Tuesday, December 1, 2009
When people think of New York, they envision bright lights and dark alley ways. They think of a teaming Metropolis where anything can be obtained or experienced if you have the money and the desire for it.
New York is where Jerry Orbach (His work is his monument.) played Billy Flynn on Broadway and Lenny Briscoe on 'Law & Order'. It is, and was, the capital of commerce and art; of fashion, food and great music. Busy and exciting, it's made even spicier by a hint of danger and intrigue. It's the 'Big Apple. It's the city that never, ever sleeps.
I come from no such place. "My' Town, New York slept straight through the 1930's and into the 1970's, yawning and shifting position only slightly during it's long nap. It was a place where dirt roads were common and sidewalks (when there were any) were made of wood. It was a town and a time where a nine year old child could walk into the local druggist and buy a pack of cigarettes for her mother, without a blink from either side of the counter. (And it wasn't always a lie.) It was a town that even the railroad had abandoned, yet we still all lived on the wrong side of the tracks.
If 'My' Town possessed a doctor, we children didn't know of it. When we were ill; when our cousins, aunts, uncles and probably our dogs were ill, we were put into a car and driven to Ossining. (Which is home to another monument occasionally featured on 'Law & Order'; Sing-Sing Prison.)
We were taken to one Dr. Gilbert, a quiet and genteel physician of the old school - A man who resembled 'Judge Hardy' in appearance, dress and manner. We visited him in his office which was located in his own home, a sedate brick affair tucked quietly into a well-heeled residential cul-de-sac. His waiting room looked as though it had been decorated by Jane Austen, with paintings of rosy-cheeked children smiling out from gilded frames hung on creamy walls. The carpeting was thick, (in an Oriental style, if I correctly recall) and the settees were in heavy brocade.
The good doctor, and I say that in all sincerity, had his office to one side of a long, darkened hallway, at the very end of which was the door that led to the house proper. We never saw behind that door, and I was somehow wildly curious about 'Mrs.' Gilbert and her brood of little 'Gilberts'. (Who had to have been in their thirties by then, considering Doctor Gilbert's advanced age.)
In his brightly lit office, we received our polio shots, had deeply embedded splinters removed and stood stock-still on his tall, metal scale while he measured us and told us how much we'd grown since our last visit. He was a full-service doctor, providing care from before infancy to beyond old age for generations of our family. In fact, we later discovered that he had acted as de facto marriage counselor for our parents. He kept us all well.
That was an age ago. I still live in 'My' Town, but time has visited us, and while we retain a measure of 'Podunk'ness, we are now just another bedroom community to Gotham that lies forty miles southeast.
And nobody has just one doctor anymore. Between us, my husband and I have Dr. FeelGoodEnough, a psychiatrist and all-around good fellow who tends to my bouts of melancholia and shares my interest in travel, botany and photography. We have Dr. Mailbagger, a bright young thing (under fifty) who syringes out my husband's ears and manages his asthma symptoms. And we have Dr. Longshadow, who bills himself as an internist and phlebotomist. It is Dr. Longshadow who has inspired this essay.
Dr. Orin Longshadow received his medical education from a prestigious European university at about the same time that 'My' Town was hitting the snooze button for the last time. I know little about his personal life and would like to keep it that way. On first impression, you would notice that he is a man who looks you squarely in the the elbow, the shoe, or at the wall behind you. A veritable oracle, he deduces your illness, diagnosis AND your course of treatment before you've walked through the office door. Admirably, he disregards any wild opinions from his patients. (He once advised me to have my gallbladder removed because my liver enzymes were elevated. Since I was visiting him to be treated for an acute case of Lyme Disease and had been running a temperature approaching 103 degrees, I protested that my liver enzymes had every good reason to be elevated without any assistance from my gallbladder. Fourteen years hence, my gallbladder remains well-behaved at home and my liver enzymes are perfectly within normal range, thank you very much, Dr. Longshadow.)
It's my own fault, I suppose. He's given me ample reason for finding a different (read, 'better') physician. About a decade and a half ago, I fell into a particularly dark, blue funk. And having no one else to turn to, I made an appointment with him. I sat on the examination table, weeping and unable to explain why, while he stood as far away as that hot and tiny room would allow, his back up against the door and his hand straying for the knob. I was sent away with a prescription for Zoloft (2 refills), Ativan, (no refills. This is New York.) and the admonition that if I took it into my head to commit suicide, I should first dispose of the bottles so that no one would know he had prescribed them for me. He offered me no follow-up visit and no referral to a psych therapist. His only piece of advice was that nurses (I am a nurse.) were very likely to become addicted to drugs.
Because of that visit, and because of his subsequent hunger for my gallbladder, I avoided Dr. Longshadow for many, many years. Good fortune has given me reasonably good health and I felt that my procrastination in finding a actual doctor was forgiveable. Indeed, on the eve of my 55th birthday, I remain hale and hearty, free of any physical complaint except those attendant to my age and genetic heritage.
I was recently casting about for a job. I found one quickly enough and was only mildly distressed to be told that I must supply my new employer with the results of a recent physical exam.
I did call other doctors, but they, following proper standards of care, told me that as a new patient I would have to be thoroughly tested, examined, scanned and sniffed before they would do anything like a basic work physical. In addition, since I was not ill, and since my visit would necessarily be a long one, these truly busy doctors couldn't offer me an appointment for a month or more. So, it was, "Hello, Dr. Longshadow."
