Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Daemon

Taken from Trees at Anomalous Data!


Yup. That's what this country needs. More drugs!

At least according to an article off the Associated Press this morning: More Young Adults on Cholestoral Drugs.

You know WHY more young adults are on these drugs? You know why there is a greater incidence of obesity and high blood pressure?

Let's examine the recommended lifestyle to be able to stay off the cholesterol drugs. Eat right, exercise, and lose weight. Sounds simple, but when the average American has to work 2-3 jobs to keep his head above water, runs through the McDonald's drive-thru and eats in the car along the way, it makes it a little difficult. Or when a full-time job means 60 hours a week instead of 40? Where do you find time to exercise and cook even one healthy meal when you can't even find the time for a full night's rest? Now, add a spouse, kids, a house, and all the other responsibilities of life on top of that.

What do you mean you don't have time to go to the gym? What do you mean your "too tired"? What do you mean you can't go to the store to select lean cuts of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and create a healthy meal? It's easy! If it's REALLY important to you, you'll MAKE the time!

How's about instead of curing our cholesterol with pills, we examine the American lifestyle? But it's a nasty, vicious cycle. If you tell your boss to go get bent, you're only working 40 hours a week, you'll get fired. If you decide to work one job instead of three, you'll lose your home. If don't have a full-time job, you won't be able to afford health insurance. If all you can afford is the 79 cent box of mac and cheese and not the $3 head of lettuce, guess how healthy you're going to eat?

How do you fix it? Just take a pill. Every day of your life.

But in order to HAVE that pill, you have to have a job... or several. The job, and the unhealthy lifestyle mandated by having that job, leads to the high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which leads to needing the medication, which leads to having to keep the job to afford the medication, which leads to pharmacuetical companies smiling all the way to the bank.


I've got other things to write about -- boy, DO I -- expect more blogging very, very soon.

Next up -- my rant on the TSA.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The 2030 Problem

Some of you may remember my post from September, Beware of Aging, outlining the worries my mother is going through caring for her elderly mother and the outrageous cost of care.

Quick update. Grandma was moved into a nursing home a couple of weeks ago. During that time she's undergone an evaluation to determine the level of care she needs and to figure out exactly what the cost will be. We have the answer - $195 per day - about $6000 per month - $72,000 per year. Much more than the average full-time worker in America makes in a year.

Even when the nursing home insurance kicks in in three months, after they've incurred over $18,000 out of pocket in care bills, it will still only pay out $2700 per month, leaving $3300 out of pocket.

The solution? Mom and Dad haven't figured that one out yet. Just a few days ago, care workers visited my Dad's mother. This grandmother has just come home from several months in the hospital and can no longer take care of herself either. Mom and Dad have to find a way to put two grandmothers, on opposite ends of the country in nursing care or give up what years they have left on their own good health, caring for them themselves.

This is insane. And it's only going to get worse - it's called the "2030 Problem". That's the year when the youngest of the Baby Boomer generation will turn 66 -- and will number 61 million people in our country facing care needs. Those born prior to 1946 is estimated to number 9 million. Conservative estimates of long term care costs from the Congressional Budget Office set expenditures at $154 billion in 2010, $195 in 2020, and $270 billion in 2030. Currently about 59% of care is paid for by the government, about 40% by individuals, and a meagre 1% by private insurance.

"The $120 billion in current expenses underestimates the economic resources devoted to long-term care, however, because most care is delivered informally by family and friends and is not included in economic statistics. Among the elderly who require assistance with daily activities, 65 percent rely exclusively on families and friends and another 30 percent rely, at least in part, on informal care. It has been estimated that the economic value of such informal care-giving in the United States reaches $200 billion a year--one and a half times the amount spent on formal care giving (Arno, Levine, and Memmott 1999)."

There's also a shortage of people willing to go into the elderly care industry. Low wages and poor benefits are the rewards of caring for an aging America.

Granted this is just one of the problems facing our nation in the future, but it's a future my kids will be inheriting. What burdens are we placing on future generations by our lack of attention to this growing dilemma? What kind of a country are we handing over to the next generation?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Missing Chins

I miss Chin's Asia Fresh.

We used to have one by my workplace. It was recently replaced by *retch* LeeAnn Chin.

