Friday, August 24, 2007

Food Critics on the Stick
will take you to a video of the MN state fair as seen by the food editors of America, including the famous Judy Walker of the N.O. Times Picayune!

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Slice of New Orleans, Post K from Judy Walker

Link to Judy Walker's blog here:

Opinion piece: Hallelujah! An eyesore is on the way out

Posted by Judy Walker August 09, 2007 10:19AM

This recent opinion piece on the editorial page is about my family's struggle with the blighted house behind us -- and even worse problems that my neighbors have because of it.

Saturday, August 4, 2007
METRO - EDITORIAL Page 07 Point of View

By Judy Walker

Last week was fantastic. I nearly went blind finding it in all that tiny legal notices type, but the first and second notices of the impending demolition of the blighted house behind our home were published Wednesday and Friday. The notice must be published once more before the house can be bulldozed.

I called my neighbor, Dwayne, who lives next door to the blighted house. He was equally happy. In our continuing dialogue over the last two years on this topic, he said recently that a staffer for our City Council person told him the house was due to be demolished soon, and here was confirmation.

At last.

In this house I see all the similar stagnating properties around New Orleans, spreading noxious funk to all the houses around them, adding another layer of vexation to the long hard slog of recovery. Though some undoubtedly can and should be saved, the Reggie White Foundation, operators of the Crescent Rising program offering free demolitions to New Orleans residents, estimates there are 15, 000 storm-ruined structures that need to come down.

In the old pre-K world, this house already was on the city's blighted and adjudicated list (whatever adjudicated means). But a good neighbor lived a semi-rural life there, with a big garden and flowering trees. For his grandchildren, he had rabbits, beagles, chickens and an above-ground pool. He sent his rent checks to a guy in California. Post-K, he lives with his daughter in eastern New Orleans.

The house was never gutted.

Hurricane winds miraculously twisted a giant branch from the 50-foot pecan tree on this property so as to miss the five houses it could have smashed, including ours and Dwayne's. It fell on top of the above-ground pool, creating a perfect mosquito environment. After about a year of our semi-continuous phone calls, FEMA paid for the removal of the downed part of the tree, a task that took two days and several dump trucks.

Somebody -- I wonder who? -- carried out stealth Round-Up spraying on this property, which kept the weeds down until summer. But then, aggressive vines spring to life, flex their tendrils and grow before your eyes, the giant squids of horticulture. Currently, three different types of vines are flourishing on the blighted house.

Finally, a year and a half after three feet of water covered it, I had time to focus on our outdoors. As is the case for many local gardeners, my space went from full shade to full sun after the overhanging hunk of pecan tree fell.

But the biggest challenge is that the most aggressive of the vines wants to grow on our side of the new fence. Every morning, I scour my flower beds for sprouts pushing through the soil, and the fence for tendrils sneaking between the boards, clawing toward my Meyer lemons and antique roses. (At times like this, an obsessive compulsive attitude toward pulling weeds comes in handy.)

Dan Gill, our resident plant expert, told me he once had a patch of this same vine on his property, and after four years of vigilance he eliminated it.

Four. Years.

The vine is invading the attic of the other neighboring house and is attacking Dwayne's fence. Then I found out Dwayne has a far worse pest.

"Do you have a rodent problem?" he asked.

It seems that rats are coming from the blighted house up through the drains into his bathtub. Because the rats are able to push the plug out of the way, he has to keep the bathtub half full of water at all times.

Did I mention that Dwayne has the cutest young kid you've ever seen?

"It's enough to make you question your commitment to New Orleans, " Dwayne said.

Now, multiply the problems that one house can cause times 15, 000. I'm hoping for much more of that tiny legal type soon, a giant step toward whatever might pass for normalcy for all of us who live near blighted houses.

We'll be singing a chorus of hallelujahs.

And pulling weeds for years to come.

. . . . . . .

Staff writer Judy Walker can be reached at (504) 826-3485 or

Saturday, August 11, 2007

You Can't MakeThis Stuff Up

From my favorite magazine, to which I strongly suggest you all subscribe, or at least read on line at: there is this, which raises the question: If they can't afford housing how do they afford to travel about playing a game?

Copenhagen, Denmark
Soccer players defect
Fifteen of the soccer players who took part in the Homeless World Cup last week failed to return to their home countries. The Homeless World Cup is an annual amateur tournament for homeless people. This year, 500 players from 48 countries participated in the games in Copenhagen. When it was all over, seven players from Burundi, four from Liberia, three from Cameroon, and one from Afghanistan were missing. Organizers of the charity event said they were “upset and angry” that players would exploit the trip to sneak off into the West. “We want to review the situation and put new measures in place to ensure this doesn’t affect the positive impact of the tournament,” said tournament spokeswoman Kat Byles.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

US public sees news media as biased, inaccurate, uncaring: poll

Follow this link to the story under the above headline.

Hmmm. You don't suppose this would have anything to do with plummeting newspaper subscriptions do you?

It is so much easier to blame the Internet and the electronic generation!

Make This As Soon As Possible. . .

was the subject line in the latest email from Judy Walker, food writer extraordinaire. This is the recipe that won Second Place honors at the Great American Seafood event in New Orleans last weekend. Judy says even if you just make the salad part you will end up like her. She can't stop thinking about it after having only a taste!

Sounds yummily summery too!

