The Emotional Roller Coaster Of Dipping Foods

I really love chips and salsa. I love chips and guac, crackers and hummus, carrots and ranch…but I really love chips and salsa.

There’s so much joy in having an edible utensil. There’s the art of scooping the exact right amount of salsa to compliment the chip. It’s different for every various chip brand and variety, as well as the myriad of salsas. But once you find it, you aim for that perfect blend of salty corn texture and vibrant citrus punch.

Chips and salsa bring a lot of control to the eating experience as well. Your hand is closer to the food than with a fork. More precision is required. More concentration. I love the chips and salsa eating experience almost as much as I love eating chips and salsa.

There’s also the community aspect. A common bowl of chips, a common bowl of salsa. You know there’s a real connection with a person when you can freely double dip. (My wife and daughters in my experience) It just feels good to share such a simple, rich snack with other people.

But then there’s the downside. I think I’ve traced it back to the reality that you’re never really done eating chips and salsa. The experience ends, but you’re always robbed before you are finished. Either you run out of chips, or you run out of salsa. You never use your last chip to scoop up the last bit of delicious salsa. It just doesn’t work that way. You always look down at half a bowl of chips and an empty bowl of salsa, or vice versa. That’s what makes me sad. I can eat a steak and some potatoes and a salad, and when my plate is clean, all the food is gone. But not with chips and salsa. There is always a component left over. Taunting me. Mocking me.

I always go back though. I really love chips and salsa.

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The Emotional Roller Coaster Of Dipping Foods

Design? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Design!

So, this blog has been hosted for the last several years on a server leased by a friend of mine. I was recently informed that he had moved all of his content off that server and was only paying the lease because it was hosting my blog. That was very nice of him, but also silly. I decided to move my blog over to wordpress.com’s free hosting platform so that he could close down that server.

Unfortunately, wordpress.com is much more restrictive in its design flexibility. I haven’t dug through all the options yet, but this particular look is not awesome. Hopefully I will get around to making it look better soon. Or maybe not.

*Edit: As of 2.23.15, I have settled on a design. At least temporarily. We’ll see how it goes.

Design? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Design!

My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

In part two of my fanciful adventure through the A-for-caring-F-for execution Healthcare Marketplace website, I had appealed the silicon-based quality-of-life-determiner’s decision to deny my 7 year old daughter health insurance.  I did this through the certified mail.  Because of this, I knew that my appeal had been received on December 18th.  So I waited.  I waited until after Christmas in fact.  On December 26th I called the Health Insurance Marketplace one more time to see about checking in on this appeal process.  I spoke with a lovely lady who wanted to rehash my entire history with the ACA so that she could better solve my problem.  She put me on hold for awhile and came back with the news that there was no way to check on my appeal and it might take up to 90 days.  This was concerning because my daughter’s healthcare is due to end in 5 days.  When I asked her what I should do, she told me that she would like to help me reapply for coverage over the phone.  She was hopeful that the electronic guardians of affordable healthcare would rule in my favor this time.  The process took an hour.  During that time I learned that she was married with children, had friends in the town that I live in, and had a son who always wants to travel to Athol and go to Silverwood.  I also learned that she is unable to put her husband on her work insurance policy because it is too expensive.  There is nothing wrong with that exactly, I just find it ironic.

After my hour of pleasant conversation interspersed with social security numbers, birthdates and annual salaries,  the HTML lords of health handed down a new PDF ruling.  My wife is eligible for healthcare on the marketplace, my 1 year old is eligible for CHIP again, and my 7 year old is eligible for nothing.  The process has failed me once again.  My friendly marketplace representative quipped, “Well at least we tried, right?!” Indeed.

So, what’s next? A letter to my congressman, Raul Labrador, and my senator, Mike Crapo.  Let’s see if this representative democracy thing works.

My Healthcare Journey Part Three, Or, Soothe Me With Smalltalk

My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

Last time we got together, I had just been told for the second time by our automated health-conscious overlords that my 7 year old is not eligible for health insurance.  I was slightly disturbed by this, as was my 7 year old.  (I really need to stop talking about these things with my wife when she is within earshot.)

So, it’s December 6th at this point, and I gave the Health Insurance Marketplace a call.  Before I relaunch into my tirade of continual disappointment with this system, I have to say, every single person I talked to at the Health Insurance Marketplace has been lovely.  I have also been in contact with representatives of The Internal Revenue Service this fall (that’s a different blog post) and they could definitely take a few pointers from the Health Insurance Marketplace call center staff.  Everyone I have talked to there has been kind, empathetic and engaging.  In fact, only occasionally did I get a hint of the fact that they all get yelled at constantly and hate their jobs.

