Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Made in the USA

Okay, this is another soapbox posting, sparked by a piece of transcription I did yesterday. The work was for a company whose name I'm not allowed to give, but who, suffice it to say, is one of the major computer/printer/software/networking companies in the United States.

The subject of the transcription was a forum given by the company about outsourcing.

Now I am not against outsourcing as a rule. How could I be, being as how I work in that industry myself? The transcription I work on is outsourced from other companies. Outsourcing is wonderful. Outsourcing is our friend - not to mention my paycheck. It's merely a way that companies can be more efficient by hiring people who are more skilled in a certain area than people working in their own companies, who can be hired on an 'as needed' basis. People who pay their own tax, insurance, medical benefits, etc, which saves the hiring company money by not having to pay for a full-time worker with attendant benefits to do nothing until they're needed. My company pays me money, which I put back into the economy of the US, and everyone's happy.

No, the type of outsourcing which has got my goat is the kind known as offshore outsourcing. To the uninitiated this means major companies taking entire sections of their business, such as call centers, IT departments, financial departments, and HR departments and contracting with companies in other countries to do the work at a fraction of the cost they'd have to pay American companies to do it.

Why should this bother you? You're not in my industry. Well, here's why. The kind of outsourcing I do keeps work inside of the US. My wages go back into our economy every time I go to the store.

Offshore outsourcing on the other hand, takes jobs in American companies away from American workers and puts them in the hands of people in third world countries such as India and China. This money doesn't return to the American economy. It remains in the country where the outsourcing is performed when these people go to their own grocery stores. It puts whole departments of people out of work and chasing jobs in other companies - more and more of whom are going for the offshore option, meaning there are less US jobs to be had for Americans.

And these are the companies who are getting tax breaks from the government at the same time they're adding numbers to the US unemployment rolls, and getting richer on the backs of people in third world countries who will work for peanuts. There's something intrinsically unfair about that.

The good thing, of course, is that these companies can still stick a 'Made in the USA' sticker on their merchandise, because the company is an American company, despite the fact that when you buy this merchandise you're actually helping to put Americans out of work, rather than what you may believe you're doing. You're not helping the American economy in any shape or form, since wages in India and China don't wind up getting put back into the American economy. All you're doing is making rich companies richer, and putting your fellow Americans out of work.

There used to be company owners like Hershey - he of the chocolate empire in Pennsylvania - who cared so much about America and Americans that during the depression he actually had people working in his factory who were doing basically nothing. He was making work for them to do. All because he loved his country, and he figured he was rich enough and it wouldn't hurt him to give a little of it back by helping out his fellow man and keeping them off the bread lines.

When did the almighty dollar become the benchmark by which we measure success? When did it happen that years of loyalty to a company mean nothing when the option of offshore outsourcing comes up? And why are we rewarding these companies with tax breaks? Shouldn't it be more along the lines of making them pay a penalty if they are offloading American workers in order to hire workers in third world countries? Why reward people who are damaging the economic structure of the US to make a few extra dollars per hour off the backs of people they can work like dogs in conditions Americans wouldn't tolerate? And shouldn't something nasty befall companies who turn their customer service over to people who can barely speak English?

Apparently one of the hugest manufacturers of electrical equipment in the US were told by their CEO before he retired that what he wanted to see was 70 percent of the business being outsourced offshore, with 70 percent of that percentage being in India. 70 freaking percent. These are people's jobs we're talking about. And trust me...this is a company that is just about as 'Made in the USA' as you can get.

Since when did it happen that you get rewarded for putting people out of work so that you can make a profit? Maybe it's just because I'm an old hippie, but I think it's wrong.

A pox on all their houses.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases

They used to have that witty little bit of doggerel on the wall in the doctor's office (if I skip to using the word 'surgery' during this blog btw, don't be alarmed. In archaic England, that's what we call a doctor's office. It doesn't mean a visit to the operating room - or operating theater as we call them back home. All clear? Good. Then I will proceed :) )

Anyway...where was I? Oh yeah. On the wall of the doctor's office when I was a kid, they used to have posters like that one. Of course, when I was a kid, it meant nothing, as kids don't know what germs are and don't have the hand/eye/brain coordination to time a cough or a sneeze with a handkerchief or their hand.

I do remember getting my immunizations at the clinic. I remember liking the polio vaccine best because the type we were given was oral and so they gave it to you on a lump of sugar. Never had the smallpox thing, as England is an island and smallpox was eradicated there. They did give us TB immunizations, and rubella immunizations, as well as the diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough or DPT, which were the only immunizations available at the time. They were free, so hell...why not?

By the time my oldest daughter was born - also in England - there were already rumors circulating about the pertussis or whooping cough element of the DPT vaccine. Apparently if you give aspirin to a child who has had the DPT, certain sensitive children can suffer serious health problems.

