A couple of months ago a field mouse decided to take residence in our pantry. When we first noticed his presence we opted for a non-lethal strategy. Our plan was to remove his food supplies and hopefully he would decide to go elsewhere. The situation came to boil a couple of days on New Year’s Eve when I moved a Crock-Pot travel cover while trying to get to a pot and spilled a bunch of rice and lentils on the floor. This mouse was attempting to make a nest for the winter. That was not acceptable!
This mouse had somehow managed to escape our three barn cats we have downstairs and two cats we have upstairs. My solution was surprisingly simple. I work at a place that sells mouse deterrents amongst other products, so I bought some Bonide Mouse Magic and deployed two packets in the pantry. This is a natural solution to an age-old problem. Mice do not like the smell of mint or spearmint. To my surprise, the mouse decided to escape through the two house cats. Mint and spearmint oils do not kill mice. They do not like the smell. So the mouse tried to make a run for it. He did not make it and was caught. He is dead. Best of all, he was not partially eaten. Our barn cats would have eaten him and not left a trace. The field mouse is nature’s original power bar but house cats are really out of touch. So I was grateful our house cats did not try to eat him and then throw him up. There are no pretty solutions. Fortunately, my wife does not have a problem picking up the carcass and putting it in the trash. I could sleep in. Life is good!
An ancient proverb says, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This is true until the common enemy is no longer a threat. I was hoping our recent friendship with Iran would grow into a nonaggression pact. Unfortunately, Iran sponsored demonstrations at the United States embassy in Iraq indicates that Iran did not care to be friends with the U. S. anymore. They were not even trying to hide their contempt for the United States. Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded Wednesday by taunting Trump, declaring, “You can’t do a damn thing.” For a country that could not do a damn thing, killing General Soleimani was a pretty impressive rebuttal. Iran and the United States have lost that loving feeling. It would be wise of Iran to be careful with their taunts and actions going forward. President Obama is gone. There is a new sheriff in town.
It is January 1 and I am making Hoppin’ John again to bring in the New Year. My wife says this year’s version was the best ever so I had to tell you what I changed. I cooked both the black eye peas and the rice separately. When I folded the peas and rice into the dish with the scallions and bacon, everything was already cooked so I could lower the temperature to warm and avoid muddling the flavors by overcooking. The scallions and bacon were able to step up and step out flavor-wise. I think she like the crunchy-ness of the scallions. This was a very nice way to make use of some excellent turkey broth from Thanksgiving and extra Christmas ham. A fresh interpretation of leftovers that impressed my better half.
I like dark beers. Craft brewers created a lot of really fine stouts and porters this year. I know, I have had my fair share. When the brewer gets it right, it is because the brewer has mastered mixing multiple flavors so that they are recognizable but not overbearing. The flavors that highlight a well-made stout or porter the best are bourbon, chocolate, coffee, oak, and vanilla.
This year, 2019, I decided to try my hand at making a fine porter with the Bourbon Barrel Porter extract kit. My plan was to have it ready for Christmas so my brew day was in September. I make a yeast starter for all of my brews but it is probably especially important for a heavy beer like this. I left the beer in the primary fermenter for about six weeks. Heavy beers take longer to ferment so you need to be patient if you want a good stout or porter. I tasted the beer and confirmed it was good and ready to go. So I soaked the full pack of oak cubes in 16 ounces of bourbon for two days before adding it into the secondary fermenter with the beer. After two weeks in the secondary fermenter, I bottled. I have been drinking this porter for the last four weeks and I have to say it is the best beer I have ever brewed. We got the flavors right. It took a long time but it was worth it.
Why is it so hard for our elected officials to act like adults? Without bipartisan support, impeachment was juvenile and a sad reminder that our elected representatives have forgotten about constituent priorities. So instead of fixing surprise medical bills, we got impeachment. We had bipartisan support for fixing surprise medical bills. Good luck with the re-election campaigns!
Over at The Hill, they wrote about some new rules the Trump Administration hopes will drive down costs by increasing competition. I am leary of new healthcare regulations but I think these ideas may actually work. Here is what they said.
One regulation would require hospitals to provide a consumer-friendly online page where prices are listed for 300 common procedures like X-rays and lab tests. A second regulation would require insurers to provide an online tool where people could compare their out-of-pocket costs at different medical providers before receiving treatment.
Both of these regulations are slightly improved ideas for improving cost transparency. Recently I was looking at our Medicare plan to determine if our preferred doctors and hospitals were included in our network. Our preferred emergency care hospital and major hospitalization hospital were in our network so I was happy with our plan. So we know where we want to go. The next thing I looked at was planning our healthcare costs.
I like it when my doctor tells me upfront what a common procedure costs. I do not like it when doctors and hospitals surprise me with exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. This is a bipartisan issue so I help both sides will continue to work for our common good.
It is normal for me to shop for the best price. I do not have a problem shopping for the best price/value for any of the common procedures. As an example, I have been told by various friends that some common procedures such as an MRI may vary widely in price. In-network providers are great but if you have the cash on hand and you know the out-of-pocket costs then it may make sense for you to go out of the network for this service.
A regulation change the Trump Administration did not address is to allow people on Medicare to contribute to an HSA. People my age still have several more years before our first major hospitalization. It makes sense we should be allowed to continue to contribute to an HSA. The better we prepare for our future healthcare expenses, the better off we are. The lure of tax-exempt savings may just be the trick to better preparation.
A great quote from my Quora feed reminding us why old men are best suited to negotiate an uncomfortable peace.
There’s nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains. Old men’s work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
I find it somewhat surprising to hear the pundits talk so glowingly about the US-Kurdish friendship. In the past, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran warned the United States about getting too close to the Kurds. As a result, the United States does not directly supply weapons to the Kurds. Both the United States and the Kurds understood that this friendship was never meant to be permanent. Turkey and Syria would determine when peace in Syria could occur.
In one rash moment, Beto accomplished what the NRA could never do, convince America that the true goal of gun control reform is disarming law-abiding citizens. I wanted to believe all of the people who said we are not coming for your guns. Thanks for clearing things up, Beto. America thanks you for your honesty.
In the 1990s when we were living in Texas, my wife was avid dressage rider. She decided she needed to train and compete in Florida for a couple of months if she was going to take her riding to the next level. A female friend upon learning of the plan became concerned that my wife was driving to Florida alone. In those times, it was perfectly normal for her friend to offer to lend a handgun and for my wife to accept. Friends did not ask friends for background checks. They know each much better than any government background check. I had more problems with her being in Florida for three months than her having a handgun for self-defense. I did not expect any problems on the trip but I was confident that my wife could handle a handgun appropriately if the need arose. My wife felt safer because she had a gun available. As expected, the handgun was not needed during the trip.
What surprises me about this discussion of universal background checks is the lack of common sense. Mr. Crenshaw argues for common-sense laws and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez argues for something that sounds weird to gun owners. Gun owners are not obligated to lend their guns. Most gun owners do not want anyone but especially the government to know how many guns they own. The scariest thought for a gun owner is that their gun will be used in a crime. So most gun owners are especially careful who they discuss guns with and who they lend guns to. You have to wonder what was she thinking when she said this.
The people you’re giving a gun to have likely abused their spouse or have a violent criminal record, & you may not know it.
In my wife’s case, I can say that she did not abuse her spouse or have a violent criminal record. I know it because I am her husband. Her friend knew it because she is her friend. The problem with common-sense gun control measures is that gun control advocates cannot utter two sentences without exposing their lack of common sense. Maybe we should wait for our gun control advocates to grow up before we write any new gun control laws.