Life’s small pleasures

A simple task in my to-do app: Call Medicare. This is my prompt to call Anthem/Blue Cross to double-check on my Medicare coverage, which kicked in on May 1.

Why? Because I continue to receive mailings from Anthem asking me to sign up for Medicare coverage as well as mailings confirming my coverage. I want to know exactly what I am signed up for, especially whether I’m signed up for Part D, which covers prescriptions.

No, I’m not explaining Medicare coverage to you. You have to go through that dark period all on your own.

So I call the number on the latest flyer I got. The first thing I did was to ask the nice lady to turn up the volume on her mic, because I couldn’t hear her—and no, it wasn’t because I was old.

I explained what I needed. She said I should talk to Medicare. I asked why, if I needed to talk to Medicare, was I holding an Anthem/Blue Cross coverage card in my hand that said they were handling my Medicare Preferred (PPO) coverage?

Fine, she said; she’d connect me with the PPO customer service. Please hold.

Dee dee deet: the number you are trying to call is not available from your calling zone. (WTH?)

Hang up.

Call again.

This time it’s a young man who understands what I’m asking. He offers to hook me up with the correct people. I ask for the number just in case. He gives it to me.

This time the transfer works, and I get another young man. We’ll call him Nathan.

Nathan understands what I’m asking about, so he asks for my Member ID number. I give it to him.

He can’t find me in the database. I give him my name, birthdate, and the Member ID again.

Nathan says he needs to look in another database. Nathan says he needs to transfer me to someone who can actually answer my question. Please hold.

I hold.

I order those nifty Celtic cloak pins for 3 Old Men to use when the ambient temperature is a little chilly during our rituals.

I order more copies of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Tao te ching to give as graduation presents.

Nathan comes back on, and they’re having a fire. (I can hear the alarm.) He’ll have to call me back. I wish him luck.

And scene.

The great message of spam you needed

I’m always excited to get an email saying there’s a comment that needs moderation because it means someone has read the blog and was moved to respond.

However, it’s almost always spam because—let’s face it—nobody really reads this thing. Fine. I continue to fill the universe with words it didn’t need FOR ITS OWN GOOD, KENNETH.

This time, the spam was brilliant in its ineptitude:

Undeniably imagine that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at
the web the simplest factor to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed
even as people consider issues that they plainly do not know about.
You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the
entire thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a
signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

Is this not glorious? You’re welcome. “Hit the nail on the top” is now part of my lexicon. Probably “Folks could take a signal” as well.

Carry on.

(For the record, the URL of the commenter was bestbariatricsurgeon.org from Mumbai. And it was a comment on GinTonic No. 7.)

UPDATE, 3/24: Another spam message to be approved:

I felt any buzz from it, however, not off the wall. First,
you have to be experienced what unlimited hosting really means.
The instant their pr release released, the media frenzy began.

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 7

I seem to have skipped MDL GinTonic Nos. 3–6. I’ll have to go back and try them again to make sure they’re worth posting.

However, MDL GinTonic No. 7 is a good one:

Half-consumed, but isn’t it a lovely color?

MDL GinTonic No. 7

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz hibiscus-infused gin
  • .25 Violette syrup

It is distinctly floral without being sweet. I’m still thinking about bitters; I thought I had some 18•21 Bitters hibiscus bitters, but apparently I’m out.

Hibiscus-infused gin

This is stupid-easy: put some gin in a glass container, throw in some hibiscus buds, let it sit for an hour or two. Strain. Done.

Violette syrup

So you can see that this is kind of an Ultimate Gin gintonic, with three different approaches to gin all piling together.

Highly recommended.

You might very well think that…

… and I will have a comment for you.

In order to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, you formerly had to meet five of the following nine criteria.[1]

And here were the criteria for antisocial personality disorder.  (You had to check off three or more to get this diagnosis.)

My comment is in the form of two questions:

  1. To whom do you think I am referring?
  2. Why did you think that?[2]

—————

[1] These criteria are actually no longer officially used. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) revamped the personality disorders for DSM-5 in 2010. Their reclassification met with some criticism for its decision to drop this specific diagnosis from the new edition. But you get the picture.

