I started out to say.
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One of our teachers (whose position is assistant teacher) is going to take a regular teacher position at another school. It sounds to me like she'll be taking a net loss in her income and benefits, since the new position is part time, but she wants that teacher title.

I'm taking the assistant teacher position that she's leaving, which entails a drop in pay over what I was making before the layoff (but not what I was making during the independent contractor period). Also, part of the desperate attempt to stay afloat after Even Start was defunded was that everybody got cut from 8 hours to six and a half, which means, altogether, when you add the cut in hours and the cut in hourly together, I'm taking about an eighteen percent pay cut. But I'll get my benefits back in a while (I have to go through the whole rehire thing with the ninety days till benefits thing, I think). There's some program with the state called "workshare" which allows unemployment benefits for people who work at places where everyone's hours are cut, which I am not eligible for because at the time that the program was set up for the employees at our center, I was not on the payroll, being an independent contractor at the time.

The overall cut in hours doesn't bother me as much for myself as for everybody -- because I personally do not like eight hour days and will cut my own hours whenever we're low in numbers and I don't have a big project to do. So I shouldn't complain about that part. And the cut in hours was done to avoid a complete loss of health coverage. Well, it wasn't billed as a complete loss. There was some fiddle-faddle about a health care account, into which the center would put a minuscule amount of money and the employees could put whatever they wanted on top of that, and that would be expected to cover all your health costs. Right. Fortunately, my boss's boss told the board that was unacceptable. Our insurance is going to erode a lot, but that's mostly from the insurance companies, which are raising the costs and cutting the coverages across the board. We're changing over to some HMO that makes my boss grimace to name it, but even though I haven't seen the details I know it could be a lot worse.

The smallest cut that any of our workers is taking is a ten percent cut in wages. If you ask me, this constitutes a raise in taxes -- since our wages are public money, paid for out of our own pockets, and it has been taken away from us to fund wars, torture, giveaways to wealthy criminals, and luxuries for their mouthpieces.

I read that the sticking point for the republicans in the house of representatives in voting for John Boehner's vindictive mess was that there was money in it for Pell grants. Pell grants are the thing that allows poor kids to go to college. It's just breathtakingly mean to object to them. But every single dog-damned detail of the whole mess, from the Tea Party ravvings to the Koch Brothers to Obama, is breathtakingly mean and evil Avedon Carol said something a while back -- I wish I remember her exact words, but she said that all this hardship and degradation isn't an accidental byproduct: it's what they want us to have.

When it wasn't so wildly flagrant, when it wasn't so maniacally destructive of everything of any use or beauty in western civilization, you might have been able to say it was because they hadn't learned anything about economics or politics in the last two centuries and they sincerely thought they were going to improve their profits this way. But they've gone so far beyond what could improve profits in any sustainable way that I am forced to conclude that they really don't believe they will be here in ten years and it doesn't matter how bad it gets because the obscene inflation of their wealth at the expense of the rest of us is all there is.

It's a pyramid scheme on a global scale, is what it is. We're all paying everything back to the tip of the pyramid: even our great-grandchildren are.

But, anyway, as of August 15, dog willing and the creek don't rise, I will have a regular job again. It will be in the toddler room instead of the infant room, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

And next week Emma's working fifteen hour days for six days straight, last I heard: and Frank is coming on Wednesday to spend most of August here. So life goes on.


Jul. 18th, 2011 01:45 am
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I decided I couldn't afford to spend seven hundred and fifty dollars a month for a baseline medical care, and I let the COBRA go. It means I do owe the insurance company about that much for what they paid for while I was making up my mind. But this is the really odd thing. I had been paying about a hundred and fifty dollars a month for medications while I was insured. (the COBRA is just under six hundred dollars a month: that and the medicine cost was how I got to the seven-fifty figure)

This time when I bought the medicines without insurance the pharmacist pulled some kind of discount out of the air and it cost me eighty-three dollars.

I really don't understand why the insurance companies charge such high premiums. "Because they can" is the natural answer, but the thing is, they can't. Not with everybody's wages falling and all the support systems falling out, and housing and fuel and food costs not dropping. For example. I have been making about $1,000-$1,400 a month since I got laid off: and now I am an "independent contractor" which means I'm responsible for my own taxes, etc (in other words, this is going to hurt me again next year, even if I do get a real job again). So $600 a month for insurance plus $150 a month for medicine is simply not happening. I could go on about the rest of my expenses -- they are not generally high, compared to other supposedly "middle-class" people -- well, I'm a professional with certifications, doesn't that make me middle-class? Right? -- but you don't need me to break down all my expenses to see that I'm just not going to make it on $400 a month after medical expenses. That's before we get to the fact that I'm actually supporting two households on this money (no, he can't work his way through: it's illegal. No, he can't get grants: they don't give them to students at foreign schools. Yes, we're taking loans out for him. No, we can't take out enough loans to cover it all)

Discounting the kid in school -- though a lot of families are in the same boat, there, since financial aide has been gutted all over the place -- it's still not enough money. And I have a ridiculously low mortgage, and I lack a lot of other expenses that many have. So the picture emerges: the insurance companies raise their rates, and people can't pay them. Sooner or later they'll discover that they just aren't getting the premiums.

I don't understand how the mandatory incurance coverage will work when it kicks in next year. If individual insurance rates remain the way they are, we'll turn into a country of blatant scofflaws overnight. Supposedly you'll have to pay a fine if you don't have medical insurance. But if we don't have the money, we don't have the money. I can hardly imagine they'll garnish my house over it. Would they?

On another front: I kind of lost today and I kept thinking it was Monday, which would have made things even worse.
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So I got the word yesterday. The chance that I might have a job at my place (fewer hours, a cut in pay) is gone. The decision is to hire for a five-hour position with no benefits and also to cut my erstwhile coworkers' hours. I don't know what will happen when they have more than six babies at the beginning of the day. But it's not my job to worry about it anymore.

I have an application to get in today for another job halfway across town (no option to walk to work: well, I could, but it's a forty-minute walk and opening, and I really doubt I'm going to leave the house at six-thirty. Well, I could. Maybe. But I won't count on it, because I know myself). There are attractive things about the job though. It deals with a similar community to the one I've been working with, so the sense of mission is there. It seems to have steadier funding than my current job, so maybe I will finally get to have a job that lasts. The posting was a month old, but it happens that it's still open just for this week!

I decided I can't keep paying six hundred dollars a month for health insurance so I'm going to let the COBRA go. So I called the doctor and said I was losing my insurance and what could I do to lower my medicine costs? And he said: stop the trilipix and the benicar: the simvastatin alone might do the trick, and I could take something called losartan instead of the benicar. Everything else, he said, is necessary, and already as inexpensive as it's going to get. Because of the mandated cut in simvastatin dose my last refill will last two months, so that's good. Also I have more motivation to be conscientious about diet and exercise (this making the forty minute walk at six-thirty in the morning and four in the afternoon more attractive: a part of it would be along the levee, which is nice).

I have to arrange to get the house in shape to get a roommate. I've been saying this for two and a half years, but it's really hard to face, for a number of reasons, one of which is, honestly, shyness: it's hard when I imagine getting a stranger in here and pissing them off with my spacy personality, or even worse, getting an acquaintance in here and pissing them off.

I have to look for more expenses to cut. There aren't many. I had started spending a bit more freely this year, on the grounds that it looked like I had an adequate and permanent job, but "spending freely" means very little in my case. I really don't spend much money.

The good news is Emma set a trap last night and there was no rat and the bait was still there this morning. Maybe we got them all. It's hard to believe, what with there being a whole lagoon out there for the rats to come from.

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