Tuesday, November 13, 2007 8:44:22 PM
I gleefully admit to being a relatively eccentric individual with hobbies some might think are weird.
For instance, sports make my eyes roll back in my head… but I am completely captivated by the Black plague of the 1340’s. My favorite book The Great Mortality by John Kelly is about the societal effects of the great plague and I have read it cover to cover at least 7 times. It is an absolutely fascinating book and, odd as it may sound, it is a very light read.
My husband chuckles when I tell him that I am feeling blue and am going to read about the plague to cheer myself up, but when I read about how people persevered in the face of such staggering circumstances it does give me hope.
There was one small city which lost 9,000 people in one month, an average of 300 people per day.
When I think about the SARS epidemic and how something like only 18 American’s died nationwide during the entire “epidemic” I find myself sniffing in disdain for the average person’s panic over the situation. I think about how the news would look if a city as large as Cleveland, Ohio was losing 300 people a day to a devastating disease and what if the news was reporting similar stories in city after city. The panic which would ensue as cities which hadn’t been infected yet watched the news for evidence of their impending doom. I can’t help but imagine Donald Sutherland giving a progress report, a ‘la “The Puppet Master” or “Outbreak” with his chart and the red dots of infection quickly engulfing the entire country.
I bring this up because several stories about HIV infections and AIDS caught my eye on yahoo news today.
One was about how in some small poverty ridden state of India it is very common for a person to be completely ostracized when they are diagnosed with HIV. The story also told of how their families were also ostracized in some instances, and how they couldn’t get priests to perform funerals, or even someone to cremate the body.
The next article I read was about how there is this wonderful test for HIV which requires only the painless swab of a cheek and 20 minutes to determine if a person has HIV and how the CDC recommended that all emergency rooms offer the test to anyone who comes in for treatment, regardless of why they were in the emergency room, but there wasn’t funding for the program and insurance companies refuse to pay for it.
There was another article that reported on a study where they found out a lot of people don’t think AIDS is fatal. AIDS is always fatal. How can people today not know that? It is fortunate that with modern medicine it is possible to keep people with HIV from progressing to full blown AIDS for years, but once it becomes AIDS it is always fatal. In the US AIDS is reasonably under control, but the disease is still spreading like wildfire across Africa and Asia. China denies it has invaded its shores. The leaders of Iran deny that there are homosexuals, so I can only imagine what their reaction to the spread of HIV and AIDS is. India, as I mentioned above, has its own problems with the disease. South Africa has an infection rate of something like 17%. In the 2005 about 13.4% of the population of the United States of America was made up of people of African descent, and about 4.2% of the population was made up of people of Asian descent. The AIDS epidemic in South Africa is the equivalent of every person of Asian or African descent in the US in 2005 having been diagnosed with AIDS. Think about that. Think about how often you pass someone of African or Asian descent just walking down the street or eating in a restaurant.
I suppose I shouldn’t be dismayed by the lack of information or the lack of coverage the disease gets in America. This willful ignorance of the real problem at hand is pervasive through out our society. American’s can barely be bothered to think about the tragedy we have created in Iraq, where the equivalent of the 9/11 attacks happen just about every week or so.
It is a great tragedy that this disease which is completely preventable, still rampages across the globe in a gleeful shroud of ignorance and malice.
The “Religious Right” advocates teaching “Abstinence or else”TM, and distributes false information about the effectiveness of condoms.
Last year there was some Congressman who announced he got HIV from some medical procedure, but was afraid to tell anyone because he knew “no one from my church would understand.”
Is that really what Jesus would do? Lie and then tell someone it’s their own fault for not following his advice to keep their pants on? Would he look at the death tolls in Africa and think “Eh, it’s not in my neighborhood. Besides, they aren’t real and their suffering isn’t real because they don’t look like me and they don’t believe the same things I do and they didn’t keep their pants on like I told them.”
And still the death tolls rise.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 8:26:26 PM
There was a school shooting today around the corner and two blocks north of my office building.
Apparently some of my coworkers were watching the hubbub from their office windows.
