February 23, 2009 at 8:25 am (Uncategorized)

I haven’t really written anything here recently, because the only things I can think of to say are on subjects I’ve been spending the past week or two trying to avoid thinking about.  Other things just seem too much like…minutiae.

I’m a natural optimist, in the sense that I function better when I have a reasonably happy outlook about my future, and so I work pretty hard to keep that going even when I’m not really feeling it.  It’s been harder than usual lately.  And it always, always comes back to money.

It’s not even that I don’t have enough of it.  I just can’t predict it.  I can’t count on still having it next year or next month (or, at the moment, even next week).  It’s a horrible kind of defeat for me, sometimes, that I can’t even get a low-paying job.  The best I can do is a series of temporary low-paying jobs.  It’s demoralizing.

I don’t even want to tell people I haven’t talked to recently what I’m doing, because I feel like I should be doing something better.  Or at least something more permanent.  There’s no shame in working as a secretary as a sort of placeholder while you figure out what you want to do, but it seems so much worse somehow that I can’t even do that.

The only thing that gets me through the day, the week, the month is reminding myself why I’m here in the first place, and reminding myself that I actually do have it harder than most people like me.  I still don’t regret moving here, and I still think it’s worth it.  But it doesn’t always help to know that part of the reason why I’m struggling is because I live in a poor city with few prospects and a glut of college-educated people.  It’s in a state with higher unemployment and lower median income than most.  And unlike many of those other college-educated people, I didn’t go to school anywhere near here, and a lot of people have never heard of the school I got my degree from.

I really hope I manage to find a permanent job soon.  Otherwise, all of my memories of this place may end up being indelibly colored by the fact that I feel like such a failure right now.


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February 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm (Uncategorized) ()

So there was this restaurant about half an hour away from us that served Filipino food.  We went once, about a year ago, but hadn’t ever been back.  It’s far enough away that it’s a bit of a pain, and we’re sometimes just too busy on weekends.

I think it may have closed.  Amiel is really, really bummed.  So we’ll content ourselves with ordering pizza tonight and watching movies.  My poor displaced Filipino. 😦

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You’ve gotta try this

February 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

So as I type this entry, I’m waiting for the honey on my face to work its magic.

I’m quite sure you think I’m crazy.  Who voluntarily puts sticky, sweet substances on their face, after all?  But I’m not kidding, and I’m not crazy (at least, I don’t think I am).

I was looking for remedies for my dry, flaky winter skin earlier.  I only wash my face once each day, and use body lotion on it, and it’s still sometimes dry and flaky.  So while I was poking around, looking for the best lotion to moisturize my face without leaving a funky residue or causing pimples, I found some natural remedy suggestions.

To exfoliate – make a paste of baking soda and water, massage it in, and rinse off.  Having just done this a minute ago, I can tell you it’s fantastic.  I got maybe a tablespoon or two of baking soda (enough to comfortably fill the palm of my hand) and added enough warm water to make a goopy but spreadable substance.  And do you know how much cheaper that is than the exfoliating products sold at the drugstore?

I think that honey is another exfoliant?  But either way, it’s supposed to help with skin smoothness.  You put it on your face, leave it for 15 minutes, and then pat it off with a wash cloth and warm water.  I used maybe a quarter size amount of honey for this.

To moisturize – put oil on your face.  No really, do it.  As a treatment, you rub it in, leave for 15 minutes, and pat off with a damp wash cloth.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one that’s suggested (and currently, the only one I’ve got on hand).  Sweet Almond oil or Jojoba oil are also recommended.  That’s next on the docket for tonight.

If you want to be really crazy, you can do something that’s called the Oil Cleansing Method.  If you google that exact phrase, there are several websites that explain the process and the reasoning.  But the short of it is that you mix together castor oil and another oil like extra virgin olive oil (or any other oil known for it’s moisture and nutrients).  For dry skin, the suggestion is something like 10% or 20% castor oil, with the rest the olive oil.  You increase the castor oil if your skin is more oily.

So basically, castor oil can get deep into your pores because of its molecular weight.  And, since the only thing oil is truly soluble in is, surprise, other oils, this helps get rid of things like blackheads, dead skin, dirt, etc.  You mix it with another oil to thin it out some, and to moisturize.  Apparently, straight castor oil can actually leave your skin dry.

The method is that you massage this mixture into your face, and then apply steam (which can be as simple as putting a washcloth wet with hot water on your face until it cools).  Then you wipe it off, making sure to remove all the oil.  If your skin is dry after, you can rub a tiny bit of oil into your skin as a moisturizer, as long as you make sure you don’t leave any on the surface.

So I’m totally trying that as soon as I can track down some castor oil.  I think they still sell it in grocery stores and drugstores, since I think it’s still sometimes used as a mild laxative.  I think I may also want to buy some jojoba to use with it, because I like that stuff just in general (and I don’t really care for the smell of olive oil).

So feel free to think I’m crazy, but I’ll still have smooth, non-flaky, non-dry skin. 🙂

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February 13, 2009 at 8:18 am (Uncategorized) (, )

So it’s Friday the 13th.  Yesterday marked the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and my sister.  Darwin and Lincoln would have been 200, and my sister is 19 (I believe she celebrated with dinner and line dancing).  Nobody nearly that cool shares my birthday.

