Dear California Residents: Health Insurance is Now REQUIRED

Self receives an e-mail informing her that she has 84 days to sign up for a health plan if she wants to avoid an IRS penalty.

After providing the necessary information on yearly income, age, gender etc. here are the choices self was given: (If below $70,000 annual income, you may qualify for financial aid!!! Of course, everyone in California earns AT LEAST $70,000/yr. Because if you don’t, and you live here, you have got to be pretty stupid. Just sayin’. Plumbers and electricians start at $160/hour.)

Of course, you could always go the Do-It-Yourself/Home Depot route. And enroll in classes like Do-It-Yourself Drywall or How to Wield a Plumber’s Wrench and Do It With Confidence. Pray you never mess up.

Kaiser Permanente

  • Monthly Premium: $916.71
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

CCHP Health Plan

  • Monthly Premium: $1,085.67
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Blue Shield

  • Monthly Premium: $1,229. 14
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Health Net

  • Monthly Premium: 1,303.65
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

How exciting that self is being given an opportunity to sign up for $1,000/month medical insurance! Will you just look at that stellar array of choices, ranging from $1085.67 to 1,303.65. And she thought paying $500/month for COBRA was bad!

When’s the deadline to start paying $1,000/month? Dec. 15.

Whew! She’d rather put off paying $1,000/month to the last possible moment. That way, she has until Dec. 15 to feel not-so-poor.

Self wonders who came up with this genius plan to get all California residents on health insurance. Medical insurers?

Of course, now she feels very very embarrassed that she cares so little about her health that she even considered NOT getting health insurance.

But now the government is forcing her to action! No more prevaricating!

WAIT: The IRS penalty is only $700.

To avoid it, self was actually considering paying $1,000 a month.

lol lol lol

This is what self will do: She will CALL THE IRS and ask them what the worst thing they can do to her is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


And, In Addition!

Self was strolling up Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park today. It was a bee-yoo-ti-ful day. Not as beautiful as the weather when she was in Central Park a few weeks ago. But not as cold as it’s been here in the San Francisco Bay Area — hence, beautiful.

She passed old stand-by Village Stationers, where she has been purchasing Precise V5 Extra Fine Rolling Ball pens since the days when sole fruit of her loins was attending elementary school in St. Raymond’s. They were having a 50% off sale on all 2016 calendars and planners.

It’s been ages since self bothered to purchase a planner. Because the last four years have been absolutely impossible to plan. Nuts, they’ve been nuts. Self is amazed she is still ambulatory.

Anyhoo, today she actually walked out of Village Stationers with a 2016 Planner called: DO IT LATER! A 2016 NON-PLANNER FOR THE CREATIVE PROCRASTINATOR.

There is an Introduction:

Tired of feeling out of step with the deadline-driven masses? Ready to turn over a new leaf but feeling a tad overwhelmed? Relax. Let the drones of the world dart around with overloaded digital doodads and struggle with trendy time-management strategies.

We’re procrastinators — we get the important stuff done . . .  when we get around to it. To be productive and creative, we first need to engage in critical activities, such as organizing our organizational strategies, staring out the window, creating the perfect playlist, and refilling our coffee. If you specialize in such delay tactics, or know someone who does, take a leisurely browse through the tips, activities, and wisdom sprinkled throughout this planner — for instance: “If there is no time like the present, why would I want to spend it working?” or “Surround yourself with enough doers and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Two More for the Reading List

Self just finished reading the Women’s Review of Books *(Vol. 30, No. 5: Sept/Oct 2013). Sigh. She is just so way behind in her catch-up reading of magazines and journals. Thank goodness she’s having a very quiet Christmas.

Here are two books she discovered from WRB:

  • My Beloved World, a memoir by Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice (Knopf, $27.95)
  • Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman

More books will probably be added to the list as self continues her inroads into the Humongous Pile of Stuff

Stay tuned.

Yoo-Hoo, Self, Paris is Calling!

It is a beautiful day in gay Par-ee —  which is to say, it is hot.

Self won’t even bother looking up Edinburgh weather as a point of comparison, she knows what it will show:  Rain, rain, and more rain.

But why did self wind up loving that city so much?

She doesn’t know.

Now, Paris beckons.  Her friend’s apartment (which allows her to stay in the City of Light without spending a single franc for lodging —  much thanks, Bonnie!) is in Montmartre.  Self can see the spires of the Sacre Couer just above her (Only, to get there would involve climbing 99 steps —  after self’s humiliating biking disaster in Amsterdam, she knows she must never set herself to climbing.  Or biking.  Or, for that matter, walking — ever again)

It is about mid-afternoon, and self has spent all day on her friend’s couch, looking at the building directly across the street and observing which windows are open and which have actual people visible behind them, and watering the potted basil and geraniums.  She hasn’t even bothered locating the TV (She’s sure there is one somewhere), which is one of the most surprising lessons she received from Hawthornden:  One can survive without CNN!

