Thursday, January 31, 2008

Get Your Own Drink 'Cuz, Baby, This Chai Is MINE

Okay, so maybe I'm a little possessive of my chai - especially when it's warm, vanilla chai that has been made right for the first time in, oh... who knows how long.
Like every time Melody and I make our way down to the amazing coffee shop, I purchased Chai - my drink of choice.
You'd be surprised about how often a deceivingly simple drink is messed up. I mean, it's black tea with some spices, right?
However, they only make it right in 1/3 coffee shops in Goshen (Dutch Bakery, thank you) NO coffee shops in Warsaw (but then, it is Courthouse Coffee... they don't make anything well -- sorry), and the only coffee shop in Syracuse (Cool Beans... yum). Starbucks is, of course, completely hopeless. That's not fair, they are better than the Electric Brew. Hmmm... not saying much.

In any case, on occasions in which I do get to have a nice, yummy glass.... it's MINE.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Relationships And the Crazy Way They Change

Do you remember your best friend from high school? Are you still friends? What about junior high friends? Still friends with them? Were you friends with them in high school?
A girl I was best friends with in junior high, "friends" with in high school and friends with in college is having her birthday tomorrow. I haven't talked to her much since last year, when she told me she and her husband were two weeks pregnant. She's had her baby... a little boy. I haven't talked to her in months... not since before the baby was born.
Best friends to... barely friends.
I mean, what do I say to her when I call her up tomorrow? Happy Birthday... congratulations on the kid?
Maybe, like last year, she won't be home and won't call me back. I realize it's terrible that I feel that way, but I do.
I know she won't respond to email, she doesn't have a Xanga (hubby asked her to give them up after she got married so ex-boyfriends couldn't get ahold of her), which leaves only the phone. Phones are awkward... really awkward.
Here's to relationships... and trying to figure them out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Equality and Lowering the Bar

Everywhere I look, I see proof that we're trying to make things more "equal." Here's the thing about equality - you can't raise everyone's intelligence to make it equal, nor can you make everyone "equally" strong. The cry of women to be seen as equal to men is rather ridiculous. As a woman, I feel I can say that. What women want when they screech "equality" isn't equality at all... it's to be seen as better... higher, more powerful.

In High school, we read a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron. It's about two things: equality and lowering the bar. Both of which are things that our culture seems to crave, seems to want. Let's take a look at where that will lead us.

"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh?” said George.

“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”

“Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday – just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well – maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better’n I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.

“You been so tired lately – kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean – you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. “The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?”

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and gentlemen – ”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right –” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and gentlemen” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me – ” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under–handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen – upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever worn heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H–G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H–G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle–tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God –” said George, “that must be Harrison!”

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here –” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap–iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber–ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all, he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first – cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while – listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it. It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling.

They kissed it.

And then, neutralizing gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George.

But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying?” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said,

“What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee –” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Four Reasons to Oppose Universal Health Care

As more and more people are falling victim to the idea that socialized health care or universal health care is a good thing, I feel it's an important topic to address. I lived in Paris, France for 6 months and all I saw is proof that universal health care is a detriment to any health care system.

1) You don't receive the best treatment available

A friend of mine who is Swedish (yes, they also have socialized health care) told me that several years ago, her little brother broke his arm. Since there were no doctors available to set it - they were all caring for other patients - he had to wait for three days. When they set it, the doctor who set it wasn't trained to set bones and did it incorrectly. It healed wrong, and had to be re-broken and reset several months later. People wait and wait for service, and they don't get what they need for months... as in the case of my friend's brother, or even for years.

2) People Take Advantage Of What's Given To Them (For Free)

Not to pick on the French, but they go to the doctor for everything, whether it's a simple cold or the stomach flu. Why shouldn't they? It's free. All of the doctor visits, the over-the-counter drugs, it's free. It's the same thing everywhere: people who have free health care go to the doctor for everything. And I mean everything. That means that the important things get pushed to the side, and you have to wait. An emergency? Well, you might be seen right away, but it could be some time before you actually receive treatment.

3) Doctors and Drug Companies Don't Offer Better Treatment or Find New Treatments

Doctors and nurses aren't paid to offer the best quality care, so they don't: again, human nature. Instead, they leave to go find work elsewhere. It works similarly for drug companies: they're not paid to supply the best, more expensive drugs because they have a budget which won't and doesn't cover them. Doctors, research scientists and others affected don't want to spend valuable and unpaid time finding new solutions to old (or new) health problems. We all like to be paid for our work - so do doctors and nurses, and they deserve what they get paid.

4) The Provided Health Care Deteriorates

Do you have bad health care now? That's not going to change. If you can't afford good health care now, you're going to be waiting, probably a LONG time to receive health care with "free" health care. Those who can afford to take care of the problem will go somewhere where they have to pay however many thousands of dollars to fix the problem - and they'll get better. The poor and middle class will be stuck, waiting - with no light at the end of the tunnel.

