Archive for the ‘economic reality’ Category

More on Puppy Mills…and the Unfair Attack on Joan Huber

December 16, 2017

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called, “What is a Puppy Mill?” & cited a well known commercial breeder whom I felt was NOT a puppy mill:  Joan Huber of Blythewood Miniature Schnauzers.  It is not clear how many dogs she kept in her kennel before a deranged ‘animal rights’ idiot decided to  turn her in to authorities for running a puppy mill (and, with apparently no actual evidence—cropping her own dogs ears—-a violation of law because she is not a licensed veterinarian).  We have several issues that have to be addressed.

1.Joan Huber is NOT a hobby breeder.  Her business is  breeding and selling Miniature Schnauzers.  She is not selling entire litters for resale.  However, she has a market for her dogs.  I have mixed feelings about people breeding pets like livestock, but the fact is that even  many  hobby breeders don’t keep housedogs—their dogs are not pets, but without people like Joan Huber,  there probably won’t be many well bred—meaning  Miniature Schnauzers free of genetic defects available in even  five years. Why?  The  old  hobbyists/fanciers are dying out, and it is too hard to  get a Miniature Schnauzer ready to show. This is true of many terriers.  Too much work, no money to be made and lots of money to be lost on an indulgence.  You  need an ‘economy of  scale’ these days to  have a ‘breeding program’.  We may not like it that we see these breeding dogs as being in ‘dog jail’—but  not liking it is an emotional response.  I have worked in many kennels, and the dogs are just fine. Happy, engaged in life, and more so than many pet dogs.

2.  When I was barely a teenager, in the 1960s, a neighbor who knew I had an interest in purebred dogs and showing, invited me in to  watch him crop a puppy’s ears.  He sedated the puppy,  drew a line where he wanted to cut, and sutured the ears.  It was gross and fascinating. Why did he do it & not pay a veterinarian?  It was not to save money.  It was because he didn’t want the dog’s ears butchered.  Now we know, it is an unnecessary surgery, but  the dogs are not in pain.  It doesn’t affect their behavior, and  are we going to call this  a crime, but still allow  idiots who  don’t know how to use either shock or prong collars—-both of which DO CAUSE PAIN—-to continue to buy these items and cause dogs constant pain?

3.  Who should decide what is humane?  Do we let  so-called ‘animal rights’ do-gooders who have never trained a dog, or think  keeping pets should be illegal as it exploits them, to make rules?  Or how about  the many  veterinarians trained as agricultural vets, to influence what is cruel or what is kind. As it is, the veterinary profession makes a lot of money  off ear cropping, tail docking, dewclaw removal,  DECLAWING CATS,  making deals with pet shops to  vaccinate puppy mill bred dogs,   and over vaccinate out pets by law.

4.  Is all this an  ‘either/or’ situation?  Go on Craigslist any day, particularly the pet section, in any city, and you will find backyard breeders selling puppies on a site which has rules  prohibiting the sale of puppies.  Craigslist relies on the public, the community —to ‘flag off’ sellers.  Yet,  so many people have no idea how to find a well -bred—meaning healthy AND  predictable–purebred dog.

5.  Can ‘the fancy’—-those of us who  promote the predictability of purebred dogs, quit defending selling  entire litters for  resale, in defense of being able to not be regulated?

6.This is how the public sees us all: https://www.clickorlando.com/news/41-dogs-confiscated-from-deltona-breeder-accused-of-selling-sick-puppies.

As someone  who  supports  prosecution of  crimes against animals, being a  donor to Safe Humane Chicago, I don’t understand  how  Joan’s litter could be ‘adopted out’ & her bitch spayed without due process.  In Chicago,  dogs  that have been abused are held ass evidence until the defendant relinquishes  ownership. We’ve had some dogs held for almost  two years as the owners deny a crime was committed, and get continuance after continuance.  Something is seriously wrong, and  now I understand anyone with a grudge can report any of us, any time, whether  the facts are true or not, and cost us all a fortune.  Sort of disgusting that  the  do-gooder didn’t get a job working for one of the many bona fide puppy mills out there.  this is why i contributed to Joan’s defense.   I hope you will, too.

 

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Book Review: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, by Farahad Zama

December 9, 2017

I  live in a culturally mixed community, and have many friends who are either from  the Middle East and India, or their parents are.  If you’ve seen the movies, “Meet the Patels,”  or “The Big Sick,”  you know that  parents are heavily involved in choosing mates for their children. Their parents did it for them, it worked, and ‘love matches’—that is, children finding their own spouses, is strongly discouraged.  Marriage is not so much about love as  maintaining communities. Obviously, it  does happen that people meet  and fall in love, and  that’s why there are ….stories.

