Creepy Award

October 31, 2008

I will probably win the creepy award with this post, but oh well.  My regular readers already think I’m nuts.

I enjoy people watching, but more specifically, watching people in other apartments (please, don’t freak out and keep reading).  Where I am staying now, my room and the kitchen look out onto a small courtyard and straight into several apartments.  Sometimes I just like to sit and watch people do their regular, everyday activities.  I figure, if you’ve got your curtains open (or none at all), you know that people can look in and see you, so you’re fair game (fortunately, I have not seen ugly, naked guy yet…let’s hope it stays that way).  And since I am standing in front of a curtain free window, I suppose they can watch me just as much if they so choose.

Tonight there was more activity than normal.  I watched a guy wash dishes in his insanely tiny kitchen with a cat rubbing his ankles and his apartment piled high with crap everywhere.  I watched 2 single guys sparring in their empty living room lit by a single fluorescent light (whoever created that light must be an atheist, because anyone who actually believes there is a God could not have made something more ugly).  A TV played in another apartment and I saw the same empty, save for a TV, living room lit across the way in which I have never seen a living soul.

There’s something peaceful, something human about observing others in their daily activities.  It calms me. Who knows why.  Anyone else this odd?


Healthcare issues

October 30, 2008

In our current political climate, we are hearing loads of information for and against certain issues. One of the biggest is healthcare. People are screaming on both sides of the aisle as to what should be done about it, and none of them make much sense and most of them are just saying things to get them into office instead of actually doing their homework to see what the consequences (either good or bad) could be of their initiatives.

I’m one to solve problems. I don’t really care who comes up with it, as long as it works, I’m for it. I’m also a fact gatherer. When someone proposes an idea, I tend to do my homework to find out if it has been tried before and what the results were.

We hear a lot of politicians touting the glorious care of universal coverage in Europe. While it sounds great, I lived there for 2 years and saw the negative effects of this type of care and in doing research I have found out some interesting things. Below is an article from a Prof at George Mason University, who succinctly states the massive problems of such coverage.

And before people start lashing out at me saying I’m a right wing nut, take a moment and read the article. There are problems with our healthcare system that need to be fixed, but why do something that has failed worldwide? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Let’s fix things, not make them worse.


Affordable Health Care
One of the campaign themes this election cycle is “affordable” health care. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves whether we want the politicians who brought us the “affordable” housing, that created the current financial debacle, to now deliver us affordable health care? Shouldn’t we also ask how things turned out in countries where there is socialized medicine?

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute’s annual publication, “Waiting Your Turn,” reports that Canada’s median waiting times from a patient’s referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist, depending on the procedure, averages from five to 40 weeks. The wait for diagnostics, such as MRI or CT, ranges between four and 28 weeks.

According to Michael Tanner’s “The Grass Is Not Always Greener,” in Cato Institute’s Policy Analysis (March 18, 2008), the Mayo Clinic treats more than 7,000 foreign patients a year, the Cleveland Clinic 5,000, Johns Hopkins Hospital treats 6,000, and one out of three Canadian physicians send a patient to the U.S. for treatment each year. If socialized medicine is so great, why do Canadian physicians send patients to the U.S. and the Canadian government spends over $1 billion each year on health care in our country?

Britain’s socialized system is no better. Currently, 750,000 Brits are awaiting hospital admission. Britain’s National Health Services hopes to achieve an 18-week maximum wait from general practitioner to treatment, including all diagnostic tests, by the end of 2008. The delay in health care services is not only inconvenient, it’s deadly. Both in Britain and Canada, many patients with diseases that are curable at the time of diagnosis become incurable by the time of treatment or patients become too weak for the surgical procedure. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to introduce a “constitution” setting out the rights and responsibilities of its health care system. According to a report in the Telegraph (02/01/2008), “What this (Gordon Brown’s plan) seems to amount to in practice are the Government’s rights to refuse treatment, and the patient’s responsibilities to live up to what the state decides are model standards.” That means people who have unhealthy habits such as smoking, heart sufferers who are obese or those who fall ill because of failure to take regular exercise might be refused medical care, even though they pay taxes to support government health care.

Government health care can become ghoulish as reported in a Human Events (1/17/08) article “Gordon Brown Wants Your Organs” written by Susan Easton. As in the U.S., many Brits die while on the waiting list for organ donations. The prime minister has a solution called a “Presumed Consent Scheme.” Mrs. Easton says, “If you don’t specifically carry a card saying ‘leave my corpse alone’ — known as the ‘opt out option’, or unless one’s family is on hand to object, one’s remains are considered fair game for an organ harvest festival.” Supporters of the scheme argue that what is done with people’s organs after their death should not be up to the next of kin. Such a vision differs little from one that holds that after one’s death he becomes the property of the state.