It just seems so surreal.
For some reason, it reminds me of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Parade we watched from the conference rooms in our old building on East 9th Street. It was a cold drizzly day, for some reason that always seems to be the weather whenever there is a parade in Cleveland, and we were all warm and cozy in our conference room looking down on the parade as it went by.
Well today is a cold and drizzly day and my co-workers were warm and cozy looking down as a tragedy happened by.
Ever since I heard about it, which was about 20 – 30 minutes ago, I have been inundated with people pontificating about the incident. Here are a few of the snippets I have heard today.
One innocent enough comment about the “good ole days”:
“Back when I was a kid, which wasn’t that long ago, the bad kid at school was the one who stole the date stamp from the librarian.”
One wry attempt at humor:
“What is it going to do to my commute?”
One bizarre attempt at “why didn’t they prevent that”:
“I heard that he always wore black and liked to wear hoods, why didn’t somebody talk to him about that.” (Apparently this is always a clue that someone is going to go on a shooting rampage. Did you know this? I didn’t. Apparently all Goths are really homicidal maniacs in really poor disguises. Just like all only A-rabs are terrorists, which must be good news for the IRA and people like Timothy McVeigh.)
Three grim soulless bastards, not surprisingly from a person with a lesbian sister who is anti-gay marriage:
“I’m glad he’s dead.”
“He deserved to die.”
“I have no sympathy for anyone who does that.”
I know the shooter was a young man of about 15.
I know he hurt, but did not kill, 5 people; 3 students and 2 teachers.
I have been told he committed suicide.
The Dali Lama says that if you want to make other people happy, show compassion and if you want to make yourself happy, show compassion.
I am not surprised that school shootings happen and I am not particularly shocked when they do. People live painful lives and the pain surfaces in horrific ways.
Because ultimately it’s all about me, I am now going to be subjected to the usual vapid discussions about how its his parents fault, or the school’s fault, or why didn’t somebody notice that he liked to wear black. He obviously played too many violent video games / watched too much TV / Drank the Kool-aid. If only he had gone to church more....
What is it about modern America that makes people think the only option available to them is an outburst of horrific violence followed by suicide?
Is this really a post WWII phenomenon?
Monday, September 24, 2007 10:07:06 PM
I am at Disney's Whore House in Orlando for a week long CPE course.
I am in a conference room with about 43 people. that's 43 live and breathing people.
Someone asked a questions and the moderator said "We'll talk about that off-line."
I ask you - off what line?
I know what he meant, but it just annoys me. Seriously, I don't think he realizes he can't talk off-line because we were never on-line. And it really isn't the same as saying "We'll discuss this on a break."
I wonder if other people do this during meetings.
Seriously, this bothers me more then "irregardless" which is pretty damn awful.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007 9:01:42 PM
Lukcy Number Slevin
I watched Lucky Number Slevin
last night. My husband and I got it from Netflicks.
It was a pretty good movie. I recommend it to anyone interested in a dark twisty puzzler.
I didn't guess the major plot point until the end; which is unusual for me. I'm usually way ahead of the story as to what's going to happen next and I have to be careful not to spoil it for other people. I'm also good at predicting some dialog. I guess it comes from watching a lot of movies.
Anyway, all of the performances were really good; the dialog was snappy, the plot wasn't predictable; it had a number of my favorite actors in it...
I think it was definitely worth renting.
Thursday, July 26, 2007 11:55:40 PM
a typical interesection
My company sent me to India last week for an audit.
As anyone who has spoken to me in the last two months knows, I was an anxiety ridden mess over the prospect of having to visit India. Having to get vaccinated didn't help, because I hate needles.
As it happens, I enjoyed my trip to India and wouldn't mind going back. We stayed at the Taj Residency in Bangalore, which may have had the best breakfast buffet I've ever had, and the food overall was very good.
I feel the need to admit that I didn't eat anywhere but the hotel. I was warned against trying to be adventurous when it came to eating in India. Perhaps I overly erred on the side of caution, but on the otherhand I didn't get sick on the trip.