I called and made my appointment for the following week. I told the office manager that I needed a pre-employment physical. I was very clear about that. Very clear.
When I arrived, I was shown into the same (possibly the only) arid and air-less matchbox of an exam room where I had defended my gallbladder so many years before. And after twenty five minutes of contemplating the wrinkled butcher's paper that covered the exam table I was re-introduced to the durable Dr. Longshadow.
Studiously avoiding my gaze, he asked me why I was there. I had assumed that the folder he held open in front of him was my chart, but apparently it was his daily horoscope or perhaps a recipe for 'Chicken Marengo', because there certainly wasn't anything written on it that told him who I was or what I needed.
I explained that I was getting a new job and needed a pre-employment physical. He took my blood pressure. Then he asked me if my new employer had given me a form for him to fill out. They hadn't. I said so.
"They should have given you a form.", he said, obviously annoyed.
"Well, they didn't, and your office didn't tell me to bring one when I called to make the appointment."
He turned his back to me and began to write. (Remember, at this point, he has only taken my blood pressure.) When he turned back he was holding a prescription slip in his hand. I took it and read it.
It said; "She can work at LPN position."
He would have brooked no protestation, even if I hadn't been too astounded to offer it. One co-payment later and I was out the door.
The supervisor at my new job must have a good sense of humor. When I handed her the 4"x4" results of my physical exam, I put on my most abashed face and told her that Dr. Longshadow had perfected the position of GP to a minimalist art. I said that his motto was, "This far and no futher." Without a form, that is. Her laugh was genuine. She told me that she would find a form for Dr. Longshadow, since what he had given me was.....ridiculous.
I left her building with form in hand, and by traveling quickly enough to make the scientists at CERN glow green with envy, I reached Dr. Longshadow's office just before they closed. (This was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.)
The doctor was not in. (More on that in a moment.) But the office manager told me to come back the day after Thanksgiving to pick up the completed form. "Not before 9:00am!", she added as a parting shot.
I went directly home and found a message on my answering machine. It seemed that the doctor (who was not in) wanted me to make an appointment for Monday in order to complete my physical. This was very annoying to me, but surprisingly conscientious of him. The trouble was that I was supposed to start work on that same Monday. Since his office was now closed and would not re-open for another two days, I had no choice but to call my supervisor and beg her to let me start the next Monday. She said, bless her, that it wasn't a problem.
So, I went to have my physical completed today. I had already filled in all that I should fill in, and some of what he should have filled in. I didn't expect much, and what I got was even less.
After a 45 minute wait spent happily listening to Stephen Fry reading short stories on my Crackberry, I was permitted into the oubliette. He appeared with the form, signed it, stamped it and handed it to me without ever getting close enough even to take my blood pressure. Another co-payment later and I was out the door.
Looking back, I can't say that I feel aggravated or chagrined about any of it. Today is my birthday. (It took me longer to write this than I thought it would.) Happy Birthday, I have my physical! And while Dr. Longshadow may never have gotten my gallbladder, he certainly has my bile.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Luis Liwanag for The International Herald Tribune
By CARLOS H. CONDE 9:45 AM ET
"Religious figures say a bill that would expand the poor’s access to birth control is contrary to Catholic teaching."
So what? ...says this Copper-Bottomed Bitch.
Until the head of the Roman Catholic Church is a woman who's been forced to bear children and until the head of the Roman Catholic Church has to live on a very small budget; until he's been raped; until he stops covering for pedophiles; until he has to live in a neighborhood of drug addicts and alcoholics; until he has to look for work and can't find any; until he sees the children he's born sicken and die for lack of proper food or medical care--he and the Roman Catholic Church are irrelevant.
Stop being bossed around by men who live in palaces.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
This is from Bob Herbert's piece in the NYTimes.
I have a lot of respect for Bob. He just speaks the plain truth.
It's so easy to look at the BIG PICTURE and to forget what's under our noses. We become so blind to the little things, the everyday things that before you know it they eat away the fabric of life and kill you--or make you so weak and useless--and juiceless that you'd be better off dead.
America: beating it's chest and blowing hard and ignoring its own.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Obama's Nobel- I understand why he won--he is hope and a breath of fresh air from this side of the Pond. The powers that be on the Nobel Committee are rewarding positive behavior. Ouch. Now we have to work with that.
Health Care and Banking - both are bottom line businesses, always have been and always will be. It's counterproductive to insure the chronically ill or to refuse money from the gullible and uninformed, especially when they're just screaming to give it to you. Now we have to work with that.
The Military - has reached it's goal for enlistments for the first time since the volunteer army was instituted. No jobs. No brainer. Hmmm--what to do?
Social Security - will be out of business in 2 years?...3?
No jobs. No brainer. Grab that early retirement...and make it 1 year.
The bottom line truth is that everything is a market. Everything. It's an inescapable fact.
So it falls to the people to teach their children well--and even then human nature is going to get in the way at every turn...that's not fair, you say? What is?
Equity and mercy and trust are lies...nice concepts to be sure but in the end they're fiction, I was going to say that they were fairy tales but really, have you read the Original Brothers Grimm?
We are all gullible and we've been mass hypnotized to believe that there are experts out there who know what they're doing--no, no, the experts are expert at getting their next paycheck--that is all. And that's what we all should be doing--adapting to a changing world and moving on. We have to teach our kids to use history as a jumping off point--not something to clutch at and be nostalgic about--analyze the facts, babies, and go from there.
