Monday, August 6, 2018

What: Medicare Is Free?

The usual brainless talking heads are at it again, claiming Medicare is free. This of course is part of their argument for destroying it.

Hey, brainless ones: I've been paying for my Medicare my whole working life. Just like Social Security.  So have you, presuming of course that you've been able to hold down a job at your level of stupid. Calling the programs "entitlements" like we're out there sitting around with our hands out waiting for freebies is completely missing the point. We ARE entitled to it. We've been paying for it for years.

Oh yeah, and we still are paying for it. Every month. For those uninformed among you, there is a monthly Medicare premium. It's just not the $800 per month or so it would have been the day before you aged into the program...because we've been paying in all those years while we were young and healthy enough to be out there working! We've been paying, we're still paying.

Just like every OTHER kind of insurance we get!

Get it? Medicare is an insurance program. Social Security is an insurance program. Homeowners and Renters are kinds of insurance insurance programs. Flood, Auto, Liability, FDIC, Life: all insurance programs. No pay, no benefits. Pay in, still maybe no benefits, depending on how life happens in your piece of the world. But we pay in so just in case, when life hits you hard, you're not destroyed financially. We pay in, so just in case our actions hit somebody else hard, they are not destroyed financially either. Nor are we for having been judged responsible.

You have no problem, I'm sure, in calling your insurance agent for your owed financial payout after an auto accident, right? Or to get your house rebuilt after a fire or tornado, right? And you still pay in even if nothing ever destroys your home, your car, or nobody robs your bank account. It's built in to the structure. A large pool of paid members enables the insurance company to cover the load for the individuals who need it under the terms of their contract. That's. How. Insurance. Works.

So if you happen to die before you qualify for Social Security, you've still been paying in because you're part of the national pool and if you'd qualified by staying alive long enough you'd be getting your own benefits. Same with Medicare.

Let me ask you this, those of you who think it's a good idea to destroy what you like to call "entitlements". I bet you think of yourselves a good people, right? Most of you would refer to yourselves as good Christians, or Jews, Muslims, or whatever affiliation you have. But if you destroy Medicare and Social Security, do you want millions of elderly people to become homeless? Go hungry? Become and stay ill, suffering until they die? Really?

Or are you willing to bring Granny or Grandpa back into your own homes, feed, clothe and shelter them, pay for their medical needs out of your own pockets, drive them around wherever now that they can no longer afford keeping and running a vehicle? And don't forget loving them and nurturing them - because you're such good people - and never making them feel obligated to you for having to take over the family duties now that you've taken away their "entitlements"? You know, paying from your own pockets and out of your own time and energy for what you've been calling "free"?

Are you ready to do all that?

Really?

And you think somebody's going to do it for you when it's your time?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Meeting The Great-Grandbaby

I've waited 9 1/2 months for this, since she wasn't going to cooperate with our summer schedule to be born. Plus it's been a packed schedule since we arrived in Mosquito Central, with all the other friends, relatives, and activities to cram into the visit. Saturday we finally made it work.

Her name is Anna and she is adorable. Yes, I know, there'd be a major problem with my perceptions if I didn't think that, but she's adorable. Her mom has to keep an eagle eye on her every waking minute, since she crawls faster than I can walk, just shy of walking independently, and all the forbidden items in the house are the ones that most fascinate her. Fortunately,  Mom is young, flexible, and up to the task. I, on the other hand, can barely remember how I managed to do the same with my own kids and took a minute or 18 to wonder how on earth I ever did it. Adding the extra 20-something more kids that came and went through the house during the 8 years when I was doing home family day care can really scramble these elderly brains when I try to review the organizational challenges.

So just one kid was a real treat. Especially this one. Her disposition is mainly sunny, even with allowances for being tired or hungry. She's capable of fishing puffed fruit bits out of a cup with a special lid that allows tiny hands in and keeps tinier food bits from escaping. Those hands are perfectly capable of shoveling said food bits into her mouth (neatly) and picking up and using a water cup also designed for contents distribution only when properly demanded. Leaving it upside down on the carpet is no problem. Bigger drinks still utilize a bottle, but soon she's off exploring again.

"Da-da-da-da-da-" and "ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma" are her favorite verbalizations, though a hand patted over her mouth bring out her delight in making silly noises just because she can. She's beginning to use baby signing, but a bit more coordination is needed there as well.