Chin's was just what it claimed to be - fresh, cooked to order, "Asian" food. The meats were moist with hardly a bit of extra fat, the vegetables were crisp and colorful - never overdone. It was a place I could go for lunch where I could be sure that the nutritional value was high and I wouldn't bust my diet.

Unfortunately, with the demise of the Plymouth location, there are only two -- count'em with me -- TWO locations left in Minnesota.

Today I was out running errands at lunch time, like I do, and wanted to grab something quick to go back to the office. What do I have nearby?

  • Taco Bell - Choose 1 taco slop delivery system (A. hard shell, B. soft shell, C. flour tortilla). Fill it with hamburger slop, chicken slop, or bean slop. Garnish with onion slop, cheese slop, hot sauce slop, and sour cream slop. Wrap in paper and serve with a sneer.
  • Panera - Menu items described by words like artisan, fuji, harvest, orchard, and Parisian, which really mean "stick to half-portions or you'll gain 5 lbs. today."
  • Pot Belly - Tasty sandwiches, with lots of calories, that cost far too much for what you get... and a line that goes on forever.
  • Chipotle - IF you watch what ingredients you choose, can be very low cal and healthy, but if you arrive at noon, kiss a quick lunch goodbye.
  • Salsaritas - Pretty much the same as Chipotle.
  • Noodles & Company - REALLY have to watch what you order here. Can be very high in calories and fat. Plus, the noodly entrees can be really heavy, even with lots of veggies.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings - A few light menu choices, but SLOW, SLOW, SLOW!

    Then there's LeeAnn Chin.

    Today, I chose it because there was no line, it was right next to the place I'd run my last errand, and I figured I could find something that was halfway healthy. And I did. By not eating it.

    The biggest difference between LeeAnn Chin and Chin's Asia Fresh is when the food is prepared. LAC has heated vats of their entrees, sitting under a warmer, waiting to be chosen like awkward teenage girls at a dance. By the time my so-called entree of stir fry chicken had reached my fork, the once crisp snow peas, broccoli, mini corn, and onions had become a pile of barely identifiable green and brown mush. Disgusting doesn't cover it. It was inedible. Much like the last few times I ventured through their doors. I dribbled a bit of soy sauce on the untouched steamed rice, picked what I could stomach, and threw the rest away. And I'm not a picky eater. Just ask my waistline.

    Here's what I don't get. In all of the LeeAnn Chin locations I've tried, I've never really had good food. Each event was usually due to a time-crunch or an overwhelming craving for "Asian" food. If you go to LAC's corporate website, you'd think their egg rolls walked on water: Best Chinese Food - Mpls St Paul Magazine, Best Chinese Food - Minnesota Monthly Reader's Restaurant Survey, Best Chinese Food - City Pages, Best Take Out - Mpls St Paul Magazine. HUH? Are their taste-buds DEAD?

    Add that to the sit-down restaurant prices for cafeteria line food? Never again. Last straw-ville for me. Not by the hair of my LeeAnn Chinny-chin-chin.
  • Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    An Evening with Sir Ian McKellen

    McKellen in "King Lear", 2007 - Directed by Trevor Nunn

    Sporting a shock of white hair and a generous white beard, he looked more like Gandalf than the smiling, clean-shaven man on the front cover of my program.

    That is, if Gandalf was fond of wearing turquoise dress shirts with MacBeth tartan ties.

    "King Lear" at the where? With WHO?

    "Today at 10am on Minnesota Public Radio, an interview with Sir Ian McKellen."

    The words cut through the grey, mind-fog of my morning drive. The Guthrie Theater was playing host to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) for two productions, "King Lear" and "The Seagull" -- both starring Sir Ian McKellen. Also appearing in "King Lear" was Slyvester McCoy of "Doctor Who" fame. This was too good.

    I called Avindair.

    "We have to go," he said. "See if you can get tickets."


    Here There Be Scalpers

    When I got to work, my first stop was the Guthrie Theater website. I was determined to get a ticket... ANY ticket... to see the show.

    ANY ticket didn't seem to be within my budget. "King Lear"... according to the Guthrie... was sold out. However, "ticket agencies" aka "scalpers", had plenty. At the gut-wrenching rate of $400-$700 a seat.

    Um. No.

    Disappointment set in.

    I went back to the Guthrie website, ready to drown my sorrows in a little theater-lover's web-based pity party, when I found the next best thing. Sir Ian would be speaking as part of the Global Voices forum. I called. I could still get two tickets -- in the second row.

