Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Michaels’

What Does ‘Socialization’ of Dogs Mean?

September 7, 2019

Recently, I’ve been fostering  a dog for a breed specific rescue. The dogs—all purebred, were taken from a hoarding situation. We really don’t know that much about them, but what we do know is from our experiences working with all sorts of dogs.

Many of the dogs were injured in dog fights. Some needed stiches. We think they might have been fighting over bitches in season, or possibly food. They are –or were—all ‘skittish’:  they constantly look behind them  when they were walked. They’d try to hide under furniture or cower in crates. Yet, they all were leash trained, all were housebroken, and none of the dogs is a fear-biter.

It seems to me, these dogs were not  abused in the sense they were brutalized or beaten. They were neglected and hadn’t been exposed to  stimulation from the outside world.  Adding to their trauma was how they were captured and moved.

I have worked in kennels that housed  retired racing Greyhounds waiting for pet homes.  For some reason, the ‘do-gooders’ seem to think these dogs were abused.  Clearly, when you compare them to, say, Pit Bulls taken from open admissions shelters, they haven’t been.  All are calm in the kennels, They don’t generally react to  other dogs barking at them.  They approach strangers with their tails wagging, They never bark franticly.  They walk calmly on leashes without pulling.  Most are even houebroken!  It’s clear that most retired Greyhounds were handled in a loving, responsible manner.  Yet, the do-gooders, with no personal evidence, promote the idea that  these dogs are not well cared for, and if they don’t run, they will be killed. Since the 1960s, because I’ve had pet Whippets (we’ve run non-paramutuel races—no betting), I’ve known NGA Greyhound breeders who always tried to give away  dogs that were duds on the track. But those so-called ‘humane activists’ kept writing that these dogs could not be pets! Yes, they’ll chase and kill a small animal…even a small dog. Lots of dogs—even  those cute Yorkies—will do that.  I’d rather take a chance on a Greyhound than a Cocker Spaniel! Ask any dog groomer.

Not all Pit Bulls are killers. The irony is that many are ‘non-social’ because they’ve been taken from their dams  when they are barely weaned. The backyard breeders of Pits  want to GET RID OF THEM ASAP, so they don’t allow dogs to learn to be dogs and negotiate how to get along with their littermates. That’s the reason so man Pits (& other popular breeds) are nonsocial.

I work for several hobby breeders, and they  do what they think is right in terms of socialization for their puppies. They usually have TV or radio on.  They run the vacuum cleaner around them. They get the pups being used to getting brushed, having their toenails trimmed, and bathed.  What they usually don’t do is take them out to get used to street sounds.

I got my first puppy when he was three-months-old.  I started walking him all over, and allowing people to touch him.     He was an Afghan Hound, and they usually grow out of their puppy personalities when they are a little over a year, and start becoming aloof.  He was aloof!  However,he was never fearful.

My foster dog is adjusting to all the city sounds.  She had, apparently some training, because she responds to the typical obedience commands that pet dogs are often taught.  As we work with her, she will gain more of an attention span, and gain confidence, and not be so skittish.

When we go to dog training classes, we see many puppies.  Decades ago,  for some reason (because we didn’t really understand how animals learn)  pet owners were encouraged  to wait until a dog was at least a year old before beginning training.   These days, we know that as soon as the dog has gotten immunizations,  the dog can join others in training classes. The dog trained young doesn’t have a chance to develop bad habits.  We call this behavior shaping, and it works.

Socialization  is  the  dog being comfortable with other friendly dogs,  being responsive to the humans  the dog lives with, and  being comfortable in his environment. That’s what we mean when a dog is socialized.

 

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What Ever Happened to Chemistry?

August 15, 2019

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

So, I’m  on a few dating sites, including ‘Plenty of Fish’ and ‘Match’.  I bet I also appear on other sites these companies own.  I am on a few other obscure sites, like Elite Singles , but never, ever do I get responses from any men remotely suitable.  That said, I’ve had a few friends who met their husbands on dating sites, but they were younger than I am now.  From Match and POF, however , I’ve been getting responses from men who look at my posted photos, do not read my profile, and it’s  pretty much a waste of time. Why?

Often times, , even if they are younger than I am, they look like my father.  No thanks. Then, there are the guys who  clearly live over  an hour away, and haven’t put much thought into travel time.

I was an anthropology undergraduate, and what I learned about forming relationships—-especially romantic relationships—-is that personal attraction/’chemistry  is important, and you can’t determine that online .

So…. several very attractive men have told me distance is no object. Really?  You  know,  it is to me, I would be reluctant to schlep out to where you live, and that you might be hiding a wife or girlfriend.   But I do  tell them my zip code and 2 cross streets a block away, and suggest they get in the car and tell me how long it takes from where they live. They disappear…

Then, there are they guys who think being Christian (Catholic, even!) to my  Judaism/other, should not be a big deal.  What they do not understand about being an ‘other’ is that Jews don’t  prostelytize. I’m not religious at all, but  why wouuld I give pleasure to a man who supports  evangelism, and worse—- paying legal fees for a bunch of pedophiles?  That’s what identifying with a religion like that means to me.  Are they viewing me as an adventure?  So they can sin with me but ultimately settle down with a nice Christian/Catholic girl?  I’m 65…that’s a really big risk —to be vulnerable to such a man.

