Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oh, Canada

Our neighbor to the north has an ailing public health care system to match our ailing private one, and 10 years ago, one physician founded his own (illegal) private hospital to expedite treatment (to those who can pay). More are following suit.

The New York Times predicts much profit:

The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine. . . .

Canadian leaders continue to reject the largely market-driven American system, with its powerful private insurance companies and 40 million people left uninsured, as they look to European mixed public-private health insurance and delivery systems. . . .

The median wait time between a referral by a family doctor and an appointment with a specialist has increased to 8.3 weeks last year from 3.7 weeks in 1993, according to a recent study by The Fraser Institute, a conservative research group. Meanwhile the median wait between an appointment with a specialist and treatment has increased to 9.4 weeks from 5.6 weeks over the same period. . . .

Average wait times between referral by a family doctor and treatment range from 5.5 weeks for oncology to 40 weeks for orthopedic surgery, according to the study."

Are you one of those 40 million without coverage?

It's not like having "insurance" is all that great.

The AP reported that in just 10 years, an aging American (aren't we all?) will spend 20% of their income on health care.

Personally, I spend 9.7% already. Not counting dentists, because I never see them. And it's not like I have cancer or anything systemic yet like a number of other 30-somethings I know, either.


Today's weather is an anomaly everyone in this city who notices "holidays" will note. Personally, I couldn't tell you what the weather was last St. Patrick's Day, but Mardi Gras, that floating holiday based on the planets' revolutions/rotations, was kill-me-now cold.

All the brandy from all the snow-rescue St. Bernard dogs in the world couldn't get me even to leave the house last year. Les Mardis Grasses (yup, there is a grass especially pour le carnival, and I have lost all French language ability) of 2001, 2002, etc., were cold.

They proved what a wimp I am, as other women only slightly younger paraded around in wind-chill teens with bare legs, bare heads, skin everywhere and not even chapped. What were they worshipping, I wonder, to escape so unscathed?

Kay Barnes came to the festivities once, which was disconcerting. She was wearing clothes and left before the sun set.

Today this northern place is breathing a muggy undertone much like I remember New Orleans on St. Patrick's Day. March in Louisiana is balmy. I salute the blue tarps as the cruise ship evacuees are kicked off their boats and toxic waste is every-freaking-where.

I'd show you my bead-getters, but you can't send me beads over the Web. I'm wearing too many clothes, anyhow, for that to work, par d'habitude.

Good times? You rollin' yet?

Monday, February 27, 2006


On the eve of Fat Tuesday, I recall that a year ago, my Mardi Gras lunch was from Sonic. Because I knew it was "special." Fattening. Comfort food for the winter-weary.

Since that time, I have eaten too many lunches at Sonic. The floodgates are open, and it was a sunny day today and I'm not sick anymore, and so there I drove. . . .

Sonic, like Taco Bell, is very kind to tell you how much fat is in their food, via a nice .pdf on their Web site.

So, today, let's learn - really LEARN - that the grilled chicken sandwich costs 343 calories, 114 of them delicious fat. That's 13 grams of chicken lard, I guess. A bit comes from the doughy white bread, too, so, how about 10 grams of chicken fat? We all know it's tasty.

A bag of M&M's has 10 grams of fat, too, FYI.

If you choose the more exciting breaded/fried Sonic chicken sandwich, as you might as a Sumo wrestler or someone perhaps battling cancer's weight-loss, you would be getting 582 calories (209 are fat!). Like Jared of Subway fame says about McChicken sandwiches, this Sonic one has 23 grams of fat, the extra 10 coming, I guess, from the veggie oil and the extra carb-breading stuff. Oh, and mayonnaise, of course.

Good old mayo, adding extra eggs to your day any time, not just breakfast!

The surprise du jour is that onion rings, also breaded and fried, come out as 331 calories, 45 fat ones - but only have five grams of fat. That's the small order. There is no need for anyone to consume the large, which is over 500 calories of bread.

This is the only kind of math that makes sense to me, except for credit card interest and tax refunds. It's confusing enough that five baby grams of fat can actually be the sum total energy of 45 calories, but maybe they should focus on this "real life" stuff at school so people (like all the men I know) would have a clue about what meals really mean.