She hams it up for the camera most of the time too. Just call her name and have the flash come on and there's a .75 second pose with a grin before she's on to the next thing. Unfortunately, my camera takes 1.8 seconds to decide what the subject is and where to focus, how to light it up properly, and finally take a picture, so she's gone on to that next thing before I've gotten my picture. That red-eye flash that's supposed to eliminate red eyes in photos doesn't work, not on anybody's camera, but that doesn't keep my camera from taking time trying to do it.

There have been lots of great pics and videos online from her parents. My favorites are a couple of videos. One, Daddy is taking the laser pointer and moving it around the carpet, keeping just ahead of Anna's ability to "catch" it. Think typical cat video, remove cat, insert baby. Another is a game of "I'm gonna get you!", where Mom and camera chase baby around the house, with baby stopping every 4 or 5 seconds to see if Mom's still chasing before scrambling away again.

I finally gave up on my bad still photos and went for the video app. I wanted my very own fun baby movies. Unfortunately, they take up way too much space on the SD card and my camera display is very good at letting me know how little time I have left. I only got 4 short videos, and at least one was more hope and optimism than worthwhile result. Well, unless you like a close-up of a diapered bottom heading away at top crawling speed. Not exactly my thing.

I did get one success. First, Mom took the batteries out of the TV remote so Anna would sit still long enough to thoroughly explore it, aka eat it. While that was occurring, Mom brought out a sitting teddy bear that wiggled, sang, and "danced" when you squeezed its paw. While the camera rolled, Anna repeatedly removed the remote from her mouth, waved her entire upper body along with the bear for a couple seconds without tipping over, then reinserted the remote so the process could start over. We got about 4 dances out of one paw squeeze. ( I still say the most talented part of that dance was her ability to avoid klunking herself in the head with the remote while wiggling to the music!)

I missed my chance at capturing a game of "Baby Sandwich." Anna was lying on the floor and Mom had a pillow she brought down and wiggled the baby with while repeating "Baby Sandwich". I think those were the biggest baby giggles of the day. Maybe (hint hint) she and Daddy can tape it and post it for us before it's no longer fun for Anna.

Living as far apart as we do from her, we gave her grandpa - my son - a lift down with us. He had the Saturday off. With Steve there to manage cameras for everybody, there are a selection of 4-generation pictures. There are the usual somebody-moved kind, somebody-made-a-face kind, Anna-faced-Mama-instead-of-the-camera kind. Somewhere in all those, however, I'm hoping there's a really good one. Otherwise we'll just have to go visit and do it again.

Wheeeeeeee! More hugs!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Missing the Loons

No, this one is not a political rant. I mean, how can you miss something that just won't go away? But this time I'm talking literally.

Steve and I received an invitation to spend some time up in northern Minnesota at a cabin that friends of ours had just purchased over the winter. They had gone up a couple times this summer to work on putting things together, making it homey and comfortable, and we were the first to receive an invitation to come visit. We felt honored.

I won't say exactly where it is, but it's some distance north of Deer River. That name, alone, is an indelible memory from my childhood. I grew up not all that far away, as Minnesota goes. My father loved to pack us all in the car, when there was time, and just go driving around, finding new roads, seeing new sights. Some of it was just his urge to explore, and entertainment that wasn't horribly expensive back then. It had a practical side too, as my parents located potential spots for hunting, finding hazelnuts, picking wild fruits like chokecherries, raspberries, blueberries, bog cranberries, and even discovering eagle nests. I can't tell you where all these wonderful places were, since the where of it all was much less interesting to the child I was in the back seat than watching in horrible fascination as all the little spiders made their way to the top of the fruits in the buckets and started to climb out. I was phobic and positive they all were going to bite me - if not on this trip, then maybe the next one as they emerged from wherever they'd hidden in the car since the last trip.

With all that going on, you might find it odd that I'd remember what was then a nowhere place like Deer River. But that's exactly why I remember it. It consisted of three buildings along the road and one of those standard signs giving the name and population: two! Not only was this an unheard-of population for something calling itself a town, in my limited experience, but my brain puzzled for years over how two people could occupy three buildings!