    Oh, yes. They would be MINE.

    No, hon. It's just me and Dad.

    Alex's face fell. I was a bad, bad Mom.

    "Oh. I thought we were all going. But, that's okay. I understand."


    He was still smiling, but I could see the disappointment in his eyes.

    Our kids are almost as big theater and film buffs as Avindair and I are. And I would have loved to have taken them. How often does a chance like this roll around in the Twin Cities? Much less often than you would think.

    For years we've had just-out-of-reach plans to visit England with the kids. We've told them tales of London, the theater, the history. Promised them the chance to meet their English relatives. But time, work or money has always stepped in the way. Seeing the RSC in Minneapolis would have been a taste of what-will-be-one-day, but it wouldn't be this time.

    Worth Every Cent

    The tickets for Global Voices weren't cheap, but they also didn't break the bank.

    And it was worth it. Oh, was it worth it.

    Avindair picked me up from work around 430pm. His eyes were dark and moody.

    "Bad day?" I asked?

    "Ugh," he grunted. "I don't even know if I want to go to this thing tonight. I just want to go home and relax. I'd like to see him, but I'm just feeling so damn grumpy now."

    The only reason he didn't send MonkeyDude in his stead was for safety. Downtown Minneapolis streets aren't the safest at night. He didn't want MonkeyDude and I playing parking ramp Russian Roulette for the sake of some cool theater tickets.

    The new Guthrie is... interesting. Parking is conveniently located across the street. (Getting out of there is NOT convenient.) I'm not a big fan of the overall architecture, but I'm a bit of a traditionalist. From my theater background, however, I could appreciate the design behind the Wurtele stage, where we'd see Sir Ian. The seats were a bit cramped, but there was great versatility for lighting, respectable accoustics, and a beautiful thrust stage.

    Since we had to go early to grab our tickets, we decided to grab a quick bite at one of the Guthrie's three restaurants before the show. Trying to stay light, we each chose a soup and salad. A little pricey (what isn't, downtown?), but quite good -- and fast. By the time we'd finished our soup, Avindair was finally relaxing from his day, and glad that he'd come along.

    Once we got into the theater, we found ourselves wedged between two interesting people. I sat next to an odd fellow, who I later discovered rode a fine line between theater afficianado and weird, crazy fan guy. The entire two hours, he sat scribbling in a notebook in a a script I could only assume was short hand. Previous pages contained what I thought at first might be scientific notation, but on repeated glances, seemed to be some kind of code. I won't go into his personal hygiene. Yeesh. Next to Avindair was a friendly older lady who regaled us with a few stories of her years as a freelance marketing writer. At least we had something in common!

    ENOUGH with the Exposition!

    So? What about Ian McKellen?

    In short, he was a delight: charming, funny, modist and at times, self-effacing. Sir Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Guthrie Theater, had been a prominent influence in the beginning of McKellen's career. He spoke of directors and actors he'd worked with, his thoughts on acting and Shakespeare, shared stories... it was fantastic. During the question period, he was gracious, patient, and throrough in his answers.

    McKellen in "Coriolanus", 1963 - Directed by Tyrone Guthrie

    Although the audience seemed almost embarrassed to touch on McKellen's more mainstream roles, like Gandalf and Magneto, there was one very memorable moment in the evening.

    He mentioned that when preparing for a role, he likes to know where a character would keep his money. Does he have pockets? A wallet? Does he use cash?

    Someone asked, "Where would Magneto keep his money?"

    "I imagine with his powers he'd simply put it wherever he wanted to," McKellen replied, making the Magneto hand gesture as if levitating metal coins. "But what I would like to know," he continued, smiling, "is where Mystique keeps hers?"

    I'm sure there were many in the audience, who, like ourselves, hadn't been able to get tickets to "King Lear" or "The Seagull". Sir Ian saved the best for last. He treated us to a soliloquy from "Sir Thomas More" by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Munday & William Shakespeare. This particular passage was known to have been written by Shakespeare himself, as the British Museum has the original text in his handwriting. The piece was as relevant today as it was in Shakespeare's time. Here's a bit of it that I could find online.

    Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
    Hath chid down all the majesty of England.
    Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
    Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
    Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
    And that you sit as kings in your desires,
    Authority quite silent by your brawl,
    And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
    What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
    How insolence and strong hand should prevail.

