Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Red Herring of Tort Reform

There's an excellent post and discussion over at Firedoglake this morning discussing the role of tort reform in the health care reform debate.
Snip: "In the early part of the decade, doctors clamored for tort reform in response to insurance companies jacking up their rates for malpractice insurance. Now, 46 states have passed some version of it. But ironically, malpractice premiums are lower in states without caps. Doctors did not benefit, and the patients who had their rights eliminated certainly did not benefit. So who came out winners from a decade of destroying the civil justice system?

That would be the insurance industry. Tort law changes made medical negligence cases so difficult to pursue that claims dropped precipitously. Between 2000 and 2006, the amount of money insurance companies paid out decreased by 15%. But that did not help the doctors because insurance companies never passed on those savings. In fact, the amount of money insurance companies took in from doctors increased by 120%.

To their credit, insurance industry execs and enemies of civil justice never denied they had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. “Insurers never promised that tort reform would achieve specific premium savings,” said the American Insurance Association in 2002. “We wouldn’t tell you or anyone that the reason to pass tort reform would be to reduce insurance rates,” said Sherman “Tiger” Joyce, head of the tort reform movement in 1999. "
As I mentioned there in the comments, the red herring of tort reform is ironically obscuring the huge Red Elephant in the middle of the whole discussion.  Namely - people who know that they, or a family member will most likely be denied ANY coverage FOREVER (any kind of coverage - even for a hangnail),  due to a now "pre-existing" health condition that was somebody else's fault has no choice but to wring as much $$ as they possibly can, when they can via a lawsuit from the insurance company of the responsible party.
If you give people no other option than to look to insurance companies for their health care.... it should come as no surprise, whatsoever that hey!  People are going to look to insurance for their health care!   If they can't get their own policy to pay for it then they'll do whatever then can to get somebody else's to do so.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Drive-thru Flu Emergency Treatment, or RN's on Rollerblades

This is absolutely brilliant: Hospitals setting up Swine Flu drive-thru's.  
snip: "...hospitals are opening drive-thrus and drive-up tent clinics to screen and treat a swelling tide of swine flu patients... The idea behind these efforts is to keep coughing, feverish people out of regular emergency rooms, where they can infect heart attack victims and other very sick patients. The need has soared in recent weeks as flu has spread among schoolchildren before vaccine is available."
Fantastic innovation, though the image of this is absolutely cracking me up.
"It works like this:   A nurse near the ER stops cars and sends appropriate cases to the drive-thru. Signs tell families to tune the radio to a public broadcasting station that describes what happens next.
"The patient's automobile acts as a self-contained isolation compartment, a moving exam room," Weiss said. "The hoods of the cars make excellent places to write notes," and medical records are slid under the windshield wipers.

Through the car window, a doctor uses a device that clips on a finger to measure blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates. Fingerstick blood tests can be done. In nearby tents, diabetics can get a urine test for blood sugar, and heart patients can get an EKG. Portable X-rays are available, too. The last stop has a pharmacy to get vaccine, medicines or a prescription to fill."
I have visions of an old 50's style drive-in diner.... nurses on rollerblades, wearing scrubs and masks.  Only instead of cheeseburgers and milkshakes they leave a phlebotomy tray on your window.  It really is a brilliant idea. Sick, fevered kids don't even have to leave the comfort and security of their carseats.  You don't even have to wake them up after they fall asleep on the way.  You can sit and listen to the radio while you wait, or watch a portable DVD player.  And most importantly, not worry about catching something even *worse* than what you came into the E.R. for to begin with.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"But Your Mother Did"

Sen Jon Kyl (Az) doesn't think insurance companies should be required to pay for basic maternity care.  Because *he* certainly doesn't need it, ergo it would be "more expensive" to cover.  Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) nails him -  "But I think your Mom probably did".  