This led to a rise in misinformed and uneducated parents deciding that this meant the pertussis vaccine was BAD. This vaccine was EVIL and therefore they shouldn't have their children immunized. The health authorities even started coming out with an alternative immunization which scrapped the pertussis vaccine altogether and just kept the diphtheria and tetanus portion. After all - what's whooping cough? Just a bad cough, yeah?

See...the problem with people of my generation is that our parents and grandparents, depending on your age and the age of your parents when they had you, had grown up with a very real sense of what whooping cough is and what it does. They snapped up the immunizations as fast as the doctors could give them out because they didn't want their children to suffer what they had seen their siblings or siblings of their friends go through who had not had the chance to be vaccinated against these horrendous illnesses.

The downside of that is that my generation grew up without that knowledge. Because of the success of the vaccination campaigns, we didn't have to see children in iron lungs because of the drowning effects of diphtheria. We didn't go to school with children who had been crippled by polio. And we had never had to watch infants dying of whooping cough. That left us free to decide that the infinitesmal chance of an adverse reaction was much worse than not vaccinating and allowing the child the opportunity to catch the disease.

We'd also lived through certain other medical uh-oh's that seemed like a good idea at the time, so we were less trusting of the medical establishment and their assurances of the safety of the drugs. My own mother was offered Thalidomide when she was pregnant with me, as it was a great cure for morning sickness and handed out to pregnant people like candy. At least until all of the horrendously gruesome birth defects started to show up. I'm not sure quite how long Distillers (the manufacturer) kept Thalidomide on the market before it was banned as a drug for any purposes at all. See, it worked well for the purpose it was designed - which wasn't morning sickness - but they hadn't tested it well enough to realize that pregnant people shouldn't even be allowed to smell it.

Luckily my mother didn't believe in taking drugs of any kind while pregnant. The mother of one of my friends wasn't quite as stringent. Vincent was a really cool guy - once you got your mind beyond the fact that one of his hands grew out of his shoulder. And his was a very minor case.

So many people of my generation decided against the vaccination route. After all, there was no such thing as diphtheria or polio or whooping cough any more, was there? Have you ever seen it?

The trouble with this is that these diseases are tricky and bad and evil. They lie in wait until we're complacent and then they attack. Our generation didn't vaccinate everybody. The generation after mine vaccinated even less. And sometimes an older child can get whooping cough and it can be no more severe than a chest cold. Because it never did kill older children. It always preyed on the babies.

I did a heartrending transcription a month or so ago dealing with a family whose infant son had died of whooping cough. They weren't one of these families who don't believe in vaccination. They had plans to vaccinate the baby, as they'd vaccinated all of his older brothers and sisters. In fact, his first round of vaccinations was already scheduled. But a week before the due date, he got sick. And the doctors cuuldn't figure out what was making him sick. And he got sicker. And he was admitted to the hospital. And within nine days his parents were having to make the decision to turn off the machines which were keeping him alive. He died of whooping cough.

The problem being that because so many older children are walking around without immunizations, they have the ability to turn into the equivalent of Typhoid Mary. They themselves may be only a little on the sick side, but they could be harboring a virus which has the capability to kill its intended target - a tiny infant who doesn't have the means or the body mass to fight that kind of infection. And all it takes is a direct hit from a single tiny viral organism, thousands of which are released into the atmosphere every time one of these older and unvaccinated children coughs or sneezes, in order to breed a colony that can kill an infant.

My oldest was also born at a time previous to there being a vaccination for Hib flu. After coming to the States and the advent of this wonderful vaccination, I am always aghast when I hear that parents don't think there's any point in vaccinating against it, especially when if it goes wrong (again, an infinitesmal chance) the child could wind up with meningitis.

Here's my Hib flu story. Sophie was 3 and her father and I were divorced. He would take Sophie on alternate weekends. One particular weekend, he picked her up on Friday evening, and returned her early on Sunday morning - even though he wasn't supposed to return her until the evening. He said, 'she wanted to come home', parked her in the hallway and drove off. He probably hadn't reached the end of the road before she started vomiting.

Let me preface the next part. I'm a 23 year old single mother who doesn't have a car. I also - since my ex-husband's new girlfriend can't stand me, don't have my ex-husband's phone number. Even though in England doctors make house calls, the surgeries are closed on weekends and they have what are called emergency doctors who cover for the regular physicians. Because these people don't know you from Adam, they have no idea if you are a hypochondriac or an overprotective parent.

Well Sophie kept vomiting, and she started developing a very sore throat. I called the emergency doctor and a guy came out to the house and looked in her throat with a tongue depressor. He gave the diagnosis of tonsilitis and left her some amoxycilin. Which I fed to her and she promptly barfed back up. I called my mother because by this time Sophie's breathing was beginning to bother me. She was seeming to be having difficulty taking in a full breath. My mother told me to call the doctor again, which I did.