At first I spoke with a young man (I assume) with a nice thick southern accent.  I told him my problem and read him the Eligibility letter that I had received informing me that my 7 year old daughter was not eligible for health insurance while the rest of my small family was.  He asked if he could put me on hold while he looked into that.  I said yes.  He came back on the line a few minutes later having pulled up my file.  He then read me the Eligibility letter that I had already read to him.  I have to admit I enjoyed it more with the accent.  He then exclaimed, “That doesn’t seem fair at all!”  It was at this point that he ran out of helpful ideas.  I asked him why the robo-insurance system might have made that determination.  He did not know.  I asked to talk to his supervisor.  He assured me that his supervisor would not know either.  I insisted.  He obliged me with a slight downturn in his mood.  I can only assume that a customer asking to be transferred to a supervisor reflects poorly on his performance record.  If you’re reading this Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center frontline southern kid, I’m sorry.

I was transferred to his supervisor.  If I had to guess, I would say mid-twenties, young father, maybe a California vibe. (Actually, he told me the young father part)  He was very nice.  He too reread my Eligibility notice back to me.  I reminded him that I was actually the first person to read that notice, hence my call.  He also remarked that this set of circumstances was “unfair” and “weird.”  He had a solution though!  He was going to reapply for me over the phone.  I thought, hey, maybe that’s a great idea. Maybe.

We were about 15% of the way through the application when I realized that he was just filling in the fields on the website that I had already filled in.  At this point my hopes fell slightly, but I thought “at least we can rule out operator error on my part.”  So we did it.

“Is your wife a woman?”

“Yes”

“Does your 7 year old have a job?”

“No.”

I almost threw him when he asked the question about anyone in the household needing assistance dressing themselves, going to the bathroom or eating.  I told him that my 1 year old was still working through some of those things, but he decided that my situation probably didn’t apply to the question the way our cybernetic medical benefactors intended.

We finally finished the application and he remarked “40 minutes for a family of four is a really good time!”  I sincerely hope he will get recognized for that achievement.  And then….drum roll please

I’m eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my wife is eligible for insurance on the marketplace, my 1 year old is still eligible for medicaid and my 7 year old is NOT ELIGIBLE FOR ANYTHING!

My friendly application record breaking Health Insurance Marketplace supervisor said, “huh.”  Then he said, “I’m really sorry man.  I’ve never seen anything like that.”

I asked him what I should do now.  He said I should appeal the decision.  He said there was a form and I could download it and mail it in to the Department of Health and Human Services (what exactly does “Human Services” encompass anyway?)  So I did that.  I mailed it certified mail.

Tune in to part 3 of my tale to hear what happened next…

My Healthcare Journey Part Two, or, You're Right, That Doesn't Seem Fair!

My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now

In this series of posts it’s my intention to detail my journey through the Affordable Care Act. While I am fairly Libertarian in my political views I’m not in principle against the idea of the ACA, however my experience with the healthcare.gov website has been incredibly frustrating.

My tale begins back in October when the website first came online.  I enrolled in order to look into insurance options for my family.  I am covered very well by my employer but to add the family to my plan would be unaffordable.  They currently have an individual plan.  It took several attempts to create a login at healthcare.gov, but I finally succeeded.  After creating my login however, it was 2 weeks before the system would let me create an application for health insurance.  At first I just got blank pages.  These were followed by error messages with the “error id” listed as “unknown error.”   Finally though, I got an application submitted for my family.

Good news, my wife and both my kids are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace!  Great! Where do we sign up?

This question was answered by over a month straight of “Select a health plan for: null” messages.  I chatted and called the Marketplace call center several times and was always told that there are bugs in the system and to try back at a time that was less busy.  Finally I spoke to a call center employee who thought I might just want to delete my application and try again.  So I did that.

I then proceeded to reapply for coverage for my family.  I told the system all the important things it needed to know for the second time.  I told it that my wife was a woman. I told it that my 7 year old hasn’t been employed in the past six months. I told it that my 1 year old doesn’t have any alimony to report on her taxes.  All the important stuff.  My application went through, but this time, something was different.  While my wife was still eligible for insurance through the marketplace, my 1 year old was eligible for Idaho CHIP (Children Health Insurance Plan) and my 7 year old was not eligible for any coverage whatsoever.  The friendly government-issued pdf document said, and I quote:

Based on your application, you don’t qualify to purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. In addition, you don’t qualify for a tax credit, cost-sharing reductions, Medicaid, or Idaho CHIP.You still might be able to get health care at a lower cost. The health care law has expanded funding to community health centers, which provide primary care for millions of Americans. These centers provide services on a sliding scale based on your income. Learn more about getting care at a community health center on HealthCare.gov.

