Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What regular people medical bills look like

Sadly, Miss Ann was unconvincing as a woman who could really connect with say, a struggling single mom.... Even Romney’s insistence that Mitt loves helping people sounded less driven by real empathy and more about a sense of noblesse oblige. - Cheryl Contee aka Jill Tubman from
So Ann Romney gave her speech at the RNC. She spoke about her difficulty dealing with MS and how helpful Mitt was to her.  She also dealt with breast cancer. She's had some really rough patches in her life. I sincerely and honestly feel for her. As someone who's aunt has MS and has had to watch her degenerate from a person who was an energetic, joke telling master geneticist to a smiling and slow moving, nearly wheelchair bound woman, I really feel for Romney's situation. 

My medical issues are nothing compared to hers. But, let me share with you my bills after dealing with a rather difficult bout with my run of the mill acid reflux. I had constant 24 hour coughing(death for a professional singer) pain, fatigue, heartburn; I couldn't eat ANYTHING without problems. Doctors wanted to determine if there was any damage to my esophagus and make sure there was nothing foreign in my upper abdomen that was contributing to the problem. I had a upper abdominal sonogram and an upper endoscopy. Both procedures are relatively short, painless and standard procedures to identify any digestive issues. Let me remind you that I am insured, but I have no benefits through an employer. This is what I have to pay after my insurance goes through.

  • $54 - Labs
  • $182 - Dr Visit
  • $619 - Surgical pathology
  • $504 - Anesthisia for upper endoscopy
  • $1,156 - Drs. cost for pathology
  • $396 - use of the room at the Endoscopy Center

I am not adding the cost of the sonogram cause I got that bill last month. The total for these treatments after insurance has paid their part and negotiated prices with the medical providers: $2944. This is for a small measly case of bad acid reflux.  Now visualize having a chronic disease and the bills associated with that. Imagine not being able to work and still having to support and raise kids and pay for food and shelter. With all due respect to Mrs. Romney, she most likely has no idea of the sheer terror people face after they get a devastating diagnosis because though it's still difficult, she has the ability to afford the best care without sacrificing hers or her children's way of life. 

For a simple case of acid reflux, I have to budget FOR MONTHS to slowly pay off these bills and negotiate to create payment plans with each provider so that my credit report isn't negatively impacted. I need to goto the dentist, the eye doctor, and oh, did I mention that I have a fibroid? These are pretty routine medical conditions that I have no idea how much they are going to cost. (FYI, just paid off a $6000 dental bill, and $900 bill to pay for last year's colonoscopy. My dad died of colon cancer. I don't miss getting checked out) I just can't pay nearly $3000 in a lump sum and then pay roughly $1000 a month for preschool! If she wants to show her understanding of the "common folk", she could have spoken about the polices that her husband supports that would allow the rest of us to have some of the same security after a dire diagnosis that she had.  Oh wait, Candidate Romney backs away from the one achievement he did that would begin to address that… oh well. 

The Queen of Spain, an MS sufferer says it best:

You see Mitt and Ann, after Aaron and I cried together at my diagnosis, and did the same things you two did- we then had to do something else: we had to figure out how in the hell we were going to keep a roof over our heads and food in the mouths of our children and ourselves. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of dollars in medical costs for my treatment…. 
You also seem to leave out how a chronic illness financially destroys a family, bankrupts millions, leaves many of us wondering how in the hell we are going to pay for treatment and the bills. If I sound a bit upset, it’s because I am…. 
Do not relive with me and my family how hard it is to get a devastating diagnosis and show me what a stand up husband you are and then offer me NOTHING about what you would do as President for those of us like you and your soul mate.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Revolution in our schools is not always the answer...