This delightful, charming book is about a re8ired man who decides to start a match making  service, and  the nuances involved in helping people find partners.  It might help to know something about the caste system in  India, but Zama  describes this  well enough that you get  a good idea  of what people consider, and how they go about finding partners.

This is a great story.  Zama is not overly wordy, and the story is tight.  He describes his characters well.  The Ali family, Muslims, hire Aruna, a Hindu girl, to assist with office work.  She is supporting her parents and younger sister because her father’s  pension got screwed up and he can’t work because his health is poor (this is so very typical in  India).  Aruna is educated, and was supposed to marry, but her dowry was used to pay her father’s medical bills. This  dowry issue is still very much a fact in India.   As a subplot, the Alis’ have 1 son, who is an activist,  and this distresses his parents.  The dialogue is very  interesting, and  you get a better understanding of  how life in modern India is for educated people.

For  people who want a  nice read, who are considering a trip to India,  I’d  recommend  going on Amazon and searching for this book.

Book Review: Start Something That Mattes, by Blake Mycoskie

October 12, 2017

Blake Mycoskie, is the founder of TOMS shoes.  The company motto is, “for every pair we sell, we donate a pair.”  This is a very  quick read, very well edited, about how he started TOMS, and  how other people started businesses to make the world a better place.  I thought the book would be  hokey, but it isn’t.  Thing is, starting a business is really not as easy as chronicled.  Mycoskie had been a serial entrepreneur, and he had the capital to experiment when he started TOMS.  He acknowledges that he got lucky very fast, and his family was very supportive.

He doesn’t say how long it took for him to develop a working prototype, but he does say he had capital to live on while he was working on getting his shoes developed and manufactured.

I found this book very uplifting, but  I am not sure what value it would be  for the  entrepreneur who doesn’t have access to capital,or who has never even drafted a business plan.  I am really amazed at how many people  make a good pitch on  social funding sites like Indigogo or GoFundMe.  I have been supporting Prosper for over 10 years, where you can ask for a loan for any reason.

If you have an idea for a business,  you can look up  business plan outlines on the internet, and  find a business in your industry where you can  possibly intern, but be realistic and know the amount of money you will need to keep afloat until you break even.  I  want to open a resale store, but I estimate, with rent and overhead, I would need at least $30,000 and at least a year before breaking even.  Is that doable?  Mot for me…. unless I was given rent for free.

One of my favorite TV shows is “Shark Tank,”  where  entrepreneurs make a pitch  for funding and technical assistance to  ‘venture capitalists’ to grow their businesses. The Capitalists ask tough questions, and won’t fund an idea just because it is  ‘good’.  If you really think yo have a money making idea, write it down and  put down on paper  how much it will cost  to  either  manufacture your product or provide your service.

A Bully is Obsessed With Me Because I Refused to Make Him Money

August 11, 2017

I am starting this blog post with a story many of us have heard about.  Mike “Lock her up!” Flynn, ranting about Hilary Clinton,  a Trump toadie, spread the Alex Jones rumor that Cosmic Pizza in Washington, DC—a family owned business…was a headquarters for Hilary Clinton’s pedophile ring.  Laughable? A guy went  in there with a rifle and shot the place up. Almost ruined a family business.  Not illegal.  I am sure the  business owner has a lawyer, but you have to wonder how often an asshole sets out to destroy a business  just because he can.

I am finding more and more dog groomers report being bullied by men. Same story I am going to report. they post fake reviews, they call and harass businesses…or make  fake appointments.  it’s not illegal to be an asshole.

I  started blogging about 10 years ago because I had a lot to say about a variety of subjects, but mostly… to expound on my experiences with dogs.  Due to a  bad economy, as well as a bullying boss , I was adrift for a couple of years. Yet…I never went into debt.  I  paid my mortgage—was able ultimately to REFINANCE my  mortgage, and look forward to retiring in about  two years.  From grooming dogs.

The bullying boss was never fired, but when the company (12 kennels is a company) was sold, he was demoted to kennel staff & moved to another location,  However…between (among) him, some people he had contact with (a guy with a dick & balls will always have more credibility than a woman), and a guy I refused to work for….as well as  people who say they love dogs—but have never actually trained a dog,  learned anything about animal husbandry, and  other dynamics  with integrity, problems remain.

