Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Tea Bagging

In Culture, Opinion, Politics on April 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

Yesterday, on tax day, thousands of people protested the government’s spending policies by having “tea bag” protests. (How cute!) What these people don’t realize is:

  1. We have to have some way of providing services and aid for those who are less able to take care of themselves.

  2. We also have to provide basic services and amenities (fire and police departments, trash collection, parks, etc.) for the average citizen, who could not afford to pay for these things by himself.

  3. Very few, if any, people understand how we got into this mess to begin with and know what it will take for the U.S. economy to recover, but doing nothing is not an option.

  4. It’s a good bet that most of the people doing the protesting are not going to have to pay more taxes. How many of them make over $250,000 a year? How many CEOs and doctors, college presidents, etc. were in the crowd?

  5. Instead of having protests, people should be educating themselves about the economic crisis and then contacting their congress people and the President with their criticisms and suggestions, or maybe–what a revolutionary idea!– get involved in politics themselves.

  6. People who are against governmental spending for social services would do well to look to the European model. They pay more in taxes, but have safety nets that we don’t have here in the States. And it is the lack of safety nets that has most people running scared.

  7. No one is asking for blind support for the President and his policies, but we do need to give him time to affect change. He has only been President for three months so far!

  8. Those who are protesting any kind of change are being short-sighted. We obviously don’t want to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.

  9. Some protests have been skating on the edge of calling for secession. (The governor of Texas, for example.)

  10. The protestors are hypocrites, because they’ll take government money and services when it suits them (which is often). Texas, for example, gets back 88% of every dollar it sends to Washington.

  11. Conservatives may not fall into the class of “right-wing extremists,” but the reverse is certainly true. There’s no denying that there are fringe elements who are getting out of line (for instance, with allegations that Obama is another Adolf Hitler, or slogans that are patently racist).

  12. Some conservatives are equating the Department of Homeland Security’s findings about the rise of “right-wing extremism” with an attack on them, when it obviously is warning about groups like white supremacists and individuals like Timothy McVeigh. I’m assuming that the average conservative has no truck with that kind of “conservativism.” They are also accusing the Obama administration of coming up with findings like these in order to attack conservatives when papers saying the same thing were being produced under the Bush administration.

The problem with these kinds of protests is that they are often fueled by emotions, not sound and careful thinking. Americans are feeling threatened and they want to find someone or something to blame. They also want quick fixes. (I’m one of them!) But the fact is, we’re not going to get out of this mess any more quickly than we got into it.  We need to educate ourselves about what went wrong and what we can each do to make sure it doesn’t go wrong again. Tying teabags to our hats and protesting on State House lawns is not going to cut it.

[Note on 4/19/09: Tea Party Fallout from The Huffington Post.]


Time Share Vacation, Part 2

In Travel on April 14, 2009 at 10:32 am

Some of you may be wondering about the time share aspect of my vacation. Time share ownership is controversial and the general consensus seems to be that it’s not worth it, or at the very least, that it’s something best undertaken after long and careful consideration–something that you often don’t have when you’re being pressured at a sales presentation. In fact, I think it is the sales technique that gives time shares a bad name.

We bought our time share in December, 2007, after a sales presentation that lasted over two hours. We went to the presentation with no intention of buying a time share. That’s one thing that flusters time share owners: they wonder how they ended up with one in the first place. It doesn’t feel like a free choice. It’s quite possible to withstand the pressure, but the sales people have their approach down to a science. They know exactly what buttons to push. They ask if you would be going on vacation anyway, how much you think you’d spend on a typical vacation, where would you like to go, how long would you like to be gone. Then they point out that a time share vacation is cheaper than one without a time share. Of course they downplay the fact that you have to pay for the time share itself!

It’s true that our vacation was cheaper than it would have been if we’d had to pay for a hotel, plus we had much nicer accommodations. But that’s not counting what we pay every month to pay for the time share. Of course, eventually we’ll have the time share paid off (in our case in about three or four more years) and then we’ll be able to use the time share for “free.” And it will belong to us forever; we can even pass ownership down to our children.