This past weekend I saw the movie "Won't Back Down" with Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhall. It was a movie about a poor working class mother who can't afford a private education for her child so must send her to the neighborhood school. That school is failing, her daughter is not learning, and she believes she has no options. As she agonizes over her situation, she finds out about a provision in the law that says that parents and teachers can "take over the school" by getting about 150 parental signatures and at least 18 teachers on board so they can create a Charter school in its place.  Viola Davis plays a hard working and stifled teacher who's son has some learning disabilities but is also suffering some emotional distress due to problems in the Davis character's marriage.  Gyllenhall's daughter has dyslexia and is placed in the classroom with the "worst" teacher in the school. Davis' character is the teacher who works with Gyllenhall to take over the school.

Both characters come together and go through an enormous amount of paperwork, beauracracy, and terrorizing by the teacher's union and school board in order to get a charter school approved for the next school year. They have two months. They both work diligently to get 150 parent signatures, (most of whom slam lots of doors in their faces) convince the teachers to sign on (who are scared of leaving the security of the union), and put together an over 400 page proposal with budget where, "all I's must be dotted, and T's be crossed!" Spoiler (but not really): they succeed. But of course you know they will or the feel good movie would not feel so good.  The two crusaders go in front of the school board and….well in the theater it was a nail biter even though you knew what was going to happen.

My problem with this movie was not the overall feel of it. It really nailed the frustration of both parents and teachers with the school system and its lack of results for students.  As I'm getting ready to put my child in her first days of 3rd grade what bothered me about the movie is this: if a parent can get all those signatures, make t-shirts for hundreds, and get teachers on board to change the school, couldn't she have started a seriously killer PTA?!  If she was able to get over 150 parental signatures and have them come out for a televised march on the school, couldn't she get those very same parents to participate in the school culture itself and make changes that way?  All before fomenting a coup d'etat in the hood?  With all the time the Gyllenhall character spent outside the school getting those signatures, couldn't she have been in the classroom volunteering, setting up school breakfast or just helping around the school for whatever they needed? Perhaps if she had volunteered in the classroom or spent time with the teacher, she could have found either that the teacher could be worked with or through her perseverance and relationship with the school, found a way for her daughter to be transferred out.  Schools actually do try to accommodate reasonable requests. 

At my daughters school, which is by no means perfect, we have a strong PTA(though it could be larger). There are back to school nights about reading, math, science as well as the yearly talent show. There are fundraisers in each semester and a book fair to raise funds for the school for supplies, trips and assemblies.  When I went in for the open house, I hugged my principal because she had just had a baby and she was glad to see me(as she addressed my concerns about my daughter's teacher who I had never heard of before).

Now I know for a fact that every school is not like my daughter's school.  I have worked and been around inner city populations for many years, there are times when the school and the system need to be demonized…oh yea, they do.  But in order to make the point of "not being able to wait" to make sure our children get the best education, this movie missed the obvious  first steps: 
  1. Parental involvement WITH the school FIRST through volunteering and participation in the PTA. 
  2. Send the child to the school FED with nutritious meals, not pop tarts. This is why most inner city schools don't close during winter storms, sometimes its the only set of meals children get. Hungry kids have difficulty learning (the movie consistently showed the Gyllenhall character giving her child candy and a teacher giving her daughter a healthy meal) 
  3. Work with your child to become HUMAN!  Meaning: prepare them to listen as well as be heard, be respectful, have BOOKS IN YOUR HOUSE and maybe you and your children should read them, 
  4. Respect what education can do for your child and believe your child's teacher has your child's best interests at heart at least 95% of the time.  

Understand that teachers have to deal with bureaucracy and bull too. Teachers are under an enormous amount of pressure to essentially RAISE THIS COUNTRY'S CHILDREN. But they are not your children's parents! 

