Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category
I’m making Stir-Fried Tofu and Peppers, by Martha Rose Shulman, whose recipes I tend to like: they are on the healthful end of the spectrum.
I prep a little at a time for most recipes, and in this case it is essential. First, I put the block of (firm or extra firm) tofu on a dishtowel, wrap the towel around it, put a small cutting board on it, and then a large (28 oz) can of tomatoes on the board as a weight. This removes excess water from the tofu. That starts shortly after noon, and from time to time I go and wrap the tofu on a fresh section of towel, replace board and weight (the can), and return to my chair.
Around 4:00, I start prep seriously. I make the tofu marinade and the sauce for the dish (in separate bowls, natch). I slice the tofu into the dominoes (you can also grate it, and that’s pretty good), and put tofu into marinade, to be stirred from time to time.
I always make a double recipe, since the tofu I buy comes in 1-lb chunks, and as you can see from the cooking times, all prep and measuring must be done before the cooking begins. A double recipe would call for 4 red bell peppers and 2 green bell peppers, but obviously you can substitute. I used 3 red bell peppers, 2 yellow bell peppers, and 1 green bell pepper: 6 peppers total, for a double recipe. I imagine you could neak a jalapeño or two in there as well.
The times: Stir-fry for 2 minutes (but for a double recipe in a 10″ cast-iron skillet, I went for 8 minutes), add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 20 seconds, add tofu etc. and stir-fry 2 minutes, then add sauce, cover, and cook 3 minutes: total time is 7 minutes 30 seconds for the recipe, though obviously my cooking times were longer. Still, prep must be complete before you begin.
I always use more garlic than recipes call for (I can’t taste any garlic in the prescribed amounts), and of course I use no noodles or rice: low-carb diet. So the double recipe serves two, in effect, since the calories from noodles/rice are absent.
I’m enjoying a very nice Bourbon Old Fashioned, a favorite cocktail except for having to crush the ice. I possible should get an ice crusher, although the ice-tapper works pretty well once you learn it. (Mine is much older model, but the principle’s the same.)
An Old Fashioned is a cocktail (no water, soda, or other mixer), not a highball: rye (in the original) or bourbon (in mine), a little sugar syrup (easier than a sugar cube), and a dash of bitters over cracked ice.
And I need it after days like today. The news is highly interesting but very draining.
My Paprika Recipe Manager now has 182 recipes, and they are generally low in carbohydrates (e.g., no pasta, no pizza, no bread, no rice, no noodles, etc.). If you have that program, I’m happy to export for you the recipes in their current state. Most are from Cooking.NYTimes.com, but generally modified by me, particularly after I try them and figure out better (for me) proportions and procedures.
Ryan Cooper writes in The Week:
Matthew Stewart owes $62,668.78 for drugs, surgeries, and other treatment. With both bankruptcy and possibly fatal liver failure looming, he doesn’t even bother opening his bills anymore, he told The Week. “There was no point. They just upset everyone,” he says.
Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get.
But now he faces imminent bankruptcy and possibly death.
The incomprehensible brutality of Stewart’s story is an object lesson in how the American health care system mercilessly crushes American citizens when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. With a liver transplant, Stewart might well live a full life. But before he can even be eligible for one, he must thread his way through a Kafkaesque labyrinth of private and public bureaucracy — and hope he doesn’t die before he makes it through.
With cirrhosis, it’s typically just a matter of time before your liver starts failing — and you usually run into very serious complications long before total shutdown happens. (Cirrhosis is most often caused by alcohol abuse, fatty liver, or viral hepatitis, but in Stewart’s case it was just an immune system gone haywire, he says.) The liver does an astounding variety of things, but first among them is cleaning the blood of toxins and metabolic byproducts. So when it stops working properly, about the first thing that happens is a blood backup. Veins from various parts of the digestive system come together into the portal vein, which feeds blood into the liver to be cleaned. But if the liver is damaged, the blood can’t get through properly, and pressure builds up in the portal system, causing what’s called portal hypertension. That in turn can lead to ascites, a huge build-up of fluid in the belly. (In a separate process, a failing liver can also cause hepatic encephalopathy, where unprocessed waste gets into the brain and damages it.)
But a more direct result of portal hypertension is dilation of veins in the portal system, most commonly in the esophagus — creating esophageal varices. These small veins can stretch significantly under the strain, and as one might expect, sometimes they rupture.