If you eat cows and not just chickens, then be excited that you can get your full day's supply of calories from just two SuperSonic Cheeseburgers! (This is "based on a 2,000-calorie diet," of course, and you must get the mayo - not the mustard - version to achieve the full benefits.) Thus you will be eating 132 grams of fat, so you won't have to buy too many of these kinds of "easy meals" before your heart stops working.

When one

leaves such fun toys such as this outside of one's property, is it any wonder that someone eventually wanders by and plays with them?

Friday, February 24, 2006


west makes this city look like a teeny tiny industrial town or at least a place where nothing new has been built since 1910.

No sign that Western Auto (view left) etc. are all "new" inside and bursting with loftlife.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Then, you could see this show.

And see if YOU can get the song out of your head. . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Equal access to government

Right now, I could be at City Hall watching "government in action." Yea, tonight is the only public budget hearing. The weather is warm, the neighborhoods have sounded their "let's show up, people" call.

I expect it is a good show.

I'm rather "supposed" to be there anyhow. It's a shame, I guess, that we don't have cable television. Then, I could watch from afar, get every juicy, primary-source detail that keeps me from falling dead asleep under that eerie golden chandelier - all the sneers and laughs and such.

We obviously are paying someone for Internet, but I'm not adding fifty more bucks to the "media" bills. If we did have Time Warner Cable (plug me!), then I could get the fun and furious Government Channel on 2.

Nope, no Channel 2 for me and no witness to Lynda Callon's "West Side, Best Side," for example, though I haven't heard her say that in a while. I wonder if someone encouraged her to recognize the way West Side tagging gang-ishes had infiltrated the Northeast? Perhaps she's just taking her role in the Neighborhood Advisory Council well, being rounded and holistic and inclusive.

I wanted to see people complain about having the trash carts implemented, too. And that really economical 311 information line. I know I complained about our phone bills, but it ain't no million dollars. Heck, I answer questions all day long for free already!

I won't ramble about the potential things that are being said at the budget hearing, unless it would make my case stronger - I want to convince you that I really wanted to be there.

Well, I did drive all the way downtown. I was on time. It's not that many blocks, but I saw about only 13 moving cars, perhaps, in the space of 10 minutes. More than I expected.

Twelfth street, Cherry, etc., 11th, circling, circling.

This week, someone on a neighborhood listserve asked about parking downtown, would it cost anything, she wanted to know. She seemed eager to join the fray - obviously a parking newbie. A city staffer replied friendily that after 6 p.m., the meters were off, free parking downtown at night!

There is so much to say it's hard to begin, but aside from the fact that I predict free street parking will vanish in Kansas City as it has in its favorite mentor-cities, I am just dying to know if this staffer is at the hearing. Stay after 5 p.m., without leaving for dinner? And either way, ain't his/her car parked in the garage anyhow?

Where is this knowledge of "street parking?" This is no densely-packed NYC. Why no mention of the garage?

(And, for the record, apparently, I am a downtown-parking reverted-to-newbie, too.)


There's no fking street parking near 12th and Oak. All I see are single men wandering the sidewalks. Not just occasionally, but every block, like 7 p.m. is some agreed-upon migration time. Making odd-off faces, a few of them.

There is plenty of illegal parking. Yes. But no. Streetlights, sure, police cars, sure, but for men and women very much inside the other tower across the street.

Don't you think that if Kay Barnes et. al. really wanted you to come and testify about how they should allocate your tax money she'd spare one of her bodyguards and perhaps get another to patrol outside the City Hall doors?

I swear it was deserted!

No one to tag along or walk inside with (where are my neighborhood allies, are you all that on time?!).

When I go there during the day, even in rain, I park four blocks or so away and walk past a place where people sit on the sidewalk or talk into the air. Are the headphones really playing music? Anyway, it's no big deal. No one is interested in bothering me or anyone else and I respect that.

Tonight, the vernal haze out there just feels funny.

For a woman who ain't ugly, that's a woodsy-freak thing to honor, a "feeling" like that. Weaker vessels know where they crack. So to speak.

So far, so good.

I am used to quite a few events having "security."

You can call me racist, but not every solitary male I saw was black or brown or whatever. I think I saw one white female with a backpack. If (black) City Manager Wayne Cauthen refers to that area as "you know, we'd like to just make it all go away," then what is some wimpy, unarmed lone chicken supposed to do?