[2] We now await the tapdancing from those who will try to avoid saying they recognize any of these traits in the person I’m talking about, and that it’s just because of my well-known dislike of this person that allows them to answer Question 1 with certainty.

Saying the pledge

After the tsimmis last week of the kid being arrested for not saying the pledge to the flag[1] in a Florida (!) school, I have studiously avoided writing this post — and to be honest I thought I had already written it. But I think the story is worth telling.

First, let me state up front that I find this country’s hyper-patriotism more than a little problematic, and the idolatry enveloping the flag is particularly offensive to me since it involves the forced public display of my-country-right-or-wrong-oh-yeah-why-don’t-you-just-move-somewhere-else devotion.

Until the early 90s I was agnostic about the pledge. As long as we all understood that it was an empty gesture, who cares? But then something happened that was so vile, so disgustingly hypocritical, that I became about as anti-pledge as you can be.

It was summer, probably 1993 though the exact year escapes me, and I was once again in Valdosta as the chair of the media department at the Governor’s Honors Program [GHP]. One day I ventured into the TV room of the faculty dorm, where the usual gang was glued to C-SPAN. (GHP is one big nerd camp.)

What was going on that had them so enthralled? The Republicans in the House of Representatives had introduced, as was their wont, an amendment to the Constitution to “protect” the flag, and a vote was in process.

Let me repeat that: ignoring the fact that the Constitution has never been amended to protect the government from the people — quite the reverse — the Republicans were attempting alter our foundational document to “protect” a piece of cloth.

Their cynicism was visible from space: their goal was to wrap themselves in that flag and cast the Democrats in the House as UNPATRIOTIC, KENNETH, for not wanting to gut the freedom to criticize our government. THE FLAG, KENNETH! SACRED SYMBOL OUR TROOPS FREEDOM ARGLE BARGLE HENNGGGHHH…

Now, Dale, I hear you asking, how are you so sure that the Republicans were cynically manipulating the legislative process to provide empty talking points to their amygdala-based base? How do I know that they no more cared for “protecting” the flag than they do protecting poor people?

Easy. We were watching the vote, remember, and it was slow going as the representatives clicked their little buttons at their desks: yeas and nays slowly edged up. The suspense was palpable. Would the amendment pass? Would it be sent to the states for ratification, where of course state legislators would be too craven to vote against it?

An amendment requires two-thirds of both chambers of the Congress to vote for it to be passed, which in the House would be 290 votes. That meant that if it got 146 nay votes, it failed.

Slowly the yeas and nays climbed. The yeas were slightly ahead. Savvy political junkies that we were, though, we watched the nays. Suddenly the vote tally clicked to 146 nays. The proposed amendment was dead.

And that’s when the yea votes soared. Once it was certain that it couldn’t pass, once they knew that this stupendously bad-faith legislation was safely dead — all those Republican cowards rushed to vote for it so they could go home and point their virtuous fingers at all those traitorous Democrats for defeating an amendment to “protect” our flag sacred symbol our troops freedom argle bargle hennggghghh…

In other words, the Republicans didn’t want this thing to pass. If they had wanted it to pass, all those yea votes that rushed into the public record when it was too late to make a difference would have been cast to begin with. They deliberately waited until enough of their peers had the guts to kill it before they cast their vote. Even more: they proposed this pernicious amendment to the Constitution in the first place and brought it to the floor for a vote knowing it should not be passed.

That’s how I know the whole pledge thing is a bogus, cynical ploy to suppress dissent, to shame people who think maybe our allegiance is not due to a piece of cloth, to draw a bright circle around those who are uncritically “patriotic” and to keep the rest of us out.  I have not said the pledge since then; I refuse to be a part of or to support that sham.

Your mileage may vary of course, and I have no objection to your choosing to say the pledge with all your heart. You may however want to think about the fact that the very people who keep telling you that saying the pledge is simple, virtuous patriotism — and anything else is not —have been manipulating you. I’ll let you decide why.

— — — — —

[1] Of course it’s a little more complicated than that, but whatever happened was triggered by the flag-worshiping substitute teacher worshipping the flag and not the Constitution for which it stands.

New Cocktail: MDL GinTonic No. 2

MDL GinTonic No. 2

  • 1.5 oz London dry gin
  • .5 oz Galliano
  • .25 oz hibiscus-infused gin*
  • tonic water, lime wheel

Sweetness, then the floral bitterness of the hibiscus. This is a nice one.