That’s what happened to Stewart on Sept. 24, 2016.
It began feeling like an intense flu, but soon he started vomiting blood. The varices in his esophagus had burst, and were pouring blood into his stomach. To avoid an hours-long wait at the emergency room, he went to an urgent care clinic to get a quick diagnosis, and when the seriousness of his situation became clear, he was transferred to the emergency room.
That is where Stewart’s billing problems started, he says. The clinic sent him to an out-of-network hospital, because it had the first available bed, despite the fact that his in-network hospital was only a block away. “At no time was I ever asked or given any choice in what hospital the ambulance was taking me to,” he says. By that time he was nearly dead from blood loss, so surgery to close up six different hemorrhaged varices had to be started immediately.
His claim list shows 13 separate charges on this date with a sticker price totaling $73,859.36, of which his insurance covered $9,695.87, leaving him with a bill of $46,020.36 (reduced somewhat by negotiation between the insurance company and the hospital). In an emailed statement, his insurance company said, “We value all of our members and are seeking to learn more — including this member’s name — so that we can review the circumstances surrounding this situation.” The hospital that provided his emergency surgery did not respond to a request for comment.
After the surgery, Stewart spent two days in the ICU at the out-of-network hospital, then was finally transferred to the in-network one. At some point, a social worker claimed that the transfer would allow him to bill the first hospital stay as in-network, but no: “Instead, we just got separate large bills from both hospitals,” he says. . .
Continue reading. And do read the entire article. There’s a lot more, and it’s chilling. The United States government is failing its people.
Later in the article:
. . . But wait, you might be thinking. Doesn’t ObamaCare have out-of-pocket limits that would prevent this sort of thing?
It does indeed. But there are numerous loopholes that medical providers can and do take advantage of.
The biggest is . . .
Not to worry: President Trump is already working to shut down Obamacare/Affordable Care Act, and he has already worked out a plan the covers all Americans with better coverage and at a lower cost. He has not yet revealed that plan, but he definitely said that he has it. However, I feel that this may be an “alternative fact” (aka “lie”). Still, as you see at the link, he does have a plan, and it will cover all Americans and cost less.
All skills are learned through practice, and life skills are no different. The idea that you are practicing makes it easier for you to forgive your failures, provided that you continue to practice in order to eliminate the fault(s) that led to the failure.
Alright, you’ve probably read a zillion articles about happiness online and you’re not a zillion times happier. What gives?
Reading ain’t the same as doing. You wouldn’t expect to read some martial arts books and then go kick ass like Bruce Lee, would you? All behavior, all changes, must be trained.
The ancient Stoics knew this. They didn’t write stuff just to be read. They created rituals — exercises — to be performed to train your mind to respond properly to life so you could live it well.
That’s why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to add practice and then training. For as time passes we forget what we learned and end up doing the opposite, and hold opinions the opposite of what we should. — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.9.13-14
And what’s fascinating is that modern scientific research agrees with a surprising amount of what these guys were talking about 2000 years ago.
Okay, kiddo, time to rummage through the Stoic toolbox and dig out some simple rituals you can use to be much happier.
So let’s say life decides to suplex you and you’re feeling 32 flavors of bad. What’s the first thing in the Stoic bag of philosophical tricks to improve how you feel — and help you make better choices in the future?
Ask, “What Would I Recommend If This Happened To Someone Else?”
Traffic is terrible. Your friend is driving. He leans on the horn, punches the steering wheel, and shouts at the other drivers. You’re like, “Jeez, calm down. Why you getting so worked up? Chill.”
The next day traffic is terrible but you’re driving… So, of course, you lean on the horn, punch the steering wheel, and shout at the other drivers.
See the problem here, Sherlock? We all do it. But there’s a lesson to be learned that the Stoics knew a few millennia ago…
When something bad happens, ask yourself, “What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?” And then do that. You’ll probably be more rational. And it’s harder to ignore the advice — because it’s your own.
In his Handbook, Epictetus advocates this sort of “projective visualization.” Suppose, he says, that our servant breaks a cup. We are likely to get angry and have our tranquility disrupted by the incident. One way to avert this anger is to think about how we would feel if the incident had happened to someone else instead. If we were at someone’s house and his servant broke a cup, we would be unlikely to get angry; indeed, we might try to calm our host by saying “It’s just a cup; these things happen.” Engaging in projective visualization, Epictetus believes, will make us appreciate the relative insignificance of the bad things that happen to us and will therefore prevent them from disrupting our tranquility.