But we also have the guys who  tell me they are not religious…but they want to get to know me better before meeting in person.  Yet you ask, “In what way?” and they  don’t have a response.

One of my very dear friends describes me as ‘bitchy.’  Well, I’m not sweet and ladylike, that’s true. If I had been, I could have never accumulated any wealth, owned a home, or  trained dogs.  I’m a pretty tough broad.  That said, because am not ladylike, I learned to be a good lay.

I was a founder of one of the first community based recycling  centers in the USA.  I still source separate my garbage. I was also active implementing public school reform and community policing.  I’m pround of these accomplishments, and that I was a ‘judge of elections’ for years.

So, how much  history do these ‘nice guys’ need?  How many sibblings  I have doesn’t matter. That I have no debt except my home (I owe under $30,000) & pay off my credit cards  every month does matter…& I want to know this about them.  I want to know how old they were when they first had sex.  I want to know  their kinks, if they admit to any.  I don’t want to be tied up, spanked, or a few other things involving pain or force.  Have they ever seen an illustrated copy of the Kama Sutra? If sex isn’t important to them, what do they want?

In my profile, I stateI have lived with the same male roommate for over 18 years. He’s like a brother except he’s  more reliable and sober.  I rarely dine out alone, but I often go to movies and exhibits on my own amd I’ve traveled many times myself.   I don’t want to have to accomodate another person who has strong opinions about how to do things, not if I am relaxing.

I was wrongly arrested once, before we had community policing. It could happen again, but the  commander apologized and I had my arrest record expunged.  I’ve had  3 tickets in my life for moving violations.

In my 65  years, I’ve owned 8 dogs.  They mostly lived—-6 of them— to be old and unfortunately, I euthanized them when their quality of life became bad.  Nobody  lingered.  People who understand dogs understand that most people wait too long.  Now, 1 dogs is 8 and the other is 11.  I’ve made most of my living grooming and  training dogs, but I’ve also been a prudent investor.

I am a left over hippie.  I took  LSD, peyote, and mescaline in my younger days, and when marijuana is legal again, I will probbly keep a stash.  I rarely drink. Alcohol is not my drug of choice.

I am a Wobbly in arrears…Industrial Workers of the World, an anarco-sydicalist.  If you saw Warren Beatty’s move, “Reds,’ you  know a little of the history.  Yes, in my heart, I believe in small economies…but infrastructure doesn’t pay for itself.  Also, I’ve worked in  businesses that were run as ‘collectives’ by default because an owner  didn’t think having a manager was important.  Even if elected, somebody has to be the manager—the fall guy.

Finally, I have a portfolio of nudes of me: drawings, paintings, photography.  One of the photographers I worked for got me an assistantship to graduate school.  It’s a persona.  It was a job.  So this blog is about all I  can think of. I’m afraid  these do guys are not as adventurous  as they say they are or think they are.

I give as good as I get.  I am, actually, trying to scare off the ‘faint of heart’.  I hope this works.

Is a Plane Crash the Worst Way to Die?

July 5, 2019

My mother died in June 1979.  She died just a few days after United airelines flight #191 just fell out of the air  shortly after take-off from O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  279 people died.  It was believed one of the engines  came loose & fell off and cause the  plane to  lose balance.  It just happend so fast—-as the plane was gaining altitude, it nosedived and crashed into a motor home park.

Boom, just like that.  Meanwhile, my mother had been in and out of the hospital since about March that year. She had brain tumors which had been giving her headaches, and  the brain tumors were from lung cancer that had mestastized.   It was stage four lung cancer.  Yes, my mother smoked.  As a teenager, she weighed a 145 pound, and in the 1940s, that’s what girls did to lose weight:  they started smoking.  She was very proud that after she lost the weight, she never gained it back, and was a steady 122 pound for years…until she got cancer. Obviously, she had been sick  for several years, but  she wasn’t going to get a chest x-ray.  She coughed because she smoked, right?

So, the last about  six weeks of her life, she was in the hospital, not being able to breath, barely able to move, She went down to about  80 pounds, She wanted to come home, but my father wouldn’t hear of it.  I said we could set up a hospital bed in the living room.  He didn’t want that, because then she’d know she was going to die.  What is worse:  knowing you are going to die, and dying at home, or knowing you are going to die and dying in the hospital?

 

Well, now my father is 92.  It is 2019…. 40 years later.  he’s not dying…but you can’t really say he’s living, either. For the past year or so he’s been falling. Losing his balance, I  guess. It’s what happens if you live too long.  Women get osteoarthritis and break their hips because they lose bone density.  Men just fall.  He broke his neck and his femur at the end of November.  He had to be immoble for weeks.  He had to shit in a diaper, and that was the worst part.  Second to worst?  We daughters had to figure out  how to get his long-term care insurance to  pay for it. They kept changing the rules as w went along.