This time, far from the nice, jolly young man who came out the first time, I was visited by a woman I can only describe as a consummate bitch. She was full of attitude from the moment she walked into the house. When she heard that a doctor had already been out to see Sophie that day, the attitude increased 1,000 percent. She stuck a tongue depressor into Sophie's mouth, and said, 'You've already been told what it is. You've been given amoxycilin. She's got to take it. What do you want ME to do?' I said, 'But she can't keep it down.' And then she packed up her bag of tricks and fixed me with an expression which spoke volumes of how highly she valued my parental wisdom. "Well you're going to have to MAKE her keep it down, or else she's going to wind up in the hospital in a drip and you don't want THAT do you?" And left.

So there I was alone in the house with this little 3 year old that I knew in my mother's heart was sicker than a case of tonsilitis, but who I'd been told by two medical professionals was suffering from no more than that. And she wasn't getting better. By six that evening she had gotten to a point where she was using every ounce of her concentration just to breathe. She was drooling, because she didn't want to swallow, sitting forward and just breathing.

My brother dropped in to see me, because he'd heard she wasn't well, and he lived a mile or so away. He took one look at her and said, 'We have to take her to the hospital.' I said, 'But they told me she's got tonsilitis.' He said, "I don't give a f**k what they told you. She's obviously got more than that.' So he got on the phone with my brother-in-law, the only person in our family at the time who drove, and lived ten miles away, and told him to come over so we could take her to the hospital.

When we got there, the doctor in the ER took one look at the way she was breathing, didn't even look in her throat with a tongue depressor and told me they were going to take her up to the operating theater to give her an emergency intubation. He thought she had epiglottitis.

My own physician came to visit me on Monday evening after her office hours - I loved this doctor and we'd always gotten along, and she was apologizing all over herself for not having been there on the weekend and us having to go through what we did. She explained to me what epiglottitis is, because I'd never heard of such a thing. Apparently it's caused by a germ which in some people does no more than give you a sore throat. Hib flu. In some people it can cause all kinds of respiratory problems, including the one Sophie was suffering from.

The mechanics of it are simple but deadly. The epiglottis, that little flap of skin which slips forward to cover your breathing tubes when you swallow, starts to swell up. Every time you swallow, it swells a little more. Using a tongue depressor makes it swell A LOT, which is why when they suspected it in the ER, they didn't even bother using one. Had I followed the advice of the bitch who came to the house, and put her to bed, she would not have woken up the next day. Her epiglottis would have choked off her airway completely and she would have suffocated to death. The ONLY cure for epiglottitis is intubation. The drugs they use to treat it are simple ones, but without intubation the disease will beat the cure and the child will die.

And this is the same virus which I heard people talking about so cavalierly when making the decision whether or not to vaccinate with the Hib flu vaccination.

I am a strong believer in vaccinations. My reasoning is simple. These diseases have not survived for as long as they have because they're stupid. Viruses are very smart. And they are smart enough to wait until we relax our vigilance against them. And if you are just putting your own child's health in danger, that's one thing. But you're not. You're also risking the lives of other innocent little victims who can't fight these diseases off. It's like the ripples from a stone dropped in water. My little child, too young for immunizations could be in front of your unimmunized older child in the checkout line. And your misinformation could be my child's death sentence. And my child may never know his murderer, and you may never be aware that your short-sightedness has killed my child.

Monday, September 19, 2005

In Which We Whine

Conspicuously absent I have been, thanks to a heavier than usual work schedule from The Big Office in New York. See, for a while there, I was going through a little bit of a work drought - one of the drawbacks of being on the wrong coast. They get work in the morning, and then by the time I get to the computer I have to deal with what they have left over.

And then along came Tammy.

Tammy is my assignments editor at TBOINY. She's fairly new there, and just a slip of a gal at 25 years old. Well, the chief assignments editor, a guy named Andy, following some problems getting in touch with me via telephone (probably having something to do with the fact that I turn it off while working), had the brilliant plan that I should download AOL instant messenger, since that's the system they all use at TBOINY in order to communicate with each other and with the satellite offices. Okay...I can do that. And Tammy started IMing me with assignments, which worked out much better for all concerned.

I wasn't counting on her deciding to make a buddy out of me. She now drops me chatty little IMs about what she's doing on the weekend and where she was born and what her interests are, etc, etc, and I IM her back and say, that's nice, dear. Cause after all she's in effect my boss, and even though I'm WORKING and those little pop up IM screens are a real annoyance when you're in the middle of a serious transcription which needs all of your attention and concentration. I can't exactly ask her to knock it off, when she's responsible for giving me work.

