Sunday, October 31, 2010

Health Care Reform - This is Interesting

The AP is reporting that Birth Control may be covered as part of the "preventative care" provision of the Health Care Reform Law.  This means that the Pill, among other things,  would be convered under health insurance plans without deductibles, co-pays or co-insurance.   "May be" because even at a billion pages, the thing is still up for interpretation.  But check this out:

"There is clear and incontrovertible evidence that family planning saves lives and improves health," said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. David Grimes, an international family planning expert who teaches medicine at the University of North Carolina. "Contraception rivals immunization in dollars saved for every dollar invested. Spacing out children allows for optimal pregnancies and optimal child rearing. Contraception is a prototype of preventive medicine."

The underlined was my emphasis.  Dollars saved for dollars invested may be the best way to sell this provision.  Let's do some math:

The Pill costs me something like $30 a month, before BCBS adjusts the claim.  (I am pretty sure that is what it cost 15 years ago, too.)  $30 times 12 months in a year is $360.  Let's say I am on that Pill for 25 years.  $360 times 25 = $9,000 over my lifetime.  You know what is more expensive that $9,000?  An unplanned pregnancy.

I have been on the Pill since college and seem to remember that it wasn't covered under my insurance plan when I first started working.  The way I remember it, only after the mass marketing of Viagra (which was covered under every plan) was the chorus of "What the Hell?!"  finally answered.  And the answer was, "Viagra is a drug that treats a disorder.  The Pill is merely preventative."  And then the fight got really ugly.  It is covered as a regular prescription drug now, at least in the state of Illinois.

I understand that covering the Pill at 100% is a trade off.  It adds to the cost of coverage.  I will continue to use the Pill whether or not it is covered or at what level it is covered.  This issue is not about my needs as a patient.  It is about a whole lot of other women that do not currently have the option of a safe, consistent form of birth control that they can control.  As in not have to rely on a man to wear it, or provide it.  Or have to choose between buying the Pill and buying groceries.

The article goes on to address the concerns of the Catholic bishops. Did you know there was a National Catholic Bioethics Center? Neither did I.

I realize this is a major matter of public policy and much more complicated than my few paragraphs of opinion.  But I hope those crazy liberals win this one.

Only the Candy Remains

Weekend Assignment # 341: How Do You Do Halloween?

Each year at this time, we are told that Halloween is second only to Christmas in its commercial impact. Once an amalgam of religious holidays, it has grown over the years, at least in the U.S., and it's not just for children as it may have been half a century ago. What, if anything, do you personally do to celebrate Halloween? Have you ever participated in an alternative or related holiday, such as the Dias de Los Muertos, Samhain, a church Harvest Festival, etc.?

Extra Credit: What was the last Halloween costume you wore, and when?

I don’t actually have Halloween traditions anymore. Other than buying the candy, I mean.

Today, I went to the used book sale at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. I managed to control myself and only purchased three books. None of which I remotely need. Then I had lunch and came home.

I spent the afternoon on the couch, flipping between football, The Rocky Horror Picture Show marathon and the marathon of something called The Most Terrifying Places in America, on the Travel Channel. Apparently, a devil baby once lived in Jane Addams’ Hull House. Here is what Ms. Addams had to say about that.   And I handed out candy to the few trick-or-treaters that bother to come all the way down my street.

The last time I wore a costume was to a Halloween party held by my friends Bill and Liza just before they were married. I believe Liza just said that was eight years ago.  I went as a medieval ghost with the dress and the makeup of death. I remember my friend Andrew did the makeup, which was cool because I would have done the softer pale-haunted look, and he went for the starker-scary look.

Eight years, though.  That rather suggests that I am over Halloween.  How sad.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre Literacy Skillzzz

This summer, at the book sale formerly known as Brandeis, I picked up a box set of Junie B. Jones books for my nephew, Alex.  He is five years old, so they are a couple of years ahead of him, but Ramona the Pest proved that he can sit still and listen to chapter books.

Today, when they all came over for lunch, not-quite-two-year-old Ainslie was holding one of those books.  She had it open, pointed to things on the pages, turned them and jabbered away.  Oftentimes, mentioning the name of my dog.

Looking at her, I remembered something a schoolteacher friend told me about young children.  The establishment of something called pre-literacy skills.  Things like:
  1. Holding the book the correct way
  2. Turning the pages correctly
  3. Knowing the words go from left to right and top to bottom
So I mention this to my sister-in-law, another schoolteacher, and she agreed.  She added that Ainslie's jabbering had inflections to it, as would ours when we read aloud.

She is going to be a reader!

Friday, October 29, 2010

BTT - Skeletons

In honor of Halloween this weekend:

What reading skeletons do you have in your closet? Books you’d be ashamed to let people know you love? Addiction to the worst kind of (fill in cheesy genre here)? Your old collection of Bobbsey Twin Mysteries lovingly stored behind your “grown-up” books? You get the picture … come on, confess!

