Monday, December 14, 2009

Reasons I Will Now Learn to Knit

1) A dissected frog
2) plankton
3) the human brain

There are others, but these are the best. Unfortunately, I can't copy the photos so you should go to this website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet cheeks and cupcakes

I watched Moon last night and, despite the absolutely gratuitous shower scene, it was a good solid movie. I watched it expecting more surprises, though. I thought it was going to be one of those 'clever' movies. Some reviews presented it as a psychological thriller but it is more of a psychological drama. Sam Rockwell gives a phenomenal performance.

I won't spoil it for you.

I also made marble cupcakes last night - chocolate and vanilla. I tweaked the recipe a little because I had no chocolate and white chocolate chips but they turned out really well, if a bit heavy for my taste.

Thus far I have made:
Banana bread - 3 stars, too heavy and sweet and the bananas sunk to the bottom.

Mint chocolate chip fairy cakes - 6 stars, used mashed up mint chocolate bar. They were light and easy to eat. Next time I'll use more chocolate bits.

Scones - 6 stars for my first couple of batches, which were made using wholemeal flour. Every time I've made scones the dough has been incredibly sticky and I've had to add more flour, and more flour, until I finally have something manageable. Also, I don't have a rolling pin or a cutter so I just have to pat out the dough and tear bits off, which, because the dough is so sticky, always ends up in a mess. The resulting scones are lumpy and crumbly but still delicious.

My last batch was the best - I added some allspice and cinnamon to give it that extra aroma and a hint of flavor. 8 stars, I think, but perhaps the bar is too low at the moment.

Marble cupcakes - 6 stars for decent, moist cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jesus, Mary and Toast

A selection of the many appearances of holy figures in the past decade. They don't include the office building Mary, broken by some vandal. But they do have this picture:

Which actually looks like Clara Bow, or maybe Mae West.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The financial reports are bad (though sometimes amusing) and here in Scotland the days are getting much shorter (sunrise today was at 8.38 and sunset will be at 15.33) - so it's nice to escape for a while to the Mekong...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Health Care: a lot for the few or a little for the many?

As I get older, and realize that I will probably not live forever despite my strict adherence to a wine and cheese diet, I appreciate more the importance of good health care. 

When I lived in Kentucky I worked a decent job that provided some health care. This covered, wonderfully enough, my dental needs but not my need for old-lady prescription glasses and contact lenses. I never had a hospital experience there so I can't really comment on that, but I know I would have had to pay a certain amount for each visit.

Since coming to the UK I am consistently amazed at the 'free at point of care' concept. Now I have no insurance but, because we are on a low-income, I get free dental care (which is also offered to every woman for the first year after she gives birth). I just enjoyed having my wisdom teeth out for free - joy.
For the general population, if you can find an NHS dentist over here (good luck, they are out there) then you get a portion of your basic dental care covered.

Everyone gets free eye tests and a discount on glasses.

I especially appreciated the health system when I got pregnant. Not only did I receive free care and advice, I had a midwife who visited my house and talked me through everything. There were lots of options from which I could choose, in terms of the type of hospital stay and birthing plan (including access to a birthing pool). Of course, some of this was determined by my location. In the end, a hospital birth made the most sense because I did not want to be in screaming agony (epidurals are not generally offered at birthing centers) - but to each their own.

The follow-up care is also pretty comprehensive. You get a health visitor who, well, visits. Trust me, this is very valuable when you have just had a baby, haven't showered in weeks, are still bleeding/scarred, and when you've not been through it all before.

All in all I have a pretty positive view of the NHS. Granted, I read about MRSA and I've waited for hours in waiting rooms, but I prefer this broken-down system to the broken-down system in the US no question.

The trick is, however, to find a balance between the 'advanced and innovative' health care in the US (advanced and innovative being code words for expensive) and the 'free and egalitarian' health care of the UK (free and egalitarian being a code words for inefficient). 

One of the differences between the two systems (outside of the structural, bureaucratic differences) is the focus in the US on the individual paying for their own health care needs. That is, if you have private insurance, or even employer-based insurance, you are paying now for some circumstances that might occur in the future to yourself. Even then, of course, there is no guarantee that you will be covered for everything. 

The same might generally be said of the UK except that, because the NHS is a national behemoth, the cost of healthcare comes out of your paycheck in taxes and is poured into the NHS system. Your money might be paying for some little child's cancer treatment (as long as it's not new or experimental) or some junkie's methadone dose

I know this isn't actually how it works - certainly not on the US side where your money paid to a private insurer covers them just in case one of their other clients gets dreadfully ill and they actually decide to pay out - but there is a fundamental difference in ethos that I think is important. It is the reason why people like Michael Moore look over the pond and think "If only...", ignoring the many problems with the NHS.

The NHS is not a solution for the US. But neither is allowing health insurers to dictate policy

One of the main benefits of paying into a system that is free at the point of care is that it encourages people to visit the doctor. You see that chunk of money come out of your paycheck and you feel entitled to have a doctor or nurse look at your mole or listen to your phlegmy throat. This means that illnesses are often dealt with at an earlier stage, saving costs in the long run. 

The prenatal care women receive is also important for their mental health and the health of their child. My older brother, a pediatrician in New York, was impressed at the prenatal care I received and despaired that more comprehensive care was not offered to people in the US. 

A recent Reuters article called the American system of health care 'costly and inefficient'. This epithet is also often applied to the NHS, despite its attempts to keep costs low by only paying for the cheapest drugs for any particular illness. 

I hope there is a middle ground somewhere, between what seems like a lack of accountability of the health insurance companies, which puts consumers on uncertain footing, and the political accountability of the NHS, which means they can't be seen to be 'wasting' money on costly treatments.

In both cases many of the people paying into the system don't seem to be getting what they want or need. However, at least in the UK you can get decent treatment (equal treatment) even if you are not paying into the system at the time of medical need.

Monday, November 03, 2008

What To Wear

I was looking for style tips today (not my usual internet activity but we've been invited to a wedding) and stumbled on a fashion advice site for transgendered men. I won't link it here - I'm sure anyone that is curious can find it through a search. 

I found myself drawn in by the concerns and insecurities of these women, all in various stages of changing. It put into perspective all of my own insecurities.

Also, I'm always heartened whenever I see anyone completely embracing who they are. Less intense examples would be those geeks who dress up in costumes to go to Comic-Con and other conventions; or people who wear their D&D shirts around town; or goths with extreme black eyeliner and white foundation; or even people of various religions who choose to wear marks of their belief.

Of course, you don't have to dress to extremes to BE a certain thing - but I admire anyone who can wear their soul on their sleeve.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Moving to the Granite City

It is a time of upheaval - though it's not upheaving as fast as I would like.

This is a picture of somewhere in Aberdeen, found on I didn't notice any excessive grayness in Aberdeen when I went up for my (horrible) job interview, but I've been living in Scotland for a while so perhaps I am desensitized to grayness. 

At least in this picture the sky is blue.

I looked up information on Aberdeen City Center and found a story on a new type of fungus

For those of you who don't know, Aberdeen is an oil town. The industry is huge here and, as such, there is a lot of money floating around. It will make quite a change from Dundee, where there are few major industries left.

Wish us luck!