As for the accommodations and amenities, they were superb. The condo was luxurious and fully appointed, the grounds beautifully landscaped and maintained, the service impeccable. There were several heated pools, one right outside our building, and an 18-hole golf course. We were ten minutes away from several of the Disney parks, and of course being in Orlando gives you access to a lot more. We really felt pampered and more relaxed being in a home-like atmosphere than we would have in a hotel.

It wasn’t lost on us that we could have saved the monthly payments for the time share and put together a luxurious vacation of our own. But the question is: would we have done so? Time shares push you to take vacations that you might not otherwise have taken. If you don’t use it, you feel like you’re wasting your money. And if you’re not using it, you might as well sell it.

We’re not due to use our time share again until 2011, which is about all we can afford anyway. Because even though the accommodations are already paid for, we still have to pay for transportation to get there. We drove, saving a lot of money on air fare and car rental, but still had to spend a fair amount on gas and an overnight stay on the way down (we drove straight through on the way back).  In retrospect, we should have gotten a time share closer to home if we were going to get one at all.

We’re still mulling over the pros and cons of keeping this time share. I don’t know how easy they are to get rid of, however. We might just have to suck it up and keep it. But that’s a prospect that isn’t all bad.

Vacation Debriefing

In Home, Self Improvement, Travel on April 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

I feel like I have a vacation hangover. This is the second full day since I’ve been back and I still can’t get into my daily rhythm (whatever that may be). It’s not just that I’m tired, because I don’t really feel that bad. It was a hectic week, though, what with three full days at Disney parks and a sixteen-hour straight-through drive home at the end of it.

Vacations can be for all kinds of purposes–relaxation, reflection, education, new experiences, excitement, for example–but I think all vacations cause you to reassess what you normally do with your life when you’re not on vacation. You ask yourself: if I enjoy this so much, why don’t I do more things like it when I’m home? Or you find out that you prefer your every-day life and location. You may even discover a new direction for your life: a move, a change of vocation, new friendships or relationships.

I didn’t meet anyone new on my vacation, and I’m not ready to move to Florida. Nor do I want to go to amusement parks periodically (in fact, I probably would never go to another one if it weren’t for my grandchildren). But I did enjoy getting outside more, getting some fresh air and exercise and rediscovering some muscle groups that I’d forgotten I had.

I also feel a little younger for having gotten out of my usual cocoon and having an adventure. My daughter swears I looked younger after riding the roller coaster that I was so afraid to go on. And I went on two of them! Did they take me backward in time a little? Maybe. It did feel good to shake it up a bit and prove to myself that I’m capable of something new.

I’m glad to be home again, but I don’t want the glow of this vacation to wear off too quickly. I don’t want it to seem as if it never happened. What’s the good of experiencing something new if it doesn’t change you in some way (hopefully for the better)? I do feel like it’s going to take me some time to come to terms with what this vacation meant to me. Not because it was so earth-shattering. But it did shake me up a bit, and I’m anxious to see how I handle the after-shocks.

Home Again

In Home, Travel on April 11, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I just got home from my time share vacation. We left Orlando last night at eleven and drove through the night, hitting Columbus at 5 PM. Needless to say, my brain isn’t working that well right now. I’ll write more after a good night’s sleep. See you in a day or two!

Things I Can’t Give Up

In Health, Reading, Self Improvement on April 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I’m going to jot down a few things that are going on with me today. I suppose I should be doing this on Facebook, but frankly, I get a little bored reading other people’s comments and figure no one wants to read mine. At least if I put them all here, they can be ignored all at one time.

I’m supposedly getting ready for our trip to Orlando, but in reality, I’m sitting here writing this post and futzing around on the Internet. Rebecca Traister of just wrote a post about some new software called “Freedom” because it prevents you from spending too much time on the Internet and thus frees up your time for other things. I also read a two-year-old post of hers about what has happened to her body since she stopped smoking.