Oh, hell.

Flowers in the Attic. The whole series. All of my friends read it in junior high and the horrible Kristy Swanson movie came out around that time. Twenty-some years later, with an overflowing library and I cannot trash those four so-worn-out-they’re-taped-together paperback novels.  I should really get it in hardcover.  Wait.  No.

Interestingly enough, I was reading one discussion board or another where someone asked if our mothers knew we read those books. Because they are, you know, trashy. And sort of unfit for children.

My mother knew I read them. She bought them for me. So I went and asked her if she knew what they were about. No. So I told her. “What?! No! I just knew they were in the Horror section! Next to the Stephen King! You had already read all the Stephen King!”

So true.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Privilege of Books

Once upon a time, I was at a conference attending a session on managing diversity. The hour began with a talk about privilege. The speaker asked us a bunch of questions that proved what a bunch of lily-white-collared folks we all were. A few of those questions were about books:

In your childhood home, were there more than 10 books?
More than 20?
Did your neighborhood have a library?
Did your school?

The questions blew me away. I never thought of books as a privilege.

I have a friend that grew up in a small rural town. She says that her family never had much money, but that books were in the “Need” budget, as opposed to the “Want”. She wondered, in all seriousness, if her mother had to choose between books and groceries…

That friend now teaches Literature to middle schoolers and has personally funded a classroom library for her students. So when I saw this article in the Trib, about Chicago Public Schools and their utter lack of libraries and librarians, I wondered how many other teachers are spending their own money trying to get things for kids to read.

Check this out:

At Durkin Park Elementary School on the Southwest Side, half of a dank and windowless supply room doubles as a library. Only a few children can squeeze into the 12-foot-by-15-foot space, with barely any room to sit down to browse through a book.

"Yeah, I'm frustrated," says Durkin Park Principal Dan Redmond. "I know we're better off than most schools, but when I go to other schools (with better libraries) and I see what they have, it breaks my heart. It doesn't seem fair."

There was another big story in Chicago recently about a group of parents squatting in a fieldhouse that had actually been condemned, because they wanted to use it as a library for their kids. One of those parents was quoted:

Araceli Gonzalez, who helped organize the sit-in, said she began fighting for a library because her 10-year-old daughter is a voracious reader.

Halfway through last year, the girl had already exhausted the offerings of her small classroom library.

"Their reading grades are low," she said of the school, which has not met reading standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act since 2008. "What does that tell you? They need books."

The good news is that with this story, the parents received bunches of donated books. Which is good because with state funding gone to hell, CPS isn’t likely to get them from Illinois any time soon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Candy is Serious Business

MSN ran an article on the Best and Worst Halloween candy. The short version is that it all has gobs of sugar, so we should avoid anything that has fat. Which means chocolate and peanuts.

Screw that.

And this was even funnier:

“When giving out treats to kids, it's better to stick to healthier items like sugar-free gum, popcorn, pretzel packs and raisin boxes, Mangieri said. For example, a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pretzels has 110 calories, one gram of fat and less than one gram of sugar. And a quarter of a cup of raisins has 130 calories, no fat and 29 grams of sugar, in addition to fiber, protein, potassium, iron and calcium.”

That is called the recipe for getting your house TP’d. (Although, assuming there is enough chocolate in your bag already, the pretzels might be o.k).

I haven’t even picked up my Halloween candy yet. But I can assure you, it will not involve raisins. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

The War, by Ken Burns

While I have something of a WWII theme going on this year, I can honestly say that I would watch just about anything that Ken Burns decides to produce.

Because the subject matter is so broad, Burns used an interesting storytelling device: he picked four U.S. towns, one in each part of the country, and wrote about the War from their points of view.   There was plenty of video footage, and lots of photographs, as well as voice-overs of correspondence and articles - very similar to his documentary on The Civil War.  The difference was that instead of interviewing historians, Burns recorded interviews with survivors - soldiers and their families.

My favorite story was one that I hadn't heard a thing about before.  A young girl had been living with her family in the Philippines when the War broke out and they were sent to an internment camp.  Sascha kept a diary, of which exerpts were read, and she was interviewed in the present day (2006?).

I was also drawn in by the interviews with Senator Inouye of Hawaii.  Because he was the son of Japanese immigrants, Inouye was banned from enlisting until ..1943?   He was a platoon leader in Italy.

Things I learned:
  1. 240 days straight is about the maximum that any human being can be in combat without going insane.
  2. We lost an awful lot of planes crash landing onto air craft carriers.
  3. We bombed the hell out of Tokyo before dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
  4. (This was more an "I'd forgotten").  Stalin didn't declare war on Japan until after we had dropped The Bomb on Hiroshima.
  5. Army medics were paid less than the average soldier - $10 a month.

Last Christmas, I gifted my grandfather with Burns' documentary on the National Parks.  Is it too soon to ask if I can borrow it?


