Monday, March 29, 2010

Forget the golf carts.... Nissan Leaf coming to Oregon

Nissan will begin selling their new LEAF all electric car this fall in Oregon!  No word on price yet but they expect it to be comparable to similar sized family sedans.  Range will be about 100 miles per charge with a 100 % charge time of 4-8 hours at home 220V charging units, and 26 minutes for an 80% charge at public quick-charge stations.

They're looking for input right now from potential owners as to where to locate the planned 400-500 public charging stations throughout the Willamette Valley.  They say they'll start taking reservations in April.   I'm off to lobby for one just north of the river...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Date Night

Last week Grampa let the Monkey sleep over one night so we could have a Date Night.   After being reassured he wouldn't have to sleep alone the Monkey could barely restrain his excitement.  I had some mixed emotions - thrilled to have a WHOLE NIGHT to ourselves, but also a little hurt he seemed so happy to ditch the parental units, too.  Guess we all needed a little time away from each other.

We began the evening at this great little second-run, drink-in theatre in SE on Stark St. called The Academy, right next door to Portland icon, Flying Pie Pizza. The Academy was restored in 2006 and continues the River City tradition of cheap second-run movies in funky renovated historical properties that let you drink great microbeers/boutique wines while you watch.  Because what's better than a Brew Pub/Wine bar?   A Brew Pub/Wine Bar  WITH MOVIES!!!   The McMenamin brothers may have started it but other independent owners have climbed on board and are taking it to the next level.   Cinetopia of course is now the gold standard, what with the super HD screens, live music in the lobby, award-winning fine-dining restaurant and and in-theatre service. But the Academy and other venues (like the Laurelhurst) are comfortably filling the niche in between, serving affordable gourmet grub and limited alcoholic beverages with second-run/art or independent movies at a fraction of the cost of the sticky-floored, outrageously overpriced big movie chains.  And due to the liquor licensing laws - no unaccompanied teenagers!  Kids are welcome in theatre with their parents, or - even better - many like the Academy offer on-site weekend evening babysitting service for the young ones. Other theatres like McMenamin's Kennedy School offer "Mommy Matinees" for the stay-at-home contingent where you're invited to bring your fussy babies mid-afternoon and nobody complains.

After watching Sherlock Holmes in swanky reclining leather seats (great movie, btw) for the rock-bottom price of $4 each we discussed our options for dinner in the foodie mecca of SE Portland.  I know it gets old saying "what I love about Portland/ the Pacific NW..."  but the sheer diversity of cuisine available is right up there.  Of course there's the fantastic Pacific NW regional fare (featuring the freshest local ingredients, paired with the best local wines and microbrews), and all the hip fusion joints.  But you can literally spin a globe, pick a spot almost anywhere on the world and there's a menu somewhere in the city featuring those regional favorites. Tonight we were in the mood for Latin flavor.

We chose one of my faves from my days of singledom... Cuban bistro, Pambiche.  It's a small place with tables packed in so you need to be comfortable butting elbows with your neighbors, and there's almost always a wait but it's very well worth it.  And as you see more and more around town, they have graciously installed radiant heaters above and around their covered sidewalk patio tables so waiting outside is no hardship.  With the Latin music playing and the aroma of spiced roast pork and fried plantains drifting through, you can almost close your eyes and imagine you're in Havana.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adventures in Indiana

Day 1 in Indiana:  I go to throw out the plastic water bottles we bought on the plane.
Me:  "MIL, is there a special place I should toss the recycling?"
MIL:  blank stare.    "just the garbage can"
Mr. Stang: "Honey, remember you're not in Portland any more".
Oh.  Right.  I throw the bottle in the trash.  My hand feels like it may burn off with shame.

Day 2 morning in Indiana:  I replace the batteries in my camera.
Me: "MIL, do you dispose of used batteries any special way?"
MIL:  blank stare.  "just the garbage can..."
Mr. Stang: rolls eyes, swallows chuckle.
When in Rome....