Respect and honor, equity, mercy and trust are things that only come from each individual and they have to be tempered with skepticism and well-timed ruthlessness.
It's a hard road to teach that, because it's not profitable to have an occasionally ruthless, always skeptical and intelligent public.
Now we have to work with that.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
In 1992, following the death of a beloved family member, my husband and I decided to purchase a burial plot in the same cemetery in which he was buried. It's a small cemetery, and we knew that space might be getting tight, so we wanted to ensure that we had an 'in' when the time was right.
The picture above is of a circle of sod that I excavated from our plot and replanted in a Corning Ware soup mug. It's sitting next to me as I write this.
I made no changes, except for the addition of the stones. Two of the stones are from Dorset in England and the other two are from Montauk, Long Island. I think they give it a nice Stonehenge-ish look.
I'm very fond my little plot. It, like me, originated in the same town where I have remained for the last 55 years. It feels like a relative. It feels like home.
When I walk through our cemetery, I see the names of people that I knew as a child, families who lived on our street, parents of friends that I worked with. And I know that when it's time for me to get off the bus, I'll be buried under pine trees, next to long-dead Quakers (who have a reputation for being good neighbors), and I'll quietly decompose, unembalmed, encased in a large egg carton (or a wicker basket) in the town where I will have lived and died.
Who needs Heaven? I'm already home.
I received this in my email a few days ago. It's another one of those inaccurate rants that are mindlessly forwarded and propagated like an insane fractal pattern, eating up bandwidth and irritating me.
The original was written in a rainbow of colors, with font sizes varying from large to larger. (The screenshot at the top of this page of the email's final sentences will give you some idea.)
What I received is in red.
What I replied is in Blue.
2010 is an election year for 1/3 of the senate and all of the house of representatives.
It would be nice if congress got the message; the voting taxpayers are in charge now.
Social Security 2009
LET US SHOW OUR LEADERS IN WASHINGTON "PEOPLE POWER" AND THE POWER OF THE INTERNET. PLEASE FORWARD TO ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS. IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU ARE REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT! KEEP IT GOING!!!! Propose this in 2009: START A MOVEMENT TO PLACE ALL POLITICIANS ON SOCIAL SECURITY ------------ --------- --------- ---- SOCIAL SECURITY:
(This is worth reading. It is short and to the point.) Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions during election years. Our Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen do not pay into Social Security and, of course, they do not collect from it. You see, Social Security benefits were not suitable for persons of their rare elevation in society. They felt they should have a special plan for themselves
So, many years ago they voted in their own benefit plan. In more recent years, no congress person has felt the need to change it. After all, it is a great plan. For all practical purposes their plan works like this: When they retire, they continue to draw the same pay until they die. Except it may increase from time to time for cost of living adjustments. .....
For example, Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may expect to draw $7, 800,000.00 (that's Seven Million, Eight-Hundred Thousand Dollars), with their wives drawing $275K during the last years of their lives. This is calculated on an average life span for each of those Dignitaries. Younger Dignitaries who retire at an early age, will receive much more during the rest of their lives. Their cost for this excellent plan to them is $0.00. NADA!! ZILCH!!! This little perk they voted for themselves is free to them. You and I pick up the tab for this plan. The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Funds; "OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK"! From our own Social Security Plan, which you and I pay (or have paid) into, every payday until we retire (which amount is matched by our employer), We can expect to get an average of $1,000 per month after retirement. Or, in other words, we would have to collect our average of $1,000 monthly benefits for 68 years and one (1) month to equal Senator Bill Bradley's benefits!
Social Security could be very good if only one small change were made. That change would be to Jerk the Golden Fleece Retirement Platform under the Senators and Congressmen. . Put them into the Social Security plan with the rest of us Then sit back..... And see how fast they would fix it! ALSO ALLOW ONLY 8 YEARS OF SERVICE FOR CONGRESS AND 12 YEARS FOR SENATE
This is my reply:
You didn't give me anyone to reply to but you! Nevertheless.....
There are 2 (that's 'two') reasons that I wouldn't forward your attached email. First, with all it's different font sizes and colors it resembles a doctor's eye chart. Second, it doesn't appear to be accurate.
I did 1 (that's 'one') search on Google and ended up with this.....
.....which may be equally inaccurate, but has the benefit of not appearing to be written by a frothing maniac. (I know that you're not a frothing maniac. You're just.....forwarding the froth onward.)
I'm under no illusions. I know that people of power and influence will always cut the best deal for themselves. Those who have much, want more. And they will take more at the expense of those who have barely anything at all.
If we apply that truism to the world at large, we might see that "The US consumes 25% of the world's energy with a share of global GDP at 22% and a share of the world population at 5%." - Wikipedia
Or that "... 16 percent of the world's population is consuming some 80 percent of its natural resources. - As reported by CNN
If we did a little research, we might see that it's not just Congress that grabs more than it's share. As a nation, we are very greedy people!
"Problems in Paradise
“If the levels of consumption that...the most affluent people enjoy today were replicated across even half of the roughly 9 billion people projected to be on the planet in 2050, the impact on our water supply, air quality, forests, climate, biological diversity, and human health would be severe.”
Today’s human economies are designed with little attention to the residuals of production and consumption. Among the most visible unintended byproducts of the current economic system are environmental problems like air and water pollution and landscape degradation. Nearly all the world’s ecosystems are shrinking to make way for humans and their homes, farms, malls, and factories. WWF’s Living Planet Index, which measures the health of forests, oceans, freshwater, and other natural systems, shows a 35 percent decline in Earth’s ecological health since 1970.