Well the upside to all the Chatty Cathy stuff is that Tammy tends to think of me first when she has work. Which is good. Unless it's last Friday. Last Friday she was receiving a big job of work that she was going to have to spread among several transcriptionists. So would I do four hours due Tuesday...oh pleeeeeze? Sure. I can do that. OH...and we've just had another big job come in that's due Wednesday...can you take four hours of that? Oh pleeeeeeze? Sure I can do that. OH..OH..and she has a rush job that's not coming in till Monday morning, it'll be about an hour and due at 5 their time. Can I do that? Oh pleeeeeze? Sure I can do that. Oh, and today? She has two teleconference jobs that are an hour long each...due by 5...can I do those? Oh pleeeeeze? Geez! Tammy. Yeah...go ahead...gimme.

So needless to say, this has been somewhat of a harried few days. Tomorrow I'm not turning on my AIM. AT ALL. You know it's bad when your invoice starts on Monday and runs weekly through Friday, and I already have close on $300 earned on THIS WEEK'S INVOICE!! And it's only MONDAY. (And this is at 0.00635 per word, remember...)

Thank God that Katamari Damacy II is due out on Wednesday cause by that time I think I'm going to be seriously ready for a break and ready to veg out in front of a veedeeo game for an entire day.

And my fingers hurt

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Make do and Mend

Here’s a funny thing.

Hot on the heels of the news that our fearless leader is going to be robbing Medicaid to pay a fraction of the amount he’s giving away in tax benefits to the ultra-rich, comes another little piece of legislation I wasn’t even aware of until today, and I doubt many others had gotten the heads up either.

There’s a little law, known as the Davis-Bacon law, which was enacted in 1931, and in essence, here’s what it says. Federal contractors are required to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where work is conducted. It applies to federally-funded construction projects such as highways and bridges. It should also apply to the federally-funded reconstruction of severely damaged areas in the Gulf States, such as New Orleans.

I see your puzzlement. “So?” you ask, “Isn’t this a good thing?”

And my answer to you, gentle reader is that yes, it’s a phenomenally good thing, because who wants their house to be put together by workers who are grousing over being paid less than the prevailing construction wages in that area, right?

Only…funny thing…on Thursday, the president decided to add insult to injury by suspending the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm. What that means is that the federal contractors can basically pay what they like to their workers while they’re undertaking the grand reconstruction of the Big Easy.

Aside from the immediate, knee-jerk reaction of ‘the guy is out of his head’ – a moot point, since we know he’s barking mad, one has to wonder why this law is being suspended for the duration by Bush’s own executive order.

Could it maybe have anything to do with the fact that two of the contractors who have already signed up to receive federal money to help reconstruct the area are a couple of names we know and love? Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s former – and some would say pretty current – place of business), and the Shaw Group ( with ties to Joe Allbaugh, Bush’s former campaign manager, former head of FEMA (Ooh…wonder how he landed THAT job!) and the person responsible for giving Michael Brown (aka the Horse Whisperer) his job at FEMA.)

Maybe it’s just my innate cynicism that makes me suspicious when two firms with VERY close ties to the government snag reconstruction deals under a federally funded plan on the same day that our fearless leader suspends a law which would have forced these companies to pay people working for them in that area a decent wage. Surely nepotism doesn’t stretch that far?

And maybe there’ll be flying pigs on tonight’s evening news.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Shell Games

A very interesting piece of legislation is soon to be put forward by the Bush Administration. Legislation which, under the cover of Katrina, may not be as noticeable as it should be. The budget reconciliation process was meant to take place on September 16th, but probably will be pushed back towards the end of the month because of the disaster in New Orleans.

The budget reconciliation is supposed to be a way that we get a little closer to paying down the country's debts. Most people know that we're sitting on an enormous deficit at present, and that cuts in spending will have to take place in order to reduce some of that deficit. However, most people aren't aware of the giant shell game about to unfold in front of our very eyes.

Step right up and watch the lady....round and round she goes and where she stops nobody knows.

Here's the deal. The government is going to announce the need to slash $35 billion from mandatory spending over the next five years. Mandatory spending, to you and I, means little programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, Section 8 housing, Federal School Loans. You know...nothing really important. The types of programs that all of those extremely poor people in New Orleans who didn't have the means necessary to leave were reliant upon, along with a whole chunk of other Americans living below the poverty line.

The President is going to appear on our TV sets and let us know that these cuts are distasteful, and nasty, and he hates having to do it, but it's for the good of the country, and we need to reduce this deficit because we're paying a huge interest payment on it every month. Hey, it's a wartime economy and we all have to tighten our belts, right? Even those whose belts are cinched so tightly they don't have any holes left on the leather. They can just go ahead and punch in some more.

But here's the shell part.

For one of the first times in the 25 years we've been doing these budget reconciliations, the reconciliation package will be split into two parts. The first is going to be these cuts in mandatory spending. The second package is the one dealing with revenue from taxation. And why are they splitting it into two pieces? To disguise the fact that the first part - the cuts in spending which we're going to be told are necessary in order to reduce the deficit - will actually do absolutely NOTHING to reduce the deficit.