Day 2 afternoon in Indiana:  We're driving.  A couple of folks are out walking their dog in the neighborhood.  We pass a car.  Mr. Stang waves.
Me: "???? Did you know them ??"
Mr. Stang: "Honey, this is Indiana.  Waving to strangers is required."
Me: "Got it.  So it's OK to poison your neighbors with toxic battery acid via the town dump so long as you wave at them as you drive by. "
Mr. Stang: "That's right.  Go Hoosiers!"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NW Farmers' Markets Open!

First day of Spring, first weekend of local farmer's markets!!

Washington State University has a great website where you can find a list of all Oregon/ Washington public markets and farms by county, as well as a harvest calendar to find out what's in season and recipes.

Yummy Northwest is still updating their 2010 list of markets, but they also include farms in Idaho and Montana so check back!!

Vancouver Farmer's Market                    Portland Farmer's Market(s)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Other Immediate Effects of Health Care Reform

Consumer Reports has more of the immediate results we'll see with health care reform:

  • An end to rescissions. Within six months of enactment, insurance companies will no longer be able to retroactively cancel individual coverage on people who get sick and start filing expensive claims.
  • A crackdown on excessive premium hikes. The White House proposes to immediately create a new national Health Insurance Rate Authority that would review premiums and, if they turned out to be unreasonable, have the power to lower them or even force health plans to pay back overcharges to consumers.
  • Better value for your premium dollar. Right now, buying insurance on your own is a bit of a crapshoot because it's hard to tell good policies from bad ones. As soon as reform becomes law, health plans will have to start publicly reporting the proportion of your premiums that they spend on health services, as opposed to what they spend on administration, profit, marketing, and executive perks. Within a year after reform, if insurers are spending less than 80 percent of premiums on health care for individual or small group policies, or 85 percent for large-group policies, they'll have to pay customers a rebate. They'll also be prohibited from imposing lifetime benefit limits, and the use of annual benefit limits will be restricted, giving you more confidence in the policy you purchase.
  • Help for small businesses. Starting immediately, small businesses can get a tax credit of up to 35% for their share of their employees' health premiums as long as they contribute at least half of the cost. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees, and average annual wages of less than $50,000, are eligible for the credits.


What Health Care Reform Act means to Me (and maybe, you...)

Added 3/23:  Christian Science Monitor Interactive Tool: Health Care Reform Bill 101

The Consumer's Guide to Health Reform is a great tool to see exactly how your family should benefit from the bill. 

Also, the NY Times has a great interactive tool covering different scenarios.

Here's how it will (hopefully) affect our little family:

Mr. Stang has been denied coverage entirely on the private market due to existing health issues.  To cover him and the Monkey on my employer's group plan as dependents would have cost us 13.5% of my gross wages last year - just for premiums.  Add our $500 deductible per individual, office copays ($30-$40  each visit) and 20% co-insurance we would have spent close to 25% of my gross income on health care costs.  And even then, it's entirely probably that due to his gap in coverage  they would have denied him any actual claims made after happily taking our hard-earned money in premiums. 

With the reform, we will at least be able to get coverage for him on the market. And he may qualify for the temporary high-risk pool that will be established within 90 days.  If they charge us an arm & a leg for the privilege (bad pun, I know) our out of pocket expenses (including premiums, I believe?) we will be eligible for subsidies which will limit our total out of pocket expenses to probably 9.5%.

So health insurance of any kind = great.
Lowering our costs from 25% to 9.5% ???  Fantastic.

Unless any extra taxes I may pay will exceed 15.5% of my income (the difference) we're still WAY ahead, and I'm happy to pay them.  And cover all my hard-working friends, family and fellow citizens and legal residents who are in the same leaking/sinking boat at the same time.

I know this is a huge undertaking and scares the shit out of many folks who, due to their being current or ex-military/ or government employees, or current Medicare recipients (or both)  have been lucky enough not to be in that boat, treading water at the complete mercy of insurance company sharks.  Or they're retired and were lucky enough (or in a union) to have had their financial/insurance "boats" built 20-30 years ago when they were forged in of quality materials, by not-quite-so-assholish Wall St. execs (in an age when the Democratic administrations did their jobs and REGULATED the insurance & financial inustries...).