Weekend Assignment # 341: Overexposed

Some things (or people) explode into the culture, are really big for a while and then overstay their welcome. Who or what are you really tired of seeing, hearing or reading about these days?

Extra Credit: What discarded bit of pop culture do you remember fondly?

Anyone who was ever made “famous” by a reality TV show.

I am pointing in particular to The Hills and the Housewives shows. I have not watched any of them, but I have seen enough commercials. I will also throw in Paris Hilton, Omarosa, and whatever show “The Situation” is on.

I’ve said before: my feeling is these shows generally reward bad behavior and I refuse to participate by watching. And it seems that I am missing lots of pop culture references these days, which makes me even more resentful.

They make me feel old.

It is my opinion that Reality TV peaked when Puck was kicked out of the San Francisco house. And it jumped the shark with the “Rats and Snakes” (which I did watch).

I miss the old scripted soap operas: Dallas and Dynasty. Knots Landing and Falcon Crest. They were over-the-top dramatic, they had people to root for and those that you loved to hate. And they were not (even remotely or through skillful editing) real.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Plug from the Trib

My grandfather called to point me to this article about Glenview's Library in the Chicago Tribune.  Most of it, I had heard before.  But not this:

"Demand for library services at this suburban locale is continually increasing with new card registrations up 56 percent in 2009."

Function of the economy, or anticipation of the new building?

BTT - Foreign

Name a book (or books) from a country other than your own that you love. Or aren’t there any?

There are a thousand.  But off the top of my head:

My favorite book from another country is A Christmas Carol.  Followed by...a lot of other Dickens and Jane Austen.  But I am going to pretend for a minute that the question refers to a book translated from a foreign language.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch , by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was a "One Book, One Chicago" pick and can be blamed for my gravitating back to the Russian writers.  It is a short novel of one man's day in the gulag and it does a lot with the themes of survival and integrity.

The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas most certainly rocks, which reminds me that The Club Dumas, by Arturo Perez-Reverte, was pretty awesome, too.  I have a couple more of his books waiting in line for me right now.

But if I may make a plug for my old professor, Arnost Lustig, his Lovely Green Eyes is a new favorite.  That may be cheating, because I am pretty sure he was still in the States at the time it was published, but it was originally written in his native Czech.  Lustig has written several novels of the Holocaust, and this was a post-war story of a young survivor.  Which reminds me that I have a couple of other novels about Prague hanging around that I should really get to, already.

Friday, October 22, 2010

United Airlines Loves Me and Wants Me to Be Happy

Yeah, yeah.

It has become obvious that the way to get the best deals and the best service from the airlines is to pick one and use it exclusively.  So a colleague asked me why I fly United.  "Hometown airline" is the easy answer.  It started when I was in college, because United had hourly flights between O'Hare and National Airport.  It still does - almost.  One complaint that I regularly hear about United is the lost luggage phenomenon.  I can't remember the last time United mishandled my luggage and I theorize that because the vast majority of my travel involves direct flights, there is a significantly reduced risk of my bag going to the wrong place.  So unless there is a really good reason, I fly United.

This week, I stayed in DC for three nights, so I checked a bag.  I hadn't done that in awhile, and when I reached baggage claim at Reagan, I was all eye-rolling about how long it would take for the bags to come out.  Then I saw it:

My bag.  In a little row with some other bags.  It was already there.  My bag had gotten on an earlier flight and was waiting for me.  Score.

By this afternoon, when I flew home, I was cranky again because checking a bag meant that I wouldn't be able to fly standby (if I was willing to shell out that $50, I mean).  I was early to the airport because I had shared a cab with a colleague who flys American. 

Would you believe my bag was waiting for me when I arrived back at O'Hare?  Double score.

So thank you, UAL, for making my travel days a bit less sucky. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nothing New Here

After a long day with the seminar (Round 2), I seriously considered ordering room service and not moving for 12 or 14 hours.  I somehow convinced myself to run over to Chinatown to pick up a wrap at that place for dinner.  And maybe a cupcake.  On the way back, I saw some stuff from a different angle:

That dome is the Natural History Museum.  I've only been there once or twice since graduation, but it is where they keep the Hope Diamond.  It is very pretty, but seriously.  Don't waste five minutes of a trip to Washington standing in line to see it.

The walk for carry out was a good idea.  Now I am too tired to do anything else.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Walls Around the Monuments

I left the office, checked in at the hotel, and set off to make my pilgrimage to President Lincoln.  I had it in mind to try to see something that I hadn't seen before.  That didn't work.  It was a rather gray day and the first thing I saw is that the sun was shining on nothing but the Capitol:

It is my understanding that everyone has gone home until after the election.  Whatever.  So I turned around and kept walking. 

