Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

First do no Harm—Except to Their Pocketbooks

February 6, 2020

A few years ago I got Bursitis in my hips. I didn’t know it was Bursitis. I thought it was sciatica. My doctor, a general practitioner, told me he could give me cortisone shots for the pain, but cortisone also dissolved your bones.

I decided to try a chiropractor. She was very good, but after four treatments, when I didn’t improve, she sent me for an MRI. That’s how we discovered it was actually Bursitis.

Bursitis is not arthritis. Bursitis is when the fluid between your joints becomes inflamed, or dissolves and your bones rub together. She could not help me.

Back to my physician. He suggested physical therapy might help. By this time, I was on Medicare, and I also had a Medicare Advantage plan. I should have called my insurer, Aetna, to find out if there was a co-pay. Now, I know, but what I did was—silly me—I called a Physical Therapy BUSINESS and asked them what my co-pay would be. I was told there was nothing out of pocket. I would owe NOTHING.

So, of course, I booked a series of treatments for 8 weeks. Aside from the range of motion exercises, they ask you if you want a type of massage (for good circulation) and ‘stem’, which is a heat treatment.

After eight weeks, I felt I was not much improved, so I declined to book more sessions. A few weeks later, Aetna sent me a statement…that my share was $800!!!! & then I got the bill from the physical therapy business.  It doesn’t matter who they are—-they ar all the same.

I called Physical Therapy Business and asked to speak to the practice manager. Finally, she returned my call and told me that she didn’t know who told me that I would owe nothing—-but they don’t send bills to collections.

It so happens, my sister, who had back problems, was also sent for physical therapy, and when she asked the cost, was told to not worry about it—& then she got a bill for $600.

We live in a capitalist system. You wouldn’t agree to by ANYTHING without knowing the cost. So, why is health care so much different? Why is it considered gauche, crude, or cheap to ask a doctor what a drug or treatment will cost? And why is it so many don’t have an answer?

I changed doctors, and my new physician, also a general practitioner, is more holistic. She prescribed me a bunch of vitamins and amino acids. I guess as you get older, it might be more difficult for your system to draw what you need from nutrition. In two weeks, the pain was gone. But, then she wanted me to go for an ultrasound because she wanted to try hormone therapy to help me lose weight and build muscle…but she wanted to make sure I didn’t have cancer.

By this time, I knew to ask what the cost was. I called the hospital and asked what my out of pocket would be (since I had Medicare and Aetna…), and was told, “It depends on how your doctor codes the procedure.”

What?”

The customer service person at Aetna told me that if it was coded as an x-ray, it would be a$15 co-pay, but if it was coded as a diagnostic, it would be $75 out of pocket? Same procedure. So, I had to call my doctor back & tell her staff I needed the codes, and why would it be coded as an x-ray if it’s an ultrasound?

I got a new code, but when I called Aetna back this time, I was told that I would have no co-pay because Medicare allows me to get an ultrasound every three years. & I noted the time and date of the phone call, because, you know,” phone calls are recorded for quality assurance.” Just in case there is any more confusion.

I found this article in the paper a few weeks ago:  https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-01-07/u-s-health-system-costs-four-times-more-than-canadas-single-payer-system

The gist is—if you read the article, that our system has too many paper pushers and people involved in the insurance companies. You know—denying you the right to some sort of care, or deciding how much you should pay, and bargaining with doctors. You know if you have insurance, they charge one thing. If you don’t have insurance, they may charge less. If your doctor bargains to get paid, it’s another fee.

It’s a racket. It’s unfair. It’s legal because it’s not illegal. One reason it’s legal is because  people regard physicians like gods—especially our politicians…and the guys who run insurance companies to make sure they are profitable. I bet every member of Congress owns some sort of insurance stock.

So here’s what we have to do until they really get it that this doesn’t work. You start asking doctors—their staff people—everyone—WHAT IS THE COST? —FOR A VISIT? FOR A PROCEDURE?—-FOR A DRUG? WHAT ARE THE CODES? Ask why it is 1 price for the insurance company and one price for you?

You have to keep a little diaryl  You write down the time you called and the person you talked to.  You have to document everything. You have to be your own advocate.  This is especially important if you have a chronic disease.

Two more examples.  My mammogram was over a year old, so holistic doctor wanted me to get a new mammogram. EVEN THOUGH IT IS FREE, the hospital asked for proof of insurance, and i.d.  I know they are covering their asses—but think:   who would schedule a mammogram just for kicks?  And if the insurance checks out, why would you need an i.d.?

