Readying for a trip

June 15, 2009 at 10:28 am (Travel) (, , , )

So I leave for Asia a week from today.  My dad will be coming to Eugene on Saturday, because he is going to fly with me (so I’m not on my own on the way to Tokyo).

I haven’t had a whole lot to say just recently, because my mental energy has mostly been devoted to getting ready for this trip.  I’m getting down to the wire here, but I think I’m doing okay as far as packing goes.  I dragged my suitcase out this weekend, and will start tossing anything I don’t need to use into it.  I’ve got a list for my suitcase and another for my carry on (and it’s a third again as long as the one for the suitcase, too).  I’m going to make sure that I can live out of my carry on for at least 48 hours, if I have to.

I need to go to JC Penney (for the third flipping time) tonight.  The swimsuit I own fits okay, but it’s not very comfortable, so I need to look for a new one.  I think I’m going to try to squeeze in one more Target trip, too.

I’m going to have to spend a week by myself when I get back, too.  The boyfriend is also going to (a different part of) Asia, but he won’t be home until a week after me.  I haven’t spent this long apart from him since I moved to Oregon, and I am not relishing the thought of having to do it now.

I’ve realized that I like the opportunity to travel.  I can actually put up with quite a lot.  But darn it, getting ready to go is really very stressful.  I end up trying to plan for every eventuality, and of course I can’t actually do that.  I get the feeling I’d be less stressed right now if I wasn’t going to be separated from the boyfriend while I’m there, though.  That just adds another layer of worry about him, aside from just plain missing him.

Even so, once I get on that plane, I’ll be able to relax…if only because there won’t be anything I can do about stuff I’ve forgotten (except deal with not having it for a couple of weeks or figure out where to buy it).  So here’s hoping Northwest makes it as easy as possible for us to sleep on the flight from Seattle to Tokyo, and that they don’t lose our luggage.  I’d really like to have my suitcase when I get to Hong Kong.

(And isn’t it funny that, in this day of overcrowded overstretched airline travel, I consider it a minor miracle when my checked luggage shows up at my destination at the same time I do.  I think the last time that happened was 2 years ago.)

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Losing our freedoms, eh?

June 4, 2009 at 7:41 pm (Politics) (, , , , )

You know something that is kind of funny (in a horribly sad way) is that the Republican party is really concerned about our freedoms these days.  It’s a word they’ve always been big on using, but now they’re really just all concerned that our freedoms are being taken away from us.

The beautiful irony in that statement, of course, is that what they are referring to is the government doing things like taking over failing business that we can’t afford to let fail (which was started by a Republican administration, by the way).  Or the government raising taxes.  Or the government mandating that health insurance companies sell everyone insurance, full stop.

Now, granted, some of these things are not mentioned in the Constitution.  Certainly taking over GM never made it in there.  But honestly, this is not something the Constitution bars the federal government from doing, and it’s not something that either the states or “we the people” could possibly have managed, so it’s not like the federal government is taking rights away from other entities that are entitled to them.  And, of course, with things like taxation…well, that is specifically mentioned in the constitution.  Specifically, the federal government is allowed to do it.  Kind of however Congress decides to.  So they completely lose on that one.

It’s ironic, of course, because the previous administration took away quite a lot of our rights, and some of our most important ones, too.  We definitely had our freedom curtailed under the Bush administration, and it’s not some gray-area, not-actually-forbidden stuff like taking over failing companies when the economy is about to implode.  It’s stuff like…the right to reasonable search and seizure.  Habeus corpus.  In some sense, freedom of speech and religion.  You know, stuff that was kinda sorta mentioned very specifically in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Not to mention the Declaration of Independence and, I’m sure, a variety of other documents.

Seriously, never underestimate the desire or power of some people to rewrite history.  I just hope that we as a country don’t let them get away with it.

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Pragmatism vs. Idealism

June 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm (Health Care, Politics) (, , , )

Last night, I amused myself before bed by watching a recent episode of Countdown with Keith Olbermann.  I haven’t watched that particular show in awhile (because we’re no longer in the midst of an election), but it was interesting.