These days, whenever I approach the Washington Monument, I am irritated.  You wouldn't know it if you hadn't been here before 9/11, but there are several new pathways and short walls and cement barriers so one is obliged to walk halfway around the globe to get to the other end of the Mall:

Back in my day, we hiked up the hill to those flags and over the top.  You could touch the Monument as you went by without feeling like a criminal.  To be fair, there isn't exactly anyone there telling the tourists to go around, (in fact, you can see a little kid playing there in the middleand the horse carrying the park ranger seemed to be there for the children to pet) but it is clearly discouraging.  So I walked around.

As these paths and barriers were going up, I worried about this one tree.  It seems rather out of place, which is why I always liked it. 

I have taken several good naps under this tree, but don't tell my mother.  Anyway, I was afraid that someone would cut it down to make the world safer for democracy.  But it seems to have survived. 

Then I went back to my regularly scheduled pilgrimage.

Monday, October 18, 2010

With God as My Witness, I Am Going to Finish This Book

I do not understand why I cannot finish The Brothers Karamazov.  It is not a bad book.  There is one noble creature to root for.  There is intrigue.  There is danger.  There will be a mystery if I could just bloody get to it.

 I am packing to go to Washington tomorrow and I looked at the book I just started and I looked at my big, fat copy of Brothers.  I must finish it. 

People of the Book was supposed to be my lunchtime book.  But it was so good that I brought it upstairs to read this weekend.  Last night, I dropped The Zookeepers Wife into my bag to carry around.  Trade paperback, about the right size.  This could go on forever.

Maybe I'm just going to not have a "carrying around" book.

That's not going to work.

Oh, hell. 

I just downloaded The Brothers Karamazov to my Kindle.  I just paid for a book twice to make myself finish my "summer epic".

This had better work.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

Book 39

People of the Book, is the most recent novel of Geraldine Brooks.  I will read any damn thing she writes.

"The Book" is the Sarajevo Haggadah, a centuries old book precious not just for its age and craftmanship, but for the fact that it is illustrated, which was a serious breach of the rules back in the day.  The premise is that the Sarajevo Haggadah was rescued from its museum home during the Bosnian War and in 1996, the museum is preparing to put it back on display.  An Australian conservationist has been asked to study it, repair what should be repaired and write instructions on how best to keep it for the future.

While it is not at all the point of the book, Hanna, the expert in question, makes a distinction between "restoration" and "conservation".  She maintains that to attempt to restore the book to its original state would be to lose some of its history forever.  So the book keeps its crappy 19th century binding, for example, because that reatains some of its authentic...whatever.

The novel shifts from Hanna's work (and personal life) in 1996 and several historical points in the history of the Haggadah.  For example, the first thing Hanna finds is the piece of an insect's wing.  The next chapter is Sarajevo, 1940, telling the story of the Jewish girl who finds herself smuggled out of town with the Book (by the Muslim curator of the museum), before the Nazis catch either of them.  With each shift, the history goes further back and it is totally fascinating.

The last shift made me a bit cranky, but it rather brought the plot back full circle, and led to the discovery that SPOILERS the original artist was a Muslim woman.  So...forgiven.

Brooks has a bit too much fun with the Inquisition for my taste.  I just don't do that Spanish Inquisition.  And when a "history" chapter ended, I was always left with a "But.  What happened next?"  Which ticked me off, but was pretty realistic.  I also appreciated the ongoing theme of times and places when Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together peacefully.  And when they didn't.  Finally, Brooks kindly gives us an Afterword, noting the history that inspired her, the research that she did, and the stuff she totally made up.

I loved this book.  I just regret that my copy is a beat up trade paperback.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Legoland Adventure

I arrived at about 10am to pick up my nephew, Alex, for an Adventure Day. 

He was in the family room, eating cereal from the box, and watching T.V.  He didn't want to go anywhere.  I promised him lunch at "the macaroni place".  No dice.  Finally, his mother ordered him up and into the car.

I didn't feel like fighting to park right in front of the building, so when we got out of the car, he couldn't see where we were going.  "I'm hungry," he whined.

I gave him the options:  there was a place around the corner where we could get a decent grilled cheese before we went on our adventure.  Or we could have macaroni and cheese afterward.  He wanted macaroni.

"OK," I said.  "See that giraffe?  That's where we are going."

Legoland Chicago (which is actually in Schaumburg) has a giant Lego giraffe built out from the main entrance.  Alex stopped dead in his tracks.

"How.  Did they do that?"

Score.  The child charged right into the building.  Every room.  Even where it was dark.  And when he had to wait in line.  And when he had to talk to a guy in a costume.  I took his picture with Lego R2D2,  Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Santa Claus and Lego Spongebob.  I don't feel good about publishing the child's photograph on a public blog, but just picture a little boy right in the middle of this:

There was a ride with a Lego dragon and a Lego 3-D movie.  When we reached the end of the exhibits, he played for a few minutes.  Then he was ready to go for lunch.  I asked if he wanted to eat there in the cafe and then play some more. 