This is the blog I posted: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/are-you-looking-for-a-dog-grooming-job-in-chicago/     I interviewed  with Dan London, who told me his  dog experience came from walking dogs in a kennel.  He apparently either inherited money or got a structured settlement, and opened  a grooming shop…sort of. He paid to have bath tubs installed, had a portable grooming table, and  a ‘force’ dog dryer, but  not enough professional equipment. At the time–this was around 2008 or so, I had  several clients with long haired dogs which I groomed every week or every 2 weeks.  I knew I would have to move equipment in.  He  said he and his partner wanted to hire me…but they would set the prices. I told him that wouldn’t work.  My prices are my prices,.  He asked why, and I said, “You just don’t have enough dog experience.”

Again…what he had was bullying & internet experience.   I was looking for part time work, and  I inadvertently responded to a blind ad he ran. I learned not to do that, but he called and harassed all the groomers I worked for and posted fake Yelp! reviews.  My very favorite?  “I was being given a tour of (x shop) & I saw ROBYN MICHAELS beat a dog that urinated on her table.”

Of course, that never  happened.  I worked for  Pardise4Paws for  about two years.  Where I work in a kennel, I don’t have a phone.  That’s just how it is. You leave a message I will call you back.   Early on, Dan London  harassed them, and Saq Nadeem told me he was ignoring him.  I said, “No, please, get all the contact information you can.” But he didn’t.  Dan London would disappear, then get nuts again. He’d post all over the country on Craigslist that I had a puppy mill, that I took dogs from animal shelters to resell,  that I harassed people rehoming dogs (only the puppy mills—you can tell who they are) but worse  I abused dogs and  he told people to call Paradise4Paws and have them fire me.  I didn’t know this was going on. He could have harassed me directly, but  chose to not, and  one day, after the first of the year, Saq fired me because the manager wanted to. He didn’t know why, but she told me she was getting death threats.  Over not being able to sell your puppies? Because someone told you  I was a dog abuser?

These people are all over the country, and if they see it in the internet—it must be true.Why do they do it? Small dicks.  Because they can. They obviously get a vicarious thrill upsetting…women.  this is akin to domestic abuse..but if you can’t locate the abuser, yu can’t do anything.

At some point, this moron will slip up, and I will get a phone #, but as for now, this  is a guy, and this is what guys do.

Dirty Laundry and the Elephant in the Room

June 25, 2017

Is the elephant pink, gray, multi-colored?  Does it matter?  It’s always there.

My father turns 90 in a few weeks.  He’s losing his memory, and having trouble getting around.  His muscles are constricting, but no doctor has sent him for physical therapy. They give him shots.  Since he hasn’t much to do, he calls his children just to talk, but it’s too late for that, and here’s why:

My father was always  a hard worker.  He went to college, and majored in business, and  early on, he had a meat packing plant.  This business was profitable enough when he started, but approaching  20 years in, he had to sort of re-invent the company for a niche market.  This will be relevant when I explain a few things.  He never really was close to any of his relatives. His brother had some sort of learning disability (was it dyslexia?) & so his parents made my father hire his brother.  Not sure what he did in the busisess. Sales? Whatever.  & when my father incorporated the business…for some reason, he gave both my grandfather  and his brother a(my uncle) shares of the business.  My father also hired my grandmother’s youngest brother, who wasn’t retarded, but a bit slow.My father worked all the time, Or rather, he left the house about 4:00a.m. to make sure the plant was open for trucks, He never trusted anyone to open up for him.  What i;timately happened is….his father died, and left his shares to my grandmother & uncle. So ,they had majority shares of my father’s business.  He had also taken on a  partner to generate sales and infuse capital. So all these people had control of the business my father ran.  Not sure how it happened this way, but they did, and  to  get out, he liquidated  and sold th capital equipment to my stepbrother.  He was supposed to  stay on as a consultant, but due to a very bad contract (you’d think he’d blame a lawyer), he was forced out with no consultancy, and, instead, my step brother pays my stepmother.  You can imagine the tension, but the marriage remains intact.  I don’t get it.

Because of my mother reaching out, my father was in touch with relatives, but actually, we spent more time with my mother’s relatives…until she died. Then, those contacts sort of fell apart.  They fell apart for many reasons, but one reason was my mothers kids—me, my 2 sisters, and brother, were ‘odd’.  Now we know my brother and I have Asperger’s, but we were just too much for  my mother’s brothers families.   Bad influences? Whatever.  We siblings are pretty much estranged from our cousins.  It is even more pronounced because my stepmother is strongly bonded to both her and her first husband’s families.  Good for them.  I admire that.