I have a friend whose father is 96 and he had a colostomy several years ago. So, he needs collection bags. They are not cheap, and generally not sold in pharmacies. They are about $4 a bag.  My friend has been ordering them for her father from the same company for years..since he had the procedure.    You need a ‘prescription’ from a doctor. No joke.  She ordered bags a few weeks ago, and when they didn’t arrive in  2 days, she called the company.  The clerk told her there was a hold-up, but she didn’t know why.  So, of course, my friend asked to speak to a supervisor. My friend was on hold for about 20 minutes—and then the supervisor came back online & told her that she needed a doctor’s note.  It seems that somehow, the prescription got REMOVED from the computer database. it’s not really clear.  You do know that many physicians charge a fee to write that note.  Of course, now she is livid, because they never called her to tell her what the hold up was. This is not aspirin.  Her father can’t use a baggie.   But, if she changes suppliers, she DOES have to get another doctor’s note! She next called their corporate office, and learned that there is a PATIENT ADVOCATE!  She was never told of this.  You all know that ‘Phone calls are recorded for quality assurance,” right?  & My friend asked her to listen to the  phone calls.  Turns out the problem was/us she wanted to order a few more bags  every month—and to increase the supply, she needed a new prescription!  Can you imagine?  &  Do you think that  ‘government managed care’ could be any worse?

It’s a racket.

 

How the Condiments are Made: noncitizens voting

February 2, 2020

I was a judge of election for over 30 years.  The last time,  when Trumpwas elected, was in a Senior Citizen low-income housing building  which housed more Russians than Americans. I have no idea how they game the system & get to move to the head of the line—especially sinse so many can’t speak English, but they do.

They all got that  postcard from Jesse White.

In fact, my roommate, a Japanese National, also got 1.  We laughed, but I told him it was a mistake…but them, all these  Russians come with these cards—& you know—same day registration. We can’t ask them to prove they are legal citizens…you know that, right?

I had my misgivings, but….

The Board of Elections does a horrible job of training election judges. There’s machinery, procedures, and people don’t pay attention, anyways. We’d do better asking college students studying law and political science to volunteer.  But what we’re getting is regular folks who  are barely lucid enough to live unassisted.  So many mistakes are made—-from giving people the wrong pens to mot counting, to consolidation of machines & paper votes.  Statistically, the  election is ‘fair’ and that’s the best we can hope for.

& the thing is,  with less than 50% of registered voters voting…and those who are voting  have not actually checked out the candidates platform or web page, but are going on personality, marketing, what their friends tell them, etc…. well, ya gotta pick your battles. I told the the Board of Elections (those people are appointed. They don’t give a shit), an the Better Government Association.  nothing.  So I decided to take a break from contributing to democracy.  What would YOU do?

Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

The BACKYARD BREEDERS are, anyways. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want, and don’t take any responsibility for the animals they breed…are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispell in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

Why I Write Erotica

January 18, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

Me—from a pose in the 1980s. Justin Goh did the background.

I’ve always been a decent writer.  I wrote to my boyfriend before he became my husband (he moved away 8 weeks after we started going together), I wrote to a guy who I wanted to be my boyfriend, who, in spite of the sex, never was.

Then, when I decided I had some actual ideas, I started writing about dogs.  Not stories, more journalistic nonfiction stuff.  I even got paid, which was encouraging.

I’m a girl and was raised to seek approval. I was never good enough. That might be generational, to raise girls to not have an ego & think they are not as worthy as boys. I’m not sure.  Encouragement is always appreciated.  I got the most encouragement grooming dogs.

I was in my 40’s and I suddenly had to start dealing with bullies.  Oh, we didn’t call them that about 20 years ago.  If it wasn’t sexual harassment, it didn’t really count (men are supposed to be assholes to girls).  But it DID count.  It’s just that we still allow men to decide what counts.

So, I was in my 50s when I started working for Bruce Blaine, at Best Friends Chicago, who was really condescending and verbally abusive.  In fact, before I started working for him, a friend who trained dogs with a dog trainer at this business told her she wouldn’t want to be caught alone in the building with Bruce.

I sucked it up, but finally complained to human resources. They sent another manager to keep an eye on him, and he’d behave for a few days, then go back to being a bully.  Nothing was ever done, so I quit working for Best Friends Pet Care.  They ultimately sold their entire business rather than deal with managers.

