Odds and ends. And pictures.

You know I’m writing this stuff down not just to please you folks, but to get it down before I forget, right? The photos are mostly for your entertainment, though.

Anyway, some random notes as I wind up the week. I may think of another one-topic post over the weekend, but one thing I learned this trip: I am shit at keeping hand-written notes. I find it easier to dictate notes via talk-to-text, with all the screwups that involves. Those authors who write in longhand? My hat, it is doffed.

For now, though, some randomness:


We got our third booster a week before we left, and here’s my confession: I behaved like a guy at an orgy who left his condoms in the car, but doesn’t want to miss any of the fun. Which is to say, I was shamefully mask-less in many venues, although I wore one in others. In my defense, I offer only two weak arguments: First, that when it comes to me and masks, heat is kryptonite. If it’s hot outside, I find it very hard to tolerate even a light, surgical-style mask. And it was plenty warm in both cities while we were there. It wasn’t a problem for outdoor stuff, and most of what we did was outdoors, but in some venues I just said fuck it, I’m taking my chances. The biggest test was when we saw Brian Jonestown Massacre at Sala Apollo in Barcelona. It was a packed, SRO house, and we were right there in the thick of it. No way — for me, anyway — to wear a mask in the press of bodies.

Which leads me to the second reason: Spain seems to have decided Covid is over. We did the same thing we did pre-France, that is, uploaded all our vax records to a government health agency and got the QR code for our phones, but not one venue asked to see them. Hardly anyone was wearing masks, so we followed the crowd, combined with some common sense. Packed subway cars, yes. Museums and airy spaces, no. I saw a man reading a newspaper on a subway train, translated the front-page headline as “Covid cases down” and thought, the vaccination rate here is 85 percent, I’ve got a fresh one in my immune system, let’s see how they work. And they worked fine. We didn’t get Covid.

Although we both got colds. In Madrid. My first since 2020. It slowed me down toward the end of the trip, but my knees were starting to hurt from all the walking, so I’ll take it.

(And if you think the colds may have been post-vax Covid, we tested. Both of us, twice. Negative.)

Getting around

I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was to be in two cities with excellent public transit, one of the great shames of Detroit (and many other cities). We went everywhere via subway and bus, and rarely had to walk more than 500 meters or so from station to destination. And don’t get me started on the high-speed rail. The driving distance from Barcelona to Madrid is 383 miles; we covered it in a little over three hours. The day trips to Segovia and Toledo, both 55 miles from Madrid? Twenty-seven minutes via rail. There are days when it takes longer to get to downtown Detroit, and I’m inner-ring.

But the U.S. didn’t invest in high-speed rail, because Reasons. Meanwhile, a horror story unfolded in Michigan the same day we took one of those trains: What was supposed to be a 5.5-hour ride from Detroit to Chicago via Amtrak ended up taking 19 hours. The engine broke down, the power went out, the toilets wouldn’t flush and they had no lights. One guy got off at Gary and paid an Uber $200 to take him to his hotel. Others just jumped off and walked to a nearby highway to wait for rides. Unreal. If there were a fast-train link between those cities, it would have taken about 90 minutes.

And a note about shoes: I didn’t make the mistake I made in Paris, i.e., try to be “fashionable” like the locals, and get by with a pair of close-to-the-foot Italian sneakers. I packed Adidas and my Chacos, which, thanks to “Hacks,” I now know are coded lesbian sandals. Don’t care. They saved my aching feet.

Eating. And drinking, of course.

You leave Spain with your belly full, thinking: Tapas. Tapas are the way to eat. Sit down, order two or three, plus a liter of sangria, and just nibble. Still hungry? Order another. The whole small-plates thing has a fan in me.