We girls also wanted to find a way to keep him at home, but my stepmother couldn’t handle him anymore.  He needed help going to the bathroom, and  he  would not use his walker.  He was in ‘rehab’ for about  six weeks, but then when he reached a plateau, he had to transfer to a nursing home.. The first day there, he fell and broke his neck again, which meant the cervical collar for another  eight weekis.

He’s ‘ok’ now…but is he?  He’s very lucid.  He knows what day it is.  He also knows he’s not going home. He knows he needs help. but he is not dying.  He really can’t go outside.  He can just go within the home.  It’s not a bad place. they do their best. I’ve seen worse.  If he was indigent, he’s be in a crappy place, but it is not home.

How do you want to die?

 

How this On-line Dating Thing Works

June 16, 2019

I haven’t had an actual date in over 40 years. Let’s start with that.  Why?  The guy I was with was not just a cheapskate…he didn’t want anyone seeing him with a white woman in public.  He won’t admit it, and things have changed…but too late.  He had his chance  and blew it royally.

I really don’t know why his mindset changed, but I know why  my mindset did.  I’ve been living with a man for  almost  20 years.  We do not have a physical relationship.  I am not his ‘cup of tea’.  Because I’m a woman, I accept that, and I accept that we get along well as roommates.  He’s the most reliable man I ever met.  He gives me stability.  I incorporated  aspects of our relationship into my book, ‘Polyandress’, which should be  published aroung the end of 2019.

I was lucky to have  a couple of  good, adventurous, tender, giving lovers in my  younger days.  Are any of those men still out there at the age I am?

Pickings are slim.  As my sister says, we’re lucky to have a gene which keeps our skin looking good.  We’ve aged relatively well.  I am finding men even younger than I am  often look old enough to be my father.  Appearances don’t matter to a lot of guys,  they matter to me.

Another issues is that these guys  are…lonely.  I am not lonely.  I want ‘romance’.  Is that a euphemeism for  an interesting sex life? Guilty.  But, as my grandmother told us over 50 years ago…these guys are looking for a cook and a nurse.

I bet a lot of women over 50 , particularly those who have no retirement plan except Social Security, are looking for a guy to improve their ‘quality of life’ in an economic way.  Spreading costs between  2 Social Securuty checks is a good plan if you have nothijng. That’s not me.

I own property, I have a retirement plan I built via research and  investing.  I am, if a  guy  pushes, looking for a guy to keep me in the style to which I would like to become accostomed.  I am accustomed to the style I live in already.  Both my grandmothers  told us girls that this was what we should aim fior.

Crass?  You can be stupid when you are young and think you are in love. I am not looking to make my economic situation more precarious.

Unfortunately….these dating sites leave a lot to be desired.    No matter what parameters you put in, they suggest  guys who don’t meet your criteria. Proximity is important. They ‘match’ you with guys way too far away.  Maybe some women don’t care &  are willing to move. I’ve had long distance relationships and I am not interested. I say in my profile, I am not looking  for a guy  obesessed with spectator sports. They send  profiles of guys who love a sports team or love to watch them on TV.  I say I am not looking for a Christian guy. They send Christians.  Not guys under or over a certain age. Too many. Or, the guy is in my age range, but you look at his profile, and HE wants someone younger.  I say I am a progressive. Do I have to spell it out?  Trump supporters respond, Ugh.  On one site, I get responses from men  overseas, 30 years younger.  Please…

On ‘Plenty of Fish’,, in the past two months:   A guy who wanted to know my bra size (I am busty…you don’t need to know  that until you are prepared to buy me a bra); two Christian guy who go to churche every week (&  they wondered why that should matter); and 3 guys who said ‘Let’s Meet’, and I said, “Great!  Pick a time and a date’ and they didn’t follow through.  So much for taking a risk.

Both Match  and  JDate want you to pay extra to actually be put in touch. so, you really don’t know who, like me, put up a profile, then didn’t actually pay.  So you can’t meet.

On all sites,  a few—I’d say less than 5%—-seem really good looking, fun, and interesting—-but are over 40 miles away. We’re too old to deal with that distance.

I bet these sites work if you are under the age of 40, or if you are willing to give up your life and  move to a strange place for  what you hope to be a romance and marriage..  I may be interested in moving after I’ve actuly formed a relatioship with a man, but not now.

So, this has beenmy experience.

 

Mayor Lightfoot: Here’s Your Chance!

June 3, 2019

I am sure most people in the rest of the country, let alone Chicagoans, wonder “What the f**k happened?” A true long shot whom hardly anyone knew, got elected mayor.