However, I AM in favor of political activism, so 'screed' on. And get thee to a voting booth!
How many people will you forward this to?
I may put it on my blog. (I'm not the only author, but you'll be able to pick out my posts.) I haven't posted there in many months. As I recall, my last post concerned hot dogs combined horribly with pasta. This will make a pleasant change. - Maggie (TiaHermanaMaggie)
ps: Oh, by the way, I've never written any of my opinions anonymously. The Offices of the former and the current Presidential Administrations can tell you that. But I must reciprocate the thoughtful offer you made during our last exchange. If you want me to expunge your name from this before I post it, I will happily do so.
Since I never received permission to use this person's name, I have expunged it.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Tom Waits sings about the gritty side of life. As he says in one song, he's "across town from Easy Street". And yet there's a wry joyfulness in his words, room for hope, plenty of time to wait for a better day.
Except for two songs. One is 'Georgia Lee'. The other is this one. 'Burma Shave'.
Here's a song about getting off of 'Burma Shave' and getting on with life.
There are those who would reduce the USA to a collection of city-states, each providing (or not providing) their citizens with these necessities and each fighting the other--those are the factions who would make us weak and they are succeeding.
Every American needs to be be provided with a solid education and with solid health care.
That being said: This is the Man I Love:
follow both links.
If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be “education.” In the 19th century, America led the way in universal basic education. Then, as other nations followed suit, the “high school revolution” of the early 20th century took us to a whole new level. And in the years after World War II, America established a commanding position in higher education.
But that was then. The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered.
Until now, the results of educational neglect have been gradual — a slow-motion erosion of America’s relative position. But things are about to get much worse, as the economic crisis — its effects exacerbated by the penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior that passes for “fiscal responsibility” in Washington — deals a severe blow to education across the board.
About that erosion: there has been a flurry of reporting recently about threats to the dominance of America’s elite universities. What hasn’t been reported to the same extent, at least as far as I’ve seen, is our relative decline in more mundane measures. America, which used to take the lead in educating its young, has been gradually falling behind other advanced countries.
Most people, I suspect, still have in their minds an image of America as the great land of college education, unique in the extent to which higher learning is offered to the population at large. That image used to correspond to reality. But these days young Americans are considerably less likely than young people in many other countries to graduate from college. In fact, we have a college graduation rate that’s slightly below the average across all advanced economies.
Even without the effects of the current crisis, there would be every reason to expect us to fall further in these rankings, if only because we make it so hard for those with limited financial means to stay in school. In America, with its weak social safety net and limited student aid, students are far more likely than their counterparts in, say, France to hold part-time jobs while still attending classes. Not surprisingly, given the financial pressures, young Americans are also less likely to stay in school and more likely to become full-time workers instead.
But the crisis has placed huge additional stress on our creaking educational system.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing.
There’s no mystery about what’s going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that’s because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.
As a result, education is on the chopping block. And laid-off teachers are only part of the story. Even more important is the way that we’re shutting off opportunities.
For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the plight of California’s community college students. For generations, talented students from less affluent families have used those colleges as a stepping stone to the state’s public universities. But in the face of the state’s budget crisis those universities have been forced to slam the door on this year’s potential transfer students. One result, almost surely, will be lifetime damage to many students’ prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential.
So what should be done?
First of all, Congress needs to undo the sins of February, and approve another big round of aid to state governments. We don’t have to call it a stimulus, but it would be a very effective way to create or save thousands of jobs. And it would, at the same time, be an investment in our future.Beyond that, we need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nation’s historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made America great; neglect of education can reverse the process.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I read this in Arts and Letters today and I'm just enchanted by how much has been written about the lowly 'middlebrow'.
I love the statement about highbrow ectomorphs perusing the bookshelves of the new professor with 'no background'.
Is it highbrow to be rude?
Sometimes it seems that it's highbrow to be lowbrow--think of the eight GWB years when elites and intellectuals were so reviled--I'm surprised we didn't actually have a bookburning.
I'm a middlebrow seeker of truth, I think that most of us are--but we're quiet while we search, we're hopeful while we search--we're looking for the deep down whatever that resides in the human race--that thing that elevates us and makes us better and different and gives us souls...
We end up discovering that we're no different from anything else in the universe. What we are is another part of everything that exists as we know it (and what the hell is that, can I ask you?). And the only thing that's really true for humanity is death and taxation.
I don't think that's a bad thing--and I don't think that any of us should ever stop looking for truth--we should keep reading the great books and asking the same old big questions because the OTHER true thing about humanity is that to a person we're always asking 'why?'
Nobody knows why. But 'why' is the reason we evolved--we keep looking for the answer and trying new things...
(Oh, for heaven's sake, TacomaGal--what's your point?)
I'll look for an answer to that and get back to you.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This is from HuffPo today. It reminds me of the post about choosing your own prison so I so give you Arianna Huffington on the joys of slow living--but not yet.