Because this bully Bruce would not give me a reference, I could not account for over a year of my employment.  I had trouble finding other work. In fact,  some people lured me to a new business, claiming they had enough to employ me. They didn’t.  It’s legal to lie.  I was desperate. I applied for a job I saw posted on Craigslist, offered by a guy named Dan London. His business was “Doggie Bath House’.  His only dog experience was walking dogs at a kennel, but everyone wants to be in the pet business and thinks there is nothing you have to know. There isn’t. Entry to the industry is easy.  I am not changing his name because he is still out there. I refused to work for him because he didn’t have enough dog experience and I knew he would not be in business long, He lasted about a year. but during that time, he decided that if I wasn’t going to make money for him, I’d make money for nobody. He had my resume & started harassing other businesses, & posting fake reviews on Yelp! He’d post that he toured (a business) & saw me beating a dog!  Now, how would he know my name?  But Yelp! let him do this. That’s Yelp!  You can’t trust Yelp!  He’s posted that I am mentally unstable.  Totally legal.  & he’s a guy, so he must be credible.

On the internet, ‘nobody knows you’re a dog (or an asshole…)’.  I actually met other groomers who had worked for him and whom he had not paid. They told me he hated me. He might not have had dog experience, but he had internet & bullying experience.  He posted all over the country, on Craigslist—-which you can do for free—and told people to call my employer (at the time, it was Paradise4Paws, an  up and coming dog care business) and have me fired. They got so much harassment, they did fired me.  Even though Saq Nadeem knew who was doing the harassing.

Friends told me to blog.   For over 10 years I have—–  about my ‘disparate interests’.  I am not widely read, but much of what  I’ve written has been shared.

Along the way, I stopped being sexual with a man I had been very attracted to, both physically and socially.  He had made it very clear that I was just not worth any sort of respect or commitment.

At the time, I was thinking mediocre sex was better than no sex at all.  I’ve since changed my mind.

There could be many reasons for why the sex was not better, but the bottom line is really that if the man doesn’t care, there is nothing you can do. HE IS NOT INTERESTED.

Actually, it wasn’t a conscious decision to give up sex.  It was conscious to stop seeing a mediocre sex partner who was totally unreliable.

I wasn’t meeting any worthwhile men, either. My grandmothers told me to find a man to keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.  For a woman to put herself out there and risk pregnancy and disease, I just couldn’t see it.

Worse,  in my industry—-the pet industry—-the few men who are out there are gay.  What about other aspects of my life?

When I was in the Peace Corps most were younger, and the ones my age had the same issues with me:  old, fat, loud, opinionated.

Freddie Mercury, can you find me Somebody to Love?

I started looking at Match & Plenty of Fish (and even a few sites aimed at Jews). Guys my age either look like my grandfather or are looking for ‘a nurse and a purse’, or are Christian (I am a secular Jew and have a moral compass, thank you), or can’t keep me in the style to which I would like to become accustomed.

Ok, so, say we do get a guy past the hurdles: he’s got full dentition, not Christian, has a quick wit, likes dogs, can keep me in the style, blah blah.  Great. But what kind of chance do I have to take to find out if the guy is a decent lay?  Decent? I need better than decent.  You can’t write erotica without knowing what you’re talking about.

How did this actually happen?

The truth is, I wanted to write about integrity.  I am a dog fancier.  There are a lot of different breeds of dogs out there.  The reason there are so many distinct breeds is because  people want dogs to meet certain needs,  To get consistency, you need predictability, and to get predictability, you need to have the INTEGRITY to choose only the best dogs to breed.

In 10 years, there probably won’t be any Doodles, Pomskys, or Puggles, but there will be Whippets, Gordon Setters, Borzoi, Briards, and Dandie Dinmont Terriers…because of breeders with integrity.

So wait—-what? what does dog breeding have to do with erotica?

Not a thing.  But who wants to read about integrity?

Nobody. But dog lovers do want to read about good sex. So, I had my first character be a dog groomer who had good sex, and turned it into a storyline.

All the erotica/love stories are fantasies. They are contrived but made plausible.

There was another reason I did this. At the time I started thinking about how to do this, my father, in his 90’s, was badly injured in a fall.  He broke his neck and his femur. He was lucky he wasn’t paralyzed.  He did recover if you could call it that, but it was the end of his freedom because he refused to NOT walk, and continued to fall as soon as he could get up.  He had to go into a nursing home.

It was more complicated, because, my father had been bankrolling my brother’s drug addiction. He had been doing this for over  30 years.  Suddenly, the ‘bank of Dad’ was closed, and my brother was making his situation worse. He rented a car and had an accident and fled the scene. He hadn’t paid any of his utility bills and was living without running water, heat, electricity, or a phone, He lied to my sister about all this.

Rehab is a joke.  It’s a scam the way  it is marketed in this country. Families want it to work, but doesn’t unless the addict is motivated. Why should people get clean  as long as the families refuse to let them die?

That’s as far as I will go on this tangent.  It was really more interesting, but we were dealing with the stress of family dynamics. My father, in spite of his three daughters begging, nagging, cajoling him to NOT give my brother money, continued to because 1 son is worth way more than 3 daughters.