View: Paris Apartment Building, Montmartre

She is reading Monday’s issue of The Guardian, which she bought yesterday (Yes, self knows that yesterday was a Tuesday, and that the copy she purchased was a day old).  In this issue, Andy Murray is still riding high, and Sharapova still thinks she has a strong chance of winning the Wimbledon title.  There is an article bemoaning the ineptitude of Great Britain’s men’s 4×100 relay team (bungled the baton hand-over.  You’d think, sniffed The Guardian, that “they were trying to pass on a bar of soap rather than a baton.”)

Here’s a set of random (shocking) developments:

  • The new Spiderman movie, with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, is receiving distinctly mixed reviews. But here are a few positives, gleaned from Eric D. Snider’s movie review blog:  Andrew Garfield, as the new Spiderman, projects “effective wimpy vulnerability.”  Rhys Ifans plays “erudite but disheveled one-armed genius” Dr. Curt Connors.  This new version of Spiderman is directed by Marc Webb, and self didn’t immediately catch on that it is very funny to have a director named Webb for a movie about a web-generating superhero —  that is, until Eric D. Snider brought up the director’s name and included a parenthetical “No pun intended” statement.
  • Katie Holmes filed for divorce.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court went 5-4 for Obama’s health care initiative (This was last week’s news, but self missed the chance to blog about it, that’s why she’s mentioning it now!)
  • Self is going through major Hawthornden withdrawal:  yesterday, she called Marylee in Barcelona, not once but twice!

Also, her heart starts beating really fast at the prospect of dragging two suitcases laden with books, down the three flights of stairs of Bonnie’s apartment (It was a real bear shlepping these from Amsterdam —  it was a good thing Bonnie and her daughter Oona took turns dragging the suitcases to first, the train station in Amsterdam; then, to the apartment in Montmartre).  Now, both those kind citizens are in America, and self really does not know how she is going to manage dragging two suitcases to the Paris train station, all by her lonesome.  See, this is something self wishes she had worked out in advance.  Admittedly, she did bite off a bit more —  no, WAY more —  than she could chew.

So now, her feeling is:  she should just stay in Bonnie’s apartment and never leave.  Not until it is time for her to board the Eurostar.  Better save all her energy for that.  Besides, Bonnie’s apartment has so many good books to read!  She even has the hardcover of The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century, edited by Isagani Cruz, so self can just pick up where she left off before her trip to Scotland:  the Butch Dalisay short story.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

So Many Things To Do, Like Perusing the 9 October 2011 NYTBR

It is a gorgeous Monday.  There are so many things self needs to do before she can settle down for the serious business of the day:

First, she has to return her old HTC Droid to Verizon, for she complained so much about it that they mailed her a brand new one, last week.  And because self was having a hard time transferring over all her settings, she procrastinated and procrastinated —  that is, until yesterday, when she was the recipient of a thoughtful txt message from Verizon Powers-That-Be, that informed her that unless she returned her defective phone today, they would charge her $500 for the new phone they had sent her.  YIIIKES!  People, don’t you know that self only gets paid at the most $50 per story?  Where is your compassion?

She has to clean up after The Ancient One, who is incontinent.  Self thinks it was brilliant of hubby to find a job just when Bella the Beagle decided to lose control of her bowel functions.  Every morning, he rouses self to say:  “There’s a mess of crap in the kitchen.  I’m late for work.  Gotta go!”  Sometimes self wants to pretend that the crap is really a pile of sweet-smelling lavender, so she can hum like Mary Poppins as she goes about the cleaning …

And then there’s the small of matter of polishing off the bag of Dandy shrimp-flavored chips which self opened a half-hour ago.

Having gotten all of that out of the way, self can then begin to post in earnest about the NYTBR of 9 October 2011, which she has just fished out from the very very back of the “pile of stuff” that she calls her pile of un-opened/un-answered mail.  Everything’s late, even the bills.  However, as there is no money in her account, and hubby is not inclined to add any more, as he says she is a “spendthrift” ($30 a week for groceries is being a spendthrift?), it actually works out better for self to procrastinate.

Once again, self digresses.  Deepest apologies, dear blog readers!