Since this trip would take us through Deer River, I was curious how much it had changed. It now qualifies for something I recognize as a town, with a population over 900, and homes and commerce all over the place. I had to keep a sharp eye out for the road we were to turn on to for the next leg of our trip.

The cabin instantly felt like home. Nicer, even. Water on most of three sides, familiar trees and smaller plants, a dock cutting through both white and yellow water lilies, rushes, duckweed tangled in algae, and patches of wild rice jutting out from shore just a couple hundred feet away in either direction. This was the country I'd grown up in. Needless to say, the camera got a workout. Our hostess loves to sketch and paint, and would take her sketchbook and kayak out early in the mornings for solitude and "soulitude".

But oh, the loons! I have been lucky enough to hear them a handful of times since we moved away from northern Minnesota while I was still a teenager. Here, they called in the evenings, in the mornings, and occasionally during the day. By sound alone, I estimated three to four families in the neighborhood. If you know me, you have some idea how high praise it is for me to describe the concert as better than Beethoven!

Now, don't get me wrong. It wasn't just the loons. The cabin was cozy, comfortable, and charming, the couple we stayed with are in the process of growing from  good to great friends, the food was wonderful, the fresh air was a treat I hadn't realized I missed. If it wasn't fresh, it was filled with just the right amount of wood smoke from some hidden neighbor's fire to bring back all kinds of wonderful memories all by itself. Steve got to go fishing, exploring the local interconnected waterways, managing the hill and stairs between cabin and boat and proud of himself for doing so.

But oh, the loons!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Time To Apologize To Germans

 I'm part of the first wave of baby boomers. As such, I was raised on a heavy dose of information on how WWII started and continued, how the horrible German people cooperated with Hitler to support everything from invasions to the Holocaust.  As we were the winning side of that war, and proud of it, underlying all this was the message that all that was then, not now, and it was the horrible Germans, not anybody else. Somehow those people were less human than all the rest of us.

Particularly US.  We, Americans, would never ever fall for the lies, participate in the horrors, attack and try to eliminate any race, any other religion, do any of those awful deeds. By some miracle, we were holier than thou, innately better humans than those terrible Germans. Perhaps it was genetics, though that wasn't a common term back then. Perhaps it was our invincible constitution. Somehow God favored us above all others. We were assured of our own moral superiority even as we were taught how economics, power, fear, and state-encouraged hate had brought the whole disaster about. But still....

Black and white. Them, not us. Never us. The lesson had been learned and everything was forever OK.

A familiar pattern has been resurfacing. There is a "them" we are taught to fear and hate. More than one, actually. Pretty much everybody who's not really white. One might even say Aryan. Folks who arrive any time after the rest of us got here, threatening to take away "our" jobs. Folks who worship the "wrong way". Economics are skewing away from the ordinary people and towards the few,  the powerful.  One could call it fascism. Those on the bottom end on the economic spectrum are also on the neglected end of the educational spectrum, less encouraged to look for real answers, more easily led. Can't pull yourselves up by your bootstraps when you've never had boots. That rising tide only lifts the boats without holes in their hulls. But if you weren't born with all the right benefits, it's your own moral failing. Bad information is being pounded into our heads, state-sponsored media is taking over one side of a story, their side.

Remember that old term called the "big lie"? It's being used but not named, and this time aided by the technological advantages of the internet, and the increasingly mindless offerings of movies and TV, the endless repetition of the term "fake news" to discredit any real disquiet. Bad as things are getting, we are refusing to believe the real causes and are increasingly diverted by - here's another real oldie - bread and circuses. And we are still being fed assurances of our moral superiority among a ceaseless pounding of patriotism, along with asserting we follow only the right kind of religion.

I think it's time to acknowledge that good and evil are shadings of human. Nobody holds a monopoly. Nobody is immune. The "them" of former decades and centuries are all too easily slipping into the "us" of now. If we stay lazy and comfortable, take the power we still have at the ballot box so much for granted that we don't bother to even show up, we're going to head down the same path. We can't claim the Germans are so much more terrible than we are: just earlier. It can happen here because it's already starting.

We just have to decide whether we're going to sit back on our asses and let it.

Oh yeah, and acknowledge that the Germans at the moment are way more progressive and humane than we are.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

So You Want Your Kids Back?