As for drinking, did you know — I did not — that the gin & tonic is basically the national drink of Spain? They drop the “and,” however, so you just ask for a “gintonic.” I had a misadventure with gin decades ago, and have only slowly been making my way back to it in recent years; even the smell made me nauseous. The Negroni was my first step, and after watching Alan down a few Spanish gintonics, I took the plunge. The experience is very different there; the waiter arrives with a huge balloon glass with two big-ass cubes in it, along with the bottle. S/he pours the gin from the bottle in front of you, then leaves you with your own personal bottle of high-end tonic. The high-end is crucial — no Canada Dry crap, but British-made Schweppes or Fever Tree, made with real sugar and not corn syrup. And damn, but they are so, so good. Cheers:

Note the juniper berries. True connoisseurs find that shit silly.

We’re running long here, so let’s get to the pix then, shall we?

The aqueduct in Segovia. Two thousand years old, built with no mortar. It can still carry water, the guidebooks say. Damn, them Romans knew their shit (although it’s been restored twice):

One for you Buckeyes:

The Sagrada Familia in afternoon light, and some detail from outside. Those are the shepherds, worshiping the Christ child with a lamb and at least one pigeon:

Dogs ride the subway with everyone else:

And with that, I’ll draw the post to a close and wish you all a fine weekend. Back next week.

Posted at 2:55 pm in Same ol' same ol' |

44 responses to “Odds and ends. And pictures.”

  1. Jeff Gill said on October 20, 2022 at 3:22 pm


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  2. Deborah said on October 20, 2022 at 3:41 pm

    That aqueduct is spectacular.

    In our hotel room in Paris tonight, my husband spilled a glass of red wine on the carpet and we knew that they didn’t allow red wine to be brought up to the rooms for obviously just this reason. We immediately got down on our hands and knees and cleaned it up to the point that you can’t even tell. We were in a frenzy there for a while. I was so glad he did it and not me, because normally it would be something I would do.

    We didn’t have a lot of time to walk around in Paris today because my husband had a business zoom call. Amazing that you can have an international zoom call, easy peasy.

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  3. JodiP said on October 20, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    Wow, I have never seen inside shots of the Sagrada Familia. It’s very cool. I love a good gin and tonic. I met up with some friends at this amazing distillery last night: https://mspmag.com/eat-and-drink/foodie/sneak-peek-earl-giles-distillery/ Every drink can be made alcohol free, so I went with that option for my second drink, and it was very tasty.

    I think Deborah noted some years back that everybody’s wearing sneakers, so if you do, you fit right in. Definitely the case in the Netherlands and Belgium, although it was inching into boot season, which were mostly Chelsea-style. I brought sturdy water-proof Keens in case it rained and white sneakers for dress ware. I like to pack lightly, so left my boots and oxfords at home.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your travels and insights!

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  4. alex said on October 20, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    Love my Keens. It’s one of the few brands of shoe that I can buy online and always be confident that it’ll be a good fit. I’ve pretty much gone khaki-polo casual at the office because I can barely stand to walk around in leather dress shoes anymore. I’ve become the Imelda Marcos of rubber-soled casuals. Comfiest things I’ve ever worn.

    That said, I’d be hard put to decide what to take on travels because they’re all so good.

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  5. LAMary said on October 20, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Same trip as an 18 year old, 1971 Spain, I ordered a gin and tonic at an outdoor cafe in a square in Madrid. It was very good, served exactly the way you described and I got very drunk. I walked across the square to a jewelry store, bought some earrings and got my ears pierced.

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  6. Dorothy said on October 20, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    My daughter-in-law is a high school Spanish teacher. I am not sure when she had her last summer visit to Spain, but she went for many years, including of course during her junior or senior year at Ohio State, where she met my son (but they didn’t start dating then – she is two years older than he is). Anyway, I think she must have gone to Spain maybe 12 years ago, after they started dating but before they got engaged. She bought me a pair of sewing scissors in Toledo and I just love using them. Every time I pick them up, I swear I am always thinking “these came from Spain!” They feel great in my hands. They are at my side every time I’m at the sewing machine.

