Benefits of Apartment Living

I’ve discovered the first benefit of apartment living: open wireless networks. There are three open and as many closed wireless networks accessible from my living room couch.

Woo hoo! Web surfing before the router is even out of the box.

(We have purchased our very own internet access, we just haven’t hooked it up yet. I don’t see continuing to access the net via someone’s unsecured wireless router after our very own secure network is set up.)


The Season of Giving

Bryan, Brianna, and I were discussing which charity we should contribute to in the coming year. It wasn’t hard to get the concept across to our four-year-old, who seemed to naturally understand that we have a lot and should give some of it to help people who don’t. We finally decided, with Brianna’s input, that Médedcins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) is our charity of choice. This is in addition to the giving to Hermitage Heart that supports Myotai Sensei, my Zen teacher.

This got me to thinking. How much should we be giving? I’d like to be able to give a lot more that we can currently, but I firmly believe that retiring our debt is a very high priority for our family. Interestingly enough, I ran across this article in the New York Times magazine that gives a very interesting perspective on the issue. I heartily recommend reading it.

I would like our total giving to be on the order of 10% of our income, but we’re going to have to work up to that. But I’m happy to say that we have begun. Here’s to making a difference in 2007!

Enough chatting—the movers are coming tomorrow and we still have a frightening amount of stuff to pack. I don’t know what the internet connectivity situation will be after today, so I will wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year now. All the best to you and yours!

What’s Wrong with the American Health Care “System”?

Well, for starters, if you lack private insurance at the end of your life, live in Tennessee, and need nursing home care, the state of Tennessee will try to nab your home after you die. Somebody has to pay for all that nursing home care and the state feels that it oughta be you.

This is officially referred to as a “Medicaid estate-recovery program.” It is required by the federal government (wave hi to George Bush!) and states that object, as West Virginia tried to do, could lose their federal matching funds.

At the same time, “socialized” medicine, like we have in Canada, is a thinly veiled commie/socialist plot to overthrow the capitalist/imperialist system that America has so very carefully cultivated. If you want health care, get a damn job! Otherwise, you are just a burden on all the hard-working American taxpayers who have jobs and fund the system.

It’s the American way, dontcha know. Healthcare isn’t a universal right, allow the free market system to set conditions and provide services. And if you can’t afford it, it sucks to be you.

It’s times like this that I am ashamed to be an American citizen.

Holly Hippodays!

Brianna woke this morning about 7:15 and we all wandered downstairs in our bathrobes to see what Santa hath wrought.

One month shy of four years old is a good age for Christmas. Brianna was most happy that Santa ate the cookies she left out, and drank the milk. And his reindeer ate the carrot and drank the water she left for them too!

Her first comment, on seeing a teddy bear jigsaw puzzle poking out of her stocking was “I didn’t want that!” She got over it though. The entire morning followed the ebb and flow of her mood: candy before breakfast = grumpy, Barbie and the 3 dancing princesses = happy delerium, lovely wooden kitchen set made her happy but she was downright bitchy about getting Daddy to put it together “right now”! Her mood improved after she ate some breakfast (my new xmas tradition of the 24-hour omelet—yum!).

We didn’t spend a crazy amount of money, but she did make out like a bandit. She got lots of new puzzles, an activity that she seriously enjoys, as well as plenty of pencils/notebooks/colouring books and a magnetic construction set. Santa brought the Barbies—he got to handle the faddish commercial aspects. Everything from Mommy and Daddy was imaginative and open ended. I’m pretty proud of that. It’s hard to decide what to give your kid, especially when she cries “I want that!” with every single commercial seen on Treehouse TV. But when she writes her letter to Santa and asks for “Barbie and the 3 Dancing Princesses” (yes, I know it’s 12, but Brianna pointed out to me that “the tv is wrong mommy—it’s Barbie and the 3 Dancing Princesses!” Who am I to argue that logic?). When I picked her up from school last week, she and all of her friends had listed what they wanted for Christmas on a big sheet of paper. Yep, you guessed it: Barbie and the 3 Dancing Princesses. Among all the “i want it”s, Barbie was the constant that kept coming up again and again. So I knew that Santa needed to deliver.

So even though Barbie’s light-up and spinning skirt has gotten quite the workout this morning, I’m very happy to see that Miss Bri is making soup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and heating up pizza in her oven. Yay! Something that may actually outlast the dancing princess phenomenon.

We scored the kitchen set from Mastermind Toys, my favorite toy store. They aren’t cheap, but they are consistently good. Bryan reports that the little kitchen set was extremely well made with machine screws that fit like a dream. I like that it’s made of wood and not brightly coloured plastic advertising a cartoon character and singing annoying songs at a stupidly high volume. Hmm, that Waldorf philosophy must be rubbing off on me.

So while I’m finding this holiday season to be marked by my mood of primary irritability, I managed to enjoy myself this morning. The obligatory family celebration is this afternoon/evening and I am definitely not looking forward to it. Certain adult family members specialise in irritating. My mantra is “Focus on the kids. Focus on the kids. Focus on the kids.” Between that and a batch of pomegranate martinis, I should be okay.

Here’s hoping your christmas day is a merry one. And if, like the family of James Brown, you are grieving this holiday season, know my heart is with you. Like life, the holidays are a mixture of joy and sadness, celebration and loss. And its okay to be where you’re at. It’s okay to be where I’m at.

I almost missed the Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-thon!

Fortunately, I have determined that today is not too late to join the Carl Sagan memorial blog-a-thon. Why would I want to blog about Carl Sagan? Because he helped save my life.

In 1980, when I was 16 years old and facing some of the darkest times of my life, this absolutely amazing television show debuted: Cosmos. It was the one time every week when I would take over the television, no arguments from my mother or my brother allowed. For an hour, I was transported from the dispiriting grind of my daily existence to witness the wonder and beauty that is our universe.

Up there in the immensity of the Cosmos, an inescapable perception awaits us. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic, religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.
—Carl Sagan

This was the medicine I needed for my family’s seething rascism and hatred. It was so much more than his signature line “billions and billions of stars”—it was “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” It was the true beginnings of my spirituality. Somewhere, I still have the book version of the television show (hardcover of course). Bryan owns the DVDs, which is one of the reasons he is the love of my life.

For an hour a week, I left my daily life behind and explored the universe. That is a gift that is priceless in measure. I am immensely grateful. Aside from that aspect of things, Carl Sagan developed in me a love of cosmology and astronomy that persists to this day. He is the reason I majored in Astrophysics and the reason I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the reason I read Black Holes and Warped Spacetime while I was still in high school.

Carl Sagan, through his work, gave me hope when my world seemed hopeless. He showed me that my life is larger, by far, than I had ever imagined. He gave me beauty when ugly filled my world. He gave me wonder to replace my self-pity. He showed me miracles when I thought none were possible. He gave me a reason to survive.

I don’t know how my life would have unfolded had Cosmos not run on PBS that year. I am simply grateful that it did. In spite of all the difficulties I’ve endured, I know that I owe Carl Sagan a lot. Not the least of which is my current career as a technical writer for a multinational semiconductor corporation.

Thank you Carl, thank you ever so much.

Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. — Carl Sagan

I am ever in your debt.