Why? Simple, my friends. The second part of the package deals with tax cuts. And slated in on that part of the budget are a whopping $70 billion in tax cuts over the next five years. And guess who most of this largesse is going to be aimed at? Half of the tax cuts are aimed at the 0.2 percent of households with income over $1 million. More than three quarters of these tax cuts - 78 percent - are going to the 3.3 percent of households with incomes over $200,000 per year. (From the Center on Budget and Policy http://www.cbpp.org )

Hands up all of you who can do math? If we lose $70 billion in revenue, and we add the $35 billion we're going to get by taking healthcare out of the reach of needy people, how much of the deficit do we actually pay off? Hmm....I get minus $35 million. Anybody else get a different answer?

So yet again, our caring and sharing Administration is showing its empathy and finer feelings for the low-income working poor by squeezing money out of them in order to finance another summer house for the rich. And the deficit, far from shrinking by $35 billion courtesy of taking away diabetes shots and heart medication is actually increasing by $35 billion courtesy of giving a $70 billion present to the high echelons of the populace who always vote Republican.

And the part which irritates me the most is the Administration's reliance on me having the attention span of a two year old. They think that by splitting this package and introducing the two sections a couple of weeks apart, that I won't realize what they're up to. One week I can be told that essential programs and services need to lose a huge chunk of money so that we can pay the deficit bill. Two weeks later they'll slide through the $70 billion in tax cuts to the rich, and I will just say....oh okay...guess you found money under your mattress or something. Cool!

Um...Mr. President? Why not just chop some of the costs of administering these mandatory programs, including some of the ridiculous costs Medicaid pays to healthcare providers, and save the $35 billion that way? And...hey...here's something REALLY radical. Don't spend money we don't have on giving $70 billion in presents to your buddies!! That might work.

But hey....that would imply the existence of a heart and a brain. Two vital organs this Administration has shown over and over again it doesn't possess.

Step right up....watch the lady.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rich White Boys

At last, Mayor Nagle of New Orleans is doing what should have been done more than a week ago. She has ordered mandatory evacuations of the area, and said that those who refuse to leave will be removed forcibly. She's giving them the means and the transportation to leave and providing them with somewhere to go once they do leave. Which begs the question, why couldn't this have been done before the storm moved in, while the streets were still passable by vehicle and the trains were still running?

I've seen people - including the president - say that while they expected the hurricane, they didn't expect the flooding. Um, hello? Apparently not only did the weather channel, CNN, and other TV pundits know in advance of the storm, but apparently so did the people in charge in New Orleans, had they been listening to their own engineers - one of whom was pictured on the news on the Saturday before the storm hit, talking about how even a category 3 storm directed at New Orleans would probably overwhelm the levees, and the pumping out would take weeks. So yeah...the people in charge DID know or at least SHOULD have known that this would happen.

And sometimes, we have to do things which we don't want to do.

New Orleans would have been a much easier town to deal with post-Katrina if it was also sans people. The looting issue would have been taken out of the mix. The people who are now risking their own health and safety in that toxic cesspool in order to evacuate people wouldn't have been put in jeopardy. And all the people crowded into the Superdome and the Convention Center wouldn't have been stuck without basic services for days on end.

But that would have involved a little forward planning, and a little advance thinking, and most importantly, leadership from the very top. Leadership which doesn't seem to be there. It amazes me that we held impeachment hearings for a former president whose only crime was a matrimonial one. He had oral sex with an intern. This is something which should have concerned nobody but his own family. Did it get in the way of his diligent running of the country? No. Was any major rescue or relief work held up because he was in the Oval Office with Monica? No. And yet here we have a president who thinks finishing his five week vacation is more important than being in Washington and doing his job.

Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do.

Are impeachment hearings going to be held following this unmistakable debacle? How many times are we going to have to sit and listen to why what he did was the right thing to do under the circumstances, and let him slide for it? Bad enough we went and invaded another country under the pretext of looking for weapons they knew were not there. Bad enough we're now mired in another farce which is looking more and more like Vietnam the longer it continues. Bad enough that all of his rhetoric about there being severe penalties for whomever outed the lady spy came to naught when he found out it was his good buddy, Karl Rove, who far from being ousted is now being sent to New Orleans to help coordinate things there. All of those things pale when measured against a chief of staff who refuses to give up his daily nap and hunting expeditions despite being told of the very real impending danger of a natural disaster of gargantuan proportions. A man who even on the day of the flooding was across the country in California, instead of being where he is being paid to be. In the White House with his finger on the pulse and his ear on the phone coordinating evacuation efforts from a city which was devastated by something predictable.

Throughout his entire presidency, Bush has been a dollar short and a day late. How many times is he to be rewarded and lauded for this ineptitude?