This issue of the NY Times Book Review is a very interesting one.  For starters, there’s a Letter to the Editor that maligns Roger Ebert’s looks, before he suffered his regrettable disfiguring jaw cancer.  The letter is by John Simon, who writes for The New York Times, and who maintains that Ebert’s looks, “even at their height,” were —  and then he finishes up, rather coyly, with “it would be ungentlemanly to comment.”

There is also a review (by Alan Riding), of the latest book on the Jonestown Massacre, Julia Scheeres’ A Thousand Lives:  the Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown.  Scheeres, Riding points out, “is well placed to write” about Jonestown because, “as rebellious teenagers, she and her adopted African-American brother were sent to a self-described therapeutic Christian boarding school for troubled youth in the Caribbean.”

There is also a book about an ugly episode in American history, the de-segregation of Little Rock Central High School.  In the photograph that accompanies the review (by Amy Finnerty), a demure African American girl in a white dress and shades tries to maintain her dignity while a white girl, face twisted in anger, taunts her.  What’s weird about this picture is, there’s a blonde woman who is partially out of the frame, who is looking at the African American girl and smiling.  Self cannot tell whether that is a smile of derision, or a smile of “You go, girl!” or a smile of I’m-just-smiling-because-there-are-photographers-present-and-I’m-told-I-look-prettier-when-I-smile. The book is an interview with the two women at the center of this drama:  African American Elizabeth Eckford, and the woman taunting her, Hazel Bryan.  It’s called Elizabeth and Hazel:  Two Women of Little Rock.

There is a book about a serial killer who preyed on Jews in the dying days of World War II (What, you mean to say, aside from being almost exterminated by the Holocaust, there were still Jews who were off-ed by a serial killer?  Apparently so).  The man operated by offering his Jewish clients a means to escape France.  And indeed his means of escape was to stick them in a vat of lime, and secrete their worldly goods in various safe houses around Paris.  All this was possible because, in 1944, the Jews of Paris were desperate, and no one was paying attention.  The book, Death in the City of Light:  The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, was written by David King.

There is also a very interesting novel, by David Bergen, which is about what happens to a newspaper columnist who uses his own family as fodder for a regular column (For one thing, he describes his daughter’s boyfriend as “rabbit-like, soft and pale with a curious nose that twitched”).  Then, his own son is killed in Afghanistan.  Brilliant!  The review was written by Polly Morrice.  The novel is The Matter With Morris.

Finally, there is a new book by Jerome Groopman, whose writing self admires, but since she hasn’t gotten around yet to finishing his 2007 bestseller, How Doctors Think, she will content herself with finishing that earlier book.

Stay tuned.

The New Yorker: To Renew or Not Renew?

Self has been plagued by indecision.  Her subscription expires this year.  She thinks they always publish the same people.  On the other hand, this was where she first read Roberto Bolaño, and Haruki Murakami, and Terese Svoboda.  And Tea Obreht.  And Yoko Ogawa.  But does she really have enough bucks to extend her subscription?  Her funds are running low, she needs to save up for future trips to Bacolod.  She had to pay another vet bill for Gracie today:  $230.

Self decides she’ll put off making a decision (again)

In the meantime, hubby has gone off to see Nic Cage in Drive Angry.  Self did not feel like seeing a movie today.  Instead, she curled up and started reading —  yup, you guessed it;  a back issue of The New Yorker.  This issue was Feb. 7, 2011.  The article that had caught her attention was in Personal History:  the author was Francisco Goldman.

Self has read two novels by Francisco Goldman and loved them both.

There is something gripping about the way this article begins.  The accompanying photographs are of a woman named Aura.  She is attractive.  In both pictures, she is relaxed.  One is dated 2004, the other 2007.

Goldman writes that Aura was “a twenty-seven-year-old from Mexico City, a graduate student in Latin American literature on a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia,” while he was “forty-nine, born in Boston, the son of Guatemalan and Russian immigrants, working as a journalist and writing a novel.”  They had been living together for “almost a year.”

And so self reads on, pulled by the inexorable force of wanting to know what happened.  What happened to the woman named Aura?  The feel of the article is so much like a mystery.  Sentences here and there resonate with awful doom:

My first morning, I went swimming and then to breakfast at a café on the beach, where the waiter told me that the last time he’d gone into the ocean there he’d come out bleeding from both ears.  That night, in my hotel room, I lay in bed listening to the waves, which now sounded to me as if they were grinding bones.

Goldman describes how he proposed to Aura.  They were at a beach again.

I couldn’t go back to Mexico City, where we were spending the summer, without having proposed.  I excused myself from the table and went to our room.  A light rain was falling, one of those warm tropical drizzles which feel like the moisture-saturated air inside a cloud, as soft as silk against your face.