My brother always  had behavior issues that my parents never successfully addressed.  That is, he was always rewarded for his arrogance and  short temper.  He was ‘the boy’ and many relatives also made excuses for this.  These behavior issues turned into addiction.  He’s been in jail several times, and my father has always paid his legal fees.  He allowed 2 houses to go into foreclosure, and my father has bought him his 3rd place to live.  My brother wanted to be a herpetology entrepreneur, but never was disciplined enough to keep sales records and avoid the trap of not being a  self starter. He’d get high  many days.  He has 2 advanced degrees, but had been caught several times stealing drugs.  My father seems to characterize this as my brother  marching to the beat of a different drummer…not being mentally ill and addicted.  He can’t allow my brother to hit bottom, as my brother might die.  so this state of affairs drags on.

Due to this pattern, my father has alienated his daughters. One son is worth 3 girls, and it is pretty obvious.  It’s disappointing, but it is what it is. He has always treated his daughters like  children. He thinks it perfectly  appropriate to show up where you work to just ‘see’.  So, we no longer tell my father where we work.

No matter what you tell my father, he will give you advice, and tell you how to live your life. I used to trust him, but I realized he gave me bad advice for my situation, and I had to figure  things out for myself. Both my father  and mother were disappointed that I learned to groom dogs and didn’t go to college after high school.  I think my father is now proud that I went to college—and graduate school—and never asked for money.

I did ask my father to consider investing with me in a 6 flat about 30 years ago, but he  clearly wasn’t interested. Instead, he invested in a house my niece rehavved and  didn’t break even.

I have blogged before about insurance, and how much my father bought—trusting another  guy his age, never mind that insurance is not transparent, and you  don’t know what you will end up with, A minor thing, but now, in a few years it will be over.  We’ll go through papers and see how much insurance he has, and  if there is any money left over.  Of course, at least we don’t have to support him.  I have a friend whose father was badly injured in an accident, and he became a quadriplegic.  In order to get  any sort of aid, he  and my friend’s mother were divorced.  He might have gotten a settlement, but I remember my friend scrambling to find assisted living for his father because his money was about to run out, None of the siblings would help. That’s the dynamics in families.

I wonder  about families that all get along and support each other. Well, you never know. somethings are never how they  appear, but this family is exactly how  it appears.

When a Rescue isn’t Honest About a Dog…we all Lose

May 11, 2017

A few years ago, I worked at a very unusual kennel.  At least it was, for the time.  The owner, who, due to a consulting career and great network, got the capital for his concept.  It was a 24 hour kennel. Thus, if you got back from being over seas at 2:00 a.m., you could go fetch your dog on the way home from the airport.  All his kennels would be in close proximity to  airports.  But that is neither here nor there.  The other part of this plan was that it was totally indoors, and dogs would be guaranteed at least 6 hours a day out of their suites.  So, they  ‘exercised’ in packs.  The theory was that the space was roomy enough that nobody got territorial.  It generally worked. When it didn’t, it  created a lot of extra work for employees, and some  injuries of both dogs and people.

Only the manager  had hands on dog experience, but she had never worked in a kennel or trained a dog.  This is a problem, these days—-when  people with money want to be in a dog business, but  have never actually communicated with dogs, and have no animal husbandry experience. They have a fantasy idea of how dogs are with each other.

Due to how busy this business was, and just the statistical odds, we were getting  a per centage of dogs that were nonsocial, and had to be kept separate from other dogs, as well as  dogs with clear neurological problems.  One of the managers wanted to consult an animal behaviorist.  My experience with dogs was not good enough, as I was just a dog groomer.  But the manager, who had been a Vet Tech, told her that an animal behaviorist wasn’t going to fix a brain tumor or whatever  was triggering these dogs, and we were in danger.  Yet, the owner was reluctant to turn away any dogs.

It came to pass that we got a dog in, a  Coonhound mix, who clearly wasn’t all there.  We could not get her attention. All she did was pace.  The manager  put her in an office with a glass door, nearer to where we were working, to see if  we could get her calm.  She was across a hallway  from  where I was grooming dogs…but it didn’t appear to me, although we could see each other, that she was paying attention to me.