    Sir Thomas More, Act 2 Scene 4

    And yes, there was a standing ovation.

    *Images from www.mckellen.com.


    You know why the tiger is snuggling the pig? Because she has a full tummy and she's keeping it as a snack for later. I mean, come on. Just LOOK at that pig's face!

    Your Score: Wuzzy Fuzzy

    You scored 54%Randomness, 81 % Fuzziness!

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

    Your lovableness sickens me. It SICKENS me. You snuggle puppies, sniff babies, and have the world's dorkiest grin. People love you...and snicker behind your back.

    But you don't care. After all...awww, lookit the cute tiger snuggling piggies!!! Awwwwwwwww.

    Your attention span? WHAT attention span?

    Link: The How Fuzzy Is Your Soul Test written by Chel-Hell on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

    Ganked from MagicMarmot.

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Do you LIVE here?

    This morning I plugged in to the Star Tribune online, as I do most days, to read all the news that unfit to print. (Plus, I think buying the paper paper is a waste of money, ink, and trees when I can get it online.) I came across an article, linked to from the front page Local section, "Wisconsin geek convention will draw hundreds to Madison".

    Wow. No kidding.

    The article goes on to describe that 600 self-described "geeks" will gather and do geeky things. How avant garde!

    When in the Star Tribune's own back yard, one of the largest "geek" cons in the U.S., CONvergence will be celebrating ten years in 2008. Not only that, registrations for 2007 were 2,665 -- outweighing the Wisconsin con by more than 2000. I've never seen anything like THAT in the Star Tribune.

    Nothing against the Wisconsin con. Good for them. When two or more geeks shall gather together, there is wondrous geeky fun. It just kills me that our crack local journalists couldn't write up and promote an event that's four times bigger RIGHT HERE!

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Real Beauty

    I'm not sure if this is new or not, but I love Dove's Real Beauty campaign. As a woman and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, the imagery in this really hits home.

    Ganked from Tony.

    Sick at Heart

    It's official. Bush has vetoed the child health care bill raising it by an additional $35 billion over 5 years. That bastard. It was getting too close to that phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans - socialized medicine.

    Of course, it's perfectly okay to tell congress he needs an additional $150 billion in 2008 for the "War on Terror".

    Over four times as much spent on killing people in other countries, rather than healing our own.

    We have a fucking sick country... and I'm not talking about disease.

    Speaking of sick. If you haven't seen Michael Moore's SICKO yet, please, PLEASE do.

    One quote from the film continues to stick with me from the British... and I continually forget this gentleman's name and position in government. But he was explaining why the Brits moved to socialized medicine after World War II, when their country's economy was in shambles. To paraphrase, "If we had enough money to kill people, we had enough to heal them."

    Amen to that. Come on, America. Put your money where your oh-so-Christian-ideals should be - helping people instead of harming them.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Don't Wait

    My mother called this morning to let me know about the death of a friend of the family. We knew it was coming. He'd been ill for a long time. Hospice had been caring for him in his home. His family had been gathering.

    Still, it hit me harder than I'd thought it would.

    Dad knew Jerry through work. Our families had been very close when I was younger. They had two boys around my age. Our moms were on the same bowling team. We went tent camping, canoeing, and to the shooting range for target practice. We got together for dinners, birthday celebrations and holidays. Listened to Fleetwood Mac. Drank my first beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, in their back yard. The boys and I used to go to movies and out roller skating. Jerry, himself, was friendly, cheerful, robust, and big-hearted. For awhile, at least, they were really like a second family to me.

    Then we all drifted apart, as people sometimes do.

    My parents and theirs didn't get together any more. The boys, like me, grew up, got married and had families of their own. I hadn't seen them in years, much less talked to them. Perhaps the occasional Christmas card, but that was all.

    Then I heard that Jerry was ill. Dad started seeing Jerry again, when he was in town. I knew that he was getting worse. I kept thinking, "I should call. I should write. I should do... something." But I never did. I never told them that I was thinking of them. And now, all I can do, is send flowers and a card. Heartfelt, but too little, too late. And nothing can ever change that.

    I'm not writing this to feel sorry for myself. Just a reminder that if someone in your life has meant something to you -- a friend, a mentor, a relative... even an acquaintance -- tell them. Don't let it wait.