I think it's a criminal shame that despite what little kids are told about anybody being able to grow up and be president, the truth is that it's a job for the rich - or at least those with rich backers. What we need in the White House is someone who knows what it's like to be poor, and to be disenfranchised. Someone who's actually worked a minimum wage job. Someone who's had to worry where they're going to find the money to take the kid to the doctor. Someone who has empathy for his fellow man, and more importantly has had to bear the brunt of his own actions for the majority of his life. It's funny that the closest we've come to that in recent memory was Bill Clinton. You may not agree with his morals, but you can't fault the fact that he took a country which was mired in debt and made it almost solvent again, or that his caring for people in distress was genuine. The man did awesome things for this country and will be remembered for an intern and a cigar.

What we do instead, seemingly, is we take rich kids, who've been supported and helped out by their rich daddy for the majority of their life and who have never caused a mess that daddy couldn't influence or buy their way out of, and make him a president. I mean, did nobody check this guy's resume? Didn't you KNOW he was the governor of Texas?? Didn't you realize that he'd screwed up every job he'd ever had...jobs he'd gotten for the most part on the fact that his daddy was rich and knew people? What ever possessed folks to think that putting him in the White House would change the habits of a lifetime? Even now....when he's deep in the brown smelly stuff, who does he call to make him and his incompetent regime look better to the country? His DADDY and BILL CLINTON, the guy he maligned so much during his own campaign for presidency. AKA the guy who's gotten him out of all his messes in the past, and the guy who really knows what it takes to run a country. And what's the shrub doing while all of the stuff is hitting the fan? He's doing his best to put the blame on somebody else, like every other spoiled little brat you've ever met. I don't know about you, but I think impeachment is too good for this man. How many chances does he have to have? How many times are we going to let him screw up the country before we tell him enough?

Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Dog Ate My Homework

Well no, actually. I did complete my homework assignment as requested - in a million words or less, and handed it in via email. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, since I've been known to rattle out 1,000 words in half an hour when I'm on a deadline. So...phew.

Now we just have Lema's homework to complete. And hers is somewhat different. Since she's going to be doing Careers in Health this semester, she apparently needs a TB test - and presumably, since I doubt very much she has any immunity to it, a TB shot. At least that's what I'm assuming, as the paper doesn't make it very clear if they just want to make sure they don't HAVE TB or whether they are supposed to be immunized AGAINST TB. Yummy, eh wot? And the yummiest thing is that the doctor she's been going to since we moved here to Buckley has now retired from the group practice we used to go to. Where she went I have no clue, since the clinic doesn't appear to know either. So we have to take her to a new doctor - who naturally won't have a record of her immunizations and will have to request it from the old clinic who have no doctors who are accepting new patients. Brilliant, huh?

She asked me about the TB test, and the immunization, since she knows I had it in school - as did all Brits of my age group. What I didn't realize was that she didn't want to hear the truth about it...she wanted me to tell her it didn't hurt. Silly me. From what I remember it hurts plenty. The tine test is like a stapler with lots of needles in a circle. They punch your forearm with it, and then leave you for a week to see if anything develops. I guess mine didn't develop the way it was supposed to, since along with most of my classmates, I had to have the TB jab too. And that was not yummy in the slightest bit, since the vaccination, kind of like a smallpox immunization, has to be scratched into the skin with a hooky needle. It's not just a straight in and out jab like most of them.

So here I am, waxing lyrically about TB tests and TB jabs, and not noticing that Lema is looking very pale by this point. Oops.

There are certain things about England that I really miss. One of them is healthcare. To me, it makes so much more sense, if you want people immunized, to do it as part of a school thing. When we reached the age of 15, all kids were routinely tested for TB as part of the school day. We were taken by class to the nurse's office, where a county health doctor administered the tests in an assembly line kind of way. The girls also had to have a rubella immunization, since the MMR was years away from production, and they didn't want us all having babies later that would have the chance to be deformed courtesy of us girls getting german measles. So whether you'd had the disease previously or not, you were immunized against it at 15. Naturally this made all of us hate all the boys who only had to endure the TB tine test, and didn't have to get the rubella jab also.

But because it was part of the school day, there wasn't the fear or the anticipation that there would have been if we had all had to go and get it done at our family physician's office. Obviously you don't want to appear to be a wuss in front of your classmates, so you're so busy thinking about that, that by the time it's your turn for the test, it's over before you realize it.

All kids had free dentist exams and free eyeglasses if they needed them. Oh, and free prescriptions and doctor visits. In fact, adults received free doctor visits also, although they had to pay a nominal amount for prescriptions. And contraception was free. To everybody. I don't understand a society which doesn't want abortions, but doesn't make contraception free. When I first came over here, I was astounded that Boeing's health insurance (arguably one of the best in the country at the time) didn't cover the cost of the contraception pill, but did cover the cost of an abortion. Is it me or is that a majorly screwed up way of looking at the problem??