She came and went several time over a few months (her owner traveled).  One day, I went into a pack of about 20 dogs (in an exercise area) to get a dog to groom.  The Coonhound came right up to me, jumped up, and bit me in the shoulder. Blood actually spurted out!  It didn’t hurt, but it was a bad bite, and I was really shocked.

I went to  the office to tell the managers what happened.  One of them wanted to call the owner.  “Isn’t he on his honeymoon?”  I asked.  He was.  I said, “Don’t  screw up his honeymoon.  He’s going to have to  make a decision when he gets back.”

& the owner did.  He made the right decision, and euthanized the dog.  No training was going to get her out of a neurological problem.  The manager asked me how I felt about that.  “It’s unfortunate, but we can’t save them all. The statistical odds are that some dogs just can’t be pets.”  I told her. “I’m glad you understand that,” she responded.  “I went to a seminar on evaluating dogs in shelters, and  the  person giving it said that when we aren’t truthful about a dog’s temperament, and a child is bitten, not only will this family never trust a rescue, but they may never get another dog,” she went on.  “Or, even worse, they’ll go to a pet store and get a puppy mill dog, ” I  said.

I bring all this up because I work at a commercial boarding kennel, and we make room for rescues who need space for  dogs in their programs.  I see what the rescues do.  Good intentions are not enough.  We have several dogs from a Greyhound Rescue. All the Greyhounds are used to being in kennels, and  very quiet and very friendly. Every weekend they go to an adoption event.  The Pit Bulls? No.  I have no problem with Pit Bulls as a breed. We have  quite a few who come for daycare, and they are  fine with other dogs.  I also volunteer for a  nonprofit that  places dog that are in the court system, due to  owners  being dog fighters, or just every day abuse and neglect, and most of those dogs are fine….but…there are so many Pit Bulls (lots of  low income ‘backyard breeders’).   Many are sold  barely weaned…so they are never socialized to even their litter mates, let alone other dogs, that  we have way too many that will never be good pets—& their group sponsors are in denial about this. They don’t want them killed,but they don’t want these dogs in their homes, either…so they languish…warehoused…in our boarding kennel.  Virtually all are  emotionally stressed from being in an animal shelter, and then, from their  perspective, they are moved to another animal shelter—our kennel, where there is just as much stress of  dogs running by, barking, all the smells, as  there were from the place they came from.  One dog spent 16 years in our kennel.  16 years, because my boss  agreed to keep her. Every time Gracie was out of her  kennel, she was muzzled. Finally, she got too old to attack other dogs.

We currently have 4 that will NEVER be pets.   2 were tied to our doors.  One has neurological problems, and has been in the kennel  a year. She is not spayed, she bites, and because one of the office staff ‘loves’ her (but not enough to take her home), my boss won’t euthanize her.  One  was a puppy…and still is. The rescue  posts her as housebroken.  What a joke!  2 were taken from OPEN ADMISSIONS SHELTERS.  1 is so reactive,  for the  hour or 2 she is out of her crate, she has to be in a kennel run, and  has a barrier in front of her crate so  she can’t  get frantic seeing other dogs. She was posted as  dog friendly on the rescue’s website. When I complained, they took the post down…but nobody has come by to work with her.  Same with the male, and now he will bite anyone. They want to raise $4000 to send him to a ‘special dog rehabilitator’ in another state.

This is not rescue. This is a bunch of psychologically  messed up people hoping for miracles.  I have had many experiences like this in my  40+ year grooming career. A client brings a dog for grooming, and it is a biter and I can’t get near the dog, and the EXCUSE is that the dog was abused.   Dogs are very resilient, and  that is not why they are biting.  Maybe the dog was abused, but that isn’t  my issue:  my issue is that the dog is dangerous, no matter how ‘cute’ it looks, and the neighborhood children (let alone your own!) are in danger.  When I was very  young and inexperienced with dogs, I  thought  this was very sad.  Now, as a more mature person with lots of dog experienced, I am angered by the many people in denial.  If we want our communities to be safe, we can’t be ‘no-kill’.  If you want to be ‘no-kill’ YOU take these dangerous dogs into your own home.  Get liability insurance.  Start desensitizing the dog to whatever is stressing the dog enough to bite. Put yourself at risk.  keep working on the dog until he dies.  Good luck.  Just  don’t  flim flam  us about what a good pet this dog IS.

Hong Kong: A Great Trip for a Single Woman, but not as Quaint as I Expected

March 3, 2017
Hong Long is a 'high density city. I don't think you are allowed to put ip a building that is under 50 stories.