Michael Douglas also gave his son Cameron money to be a drug addict. That is what fathers do.

Face it, everyone. When someone decides to take opioids not because a physician prescribed them for physical pain, but because they are lazy, self-indulgent entitled assholes (like the flakes with untrained emotional support animals—the reason I think psychologists/psychiatrists have too much sway) nothing will fix them.  Only 30% of addicts ever totally recover  (meaning stay sober over five years), and that is because they are motivated. It usually takes them several tries, too. Most are not motivated.  They can’t live alone or be trusted with money.  I wish we could expatriate them to less developed countries where they’d have to learn a language and work or die.

I won’t go into the gruesome details of how bad it got, but my sister did get him involuntarily committed to rehab (for at least the 4th time)  This is a guy with an RPh and a DVM who chose self-indulgence.   He continues to tell us he is smarter than us all.  But…because my sister didn’t want my stepbrother or sisters judging us if they read my blog, they asked me to not write about my brother.

I had a lot of stuff on my plate.  This situation with my brother is terribly discouraging, and my father’s situation is terrible. So, that’s why I decided to write erotica.  I mean, who cares what anyone thinks?

But several people have asked me now how I came up with the sex scenes.

The short, true answer is you write what you know.  I did not have very much mind-blowing sex, but apparently what I did have made a vivid impact.  That’s what good sex is.

What I am writing about are issues that concern me, and that I confront often. That’s the other reason I decided to write.  It’s good therapy to actually express my ideas and beliefs, and as you get older, time is of the essence.  Is is true to the genre…each book has a story.  But this also looks like this is the closest I will come to the topic of sex for a very long time.

 

A bit of an Experiment….

January 16, 2020

Many of my friends know that I worked as a figure model for years. I did this for about eight years, until I got into graduate school. At the time I started, during the Reagan years, the economy was very bad. I could not find enough dog grooming work. We’d have several days of rain, and there went my income. I started working for art ‘workshops’. These are ‘classes’ usually where there is an instructor, but sometimes, it’s just a bunch of artists getting together to draw or paint. From other models, I learned who to call to get fired. It’s a lot of schlepping, and if you work for a school, u you aren’t paid the day you work. The instructor has to submit a purchase order. But I earned money and kept myself al float.

When I got an assistantship to grad school, I stopped seeking assignments, and my life went on.

The pose above was one I set up, but the actual background was terrible. I paid an artist to manipulate the photo and make the picture more aesthetic. It is for the cover of a book that will be published shortly: “Polyandress.”

What We’re Missing About Drug Addiction

January 11, 2020

My brother is a drug addict. He is —or was—-a licensed pharmacist and veterinarian. He had the degrees and got licenses. He  learned, how people become addicted. He told us that chemicals bond with the pleasure-seeking parts of the brain, and once that happens, there is no going back.

He was not prescribed opioids by a physician to treat chronic, physical pain. He was seeking pleasure. He knew how addiction occurred, but he had access to drugs, so he took them.

It’s true that many people take drugs to deal with psychic pain, but whatever the reason people take addictive drugs, once you are addicted unless you have a very strong personal will to totally change your life…that’s it.

I’ve had friends who became addicted to heroin in Viet Nam tell me it was easier to go through withdrawal from heroin than it has been to kick tobacco. You have to wonder…why would tobacco be legal and not other addictive drugs?

Clearly, the reason is political lobbying and marketing. We waste so much money on law enforcement, and people get shot in the crossfire. If drugs were legal, like tobacco and alcohol, we could tax sales and to an extent regulate it, but our overly puritanical ‘all or nothing’ Christian culture won’t allow it.

Now, some people just buy drugs in the cash economy, but more and more we are finding people who started on the road to addiction by physicians and hospital personnel.  The physicians don’t do any counseling about not taking too much too often, and what you will have to do if you find you are becoming dependent. The whole medical industry is totally off the hook…because they are doctors? Like Gods? They have so much integrity?

So now, because families of addicts want the rest of us to DO SOMETHING..there is a push for ‘treatment centers’ and ‘drug counselors’. The fact of the matter is, the success rate hovers around 30%. Google it, I dare you. No amount of talk therapy is going to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Your success is based on you wanting to be clean. if you have family supporting you no matter what, you have no incentive to be clean or stay drug-free. Drug addicts will tell you this. Alcoholics will tell you this.

Some people can not live without adult supervision. They can’t be trusted with money, and they can’t be trusted to not endanger themselves, and it doesn’t matter what anyone wants. If you’ve been through this with a friend or family member who has been ‘in treatment’ or ‘detox’ more than once, you know this is true.