The downside to the National Health Service was that you might have to wait for a while for surgery which wasn't an emergency. The upside was that you would never been turned away from a doctor's office or a hospital because you didn't have the money to pay for it. I took all of that for granted until I moved here and saw people having to make the choice between seeing a doctor and eating. For a country which thinks of itself as being the most civilized in the world, and proclaims it at every opportunity, that's something of a disgrace. Yeah, there's Medicare and Medicaid, but what if you make too much money to qualify for it? And trust me...you don't have to be rolling in money to not qualify for Medicaid. Their maximum allowable income is scandalously low, low enough to make it a joke considering the cost of just keeping a roof over your head and the lights turned on. Sometimes earning enough to just provide those simple necessities of life can disqualify you from Medicaid.

I also miss my family allowance. In England, every child is given an allowance (at the time I left, it was about $30 a week), in a coupon book redeemable at the post office and payable to the parents. It doesn't sound much, but it helped me out a tremendous amount when it came to purchasing things like shoes and winter coats. You just saved up your family allowance for a month or so, and then went down and cashed the whole thing and purchased what you needed for the child.

Oh, and school supplies? Provided by the school. My sister, who was a teacher before she burned out and went off to be an educational psychologist, was scandalized at the school supply list we had for the children to go back to school with. Even now, the bulk of that is provided by the educational department in England. They don't do the 3 ring binder and loose paper until they reach the equivalent of a junior in high school - our 6th form. Prior to that, the kids use workbooks which are provided by the school. Basically the only thing the parents are responsible for purchasing are pens, pencils, markers and colored pencils.

I know, there's a lot of people who will moan about the fact that schools can't afford it. Well that's the way it's been set up here. Despite the fact that parents are responsible for purchasing all of the supplies, and financing most of the rest of the activities which take place in school, the end result is still an education which will not give them a direct place in a British University. American students who want a University education in England, generally have to do a year or two in a community college first to get them up to the level that native British children are at when they leave the 6th form, the equivalent of high school here. By the time Brits enter the 6th form, they are usually focusing on three or four academic subjects, and these are the ones they will take their examinations in. You take an examination in each subject at the end of the two years of the 6th form, and the results of these exams will determine what kind of University will accept you. It's not just a blanket high school diploma based on credits, the way it is here. So for acceptance into a British University, an American high school graduate would have to go to a lesser college and complete an intensive course in whatever they wish to major in at University, just to bring them up to the required level for entrance. Which is pretty sad, when you consider again, that the US is supposed to be the most advanced nation in the world.

And now...catch me...for I am stepping down from my soapbox.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reading Rainbow

Oh...be still my heart for I have discovered paradise here on earth. It resides within the walls of a small, squat whitewashed building on Tacoma Mall Boulevard, and it's name...verily I say unto thee...it's name is HALF PRICE BOOKS. And thou shalt worship this place, and pay homage to it and tithe most of your grocery money. For it shalt bring you joy beyond your comprehension.

Azrael and I took the Teen Peeps down to this store today. We've been meaning to go for a while, but certain things - like having no money after buying a ton of school clothes and supplies - kind of got in the way.

If you have never stepped inside one of these places, let me warn you that if you have the slightest tendency toward book-sluttishness as my entire family do, this could turn out to be a pretty expensive outing. But well worth the visit. The Stephen King 'Hearts in Atlantis' I wanted to read after seeing the movie? $1 people! ONE FREAKING DOLLAR!! I even unwittingly picked up a couple of first editions, which are always cool, and which cost the same price as it would have without its FE status.

Xander found books on science and computing, 'Lema swooped down on the Wicca and Psychology sections, Azrael took an entire ARMFUL of Dell Abyss books ("I don't know these authors but this publishing company is BRILLIANT! They publish the BEST horror books!"), and yours truly found her way to the true crime and slimy death sections, along with "Fried Green Tomatoes...", "The Shipping News", and "We Were The Mulvaneys" all at $2 a head. You can't beat those prices. We managed to fill 3...count 'em 3!! shopping baskets with books and music and the occasional computer game, and staggered back home to surround ourselves with the printed word for the rest of the Labor Day weekend.

And lo...there was much rejoicing.

Friday, September 02, 2005

School's Out....

...for three days! Yeah, I know it's not as good as Alice Cooper's original but hey...here in Buckley WA they do things in an odd way. Like having the kids go back to school on September 1st so that they can attend for two days and be off for three. Who's idea was this? Seems like up until a couple of years ago, school never started until after Labor Day here.

The Teen Peeps are having a blast now they're back in school. 'Lema is wowing her treble choir class with her amazing brilliance, as she was in chamber choir (the big choir) last year, and knows a whole bunch of stuff these other kids don't. She's loving drama - and I could make some remarks about drama queens, but I am MUCH too nice for that...heh heh. And as for Xander...aka Hates To Do Homework Boy...he's making a dent in his plans to become Boy Of The Year by becoming the teacher's aide for his life skills class. I told him he should think about helping out in the library too, since you can always use a working knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System, and those library page jobs at the county libraries are pretty cushy deals during the summer.