Oh, self would just love to know, know what happens to this couple.  So, although she almost never reads an article straight through to the end, that’s what she finds herself doing now.

Here are Aura and Goldman on their first date.  It turns out she has written a short story.  She shows it to him:

The story was about a young man in an airport who couldn’t remember if he was there because he was arriving or because he was going somewhere.

And then, to further complicate the story, it turns out that Goldman works from home, but Aura has a killer commute, to Columbia from the apartment she shares with Goldman in Brooklyn.  Goldman writes:

…  she regularly got lost.  She’d absent-mindedly miss her stop or take the train in the wrong direction and, engrossed in her book, her thoughts, or her iPod, not notice until she was deep into Brooklyn.  Then she’d call from a pay phone in some subway station I’d never heard of.

He gave her a lot of attention (Of course!  He was in love!) and then would worry:

How am I ever going to get another damn book written with this woman making me walk her to the subway every morning and cajoling me into coming up to Columbia to have lunch with her?

And then:  they are traveling to their favorite beach in Mexico: Mazunte.  There is a last-minute change of plans, they have to spend the night sleeping in separate dorm rooms in a hostel in Oaxaca. But his wife, Goldman remembers, was determined to get to Mazunte, as soon as possible:

Where, as we slept that night, was Aura’s wave in its long journey to Mazunte?


OK, now self simply has to stop.  Back to work, woman!  You know this is the last free time of your weekend!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Not Done/ Done

First, the Not Done:

  1. The biggest disappointment of the day was that self did not get to watch John Travolta in “From Paris With Love.”  Self is a sucker for anything Luc Besson.  But she didn’t feel like breaking a $20 just so she could pay $6 for the movie —  BWAH HA HA!  (Neither did she get around to watching Netflix rental “Julie & Julia,” which has been sitting on her coffee table for weeks, weeks!  Sorry, Meryl:  self loves you, but she wishes you would make an action movie!  Bet you would really kick butt!)
  2. Next, self did not walk the li’l crits.  After living with Dear Cuz for four days, and seeing how she walks her very own dog Flora four times a day, even in the most bitter cold (though of course she dresses up Flora in a red coat first!), self’s behavior toward li’l crits might be tantamount to animal abuse.
  3. She has not yet begun to cook dinner (Let’s hope she gets an idea about what to cook before hubby gets home!)

Now, the Done:

  1. Swept up doggie hair, after spending almost an entire day watching them waft from one end of the house to the other.
  2. Boiled linguini.  Ate.  This is just about the easiest task imaginable, at least in self’s list of tasks.
  3. Called Dearest Mum.  She has gotten in touch with everyone self has ever written about in a story.  Primarily the help.  This is pretty amazing.
  4. Went to Wegman’s.  Bought anemone “Jerusalem Red”; Salvia “Forest Fire”; blue forget-me-nots.
  5. Read an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous story by Roberto Bolaño (“William Burns”) in a back issue of The New Yorker.  Again wondered why it is not possible to honor writers while they are still alive.  (Well, self liked everything about the story except for the very last paragraph, which she thought was pretty banal.  But banal Roberto Bolaño is still way better than top-notch everyone else)
  6. Dragged in from the porch two huge boxes (from mail-order catalogues) addressed to hubby.  House is gradually filling up with the most surprising gew-gaws (battery-powered helicopters, lime green silicon egg poachers, motorized potato slicers:  you name it, hubby has ordered it)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Watching Oprah

Self wishes she could say that today, she got down to work and wrote a blue streak! Which she really should have done!

But, first, she spent an hour on Chowhound, reading replies to some of her posts (Someone disagreed with self about old-time Palo Alto hamburger joint Kirk’s Steakburgers, said their hamburgers were “greasy” — !!). Then, in the process of linking to Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing, Simply Amazing!

Today, self feels like a real stick-in-the-mud, dear blog readers.  Dearest Mum arrived yesterday from Las Vegas.  Self called this morning, and Dearest Mum was all bubbly and said she had the most fantastic time in Las Vegas!  So self told DM she was glad that she had fun, and then all Dearest Mum had to say after that was, “Got to go!  Keep writing!”

Which had the strange effect of making self feel like not writing.

Even though self very virtuously did write, and only took a brief break (to kill eight snails), she did it not from any feeling of joy, but from a feeling of obligation, which —  (Self, that’s how books get written —  from writers feeling a sense of obligation.  If not to a publisher, then to themselves.  But, once again, self digresses)

After self was sick of Read the rest of this entry »

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