    We are having a wonderful time at Disney World. Yesterday was Animal Kingdom, today was Epcot. Olivia’s having a blast and she really only had one meltdown so far – when she missed her chance to get in line to meet Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and get her autograph. She did meet/get autographs today from Daisy Duck, Belle, Pluto, and Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Tomorrow morning we have a breakfast reservation to meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and a few others. We just sit and bask in the sweetness of her expressions and joy. And repeat to each other the funny observations she says. Jack, 7 months old, just nurses, sleeps and smiles and occasionally fills his diaper. He’s resilient and has barely made a ripple in what we’re doing. When they’re in line getting pictures with characters, we mind Jack and do plenty of people watching. This place is some of the best people watching possible on the planet.

    Really great tee shirt captions are here, too. “I wish this line would Mufasa” was one; “Most Expensive Day Ever” was another.

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  7. LAMary said on October 20, 2022 at 10:45 pm

    This is a podcast about LA county’s crap sheriff. I know we’ve discussed her the worthlessness of elected sheriffs, and this guy and his predecessor are good examples of how bad a sheriff can be.


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  8. Dexter Friend said on October 21, 2022 at 2:00 am

    I notice that in streaming shows like “Shetland” and shows featuring Brit actors, it’s usually “g n’ t”.

    For comfort, my feet have not hurt for 8 years since the V.A. sends me to get custom insoles and durable shoes. And nobody yet has made fun of my velcro fastened tops.

    Oh…I went to my favorite orchard Thursday, been going there since 1988. It’s about 3/4 the way to Ann Arbor for me. Michigan Jonathon apples have been my lifelong favorite. My comment is about inflation. 2 gallons of cider, $16. One dozen smallish donuts, $12. And 2 dozen apples were $15. That’s 63 cents per apple. $43 for that little shopping stop. It seemed a tad inflationary. I don’t care because I only go twice a season. Nice drive witnessing the great color in the trees. The only fucking thing a maple tree is good for is fall color. I am the one who has had three of them fall on my house, garage, and pickup truck over the years.

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  9. Deborah said on October 21, 2022 at 4:49 am

    We’re waiting for my friend who moved from Chicago to Paris to hang out with us today. Tomorrow we go to his house in the suburbs to get together with his 2 kids and his French husband.

    Hardly anyone has been wearing masks since we’ve been in France and the few we see wearing them are mostly Asian. Some Asians wear masks regularly even well before the pandemic. I have seen 3 or 4 people a day wearing masks, and believe me with all of our walking we see thousands of people daily.

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  10. JodiP said on October 21, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Alex, I had ordered replacement Keens a few weeks before our trip. They were narrower than the 2 previous pairs, and I ended up returning them. I was bummed, because I would have bought that model for the rest of my life.

    I brought my old Keens along, but they didn’t feel great, so I bought a pair of light hiking shoes in Bruges. I don’t know what is going on with my feet, but I’m finding it hard to find athletic/walking shoes that don’t irritate them in some way. The clerk had to make about 5 trips up the stairs to the storeroom that day!

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  11. basset said on October 21, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Dad shoes here. wide New Balances with custom insoles.

    Fruit inflation… box of 22 apples for $46, but they’re special, y’know:

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  12. Mark P said on October 21, 2022 at 9:20 am

    My friends in Denver have a 16-year-old who was sent home from school with Covid this week. He has a fever and is miserable. His father also has it. His mother was out of town and decided to stay in their little travel trailer when she got home. The son had the original two shots and one booster in January. The mother got the second booster two weeks ago. She thinks the high school’s recent prom was a super spreader event. I thought those were over, but apparently not. We don’t wear masks. Even the doctors’ offices, which we seem to visit at least once a week, are no longer requiring masks. Is the pandemic over? I guess we’re voting with our faces.

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  13. alex said on October 21, 2022 at 9:26 am

    Sorry to hear that about your Keens Jodi. I’ve seen some critiques on their web site along the same lines. My only complaint so far is that I replaced a favorite pair of leather sandals with the same model in canvas and they aren’t as comfortable.

    So it looks like Lara Logan has become so unhinged that she got herself banished from Newsmax. After being thrown out of (not much) better places, of course.


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  14. ROGirl said on October 21, 2022 at 10:02 am

    Now she can proclaim that she’s been banned because of the Jewish puppet master, George Soros. The meetings get quite lively, but I can’t reveal much about them to the rest of the world.