You can't bring weapons into City Hall, you know.

Why no signs welcoming citizen me to the garage on Oak? I am not sure it was open, though it was lit. I'm not sure that's even the City Hall garage. Ok, it has that handy "government parking" sign. I want a welcome (whine). We put up signs for elections and raggedy garage sales, and finer events such as festivals. This is not that important.

You know, even when KC Rep had a Friday night reception for its "Raisin in the Sun" production last month, there were cops for security, watching the cars parked on the street. It was at Vine Street Lofts, at 22nd Street, for those of you who may not know. There's nothing going on on Vine, let me tell you. It's so deserted (in an out-of-the-way way), that I feel safe wandering around in the freezing morning taking photographs of graffiti on park buildings.

Nevertheless, they had cops. Nearly every single person attending the event was African American, as is expected at a United States arts event where the product in question is a creation of a black person. I mean, (white-staffed) KC Rep was doing the show for the first time and brought in a cast and director (black) from out of town for Hansberry's play. Am I to presume that we have no talent at home? St. Louis has its own Black Rep, and that's a (home town) city I consider much more racially-divided than Kansas City.

But there were cops watching all the rich people's cars, not just "white people's cars," and my crappy one, too, probably the easiest to steal. When the Vietnamese have events like Founder's Day at the Sons of Columbus Hall on Independence Avenue, they have cops to watch the cars (in the parking lot). When someone I know got married at a Baptist Church on East Truman Road, there was someone hired for security. Same for a reception on the 900-block of Linwood.

All I'm saying is that it sucks that I felt too scared to walk downtown. Wednesday night is a very deserted one. . . can't wait for the cost-overrun Arena to dazzle me. Right.


The verdict is in - it WAS baby germs after all. My husband is sick (and I'm almost better) and thus couldn't come with me to witness government in action, and thus the baby germs set this whole chain of events into motion. Because we would have walked together and it would have been fine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I'm still ill. Three days of this is too much. What could possibly BE in a frozen dinner to make one feel

a) pregnant


b) like there is some kind of low-level eternal flu that will forever make it impossible to eat anything ever again?

Feral Friend

Sitting in my parked car behind the apartment on the phone, I was visited by "Gray Kitty 1" or "Light Gray Kitty," one of two littermates who are the survivors of a band of five that were trapped, neutered, vaccinated and released three or four years ago by one of the other women who lives in the apartment building.

She and some others feed the cats. The Siamese-looking one died under the porch two years ago, another one got hit by a car and the mother left long before.

The gray cats come to our windows (on the third floor), but do not eat what I offer. They are strange in that they no longer run away but want nothing more to do with me, at least, than a short verbal exchange and as best as I can describe as some kind of pyschic acknowledgement.

Since both cats look fairly alike these days, except for their battle-wounds, I do have a hard time telling them apart and sometimes doubt that there are two cats. I have no idea which cat likes me more.

Occasionally I see them at the same time.

They always have that same look on their faces. They rarely "smile." There is no high tail-touting, either.

I say "hi" to them when I see them out in the parking lot. They say "hi" back to me, very quietly.

After about 15 minutes, this cat (yes, he has a patch missing from the top of his head) jumped off. I finished my phone call about five minutes later and went inside.

I think it's funny that the cat was then sitting on the hood of our other car. Unlike mine, it would have had no engine warmth left, having been parked for over an hour in the 30-degree evening, which again hints at some kind of draw to another kind of heat-energy. Why else do cats stalk humans?

I know they like to pysche us out.

Of course, birds live in our apartment, and maybe that's all there is to it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Time for Baby-ban?

Pain. Now.

Yes, after being "mentally ill" enough to uwork several days last week, Monday finds me achey. For real.

The morning (4:30 a.m.) led me to believe that the chain of events started with an old Swanson "Mexican" TV dinner I copped from the work freezer Sunday. I should be more specific, re: stealing. The frost-beans, rice, "tamales," etc. belonged to a co-worker who hasn't been here since, umm, November.