* Dump a tablespoon or two of dried hibiscus into a cup or so of gin. Let steep for a couple of hours. It will turn dark red. (You could also do a light steep for pinker look, and that concoction is more drinkable on its own. The full steep is a bit much.)

New Cocktail: the MDL GinTonic No. 1

During our travels through Italy last fall, I was delighted to discover the European GinTonic: a gin and tonic with some differences, some tasty, tasty differences. First, it’s not served in a highball glass — it’s served in a big red wine glass. It’s got tons of ice, and rather more tonic than we use here in the States.

The big difference though is the palette that is offered by such a setup. Just as here, you have the full range of gins to start with — London dry, Old Tom, Plymouth, modern botanicals —and if you’re picky, the type of tonic water. Then you can add stuff: garnishes, other spirits, etc., and the sky is the limit. The result is a universe of flavors and sensations, and that is the universe I have begun exploring in a new series of cocktails. I’m calling them MDL GinTonics because my initials are MDL; it’s all about the branding, you see. I vacillate between ‘#’ and “No.” in the naming system, so historians, here’s your fair warning: there may be contradictory evidence in your research.

At the moment, I’m going with 1.5 oz of gin, .5 oz of some other spirit, and .25 oz of something else to add another layer. Stay tuned.

MDL GinTonic No. 1

  • 1.5 oz barrel-aged gin
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz Isle of Skye blended Scotch (slightly peaty)
  • tonic water
  • lime wheel

Stir the first three ingredients with ice, then strain into a balloon-shaped wine glass filled with ice. Add tonic water and lime wheel.

This GinTonic is very tasty, with the oak/woodiness of the gin forward, followed by the spiciness of the Amaro, and finally a return to the earthy/woodsy tones of the Scotch. It is now one of my favorite drinks.

Variation notes: I tried using Laphroaig instead of Isle of Skye, but the strength of that single malt was too much. I also tried bumping the Scotch up to .5 oz, but the drink is better, more subtle, at .25 oz.

Shopping notes: the Amaro Angostura is becoming more common in liquor stores catering to the cocktail crowd, but barrel-aged gin can be hard to find, and Isle of Skye is uncommon. Buy them when you see them!

Hey, Southtowne Marketing, can we talk?

Hey, Mark! Can I call you Mark? It’s OK if that’s not your name, because clearly you don’t know my name either.

How do I know that? Because you addressed the envelope like this:

That’s my first clue that you’re working off a database that only selects the first name, i.e., you don’t know me personally and probably only want me to give you money. Normally I can spot a computer-printed  “handwritten” address, but yours looked real enough. Sure, I thought, it’s possible that some minion out at Southtowne (to which I’ve been multiple times for minor reasons over the past few days) might have sent me a thank you note or a survey or summat. So I opened it.

Ah, a newspaper clipping! Sometimes local companies will do that, send you a clipping of something you’ve done that ends up in the Newnan Times-Herald. However, I haven’t done anything recently that has been in the paper. But this had a sticky note on it.

Again with the ‘Martin.’ And who the hell was ‘B’? Barbara? Bill? Burgoyne? At this point, it was clear that I had been scammed again. It was nothing more than an ad:

Sorry for the crumpled page. I was heading to throw it in the fire when I decided to blog about this.

So, someone sat down and went through a stack of Times-Heralds or other newspaper, tore this out, folded it, (artfully tearing the middle), wrote a sticky note, attached it, and mailed it to me?

Not quite.

If we look at the top of the page, we find that there’s no publication info. This is not from a newspaper.

Sure, it says it’s from ‘Automotive • D-6,’ but where’s the newspaper name? The date? This is clearly a fabricated ad.

Even more data:

It’s not even a real stock market report. It’s a picture of a stock market report.