Of course, if socialized medicine becomes a reality here, Americans can do as many Brits do. Mrs. Easton says, “more than 70,000 Britons — known as ‘health tourists’ — have gone as far as India, Malaysia and South Africa for major operations. This figure is expected to rise to almost 200,000 by the end of the decade.”

We have health care problems in the U.S. but it’s not because ours is a free market system of health care delivery. Well over 50 percent of all health care expenditures are made by government. Where government spends, government regulates. It’s truly amazing that Americans who are dissatisfied with the current level of socialized medicine in the U.S. are asking for more of what created the problem in the first place. Anyone thinking that an American version of socialized health care will differ from that found in Canada, Britain, Sweden, France and elsewhere are whistling Dixie.

My Favorite UPS Store

October 24, 2008

I travel a lot, which means going to FedEx and UPS to making copies and print and mail and all that other fun stuff you do at such stores.  Often I am met by ickiness and incompetence.

BUT! I have found the best UPS Store in the world…and guess where it is?  Inwood! Yes! <cue heroic music>. The 3rd world area of New York I lived in last year that I complained and moaned about and devoted entirely too many posts to!  That Inwood! Yes! Something redeeming!  I have been there now 3 times, and every time the guys are extremely helpful and very nice. I have decided I am willing to travel from all corners of NYC just so I can have these guys help me. For reference, they are near the corner of Broadway and Dykman.

Good job, boys!

Don’t touch my stroller!

October 22, 2008

I say it all the time…when I don’t have a thing to blog about, all I have to do is go to NYC and suddenly I have a plethora of subjects.  Here is a recent event on good ol’ faithful – the A train.

I boarded a fairly full car, but managed to actually find a seat (it’s actually easier to win the lottery up here than find a seat).  To my right is a lady with a stroller and baby.  Allow me to digress…why is it that people who live in cities and use public transportation insist on using the largest, bulkiest, heaviest stroller they can find?  The even do it in Europe? What ever happened to the stroller I was put in that was basically a potato sack slung between some metal bars that would’ve ended my life had I somehow managed to get my head through the cross bars?  That thing was small, light and compact.  I swear, if I have a kid in a city, that’s what they are getting.

Anyway, back to my story.  So I have stroller lady to my left and in front of me is yuppie dude reading a book and listening to his iPod (standing about 6 inches from her stroller).  All seems well until stroller lady says to yuppie dude, “Watch it! Don’t hit my stroller.”  He doesn’t respond. Mind you, I’ve been sitting the whole time and never saw yuppie dude even come close to hitting the stroller. Other passengers were hitting it, but she only concerned herself with him.  She says it again.  Again, no response. Finally, she starts tapping him. He looks over and takes off his headphones.  “I’ve told you twice. Watch it! Don’t hit my stroller.” He looks over at the stroller he has yet to accost, looks slowly back at the lady and says, “You do know that I didn’t hear you say anything because I’m wearing earphones and I haven’t touched your stroller.”  Well, that was not the thing to say to this mother.  She launches in to how no one is careful around babies and strollers and that it is a safety issue and how dare he not be more careful etc… He calmly turns away, puts his earphones back in and continues reading, all the while, not coming close to the stroller.  She continues.  She even gets her neighbor into the conversation about how kids these days just don’t have respect.  Again, all the while people are walking past her stroller and bumping it since it is taking up over half of the walkway.  Yuppie dude stood his ground. As I pondered what he would do, I witnessed someone bump her stroller.

He pulled off his earphones and said, “Hey, that guy just bumped your stroller. Aren’t you going to tap him and yell at him, too?”

Yuppie dude put his earphones back in and kept reading.

Score one for the the yuppie dude.

Flight to NYC

October 22, 2008

This past flight to New York fortunately involved no running.  Unfortunately, however, it did involve a lot of sitting.  It was a long day, so this post will be separated by headings.

The Car
Remember Max getting hit in the driveway the other week?  Well, the day before I was to leave for New York, I dropped him off at the body shop and they gave me a rental car, which I was to return to the airport the next morning at the crack of dawn to catch my flight out.  The next morning, I left in plenty of time to get a little gas and make it comfortably to the airport.  To make a very long story short, while at the gas station, somehow the car locked the doors on me. I didn’t push any buttons (not even an accidental brush as the door lock button was nowhere within reach) and of course, the keys were in the ignition.  After 45 minutes of waiting on the pop-a-lock guy, I was on my way to the airport to miss my flight.  When I turned the car in, I let the rental car guy know what had happened and he said, “Oh yeah. We have that problem all the time with this car.”  Note to self: don’t drive a PT Cruiser ever again.