Read More, after the jump:

Foodzie... the Edible Etsy

Via Pioneer Woman: A very, very cool online marketplace for homemade, artisan goodies:   Foodzie. 
The great part is the map and profiles of the producers that helps you know where your food comes from. When I grow up I want to work for them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Car Blogging

Ugh.  Used car shopping at the junker end of the market is no fun anymore (I guess to less sick and twisted people, it never was).  I had $1500 to spend, cash and knew it would be a crapshoot no matter what I got.  I needed something cheap and fairly reliable/comfortable to get me the 3 miles to work every day.  But due to the economy and the cash for clunkers program the used, beater car market has dried up.  After coming up empty on this side of the river (and on craigslist) I turned to the old standby for cheap used cars - 82nd Ave in Portland.

I took the Monkey because who would want to screw over a nice woman with an adorable 4 yr old in a Tae Kwon Do uniform?  And he gave me an excuse not to play the old game of "please sit around and wait while we pretend to consult with The Boss in The Back".   He had fun having balloon fights (the Monkey, not the boss - or if he did I didn't see it).  I encouraged him to run around.  Play tag, hide & seek under the cheap desks.   Generally annoy the sales guys as much as possible.  All's fair in love, war and Used Car Haggling.  I have a hyperactive 4 year old and I'm not afraid to use him, Buster!*

Car problem? Find the best mechanics with local unbiased reviews. Try Angie’s List.

Their favorite trick is to make you sit and waste your time in a barren waiting room making chit chat with a gap-toothed babysitter.  I don't do small talk.  If they're not going to do me the courtesy of having some old magazines laying around to occupy my mind, I'll find something else to occupy it.  Like call Mr. Stang on the cell while I'm sitting there and have him look stuff up on the internet.  Especially True Market Values on .  Love Love Love  He reads me all the bad owner reviews, which I can share with the babysitter.  Then I call other people.  Ask their opinions.  Gossip.  Nothing gets the Boss In The Back out front quicker than you picking up the cell phone and "stepping outside" to chat. 

I ended up buying a 1994 Honda Passport EX SUV like this one (only black, with a bug shield & faded paint ont he hood),  4wd, 4 doors. Automatic.  130k miles.  Pretty clean, no major structural/cosmetic issues.  Maybe a leaky moonroof.  We'll see when it rains.  Needs a new starter.  But has a tow package so could be used to haul stuff in the future.  It's got power everything... with the usual power problems on a 15 yr old car (passenger door lock, driver side window...).   Engine and tranny don't sound great but hopefully nothing major a tune up won't fix (knock wood.... knock entire forests.....) . If it lasts a year I'll be happy.

Pray to the Used Car Gods and wish us luck!!

*No actual pre-schoolers were psychologically harmed or exploited in the purchasing of this vehicle.  Well, maybe a little exploited.... but he had fun doing it.  And kept the kids of another woman buying a car at the same time well entertained.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Doesn't this look like a picture right out of Little House?

This weekend's adventure: Cedar Creek Grist Mill outside of Woodland, WA.

 It's the only mill in Washington that's retained its original structure, is powered by water and still grinds with stones (like this one!) . It's another "working" historical museum and the volunteers will tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about the history of grain farming in America, milling, why whole grains are so nutritionally important, and a great deal of local history.   Then they fire up the creek-powered turbine and in seconds out comes finely ground flour, which they generously give to visitors (along  with delicious recipes) to go home and make their own bread.

There's a beautiful covered bridge over the creek.  Next weekend I'm told they make Native American Fry Bread on premises with the flour they grind themselves.  Next month, it's apple-pressing time.

Wide-eyed munchkins not provided.  So bring your own.

Exactly which "Health Care Reform Plan" are they talking about?

Anytime you hear someone in the media about "the proposed health care reform plan" ask yourself - exactly WHICH plan are they talking about?  There are at least a dozen.  Lazy commentators (on all sides) have a tendency to lump the worst (as they see it) details of all plans into a single, scary monolithic BoogeyPlan.  That so far does not exist.