Hong Long is a ‘high density city. I don’t think you are allowed to put up a building that is under 50 stories.

I was in Hong Kong recently.  It was on my bucket list.  I didn’t have  a lot of vacation time (as I want to take another trip this year), and several people suggested that  five days in HK would be more than enough time.

I got a round trip airfare for under $600 from Chicago.  How did I do that?  If you make  one stop, it reduces the fee by a lot.  Going, my stop was Vancouver (I only had about an hour between planes). Returning, it was in Toronto.

Several websites had suggested getting an ‘Octopus’ card at the airport.  The initial fee is high (HK $50 for the card, and  a minimum of $100 for use), but not only is it good for the airport bus to wherever you want to go, it’s also good for city buses,  the MTR,and the express train back to the airport…& they refund your balance at the end!  It’s great!

Lodging was under $50 per night including tax.  I used Booking.com , Tripadvisor, and Trivago to do the research.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion. it is a large building with many small hotels.

ChunKing Mansion is NOT a mansion.   I stayed at the Everest in Chunking Mansions.  This is an excellent location, right on Nathan Rd, across the street from the Peninsula, an iconic hotel. Very spartan lodgings, a towel was included, and toilet paper, but no soap! It was perfect for one, but would have been cramped for two, and the bathroom was very small.  Had I not traveled in Africa, I might have been shocked at how spartan it was, but you  aren’t planning on spending that much time in your room, are you?  It’s just to sleep, drop your stuff, and shower, right?  I probably should have checked out more places in Chunking Mansion, as it is a large building divided into several sections (and it is not a ‘mansion’, but  a complex of dorm like rooms),  but…although my room was very clean, it was not cleaned the whole time of my stay, and the building is sort of ‘earthy’.  That is,  a bunch of  Asian men from India & Pakistan (they seem to be an interesting mix of Sikhs, Hindus, and Moslems)  sublease the ‘hotels’, and on the first floor, they run  little kiosks  and  food stalls.  This would be a very interesting  study  for  an urban anthropologist, as they are  on the edge of a section of  HK where the subcontinentals live.

The whole area is considered Kowloon, but it is the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR stop.  Right outside the door.

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance...ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Tsui Tsim Tsai MTR entrance…ther are about 6 for this 1 stop!

Extremely convenient…if the  actual train wasn’t  about 1/2 mile away underground!  Actually, the MTR system is very clean, people are around who speak English and are very helpful, but it would probably take about a week to learn the system. Just as in the USA, where one subway stop has multiple  entrances and exits, it’s the same with the Metro Transit Railway of HK.

So, what did I  do on this trip?  I got on the Big Bus, which allows you to hop on & off, to see the main attractions.  I  heartily recommend it, because it goes to just about everywhere, or close by.  They have several routes, and if you buy a 48 hour pass,  it gets you ‘express’ into some attractions.  I took it around for a look/see first, then again to where I wanted to stop.  My first stop was the town of Stanley.

I was disappointed.  Most of what you want to see is along the water, and it’s a row of small shops selling mostly touristy types of things (although there was a dog groomer down there).  There are also several restaurants.  The thing is, where the bus lets you off is a modern mall, with a McDonald’s and an H & M, and I was picturing something more quaint and rural.  It’s picturesque, very hilly (HK is the land of escalators), but not what I expected.  Same with Aberdeen, which many guidebooks describe as a quaint fishing village,  and suggest stopping for a fish lunch—which I was looking forward to.  Maybe 20 year s ago.  It is a harbor filled with small fishing boats, and  these days, women give tourists rides in the boats…but HK come right up to the harbor.

Everyone  says you have to go to Central for the elevators on the sidewalks.  Well, that would be fine if you had something to do in this section of town.  If you don’t, it’s like being in a crowded outdoor mall.