The solution would be to have these people committed to a care environment where they can be kept busy doing physical labor, something that gets them so tired that at the end fo the day, all they can do is fall into bed.

Instead, many states license ‘sober houses’ where addicts who have been through detox and chill and not be homeless until they are ready to start using again. Colton Vooron recently wrote a very interesting article about this for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/21/my-years-in-the-florida-shuffle-of-drug-addiction

Can RPCV Influence Foreign Policy?

January 1, 2020

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

In 1992, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer  (PCV) serving as a Town Planner in Blantyre, Malawi.  This was a very tumultuous time in Malawi history…the end of an era.  PCVs are not supposed to be in ‘politically sensitive’ positions, but there I was, tasked with encouraging residents of ‘traditional housing areas’ (unplanned, squatter communities) to organize to develop recycling programs,  working on development control issues,  enforcing planning guidelines,  and making sure regular city services were provided.   I also was tasked with taking over records and rent collections for public housing in my geopolitical area—‘Local Authority,” from Malawi Housing Corporation.   I was told to do all this by the ODA—Overseas Development Assistance. This was the British equivalent to  USAID funding  Malawi government operations.

Lots was going on.  The ‘European Community’ was putting pressure on Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda to allow for a free press and to schedule multi-party elections.  Corruption, of course, was endemic.  Just about everything I did was being sabotaged by a government employee who feared I would uncover a major corruption plan that worked very well for himself and a few friends.    Business people who had ties to the Malawi Congress Party constantly complained that I was meddling. 

I tried to get others to take responsibility for some of my more unpopular, but clearly legal, decisions, but I was the only one who really was not in danger of being ‘disappeared’.

‘.

What I really wanted to do was make a difference.  I had two plans that would have really helped low-income residents of the city townships set their communities on the road to sustainability:   One plan was to give them rate (real estate tax) rebates for planting fruit trees and buying energy-efficient ceramic lined cookstoves.  The other was for them getting titles—  recording their plot ownership—with nobody being allowed to own more than one plot in a Traditional Housing Area (to prevent people from becoming absentee landlords).

Unfortunately, there was no political will.   With the squeeze on for political reforms, foreign aid was frozen.  The Malawi Kwatcha was devalued by over 30% (although government high-level managers were immediately compensated with raises), causing a general strike.

 I was finally threatened by a Host Country National, who complained directly to Peace Corps, because I had demonstrated that I had the capacity to take down illegal developments.

30 years have passed.  I visited Malawi three years ago.  Not much has changed, and what has changed has increased social stratification. Yes, more people have access to credit, but deforestation and overfishing are really taking a toll.  Social indicators have barely improved, but even very poor rural people have access to cell phones..

I believe that once most PCVs have a base in the place where they are serving, they realize that good intentions are not enough.  In some cases,  teachers are really making a difference.  In other places, volunteers are being used as  ‘place fillers’ or technical support, and underlying issues are not being addressed.

I started thinking about this again, just recently, when Ambassador Daniel Foote, our man in Zambia, said what needed to be said:  This is an excerpt from a report on National Public Radio:   ”…..  it started last month with this court ruling where they sentenced two men to 15 years in prison for having sex with each other. The ambassador said he was “horrified” by Zambia’s jailing of same-sex couple Japhet Chataba and Steven Sambaand.  The Zambian government basically told him to mind his own business. And Ambassador Daniel Foote then unloaded. He released a diplomatic statement, that I have seen, you know, few as pointed as this one was.

And he said that the U.S. had saved more than 1 million lives in Zambia with just its HIV programs, and then he went on to accuse the government of being hypocritical, of outright stealing millions of dollars intended to go to important welfare programs. He said that while the corrupt officials doing that don’t even get a slap on the wrist, two men having sex get 15 years in jail. And then he said that everyone should just stop pretending that the U.S. and Zambia have cordial relations.”

 

Long story short,  “…..Zambian President Edgar Lungu was seething mad, and he essentially declared the ambassador persona non grata, and the U.S. had to pull him out of the country.” Oh, btw (from Wikipedia) In 1992, Foote became a Peace Corps volunteer in Sopachuy, Bolivia.

We do-gooders, American citizens,  naively believe our foreign policy upholds human rights and fights corruption. We also believe we are donating money so people can get on the road to both economic and environmental sustainability.  This would be laughable were it not so tragic.  How can Peace Corps Volunteers serve in countries with so little regard for basic human rights?  Certainly, our gay brothers and sisters are not safe.

We all come to consciousness about what is ‘right’, ‘fair’ and ‘tolerable’ in our own time.  Many of us do not remember legal racial discrimination, or that inter racial relationships were illegal in many parts of the USA.  Many of us have never heard the expression that “Rights are never given. They are always taken.”

