Thursday, February 26, 2009

a month, more or less

Barack Obama has been president for just over 4 weeks. I hear people every day saying he isn't doing enough, he hasn't changed anything. He has been president for just over 4 weeks! It took 8 years of the Bush presidency to flush the country down the drain -- it will take more than 4 weeks to fix it.

Why the excessive expectations? Is it because we believe so much in Obama's message that we expected miracles? or is it really that many people want the president to fail, because he isn't the person they wanted for the job? I suspect the latter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

old home week

It feels like old home week. Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend, one I haven't seen in twenty years. Neither one of us has changed a bit. Okay, we've changed tons, but it didn't FEEL like we had. Not once we started talking.

And then, through the miracle of modern technology, I was contacted by another old friend. This one was the best man at our wedding. We haven't seen him in maybe 15 years or so. It feels great to know how he is, what he's doing now.

I absolutely love "finding" people, which is really another way of saying I hate losing them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

sign of the times

We are in the process of re-financing our house. The interest rates are at their lowest, and since we plan to be here for years, it just makes good financial sense. The appraiser came out today to inspect the property. Now, this not our first house. It is our fourth. So we have dealt with appraisers many times in the past. On the last two occasions, the appraiser drove by the house, and then phoned in his appraisal. That's it.

This time, the appraiser walked around outside. He took pictures. He moved piles of leaves next to the foundation. He measured the thickness of the tile on the porch. He came in, looked at every room, on every floor. He even went into our basement. He asked a bunch of questions, took a lot of notes. It was scary.

Banks have to be more cautious now. They don't want to lend money (or in our case re-lend money, since our current mortgage is with the same bank) without being sure, absolutely sure, of their investment. But it is frightening, when you already have property, to have it judged on an entirely different scale.

It really makes me feel for people who have mortgages that now exceed the value of their property. What happens to you in that situation? What happens if you have to move?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

what's just

What's just? The nine year old Arizona boy who killed his father and his father's room-mate has plead guilty to 1 count of negligent homicide. This was a deal arranged by the prosecutor, who frankly had no idea what to do with a 9 year old killer. Neither does the judge, or the court system.

The family of the slain room-mate is unhappy with the decision. The child took away their family member, he planned the act, he carried it out, he understood the consequences enough to concoct an "alibi". The will serve no jail time, and may get to go home with his mother. The family feels this is unjust.

The problem -- what is just?

This is a little kid, 8 years old at the time of the murders. He told a case-worker he was not going to be spanked any more. He had been taught how to shoot by his father. Is fear of spanking self-defense? Is being 8 years old diminished capacity? Does a child understand consequences in the same way as an adult?

But there are two dead adults. What of them? Is it just that their killer walks free? Is it just to pay more attention to the perpetrator than we do to the victims?

Is fairness the same as justice? How do we decide? What best serves society, whom the laws are written to protect? How much weight do the various parties have in this? Do the living outweigh the dead?

How we mete out justice is a defining action of what we are as a people. So, what's just?

Monday, February 16, 2009

holy hand-grenade, batman!

Holy hand-grenade, batman! That was close. Two nuclear submarines collided with each other recently. The announcement came today, but the accident occured in early February, when British and French nuclear submarines ran into each other during underwater operations.

LOVELY! apparently the sub's locations are super-secret, even from NATO allies. And despite having a lot of ocean to play around in, they still managed to bump noses. Both subs were dented, but no nuclear material leaked out.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

a valentine for my sweetie

Those of you who are embarassed by sentimentality may avert your eyes. Today's post is for my valentine, my sweetie, my hubby of almost 27 years.

This isn't the way we would have chosen to spend our day -- both of us sick and stressed -- but it doesn't make it any less sweet for all that. I love you, I appreciate you, and I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without you.

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

how much has changed in my lifetime

I was thinking the other morning about how much had changed in my lifetime. I grew up in an atmosphere of racism and intolerance. Didn't know it then, but I look back and think, OMG, how could we be like that?

The kids in my neighborhood, myself included, used to play a game called "Smear the Queer". Do you remember that one? Whoever was the queer, caught the football and was then jumped on by everyone else in the game. Nice values.

When it got hot in the summer, and you would get all sweaty, a grownup would wipe the "nigger babies" off your neck (the black grime that would collect in the folds of your neck). Our version of "eenie meenie" included "catch a nigger by his toe". Really. Pretty awful when you think about it.

We did not play with black children. We were not allowed to invite them home or to sleepovers. I didn't have a sleepover in 4th grade, because I could not invite Janet Pulley, along with all the other girls. Didn't seem right to me, although I think it was more about friendship than about any budding social conscience on my part.

Our neighborhood was completely white. 100%. When we went to sell our house there, another three houses were for sale. The neighbors agreed to not sell to anyone black, so that the neighborhood wouldn't be ruined.

Yet I did not grow up to be a bigot. I did not grow up to be a racist. Why? Because I learned to read when I was six. And I got a library card. And an education.
I am so glad that my world opened up -- I would hate to still be in the same place I was then.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

about time!