Like almost everything else that happens--every trend we see--it has a lot to do with the Boomers. The Boomers are aging and looking back on their lives and saying to themselves...WTF??? Why on earth did we run like rabbits for 40 years when the best thing in the world is sitting on the sofa reading a book--or walking around the neighborhood--or being glad your kids are all grown up. Nothing changed because of all that running. So, we made some money? Any old banker can come along and steal it from you and not even go to jail! There are still wars, sickness, crime, poverty. The world is the same only more hi-tech and even faster now--everyone grouching all the time and being discontented--for heaven's sake the conservative christians in the States are re-writing the bible--it's not godly enough, I guess, altogether too much love and compassion running through it. But it takes time to re-write a bible, you have to study it and decide what parts to change, leave in, take out...oh, it's a loooong process. But as ever I have digressed: here's Arianna on slow living.
I'm reading (actually re-reading) and would love you all to read In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, a terrific book by Carl Honore, published by HarperOne in 2004, in which a self-professed "speedaholic" advocates the need for a more balanced existence.
"Speed can be fun, productive and powerful, and we would be poorer without it," writes Honore. "What the world needs, and what the slow movement offers, is a middle path, a recipe for marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. The secret is balance: instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Sometimes in between."
In the opening chapter, Honore, a Canadian-born journalist living in London, writes about the turning point that led him to become one of the godfathers of the (not so slowly) burgeoning slow movement. Nearly ten years ago, Honore was at the airport in Rome, waiting for his flight home, and talking to his editor on his cell phone. Like far too many of us, he says, at the time he was wired and harried, a "Scrooge with a stopwatch, obsessed with saving every last scrap of time, a minute here, a few seconds there."
As such, while on line and on the phone, to make his time even more "productive," he started skimming a newspaper. A headline caught his eye: "The One-Minute Bedtime Story." The article was about a volume in which classic children's books are condensed down to 60 seconds. Eureka, he thought to himself. As the father of a two-year-old, he saw the book as a great bedtime time-saver. As he started making a mental note to order the book as soon as he got home, he suddenly found himself thinking: "Have I gone completely insane?"
"Standing in that lineup," writes Honore, "I begin to grapple with the questions that lie at the heart of this book: Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time-sickness? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down?"
Luckily for all of is, the answers are: yes it is possible, and yes it is desirable. And Honore has done a terrific job of showing the way.
I came to the book through a Eureka moment of my own. A couple of years ago, exhausted from working too much and eating and sleeping too little, I fainted, hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and ended up with five stitches over one eye. Determined to find some balance in my life, I took Honore's book with me on a trip to Greece.
The deeper I got into the book, the more I realized that I had had a towering example of the joys and benefits of slowness right in front of me for most of my life: my mother.
As I wrote in a column shortly after her death in 2000, she and I had an unspoken deal: hers would be the rhythm of a timeless world, a child's rhythm; mine was the rhythm of the modern world. While I had the sense every time I looked at my watch that it was later than I thought, she lived in a world where there were no impersonal encounters, and never a need to rush.
"The last time my mother was upset with me," I wrote, "was when she saw me talking with my children and opening my mail at the same time. She despised multi-tasking. She believed it was a way to miss life, to miss the gifts that come only when you give 100 percent of yourself to a task, a relationship, a moment."
And yet, in the years since her passing, I'd grown farther and farther away from the lesson that was her greatest gift. Reading Honore's book in Greece rekindled her spirit for me.
This is not to say that adopting slowness is easy. It's definitely not. And I recommend the book not because I've mastered it, but because I need its message reinforced. In other words, it turns out that, not surprisingly, slowness can't be mastered quickly.
One of the things I especially love about In Praise of Slowness is Honore's tone throughout. Far from a lifestyle guru who's preaching his enlightenment from on high, Honore himself is a pilgrim, trying to learn how to slow down and enjoy the journey. He takes us along for the ride while he travels the world, learning what novelist Milan Kundera called "the wisdom of slowness" and how it can enrich virtually every part of our lives.
We now have the Slow Food movement, which started in Italy and at this point boasts nearly 100,000 members. It emphasizes local food, sustainable agriculture, and taking time to enjoy not just eating meals but preparing them. We also have the Slow Sex movement, teaching Inner Slowness through meditation, the study of Slow Cities, etc, etc. And there is a lot the slow movement can teach us about how we bring up and educate our children.
Honore not only articulates the philosophical underpinnings of the slow movement, he also provides specific examples of how to incorporate it into our lives through such things as the directionless ramble, naps, and meditation.
Honore is not some easy-to-dismiss Luddite who wants you to throw your BlackBerry in the river. "This is not a declaration of war against speed," he explains. "Speed has helped remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating." But it can also become "a kind of idolatry."
Even though the main theme of the book is our day-to-day personal obsession with time, rereading the book this week I was struck by how much it also had to say about our financial crisis and the rethinking occasioned by the collapse of free-market fundamentalism.
"Modern capitalism generates extraordinary wealth," he writes, "but at the cost of devouring natural resources faster than Mother Nature can replace them. Capitalism is getting too fast even for its own good, as the pressure to finish first leaves too little time for quality control."
Under what Honore calls "turbo capitalism," people exist "to serve the economy, rather than the other way around."
So not only can we as individuals profit from the benefits of slowness, so, too, can our culture -- and our economy.
Please join me in reading -- or rereading -- In Praise of Slowness (And don't miss Carl Honore's blog post reacting to our picking it). And let me know what you think. Let's get the conversation going.
Get your copy of Carl Honore's In Praise of Slowness at Amazon.com.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
For myself I just have to say that I wish fat and sugar and carbs had never been invented, but there you are--I'll deal with it. If I die early at least I'll have had the cheesecake.