No, he was done.  Wanted macaroni.

I love this kid.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Not Very Far

Weekend Assignment # 340: How Far Would You Go?

Some people travel hundreds of miles (in extreme cases, thousands of miles) to see a concert by a favorite performer, or to meet their favorite writers at a convention, or to attend some other kind of public appearance by someone they especially admire. Other people don't even bother to go downtown to take advantage of such an opportunity. How far would you go to meet one or more of your favorite writers, actors, musicians, comedians or other artists, and to attend a performance by him or her or them?

Extra Credit: What is the farthest you have ever gone in a similar situation?

Oh, am I sorry to say I am in the “don’t even bother” category. It starts with music – I had really bad concert luck at an impressionable age. I live outside of Chicago and went to college in Washington DC. So inevitably, any time that a band I loved was touring at home, I was at school. Also, the only artist I loved more than Bono was Freddie Mercury, who died just as I was coming-of-concert-age. I would have gone pretty far to see Freddie Mercury live.

I went to plenty of sporting events in my youth, but these days even a Bears game makes me think, “Do I really want to spend an entire Sunday..schlepping into the city at 9am to find parking…” I am perfectly happy spending the three hours on my Lucky Couch watching it in HD, thank you very much. Although I did attend the public memorial at Soldier Field when Walter Payton died in 1999.

But you know what? It isn’t even how far I would travel, but how much it would cost. And not in a “I don’t spend money on entertainment” way. But if the going rate for a ticket is $250, there are clearly people that want to see Leonard Cohen in concert more than I do. I’d feel badly taking a ticket.

Maybe if Brannagh came back to the stage…

Booking Through Thursday - Rewrite

My friend Busy has been doing these for awhile, and I found this question rather interesting:

If you could rewrite the ending of any book, which book would it be? And how would you change it?

SPOILERS! (Obviously.)

Unfortunately, I don't have a great answer.  My first thought was of Rhett Butler's People - the novel of Gone with the Wind from Rhett's point of view.  The author, Donald McCaig, wrote past the original ending of GWTW and reunited our star-crossed lovers.  And then he burned down Tara.  I found that totally unnecessary and called him names.

Another thing I would change is all of the classic novels where the heroine had to die in order to spare or reclaim her honor.  Anna Karenina and The House of Mirth come to mind.

I had the fleeting thought that Dallas Winston really didn't have to die at the end of The Outsiders.  But he sort of did.  However,  I refuse to believe that Sirius Black had to die at the end of Harry Potter V!

Seems to be all about the character deaths with me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

First Night Back

And the Library is packed.  I arrived early, and took a walk around.  The children's room was buzzing.  And there were actual teens in the Teen Room.  It has booths in it, like a diner.  Not that food is allowed in there.  I am only getting away with my Diet Coke because the Used Book Store is off the main lobby and food/drinks (and cell phone use) are exclusively allowed there.  Of course, I saw a Starbucks cup in the childrens room and the cell phone use is generally pervasive.

There hasn't been much traffic since I arrived at 6pm, but we have made nearly  $100 on the day, which is great.  The book shelves aren't entirely in order (does someone want to tell me why 1776 was in the Fiction section?!), but close enough.  And more donations are already arriving.  I  went through few piles and two books were worthy of listing on Amazon.

Of course, then I had to start scribbling into the calendar - all of the nights that I won't be here due to the travel schedule.  Ugh.

I would like it noted for the record that I am now halfway through my shift, and I have not purchased a single book.  I did, however, return the two that I had checked out for the extended period while the Library was closed.  My mother finished hers.  I didn't open mine. 

All we really need in here is a cushy reading chair, in full view of the Amazon bookshelves, so that the evil thieves that like to steal from charities might be thwarted.  Until then, I shall be content at a desk chair.  At a desk.  With a laptop.  And all these books.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Used Book Sales

I had just realized that I haven't bought any books - new or used - since Labor Day Weekend.  It helped that my own  Library Used Book Store has been out of commission for the last month.  (Not that I've gotten much reading done.)  I had about convinced myself that I ought to impose a moratorium on book purchases.  Say, until after Christmas.  Or until my TBR pile was down to..only what will actually fit in that seven-shelf bookcase.  I could start using that fancy new library that I have been bragging about, and only buy books that I really, really plan to keep forever and ever.

I just received an e-mail from the friendly people at listing all of the used book sales in my area this weekend.  Check it out:

Barrington, IL 10/16 - 17
Cary, IL 10/16 - 17
Elgin, IL 10/12 - 13
Glencoe, IL 10/16 - 18
Indian Head Park, IL 10/16
Mount Prospect, IL 10/16 - 17
Palatine, IL 10/15 - 17 *** Exceptional
Western Springs, IL 10/16 - 17
Wheeling, IL 10/16 - 17
Four of those libraries - four - are on the way to my brother's house.  And I am pretty sure the one in Arlington Heights is next weekend.