By the way, it's not really free - our taxes are paying for it. Has anyone ever told you "nothing's free." It's true, whether or not you've heard it. In this case, we're paying for the "free" health care with our taxes. That means that, despite the promises of various politicians, taxes will go UP not down. The other important thing to consider is this: the free thing is generally of a poorer quality than the thing that costs - as demonstrated above.

As with all government-run programs, free health care will become more expensive and deteriorate with time - if not right from the get-go. For more information, check out this website.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Hate Geico Insurance

A year ago, I decided to purchase Geico insurance. It was partially because of their incredibly intelligent and well-done ads, and partially because I needed insurance and partially because it seemed liked a goo deal. About 2 months into the Geico-relationship, I realized something: I hate Geico. Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico. Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico.
As the year continued, I hated Geico more. And then, to make it worse, Geico stopped using the cute little Gecko AND Geico stopped using the Cavemen. And when Geico did use either the Cavemen or the Gecko, it was in incredibly stupid stupid stupid ways. Instead, Geico is using the incredibly stupid Celebrity/real people commercials to sell Geico Insurance. Here's the thing: It's not working. I always change the channel. A commercial, even if it's for a company or product I hate, like Geico, should not make me want to blow my brains out. But maybe that's just me. Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico. Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico.
Oh, there are are other reasons, I hate Geico. Don't worry, I'm not that dumb or superficial. Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico. Geico Geico Insurance Geico Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico.
Then, over Christmas, I got into an accident, and evidently, my Geico Insurance policy ran out. Geico called me three times in one day (I probably didn't pick up because I didn't recognize the number) telling me that they needed to get ahold of me to work things out. Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico.
I called back several times, and today I finally got ahold of Geico After I read the scary Geico woman my Geico Insurance claim number at least 3 times, she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, you weren't insured by us at the time, so we're not doing anything. I sent you a letter." Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Geico Insurance. Geico Geico Geico Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Insurance Geico Geico Geico Geico.
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

October 20th

"October 20th."
"October 20th. That's the day we're deployed... I thought you should know."

I didn't cry. Not until I got home. He told me where they'll be. He thinks. I didn't ask how long. He didn't say.

I knew when we started dating that there was a possibility of him going back. I knew he was a soldier. I knew that. I still know that... And I'm proud of him.

But gosh... I'm scared.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Long-Reaching Effects of Pandora's Pretty Box

The other day, while in Barnes and Noble with Cheryl and Melody, I picked up a book on Greek Myths. It was a pop-up book, and I immediately opened to the page with Pandora's box, ornate and beautifully decorated, and at the top, it said, "Do Not Touch."
Whether or not you've ever picked up a Greek Myth, or studied them or believe them or think they have merit or not, you've still probably heard the story of Pandora's Box -- and of Pandora herself.
Pandora was given a gift by the gods, a beautiful box, and told not to open it under any circumstances. However, her curiosity overcame her and she opened it, and everything except for the thing that lay at the very bottom escaped. That thing at the bottom? Hope.
Today, we still have the "Pandora's Box Syndrome." When someone says, "Don't touch this," most people immediately try to devise a way to touch it. It's human nature. It's always been human nature. As soon as something is forbidden, it becomes more attractive and we want it more.
My youth pastor told a story once about his two oldest daughters. They were living in a house with one of the old stoves that gets hot - too hot to touch. He told the girls not to touch it, and the oldest one immediately went up and plastered her hand across it. She obviously burned herself. The younger one, watching her older sister carefully, I imagine went up to it, and got close (mom and dad a bit worried), she pointed to it and said, "Don't touch. It's hot."
Most of us though, take the first approach. Don't touch the wet paint. Don't poke yourself in the eye. Don't feed the bears. Well why can't I feed the bears? They're behind the bars, after all.

Pandora's box. One thing she couldn't do. Eve's apple. One thing they couldn't eat.
The difference between the stories, though, is significant. We have the thing that was left in the bottom of Pandora's beautiful, never-meant-to-be-opened box.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!!

My year began with a scare. The normally uber-excitable puppy was lethargic and coughing and miserable. In all honesty, she was more like a baby doll than a live creature of any kind: much less my fun-loving Ali. I've never wanted a puppy to play or bite me more.

I called the animal hospital place, and I hate to say it, but they weren't helpful. Not at all. Okay, so the woman told me to take her temperature, and that if it was lower than 99 degrees or higher than 103, I should bring her in to the hospital, but that normal temperature for a dog is between 101 and 102.5 degrees. Her temperature was 101.4. Says the animal hospital lady, "She has low blood sugar. Give her canned dog food."

I did. She was acting worse, if possible, staggering alone, coughing like she was choking on something.

I found a website, "Just Answer", and an expert there answered my question almost immediately. The expert asked about all of her symptoms, how long it had been going on, etc. Then she told me it sounded like kennel cough, and gave me a rundown of ways to relieve it - not cure it - and told me to take her to the vet if it continued.

In the meantime, Ali threw up the canned dog food. All of it. She was acting a bit better after, and today she's back to her normal self, and into everything imaginable.

By the way, Ali hated having her temperature with a passion. With a passion.