Really...there are other things to legislate...for a starter they could take junk foods out of the public school systems. But they're making money off the vending machines, you know.
Then They Came for the Fresca
The growing ambitions of the food police.By William Saletan
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, at 11:23 AM ET
A nonalcoholic sequel to the Whiskey Rebellion seems to be brewing. And Slate may be joining it. I'll call it the Fresca Rebellion, in honor of our editor, David Plotz, a hard-core addict of the citrus-flavored soft drink.
For a long time, the only discernible libertarian around here was Jack Shafer, a man unable to wean himself from speech, guns, and other annoying constitutional amendments. But lately, other folks seem to be getting a bit Ayn Randy. On Saturday, Jacob Weisberg blew the whistle on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for trying to ban outdoor smoking in public parks ("First They Came for the Marlboros"). Yesterday, Daniel Engber went after the hypocrisy and overreaching of soda-tax advocates. And I've become such a knee-jerk defender of burgers and fries that I'm tempted to seek funding from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
What's going on here? Most of us used to be good liberals. Are we getting conservative in our old age?
I'd say it's the opposite. We're what we were five or 10 years ago: skeptics and fact-mongers with a bias for personal freedom. It's the left that's turning conservative. Well, not conservative, but pushy. Weisberg put his finger on the underlying trend: "Because Democrats hold power at the moment, they face the greater peril of paternalistic overreaching." Today's morality cops are less interested in your bedroom than your refrigerator. They're more likely to berate you for outdoor smoking than for outdoor necking. It isn't God who hates fags. It's Michael Bloomberg.
In Engber's case, the provocation is scientific. To justify taxes on unhealthy food, the lifestyle regulators are stretching the evidence about obesity and addiction, two subjects on which Engber is burdened with contrary knowledge. Liberals like to talk about a Republican war on science, but it turns out that they're just as willing to bend facts. In wars of piety, science has no friends.
In my case, the provocation is partly scientific and partly libertarian. But mostly, it's a shift in the slippery slope. One of my basic rules is that slippery slopes run both ways. If you've never seen it, go watch that Monty Python sketch about Dennis Moore, the Robin Hood copycat who keeps stealing from the rich and giving to the poor until he realizes he's now stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. You have to notice when the balance of power and zeal has shifted from one party to the other.
Engber points out that 40 states tax soda or junk food.* And the soda taxers are becoming ever bolder. Their latest manifesto is an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by the health commissioner of New York City, the surgeon general of Arkansas, and several others. It declares soda fair game for government intervention on the grounds that "market failures" in this area are causing "less-than-optimal production and consumption."
What exactly are these market failures? First, the authors argue,
because many persons do not fully appreciate the links between consumption of these beverages and health consequences, they make consumption decisions with imperfect information. These decisions are likely to be further distorted by the extensive marketing campaigns that advertise the benefits of consumption.
That's true. Some people don't realize how bad soda is for them. And I trust the soft-drink companies as far as I can throw them. So let's educate people about how much sugar they're drinking and what it's doing to them. But special taxes? To justify that, we'll need more. So let's move on to the authors' next rationale. They write that
consumers do not bear the full costs of their consumption decisions. Because of the contribution of the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity, as well as the health consequences that are independent of weight, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages generates excess health care costs. Medical costs for overweight and obesity alone are estimated to be $147 billion—or 9.1% of U.S. health care expenditures—with half these costs paid for publicly through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. … Escalating health care costs and the rising burden of diseases related to poor diet create an urgent need for solutions, thus justifying government's right to recoup costs.
If you're trying to sink health care reform, this is a good way to do it: Show everyone how subsidized health insurance will entitle other people to regulate your eating habits. But it's worth noting that the authors base their argument on programs that already exist: Medicare and Medicaid.
I'll leave the socialism question to the rest of you. My real interest is in the authors' third basis for regulation: market failure that
results from time-inconsistent preferences (i.e., decisions that provide short-term gratification but long-term harm). This problem is exacerbated in the case of children and adolescents, who place a higher value on present satisfaction while more heavily discounting future consequences.
Wow. This isn't socialism. It's sheer paternalism. It applies even if you cover every cent of your medical expenses. You buy and drink soda because you want the "short-term gratification." Later, you regret this purchase because of its "long-term harm." This, according to the authors, is a market failure that justifies taxation to alter your behavior, totally apart from its impact on public health costs.
This is what worries me about the crackdown on death sticks and edible crap. There's no end to its ambitions. We'd better start applying some brakes.
If you think I'm overreacting, I call your attention to this paragraph in the NEJM article:
No adverse health effects of noncaloric sweeteners have been consistently demonstrated, but there are concerns that diet beverages may increase calorie consumption by justifying consumption of other caloric foods or by promoting a preference for sweet tastes. At present, we do not propose taxing beverages with noncaloric sweeteners, but we recommend close tracking of studies to determine whether taxing might be justified in the future.
I'm sitting here looking at a can of Fresca. The nutrition label says it has no calories. The ingredients label lists only aspartame as a sweetener. If studies show that drinks like this one indirectly increase calorie consumption "by promoting a preference for sweet tastes," the food police are explicitly prepared to tax them. And the crusade won't end with soda. Anything sweet is a target.
I warn you people now. You can ban the Marlboros, tax the Cokes, and zone the Whoppers. But you'll get Plotz's Fresca when you pry it from his cold, dead hands.