They are killing  me.

Saving for Retirement

I read a lot of articles about retirement. A lot. Occupational hazard. But MSN Money had one that made me think. 6 Smart Ways to Save for Retirement was the title. The first one was:

Don’t inflate your standard of living.

As you get raises and promotions throughout your career, it's common to want a bigger house and nicer stuff. But part of each pay increase should go toward your retirement savings.

Instead of buying something with a bonus or trading up to a nicer car when you get a raise, some of that extra money needs to be tucked away for retirement.

Now, the bit about allocating part of our raises to retirement is something I already preach, thank you very much. But this made me think: you know why else we shouldn’t inflate our standards of living? Because it will be a lot easier to live within our means after retirement if we don’t.

What I am hearing lately is that the experts don’t even know how to answer the question, “How much will I need?” because our needs are all so different. The standard used to be 80%. We will need an income of 80% of our current salaries to live on after retirement. That number doesn’t work. Some of us will spend a lot less on clothes and commuting, etc. But some of us will want to spend a bunch on travel and other things we haven’t had time to do. So if we can manage to consume less now, we will have less trouble adjusting to consuming less later.

I suck at this. I love the Internet and I love to shop. Better get a handle on it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hamlet, by the Royal Shakespeare Company

I spent some time trying to get through the backlog on my DVR.  I watched Zodiac on Friday and got to Hamlet today.  It was the one the Royal Shakespeare Company did with Patrick Stewart and David Tennant. 

Stewart was great, as always, but it really creeps me out to watch him play the bad guy.  Tennant did just fine.  I judge my Hamlets by whether, in any given scene, I honestly have trouble determining whether he is mocking people or actually insane. The actress playing Gertrude did something interesting: she was a bit less affectionate with Claudius than I recalled.  And every once in awhile, she gave him a look as though she might like to spit on him.  I can dig that.  Polonius seemed just a little less annoying than usual.  Does that mean the actor was better or worse than usual?

Now that I am thinking about it, all of the characters seemed a bit muted. 

I have come to the conclusion that my problem is Brannagh.  Once Brannagh has done it, the game is over.  Another generation probably thought the same way about Olivier.  But Olivier didn't have the luxury (in film, anyway) of using the entire text when he did Shakespeare.  Or Austen, for that matter.  So that is it.  Brannagh wins.

It Was Mostly Happy

Weekend Assignment # 339: Happy Endings

Tell us about the last day of anything: the last day of school or a job, your last day as a smoker, the last day before you moved or got married, the last day before you got that car you always wanted, or even the last day of a particularly memorable vacation. Here's the catch: I'm looking for happy memories here, happy endings rather than tragic ones.

Extra Credit: What happened the next day?
May....something, 1996.  Washington, DC.  My dorm room was packed up.  My electronics were in storage for my brother, who would arrive with the incoming freshmen in August.  I'd had the worst case of senioritis you could imagine and was so ready to go home.  I finished my final exam and met up with the gang for lunch.
I had mismanaged my on-campus dining funds, such that I had a couple hundred dollars left on my i.d.  So we went over, ordered pizzas and I let the kids go grocery shopping in the cafe.  That was a lot of bags of Doritos.  Then we sat down to eat, and figure out how the heck we would manage to keep in touch:  with me going home, Christine going home to St. Louis, etc.  The difference this year was that Christine and I weren't coming back to school in the fall. 
Dean and I were good at writing.  Christine and I lived close enough to each other to meet up for random weekends.  Louie was a problem.  But the summer before, we had all met up someplace in Ohio, so we were pretty sure we could pull it off again.
After pizza, we dragged the pop and chips and candy back to the guys' room.  And they helped Christine and me pack the car.  We were driving to St. Louis, where I would spend a couple of nights with her family and then hitch a ride with another friend to get home.  And to get to St. Louis, one goes right by Graceland.  So we would be able to make the pilgrimage.  (I really have to get those pictures scanned.) 
Early afternoon Christine and I headed out the campus gates, headed for the next adventure.  We were lost before we got out of the District.
The next day we arrived in Memphis.  We stayed at the Rock n Roll Days Inn - just in time to catch the Bulls Game.  It was the playoffs the year they started the second threepeat.  So I sat glued to the television while Christine found some carryout.  It was a good day.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sometimes Facebook is the Answer

I became a Facebook convert because it put me back in touch with several people and it keeps me relatively current on the news.  Like Megan had her baby yesterday - a girl that she named Lillian.  I know because Erica posted it.

But you know what else it does?  It keeps the good contact information.   For example:

I have gone to Washington DC every month or so this entire year.  When I am in town, I make every effort to meet my DC friend, Holly, for dinner.  So I would e-mail her.  I didn't want to e-mail her at work for a personal thing, so I used an old personal address.  It would take days.  Days.  For her to confirm.  I message her on Facebook?  Under 24 hours.