The main reason for the post was to show off my best picture from the trip.
I wanted to try and capture the chaos that is Bangalore traffic, which is hard to do with the little camera I have. My husband thought this one turned out well so have a gander.
By the way, that traffic is squeezed into three lanes.
Monday, July 16, 2007 6:19:33 PM
It has been 18 years since the Tienanmen Square protests. They started on April 15, 1989 (Tax day in America, oddly enough) and came to a brutal end when, in the early hours of June 4th, when 300,000 troops using tanks and semi automatic weapons crushed the protest. The deaths from that confrontation, depending on the source, range from 1,000 to 7,000 people.
The very next day a lone man walked in front of a column of tanks which were moving east on Beijing's Chang'an Boulevard (Avenue of Eternal Peace) near Tienanmen Square. Carrying a briefcase in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other, he walked in front of the tanks and stood his ground. And they stopped. Every time they tried to go around him, he would move in front of them again. At one point he scampered on top of the lead tank and talked to the men inside. When he came back down, he tried to block them again, but some people from the surrounding crowd came forward and pulled him away.
The "Tank Man" is one of my heroes.
I always imagine him walking home from work, having stopped at the store to pick up something to cook for dinner, when he happened upon this horrendous scene. Then with nothing more then sheer force of will, he stopped the madness.
I know that my mental image of what happened is very "Mary Poppins" and I know he didn't just come upon this scene, announce "Well that is enough of that" and then walk into the middle of the street and create an iconic moment. But that is how my mind's eye sees it when I give it any thought.
A lot of debate surrounds the fate of the "Tank Man". Some say he was executed within days of his historic protest. The Chinese government will not say who he is, or what happened to him, but they categorically deny his being executed. There are some accounts that he was never identified and has evaded capture all of these years.
The driver of the tank was not so lucky.
He is another one of my heroes.
I am too tired to find the source material to properly site his fate, but many years ago I read that he had been arrested, tortured and imprisoned for disobeying direct orders to run down the "Tank Man".
He was, after all, much easier to find, and in many ways a "captive" audience.
Today's world is filled with misery and hatred boiling over into violence. Acts of terrorism happen multiple times per day. To me, terrorism is the ultimate acknowledgment of impotence. Its a fruitless venture that results in the death of innocent people and no appreciable effect upon governing bodies. Pacifist movements, on the other hand, lack the flash (sorry) but have actually resulted in meaningful regime change.
There are a number of instances where non-violent protests have significantly changed the world. Gandhi freed India from the yoke of British rule with non-violent protest. The Solidarity Union in Poland, under the leadership of Lech Walesa, helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union. And in the Philippines, Corazon Aquino's supporters brought down the Marcos regime with nothing more violent then banging pots together after a rigged election denied her the presidency.
But I digress.
This post was supposed to be about the "Tank Man".
Why I love the "Tank Man" in a hundred words or less:
- He saw something unconscionable and acted to stop it.
- His protest was non-violent.
- He lived in a country where any kind of protesting was illegal and was likely to result in severe punishment. He did it anyway.
- He had to have known walking in front of the tanks would likely result in his immediate death by being run over, but he did it anyway. What a rush it must have been when he realized they actually stopped.
- As public an act as it was, it was a private moment between him and his conscience. He has faded into the mists of time without later polluting the act through self-promotion a'la Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.
- His silent act of defiance was heard around the world.
Why I love the tank's driver:
- People had to have been screaming at him, over the radio, in the tank itself, and yet... He stopped.
- He knew what would happen to him... Still, He stopped.
- The "Tank Man" always struck me as a beautiful act of whimsy. Very "Damn the torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead." Very "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" The Tank Driver's was a very clear act of defiance that would just as easily result in his execution for mutiny, and yet he made a clear moral choice. His statement was a very quiet yet deliberate "FUCK YOU" to the man... His statement was "I love my country but I will not commit murder for it." When the Powers That Be said "run that Son of a Bitch over" he said "NO!"
Also I love the poetry of this historic and iconic moment happening on "The Avenue of Eternal Peace."