The Kaizer Foundation has a fantastic new comparison tool to help you understand the critical differences.

Then let your reps know what you like - and do NOT like - about each.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Critter Blogging

This little opossum drives Jinx bonkers.  He lives under our neighbor's deck

Bringing the past alive at Pomeroy Farms

Every so often, when especially stressed out by the rigors of modern living Mr. Stang expresses a desire to return to simpler times.  Back when people rose at dawn, worked their ass off all day growing their own food, and fought insomnia the old fashioned way - with bone numbing exhaustion instead of little white pills.

When he does I like to remind him that while life may have been simpler (living on the edge of survival has a way of doing that), it was certainly a lot harder when there wasn't a Safeway around the block.  Thinking it well about time to teach MickeyD this little lesson as well, I dragged them both to Pomeroy Living History Farm outside Yacolt two weeks ago to see how a family in SW Washington would have made a living in 1920.  They were having an open weekend where volunteers (including lots of the famly) dress up in period outfits and demonstrate old fashioned domestic skills.

MickeyD got to churn butter, feed the goats (alas, no nanny goats, so no milking), dip his own candles, see how they spun wool and made clothes/blankets, and otherwise see how his Grandma Great lived when SHE was a little girl his age.   I explained that she didn't have electricity.  So no lights, no TV.  No refrigerator!!  No hot water.  And she'd have to go OUTSIDE to go potty (who am I kidding - he'd probably like that).  Grow/harvest her own food, make her own toys.... everything!
We lucked out - it was the weekend when it was raining so much.  While we caught a break in the weather not many others made the attempt so we had the WHOLE place almost entirely to ourselves.  Including the hayride.   MickeyD was temporarily upset when they wouldn't let him try pounding his own iron in the 1000 degree blacksmith forge, but otherwise really enjoyed it.

A ton of real world, hands on education masquerading as a fun day in the country.   I highly recommend it.  MickeyD's favorite game afterwards was "What ELSE didn't they have?  Tell me ALL THE THINGS!!" He didn't believe that not only were there no cell phones, there were no PHONES at all!  Or cars (well, not many in the 20's).  That it would have taken us 2-3 days instead of 3 hours to go see his Gramma down on the Oregon Coast by horse and buggy. 

They host field trips for schoolkids during the week, and open their Pumpkin Lane hayride and family entertainment weekends in October. We've begun to go up there to get our pumpkins for Halloween  (this was 2 years ago). It's on Lucia Falls road, which is a gateway to all kinds of other recreational opportunities like  Lucia Falls, Moulton FallsLewisville ParkSunset Falls.  and Silver Star Mountain.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This explains a lot

Fox's Glenn Beck, who organized the anti-health care reform demonstration in D.C. last week, has a hard-on for a lunatic named Cleon Skousen. 
snip: "Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite "death panel" wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing "socialism."   In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck's favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, "The 5,000 Year Leap." A once-famous anti-communist "historian," Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.

"By 1963, Skousen's extremism was costing him. No conservative organization with any mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him. Members of the ultraconservative American Security Council kicked him out because they felt he had "gone off the deep end." One ASC member who shared this opinion was William C. Mott, the judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy. Mott found Skousen "money mad ... totally unqualified and interested solely in furthering his own personal ends."
The man even agreed with John Birch Society founder Robert Welch who said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a  "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy." And who thought both he and Truman were definitely communist sympathizers, and probably actual Soviet agents.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Direct Fee Primary Care Doctors, or the "Concierge" model.

**Update 9/21/09:  Woohoo!!  Finally found at least one website that lists participating Direct Primary Care physicians nationwide: Direct Primary Care Coalition.   My doctor isn't listed - I don't know if she's advertising yet.  I'm happy to email her contact info to anyone interested in Vancouver, however.