No one cleans things out here; in fact, I removed a box of donuts from the counter today after a period of three weeks. As you know, donuts are trash after three hours, much less 21 days, and the box, how charming, was stuck to the Formica. Some of it still is. Ah, sugared grease, who knew your cementing powers?

Back to yesterday's frozen dinner binge, there was only one part of the "beef" things that tasted "funny," and being a child of the post-irradiation age, fully aware of the miracle of preservatives found in these sodium-rich meals of convenience, I thought nothing of the little bite I took.

Yeah, I ate the rice part and the non-scary meat sections. And now I'm sick.

Retribution for my working on a Sunday (see famous commandments, number 3)? At any rate, it has that secular kind of guilt-irony written all over it:

"If I had been at work when I was 'supposed' to be, none of this scavenging would have happened and I wouldn't be operating as a parasite host, etc."

Parasites don't care, and there was a pretty good chance that my scavenging self was going to eat the thing anyway. I had already had some Budget Gourmet pasta with three "chicken" cubes and some broccoli dust amid the white sauce. . . .

However, as food poisoning goes, this is just going on too long!

Unless. . . could this be a real Mexican-style "don't eat the tacos from the town square street vendors" illness that Swanson has been able to capture and market to gringos under special contract for some kind of "gotcha" factor?

. . . the buyer of the cardboard-stored meal was Italian, though, so as a "racist," I'm confused. She seemed healthy, but then again, she was 20 and I'm clearly not.

Pain continues. Aches all over the place, which I feel have nothing to do with my colon.

So, if it's not food poisoning, then. . . .baby germs!

These days, every time I find myself placed around the under-four set for any period of time, I come down with some horrible reminder that my genes, while not being passed on to anyone at the moment, are weak in the face of today's new, youthful viruses.

I was around "people with kids" Friday and Saturday, so I can't blame any bitty one in particular, though one already has a record with me and my pain.

Whine, whine. Makes me think, though, "what am I doing with my 'healthy' years?"

When you are sick, everything else is a huge challenge. I need to develop some coping skills. . .I'm so used to being "blue" and/or "depressed" (yes, I am using even more reservational and hedging quotes!) that the onslaught of physical unwellbeing is really hard to compartmentalize. In fact, it makes me bluer.

Not that I'm blue today. Just hot and cold and then overheated and then shivering.

I am not compelled to call the "sick? think it might be something you ate?" line, though.

No digging past the fossil donuts to retrieve meat-evidence or a box code or whatever for me!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

State of Mind

The 20s

College graduates present an interesting take on priorities. Take my co-worker, for example. He's perfectly nice in every way, conscientious, well-mannered, appropriate, etc. But he's had a cold since midterm of his last semester. He started with us in December and says he's had the same cold from October until now.

Since I'm "older" and "wiser" and needed to say something to be polite and pretend like I'm playing along in this office game, I asked if he had asked any doctors about it; 90 days may be good "same as cash," but for an infection, it seems menacingly lengthy.

He said he didn't have health insurance yet.

I said, "A visit is only $100 at the most. . . there's even a free place but you have to wait a while - it's not horrible and scary, even though the name has 'free' and 'clinic' in it."

He just said he'd wait, that he wasn't the kind of person who went to doctors.

I'm not down with the MDs either, but I will show up in their cold offices at least once a year as part of our "deal" to make sure I'm "healthy" enough to continue to have privileged access to overpriced medicine to prevent pregnancy, and at the end of the year, I even dragged my sorry sick self in for the requested salvation of antibiotics.

I never ever take these things, sinus infections, though chronic at times, be damned!

The point is, I was actually sick for once, lame and achey for days on end, no appetite, nearly an impossibility. Long boring story short, it was "just a virus" that "everyone has" and that I should shut up and go home and do nothing. I scored some free decongestants, with real meth-precursors, though opted out of street sales (right) to save them for a few weeks later when the inevitable health-crash of my life/space partner took place. I was already beyond needed comfort meds when I paid my $30 copay anyway.

I wouldn't blame my young co-worker for echewing the usually futile pursuit of health from the medical profession, except that right before our chat on wellness, he told me he was excited about picking up his new television this weekend.