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

View from Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

My last  tourist site of the day was the tram to Victoria Peak. I was really looking forward to this:  going up to the  top and watching the lights at sunset come on in the city. I live in Chicago, and I have brought many people to the top of the Hancock Center to watch sunset over the city, and sometimes, fireworks.  So, that was the plan.  But this  actually  is what happened:  even with express passes, it took us 45 minutes to get on the tram.  It was really crowded.  Someone told me it was because of Chinese New Year, but whatever.  I know some people waited in line over an hour just for tickets, and had to wait much longer to get on.  So, it’s 3 minutes to the top, and at the top….is a mall.  I kid you not. Right when you get out, there are all these  vendors of touristy things, and they follow you around, because it looks like  one big store….but it is actually about  eight vendors!   You walk around, and it struck me there was a Swatch Watch store at the top, and two ice cream places…and a Starbuck’s.  I was expecting a park.  It was about 3:00 or so, and I saw all these people waiting in line to get back on the tram to go down.  The last Big Bus  leaves at 6:30, so if you missed that, you’d have to get on the MTR…not a far walk, but….I decided to walk down the peak.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but you spiral down, of course, about  3 miles. I wanted to catch a bus, but I got about 1/4 the way down, and  I notices there was a traffic jam going up the peak, and no traffic coming down. About 1/2 way down, I met a Chinese man (Mr. Hu) who was walking down the peak…he was going to the MTR, but  didn’t want to take a cab, and he pointed out to me that nothing was coming down (and also, there was a hospital near the top, so there might have been an accident), and so, we walked and walked.  Finally, we got close to Central, and he flagged a cab to take us to the MTR. The cabbie  tried to take us on a circuitous route (Mr. Hu thought it was because we were speaking English), but  he went with me on the MTR all the way back to  Tsim Sha Tsui, which was very kind of him.  It wasn’t really that long a MTR ride, but I got to see how vast the underground was. Very bright, very clean.

Ocean Park

Ocean Park

The next day, I took the Big Bus and got off at Ocean Park.  Ocean Park is sort of like Sea World and an amusement park. They do some research there,  and  promote environmental education and recycling, and there are a few rides.  I was going to go to Disneyland, but all the  guide sites  said Ocean Park was iconic & not to be missed.  I had to wait in line  about 45 minutes for a ticket to get in. The park is divided into  two sections because of geography  You can take a skyway ride to the section of the park you are not in. There are several other rides, including a roller coaster, which is described as a ‘mine train’ but isn’t.  There is a small  zoo, with both  red pandas and a giant panda, and a  display about how goldfish breeding has evolved.  I can see how a family could spend the day there.  I spend about  three hours.  Of course, there is a huge gift shop, but it sells the usual souvenir stuff:  T-shirts, water globes,  key chains,and stuffed animals.  They really missed the boat:  no dog squeaky toys or chopsticks,

Water between 'Central' and 'Kowloon"

Water between ‘Central’ and ‘Kowloon”

Day  three, in the morning, I wanted to go to the HK Art Museum, but it was closed for renovation.  The cultural center  didn’t have anything going on. Both of these are along the promenade.  So, I decided on a  tour of Kowloon, and took the Big Bus first to the Jade Market, and later, to the  Ladies market.

I felt both were disappointing.  The Jade market is under a big tent, and there  has to be  over 100 vendors.  Many have  small antiques and other jewelry.  If you don’t really know jade, you don’t know if you are looking at plastic or glass.  Bargaining is suggested, but so many young  people come from the rest of southeast Asia, and are willing to over pay, so I didn’t buy anything.

Same with the Ladies market.  Most guidebooks  describe  the ladies’ market as selling toys, clothing, sportswear….but  the irony is…you can get most of the stuff more cheaply in the USA….especially if you live in a ‘major market ‘ (or a community with a large Chinatown).  In fact, the Fodor’s guidebook suggested a  store called ‘Me and George’ for vintage clothing.  I actually found the store, but  it was mostly men’s stuff just crammed in, with  one rack of women’s blouses that were way out of style, and a rack of skirts.  It was a big disappointment.  I probably spent about  two hours at the Ladies Market, and I bought 2 sets of chopsticks.

In the evening, I was interested in taking a dinner cruise during the light show, but the people at the tourist office told me I would have to take a cab to another pier, and the  fee for a dinner cruise was in the $80 range.    Not worth it.  Several online sites suggested a place called Mak’s  for noodles, and there was  a Mak’s in the Ocean Pier Mall.

I have to say  a bit about this mall. First of all, I  missed seeing Mak’s several times, even though it was on the main floor, because they have  one small sign and they are behind  the ‘Greyhound Cafe’ (not sure why it is named that).  People come to HK to shop, and the whole first floor of this mall, aside from a few upscale restaurants, was boutiques offering baby clothes:  Baby Dior, Baby Channel. Stuff, you know, like Beyonce and the Khardasians would buy…not normal people.

Second floor was adult designer stuff…including Stella MacCartney.   & more jewelry. Really really expensive stuff.  Third floor was all electronics.  It just boggled my mind.

In any case, I had dinner at Mak’s, which was just noodles with a wonton…for $13.  Not bad, but really, not worth going our of your way for.