The Bag
At the counter, I was put on stand by and I put my bag to be checked in.  Well, it was 53 pounds.  The agent checking me in didn’t notice or didn’t care, so I thought I was scott free.  As I was about to take my bag to be screened, some Southwest employee with nothing to do showed up and said, “Um, that bag is over the limit.” I looked at her and said, “I’ve flown Southwest my entire life and on the rare occasion my bag is over by 2 or 3 pounds, the agent doesn’t hassle me about it.” Apparently, she didn’t want to hear that and retorted, “Well, I’ve worked in baggage for years, and that simply is not the case. You need to take something out.”  I felt like saying, “Um, wench? Don’t you have a bag downstairs to load onto a baggage claim?” But I didn’t.  The bag god had always smiled on me in the past, so I figured my time was due. I accepted that the day was going to continue to conspire against me, so I took some stuff out and went on my merry way.

The Flights
After waiting 2 hours for the next flight, I board and take the 1 1/2 hour flight to in Baltimore with no incident. Perhaps my day was turning better.  Despite my 3 1/2 hour layover, I was in good spirits.  About an hour before my flight I went up to the gate agent to let her know that I was flying stand by and asked if she needed anything from me.  After being assured my name would be called 20 minutes or so before the flight, I returned to my book.  Awhile later,  I noticed that all passengers had boarded, there was a line at the agent’s desk and my name had not been called.  So I venture forward to question as to my status. After looking at me as if she’d never seen me before, I was informed there were no seats left.  No seats?! I’d been assured in Nashville that I would not have trouble getting on any of these flights!  Then she looked at me and said as though she’d been hit with total genius, “Wait a minute. You’re a woman” Um yeah.  I check around to make sure that all the men around me concur before turning my gaze back to the astonished woman.  “I don’t have a woman on the standby list. What’s your name?”  I had been on the standby list since 8:30 that morning and informed her of this fact. She somehow “squeezed” me to the top of a list that she said didn’t matter because I wouldn’t be on the flight anyway.  Again, I accepted my travel fate for the day.

But then fate decided to smile upon me.  I was told there were indeed 2 seats available and that me and one other gentleman were the lucky winners.  We board the plane and are told there are 2 seats in the back, so continuously scanning, we get to the back to find that there are indeed no empty seats and we hadn’t seen any on the way back.  So we turn around and start the trek back to the front assuming we’d been misled and would indeed have to take a later flight.  When all hope seemed lost, the gentleman said, “Oh, look. There’s a seat…um, you take it.” I was touched by this man’s generosity.  He had known my plight, and was willing to give up a seat to me.

Fate lied.  I thought it had smiled, but indeed it was laughing at me and pointing it’s finger.  For there was a reason we had not seen that seat.  It was almost completely covered by a man weighing in the 350 pound range.  Trying to conceal the look of, “How the #%&$ am I supposed to fit in there?” I smiled, put my bag up above and the nice, large man got up and let me in.  When he sat down, I was immediately pushed half way onto the man next to me, who, though was slim, was at least 6’2″.  I gave an apologetic smile.  The large gentleman was apparently very warm, for the left side of my body was soon covered in his sweat.  I had to go to the bathroom because I hadn’t gone in the terminal since I was waiting on my name to be gone and I feared that any sudden movements by my neighbor just might send the flight of course into the sea, so I decided to hold it. I pulled out my book, and with about a foot and a half of space between the shoulders of these two men, I scrunch myself as small and I can.  It’s only 50 minutes. How much worse could it get?

The guy in front of me laid his seat all the way back.

I couldn’t move.  I was completely trapped.  It was at that point that I think I lost it and just began to laugh hysterically.  I tried to make it look like my book was really funny, but  the title “Basic Economics” proved otherwise.

I eventually made it to NYC and fortunately with no further incident. I am here. I am singing. And I am happy.  More to come!

Ridiculous runs

October 13, 2008

For some reason, many airlines have not mastered the art of providing manageable transfer times for layovers. Either you have hours to wait around for your connecting flight or you have 30 minutes. Very rarely is there something in between.