I also saw a racoon this morning on my way to work.  A real live racoon!  In daylight!  Even if I’d had a camera, it was moving far too quickly for any sort of picture.  So if it’s bad luck to have a black cat cross your path on Friday the 13th, what happens if it’s a racoon?

(Also, racoons are rather larger than I thought they were.  This one was the size of an overweight housecat.)

I’m really not in a good mood today.  I don’t really know exactly why, but I’m hoping I can shake it off before the day is over.

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Harbingers of Spring

February 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm (This Makes No Sense) (, )

This time of year can sometimes be a lovely bunch of contradictions.  It’s awfully fun, at times.

For instance, there have been little purple crocuses blooming in one of the flower beds I walk past on my way to work since early January.  They poked their little heads up, and I was absolutely convinced they were going to freeze and die, but they’ve hung on thus far.  But it’s pretty strange to see these little purple flowers when the wind feels positively arctic and it’s actively snowing (like yesterday).  Especially since most of the plants around the city still have no leaves.

It’s also really interesting to look out the window and see a gorgeous blue sky.  Granted, there are clouds (there almost always are), but it’s delightfully sunny out today.  And I’ve had my little space heater on all morning because it’s actually quite chilly out.

But I think the best contradictions are in what many people choose to wear.  Flip flops with insulated parkas, for instance.  That one is always fun.  Or summer-y platform sandals that would look great with a sundress, paired with black tights and a winter coat.  Or a skirt made of pastel, floaty fabric worn underneath a heavy black coat.

It gets better in the spring and fall – sometimes you’ll see people wearing Ugg boots and shorts.  Or shorts and flip flops with heavy sweatshirts (generally with the hood up and accompanied by a lot of shivering).

I can sort of understand all this weird mixing, though.  It generally doesn’t consistently feel like spring until it’s practically summer.  Any time between January and June, you’re just as likely to see warm weather as cold, and sunny skies as rainy.  It can still sometimes freeze at night, too.  Every time you think spring is finally starting to make an appearance, you have to wait a few weeks to make sure it doesn’t get scared and go back into hiding.

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The Real Cost of Health Care

February 10, 2009 at 10:58 am (Health Care, Politics) (, )

One of my major interests, at least for the past few years, has been the health care industry in the United States.  Frankly, I think it’s crap and needs to be seriously overhauled.  I also think that the best way to overhaul it is to nationalize it.  The biggest reasons for this belief of mine are that I think it’s a mistake to classify health care as a commodity (thus, everyone should be entitled to it by law) and that I think the only organization that could possible fix it and keep it not-for-profit is the government.  I am definitely not of the opinion that government is the problem (though I will freely admit that it is not always the solution).

So when I saw a blog post in the New York Times today, I was intrigued.  You can read it in full here.

The basic premise is that the time people spend waiting for health care services is a hidden cost of the health care industry (based on the idea that time = money, which in this case, it often does).  So, from the blog entry:

If you count health care-related activities writ large – including time traveling to a doctor, waiting to see a doctor, being examined and treated, taking medication, obtaining medical care for others, and paying bills – the average American spent 1.1 hours a week obtaining health care in 2007.

If you don’t count quite as many activities as “time spent on getting health care,” the figure is 847 million hours (for all Americans over the age of 15 in 2007).  That is, of course, still quite a lot of time.

But let’s go with the 1.1 hours per week spent obtaining health care.  That means that the average American spends 57.2 hours each year on this activity (and it’s actually quite a bit more than that if you’re over 60 or female).  So how much would that cost, in terms of dollars?

If we value all people’s time at the average hourly wage of production and nonsupervisory workers ($17.43 in 2007), Americans spent the equivalent of $240 billion on health care in 2007.

(Sidenote: I only wish I earned $17.43/hour.  I earn quite a bit less than that right now.)  That’s quite a lot of money.  It’s enough that the official report on health care expenditure for 2007 is 11% smaller than it would have been if that amount of money had been included.

But to put it in more approachable numbers, for the average American earning what’s listed as an average salary, they would have spent nearly $1,000 in wasted time.  Since most doctor’s offices are only open during regular business hours, and most people work between the hours of 8 and 5, I don’t find it hard to believe that it was actually lost income (or used up PTO/sick leave).

Even I, earning substantially less than that and requiring very little health care by comparison, have probably spent over $100 in time over the past year.  Most of that is lost income, because I had to take time off of work and because I don’t have paid sick leave or time off.  And this doesn’t even include the actual cost of going to the doctor, paying for insurance, or buying prescription (and OTC) medication.

This is all interesting mostly because one of the biggest fears Americans seem to have about national health care is an explosion of waits for services.  We’ve all heard horror stories about how long some people in countries with national health care have to wait for non-emergency health care.  Nobody really wants to have to wait years to treat a problem that isn’t life threatening, but does affect quality of life.