New York Times
The Public Imperative
NEW YORK — Back from another trip to Europe, this time Germany, where the same dismay as in France prevails over the U.S. health care debate. Europeans don’t get why Americans don’t agree that universal health coverage is a fundamental contract to which the citizens of any developed society have a right.
I don’t get it either. Or rather I do, but I don’t think the debate is about health. There can be no doubt that U.S. health care is expensive and wasteful. Tens of millions of people are uninsured by a system that devours a far bigger slice of national output — and that’s the sum of all Americans’ collective energies — than in any other wealthy society.
People die of worry, too. Emergency rooms were not created to be primary care providers.
Whatever may be right, something is rotten in American medicine. It should be fixed. But fixing it requires the acknowledgment that, when it comes to health, we’re all in this together. Pooling the risk between everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society.
Europeans have no problem with this moral commitment. But Americans hear “pooled risk” and think, “Hey, somebody’s freeloading on my hard work.”
A reader, John Dowd, sent me this comment: “In Europe generally the populace in the various countries feels enough sense of social connectedness to enforce a social contract that benefits all, albeit at a fairly high cost. In America it is not like that. There is endless worry that one’s neighbor may be getting more than his or her “fair” share.”
Post-heroic European societies, having paid in blood for violent political movements born of inequality and class struggle, see greater risk in unfettered individualism than in social solidarity. Americans, born in revolt against Europe and so ever defining themselves against the old Continent’s models, mythologize their rugged (always rugged) individualism as the bulwark against initiative-sapping entitlements. We’re not talking about health here. We’re talking about national narratives and mythologies — as well as money. These are things not much susceptible to logic. But in matters of life and death, mythology must cede to reality, profit to wellbeing.
I can see the conservative argument that welfare undermines the work ethic and dampens moral fiber. Provide sufficient unemployment benefits and people will opt to chill rather than labor. But it’s preposterous to extend this argument to health care. Guaranteeing health coverage doesn’t incentivize anybody to get meningitis.
Yet that’s what Republicans’ cry of “socialized medicine” — American politics at its most debased — is all about. It implies that government-provided health care somehow saps Americans’ freedom-loving initiative. Some Democrats — prodded by drug and insurance companies with the cash to win favors — buy that argument, too.
I’m grateful to the wise Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic for pointing out that Friedrich Hayek, whose suspicion of the state was visceral, had this to say in “The Road to Serfdom:”
“Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance — where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks — the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”
That’s why, when it comes to health, every developed society but the United States has such a “comprehensive system,” almost always with state involvement. However, pooled risk does not necessarily imply a public option. It can be achieved through mandated private-insurer coverage coupled with subsidies. That, for example, is the Swiss way — and where Congress seems headed.
But it’s nonprofit insurers who provide the coverage in Switzerland because health insurance is viewed as social insurance — as it is throughout Europe — rather than a means to make money. One fundamental reason a public option — yes, “option,” not single-payer monopoly — is needed in the United States is to jump-start the idea that basic health care is a moral obligation rather than a financial opportunity.
Another is to provide competition to private insurers and so force waste, excess and cozy arrangements out of the American system. Behind all the socialized medicine babble lurks a hard-headed calculation about money — all the profits skimmed from that waste and the big doctors’ salaries that go with it.
It’s not over yet for the public option. President Barack Obama should still push it with a clear moral stand.
He’s been too deferential. The best bit of his speech to Congress on health care was the last — and even there he left the most powerful words to the late Edward Kennedy: “What we face is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”
Obama then said he’d been pondering American character “quite a bit” and did some “self-reliance” versus government intervention musing.
He should have been clearer and punchier. A public commitment to universal coverage is not character-sapping but character-affirming. Medicare did not make America less American. Individualism is more “rugged” when housed in a healthy body.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Here's what's sad.
There are people who don't know they have choices.
And there are those who are too poor to have choices--or too sick--or too uneducated. Right here in the USA.
Being able to make a choice is a luxury. It's the greatest freedom and a lot of us don't know we have it. We've been fooled into thinking that we need things that we really don't need at all.
No one can have it all--but we do have a choice about what we take along with us in life and what we just won't lug around anymore.
Make your choice a damn good one--the one that suits you--and let the rest go.
We're all hostage to something; the thing is to remember that most of us here in the States can choose the thing that imprisons us.
McMansions: Hostage to taxes, maintenance, heating/cooling--the lawn.
Your Job: Hostage to the administration--who consider you a liability and can't wait to outsource you and your petty needs(see post of 9/30 or thereabouts).
Your Retirement: Hostage to all those companies and the gov't who are paying your retirement and who (mostly) are running out of money themselves--and all the while STILL hostage to the house and the lawn and the big-ass RV.
Your Health: Nobody needs to smoke or drink or eat pizza and Twinkies so if you're afraid that your health is going to take a header maybe you'd better open a can of spinach instead. However, your health is going to take a header anyway--sooner or later you're going to blow an appendix or get hit by a car (or by cancer) or run your Harley into a tree and failing that you're going to get old. Don't try so hard to stay alive that you don't LIVE. Don't give thousands of dollars every year to insurance companies who also consider you a liability--they take your money and hope that you'll drop dead. Really. Pretty soon they'll be hiring snipers.
OK, I understand if you have kids--we're all hostage to our kids and want to keep them healthy but after you're not a kid anymore and the kids aren't kids anymore why don't you light out on your own? You'll probably eat a lot fewer pizzas if you have to ante up for the by-pass yourself. Screw the insurance companies. If you're just going to die anyway why enrich those bastards in the process? Of course think of all the people who would lose their jobs if we weren't paying insurance premiums...(nurses. oh my god!)