Let me give this a bit of context. Our mayor, Rahm, who sold himself as a ‘progressive’ (after all, he was Obama’s Chief of Staff…). made things worse, if that was at all possible. Our biggest problem was and is paying for running the city. Shootings? Please. Yes, there are a few pockets of neighborhoods that are totally out of control, but there is no mystery about why this is: absentee landlords who don’t do credit checks on landlords, lots of poorly educated adults who can’t make a living wage bearing children they can barely parent, no jobs for the unskilled… a true lack of both literacy and numeracy…and police designating that, since they will never eliminate crime, ‘containing’ it to certain neighborhoods.  Yes…that’s right:  the police know who the problems are…they  just don’t  make arrests because they do a poor job of collecting evidence & they  know  too many judges give probabtion (meanwhile, we have  non-violent people taking up space for drug violations…,.go figure…)

We had about 14—yes—14 candidates running for mayor, and virtually all had either (Democratic) machine ties, or were outliers: Not funded well, unlikable supporters (Amara Enyia— Kanye West and Dorothy Brown. Dorothy has been under indictment…Amara, you blew it…). Where had Gery Chico been all these years? Bill Daley? Totally clueless. He felt there would be enough white people votes, and that everyone would forget his father and brother. I had voted for Susana Mendoza for comptroller, but she really offered nothing new. I was leaning towards former school teacher Toni Preckwinkle. I was almost ready to forgive her support for corrupt assessor Joe Berrios, and then it came out she put Alderman Ed Burke’s totally useless son on her payroll at $100,000 for doing virtually notnhing but harass and annoy people (while cutting other county jobs).

So, essentially, due to so many candidates running (Unless you went online and looked at their platforms, you wouldn’t know what their actual platforms were), and a very low voter turnout, Lori won by default.

We all know what the problems are, and many of us know the solutions, In fact, Ken Dunn, of Resource Center, who started out as a Peace Corps Volunteer, then developed a reputation as a community-based recycler, has helped to create more income generating projects for marginally employable people than just about anybody in Chicago. Yet, because he’s not an elite and doesn’t contribute to political causes, he’s virtually ignored.

But I digress. Rahm declined to run. He would have won based on inertia, But he bowed out, leaving us with a bigger mess in terms of debt & the proverbially underfunded pension funds than he came in with. He had the intelligernce and the means to fix this. He just chose to enrich elites. Several great examples of this are:

  1. His predessor, Richard M. Daley, bought a shuttered hospital for….? Oh, right… the city was acquiring land for the Olympics before we got the bid to host (we didn’t—-dodged a bullet there! Ask any city that has hosted since the 1970s if they made or lost money on hosting!). So with taxpayer money, Daley bought Michel Reese Hospital for way more than it would have sold for. It sits there, akin to a shuttered nuclear power plant. Then, Rahm decides that the city needs a $9 million training center for the police—-way across town. Why? Why couldn’t this site be reconfigured? Nobody gives a clear answer. I partly blame the press in Chicago for pandering. In fact, Georg Lucas wanted a site for a Star Wars museum. This site would have been perfect! Very easily accessible by public transportation. No, Lucas and his wife, who don’t live in Chicago, wanted a site on the lakefront. It was the lakefront or nothing. So, it turned out to be nothing. They took their toys and went home because the lakefront belongs to all of us. Rahm tried to get his way for them, but a fluke, democracy prevailed.
  2. By having an appointed rather than elected school board, Rahm got us Barbara Byrd Bennet, a military veteran who had been a school administrator with no apparent record for improving educational outcomes anywhere. Worse, she committed massive fraud. She cost the citizens a huge amount of money (she was convicted) and closed down many schools instead of improving them. We had implemented Local School Councils over 20years ago, which never got enough support from CPS, but no matter. Rahm should be held as accountable as BBB, and we need an elected school board.
  3. The pension fund shortfall. What sense does it make to have about half a billion dollars (according to journalist Ben Joravsky and a few others who have analyzed the budget) sitting there in a Tax Increment Financing Account, and then issue bond funds to pay for what this TIF $$$ should be paying for?
  4. In fact—- did nobody in city government at all DO THE MATH of giving $900,000,000 to Lincoln Yards developers? Forget about the traffic, and that any jobs to be created for our proverbially ‘low income/unskilled’ citizens would be temporary in nature. How much does this actually add to the cost of each housing & business unit…and how do we get paid back? The reason for TAX INCREMENT FINANCING is to support a project that—but for the lack of money—-would not be built. This complex only benefits elites. If the developers could not get financing from the private sector, it should not have been approved. That’s how capitalism works. For our aldermen to approve this project shows that they are grossly overpaid…. and arrogant, and innumerate. I don’t know if we will be able to overcome this because we also have…
  5. The pension funds being underfunded…hello! Wasn’t Tony Rezko, the politically connected fundraiser for both political parties, for some reason on the committees that approved pension plans for public employees? No matter. Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union members and teacher had a great idea: tax trades at the Chicago Board of Trades. I know from working for elites that they’d never miss the money. they may ultimately move out of the city but until then… what’s the alternative? To continue adding to the hotel tax?

 

Mayor Lightfoot— embarass the incumbents who got re-elected—for being arrogant, innumerate, and failing their constituents. They waste money and reward their friends. They pander.You really have nothing to lose!