Going back a bit further, in the USA many women (and people of color) could not get access to contraception without the permission of a husband, or credit without a man co-signing (I have personal experience with this).

Now, many of us might laugh at how stupid and unfair, even counterproductive such laws were.  They were developed by (white) men who wanted to legally restrict those not like themselves.

Is there not a PVC who has not said, “If only the policymakers acted with integrity”?

Being from Chicago, where we had a political machine for over 60 years, I’m in no position to say whether a country is more or less corrupt than where I live.  Because I’ve traveled, I’ve experienced being with people who live in communities that have benefited by the mindset that when wealth is shared and opportunities are equalized, everyone benefits.

How can we tell where the policies of equalization work?  We can look at the improvement of social indicators since the end of WWII, with the correlation of the introduction of Peace Corps Volunteers into countries.  Why is it literacy rates, improvements in infant and maternal mortality, flourishing communications infrastructure,  and access to credit in places like Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Costa Rica have improved life outcomes in those countries, as well as economic growth, but Nigeria, Mauritania, Malawi, India, and Bangladesh still have such a high percentage of people living in poverty, with no in improvement in social indicators?  Obviously, it is not just a lack of political will, but being rewarded with foreign aid no matter how corrupt they are.  We used to justify this because they weren’t ‘communist’ countries, but what does that really mean?

I’ve joked that the Danes should be in charge of all foreign aid, because, according to Transparency International, Denmark is the least corrupt country on the planet. hpps://www.transparency.org/cpi2018

Is it really too much to ask for transparency, a free press, and respect for RULE OF LAW?  Shouldn’t foreign assistance of any kind ( that is not humanitarian or crisis aid) be linked to accountability and ‘best practice’?

What good does it do us as volunteers when we ignore human rights abuses?  We look disingenuous.

Obviously, the Trump Administration, with his bloviating over the corruption in  Ukraine, isn’t really concerned about corruption in other countries, or even are own when  ‘swamp dwellers’ as most of us would have identified them have been put in charge of government agencies and purses.  Isn’t it time that we, who have served,  address our responsibilities as global citizens?

I am sure most of us who are not involved in the sausage-making wonder on what basis it is that funding is offered to any foreign country. The late George Crile, in his book, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” described in well-researched detail who got what and why over  30 years ago.  Not much has changed:  From the Rapid City, South Dakota, Journal, we got  an interesting piece of information that  Crile addressed: https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/sd-republican-leader-receives-k-monthly-for-pro-saudi-arabia/article_b1352b18-3685-5515-b103-05f3536fcbbe.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR0EnV8VdpFBTcT1uR3KjUDZxVu2_AVPMi5n_npBX9wKcvU5NOMXLYE8zQ8

Now, granted, Dan Lederman is not an elected official. He is merely a lobbyist for a foreign country and also happens to be the head of the GOP  in…South Dakota.  One has to wonder how he got connected to the Saudis, but never you mind.  This is how our foreign aid budget is allocated.   Can you say Quid Pro Quo?

Thankfully, now that we have the internet, it is easier for all of us to get this information in a timely fashion.  But  I also know that because so many  PCVs returned disillusioned, and feel that we can’t overcome this, they’ve become less politically active.

I think the ideas of accountability and sustainability, as well as respect for human rights should now be part of the discussion. We are invited by host countries to serve. We’ve demonstrated our value.  Shouldn’t Peace Corps state that this is what we want in return?

It Works Often Enough

December 27, 2019

Men on dating sites are not honest. You have to plunge in being skeptical. My biggest peeve is that they say they live in Chicago when they do not. Some live 40 miles out of the city and still think they live in ‘Chicago’. But the real issue is, they are foreign scammers.

None are original. They start out responding to your photos with “Hello beautiful,” or “Hello dear,” or something that lets you know they didn’t read your profile. but, knowing so many men are so inarticulate, I then ask my questions. My main ones are asking about the neighborhood they live in, and if they read my profile. If they can’t respond to those two questions, I generally stop. But some men are so stupid, and they persist.

One recently told me his parents were from China and he speaks with an accent. I wanted to ask him his Chinese name, as he was using an anglo name (think of the actor Henry Golding). I didn’t get that far. when he called (& why not call?) his accent was beautiful, very much east African, or maybe Indian—but definitely not Chinese. Beautiful voice, but as soon as I told him I had traveled in Africa, suddenly the phone went dead…but he texted and asked what happened. I tried calling him back, but the call went directly to voicemail. Ghosted? No! He texted the next morning. I said to him, “When do you want to meet?” He responded, “Pick a day.” So, I picked a day, asked what time…ignored again until a few hours later.