I had used Facebook to keep in touch with my friend Jodi in Milwaukee.  But when she was in town last month and I didn't have her cell phone number?  She had kindly listed it on Facebook. 

I was making plans with my local friend, also named Holly.  Her e-mail address isn't in my phone.  The solution?  Facbook message.  I love Facebook message.  Because everyone has Facebook messages sent to whatever e-mail address they check most often.  Of course, she showed me up by sending a text message to my cell phone.  Note:  Holly also used Facebook Events to plan the last Ladies Night Out.  I found it awesome, except a couple of us aren't on Facebook, so she had to send some e-mails.

Bottom Line:  There are lots of functions and different ways to keep in touch.  Use them.

Poor Cat

The Blackhawks ceremony was on the television while I put away my laundry.  (Yeah, yeah.  Exciting Saturday night.  Shut up.)  When they introduced the commissioner, the crown booed. 

A Chicago crowd booed the commissioner of the NHL.  Not cool.

I shouted, "Hey!"  at the television.  And the cat bolted off my bed and out of the room.  I felt badly, as the game wasn't even on yet. 

He just walked back in the room, stopped in the doorway and gave me a hard look.   I said, "It's ok, Spooky.  It's only hockey."  He flipped his tail in the air, turned around and stalked out.

Honestly - I'm not that bad with hockey.

Glenview's New Library - Day 1

I arrived early and parked in the commuter lot at the train station.  'Cause who wants to fight it?  And I caught a view that I hadn't seen before, because it was behind the fence.  From Jackman Park:

Again, I was early, so I went to the Dairy Bar for what will most assuredly be my last chocolate dipped cone of the season.  It was a bad idea since there were cookies and punch and cake being served after the ribbon-cutting.   But about once a week since April, I have gone to the Dairy Bar, gotten a cone and contemplated the glory of the new building going up.  And let me tell you:  I was not the only one.  A couple of times, I met up with a guy that walked over with his dog, bought ice cream for the dog, and sat looking at it.

Around that time, I saw that people were starting to head in to the building.  I finished my cone and followed them.  No one was at the Used Book Store yet, and a nice man said that I could go into the big room where the big shots would be making their big speeches.  So I did.  But first I stopped in the Ladies Room.  Do you know how happy a new bathroom makes me?  So happy that after I washed my hands, and ran the towel on the counter where I had splashed, I noticed that someone else had already splashed the other end of the counter, and I so dried that off, too.

I took a seat at the back of the meeting room.  Looks like a meeting room in any building, complete with the - what do you call them? airwalls? - that can divide it into two smaller meeting rooms. 

GVTV was setting up the cameras and microphones.  I took a look at the program.  Still really early.  So I read my book.  Eventually, everyone was called in and it filled up for real.  Standing room.  So many that plenty of people couldn't even get in.  You could here them getting restless over the speakers, which was kinda funny.  Halfway through the thanking of everyone and his dog, it occurred to me that we must be breaking a fire code.  So I spent a couple of minutes identifying my route to a window that I could break and jump out of.  There are lots of windows, so it wasn't difficult.  And then back to the thanking people.  These poor little kids that just wanted to see their awesome new room (that takes up half the first floor) had to sit through three people thanking the architect.  And his entire staff.  And the builder.  And his staff.  And the Governor of the State of Illinois.  And everyone that had ever sat on the Library Board of Trustees.

Finally, it was over and blahblahblah they cut the ribbon and herded us in.  They haven't quite finished the final touches.  Like numbering the shelves so that we can find the right books.  But it is lovely.  Lots of natural light.  And here is the best part:

Finally, I made my way back to the new Used Book Store.  There is no way to get a good picture of the entire room.  This was as good as it got:

But we have a lot of books.  I can't wait to start using the place.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why el Futbol Americano is the Best Sport

Because a girl can reasonably watch every single game of the season. 

One game a week.  I can plan my life around that for six months.  Of course, I have to exchange my Writers' Theatre tickets because someone forgot the date of the bloody Super Bowl.  But that's what I'm saying - it can be done.

Also, there are only a few channels that broadcast pro football.  Fox and CBS have the early games, NBC has the late game and ESPN has Monday night.  Although now that I am thinking about it, I don't quite have a handle on Thursday games.  And I better figure it out because I am going to be in Fargo for ours.

But hockey.  Geez.  They just dropped the puck because the game is out west.  You know I'm not staying up for this.  (Ooooh.  Score!  Who the heck is Bryan Bickell?)  And.  The games are on odd channels, so I have to go to the website and find the name of the channel (Versus) and then figure out where that is on DirectTV (603 for future reference).  Basketball isn't quite as bad, as the Bulls land on WGN a lot, but still - the West Coast games. 

And for the love of All that Does Not Suck, we have two baseball teams!