One fine Saturday night  recently MickeyD and I were visiting my friend E. when the corner of her evil  coffee table decided to take a nasty gash out of his eyebrow.  It could have been a lot worse.   E. was panicking a little and asked if we wanted to go to the E.R.. "No", I said - "it's not that bad and besides, he's not insured. I'll just call our doctor and have her check him out and patch him up."

What??  See a doctor without insurance?  Immediately?  Does. Not. Compute.  Because today, we equate access to health CARE with access to health INSURANCE.  But it wasn't always that way.  And doesn't have to be.

Our doc said she'd meet us at her clinic in 15 minutes. This is Saturday night. 10 p.m.  Five minutes after we arrived he was sitting calmly in her office getting dermabonded (no need for stitches), no concussion, no eye damage.  Medically approved to go to the County Fair the very next day and ride as many high velocity carnival rides as his short stature would allow.

We were home by 11 pm.   Like a modern day Marcus Welby, MD.  This, my friends is Direct Fee Primary Care. Or "Retained care".  Or "concierge" care.  Or "boutique" care.  Nobody is sure what to call it yet.  But what they see, they like.  Once reserved for the uberwealthy who could afford to keep a personal physician on staff for themselves and their family.  Now becoming widely available all across the country as a highly cost effective alternative to Health Insurance plans for the low and middle income earning masses.

This is not the nightmare so many of my fellow uninsured Americans face of not being able to get even the most basic medical care.  This is, dare I say it?  Fantastic.  How is it possible that I can get everything I'd WANT for primary care with no insurance headache and for much less than my monthly cable bill?  July 1 we enrolled MickeyD and Mr. Stang in my doctor's new Direct Contract program. For a small set up fee (like $50) and regular monthly fee (whopping $25 for Duncan, $50 for Mr. Stang) we get:

*Same Day appointments with any of the 3 doctors who practice at the clinic.
*No copays.
*No deductible.
*No paperwork.
*24/7 access to our doctor and her personal cell phone number.
*Any lab tests/treatments/procedures they can do in the clinic, at *their* cost. Including vaccines.
*No time limit on appointments. However long we need.
*Unlimited chiropractic adjustments (one of the docs is an osteopath).

All this at a fraction of the cost it would take to get them both covered on my employer's group policy.   Like 5% of the cost.  Mr. Stang is uninsurable on the individual market. We've tried.  If I were to have both him and MickeyD on my dependent plan at work, or just Mr. Stang and MickeyD on his own policy it would cost us $1200/month - plus all of the above-noted out of pocket expenses.  To go the E.R. or an Urgent Care that Saturday night it would have cost us $30 copay. $500 deductible. 20% coinsurance. All for the privelege of sitting in a waiting room for hours with the drunks, drug addicts and thugs that typically frequent an urban E.R. on a Saturday night.  And paying a small fortune for it.

Read What we don't get, After the jump:

New Census numbers out on Healthcare, the Underinsured & Everything

Census Bureau report here.  Some Highlights:

In 2008 the percentage of people covered by private health insurance was 66.7%; people covered by employment-based health insurance decreased to 58.5%, and people covered by government health insurance programs increased to 29.0%.
And what's worse - the census data for 2008 does not account for any loss of insurance due to the 9 Million jobs that have been lost since this recession began at the end of 2008.  Not those people who are unemployed.  Not any of their dependents who were previously relying on that worker's coverage for themselves.

What those figures don't tell you are the number of people who are UNDERINSURED.  There's no formal definition of what it means to be "underinsured" but a generally accepted consensus is when any of the following situations exist:
  •  Medical expenses greater than 10 percent of annual income
  • An annual income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and medical expenses greater than 5 percent of annual income
  • Health plan deductibles equal to or greater than 5 percent of annual income
The above article, from the AAOS newsletter estimates that as of 2008 about 35% of Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Again, that article was written *before* the recession hit at the end of the year.