    I have had one sinus cold in the past 2 years, haven’t had covid despite being in a workplace with a lot of unvaxed people who got sick.

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  15. Suzanne said on October 21, 2022 at 11:33 am

    Good news for me! After finishing all my leukemia treatments, my biopsy came back clear as did the testing for gene mutations that contribute to the disease. Does it mean that it will never return? No, but for now, this is a huge hurdle to clear!

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  16. Jenine said on October 21, 2022 at 11:51 am

    @Suzanne: Wonderful news – happy for you!
    I have had very good local jonathan apples this fall. Apple harvest is a great time of year.

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  17. JodiP said on October 21, 2022 at 11:58 am

    That’s is fantastic news, Suzanne! What a relief!

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  18. alex said on October 21, 2022 at 1:01 pm

    Yay Suzanne! Our tag team will continue ripping Jim Banks, My Pants, et al. up one side and down the other forever and ever Amen.

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  19. Scout said on October 21, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Awesome news, Suzanne! We all need more of that.

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  20. David C said on October 21, 2022 at 1:43 pm

    I’m in Twitmo for the next 4:45. Like most everyone I’m aware of who has been locked up context was everything and Twitter doesn’t do context. Oh well, it had to happen sometime. I’ve already been in Facebook jail so one more thing to add to my permanent record.

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  21. Little Bird said on October 21, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    The former guy has officially been subpoenaed! More good news!

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  22. Jeff Borden said on October 21, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    Hooray for you, Suzanne!

    I’ve considered sipping a little baby’s blood with my vodka, but ultimately decided it was better to use the mix from Mr. and Mrs. T with a spoonful of horseradish.

    My optimism for the midterms is ebbing.

    That fucking snake oil salesman created by Oprah Winfrey is closing the gap on John Fetterman, who is now being featured on Fox as so sickly and weak from his stroke. Against all odds, the idiot football player in Georgia may knock off the esteemed reverend. And fucking Ohio. . .where that fauxbilly venture capitalist will probably prevail over a classic, blue collar Dem in Tim Ryan. And the House? It seems almost a foregone conclusion that the QOP will regain it and install the vacuous Kevin McCarthy, who will cede great power to the likes of Jockstrap Gym Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene and other ignorant dolts. How long before they draw up the impeachment papers on old Joe? I read a story recently quoting some QOPer as wanting to probe Biden’s actions in Ukraine, which McCarthy already is signaling he’s happy to abandon to Putin but canceling “the blank check.” After that, presumably they’ll settle down to scuttling Social Security and Medicare in the name of budget cutting.

    I’m sending more donations to Dems, but I fear it’s not going to make a difference. People vote with their wallets.

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  23. Sherri said on October 21, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    Yay, Suzanne!

    Everyone here is celebrating rain! We’ve had less than a half inch of rain since July 1, and wildfires have been making our air quality terrible for several weeks. So as much as we complain about the endless rain of winter, when it doesn’t show up on schedule on Labor Day, we all get uncomfortable. The sun makes us manic, so we don’t know what to do when the sun is shining but we can’t go outdoors because the air is unhealthy.

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  24. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    Suzanne, that’s the best! I found out just an hour ago that I don’t have cancer and with the news about TFG and Bannon being sentenced I’m ready to celebrate. We went to the ice cream store and I got two scoops, one of german chocolate cake and the other salted caramel.

    The whole cancer scare has had me preoccupied and busy negotiating the brave new world of health care under our plan. They won’t make an appointment without doctor referral and insurance authorization. Then I get a call from the referral people–they can’t send it without a location for the appointment. On and on, round and round. I was trapped in a Catch-22.

    Finally, after a WEEK of working out details, I had the approval and called for an appointment. Nothing available until early December. I cried. They found me one for today.

    I’ve been crying a lot. Never on purpose, but I think it helped a few times with phone people.

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  25. susan said on October 21, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    Julie, you have Medicare Advantage? Sounds like the crap that plan throws to people. Ugh.