Book Reviews: Lower River by Paul Theroux & 3 Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin & Greg Mortenson

November 2, 2018

I love Paul Theroux as a writer, and he served  in Peace Corps in Malawi (where I also served about 40 years after him). Thus, I was interested in  this book, which is a bit of a horror story,  His main character, after a divorce and selling his business, chooses to go back to the village he served in  to  support the school he helped build.  Unfortunately, it is merely a shell, & other misfortunes befall the guy.  I know it is fiction, but I also know the story is plausible.  If you’ve never ben to Malawi, his description is accurate.

I recently picked up “Three Cups of Tea,” as it is ubiquitous in the book bins &  resale stores.  For those who don’t know the gist, Mortenson, who was actually raised in Tanzania, became a mountain climber, attempting K2,  and got lost.  A villager in a very remote area in Pakistan found him, and he promised to build  the village a school. That he did.    He networked among other climbers to help find  donors and sponsors,  and in the end, in the  1990s, Th Central Asia Institute (https://centralasiainstitute.org) was founded.  Now, their board is mostly Asians who oversee fundraising  and project development.  You can go on Wikipedia and learn Mortenson was charged with mismanaging funds and taking liberties with the truth.

That said, you  DO get the gist of what Mortenson did and what he was up against, and some of the history of what was going on at the time.  Both books are worth the read if you are the typical American ‘do-gooder’ type.  You learn  that nothing gets done without local ownership of the project.  You also learn that, as we Americans have allowed our government to  give foreign aid to both countries among others, and  what a waste it is.  Should we have to give up Social Security and Medicare to fund corrupt governments in the name of democracy? What a joke!  Should our military veterans have to wait over a week for care, or be homeless, so we can  give weapons and training to  militaries that rip off their citizens (and even brutalize them)?  Yet… that we do.

Both books are great reads.

Refugee Children

June 22, 2018

I am generally uncomfortable around a gang of children.  I can manage  one to one conversations, but  a bunch of  kids under age 5 leaved me flummoxed.   There are a number of reasons I never had children of my own.  My parents  didn’t seem to be overly thrilled with the four of us.  I could see how much work a child would be, and what if I bore a handicapped child?  It was all I could do to keep myself afloat.  I had thought at some point I might foster, but when I looked at the economics of it, and the time constraints on all other activities, I knew I couldn’t manage this.

I was able to become a Peace Corps Volunteer because I didn’t have children.  In the country I served in, Malawi,  about 10% of the people living in country were refugees, mostly from Mozambique. And since everyone was dirt poor, it made no difference.  People farmed what they had as best they could.  I could not  imagine the strain of uprooting, the fear.  After I was out of Peace Corps, the Rwandan genocide happened, and there was ethnic cleansing in Bosnia,  I’ve met a lot of refugees.  You have to admire their determination.

But, in 2018, in the United States, the President—Trump—and the Republicans have turned desperate people into evil-doers.  I’ve met so many white Americans who think these people should ‘get in line’ & not cross ‘illegally’.  Americans  have no idea how many wealthy people ‘jump the queue’ and , while it is legal, they have often cheated people  in the countries they came from & continue to do so.

First of all, if you own a small business, you constantly meet foreigners who came ‘legally’ & overstayed their visas…who then finagle. Virtually all these people speak English and have  friends/relatives who might sponsor them, and they are mostly white, so they have a leg up.

Now, imagine you can’t read, and you don’t have access to a radio or TV…or the television stations are run by  your government.  You get all your info as either rumor or propaganda.  Men come to your community and know you are vulnerable, and they harass and threaten you and your children. Maybe your  husband has gotten into debt with them, or killed one of them, or caused 1 to lose a job. Your government won’t help you.  Worse, your government has been getting aid  from the USA (my government) to strengthen ‘civil society’ but has never been asked for an accounting.  The rumor is to go north to the USA ans ask for asylum.  You don’t know that there are ‘official crossing  points’.  You just go.  You are walking with  very young children.  Are you walking a mile?  No.  10 miles?  No.  You are walking hundreds of miles with kids, risking your lives, because  you would for sure be hurt or killed had you stayed.  You’re dealing with  finding food, a place to sleep, maybe transportation.  Gambling with the odds?  These people don’t know from the odds.  Can you imagine being this desperate?

Then, for reasons you don’t understand, you are separated from your children & told to wait.  So many Americans really believe these refugees knew they were breaking the law and would lose their kids.  Not true.  So this serves as no deterrent.

And can you imagine the terror of the children—some so small they can’t speak any language?  I remember the terror and panic I experienced  several times as a child. I am in my 60s and I still remember the physical feelings.

So, in the name or ‘rule of ‘law’ we have traumatized thousands of people for no other reason than enriching a  major GOP donor who charges my government over $700 a night per person to incarcerate them.