Yeah, Best Buy or someplace equivalent was having a sale, zero percent financing until 2007 or 2009, whatever, and semi-miserable uninsured he had bought a new high-definition 40-something inch TV for $2,000.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Luxury Tax

A tax on fast food purveyors to help Oakland pay for picking up their customers' trash? In some places, like happy-go-lucky downtown Kansas City, businesses "tax" themselves through a CID (community improvement district), to pay for people to be old-time street sweepers, wheeling cans around and picking up litter, washing graffiti tags off signposts, "redirecting" the homeless and providing a general sense of calm and orderliness on an otherwise gritty atmosphere.

This Oakland measure seems a bit more outside-directed, but it might reduce how long litter looks like its staying on the streets.

Don't expect people to be inspired by the pristine concrete and thus want to keep it that way, though.

Anyone who's ever picked up after anyone - like a kid or "lazy man" or anyone else accustomed to "maid service" - knows that all you're doing is preserving your job. You pick up someone else's trash and they come to rely on it.

A high school teacher of mine, who dwelt on the "amor vincit omnia" part of Chaucer's C.T. prologue, used to say that places like McDonald's didn't need to spend money on advertising because the litter was doing it for them. That was 15 years ago.

They are still advertising, of course, and, while Styrofoam is out, there is still a ton of greasy paper coming from our food providers.

From AP article cited above: "Recent surveys show that fast-food packaging makes up about 20 percent of all litter, with packaging for chip bags, drink containers, candy wrappers and other snacks comprising another 20 percent, Wallace said. One Texas study found a connection between litter and proximity to fast-food restaurants, shopping malls and convenience stores."

No mention of those pesky celery sleeves or the landfill-burden caused by twisty-ties from the produce deparment, the stream-clogging plastic pint-sized grape-tomato crates, of course. No health-food crisis here. No, when those Doritoes go on sale for 2 for $2, somehow, I, too, am there.

I know smokers who say fast food - fat food, chips, chops, creams, etc. - should be taxed like tobacco is for contributing to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes. The line from A to B so far has been left alone, strangely enough. Health insurance companies don't ask how many Big Macs you have a week or if you sit on your ass all day long, just if you are or are not "a smoker."

So, a tax for the laziness that must be inherent in junkfood junkies who inevitably toss down their cheese paper, cardboard cups and food bags (just like filter-cigarette smokers!), sure why not?

People can be such slobs, you know.

Case in point - here's an encouraging story from one Kansas City urban neighborhood that, if anything, teaches that you should always shred your documents:

". . .we had a cleanup this past Saturday in ___."

"We" is one community development corporation staff person, a few community service sentencees, the neighborhood president, a block captian, one resident and her four-year-old granddaughter.

They picked up 77 bags of trash in a four-block area.

"I just wish more residents participated," the staff person wrote.

And the coup de grace: "After the cleanup, I was told by neighbors that people came by, opened the bags and went through them, leaving trash scattered everywhere."

My thought is that the bags were so enticingly black and shiny and organized, that the vermin wandering by in human form must have thought someone just got evicted. Great place to find that last-minute Valentine's Day gift!

Either that, or like I said, they were searching for bank card numbers and junk. . .and they like for the search to be as convenient as possible. Or they "lost" something in the vacant lots that might have gotten inadvertantly swept up. Or they're mean. Or ignorant. Or something.

Monday, February 06, 2006

3434 Paseo

. . .seems to be someplace. . . .

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Huge Lifetime Pensions

must be the reward for senators and representatives who have to do so many standing ovations every year during the State of the Union address. Exhausting, to be sure! How many Weight Watchers points does attending the SOTU count for? All that up and down and clap, clap, clap, quads and biceps burning with the added ounces of French cuff links and Blackberry handhelds. . . .

My future looks so bright:

"By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget."

Could we start by cutting Congress pensions?

"Every year of my presidency, we've reduced the growth of nonsecurity discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year, my budget will cut it again and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009."

All that non-isolationistness is expensive, and non-nonsecurity discretionary spending (military spending) is what blew the surplus in the first place. Can you give me a list of those 140 programs?

I love the part about how we'll cut our use of Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent by 2025. I don't believe that we don't have the technology to do this right now. It's a matter of will. By then, though, Bush will be comfortably retired, an 79-year-old man with what I presume will be one heck of a pension. He will probably have his own air and his own global-cooling ozone-blocker dome over that ranch in Texas, too.