I realize that Keith Olbermann is, in many ways, the liberal answer to Bill O’Reilly.  Except that, for one, Olbermann is a lot nicer to the people on his show, and for another, I think his distillation of various news stories is better.  And I can’t help the fact that I think O’Reilly is morally degenerate, but that’s my biases talking.

Anyway, Olbermann had Rachel Maddow on his show to discuss a revelation about waterboarding, and to talk about torture in general.  One of the people who was very vocal that waterboarding was useful and not torture (I wish I could remember the guy’s name, but I can’t) recently underwent the process himself.  He basically said at the end of it that it is absolutely torture, and he would have told anyone anything they wanted to hear to make it stop.

So Olbermann was saying that the best argument against torture is that it doesn’t even work, aside from being inhumane and cruel.  Maddow disagreed with him, and said that the primary argument against torture should be that we, as a society, don’t do it.  In other words, that torture is immoral and wrong, whether it works or not.

I think it’s an interesting question about how we debate certain topics, especially in politics.  I think it’s very easy to get caught up in pragmatic arguments, like the one Olbermann thinks is the most important, and lose sight of the moral arguments, like those Maddow thinks should have primacy.  I can think of at least two other issues that have similar pragmatic vs. idealistic arguments – the death penalty, and health care.  On the one hand, we could argue that abolishing the death penalty or instituting health care is more cost effective than our current system.  On the other hand, we could argue that it is morally wrong for the state to kill people, or that it is a moral imperative for the government to ensure that everyone has equal access to health care.

I think I personally would side with Maddow in this sort of argument.  Torture is wrong not because it is ineffective, but because we don’t do it.  It goes against our values and our belief system.  It’s not an issue of finding a method of torture that works (which is what the pragmatic argument would lead to); it’s an issue of not even looking for one, because it’s wrong.

Similarly, the death penalty is wrong because the government has no business playing God.  Sure, it’s cheaper to get rid of the death penalty (because you won’t need so many expensive trials), but that argument would lead to an attempt to make the death penalty cheaper to enforce.  Not more just, not more accurate – cheaper.  The point is that no matter how cheap it is, it’s wrong.

And finally, with health care, I think this debate is becoming one about whether or not people have the right to health care.  Is it a right like the freedom of speech, thus deserving of protection by the government, or is it a privilege?  I personally think it should be a right, and that anyone who agrees with me on that is weakening their case by arguing first about cost.  Cost is a consideration (and I really do think it would ultimately be cheaper if everyone had insurance, at least), but the first consideration is that people deserve to have health care simply because it is the right thing to do.

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Ready for summer

June 1, 2009 at 8:33 am (Uncategorized)

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I had my lovely new living room fan on.  I used my new not-nearly-as-icky-as-it-could-be sunscreen on my face, neck, ears, and arms.  I put on my new waterproof mascara, because I noticed that my non-waterproof stuff was smudging a bit at the end of the day on Friday.

And wouldn’t you know it, today is cooler than it has been in two weeks and overcast.  I’m glad for it, but it’s kind of ironic.

I did some shopping over the weekend to try and get ready for my big trip to various parts of Asia.  I managed to get some of what I needed at Target, although I forgot to look for sunglasses there, and all of their hats were either stupid or made me look 40.  I was going to have to go to JC Penney anyway, so I’m hoping I can find at least sunglasses there.  I also need new shirts, another pair of pants (if I can find one), and I’m really hoping I can find a very lightweight longsleeved shirt (but I’m not holding out much hope for that).

It’s frustrating me a little that I have to very carefully plan all of my time between now and when I leave, just to make sure I get everything done that needs doing.  I won’t have much time to just relax, which is too bad, because I’ll have even less time when I’m actually on this vacation.

Also, the ceiling fan above my desk is really annoying.  It’s just the slightest bit unbalanced, so it makes a constant noise that I can’t quite tune out.

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