So in closing about the movie…. I cried at the end. It was a really quite a moving story. We all want the best for our kids. But before we all start to scream,"The revolution will not be televised… in our schools!", we have to work with what's there FIRST. The teacher's union is made up of teachers who just don't want to be demonized and fired at will. Don't get me started about the insane evaluation process that teachers have to go through… There are real problems about the society at large that are interfering with our educational process. One of which is that we are always searching for innovation in this country without really seeing and supporting what has and will work. The other is we are not really interested in doing what is necessary as a culture to make sure that all our kids learn. Don't get it twisted, we know what works. We, America, just won't do it. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Medicare Scares (aka A Good Excuse to Talk About Superheroes)

Lately, I've been watching a lot of superhero cartoons (that is, within the limited time I have to watch anything). I used to collect comic books. I've been watching reruns of The Justice League on Youtube.  It's a great show. They've tackled some interesting topics beyond destroying evil maniacal geniuses, all while wearing high healed boots and bathing suits or unitards with capes and of course looking almost perfectly coiffed and getting thrown into impossibly hard objects without ever breaking a bone or getting more than a scratch (I love Batman, but the things he does - it's just simply impossible to conceive that he is not at least a paraplegic by now... #superheroquestions).  But again, as usual, I digress….

WIth the Ryan budget and medicare proposal out there being discussed, I thought this clip of The Justice League was apt. This is why people don't like to watch political discussion, are cynical about it, and why people are afraid to actually speak their mind.  Media pundits ask seemingly inane questions and turn the answers around to make the interviewee look stupid or disconnected. Then they, political and media operatives, throw numbers around that have NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER to what is being discussed and pin those statics to the person being attacked.  Sound familiar -- GOP: "$700 billion is being stripped from  your medicare because of Obamacare; we wouldn't do to that to you!" -- Democrats: Cue pictures of Paul Ryan look-alike pushing grandma in a wheelchair literally off of a cliff. 

Watch this clip to the end, because though it's not the end of the world, it's the end of civil discussion that can actually lead to solutions that we can all work with. Media doesn't bring dissimilar viewpoints on to talk solutions. They bring them on to sow dissension for dramatic effect. 

Sometimes cartoons make points better than real life.  BTW, Green Lantern is a good looking cartoon man. I'm just saying….He looks even better with the bald head and Avery Brooks-style mustache and goatee. That's when interspecies misengenation happens and he and hawk-girl had their little flingy fling…but that comes in future episodes….

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Summer Vacation - Part 4: Shopping

As I'm getting ready to shop for my kid's back to school stuff I remembered a topic that I had wanted to discuss about my summer vacation - shopping!  Now, I don't love shopping, but as with most women, I do like it. I don't often get to do it much for myself and this time I got to do some of it with my mom during our vacation, which was nice. She's not much of a shopper either, but all women get girlie about clothes at least some of the time.  My mom wanted to get a Coach bag as we were driving down to South Carolina. So we decided to make that a stop on our 8 hour long trek. Tangiers Outlets has a Coach bag store and we could let the kids run around a little bit as she searched for a new purse. We did our shopping, my mom bought a bag, I bought sketchers light-up sneakers for both my girls at the shoe store (the little one will barely even put the dang things on! $25 AND SHE WON'T WEAR THEM!!!…sigh….just breathe mama…in…out….).

When we got to Conway, SC for our break, we saw that the outlet near Myrtle Beach had a Coach bag store too.  We never even noticed that the outlet mall in that area was a Tangiers outlet mall as well. Same stores, same everything. We didn't even have to stop in North Carolina. Oh well… So when we went shopping in Hilton Head, SC a few days later, the outlet mall was -- you guessed it -- a Tangiers Outlet Mall. Not just some of the same stores, THE EXACT SAME ONES.  And more importantly, they were stores that I can easily find down the street from my house.  The same goes for the restaurants, grocery stores (walmart anyone), convinience stores…everything!