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 5:18:43 PM
I was walking back to my office today after picking up lunch at quasi-fast food joint in downtown Cleveland today. It is a journey I make fairly regularly and is about a 1 – 2 block walk. There is usually a panhandler asking for money about 20 feet away from the door as one leaves the restaurant.
For some reason, seeing him today made me think of those awful debit card commercials where there is pleasant music and everything is running like a little assembly line in a shop until someone tries to pay for their purchase with cash and the whole thing comes to a screeching stop. Well I’ll get back to the commercial in a moment. Just keep it in the back of your mind.
Developing a personal financial plan requires some skills similar to going on a healthy diet. You need to track where your money is going (keep a food diary); determine what you can reasonably spend in a week (how many calories a day you can eat); figure out how you are going to spend the money allotted (what can you eat for those calories); only bring enough cash for your daily allocation of spending (pack a lunch); etc.
A few years ago I was struggling to pay off student loans and keep the debt collectors happy. I started carrying my “allowance” in an envelope. It was enough money to pay for the weeks parking and lunch. If I was a goose and splurged at the beginning of the week, I might have to skip lunch on Friday type of thing. As I became better at controlling my spending I stopped using the envelope.
Lately I have been putting all of my purchases on my Amazon visa. I get $25 gift certificates in the mail for doing this. I like getting gift certificates. As a result I carry a whole lot less cash then I had previously. I figure I can just go to the ATM if something comes up requiring cash.
In the commercial mentioned above I would be one of the happy little workers keeping the assembly line running smoothly.
I was thinking of that commercial today as I paid for my lunch. I even had the song “Brazil” going through my head as I left the restaurant and passed the panhandler. Then my thoughts came to a screeching halt.
Both the government and the credit/debit card companies would prefer it if we did every financial transaction with plastic. It would enable the government to track how we spend every penny, enabling them to tax us more efficiently and do the whole “Big Brother” routine, and the credit/debit card companies would be able to charge us, and the vendors, fees which are their real source of revenue. Aside from the sinister aspects inherent in the system, it is a fairly convenient way to buy things.
Which brings me back to the panhandler and the stupid commercial.
Back in the day when I was doing envelope budgeting, I would sometimes give the friendly homeless guy a dollar or two. If it had been a good week and it was Friday, and I was feeling really flush, I occasionally gave him $5 so he could get a hot meal at McDonald’s. We went to the same food court, so I knew he was really buying food with it.
Even if I had wanted to, I could not have given the panhandler any cash today. I knew where I was going for lunch when I left my office and had deliberately only brought my credit card with me. It’s light, it’s handy, takes up very little space in the pocket and the restaurant was only 1 – 2 blocks away.
If the utopia portrayed in the commercial comes to fruition, what happens to the beggars?
It isn’t like they are going to have little credit card machines they can run your charity through.
Also, I think the more affluent a person becomes the less likely they will be to carry cash on them. In futuristic sci-fi movies only criminals carry cash. If that really becomes the norm in the future then what happens to the panhandlers?
I get that some people don’t think that is a problem and think having the panhandlers going away is a feature of having a plastic economy. But seriously, being poor is not an easy adventure. Being homeless isn’t some lark for the vast majority of people. (There is the occasional grunge rocker who is doing homeless for his art, but I think his kind are statistical aberrations who should be discounted from the population of homeless people for purposes of aid proposals.)
Well that was my big thought for the day. Cash enables charity; charity is good for your soul. Plastic makes for plastic people; plastic people have no soul.
Monday, April 23, 2007 2:36:35 AM
Well, it's been a month and I owe a blog tag post.
The book I just finished reading is The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites.