 It doesn't help that all the talking heads are boosting their own ratings (and salaries) by ruthlessly feeding that fear, trying to convince those folks that it's every man/woman/child for themselves.  Instead of doing the humane, rational thing which is, throw those of us who are struggling a freaking life preserver (we don't want a damned yacht)  and help SHOOT THE SHARKS until we can rebuild pathetic little plywood rafts to save our own asses.

Passing of Health Care Reform in the House

Still no public option... and women's reproductive rights were once again thrown under the bus to get it.  But  it's a start.   I did push to have it passed, but I'm in agreement with Nancy Keenan of NARAL on this one:
"It is with mixed emotions that I write with news that, tonight, the House of Representatives passed the health-reform bill.
I am extremely disappointed to tell you that the final package includes the insulting, unworkable Nelson restriction on abortion coverage in the new system.
As you may recall, the Nelson language requires Americans in the new system to write two separate checks if the health plan they choose includes abortion coverage. This unacceptable bureaucratic stigmatization could cause insurance carriers to stop covering abortion care. This would represent a major setback, given that more than 85 percent of private plans cover this care for women today.
Despite this totally unacceptable anti-choice provision, reform will bring more than 30 million Americans into a system that includes affordable family-planning services and maternity care for women. It also outlaws some discriminatory insurance-industry practices that make health care more expensive for women. Improving women’s access to birth control and prenatal care and making reproductive-health care more affordable are also at the core of our mission...
Ultimately, we determined that we could not endorse this bill due to the abortion-coverage restrictions. But, we also could not, in good conscience, call for the bill’s outright defeat and deny millions of American women the promise of better—although imperfect—health-care services that are an important part of our pro-choice values."
If you want to go right to the source and bypass all the punditry, here's the actual bill that was passed: HR 4872.  And a good summary of what the bill actually DOES say (see the column on the left). 

Here's a good summary of the Immediate Effects of the Bill (from the Kaizer Foundation):
  • Discounts and free care in Medicare: The approximately 4 million Medicare beneficiaries who hit the so-called “doughnut hole” in the program’s drug plan will get a $250 rebate this year. Next year, their cost of drugs in the coverage gap will go down by 50 percent. Preventive care, such as some types of cancer screening, will be free of co-payments or deductibles starting this year.
  • Coverage of kids: Parents will be allowed to keep their children on their health insurance plan until age 26, unless the child is eligible for coverage through a job. Insurance plans cannot exclude pre-existing medical conditions from coverage for children under age 19, although insurers could still reject those children outright for coverage in the individual market until 2014.
  • Tax credits for businesses: Businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages of less than $50,000 could qualify for a tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of their premiums. 
  • Changes to insurance: All existing insurance plans will be barred from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. Restrictions will also be placed on annual limits on coverage. Insurers can no longer cancel insurance retroactively for things other than outright fraud. 
  • Government oversight: Insurers must report how much they spend on medical care versus administrative costs, a step that later will be followed by tighter government review of premium increases.  

Monday, March 15, 2010


I am.  I miss my dog.  I miss my kitties.  Mostly I miss my bed.

From a Monkey standpoint the flight was much better. But the two poor souls who lost their breakfasts coming into Denver on the first leg probably wouldn't agree. I almost lost mine, too. Thankfully the kid with the super sensitive gag reflex next to me chose to finally fall asleep before the bad turbulence so he didn't catch a telltale whiff or sound like the rest of us, or he'd have been hurling in sympathy. Second flight, thank Maude was smooth and trouble free.

Indiana's not bad, it's just not home.  First few days were spent in the Indianapolis 'burbs at  my FIL's.  Used to be a farm town, now the strip malls have taken over the corn fields.  Nothing like when Mr. Stang was growing up there.  Then it was a 3 hour drive down south to the MIL's.  Southern Indy is full of rolling hills and state forests.  It reminds me a lot of Yamhill County in Oregon.  Only more corn fields, fewer wineries and fir trees, and prettier brick houses. 