What happened to regionality?!  What happened to the uniqueness of each town or area; things and places that are unique to that spot?! This is a phenomenon I began to observe around ten years ago when I began touring Europe. In the beginning there were all sorts of funky spaces to find clothes and trinkets and food you could not find anywhere else: chocolate balls in Sweden and Iceland, fashion designers in Amsterdam and Switzerland, glasses and accessories in Camden Town in London. But as I toured more and more, I noticed how H&M had started ruling the European world and things began feeling homogenized.  This is the way it is in America. You never have to leave your comfort zone. You never actually have to experience local color and products because not only do you have the same fast food restaurants, but the same casual dining i.e. Ruby Tuesdays, Applebees, Bonefish Grill, Carrabas; the same shopping - Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Marshalls, Old Navy; the same EVERYTHING! You have to really look hard to find difference and local interest. It is the same in local malls, which all carry the exact same stores; they don't even really vary by economic strata that much. The shopping areas all boast a Target or Walmart, Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond and an HH Gregg or Best Buy.

I'm all for jobs and corporations making money, but I'm getting sick of having the same options EVERYWHERE I GO!  We humans are not built for this. Our whole American system of government is designed to take advantage of the different needs and strategies of the states while the federal government just sets up basic parameters.  Is 16 oz pack of $1.98 strawberries worth the destruction of uniqueness and individuality….wait. $1.98?! THat's cheap as hell! Maybe I need to shop…at…Walmart….trying to stick to my principles…having difficulty because of absurdly cheap prices….can't hold on…..buying cheap strawberries….dang it.

What are the interesting places and unique things that you have seen in America? Do you think that regional sameness is an issue or does it even bother you? 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Plagiarism Kerfuffle

Fareed Zakaria is back and cleared of all crimes of plagiarism. Yea!!! But is he still tarnished? Probably.  This Daily Beast article postulates why all of it happened and why the attacks upon Zakaria were so vicious.:

It’s lonely at the top. As the traditional news media shrivel and other platforms proliferate, celebrity public intellectuals like Zakaria (think, also, of Tom Friedman and David Brooks) become the only bankable resource left. Recognizable across all the mediums, the branded few become mini-industries unto themselves. Simultaneously, a huge cloud of excluded people, regular civilians and workaday journalists alike, can now respond on the Internet, many of them resentful that their voices go unheard while the Zakarias loom ever larger. So they pick over every word. For celebrity journalists, equally, a potent pressure has grown: the pressure to stay aloft at 40,000 feet, to stay prolific, and flawless. Zakaria must project omniscience to survive: so he writes short and long, on everything from al Qaeda to American gun control, the topic on which he was tripped up by the plagiarism McCarthyites. So he cribbed a little: he read a lot; took notes; things got jumbled. Is that worth a man’s career? I think not, and to his credit he thought not too. One admires him for fighting back, especially as those who called for his head were so pious, and yet so inhumane.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Gabby Douglas Hair Controversy, More Nonsense!

The Olympics is way over now and all the Olympians are coming or already home. We all are extremely happy for those who have been successful. But it never fails that the wrong thing becomes the story.  Yet perhaps in this instance, the wrong thing can help us think about some tangible issues that really do need to be addressed.