Saute red snapper with melon and mango salad

Makes 6 servings

½ cantaloupe

½ honeydew

1 mango

4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided use

1 tablespoon chopped mint

2 tablespoons honey

½ cup seasoned rice vinegar

¼ teaspoon Asian chili paste

1 cup seedless watermelon, cut in large dice

1 cup cantaloupe, large dice

1 cup casaba melon, large dice

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

6 red snapper fillets, 8 to 10 ounces each, scaled and
scored, pinbones removed

Salt, pepper, flour

2 tablespoons each canola oil and butter

Cut the halves of cantaloupe and honeydew, and the
mango, into julienne strips. Mix together the honey,
rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, mint and
chili paste, and toss with the julienne melon and

In a separate bowl, mix together the diced melon and
gently toss with the salt, sugar, lime juice and the
additional 2 tablespoons cilantro.

Season snapper fillets with salt and pepper and dust
with flour. Divide the 6 fillets, skin side down, into
two large saute pans preheated with 1 tablespoon
canola oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in each pan.

Cook over medium to high heat for about 3 to 4
minutes. More of the cooking needs to be done on the
skin side so it's nice and crispy. Turn and continue
cooking for additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Friday, August 3, 2007


After 8 months of working on the issue of getting the wisdom teeth out and the jaw work done simultaneously by an out of network doctor who is highly regarded in his field, we threw up our hands in total frustration.

You may recall it started in December. Mel’s cartilage had migrated to the front of the jaw hinge. The specialist recommended arthocentesis and gave us an estimate for combining it with the wisdom teeth extraction. In December the matter would have been divided between Delta Dental for the teeth and Aetna HMO for the jaw. This is when we learned that Doc is not in the Aetna network. This required going to the primary care physician and getting a referral for the medical portion (even though the medical doc never had anything to do with it). After a couple of months and a zillion calls requiring intervention from the Aetna participator rep on the primary’s end we finally learned that it was up to me to search the list of participating specialists and find one in the network. After much more research I find only 1 in the entire metro area who does jaw work at all. He is 25.3 miles away in Chandler so I figure I am home free. I write in for the out of network approval. Well, it is denied ( the travel limit has somehow gone up from 25 miles to 30) which I learn after several more calls just two days before we leave on vacation.
I relent and make an appt with the network guy for the day after our return. This is time critical as college is starting in August, Mel is working and this is going to take some time. Well he does not want to treat the matter the same way, opting instead to do the extraction and try some splint therapy. And he was wrong on a number of things that Mel had just learned in anatomy class. Skeptical I call the regular dentist and he cautions that the original specialist knows what he is doing and if that were the efficacious route he would have recommended it himself.
So back to square one. I attempt to work out some kind of cash deal for the medical portion with the original specialist only to find that after January 1 Delta no longer covers wisdom teeth extractions if you have medical that will do it, the specialist’s rates have gone up and he forgot to include the estimate for the splint follow up on my document which is $1900. Now I would need to pay $4800 in advance and risk getting nothing reimbursed.

So now I am back on the insurance track again. I ask for a copy of the first denial, having never received it in the mail. Incredulous the Aetna phone person indicated I was out of luck-it was an electronic file and they could not make a copy. Now I have to get our HR department involved at work from whence the coverage emanates. Numerous conference calls later I finally get a hard copy of the letter faxed to me and now I know my appeal rights.

I appeal. I hear nothing until a couple of weeks later when I get a letter acknowledging receipt of my appeal. THE VERY NEXT DAY I get the denial. Now it seems that I have NO COVERAGE WHATSOEVER as TMJ is excluded under the policy under every circumstance. If only I had known that in first place. We consulted the policy’s fine print regarding the wisdom teeth but it never occurred to us that the jaw issue would not be covered.

We gave up. Mel got her teeth cleaned as the 6 months had elapsed between regular cleaing appointments. It was a bit challenging to hold her mouth open. But generally she is not in any immediate pain and her mouth limitations are bearable. Our new plan is to wait for open enrollment, change plans (I will never do the HMO thing again, EVER--something I had sworn off in the past but thought that Aetna would be a better deal than that old program, but, no, they are too busy spending $358 million buying a local insurance agency to pay for my piddling claims) and up the flexible spending account to cover what will be left. Of course that may be the whole thing as it will no doubt be considered a preexisting condition and declined even if we can find a jaw policy.

So I let it go.

Then the miracle. Seems Mel was jumping on a trampoline with her pal Ned and he bashed into her face (on accident). She said it hurt like hell for about 3 hours but ever since her jaw seems to be in perfect alignment. We are now rushing to get her to a regular oral surgeon (½ mile from our house I might add–not 25.3 miles away in Chandler) who will take both insurances and work it out from there. How is that for turning lemons into lemonade? I figure if I billed my time this whole thing would require a second mortgage on my house.

THIS SYSTEM IS INSANE!!!! We have got to get the insurance companies out of the way. There is no relationship with your doctor anymore and that is the key to maintaining proper health. By delaying and arguing and faxing and appealing we add huge costs to the system, the most major of which is the lack of efficiency (here we would have had two procedures, two anaesthetics, etc) not to mention the increased cost associated with treating the worsening condition while time passes. INSURANCE companies add nothing of value to the system. The value they add is to their bottom line. This takes all of the market place decisions and moves them to a secondary market. This dilutes the value of information necessary for making a sound economic decision in the market place. This is not capitalism-it is an aberration
I have noted before that the problem with capitalism and the environment is that it is impossible to put a market value on the air/water, etc.(this carbon trading thing is simply a bunch of hoo haw). Well we have the same problem in the health care industry. The cost of maneuvering the system, which is often borne by a coopted family member is never captured. Therefore the measurement is seriously distorted. If my time were quantified and added to the mix in this fiasco along the actual cost would probably boggle the mind and make it simply a bad way to go financially.

We need to get to the private health care account model as soon as possible (unless someone can come up with a better idea in the meanwhile). At least that would get the biggest impediment out of the way.

Now, I am really letting it go. I mean it this time.