Now, I’m thinking he can’t keep all the women straight. So, when he texted again and asked me how I slept, I said, it doesn’t matter how I slept. I do not plan to continue the conversation until you tell me when we can meet tomorrow.”

His response? “We will meet soon.”

So, I asked, “Why not tomorrow?” He still hasn’t been able to come up with a neighborhood. He did not respond again until the next morning. He has texted that I am the one for him, without meeting me. Who does that but some guy who’s seen this type of thing work before.

I think he has stolen someone’s phone. I Googled him, and the only engineer with his name works for a company in Europe. My God.

Since this guy, I have been contacted by five men with similar m.o.s: born & raised in another country. Widowed, taking a temporary job our of Chicago, but will return. Can’t tell me the neighborhood they live in.

Barcelona

November 17, 2019

 

Miro mosaic, LaRambla metro stop

I went to for a week of art.  Why Barcelona?  Miro,  Guadi, Salvador Dali.  So much art.

Barcelona is on the Mediterranian Sea, so the weather was mild.  Yes, I did need a coat for a few days, but it was nice. They have an excellent Metro system and also take tourism seriously. There are information stands all over.

I did some research planning  the trip.  I knew the city had a ‘Big Bus’, and many museums and tourist sites.  I knew I was interested in staying in a hostel.  I did research on Trivago, TripAdvisor, Bookings.com, and AirBNB. For the same hostel, AirBNB offered the best deal at $11 a night for Arc Hostel.  I chose this business partly based on price, but also location. It’s two blocks from the ArcdeTriomf Metro stop, and very close to ‘Catelyuna’ which is the center of town.  They had separate male and female dorms.

I did airfare research on several sites, but  AirfareWarch.com offered the best deal from Chicago:  $369 RT (with a stop in Paris). I also bought trip insurance including medical for $125. Expensive, yes, but yu need it.

Let me say a bit about Delta/Air France.  Going, to check a bag would have cost over $50.  Thus, people do stuff regulation bags overhead, and it inconveniences everyone, For some reason, there is no charge to check a bag on the return trip.

I flew AirFrance to Kenya  a little over 30 years ago, when dinner was served on china with actual silverware. Those days are gone. The way they board an airplane is ungepotched.  The logical thing to do would be to board the back of the plane first & work towards the front.  Ah, no,  First class always boards first, so we can all march past the people who paid more.  Not sure what kind of perk that is to those first-class passengers. Then, they board you by ‘zone’. Zone doesn’t mean the part of the plane, but apparently when you bought your ticket & for how much. I always try to board last, no matter what—-so everyone can take their coats off & get their carry-ons overhead & NOT BE BLOCKING THE AISLES…so much for logic.  In the end, the flight attendants have to help rearrange baggage, and it wastes time.

Also, on the return (Airbus 330), the entertainment electrical system apparently started melting, suddenly, 4 hours into the flight, everyone could smell the plastic burning.  The solution wasn’t to emergency land. It was to turn off the system. With 4 hours to go, lucky I brought a book and had a flashlight on my phone.  Food was decent but typical.

I mention this about the flights because if you go on a tour (I did this on my own) your travel days are included in the lengthe of the trip.

Anyways, using TripAdvisor, I booked several tours before actual travel, as I was told many tours do get filled up.  I booked a street tapas tour via AirBNB, that became complicated when they had no trouble taking my credit card for payment, but THEN wanted  a photocopy of my passport page—-which they rejected about a dozen times before accepting.  I don’t know how that makes anyone more secure. Who’d book a  tour to be a terrorist?  But the tour, by an independent contractor names Alessio, who was from Italy and living in Barcelona, was very good, and I think worth the money.  He took us to several bars off LaRambla that a new tourist would never have found on her own.

 

I booked the ‘BigBus’ and  the Casa Batilio (Gudi designed home for a client) via Viator, as well as the Erotic Museum.  I did not book a tour of the Park Guell (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_G%C3%BCell), which I probably should have. It’s an expensive tour, but otherwise, you would not know what you are looking at, and it is a  git of a hike off the main road and through the park. It is away from the center  of town.

I also did not prebook a ticket  for the Miro museum (https://www.fmirobcn.org/en/).  This was 1 of the main museums I wanted to visit, and early in the morning it is definitely not crowded.  wonderful exhibit.  This museum is in the Olympic Park, created for the 1992 OlyMiro Tapestrympics.  Not far, in the same vicinity, is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Catelyuna.  I got into that museum for free (senior citizen) and it was phenomenal. Great  traditonal as well as several galleries devoted to surrealism and the era of the Spanish Civil War. Very much worth the time even if you have to pay to get in.