The gold medal winning gymnast Gabby Douglas…that's all I need to say. Y'all know exactly where I'm going. Why has her hair become the story? Why do women, black woman in particular, have to be judged by their hair? And not by others (who, by the way, actually really didn't care that much) but mainly by people of her same hue.  Take note; this article came out this past friday…waaaay after the olympics were over and the "controversy" began.
"There's a debate,"[Patrice Grell Yursik (also known as Afrobella)] said, referring to African American women's choices to either "go natural" or get a weave. "I hate that it exists. I hate that we spend so much time policing other's choices." 
Hair stylist Neal Farinah, represented by Balan Inc, has worked with a range of celebrities from Mary J. Blige to Beyoncé. For him, the choice to go natural or get a weave shouldn't be so ideological. "Hair is a woman's right," he said. "A woman has the right to express herself however she feels... She has the right to choose and be happy."
"The right to choose" is, of course, a loaded phrase when it comes to women's rights. Some would point out that we're just talking about hair here. But in many ways, criticism of appearance—whether in the case of Naomi Campbell going natural for a day at the beach or an Olympic gymnast rewarding herself with a luxurious salon trip after breaking world records—impedes that right. And in these two cases, it does so with racial implications.
I'm really tired of the "racial implications" of hair. I'm really tired of this story period. Our hair is a statement of who we are at a given moment.  The loaded part is becoming stale.  The reason this story and the discussion it helps raise is needed is because almost nobody really feels comfortable with the notion of black women just being who they are regardless of hair texture. If you have straight hair there are political implications to the straightness and God forbid if your true "kitchen" (as we say in the vernacular of black women's haircare) shows for a minute. There are even larger political implications for women with dreadlocks or afros like mine because we are readily caricatured as angela davis clones or vegans (gasp!), or as having a black power conspiracy theory agenda.  These ridiculous stereotypes play to an actual fear or discomfort with black woman-ness. A fear that, truth be told, is held very much by black women themselves in many cases. America and the rest of the western world is slowly coming to grips with a popular female beauty aesthetic which is evolving to become inclusive beyond simply that of blond-hair-blue-eyed caucasians. And yet for so long have the old beauty standards ruled our consciousness that, even as we are deviating from them, I'd argue an existential angst has begun to come over us, no matter one's race. As this change gradually takes place, we as a society are working on understanding and assimilating its meaning. What is beautiful? What is stylish? What is professional? Why is natural hair on a black woman said to look informal or even unkept? Why do straight long extensions look formal, classy, together? Does it even matter?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I wear a fro. Maybe one of you has an answer, or even a theory. If you do…let me know so I can have a clue.

Please tell me: Do you think this story even matters? Why does this conversation come up over and over again in the media? Are black women's hair choices making people comfortable or uncomfortable?

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Summer Vacation - Part 3 - Politics and Prose

Y'all must think by now that I never went to the beach, or played with my kids in the pool, or ate a scallop (and they were good!) or rode a bike or went mini-golfing at all. But I did. But y'all don't want to really know about that. 

I didn't watch much TV or read many online news sources, but I did hear a few of the major things: one of my TV heroes got busted for plagiarism! Fareed Zakaria?!  WHAT?!?!? I was soooo hurt. I was more disappointed because now everything he says will have a tinge of unbelievability to it. And that sucks, 'cause I feel that he is one of the few journalists left that tries to be objective. You can't necessarily peg him to either side of the political spectrum; perfect! He may have a point of view, but he's practical and doesn't vomit at the mouth about dumb stuff. But now he's tarnished. Dang it!

Then, I went on my twitter feed briefly on saturday and saw that Raul Ryan is going to be the GOP VP pick for this election cycle. Pow!!! Right in the Kisser! Who in the hell saw that one coming? He was a choice, but certainly not one of the first, second or even third that was talked about.  My relatives went nuts. They were watching the speeches, (cause that's what old people do when the can't go to the beach 'cause they're having back and knee problems) and just yelling at the TV, sucking their teeth as only black women can do. When I walked into their room, my mom nearly yelled at me: "Did you see who they picked?! This is ridiculous!" No problem seeing which side she's on. Then, there was silence………………………….. Nothing but the sound of newscasters and Ryan in the wind……… (turned up really loud because hearing aids were not inside their proper ears) They watched all coverage of all campaign events. If there was no TV on, you could hear a pin drop if you could hear anything above the ringing in your ears due to the loudness of the TV. 

So there it is. My vacation: farm devastation, miscegenation, and political bombshells. And I still look good in a bathing suit. You betta Recognize!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Summer Vacation - Part 2 - We're all family

The elders of my family were sitting around the table talking one morning.  We had all eaten another version of country breakfast: eggs, bacon, grits, and a cantaloup cut up -- pretty healthy for this crew.  My cousin was asking questions about family history and recording them for posterity. I came in late. My mom loves genealogy and wanted to center the conversation about her grandfather whom everyone called Daddy Frank. When I finally sat down to listen to the conversation an interesting line of thought came up:

They started talking about the white side of the family. Yes, as many people are now coming to grips with, we didn't get these multiple shades of dark brown to high yellow on our own and quite a few caucasions have some dark brown pigmentation in their DNA sequence.  My family in South Carolina is pretty yellow. As I said before, they were farmers. And among one of the things my grandfather did in his work filled life was to advocate for other black farmers to make sure that they got the right supplies in order to be successful, namely fertilizer.  Apparently, black farmers in my grandfather's area of South Carolina would not get fertilizer from the agricultural extension office as promised. I reason this happened is pretty obvious, but it was probably a way to keep black farmers down, thereby allowing the white farmers to grow the best crops and be more successful. However, my grandfather always got fertilizer.

My uncle told me that the pretty much every white person in town was a member of the Klu Klux Klan. It was an organization that one joined whether you participated in the rallies or not. They marched down the streets in solidarity pretty regularly, and of course all black people in the area stayed off the streets to make sure they would not be a target.(ah, the history of home grown terrorism) However, I was told the Klan never marched down my family's street. They went around.

More recently, my aunt used to goto a store to get pretty clothes in town. This store had unique dresses and my aunt wanted to get some clothes for her new grandbaby(now 12). She went up to the register and the white cashier/owner said, "I know who you are.  You just take those clothes and enjoy 'em."(for free) 

Why did these things happen this way for my family? We had white relatives. Not a few generations removed, but my grandfather had aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters who where white. Now, my point of this is not that we were privileged because of that. My mom, aunts and uncles always talk about how tough segregation was for them, and how my grandfather had a couple attempts on his life because of things he tried to do for the community. But…. family is family. In the south, these family relationships were not talked about, as both my aunt and uncle strenuously and repeatedly put it. They all knew, but it was unspoken.

What they didn't see until we sat down in the present, away from the discrimination, away from the pain, away from the all injustice, is that our white relatives were doing what they could, during that time in history, for their FAMILY. Granddaddy got fertilizer because the major white landowner, who was closely related to him made sure he got some. The Klan didn't march down the street where Granddaddy lived because there were people in the Klan that were kin and didn't want to see him or his progeny hurt.(they also tipped him off when his life was threatened). Our white relatives couldn't be there day to day for family functions of life, but they could give clothing when a new baby is born.

Racism and segregation hurt everybody. Arguably, it hurt Black people a lot more than whites. But there was damage there as well. How must it have felt to not be able to acknowledge your brother or sister simply because they were considered to be another race? Let me reiterate that. We're not talking about just not acknowledging a friend, we're speaking about actual blood relations: FAMILY. This was a small town. Everybody knew everybody else.  My family's white relatives would have lost everything had they openly acknowledged the relationships they had with Blacks. There is family that we have somewhere in this country(I have been told to leave them alone and not reveal them or expose myself to them, as I know exactly where they are) that has been passing as white RIGHT NOW in 2012 for at least 50 or 60 years.  Their children may not even know they have black relatives; but I digress… So the white side of my family in the early part of the 20th century did what they could in the societal constraints of the time to connect and be helpful.  Only now, when time has passed and wounds are healing are we able to even look and see what this means: Family is family. Blood is blood. We are all bound together as human beings.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Summer Vacation - Part 1 - Farm watching

Driving down to South Carolina with two kids and my mom for our vacation with family, I always like to look at the farms and the rest of the scenery around us.  My mom always takes us thru these backroads to get to our destination. Since my mother was a farmer, I always have questions of her and want my daughters to hear the answers so they can know the great and interesting history of their family.

As we were on the way thru Cerra Gordo, SC (astonishingly pronounced sara gada by my mom and the rest of my family in that area), I noticed all the tobacco plots along the road. They looked so yellow and and sickly. There were also a lot of corn plots as well. They were brown and crispy. This is early August mind you. My mom grew up cropping tobacco so I asked her about it.  She said it the tobacco looked really bad, and the corn looked like the plants were ready for fall clearing...