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  26. David C said on October 21, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    Mary turns 65 in February so the mailbox is loaded with Medicare Advantage flyers. Our landline is blocked for all but approved numbers so we don’t have that bother. We went to see our county’s SHIP person and since I’ll still be working, she recommended Mary sign up for Medicare Part A because it doesn’t have a premium and continue to have her on my work plan. So that’s what we’re going to do. She did a great job explaining the high cost of no premiums on Advantage plans. My work insurance is a high deductible with MSA plan and the so called high deductible is much lower than the Advantage plan deductibles. In fact it’s about half as much. She’s also going to start taking her Social Security even though she won’t be at her full retirement age. At least she can get something before the bastards pull the rug out from under us.

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  27. Julie Robinson said on October 21, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    Yup, we have an Advantage plan. The jury is still out, but we don’t have deductibles and no additional premiums. The disadvantage is getting permission to do anything beyond seeing our PCP.

    Our mail consists entirely of Medicare plan ads, political ads, and people who want to buy our house.

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  28. David C said on October 21, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    Remember the good old days when we would sometimes get a handwritten letter from someone who cared for us? Now it’s just glossy paper from someone who wants to manipulate us.

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  29. LAMary said on October 21, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    My mail is like that too, Julie. Tons of stuff in the mailbox,all crap.

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  30. susan said on October 21, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    Another disadvantage of “Advantage” is you can’t go “out of network.” When I had to have knee arthroplasty, I could not find a local orthopod who would do bilateral replacement. But because I have standard Medicare with supplemental insurance, I found a surgeon 150 miles away who does a lot of knees (and hips), including bilateral knee, which he recommended. I am so-o-o-oooo glad I did that. One surgery, one session of anesthesia, one big series of physical therapy. I didn’t need “permission” from any damn insurance provider to do that. I can make my own appointments with specialists. To me, it’s worth the monthly premium, given the horrid healthcare system in this horrid country.

    Also, I am helping a friend with lymphoma navigate her multiple and unending doctor’s and chemo appointments, since her husband has early stage dementia, and their two daughters do not live close by. It always shocks me, and pisses me off, that the first thing she has to do every damned time when checking in at the appointments counter, is pull out her credit card to pay her “co-pay” before anything else happens. Because she has Advantage. That $hi† adds up fast. What a racket.

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  31. susan said on October 21, 2022 at 6:05 pm

    Also, other than the monthly supplement premium, I did not pay a penny for anything from that big surgery. Medicare paid 80% of everything, the supplemental insurance paid the rest. All the statements I got were “0” owed. Best I could determine, the total cost, including three days in hospital, was way more than $125,000. I can’t imagine how Advantage plans would nickel and dime that one with co-pays.

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  32. Mark P said on October 21, 2022 at 8:19 pm

    If you’re just starting Medicare, make sure you sign up for a Rx plan or have existing coverage. Otherwise you’ll pay a penalty when/if you sign up.

    We had an Advantage plan but my wife lost her PCP when the doctor was not in network one year. The dental coverage sounded good, but the only in-network dentist within any reasonable distance was 20 miles away in another town, and wasn’t in the network after one year. We went with Medicare and a supplement, and are happy to pay the price, despite it being ridiculously high. We’ve both had medical problems in the last year and really, really happy not to have to worry about costs.

    My Denver friend tried to get Paxlovid for her husband because of his asthma and a history of pulmonary embolism, but they wouldn’t prescribe it because of the anticoagulant he’s on.

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  33. Jeff Gill said on October 21, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    Julie, I rejoice with you!

    David C., a friend asked a question on Twitter about what a church should do in order to be more committed to mission. I responded, church history instructor that I am, with a link to the “Last Will & Testament of the Springfield Presbytery” and tweeted “die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large…” which is a direct quote of this historic 1804 document in early American church history.