My reaction to both posts was much the same. I rebel against the implication that I should quit smoking or surfing the Net just because she did. I happen to like both activities and usually pair them together. This reminds me of the time I worked through Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way (web site here), and she prescribed a week of not reading in order to free up your brain or something like that. I just couldn’t do it. I can’t even imagine not reading for a day, let alone a week.

I can go without cigarettes or the Internet much more easily–and have. But I keep coming back to them. I like the way they make me think. Smoking can be a meditative act; if it weren’t for the fact that it’s bad for you, it might even take off as a meditative tool. And the Internet aids my thinking process. When I get on the Net, I can snatch some of the crazy things that swirl around in my brain and bring them down to earth by looking up information or opinions about what I’ve been thinking about. That often helps me to lay some of my ruminations to rest. Or gives me an idea for my writing. Or even leads me to some kind of action.

I have to read something as soon as I get out of bed. It almost doesn’t matter what it is: the paper, a magazine, a book I’ve just picked up and read only a few pages of.  I read with my breakfast, my coffee, in between my spells on the Internet. my lunch, my afternoon coffee. I know I should take some of the time I spend reading to do other, more productive things, like exercise. But I need to keep my brain busy. If I don’t, I get bored and/or anxious. I have considered getting books on tape to listen to while I exercise, but I doubt I’d exercise long enough to get through much of the book. Besides, the books on tape go too slowly. I tend to read pretty quickly–I do a lot of skimming–and the pace of a recorded book drives me nuts.

Here’s an idea: why not make exercise tapes or DVDs where poetry or prose is being read along with all the exercising? I mean, they do it to music; why not to words? Okay, I know that the beat is the thing, but there’s a rhythm to reading, too. You just have to find it.

Maybe when they find ways for me to surf the Net, check my email, read, write and smoke, I’ll be able to stick with exercising. For now, it’s one of the things that I can easily give up.

Time Share Vacation

In Family, Travel on April 2, 2009 at 11:54 am

My daughter and I own a time share in Orlando, Florida (yes, there are other Orlandos) and this is the first year we’re using it. It’s an every-other-year time share and we bought it in December of 2007 when we visited Orlando the last time. In fact, the time share company bankrolled part of that vacation. We had reduced tickets to either Disney or Universal Studios (we chose Universal), free hotel accommodations and complimentary tickets to the Arabian Nights dinner theater. All we had to do was attend a presentation while we were down there. We did, intending to resist all the sales pressure…but we bought one anyway.

We’re having second thoughts. We pay a good chunk of change every month for it and then there are the costs of the trip when we finally use it. Sure, the condo is “free” but there’s the transportation to Orlando, which isn’t cheap even if you go by car. We tried to find a decently-priced air fare, but flying would mean that we’d have to rent a  car while we’re down there. So we decided to drive, even though it’s a fifteen-hour drive and we’re going to have to stay somewhere for a night on the way down and back. We’re going to see if the whole trip seems worth it. If not, we’ll try to sell it. If it is, we’ll keep on paying for it (we’ll have it paid off in three years).

We’re leaving in two days and staying for almost a week. I’ll keep you posted on how things go…

Arabic Lesson #2

In Culture, International on April 1, 2009 at 7:56 am

I had my second Arabic lesson yesterday and I was surprised at how much I learned. Don’t get me wrong: I know I have tons left to learn and that I’m not likely to ever become fluent in Arbabic. But that isn’t the point of all this anyway.

The point is the same as it was when I started learning German: I wanted to get a glimpse into another culture’s character and I believe that language shapes who we are as much as we shape our language. It is a way of transmitting values and patterns of thinking.

How does it shape your brain, for instance, when you write from right to left? When your possessive pronouns are at the end of the noun? When your language is peppered with phrases like “Peace be upon you” and “God willing”?

I’m too close to and too used to English to get a grasp on how it has shaped me. But I’m sure that it has. Maybe my Arabic tutor will give me some insights into that. What does he think of English as a language? What does it make him think of Americans? Does he see a difference between American and British English and the respective characters of the people who speak them?

There’s a whole lot more to be learned from taking on a new language than grammar and vocabulary.

By the way, here‘s a great site to help you learn Arabic.