I really am not much of a souvenir collector.  At the Miro museum, I was able to get a stereoscopic viewer of a selection of his art, but I could not get a similar ‘toy’ at the  Contemporary art museum, nor at any other museum.  Nor could I get socks.  As my sister said several years back, these museums really miss the boat on what they can sell. I’m sure they sell plenty of scarves, coffee cups (at E16—very expensive), and key chains, but Americans I think expect so much more.

Erotic Museum Barcelona

I also prepaid for the Erotic Art museum off La Rambla.  That, I think, was a bit overprices. I think I spent 1/2 hour there. It was interesting, but I had seen much of what they had in other venues.

I went to Park Guell—the park designed by Gaudi, but things are not labeled in the park.   You really have to have a guide to appreciate what yu are seeing, Also, it is extremely hilly compared to most of the city.

I was going to visit the Picasso Museum, but in the end, I didn’t. The reason is, it took me over an hour to find it—it is on a little alley s5reet, and you really have to ask locals where it is.  Shocking that there is no signeage.  I knew I was in the vicinity, then went down another alley, but turned around. It is across the ‘alley’ from the Museum of Modern Art, also a very small museum (smaller than my apartment if you can imagine), bu at E11, I thought Picasso was very expensive,. I believe the Art Institute has a better collection, as the museum is extremely small.  I did pay the E5 to go to the MEMA, which is how I discovered how small it was. They had an excellent exhibit by a hyper realistic artist of nudesd, but  still overpriced.

Galgo

I saw many dogs. It seems many people have large Yorkies, West Highland White Terriers, and a few other purebreds & mixed breeds. I saw  several galgos:

Barcelona is in Catalonia, a region of Spain, like Basque and Andalusia, and people are  ‘fighting’ for separatism.  As an analogy, it would be like if Texas or California wanted to be their own nation.  I am not sure of the particulars and was told by a guide that there are several political parties promoting separatism, both right wing & left wing.
What does that really mean?  Ther are signs all over that  people find racism abhorrent.   Does being right wing mean being ‘nationalistic’ about your own economy?

Evidence of support for seperatism

Because I was on vacation, and don’t read  understand Spanish (or Catelunian—the regional language), I didn’t get any news. When I returned, I looked up election results :https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2019/nov/10/spanish-general-election-2019-live-results

I’m not sure what this means to those not knowledgeable about specif8ic issues, but it appears that among those voting, most did want  a separate state.

I saw a few protests, and there was evidence of activism everywhere—notably the ‘yellow ribbon’ for political prisoners.

I booked a day trip to the Pyrenees. I  think I was expecting more snow.  Everyone of these remote towns has a church.  We visited a town called Serat. Nobody was around. At a hostel, there was a sign that said, “If nobody answers, go back down the mountain and inquire at the grocery.”

The Pyrenees

One of the highlights was my visit to Figeroa, where the Dali Museum is.  They have a great ‘retrospective’ of his art except that virtually none is labeled. You will recognize most of it if you’ve seen his art in books.  In

Persistence of Memory, Dali’s most famous work

American museums, usually ther is a label stating the medium, the date completed, and possibly something about the donor.  Not so in the Dali Musuem.

Dali’s muse

Dali’s muse: Gala

I had a wonderful time, anf  it was a great trip. Even with the tours, all my expenses hovered around $50 a day. Very affordable.

Book review: Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody

October 31, 2019

 

 

If you saw the movies ‘Juno’ , ‘Tully’, or ‘More’, you know this woman can tell a story. She can really set a scene, and it’s easy to see how her description of a somewhat sleazy undertaking became a launching pad for her.

Candy Girl is about her foray into the world of ‘exotic dancing’: stripping. She claims she was bored with her job at a marketing agency. Although she was well-liked and promoted, she felt unfulfilled, so she decided to try stripping at local clubs in Minneapolis.

Her boyfriend is all for it, and very supportive. She walks into a club, says she is interested in dancing, and is hired. Just like that. She meets women from all walks of life, and learns how the system works, which she explains in detail. If you’ve seen the Jennifer Lopez movie, ‘Hustlers’, you get a sanitized version of the life. Most women do not do that well. However, they are making more money than they would as elderly companions, cooks, or child care workers.

She explains this, and how she saved enough money for a car and a down payment on a house. This is not erotica. It is a description of work for a better income than she could make from what her college education prepared her for.

I’d like to think of myself as a writer, but this Cody Diablo really paints a picture. This should be a classic. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if this is a possibility for you, read this book. Even if you say, “I could never do this, you will find a brave writer here vividly describing what she and others did.