Slick advice. Does it work? When I spoke with Duke professor Dan Ariely, author of the bestseller Predictably Irrational, he said pretty much the same thing. He called it “taking the outside perspective.” Here’s Dan:
If I had to give advice across many aspects of life, I would ask people to take what’s called “the outside perspective.” And the outside perspective is easily thought about: “What would you do if you made the recommendation for another person?” And I find that often when we’re recommending something to another person, we don’t think about our current state and we don’t think about our current emotions. We actually think a bit more distant from the decision and often make the better decision because of that.
The Golden Rule says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In honor of the Stoics, I’m going to suggest that when something gets you worked up you should follow “The Toga Rule” and “Do unto yourself what you would recommend to others.”
(To learn the 6 rituals that ancient wisdom says will make your life awesome, click here.)
Alright, you’re following “The Toga Rule” when life goes sideways. But some reactions are hard to squelch. You have bad habits. We all do. So what do the Stoics have on their Batman utility belt to deal with bad habits?
Turns out they were way ahead of their time on this one…
Use The “Discipline Of Assent”
There’s usually a moment — however brief — when . . .
In the Guide, I touch on the first idea:
In any situation or circumstance, most people already know what actions they should undertake or what decisions they should make. (This becomes evident when people say that they don’t know what to do in a situation, but when asked what a counselor, therapist, coach, teacher, or minister (or rabbi or priest or imam) would advise, they usually find it easy to state the advice they would get.) Starting each day with a ritual of personal grooming adds just enough push so that you will do some actions or make some decisions that you already know you should do or make, and those steps are enough to start the cycle of positive feedback, which can grow quickly (cf. regenerative feedback).
This process works because the force driving it is (1) unobtrusive (that is, it comes from doing a routine and necessary task, not something out of you ordinary routine, which would require some deliberate commitment) and (2) enjoyable (in attracting flies, honey works better than vinegar: people learn faster from seeking pleasure than from avoiding pain) and (3) (quite important) daily: the push may be small, but it’s steady and on-going, and once the effects start to become evident, the process picks up speed because of its self-reinforcing (regenerative) nature.
It’s also worth noting that . . .
Kevin Baker writes in the NY Times. His full column is definitely worth reading (I at first wanted to quote the entire thing), but let me quote just one section:
. . . I know that Mr. Trump was elected, in part, because too many people were still hurting in this economy, from the terrible disruptions of their lives and their communities over the last 25 years. I have been poor and desperate myself, and I know what that feels like. In their giddy rush to globalization and the paper economy, too many liberal — and conservative — leaders have made the same mistake that they made in Vietnam, when they tried to palm that misbegotten conflict off on the poor and the working class. They have forgotten — again — that this great nation will endure and will prosper only if we all prosper together.
Yet that is no excuse for what we did last November.
Throughout our history, Americans have encountered economic shocks much worse than anything we know today, and with many fewer resources at their disposal. American working people have agency, they are plenty educated, and in past crises they rejected the extremism that other nations turned to. Even in the Great Depression they did not succumb to the ideologies of Fascism and Communism sweeping the world. When the system seemed broken in the past, when the elites and the major parties seemed irretrievably corrupt and deaf to their appeals, their response was to build true democratic movements from the ground up, and to push them on to victory even if that took decades.
The populists after the Civil War, faced with the collapse into peonage of American farmers — then about half the population — built nationwide lecture and correspondence networks, and eventually won the reforms they needed, even though it took them more than 60 years. The first wave of feminists fought for more than 70 years to win their biggest demand; Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were dead by the time women got the vote. African-Americans battled ceaselessly, in every way they could, against their enslavement and Jim Crow, training their own lawyers to take their cases to the Supreme Court. The struggles for labor rights, gay rights, Hispanic rights, civil liberties, religious toleration, women’s control over their own bodies — all these battles and more took decades to win. They are the glory of our civilization.
Today’s passive, unhappy Americans sat on their couches and chose a strutting TV clown to save us.
What they have done is a desecration, a foolish and vindictive act of vandalism, by which they betrayed all the best and most valiant labors of our ancestors. We don’t want to accept this, because we cannot accept that the people, at least in the long run of things, can be wrong in our American democracy. But they can be wrong, just like any people, anywhere. And until we do accept this abject failure of both our system and ourselves, there is no hope for our redemption. . .