Sixteen Games.  Three weeks of playoffs.  Super Bowl.  Done.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Grand Re-Opening

I was just getting ready to post about the re-opening of the Library - Saturday, 1pm - when the director of the Used Book Store sent me a link to an article. is a website that does local news and Glenview has its own page.  They wrote us up as The Best Used Books in town.  (Never mind that I am pretty sure we are the only used book store in town.)

So.  The Library.  Here is the invitation from the website:

I don't normally join in to the Happy-Joy-Community-Spirit stuff, (and I have no idea how many people are actually going to show up) but I actually worked for this one so I am all there. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Praying for the Non Believers

You might know Christopher Hitchens as the author of God is Not Great.  I know him as an extremely literate, if rather mouthy, columnist at Vanity Fair magazine.  I haven't read his books, but I enjoy his columns and was sorry to hear that he is battling cancer.  One can't call it a "bright side", but he is doing some really great and thoughtful work right now.  He has begun a series in the magazine called "Topic of Cancer". 

You all know I have back issues of Vanity Fair hanging around my house everywhere.  Half-read.  And I refuse to throw them away.  I finsihed September's not long ago, which is where I read that first article.  The second, in the October issue (the one with Lohan on the cover), was absolutely fabulous.

Hitchens is an atheist, and the article is about the messages he has received and conversations he has had, since his diagnosis, regarding faith and salvation.  There are the horrid trolls on the Internet that say he is getting what he deserves and there are others that are praying for either his health or his salvation or both.  His observations are priceless and he ends the article by saying:

"please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries. Unless, of course, it makes you feel better."

Agreed.  However, I will take the opportunity to offer Mr. Hitchens my best wishes on a full and speedy recovery.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Beam Me Up. Probably.

Weekend Assignment # 338: A World of Their Own

Even as astronomers discover planets that may be capable of supporting life, such destinations remain out of reach of would-be human colonists, even if the world is "only" twenty light years away. But if some science fictional technology were discovered in the next year or two (warp drive, matter transmission or whatever) that made it possible to leave Earth behind and go live on another planet, would you be tempted to do so? If you choose not to relocate, would you be interested in just visiting the place instead?

Extra Credit: If you did go, whether on vacation or as a colonist, and you were only allowed to bring one small suitcase with you, what would be in it?
I can't say that I am tempted to go live on another planet.  But all other things being equal (namely, that I am convinced it is relatively safe and it doesn't cost tons more than my average vacation), I would be happy to visit another planet.  However, there are a bunch of other variables depending on whether the planet is inhabited by sentient beings.  Can we communicate with them?  Do they welcome visitors?  What do we know about their history and culture?  Do they have wi-fi?
If I could only bring one small suitcase, it would contain:
  1. Changes of clothes
  2. Digital camera and extra batteries
  3. Something to write in.  I had a Moleskin once, wonder what happened to it?
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Drugs.  Of the anti-motion sickness variety.  'Cause if that is anything like the Star Tours ride...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Neuromancer, by William Gibson

Book 38

Neuromancer, by William Gibson, was a pick for my book club.  Shannon said that she chose it because while she has read plenty of fantasy, she had never really read straight-up sci-fi.  And the point of our book club is to read things we would not have otherwise read.

OK, then.

I started reading it cold.  No background, just opened and started reading.   I got about a hundred pages in when I realized that I wasn't really getting it.  The scenes were really cinematic, and I could picture some things pretty well, but I didn't feel like I was getting the point.  I needed Cliff's Notes, so I found a summary on the Internet.

After reading a summary, I realized that I wasn't too far off on the meta-plot.  I just wasn't particularly enjoying it.  The hero, (or anti-hero as it happens) a hacker named Case, never really grabbed me.  The mystery of the "job"  and who was in charge was decent.  But I am a bit bothered that my favorite character was Dixie, the computer program containing the.. what did they call it?..saved consciousness of a legendary hacker.

Then we get to the AI questions.  How intelligent should we make them?  Legislating their "lives".  Somewhere around that point, I remembered that Neuromancer was written before Star Trek had Data.  Before Keanu was plugging into the Matrix.  Before "cyberspace" was a mainstream word.  Before the freakin' Internet.

OK.  I guess I get why it is so great.  But that doesn't mean that reading this book was any fun.

HR Nerd Article

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about the changes to Flexible Spending Accounts due to the Health Care legislation.  The biggest deal is that next year, we will not be allowed to submit over-the-counter drugs for reimbursement without a doctor's prescription.  They printed a decent Q&A:

Will I be able to use FSA money for:

Over-the-counter medicines without a prescription? No.
Medical co-pays and deductibles? Yes.
Medical supplies without a prescription? Yes.
OTC medications without a prescription purchased in 2010 but not reimbursed until 2011? Yes.
OTC medications without a prescription purchased in 2011 during my 2010 FSA's "grace period"? No.

The point of the article was that FSAs are still a good deal.  We just need to understand the new rules when we sign up next time around.