Of course, the teachers sent home work. Not for the kids, you understand, but for yours truly. One of the wits sent home a request for an essay about Xander in a million words or less. Oh...ha ha...one of those just out of teacher's training school and hasn't been beaten down by life in the REAL world yet teachers!! I've had those before. They're the ones who send home lots of notes about how they think education is a FAMILY event, and as such, look...note well...I have concocted a whole PAGE of exciting and fun-filled activities for the entire FAMILY to share together!! Listen, lady. I am more than willing to do my share of making sure the kids get their homework done. I'll look it over. I'll make sure it gets into their backpack and threaten them with grievous bodily harm if it fails to reach you for the 20th time this month. But you know what? I work on a job which is piece work. I get paid by what I turn out. That means during the day until the kids get home, and after they go to bed, sometimes until 3 in the morning, I'm working my fingers numb and my eyes fuzzy. So please...excuse me if I find your list of exciting and fun-filled activities the whole FAMILY can share together....which usually entails a trip to the craft/stationery/hardware/grocery store and money I can ill afford to spend.....a little IRRITATING! Particularly when you make the damned thing part of the kid's grade, and they neglect to tell me about it until the evening before it's due to be turned in. Yeah...I TRULY loathe and despise and CURSE you all the way down to your hippie little Birkenstocks when I'm single-handedly attempting to recreate a model of the Parthenon at midnight.

Hopefully this guy isn't going to turn out to be one of those teachers. Or we may have to have an email exchange. In a million words or less.

Pekish Update part deux

I took Rosybelle back to the vet for her follow-up urinalysis today, and the news is good, although he still has a couple of things he's a little bit concerned about. First, the good news. Her white cell count on our last trip was about 200 cells per field - mega mega infection. Today it was just a couple of cells per field. That shows that the antibiotics are working and things are looking up, which is super great news.

The only things which concern him are the fact that there are still white cells there, and that her bladder itself is a little hardened. As the urine is extracted via a needle, there should be zero white blood cells in it, since there is no chance of contamination. So that, plus the hardening leads him to believe that the urinary tract infection persists, albeit in a very reduced state from last time.

So...another week of antibiotics and a call to the vet a couple of days before those ones run out so that he can ask me some questions to determine if he thinks it's a good idea to bring her back in or if he thinks she'll be fine. Got to love people who don't make you pay more money than you have to, don't you?

Ms. Belle herself is feeling much better, as evidenced by the fact that she's once again leading me around the house. Apparently she thinks I'm too dense to find my way to the kitchen without her help, and trots along ahead of me, looking back over her shoulder to make sure I'm still following. Oh...and she's once again bringing me presents. Now Rosy is 3/4 Pekingese and 1/4 Poodle, so I don't know where the whole Retriever tendency thing comes in, but since she was a puppy she's always felt a need to greet you with a present in her mouth. Not knowing where her roots are, I guess she could be a southern belle, who are famous for their hospitality, but whatever the reason, as soon as she knows you're approaching, you can see her panicking as she looks around the general area wildly. "Oh my gosh...you're here. I need a gift. I need a...I need a....dirty Xander sock! The perfect thing!" And she'll leap on it and scoop it up in order to present it to you as you approach. Of course, sometimes socks aren't available and she's had to make do with lesser offerings such as discarded popsicle sticks or pieces of cardboard, but she's ALWAYS sure to bring you SOMETHING. While she was sick, I guess she just wasn't up for all the preparation and gift-giving, which is understandable. Hey...from my memories of bladder infections, I merely wanted to kill anything around me that was moving, so she's handled herself like a little trouper.

I also bought something at the vet which is guaranteed to make her heart flutter. SHAMPOO!! and better yet...the vet threw in some eye gunk for FREE! Since she's got those bulging Peke eyes, there's a tendency for the shampoo to get into them, no matter how careful you are, so this stuff basically just gives a protective filmy coating for the duration of the bath experience. Rose is....well...let's just say if she were a human she'd be a beauty parlor junkie. She adores being groomed, and doesn't even mind being bathed - aside from the whole eye thing. During the whole sick and peeing all over the place thing, there didn't seem to be much point in bathing her, as I didn't think she'd feel like being messed around with. But now I think she's ready. I KNOW she's ready, since while I was waiting in the vet's office for the results of the urinalysis, I was stroking her head absently while she napped in my lap, and happened to notice my fingers were coming back...well...greasy and dirty. SO...later today La Belle Peke will receive the full beauty parlor treatment, and will be in absolute heaven.

Seems only fair after having a thermometer stuck up your bum and a needle in your bladder, doesn't it?

Can we say 'OUCH'?