But if we include the cost of everyone’s time in our discussions about our current system, and any system we want to implement, we should be able to avoid the worst of the issues that some other countries face.  Talking about time wasted can be somewhat abstract for many people, but talking about money wasted generally is not.

It would probably also serve to highlight the need for more primary care type physicians.  General practice isn’t a terribly popular field of specialization among medical students.  It would probably be well worth creating incentives for people to pursue that if it meant that everybody had more access to GPs or family doctors.  It might keep more people from choosing their medical field based mostly on how much money they can earn performing cosmetic procedures, rather than their interest in that particular type of medicine (dermatology, I’m looking at you).  Even those fields that can most easily turn to cosmetic procedures (like dermatology) are frequently medically necessary.  Dermatologists are needed for treating skin cancer, eczema, acne, psoriasis, and probably a hundred other life-threatening, uncomfortable, or just plain annoying issues.  Even plastic surgery can be considered necessary (or at least, very important) for women who have had mastectomies, or for people who have been disfigured in accidents.  It’s not all about nose jobs and face lifts.

I just hope that, if we ever get to a point where we are discussing national health care seriously, this is a part of the discussion.  Quantifying how much time we all spend sitting around doctors’ offices is a very good indication of the quality of our health care system.  Good health care should be both affordable and easily accessible, and I don’t think that’s an impossible goal.

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February 9, 2009 at 11:04 am (Uncategorized) ()

Every so often, I come across a song that has lyrics I can really identify with.  Even less often, I’ll come across a song with lyrics that speak to me that also has a catchy tune.

I’ve recently discovered one such song – Lucky by Jason Mraz (featuring someone whose name I really can’t spell or remember).  I haven’t heard much on his latest album, but that one song is excellent.  It’s kind of neat that it’s a duet, too.

Anyway, it’s worth checking out.

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Welcome to the real world.

February 5, 2009 at 8:47 am (Politics, This Makes No Sense) (, , )

Okay, I really think this has to be said.

In regards to Obama wanting to cap executive salaries (in companies receiving significant federal money) at $500,000…it’s about damn time.  I’m using stronger language than that in my head, but I’m trying to be decorous here.

For everyone who has been saying for the past decade that CEOs earn way too much, this is fabulous news.  For all that I’m not even 24 yet, I am one of those people.

Seriously, it’s bad enough to have CEOs making close to 400 times as much as the average worker when times are good, and when it is reasonable to argue that the CEO is doing good things for the company overall.  But to try and argue that when the CEO has just laid off half the company and is holding out his hand for a bailout?  Please.  Spare me.

What many people don’t seem to realize is that the only thing Obama is trying to do is introduce reality back into the upper echelons of the corporate world.  In the real world, where the majority of us live, losing a lot of money for your company means that you suffer serious consequences, up to and including losing your job.  I don’t even think it matters if it was your fault – if it’s because of decisions you made, you have to face the consequences.

In CEO la-la-land, losing a lot of money for your company, perhaps even so much that it has to sell off pieces of itself, means you get a raise.  A big one.  Sometimes you even get to sell your company stock before the price per share takes a nosedive.

Reality sure does suck sometimes, doesn’t it?  Now the people at the top have some inkling about how the rest of us have felt for the past 8 years.

So forgive me if I can’t muster a lot of sympathy for people who cry foul when they are offered an income that is 200 times what I make, given to them because they had a direct hand in causing an international economic implosion.  They have made my life, personally and directly, a lot harder.  They didn’t give a flying flip about how their actions affected people like me, so I really don’t see why I should care about them.

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Miss Manners

February 3, 2009 at 11:44 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Recently, I’ve been reading Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin.  I’d actually been meaning to read this book for some time, but it didn’t occur to me until recently to see if the public library had it.  So I got it on Saturday, and have read probably a quarter of it so far.

It’s a pretty good read.  It’s easy to read a bit and put it down, because it’s very segmented.  And Judith Martin is funny, so it’s pleasant reading.  It certainly beats hanging around on the internet most evenings.  The hardest part about reading the book is that it’s rather heavy, so I have to prop it up on a pillow while I read on the couch.

It’s also been really interesting to think about.  I am, undoubtedly, progressive and liberal.  But I also think that what Judith Martin is trying to do with Miss Manners is extremely important.  Just because society has changed, that doesn’t mean we can throw out every old etiquette rule.  Most of them were created for a real, practical purpose in the past – and many of them are still completely relevant today.

But, and perhaps this is even more to the point, even if I personally didn’t think rules of etiquette were still important, there are undoubtedly a lot of people who do.  For instance, many people would still be a little miffed or even downright offended if someone told them what to get them for their birthday pre-emptively (going back to the rule that you’re not supposed to admit a preference for anything, including wanting presents, unless you are asked, “what do you want for your birthday?” or something similar).

Anyway, it’s been interesting reading this stuff.  I sometimes feel as though it’s like reading an especially well-written manual on correct grammar.  I kind of sort of know all these rules, because I’ve picked up on most of them in part without realizing, but it’s awfully helpful to have someone spell it all out for me.  And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Judith Martin, writing as Miss Manners, has a very amusing way of spelling it out.

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