Sorry small child, you don’t qualify for mandatory insurance that we will fine you for not having.  Good news though, if you can find a “community health center” they might cut you a deal, as long as your income is low enough.

At this point, I knew something must be wrong. So, I deleted that application and started over.  I had the same family for this application, same wife (still a woman), same children, but the soothing blue and green prompts asked me slightly different questions this time. (Does my 1 year old need help paying off the last six  Huh.  That application was successfully submitted and my wife is still eligible for health care.  My 1 year old is now eligible for Medicaid, not CHIP and my 7 year old is still ineligible for anything.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series where I call the Health Insurance Marketplace and hilarity ensues…

My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now

Facebook Dinner, or, Scaling The Wall With My Peas

So, the last time we went out of town, back when we adopted our daughter Nora, we had some friends house sit for us. One of these friends must have left a Banquet TV dinner in the freezer (because my wife would never buy one nor let me buy one.) Last night for second dinner I thought I’d give it a go. The following will constitute my review.

There were a lot of flashy words, some in English, all over the box. It was however easy to find the picture of the microwave and the clock. The nearby directions told me to remove the plastic covering from the potato cell of the dinner and microwave the dinner for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes I was instructed to stir the potatoes and heat in the microwave for three minutes more. After this came a rest period of 2 minutes and a thermometer test to ensure that the product was 165 degrees. As I was doing dishes at the time, the 8 minutes went by rather quickly. Had I not been otherwise engaged, 8 minutes would have been a rather long time to wait for the satisfaction of eating. At least in the mood I would assume I would need to be in to be satisfied by eating a Banquet TV dinner. However, that is neither here nor there. The 8 minutes expired and my meal was ready. I’m not sure if the typical TV dinner diner has a food grade thermometer to ensure that his or her meal is outside of the temperature danger zone when consumed, but we have one just for these sort of occasions. I was in possession of one hot rectangle of food products.

I carried the dinner underneath a paper towel (to protect my hand from scalding) to my desk upstairs. I made sure to bring a fork along. The footprint of the black plastic service container fit nicely on my desk, with plenty of room to spare for a glass of water and possibly a 2nd or 3rd place bowling trophy, had one been available. The meal was organized thusly: the aforementioned potatoes had slightly less than 1/4 of the area. The nearby, equally sized compartment held green peas.  The major area, and star of the meal, was the chicken, or possibly turkey sitting atop stuffing with gravy.

I must briefly turn my attention to the chicken/turkey. While the packaging indicated a rather large piece of chicken, likely a breast, the actual meal contained what amounted to 2 half circles of thick deli sliced sandwich meat. One slice was white and the other was dark. Choices. The stuffing was a crouton-like material soaked in gravy. And by gravy I mean gelatinous brown salt product. It was really tasty. (By the by, I really struggled to start that one sentence back there with the word “and.” I wouldn’t have done it, but I got a nice letter from the Vice President and General Manager of AT&T Pacific Northwest and Alaska today offering me $100 off any tablet with a new 2 year service agreement as a holiday gift and he did it, so I thought I could probably get away with it.)

Now for the sides. I immediately recognized the potatoes as instant. Instant potatoes are translucent. The peas however, were remarkable. The problem with peas is that I grew up being asked to eat canned peas. I despise canned peas. They are chalky, and sweeter than they should be. They don’t taste like food from the garden. They taste like food from the basement. Only mushrooms can taste like food from the basement. These peas though were frozen peas. They were great. It was at this point (when I was enjoying the peas) that I realized the major positive in the TV dinner model for me as a child is a major negative for me as an adult. I very badly wanted my peas and my potatoes and my chicken/turkey crouton salt gravy to blend together and combine their flavor powers on my fork prior to entering my mouth. The barriers between the food products were just too high and too slippery to make this an enjoyable task. I had to fight my way over the wall with my peas like a band of little round green Orcs at Helms Deep. Just as many fell down into the rainy abyss as lept over into the elf-like translucent potatoes on the other side. It was a lot of work.

I was successful in the end though. I finished my TV dinner. Not in front of the TV, but while surfing facebook. Eating and browsing the internet is much easier than eating and watching TV. One can pause for a bite and pull one’s gaze away from the screen without the fear of missing something important. Status updates don’t happen that quickly. If I had to give my Facebook Dinner a rating, I would say 3.5 out of 5 stars. 8 minutes is far to long to wait for a good meal and I must be able to mix my food. Points off for those things.  However, the flavor packed chicken/turkey section of my meal really hit the spot.

 

Facebook Dinner, or, Scaling The Wall With My Peas