I got an education about how tobacco is "topped off" by removing all the flowering parts of the plant so that the energy would go into the leaves, thereby making them larger. My mom always tells the story about her youngest sister who, apparently when she was five, could crop tobacco as fast as any adult and expected to be paid the same adult  wages for each section she was able to string. The whole maternal side of my family grew up working the fields while going to school, cooking, sewing and being in the 4H club. Farming, understanding the seasons and how things grow is a part of many rural folks lives in ways that people in our urban and suburban centers have no idea about. Even though my Phily born-and-bred husband intellectually knew that vegetables came from the ground, he had no visceral connection to it. Vegetables came from the supermarket in vacuum sealed packaging. Prices varied because they just did. There was no knowledge of the why behind it because food and other commodities always "go up".

That being said, I have never seen anything like this in my mom's home state of South Carolina. It was really disconcerting to see what looked to my eyes like devastation. I started thinking about how the food prices will go up. I thought that this drought is the big drought, because it's the drought I know about and it covered two-thirds of the nation.  I figured we'd be seeing food prices go up as predicted in this article:

The price for a bushel of September contract corn has spiked 62 percent from June 15th to the close of the market on Friday. Newsom noted drought and increased prices in the corn and soybean markets could affect the long-term economy.“The big point is the ripple effect this is going have on the Midwestern economy,” Newsom said. “Not just for this year, but for years to come.”Long-term weather forecasts call for high temperatures and lower precipitation totals to continue. Newsom said continued drought will add to the volatility in the markets, and could “bring about an end to this economic stability that the Midwest has seen.”

I was thinking that people would really start to feel it now and understand the impact global warming and the evident climate change is having and will have in our economy. But, I am wrong. People will feel some price volatility in meat and dairy products since it's primarily corn used for feed that has been affected.  Maybe people will pay more for cigarettes since the tobacco crop looks like it's really been hit…maybe.  But, since vegetables are loss leaders in supermarkets, those venues are not going to pass on but so much cost to the consumer and the price jump that will happen in meat and dairy will be absorbed, angrily, but not defiantly.  From the

…. supermarkets import many of their fruits and vegetables from other countries - such as, bell peppers from Holland - so that they can keep supplies and prices in check even if one source isn't producing a large amount.  Fruits and vegetables are also a loss leader for supermarkets. That means they're often sold at a loss in hopes of attracting shoppers who will spend on other items, says Lisa Schacht, president of the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association… 
Packaged foods 
Another worry is that the price of many packaged foods that contain corn or corn ingredients will climb. High-fructose corn syrup, for example, is used in a wide variety of foods such as cookies, yogurt, cereals and spaghetti sauces. A can of regular soda contains 40 grams of the sweetener. The corn ingredients that are used in packaged foods mostly aren't irrigated either, meaning they're also vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and the price fluctuations.  
But keep in mind that such ingredients are often a tiny fraction of the costs that go into packaged foods.  Among the many expenses food makers such as Kellogg Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. also have to foot: packaging material, labor, advertising and fuel for trucks to get their products in stores.  "When you look at final food products, the more processing there is, the less significant the price of the raw materials," Bertels says. "A lot of it is advertising and marketing."

I'm afraid that until there's a real problem in people's pocketbooks, we're going to just keep going like there's nothing even wrong…because to most people, there isn't.

My vacation part two in the next blog….I did actually have fun.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Two Americas: The "Different" Part and The Rest of Us...

Two different Americas, the Welch's say. Uh huh. Because one candidate sang America the Beautiful, badly, and one sang Let's stay Together well….I don't even know what to say anymore. Big sigh…Yea. We're not even talking about policy here…

This is from Paul Krugmans NY Times column. Let's Stay Together, the hit so prevalent it is played on every radio station and is sung at EVERY SINGLE WEDDING RECEPTION regardless of race, class or ethnicity, is so foreign and other… When Obama sings it, he's "different"… not like us rich (I'm not even going to put another adjective here) folk. Well, needless to say, as I tweet about the Olympic horse dressage competition, I know which America I'm a part of…the American part.