My government is raiding  Social Security & Medicare—-monies taken out of our paychecks for  security in the future, to pay for the  lavish lifestyle and  wants of their  leader…the president…and trying to make us think this all benefits us American citizens.  We should really be ashamed that we allowed the president to lie about this.

Pick Your Battles

June 15, 2018

I have had the same roommate for  almost 20 years now, He says he is too lazy to move,  In reality, he’s in love with my dogs.  It’s  great living with trained dogs who love you back & think you are marvelous.  Sometimes you have to let them out, or feed them, or pick up poop in the yard, but not every day.

He doesn’t smoke or drink, and is very reliable  with paying the rent.  Our big issue is that he never throws anything away, and is a bit of a hoarder. You can barely walk into his  ‘bedroom’, which is now an office. So, he sleeps in the living room.  Several people have asked me why I don’t ‘make him’—-clean up, throw stuff away, etc.

I’ve weighed the pluses and minuses.  I’ve learned to pick my battles.  I’ve lived with other men. Drinkers.  Guys who I’ve given  mail to—with checks enclosed (and they’ve forgotten to mail them).  Guys who were unreliable.  I know when I’ve gotten a good one.

I  am a dog groomer, and some of my friends  do  ‘creative’ dog grooming. This involves dying dogs with vegetable dyes.  It’s messy and time consuming, Not my deal.  I am really shocked by people who get their panties in a bunch over this.  Ut does not hurt the dog.  you want to know what hurts dogs?  pinch collars. They are designed to hurt dogs.  people make excuses & say they are better than choke collars. So, what they are saying is that 1 method of hurting a dog is BETTER than another method, Really?

You know what  rankles me?  People breeding pet dogs for fun and profit, not caring about genetic defects, and selling to naive idiots who don’t know how to find a well bred dog.  Coloring dogs?  not a problem.

You know what else isn’t a problem? Which way the toilet paper hangs—over or under…or how  the dishwasher is loaded.

You know what REALLY upsets me?  A president that thinks science is hokum, and  has convinced people who should know better that he didn’t ‘drain the swamp’, but  put the swamp swelling lobbyists & the legislators they paid off into  dismantling consumer and environmental protections that benefit us all.   One who  promised better healthcare than ‘Obamacare’ but  didn’t do it.  One who makes deals with  countries so he can brand his own massage parlors &  escort services.  Who  insults our friends &  praises  torturers.

I am shocked that some many  people, who think they are patriots, and keep citing the Bill of Rights, think Trump is protecting them & their interests—-when there is clear evidence that he is not.  That is my battle.

The New Bait & Switch: Long Term Care Insurance

June 9, 2018

Insurance. Everyone loves the topic. The first thing you need to know about insurance is that the business is modeled on fear that you won’t have the money to fix something, or to live, after a disaster, and the company not paying out. That’s it, pure & simple.  The odds are, your house won’t burn down (as an ‘act of God’, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake are not covered unless you specifically pay for that kind of additional coverage).  You may have an accident in your car, like by sliding on ice or being  pushed by another car, but odds are  it won’t happen…but if it does…

In an ideal world, our government would offer the same kind of  insurance for citizens that  all the governments of all developed countries offer: health insurance, a decent old age pension, assistance for the elderly.

This is not the ideal world. This is America, where insurance is not considered a right, but a commodity to be  bought and sold.

I totally understand the need for home owners liability and fire insurance, as I understand the need for car insurance, but for the last several decades, the  insurance industry has been  promoting  long term care insurance.  It had been sold as an annuity:  you pay in  every year for  a certain number or years, until  you are vested, and the fee is the fee…no matter how old you get…and the benefit is locked in with the fee. For me,  It WAS  $1564.91 per year as offered by  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, and offered, after a 90 days ‘exclusionary period ‘(where you actually had to pay  for care on your own, at a rate of well over $100 per day..), once you notified Northwestern Mutual that you needed to benefit, it started paying $220 per day for  a nursing home, There were other benefits as well if you didn’t need a nursing home, ‘but assistance’.  However, the cap on benefits— ‘defined benefit’ as they call it, for my plan, is $481,800.  That’s it.

This seemed like a decent value 10 years ago.  How did Northwestern Mutual come up with the cost of the policy? Why…they paid actuaries:  mathematicians not only trained, buy licensed by the state, to  come up with fees, costs, and what the company  would need to  still be profitable if they paid out.  Really.  I-thought—BY LAW—the contract I signed was the deal.

Apparently not.   Apparently, all those actuaries that were employed by all the companies offering  Long Term Care insurance, in a phrase, fucked up royally. They are claiming now, 13 years into my paying the locked in rate for locked in benefits, that “….thanks to medical advances, people are living longer today than ever before.  While this is something we are thankful for, it has increased the anticipated cost of future LTC claims for the industry as a whole….”  So. long story short, they want to raise the rates $380 a year, to  $1942.60 until  2021, and they the rate will be  $2460.60. They claim they don’t anticipate a rate increase after that.  Riiight—-as I have a contract that says the rate is $1564.91  PREMIUM PAYABLE FOR LIFE.  What did I miss?