So, Mark — if I can call you Mark — let’s talk.  Let me explain to you that far from making me want to hit your ‘sale’ (which is when, exactly? you give days and times, but no dates), this kind of thing makes me want to call out there and berate whoever answers the phone. It’s dishonest and scammy, right in line with those phone calls that start out with “DON’T HANG UP!” or “THIS IS NOT A SALES CALL.” You’re faking a personal connection to trick me into giving you my attention. It is fraudulent in intent. I have no beef with Southtowne — I love my Equinox, and my service rep (the inestimable Paul Hardegree) is a dream, and once I decide I need a new car, I will more than likely deal with the Southtowne sales staff than not — but Mark, you need to be fired. Your tactics are slimy and offensive, not what I’ve come to expect from Southtowne.

Sincerely yours,

If only there were a difference you could spot…

This popped up on Twitter this morning:

What the Trumpster wants to believe here is that Barry HUSSEIN Obummer also violated military guidelines by autographing a soldier’s hat, so ULTRALIBERAL CNN KENNETH is wrong in calling out Trump (who gasses children) for doing exactly the same thing.

Well, actually.

No.

They are not the same.

First of all, let’s just note that it took Trump (who gasses children) two years into his presidency to go visit the troops, mostly because he’s afraid of that kind of danger. (That’s not a real problem, truthfully. If the man doesn’t want to participate in the U.S.’s ungodly fetishization of our military, I’m OK with that.) (But it’s a bad look, nevertheless.)

The real problem is that Trump (who gasses children) could not stop himself from campaigning, and that’s the no-no. Here, if you haven’t read it recently, is the pertinent section of the Department of Defense [DoD] conduct code:

DoD Support to Campaigns
Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating DoD, or any component or personnel of DoD, with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of this guidance must be avoided. Consistent with this, installation commanders must decline requests for military personnel or federal civilian employees to appear in or support political campaign or election events in their official capacities, with the exception of providing joint Armed Forces color guards at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, and other political parties formally recognized by the Federal Election Commission. In addition, installation commanders shall not permit the use of military facilities by any candidate for political campaign or election events, including public assemblies or town hall meetings, speeches, fundraisers, press conferences, post-election celebrations and concession addresses. [emphasis mine]

The White House (who gasses children) is denying that it brought MAGA hats — which are official Trump campaign items — to Iraq, but there are first-person accounts reporting that yes, they did bring them and pass them out to the troops. That’s a no-no. Trump (who gasses children) signing them just made that fact impossible to ignore.

Worse — in my mind — is his behavior on the podium while addressing troops. He was his usual partisan self, bashing Democrats, pushing his Wall, and I have no doubt that if there were an election coming up he would absolutely would have told our troops to vote Republican. Such speech  — or rather, attendance at a function where such speech is used — is prohibited by the DoD conduct code.

So, to recap, a soldier is permitted to bring a personal item for the president to autograph. Soldiers are not permitted to participate in photo-ops for campaigns, and by providing campaign items to them in full view of the camera, Trump (who gasses children) violated military guidelines.

BECAUSE — and the Trumpster will not believe this — a MAGA hat is not a beloved symbol of our nation or its presidency. It is a purely partisan totem, and if you don’t realize that, then imagine that in the photograph Obama is signing one of these:

Image result for obama campaign cap

Would Fox News be defending that?

I report, you decide.

We won’t even get into Trump (who gasses children)  blowing the cover of a Navy SEAL team. The question there is: Idiot or traitor?[1]

—  —  —  —  —

[1] Why not both?

New Cocktail: The Apple Pie, Jack

It’s the holiday time, and we have found ourselves with more than the usual amount of Laird’s Applejack Brandy lying about (long story), so here’s my first and obvious cocktail thereby: the Apple Pie, Jack. It truly tastes like an apple pie.

The Apple Pie, Jack

  • 2 oz Applejack brandy
  • 1 oz vanilla vodka, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz cinnamon syrup

Shake with ice, pour, garnish

Vanilla vodka

  • 2–3 vanilla beans, split
  • 750 ml vodka
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup

Add the vanilla beans to the vodka. Let soak in a cool, dark place for 2–3 days or until desired vanilla taste is reached. Add the 1/4 cup simple syrup.

Cinnamon syrup

  • 2–3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup demerara sugar or Sugar in the Raw™
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vodka

Combine all ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil and boil until all sugar is dissolved. Cool, cover, and allow to come to room temperature. Add vodka (for preservative), store.

I have not tried this with store-bought vanilla vodka; I expect it might have a harsher taste.