There are others of us who are slaves to our passions, addictions, hatreds, resentments... Take a good look at your self and make a decision about the thing you're willing to give your time and attention and--your life to.
So what I'm saying here is name your poison--pick your prison and then live with it--if you want a six bedroom house well then, pay those taxes with a smile and close off the rooms you don't need.
If you love your job then you'd better just deal with the people who'd love nothing better than to fire your ass and save that salary. Just grin and pocket the cash, honey-pie.
If you're a slave to that thing you resent--go ahead and resent the hell out of it for the rest of your life and good luck to you!
We began this blog in May of 2008 not knowing where we would be going with it--we still don't know, however perhaps we should update the disclaimer:
The Original Disclaimer:
Over the months we've been blogging we've been talking about real persons, places and things AND we've been spouting our opinions at warp speed, so while the original disclaimer still stands we should add that the opinions expressed here are merely opinions so there's no need to take them to heart if you don't agree with them.
Go to FoxNews where you'll be happier.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Outsourcing and automation put downward pressures on the demand for blue-collar labor during the best of times. However, in the wake of this historic slow-down, positions that have been absorbed by other workers or taken over by computer robotic systems are never coming back. Next time you pick up groceries, take note of how many of the supermarket cashiers have been replaced by self-checkout stations, or how, when you call your doctor's office, there's an automated message system instead of a medical secretary getting you a prescription or test results. Experts warn that when this recession ends, we will most likely see yet another jobless recovery, a term used to describe this distinctively post-industrial phenomenon of economic growth that comes without firms hiring workers.
So just what are the jobs of the 21st Century?
This is not something to be afraid of--it's something to work with. Stop being nostalgic for the jobs of yesteryear and look ahead.
Is GM going to be hiring as many people to work on the line? Hell no.
GM and big businesses like GM are gone as we knew it--they're pretending it will all work out in the end (and it will) but not the way they lead you to believe. Never like it was before.
(Is anything EVER like it was before, for heaven's sake? Learn something!)
Start thinking ahead. What should we be preparing our kids for? What kinds of work will there be once McDonald's starts selling Big Macs out of vending machines?
You know they'll do it. That's progress and that's how the profits are made.
Yes, the book I threatened everyone with is done. Now I have to get a publisher--I'll do it too.
Statement of Truth: I would love to write like John Updike or Joseph Heller or William Faulkner but I'm just a goofball with a yen to write something so don't expect anything profound from me. Just entertaining and yet written above a third grade reading level.
I went out and bought a couple of romantic suspense books to see what kind of stuff was in the stores and I'm here to say that there's a lot of crap out there. So, I think I'll add some of my own crap to the pile.
To prepare for this writing adventure, which has been and continues to be, a laugh-riot--I've taken some writing courses through Gotham Writer's.
I've learned a lot. For on-line instruction they're pretty good, lots of instructor and student participation.
People who are writing romantic suspense range far and wide--lots of vampires these days. And demons.
But there are so many categories of romantic fiction! I'm amazed.
And so many rules.
I'm old though and I say the hell with rules so finding a publisher may not be so easy.
Because I'm old and I have so much pent up aggression, I was just aching to blow somebody up!
BOOM. Ick. Gone. Fun.
And let me tell you about sex. Lots of erotic romance out there...did you know that there are books that can go on for PAGES AND PAGES of whacked out upside down sex between all combinations and numbers of men and women and yet all the women manage to remain virgins??? It's like magic.
Now I'm just as manipulative as the next writer but I like to at least lean toward the real world so you won't find any virgins in anything I write.
Lots of fantasy being written too--I will never even try it--after Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings, why bother?
Inspirational Romance--this is good--lots of god involvement. I attach another picture because although I haven't asked any of my characters if they're believers or not none of them really care about the old voyeur. They just dig in and have at it.
I start another class next week--after all, I really would like to write good crap.
I'll keep you posted.
Monday, September 28, 2009
They are the ones who will not bow to the ramblings of the ignorant, cretinous or moronic, of which there seem to be more and more. Why is that?
Somebody tell me.
(This means you...and it has to make sense.)
All summer tantrums have been being thrown, heels have been pounding on floors and the cries of them that's been thrown out of office have been heard in the land. Are these the tantrums of children just before they realize it's time to grow up, or just before they steal Dad's cigarette lighter to torch the place?
I'm thinking the latter. Boneheads!
So, the TacomaGals from their widely scattered places of residence are dusting it off to take another wack at the wackos, the fear-mongers and the liars.
But we'll write about other stuff as well. There's a lot of good stuff happening in the world and we'll rejoice over it at frequent intervals. Come along...join in.
Just remember that it has to make sense or be funny.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I refer specifically to bowel sounds from a post-op patient I'm staying with during the evenings at Ye Olde Hospital, but also, more generally, from anyone who has recently been on a cruise.
Just in case you didn't contract norovirus, here are some mouth-watering pictures, taken by someone who has more time to spare than is good for them. I present 'Spaghetti IN Hot Dogs'. It's a challenging combination for the discerning saucier or sous-chef. (Scroll UP to see pix.)
Friday, April 10, 2009
So, I went to YouTube. Like a tiger's attack, there can be a beauty in terrible catastrophe.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Oh, and Happy 'Potato Day'!
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