We've all heard by now about Trump's policies separating parents and children as they cross the border. It doesn't matter if they're crossing "illegally" or if they're here asking for asylum, which by the way is part of international law as the right of all peoples. Step over the border and kiss  your kids good-bye. It hasn't mattered if they're infants, have Down's Syndrome, or whatever. They're gone.

The next pieces of information that have come across are that Trump has decided it "doesn't look good" (ya think?") and after a month or so, he decided to change his policies. That was quickly followed by testimony before Congress that the government can get into their database and instantly locate any kid in the system.

Problem solved, no?

NO!

Not even close.

It's true that there is a database for adults jailed and awaiting immigration hearings. Not, of course, that there are enough judges in that particular system to make that any kind of a timely process. Nor will Trump add more to the system, claiming he can't tell whom to trust. (Must be that loyalty oath to Himself that's missing, eh?)

It's also true that there is a database with the information on the location of the kids separated from their parents. Sounds like problem solved, doesn't it? But here the Devil is truly in the details.

The database of children does not contain the information on the parent(s) the kids were separated from. Terrific planning, eh? If that's not bad enough, the database of parents does not contain information on their separated children, neither who they are nor where they were sent. Starting to see a complication here?

But wait: there's more. The two databases can not communicate with each other. It's not as simple as, say, different computer programs. It's about the so-called legal protection of the children, keeping their information private. Not just from us. Not just from reporters who might want to check up on the situation. It's "protecting" the parent's lawyers from getting the information on the children!

Those parents in the know, usually because somebody in the same fix has figured out a way to connect with the right advocate to secure assistance, and has shared this information with another parent, still run into problems. The advocates who care enough to be involved in trying to solve this dilemma are way over-stretched. Calls to them by parents reaching out are often put on hold for over 20 minutes. What to us is an inconvenience becomes a roadblock to these parents since their allowed phone time is 15 minutes. It doesn't take a math whiz to see the problem here.  

This, of course, is if the kids even have a lawyer!  Oh, you thought they had to be represented? Well, being the immigration-friendly country we've become under Trump, there's this teensy little policy change. Children under 5 can/do appear in court without representation now.  Because, you know, non-English speaking kids, even pre-verbal kids, can do such a great job of defending themselves from this big steamroller we call an immigration legal system. Right?

You think this was bad enough already, putting kids in "cages", idiots on TV (FOX) describing it as being like summer camp because they have a roof, three squares, sort of, and some fenced-in outside space, perhaps a tent shelter in summer heat with no air conditioning and miniscule cross ventilation, and a cuddly mylar blanket to sleep under? All on top of no Mommy or Daddy, of course. Wheee! You thought this was as bad as it gets?

Well, guess what? If those parents are here claiming their need for asylum and looking for their kids with the meager resources provided, they get offered a "choice". This government will go to the bother of locating their kid/s and reuniting them with their parents on their way out of the country after they've dropped their claim for asylum,  just because it's the only way they are offered to be reunited with their kid/s. And even that doesn't mean they get any kid returned to them, not to mention the correct child returned to them, as they are booted out the door.

"Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore...." Ain't we great, or what?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Little Weather

It wasn't supposed to rain yesterday. Of course, we always believe every gem that falls from the meteorologists' lips on the TV forecasts. But we were hoping it was true.

Of course it wasn't. Nor was it true about today, but at least this time it managed to miss us. Still, one of the best investments I made before heading north was a new set of windshield wipers. The old ones were around three years old, but who notices those things in Arizona? The new set is getting good use.

Anyway, there wasn't anything all that dramatic about the rain we got over the last week. No hail, here. No major wind events, here. No massive quantities, here. Steve even got a bit of fishing in during a dry spell at his favorite fishing spot, a bit of sand bar at the base of a boat launch on the St. Croix River that is accessible once the water levels go down after snow melt. By late summer it is usually big enough to drive onto and park to set up his chair.

The part of the weather that was noticeable to us, from this vantage point, was the really heavy accumulations up about 100 miles north of us. The worst was in western Wisconsin. Anyone with a map can easily figure out that that area drains into the St. Croix.

Bye bye favorite fishing spot for a while.

Especially after that Wisconsin dam broke.