This new report from the non-profit, non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation also gives us a clue as to why that number is exploding.  They found that the average premium for a company provided family health plan has gone up 131% in the last decade.
Why is this so alarming?  Because people who are underinsured drive up total health care costs for everyone almost as much as those who are totally uninsured.  Here's a pretty good breakdown of how that works, and why the underinsured are such a problem.  Most people who don't know the specifics can't get past the apparent illogic -"how do people who DO NOT USE the system make that system cost more"?  The key element is what kind of care they are using.  They forego relatively cheap preventative care (though still too expensive for them out of pocket) and end up using highly expensive critical care when they're out of all other options.
I, and my family fall into this category. 

Premiums for our group plan at work went up 40% in three years (from 2005 - 2008).  In 2008 we could only get three companies to even give us a quote.  Our existing carrier, Regence Blue Cross was the low bid an dwanted our premiums to go up another 39% on top of that to renew.  Management decided to self-insure instead.  At the same time, our deductibles and copays have doubled. It now costs me $30 for an office visit to see my primary physician.  $40 for a specialist.  The smallest deductible I can get is $500.   I pay 15% of my own premiums as an employee.  And would have to pay 100% of the premiums for my dependents if we opted to have them included.   Remember, Mr. Stang has several chronic, pre-conditions that require many office visits and medications.  Due to my pre-existing conditions (sinusitic, depression) I see my doctor 4-5 times a year.  So the out of pocket expenses REALLY add up for us.  Even though I take full advantage of my available Flexible Spending Account - it only helps out with $1500 in expenses.  Which the last few years has been totally eaten up by dental expenses (our dental plan is worse than our medical plan).

This is a far cry from the union-provided insurance coverage we had through Pop as a kid.  Where all we had to do was enter "Blue Cross" and our local # on the paperwork and everything was taken care of.  Never a hassle.  Never a copay.  Never a complaint.

Here's the kicker with the piddly excuse for insurance available on the market today.  The inflated deductible, copays, etc. only apply to COVERED expenses.  So even though we are paying for more and more of our own health care out of pocket, we still have to fight the insurance company every.damned.time we try to get care to get our coinsurance credited correctly.  Which means not only do we get virtually no return whatsoever on the nearly 25% of my total earned income (except perhaps catastrophic coverage) that we invest in health care, we (and more importantly to the question of improving overall effectiveness - our doctors) still get the pleasure of spending countless hours on unnavigable customer service phone trees to get them to approve charges they're not even going to have to pay for.

This results in huge overhead for our doctors - they have to keep people on staff to do nothing but deal with the insurance coverage/billing issues.  It results in huge administrative fees for our insurance company.  That last quote from Regence for our company?  Their administration fees ALONE were 25 cents/ every premium dollar spent.  Compare this to Medicare - a government run program - that somehow manages to do the trick with only a 5 cent/premium dollar administrative overhead.

So when our family's GP began to offer direct contracting, we signed up Mr. Stang and MickeyD in a heartbeat.  More on this new "trend" in the next post.

How to kill one's journalism career in one easy Tweet

Just go viral with President's  "Off the Record" comments. : Obama calls Kenye West a "jackass" for stealing Taylor Swift's spotlight after winning VMA.   West has personally apologized, that apology has been accepted by Swift.  Yes, undisputably, he was an ass. (like one of my favorite scenes in Much Ado About Nothing - Michael Keaton, as the constable: "Forget not, that I.  Am.  An   Ass."  - about mark 7:07 in this video).    I'm glad the Pres. didn't tiptoe around calling him to the carpet even though West was a HUGE supporter of his during the election. Yes, it is damned Presidential in my book to hold your supporters to a higher moral standard.  It's going to be interesting to see what negative spin the conservative blowhards try to put on Obama's comment.  Then go back and see how they spun Cheney's infamous (and unrepentant) "Fuck Yourself!" outburst to Sen. Leahy on the Senate floor - and Pres. Bush's "eh - stuff happens" reaction to that comment.  (Note - I'm the last kettle to criticize any pot for swearing - it's the hypocricy of the self-styled "family values" crowd that gets me.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Health Care Reform - Perspective

I'm working on several posts regarding various reform options  (specifically, what's a Co-Op?  Direct Contracting with Docs/clinics, why doctors leave primary care medicine, and others) and will get them up when I fine tune them a little. 