I'm working up the courage to tell my MIL however that I would prefer to transfer to the guest room at SIL's house on the other side of town.  We're in the basement.  Next to a very loud, obnoxious furnace.  That fires up about once an hour. And you can hear every creak of every footstep upstairs.  The Monkey and I are light sleepers. I'd be OK with earplugs, except he wakes up and starts tossing and turning (after insisting on sharing the single airbed with me).  So no sleep for us the last two nights. With the Monkey high on sugar and birthday party adrenaline (SIL had bought him a pinata) it's been a challenge.

But I've found a coffee shop with free wifi and caffeine so I'm happy for the time being.  Will have to wait until I get home to post video and pics of the party.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Leaving, on a jetplane....

We are, that is.  Tomorow a.m.  to see the in-laws in the Midwest.  On the one hand:  UGH I hate to fly.  On the other hand, the Monkey is so much easier to travel with now at 5 (in 5 days!!)  than he was at 18 months, when we flew to Houston and he did not stop screaming ONCE.  Or kicking the seat of the woman in front of him.  That was the time I thought I'd be all Super Safety Mom. buy his own ticket, take his carseat on the plane and actually try to use it IN the seat (there's turbulence and stuff you know).  Huge mistake.  HUGE.  First, the screaming - he did not want to be in said seat but airline regulation was such that if we had it he had to be strapped in (or something... it's a little vague.  I may have misunderstood).  Second, did you know that by boosting your toddler 6 inches up from the regular airline seat, they are then 6 inches closer to the seat of the passenger in front?  Puts 'em right in prime kicking position. 

I have never in my life endured such evil looks as the ones I received from the woman unfortunately seated (in the full flight, of course) in front of my little monster. And rightfully so.  Halfway through the flight she was actually begging the flight attendant for tranquilizers.  So was I.  Alas, that was not part of in-flight service.   Which reminds me:   SHIT I forgot to buy ear plugs when I was out and about picking up last minute necessities today!  However, having totally exhausted every discipline/soothing tactic in my repertoir (you can't exactly send the kid to time-out on a plane, especially when there actually IS turbulence and you are NOT free to walk about the cabin...) it was either be mama of screaming child or abusive mama of possibly quiet child (but probably still screaming).  So major apologies, ma'am- I still feel for you.  Really.  We were all miserable.  But what did you expect me to do?  Throw him into the cargo hold?  Smother him?  At least the nice young girls behind us were trying to distract and entertain him. 

Anyway... knocking on entire forests of wood I fully expect tomorow's flight to be infinitely better. 

On a totally unrelated sidenote.  If I ever left Mr. Stang it would be for my chiropractor.  For the last several weeks my back has been twisted up like a cord at the kwiki-mart payphone.  I was NOT looking forward to flying in that condition.  Then my doc made it all go away.  Bless his healing hands - I'm in love.   Mr. Stang knows this, and totally understands.  He's actually a little jealous (of me, not our doctor.  The man is that good).

Happy spring to everyone!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

We're Alive!

Here's the view from the viewpoint at Harbor Vista County Park.  Note tsunami, coming in...

Just kidding.

But here's the Monkey hightailing it back up to high ground, just in case.

OMG! It got the dogs!

Oh, wait..... guess they were just retrieving flotsam.  Again, and again, and again.  Don't know *how* that keeps getting out in the water. Especially the tennis balls.  And the frisbees....
Another gorgeous late February day at the Oregon Coast.   Taken from the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River.

It was practically t-shirt and shorts weather.  No wind.
What I love most about this park.  Every time we go, someone's built a new little beach shack from the driftwood.Then it gets swept away in a winter storm, and someone else comes along and builds another one. The other thing I love about this part of the coast.??
The Dunes. 

Technically, Harbor Vista Park/ Heceta Beach is just north of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.   But it's got much of the allure and none of the off-road vehicles.  And the best ocean-view campground on the coast (shhhh....) 

Fair warning, though.  The resident crows are a bit spoiled, and are likely to scold you if you don't offer up some Milk Bone offerings.

Sidenote - the planned expedition for transplanted CA sea lions was put on hold due to the previously mentioned tsunami warning.  Besides, it looks like they've all headed back south again anyway.  "So long, and you're welcome for all the fish!!""