More bullshit follows.  People are not living appreciably longer than they were 10 years ago when they sold me the policy.  While there is a lot of ‘fake news’ out there, you can Google life expectancy. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html  or how about: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=195

They are raising rates because they know nobody is going to charge them with fraud.  Or,actually,  after I complained to my state representative that the the foxes watching the henhouse at the Illinois Department of Insurance approved a rate hike of 25% for the next 3 years, and then 50%  I  got a  letter from the president & CEO explaining that they had to justify the increase to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance.  The whole point of buying the policy while I was ‘young’ (in my very late 40s) was to keep premiums low, but alas, you can’t beat the house—ever.  To make this even  crazier….insurance is based on a pyramid scam:   new policies help fund  old policies…but they are not writing any new policies, at all, at any price.  I have  very wealthy friends who would like to preserve wealth for their children in case they have to go into a nursing home, and these parents can’t buy a policy at even $20,000 a year.

What I learned was, not only is Northwestern Mutual raising their rates, but Unum, Allianz, and  several other companies are….same excuse:  “People are living longer”   and interests rates are  down..all the same  per centage. What are the odds?  Also—-very  funny—-this  insurance policy is only good in the USA.  You can’t go to Mexico, India, Viet Nam, etc, where the cost of  care is much cheaper.

Capitalism  relies on  integrity.  It relies on the concept that if  a seller says a product is a  certain price, you pay that price.  Otherwise, there is no trust. That’s what Adam Smith said in so many words.  But if Trump can change the terms of a contact when it is inconvenient for him, why not everyone?  As I said, people are not living longer. What is happening is that  the people who bought this policy are expecting it to pay out and are taking advantage of the benefit they paid for. The actuaries were wrong (and whether you like it or not,  our rates paid their salaries as well).  This is right up there with the GOP  insisting that Social Security is an entitlement after we’ve all paid for it….and they are convincing journalists to call it an entitlement.  But I digress.

So, they’ve given me 3 options:  to accept the rate increase, to continue to pay the same rate at a vastly reduced benefit, or no longer pay anc accept  the benefit of the premiums I have already paid, which are $20, 334.

I am still mulling over pros and cons of keeping this policy in force, but no matter what the law says, i…and many others I know, feel defrauded.

 

Paris & NYC

March 19, 2018

Eiffel tower from below

On my ‘bucket list’ of destinations to see and experience,  Paris and the Eiffel Tower were big ones. I am in my 60s, and had only  been to Paris on a stopover from Bosnia.  I just never had the opportunity until Gate One offered this 6 day deal–airfare and hotel for about $700.  Huh?  How do they do it so cheap?  A bunch of  reasons:  One was to  offer  the deal in the OFF SEASON.  Not many people really want to go to Europe during cold weather, so this gives hotels and airlines the opportunity to fill  seats. Keep in mind that hotels and airline seats are what they call ‘perishable commodities’.  You can’t store them.  Also, we had a window of about a week to decide.  The tour operators need to know if there is interest.

I asked my friend, Gloria, to go with me.  We spent  four days in New York City, first.  I had never been to NYC, either.  We stayed at the Wellington, just  across the street from Carnegie Hall, in Midtown.  Perfect location.   A really nice, elegant place, but breakfast did not come with the room. Just  4 blocks from Central Park and  across the street from an L stop.  Because I had never been to NYC, I got  Big Bus ticket.  I think this is a good value because they take you all over, and if you have a guide-book,you get to see  for real what you read about.  The thing about NYC, however, unless you go for a specific purpose—like to see plays or  specific museum exhibits, you can see what you want to see in a day or 2. We did go to the Statue of Liberty and the  really nice Ellis Island museum (which I am sure that if Trump knew what the museum was about…he’d shut down), and we went to an over priced comedy club.  I wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but not for $30!  Indeed…everything is expensive in Manhattan (as it is in Paris),  I guess I’m spoiled living in Chicago (I also don’t buy anything in the Loop). We walked around Greenwich village but all the cute shops are gone.  Real estate is just so expensive.    We took a city bus back from the Village to Midtown & really saw a lot.  The actual highlights of  NYC?  There is a subway food court off  58th ST. & 8th Ave, and we ate at a Japanese place, and the food was cheap and really good.  We also ate at a place called “IndieKitch” on 8th ave off 57th st.,   which offered Indian  fast food, and that was really good, too.