Day four, I took a day cruise,where you can see all the tall buildings along the harbor.  That was nice.  In the afternoon, I shopped  a little west of where I was staying.  The prices were a bit lower, but I saw nothing I had to have.  The guide books suggested  the bird market and the Goldfish markets, but I would have had to do more walking, and seeing animals just to see them isn’t my thing.  I wanted to go to the tea museum, but several people told me it was very small, and  due to construction  in the area, could have been difficult to get to.  So, in the evening, I went to the Promenade along the  harbor, where  some awful musicians played until the official music and ‘light show’ started.

The light show….I was expecting fireworks after all, this is China), but what is was was a few green lasers.  What was really interesting is that all the buildings in Central facing the promenade are all lit up.  That was sort of cool.

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

Clan housing in a more rural part of Hong Kong

On Day five, I took a totally different tour  to the area known as ‘new territories’, with a guide and several other people. Apparently, when the British came to HK, they needed some land designated for  agriculture, and  made a deal with the clans in this very rural area  to allow them to keep their land, but not sell it for development.  So, they are allowed to build three story buildings.  They had to live in the buildings, and, traditionally, their children would live in that upper two floors….but real estate  appreciated so much in value that, although  one family member still has to live in the building, most are rented out, and it is the only low density housing (if you can call it that) in the region.  Indeed, I don’t think I saw a building under 50 stories, and most were over 100.  Also, the guide told us that most of it was public housing, and most apartments are about 400 square meters.  Very small. But also,  most  people don’t have children…it’s too expensive.

Other impressions of Hong Kong?  Yes, people come to shop, and I was shocked by the number of designer watch stores.   Tag Heur, Phillipe Pateke, Swatch, Rolex…Rolex stores across from each other!  People still seem to think a wrist watch is status.  I can’t believe that  so many people buy watches that it pays to have so many.   And…jewelry  stores.  In the windows, many (there is a chain that is on every block, and I am not exaggerating), they have  solid gold ‘character’ tchotchkes. Ugly, but  people collect these things…and remember, gold is portable.  Also, in HK, there  is Watson’s, sort of a drugstore with a wider variety of non-prescription drugs than our American stores (I went in for Nyquil, got Melatonin), and several stores specializing in cosmetics.  I also  stopped at several groceries, some offering good deals.

It was very crowded where I was. A zillion tourists, mostly from South Korea, Japan, the Mainland,  Malaysia,  New Zealand and Australia.  Every young person was either glued to a cell phone,presumably following a tour, or taking a selfie with a selfie stick. I have never seen so many.  Nobody watches where they are going.

I am glad I went, but now that I’ve seen it, on to another adventure.

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017
Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

Career Goals? or Maybe Bucket List

July 1, 2016
Fahs and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

Dash and me completing his Rally Novice title. Gosh, I love doing things with my dogs!

A prospective  employer asked, after I had told him I had titled  dogs in obedience, rally, lure coursing and conformation, had published in the  pet industry,and  won and placed in grooming contests…what my career goals are.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived overseas…in  Africa.   I, with  a few others, got  household recycling instituted in Chicago.  I’ve sold my art.  I would like to continue to compete in rally and obedience…and lure coursing if I acquire a young enough dog. Frankly, I’ve met my career goals.  I keep thinking of selling the house (due to property taxes) and buying a small kennel. Again, it is a ‘quality of life’ issue.

I currently work  for a business where the people are nice, for the  most part, but the set up for grooming is less than ideal.  I can live with that, but there are some irritants that cause me to keep my eyes open for a better situation.  The commute, while not terrible, is long.  One of the employees  does little things  to sabotage my work and make my day longer. They  continue to  put stressed out boarding dogs in my work area, and we have a very high ‘no-show’ rate  for grooming.  I don’t really have an ally or advocate at work.

I love  the job tasks of grooming dogs, but I am getting too old to put up with  confusion and pettiness.

I don’t know if this is a career goal, but if I had a husband to  keep me  in the manner to which I would like to become accustomed, I’d go to the American Whippet Club and Saluki Club of America  specialties every year.  So many great dog activities, and fellow dog lovers.

I’d travel more.  I haven’t really been to Europe yet (except for stop overs),  or Costa Rico  or Panama, and I still have a lot to see in southeast Asia.

I’d volunteer more with  few groups I support.  I’d continue to work with dogs.  I’d get together with friends more.  There’s not much different I would do.