Gary Silverman makes a remarkable catch. He asks why the Romney counter-attack on the “America the Beautiful” ad featured Obama singing Al Green, and pretty well too. Well, it turns out that this is how the other .01% think: 
One of the better answers I have found comes from a well-known supporter of Mr Romney – Suzy Welch, former editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, and wife of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. In an appearance on CNN with her husband, Mrs Welch suggested that Mr Obama’s personal style and choice of musical material define him as a member of a “different America”. I would imagine this is why Mr Romney’s campaign included the snippet of Mr Obama singing “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. They hoped it would convey his otherness.
“It’s the difference between the songs that they’re singing,” Mrs Welch said. “Mitt Romney didn’t exactly do a beautiful job on that song, but think about what he’s singing, OK? I mean it’s that patriotic song and he goes all the way through it. Then you’ve got the very cool Barack Obama singing Al Green. That is the two different Americas. Isn’t it?”

How “other” is Al Green? So other, so alien, that, well, he’s included on the Muzak they play in Red Lobster restaurants.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Coach Swimming? You're abusive behavior isn't tolerated either...

In the spirit of the olympics, I remember back to my days on a swim team. My mom used to get me and my brother up at around 5am to go to early morning practice. Then after afternoon practice, we sometimes got pizza from an actual pizza place! (My mom didn't believe in fast food much) She would have blankets in the car for us as we ate our pizza with the heat blaring, since during the winter it was so jarring leaving a cold pool and then going outside. I even won a ribbon for 3rd place in a race! I was told by my mom that the coaches said I had really beautiful strokes -- very precise and lovely to watch -- I just needed to do them faster.

Eventually, I stopped swimming. I had soured on it for reasons other than the swimming itself. My coach was, to put it mildly, a prick (unfortunately this seems to be one of my favorite words now).  I had a lot of trouble getting into the pool quickly and instead of helping me through this fear (which I actually still have now insanely enough), he just pushed me into the water after yelling at me to get into the pool. I was not happy. One dayI had a Shel Silverstein book I dearly loved which I had borrowed from the library. My coach asked to borrow it. I let him. When the due date came, he did not return it to me and basically lost the book and never paid me back for it. He said something like he had never borrowed it and I needed to get over it...I hated that coach. I liked swimming, but I didn't like him.

His name was Rick Curl. He's one of the most  well known coaches in Olympic swimming. I didn't know at the time just how 'important' he was. And frankly didn't care much. I don't have to deal with him anymore and I've gone on and grown up; he has no power over me, and never really did in the first place. He was just a coach that was not very nice to me. Game over.

Then recently both my mom and my brother sent me this article from the Washington Post:
Curl-Burke founder Rick Curl faces hearing on former swimmer’s account of underage sexual relationship in 1980s
Prominent Washington area swimming coach Rick Curl took a leave of absence from the club he founded Wednesday in the wake of accusations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a teen swimmer and then paid her and her parents to keep quiet as part of a settlement…. 
…Curl, who coached Tom Dolan to three medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, attended last month’s U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha on a coaching credential. His Curl-Burke Swim Club, founded in 1978, is one of the largest in the country, with 950 swimmers among its 10 sites in the Washington area.
Dang! Well, he was a prick to me but…wow!  The scary part is that it could have been me or any other girl in his care. After the Penn State sexual scandal, all sorts of stuff is coming out about prominent coaches that had been covered up for years.  Apparently, in this case, once again people in high places in the swimming world knew about this scandal WHILE IT WAS HAPPENING! They decided not to say anything because…you guessed it…he was prominent and creating champions in the sport.

This kind of stuff makes all those coaches who do their best, spend time and effort with our kids, suspect in ways they should not be. We trust coaches with out most prized possessions: our children. It's time to clean house so I can feel comfortable when my children say to me, "I want to be an olympian!" and then I say, "well let's find a coach that can help you…"