It has a page 123, it does not however have a 5th paragraph on that page. So, starting at the top of page 123, I have counted 5 paragraphs. The 5th paragraph happens to fall on page 125. It reads:
"I'm not much of a jewelery wearer, so my pearls rarely leave their blue velvet box. Nevertheless, I like knowing they're there - they are a part of what links me to the other women in my family. This is not an uncommon sentiment. In researching this chapter, I've come across dozen of stories of pearls being handed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter - some spectacular, like the Vanderbilt tale, others more ordinary but no less meaningful. Pearls are a singularly graceful legacy, not just a possession but an emblem of femininity. (Because they're so widely recognized as such, pearls are the perfect tool for turning concepts like gentility on their heads: Tim Curry, playing the sex-mad transvestite Dr. Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, wore a neat pearl choker.)
Monday, March 26, 2007 5:20:06 PM
I can't believe it is already March. Heck, it’s almost April. I thought surely I had written something since New Year's Day.
I've been tagged for another Blog game. Something about books and the fifth paragraph on page 123, or some such direction. As one of those people who has on average 4 - 5 books going at a time, I need to figure out which book to use. I already checked my favorite book, but it didn't have a fifth paragraph on that page... Ah well, one down 4 more to go. I wonder if this is considered cheating.
Friday, December 29, 2006 10:36:26 PM
I was awoken early this morning by a phone call from one of my credit card companies. They wanted me to tell them if two recent charges on my card were legitimate or not. One was for $21.86 and the other was for $308.48; One was legitimate, the other wasn't.
I have been working on eliminating my credit card debt. I have a theory that credit card companies are agents of the devil. When you sign up for a credit card, you are in fact signing away your soul. If you some how, against the odds, manage to pay-off your debt before you die, you may get your soul back. When I felt like splurging on some unnecessary but for some unfathomable reason highly desirable item, I would ask myself, "Is it worth your soul to own this widget?" Frequently, because I have horribly self indulgent tendencies and mostly what I want to buy is books, magazines, cookware, and food, the answer was "YES!". Recently the question has morphed into "Will I be embarrassed explaining this purchase to my very frugal husband?" which is in fact a much stronger motivator for me then the whole soul thing.
Anyway, It was very distressing to get this call this morning. It was on a credit card I hardly ever use, which is part of why the security flag was tripped. The $21.86 was an item I had charged the day before and gotten into a bit of a tiff with the customer service rep over because she was a twit. I had thought perhaps the fraud was a bit of retribution on her part for me being less then delightful. I am happy to report that wasn't the case. She doesn't have access to that part of my account information, and I hadn't given it to her on the phone. (No, I didn't confirm this with her, but with the company she works for.)
I am aware that I am very lucky. The fraud was identified on the very first attempt and was stopped before the seller, the credit card company or I suffered a loss. I don't really care about the credit card company, after all they are agents of the devil, but I know how difficult the economy is and some sellers can't afford to have merchandise stolen or the hassle with the credit card companies. As for me, the Uniform Commercial Code would have prevented my loss from exceeding $50. An amount I would have hated to pay, but one that would not cause me long term pain.
This encounter has reminded me that our society is a very open society based on trust. Mail order would not work with out trust. Trust that the customer will pay and trust that the seller will provide the goods. Mail order developed in the 1800's. It took a great deal of faith for a pioneer in some bush-wacked back water to send money to Montgomery Ward or Sear Roebuck and expect to receive an item back. The basic trust that people will do what they say they will do is what enabled our economy to explode to the level it is today. These bottom feeders who illegally use credit cards and other forms of deceit are exploiting the basic decency of the average person. They think they are clever and are getting away with something the average person can't understand. The thing is, there are easier ways to make money, and fraud just doesn't pay all that well. Especially when you are caught and have to do time. I knew a guy who was a bank robber. He said that when he averaged out the time he spent in prison against the loot he stole, it worked out to less the $0.35 an hour.
This whole episode hasn't made me very angry, after all I didn't lose anything, but it has made me sad. In the Middle Ages, what the thief did would have been called an accident of the soul. Without realizing it he has stained his soul and diminished himself in a way which he can't understand. His taint eats away at him, the people who have to work the fraud department at the credit card companies, the sellers who have to suffer the loss, and the credit card holders who have to deal with the aftermath of police reports, affidavits, credit report problems, and a lingering fear that someone may try to damage them this way again. And for what? $308.48 worth of video games.
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