Yesterday, after a trip north to visit a family member, and noticing how high water levels were in small streams where we can usually barely see any water from our usual freeway route, we decided to swing by before getting home and see what the local level was. The Hwy. 48 bridge across the river east of Hinckley was closed from flooding. We figured the little sand bar 60 miles downstream was also going to be flooded.

We didn't figure the whole launch ramp would be under water, nor the surrounding woodland. Of course we should have figured it out when we could see crud rushing by on top of the water from two blocks away on our approach. Even if there had been a place to toss in a line, it would have been tangled in downstream trees before the hook landed on the bottom.

We weren't the only car playing tourist there either. We had to wait our turn to swing the parking lot circle and pause near the top of the ramp to take it all in. Nobody was nuts enough to actually launch from there.

Having some daylight left, we decided to hit the park/boat launch under the bridge from Minnesota to Osceola. It's a well-known spot not only for fishing and picnicking, but one of the favorite spots 
for canoe rental companies to pick up customers who just want to float down from Taylors Falls for a leisurely day on a pristine river. The rental companies promise to pick up your canoe and at least one person who can drive back  to pick up the rest of your group. Really ambitious folk can paddle their way down to William O'Brien State Park for their pull-out on the same terms.

Once we got there, the park was blocked off and both launch ramps had about a foot of ramp left. Off in the park tables were standing in water, and roads and parking spots invisible. Obviously no canoeists were around. Probably no rental companies were stupid enough to risk equipment and lawsuits for a few days. We were surprised, however, to see three determined fishermen on what was now the top of the bank casting into the river. Steve asked what they were catching. "Not a damn thing."

I guess for some it doesn't matter.

Later we found a photo somebody had posted online showing the boat launch in Taylors Falls. It had a really nice railing around it, the top bar of which served as the only indicator that it was still there. The paddle-wheeler which normally ties up to it between summer trips was nowhere to be seen. I can only trust they had plenty of time after hearing about the dam to figure out where to park it for the duration. It's a lovely ride.

On the plus side of all this, the corn is growing gangbusters, and the mosquitoes think they've found heaven.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sauna, FREE!

OK, now we really know we're in Minnesota. It wasn't just that by crossing the border it suddenly smelled of green (and don't ask me why that border thing works, but it does). It isn't just that the days are longer above 45 degrees north than they manage in Arizona in the summer, though that's true too. It's not just that Steve has already drowned a few worms in pursuit of a number of tugs on the end of his fishing pole, although technically worms don't drown, they just get nibbled to bits. It's not just arriving to violets, lilacs, tulips, dandelions, ripening cherries and overgrown grass, most of which I take credit for from years of landscaping this yard, after leaving behind the glare of the sun off rock lawns.

It's not even seeing family again, all of whom have remained behind in this state while we ventured south to avoid winters. But we are in the process right now of seeing more family, in honor of Father's Day. Showers and  wardrobe hunting for the day are done, with me choosing something cool and flowery and Steve locating a t-shirt stating "If fishing were meth, I wouldn't have any teeth", which is funnier the better you know Steve.

The car has been loaded, gifts for the little ones, tackle boxes and jewelry for the big ones, charcoal and beverages tucked in odd corners, jellies from Paul finally on their way to be delivered. In its own way, all of that is ordinary.

But you see, Minnesota's been blessing us with seasonal thunderstorms, the kind that color the TV maps in brilliant moving patches from the radar, and require scrolls running across the bottoms of the screens. These are the kind where even in this porous soil and high levels of vegetation surrounding 14,000 lakes great and small, flood warnings are issues when they suddenly dump up to 8" of wet stuff, either running through new trenches or smashing windshields, packing repeated nights with my favorite lullabies, aka thunder. So when you open the door to start loading the car for the trip, you're smacked with heat and humidity levels that start you looking for a route to swim up out of it to breathe again.

We measure humidity in dew points up here rather than some kind of percentage. Yesterday those hit 80 in the metro, and that was before another round of overnight storms covering the northern 2/3 of the state, with a southern afternoon blast predicted. To give us a comparison, the meteorologists inform us a dew point of 80 is higher than either Miami or the Amazon basin. It curls straight hair and straightens curly hair, unless you're me and everything frizzes it anyway.

It's all a great reminder that, while we can avoid Minnesnowta, we always manage to return for Minnesauna. In fact, we've been very successful in timing it each year for about a week after the  return of Minnesquito.