The Senate passed a bill today that would give the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress. It still has to get through the House, but really -- this is long overdue. The people of DC pay taxes. They vote for President. It is time they had what all other citizens have, a voice in Congress that actually counts. Non-voting representation is just plain insulting -- like being allowed to sit at the adult table, but only if you don't talk.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

split personality

I am taking two very different classes this semester: Science Fiction Film and Ideas of Justice. So today, I spent some time on homework for class. This means I read 60 or so page of Aristotle, and then read up on Flash Gordon (the 1930s serials). I think I have mental whiplash. I also read a sermon from St John Chrysostom on social justice.

In between, I also walked and played outside with the dog. I cooked for the week, did laundry, did my grocery shopping and went to the bookstore.

I am not sure if I am crazy or not -- but I actually enjoy the schizoid life...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I hate citibank

We have exactly one credit card in our house. We make our payments on time, every month. Today we got a piece of what looked like junk mail from Citibank. Luckily, I opened it. It was a notice that our interest rate was going from 6.99% to 24.99%! If I hadn't opened this, in April we would have received a staggeringly nasty surprise. I believe the mailing was supposed to be ignored and trashed. They hope customers won't read the notice, because by law, once the new rate has kicked in, you have no recourse. If you read the notice and respond in writing in 30 days, you can choose to decline the rate increase. This means closing your account to new charges, but they let you continue to pay your balance on the old terms for as long as it takes to pay it off. Oh, yeah, and they take your rewards account away. So the miles we have been hoarding will go away in 30 days, meaning we can't use them.

Again, this isn't punitive. We didn't miss a payment, we didn't pay anything late. We are "valued customers" and they "value our business" -- they are just thinking this is a way to raise quick cash or something. It is a terrible terrible idea, at completely the wrong time for most people. Do they really think that tripling interest rates is a great idea in a recession? Who do they think will actually pay that much? Maybe they could stop running so many commercials as a way to cut costs. Or cut bonuses or something.

I would like to think this is isolated -- that it is just Citibank. But apparently other card issuers have been doing similar things. The rate we were given is actually lower than some cards -- some folks are getting letters with a 28% rate. We are toying with the idea of not having a card at all -- we do have a VISA check card, and pretty much everywhere that takes cards accepts it. And it has the added bonus of not being able to overspend, since we are limited to what we actually have in the bank.

In the meantime, I would advise everyone to read every scrap of mail that comes from your credit card company. You don't want to be taken by surprise.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

feeling all nerdy and outcast

I am taking a sci-fi film course this semester. So I should be in my element, right? Doing the reading tonight, I found a nice long passage about the common perception of scifi fandom --

"Yet the ‘fan’, and especially the ‘science fiction fan’, has a very low cultural currency today. He or she exists in a cultural climate of low-level ridicule and dismissal;thought of as obsessive cultists, unskilled at social interaction, physically unattractive and unhygienic, outsiders, nerds; to instance a cultural icon with whom many people will be familiar, the comic book store owner in The Simpsons cartoon series." -- Adam Roberts

Nice, huh? Wow, but I feel special.

I suddenly felt like I did when I was 8 or 9 and the librarian would ask me why I wasted my time on that "trash" when there were so many good books to read. By the time I was 12 or so, and socially aware, I hid my love of sci-fi and fantasy. I don't think even my closest friends knew that I was a fan. Not until college did I admit to liking the stuff. And then I got tons of abuse from my English Lit peers, who couldn't or wouldn't understand that sci-fi and fantasy could be worthy of attention.

Monday, February 02, 2009

reproductive ethics

The recent delivery of octuplets has me thinking about reproductive ethics. The mother of the octuplets had six children before having the most recent 8. She conceived by in vitro fertilization, and asked that all 8 fertilized eggs be implanted. She is a single mother, and does not have the financial resources to pay the full cost of her medical care. The cost for the delivery is well over $100,000.

By all accounts, she is a good mother. But I feel that this is wrong, and I am trying to work out why. I believe that I cannot be forced to carry a child to term that I do not want. The converse, that I should not be forced to terminate a pregnancy that I do want, also applies. Is the issue that this was voluntary? She chose to implant the 8 embryos, knowing that all 8 could, and did, develop into babies. Is it that she chose to have children she cannot afford? That's part of it, although it is a slippery slope to go down ethically, to say that being able to afford children is a requirement for having them. Is it the medical costs that society will bear, for what is a voluntary event? Again, that definitely weighs for me.

Is it the medical risk of the procedure? It borders on malpractice to implant 8 embryos... it is significantly more dangerous for mother and child, with each additional embryo. Where was the counseling? the medical advice and responsibility in this process?

What about the children? 14 children, all conceived via in vitro, 8 of them premature and low birth weight. How much attention can 1 single parent provide to these 14 children? How will they feel about themselves and their mother? Will they be healthy? Happy?

Where is the line? is there a point where someone has too many children? should society have any say? should medicine? because we can achieve 8 multiple births, should we?