I often have the 30 minute connecting time. While I am happy I don’t have to sit around for hours, I do abhor the ridiculous run I have to make from one side of the airport to the other. You know the one I’m talking about.  You’re wearing flip flops because they are the easiest to get in and out of at security or heels (women), the wrong bra and are lugging 80 bags since you are now charged for any bag you check (except Southwest) and you are forced to run at top speeds to make your flight.  And you know how ridiculous you look, because you know you’ve watched other people with the same plight doing the same thing and you laugh at them…because they look ridiculous.  And there you are, stuck in that situation.  And you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I look really ridiculous, but I don’t care because I have to make this flight or I’m stuck here for 3 more days! Go! Go! Go!”  The shoes are fallling off. The bags are dropping down your arm. You’re almost falling from kicking your roller bag with each step. Your shirt is being pulled off at the shoulder. You’re breathing louder than a hippo.  You’re more uncoordinated than a toddler learning to walk. But you must make that flight!

I’m cackling as I write this and perhaps this is funnier to me than you, but since this is becoming such a regular occurance for me, I think that from now on, I will wear my workout clothes.  I might take a little longer through security, but hey, at least I’ll make my flight with all my clothes and bags still attached.

Apparently the National Debt Clock in NYC has run out of space for digits, so they have gotten rid of the dollar sign to make room.  Anyone else feel a little uncomfortable about this?  Does this mean that since the the dollar sign is gone, we can make it any currency we want? If so I’d suggest the Somali Shilling – 10 trillion Somali shillings is only $7,305,262,094.  That’s a lot better.

Pet Peeves

October 7, 2008

My blogging friend over at Pet Peeving noted that this week is National Pet Peeve week, so he asked for folks to share some of their pet peeves so here goes.

My pet peeve is a common one – people who don’t know how to drive. I wasn’t going to bring it up since it is so common, and I’m sure my driving skills are often bothersome to others, least of all, my husband. But last night, it was too much.  I was parked in a colleague’s driveway – a very wide driveway – as in 3 to 4 cars could comfortably park next to each other. I had parked all the way to the side leaving ample room for people to get by (who would be coming by, I didn’t know, but the Mini is my baby, so I treat him well which means staying out of other people’s way).  Well, his soon to be ex-wife came by, picked some stuff up and on her way out decided that pulling out straight backwards (which is normally a direction that one would go when backing out of a straight driveway) she decided that taking a 45 degree turn with the foot heavily on the gas into the side of my car was a better idea.  I was greeted by a huge dent in Max’s driver side door.  I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me.

She gave me her insurance information and then proceeded to leave, asking me to help her back out straight.  Apparently she has an affinity for 45 degree angles, because she came within inches of hitting my car again! After she had safely passed my car, the guy I was working with said, “Well, you can get an estimate and just keep the check and not fix the car.” My eyes bulged out and wide-eyed I said, “Oh no…that is my baby. I have no kids and no dogs. That is my baby and it’s getting fixed.” I left promptly.

I’m still 3 months out from going to Sarasota, but I’ve already compiled a list of things that they have done well – things that I will note if I ever start an opera company some day.

1) Within a week of verbally accepting a position, I received a contract with every detail broken down. I had no questions.

2) With my contract, I received the bulk of my music already bound for me.

3) With my contract and music, I also received a copy of the synopsis and libretto.  So instead of trying to find time out of an already busy schedule to find the scores, buy them, have them shipped then go to the library to find the librettos and translation, it showed up in my mailbox, ready to learn – easily saving me, not only money, but at least 3 weeks of precious learning time.

4) My travel to and from Sarasota will be covered. People in other fields may find this a given but at the level I’m at right now in this career, it is not always a given that such a luxury will be afforded you.

5) To this point, I have been treated with an incredible level of professionalism.

6) I found out that we are only 3 miles from the beach and beginning in February it’s warm enough to swim! Woot!

So far, Sarasota has impressed me.  I’ll keep you updated. And all you folks who are thinking about starting an opera company (of which I know there are hoards), take note.  Making your singer feel like they are valued is the best way to ensure quality work from them.

Instead of buying the entire world’s bad assets, what else could $700 billion buy? To see my other post about this issue, go here. It might be worth the read…

Forbes actually wrote an article about it but I’ll break some of it down here:

1) $405 billion will buy you updates on all our nation’s bridges and rail infrastruction and build the first high-speed rail network to connect southern and northern California.

2) $1 billion buys you a solar power array in Arizona that will power 70,000 homes, create jobs and pay for itself in 7 years. 

3) With $150 billion you could privately insure every American for a year.

4) $500 billion can buy you a 7 year war in Iraq.

5) $500 billion buys you a public education system for a year.

6) $700 billion would buy every American 29 personal massages.

Just some perspective on how much $700 billion really is.