In the meantime, Sarahlynn, proud parent of a gorgeous daughter with Down's Syndrome, has already done a lot of heavy lifting on the subject.

Part 1 - Down Syndrome is a Pre-existing Condition
Part 2 - It Pays to Work for the Insurance Company
Part 3 - But We're the Best! Why Fix What Isn't Broken?
Part 4 - What Does "Reform" Really Mean?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Swooning over Sotomayer

From Shakesville today. "In her first appearance as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor questioned the concept of corporate personhood, which endows corporations with constitutional rights that persons enjoy."


Friday Critter Blogging

Tiger Whinger..
Is being surgically emasculated today. I don't know what he's going to be most pissed off about - losing his testicles or not being able to eat for almost 24 hours.
In other news, Mr. Stang is cleaning out the garage so we can get the pottery "studio" up and running again. He just called to ask if he can throw away old paperwork from a box of mine that's 10 years old. 
In the box was my passport.

I've been looking for that damned thing for 8 years, 4 moves, and one honeymoon cruise.  I had visions of taking off on a whim to see Europe on one of the new direct flights Lufthansa began offering from PDX to Frankfurt in 2003.
The irony?  Earlier this year Lufthansa announced they were cancelling that direct flight due to the shitty economy. The last direct flight is tomorow, Sept. 12.    And the passport expires in November.   At least Delta/NW is still offering a direct flight to Amsterdam. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Burnt Bridge Creek - Frog Pond

It was the first rainy weekend of Fall. MickeyD and I went for a soaking walk/bike in search of amphibians at our favorite neighborhood "pond",  Burnt Bridge Creek.  It's a great example of how those pesky treehuggers (or in this case, frogkissers) are turning old urban irrigation ditches like this (left) into fabulous reclaimed watersheds that not only protect our little burg from seasonal flooding, but provide great habitat for all manner of wild critters, as well as terrific, easily accessible nature walks and recreational opportunities right in our own backyard (below) .
Where we can get up close and personal to the local Flora.  Gorgeous roses on the left - some local, natural variety I think (maybe Wood's Rose?)- and their resulting rose hips which look like huge radishes. Apparently, they're quite edible, too and have been used in traditional herbal medicine for eons (including treatment for cold/flu! See Tea Musings experiment with Rose Hips, here or  Grandma's Flu fighting tea recipe).  Also?  Can be used to make Hungarian booze.

And Fauna.  Pac. NW Petting Zoo on the Left.  Yes, it's a slug. They taste like chicken! (kidding) .  Though I believe they are, in fact edible (NW Escargot!) I'd say they'd be a protein source of last resort.  No medicinal use that I know of.  If we found one we could start a whole new industry, I'm sure.  Amphibian pond dweller on the Right.

Close up of deluvian denizen. 
Mission accomplished.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Pacific Northwest Cheesemakers

I'm not a fervent cheese connoisseur myself (give me some brie, kaukuna or laughing cow on a cracker and I'm ecstatic), but I know those who are (just one of many expensive hobbies I'd love to take up after the lottery win). So for them I give you the coolest blog I've ever seen about artisanal cheesemakers of the Pacific Northwest (and elsewhere) Pacific Northwest Cheese Project.
Author Tami Parr has everything a cheeseloving gastrophile could ever want in a website. Places to buy handmade cheese in every major NW city/region. Recommended books. Festivals and events. General cheese-loving, wine and food websites.

Heads up to certain Twilight loving cheeseheads out there - I'm recommending this from Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, untasted for your New Moon Premier Party.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Will it be Rotten Eggs or TP this Halloween?