    Twitter flagged me, shut me down, said it was a violation of the terms of service to promote suicide, and suggested I delete my tweet to get my account back. They also offered a path to appeal, which I took, and was off Twitter two days, which is probably good for me in general — but the appeal ruled I was encouraging self-harm. I deleted the tweet, to then see exhortations phrased “since you have admitted you were in violation” which made me regret the deletion, but there was no path back, either. Apparently I am on a watch list for an indeterminate period of time as a known violator of account guidelines.

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  34. David C said on October 22, 2022 at 6:29 am

    Pretty much the same thing here, Jeff. Someone wrote about the Skeletor’s Republican plan to raise Social Security and Medicare age to 75 and end eligibility at age 90. I replied “So at 90 you’re just supposed to go off somewhere and die? How very pro-life of them.” That’s a threat, unless you can read and understand English. I knew it was pointless to appeal because I never heard of anyone who has won an appeal so I took the plea bargain. I guess it comforting to know the AI is just as stupid as its promoters think it’s smart.

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  35. alex said on October 22, 2022 at 11:04 am

    On the bright side, Elon Musk wants to suspend Twitter’s rules to allow Donald Trump to spew lies, Kanye West to spew anti-semitism and Putin to subvert NATO. Soon you’ll be able to speak of death in plain English in even the most egregious context and it won’t be filtered by AI.

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  36. Mark P said on October 22, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    I just heard that my friend in Denver whose husband and son have Covid, has just started showing symptoms herself. She got the latest booster. Not good.

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  37. jim said on October 22, 2022 at 1:05 pm

    susan: do you mind sharing which supplemental plan you have? I need to sign up, and am shopping.

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  38. Mark P said on October 22, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    My Denver friend tells me the school didn’t care that her son tested positive, and apparently they are fine with him returning to school immediately after a negative test. They no longer track cases at schools. I guess we’re treating it like flu now.

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  39. Julie Robinson said on October 22, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    We learned that plans vary by region. Ours doesn’t have copays. Yesterday’s testing would have been about 1K.

    Some friends went to a conference and picked up Covid despite masking and being fully vaxxed. They took Paxlovid and then got a rebound infection and were both pretty dang sick. A dear lady from our church went into the hospital for surgery and ended up dying of Covid. It’s not clear if she was incubating it when she went in or if she picked it up in the hospital. Either way, a horrible way to die.

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  40. susan said on October 22, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Jim @37 – I have supplemental “Plan G” with Asuris, but I don’t know if every state has the same kinds of offerings. Here is a table released a few times a year by the Warshington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. It shows all the Medigap plans that are current in Warshington. Note that although premiums vary in cost for each plan, each individual plan from all the different companies has to offer the exact same benefits in that plan. I don’t know why, then, one would pick, for example, Plan G from GPM Health and Life ($279/month) over Cigna’s Plan G ($195/mo). They have to cover the same benefits.

    See if your state Insurance Commissioner’s Office has something like this, or “SHIBA” (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) or “SHIP” — State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Those are volunteer advisors who are really helpful in wading through all that stuff. They can’t tell you what to do, but they can explain it all.

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  41. susan said on October 22, 2022 at 6:08 pm

    And here is a table showing the benefits for each of the supplemental plans in Warshington.

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  42. Deborah said on October 22, 2022 at 6:17 pm

    Great news Suzanne and Julie!

    Our last night in France. We fly out of Paris in the afternoon tomorrow. This has been a wonderful trip.

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  43. Suzanne said on October 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Mike Huckabee is now hawking some sleep aid called Relaxium on the airwaves of cable tv. Anything to make a buck.


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  44. Ann said on October 22, 2022 at 11:57 pm

    Great photos, Nance. Great news Suzanne and Julie. Ridiculous story, Jeff.

    I used to do this for a living. Original Medicare with a Plan G supplement is the way to go if you can afford it (plus a pharmacy plan). My husband got a letter from Mayo (where he’s had one telemedicine appt) reminding him that they’re not in any Advantage plans. My niece, who does kidney policy for a living, makes the point that that’s really bad news for anyone who needs a transplant. But of course that’s how the Advantage plans make all their money. They don’t want the people who need transplants. They want the 65 year olds who think the free gym membership sounds great. That’s where the money is.

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