I'm sure we're in for one or the other this year. It's a working class neighborhood with lots of commuting families and non-driving, latchkey teenagers who like very much to sneak out at night and prowl the streets. We're pretty unique in that Mr. Stang is at home all the time and I only work 5 minutes away, so we're often the only parental types around during the days and awake late at night. Having both been latchkey kids ourselves we kind of feel responsible for keeping an eye on the younglings in the "hood".
I Guess that makes us the grouchy neighbors who like to spoil the fun. We've got the streetlight and the sidewalk on our side of the street and we're often out front watching MickeyD or at the park anyway, so we're in a good position to do so.

It started out innocently enough - 2 years ago the county built a new neighborhood park. Mr. Stang chewed out some 11 yr olds who were carving up the newly grass-seeded slope with mountain bikes. Then it was a couple more who were trying to climb up/pull down the newly planted tree saplings. Those we weren't so concerned about - just stupid kids not really aware that what they were doing was destructive.

Then some kids with rather more delinquent tendencies got into the act. Our unlocked car was rifled through and a diaper bag (of all things) stolen from the back seat. Our mailbox was blown up with fireworks. A year later the bomb squad was called in to defuse a suspicious device in the mailbox two doors down. That's when I started hanging out on the front stoop most evenings with our black Lab, Jinx. I almost caught the toads the next time they tried to blow up the next door neighbor's mailbox. Meanwhile there were a couple of home invasions/burglaries in the area. Only thing stolen? A Guitar Hero game, Wii console and other electronics. But at the beginning of this summer a couple of locked cars were broken into at the end of the block. So things are escalating.

In the meantime, I had words a couple of times with some of the older boys at the park who were being especially vulgar trash-talking each other loudly on the basketball court. I'm pretty potty-mouthed myself but check it in public when there are little ones around. Where I really draw the line is on the pussy-putdowns - especially when there are young girls sitting right there (whom they were trying to impress.. I kid you not). Once I called the cops on a group of kids chasing each other after dark with very lifelike toy guns. Probably ridiculous, but there'd been a rash of graffiti in the neighborhood and increased gang activity. Not 911 - just the sherriff's line to ask for someone to cruise by.

This summer MickeyD's became Hell on Two Wheels, so I bought this little guy to put in front of our sidewalk. In doing so I knew he'd be a huge target for vandals.  But then, I figured maybe he'd take some of the heat off the mailboxes. And I was right. So far this summer Sammy the Safety Kid has had his flag stolen and gets knocked down almost every night. But the mailboxes are intact.

The night before last around 2 a.m. Mr. Stang had enough when he was awakened by kids outside and the tell-tale "thunk" of plastic hitting pavement. He jumped in the minivan and started patrolling the 'hood. Found one kid wandering alone, yelled at him to get home and was following him to make sure he did. The slightly freaked out kid was all "Dude, what are you doing?? Umm.... Stranger danger?".   Mr. Stang replied "well I can call the cops to escort you home if you'd prefer". But then peeled off to harass another group of kids down the block.

This morning, Sammy was relocated two doors down. I won't be surprised if one of these days he just disappears altogether and we start getting postcards of him from exotic locations. At this point, I think we're going to have to get involved with the Neighborhood Watch - or start one. Mr. Stang called the sheriff, and apparently there's no curfew for our unincorporated area of the county. And get a webcam. Definitely need to set up a Sammycam.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scents of Amalfi

Have I evern mentioned that I've always really, really wanted to go to Italy??. Amalfi, Positano, Lake Como, Tuscany, Pompeii.... Some day, some day. In the meantime, I live vicariously via books, movies, and more recently expat blogs and webcams.

So I was thrilled to find this Etsy store today: Saponissimo via Bell'Avventura, via Ciao Amalfi.

For only $5 per bar I can kick back in my jetted tub, close my eyes, open my senses and imagine I'm there.