We then left for Paris via Icelandic Air.  Read the online reviews.  Bring snacks.   They charge 6 euros for a cup of oatmeal! A brief stop over at the airport in Reykavik (we got in around 3:00a.m., so missed the northern lights), and on to Paris. We got into Orly at about 9:30a.m.   We got our bags and….no immigration!  Just walk out!  We were a bit dismayed we didn’t get stamps in our passport.  This was, apparently, because we came from Iceland, where we DID get stamps.  Oh well.  A fellow tourist told us to take the Orly bus to the

Gar d’lest, train station across from Holiday inn in the 10th

Denfert-Rochereau metro stop, which  would have taken us all the way to Gare de ‘lest had we been better map readers—but we weren’t, so we changed trains at Gare du Nord  for no reason.  A little disoriented, and because the  sign was so hard to see, we walked around for about 20 minutes before we found the Holiday Inn, which was DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE  GAR DE L’EST!,  In any case, we got settled in.  Made arrangements for the  Hop on/Hop off bus (there are 2 companies, both  ok,tho we saw more red Big Busses), paid for the ‘skip the line’ to the Eiffel Tower for the next afternoon (I wanted to see the sunset over the city, but even at 5p.m. we were still too early ), and went to dinner at a local cafe, where I had a wonderful chicken in mushroom cream sauce for about 15 Euros.

Holiday Inn, 10th, cross from Gar de l’est

The Holiday Inn came with an excellent breakfast buffet, which included cheese, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fresh fruit, and  of course, croissants, so we scarfed some for late as we went around.  Paris is expensive. From taking the bus, we got a feel for where everything was, and most places are easy to get to via the metro.  However, there  are at least 10 metro lines.They are  by color &  number on  the map,but you really have to kinow the difference between pink, rouge, lavender, and magenta.  No joke.  But in any case, we got  to see Notre Dame, which is falling apart, and  lots of interesting sites, then went  in the afternoon to the Eiffel Tower, which had huge long lines. Then, I reread our tickets, and we were to meet our  guide at a souvenir shop 2 blocks east. That was fine, and  she took about a dozen of us back to the tower where we had to pass through  what they call ‘airport style security’—where your bad is checked for metal (guide told us that  no  metal—knives, keys, locks, etc,. were allowed)& they wand you.

View of Seine from Eiffel Tower

So, even with ‘skip the line’, it takes about 1/2 hour to get in. But it’s worth paying an additional $30 or so.  Really.    The guide told us some interesting facts and then set us loose.  I had wanted to eat at the tower, but a friend told me that the Jules Verne Restaurant was really over prices…and indeed…all the little restaurants were. A slice of pizza was 12 Euros (about $15). Gloria had wanted a glass of champagne—20 euros.  Not worth it. So we took photos and walked around.  It was the  one sunny day we had in Paris…the rest were rainy.  Just  what you’d expect of Paris in the Springtime!

Another tourist told us the Louvre was actually free—it’s the galleries that are 15 Euros each.  The Louvre is open

Me at the Eiffel tower—on top!

until 9 on Friday nights. so, there was no line, and we did get it, but it was about  8 by then. Gloria looked into it, I went to the gift shop and got a s little view slide toy with the ‘highlights of the Louvre’.

Gloria wanted to try a walking tour early Saturday, so we met up at Musee D’orsay late in the morning. This was where all the impressionist are.  I could have easily spent a few more hours there.  It was crowded (and I think about 15 euros to get in), but there was no line, and you could move around. We then went to l’Orangerie, where the Monet water lilies are.  I didn’t know that this building was built for Monet, and we’ve all seen  those water lilies. Well, there are six giant murals in  two rooms, and frankly, you can see  that he could not see.  Giant size blurs. His smaller paintings are better.  We saw some  great paintings in the rest of the museum.   I bought water lily socks and an interesting book of  paintings.  Then we went back to the hotel and decided to walk to the canal, which is about 1/2 mile away from the hotel. There are cute shops there, too, but all expensive.  We stopped at a small bistro and had crepes, which were wonderful.  We then got a little lost, but  got back to the hotel and had seen a lot of Paris.

On the first Sunday of the month, the museums are free. I wanted to go to the Rodin museum, which is not far from Musee D’Orsay, in a mansion. Riordan was really not that prolific  You get to see the Thinker & The Kiss, and a few of his other works, but the museum is mostly his studies of what he planned to do, as well as what some of his students/apprentices did. Still, I felt it was worth seeing.

We had dinner at the Strassbourgiouse which was steps from he hotel, splitting a salad, crepe, and dessert.  We left Monday morning, early.

Paris is just like you see in the photos:  all old buildings  seven stories or less, with wrought iron work, cobblestone streets, and rain.

Now, the trip  got stressful. We got to Orly 3 hours early, and Icelandic did not have a check in desk—not until 11, for a flight at 1…and the people in front of us, well, 1 had to  get rid of some of the junk in her luggage, as she was overweight, and another couple was at the wrong airport.  We were lucky  security is more ‘relaxed’ at Orly—we didn’t have to take off our shoes.  We got to Reykjavik, and Gloria was flagged for additional screening. it’s apparently a statistical thing. We then went to the gate for our flight, were there weren’t enough chairs, and the  sign said B0ARDING NOW…but we actually stood in line for about 1/2 hour more until the FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS  were boarded…and then, it was a free for all. it’s as if Icelandic has never boarded a flight.

We returned from Europe to JFK, and, knowing there might be delays, as well has having to take a shuttle from JFK to LaGuardia, we booked the  early March 6 flight –Tuesday morning…. back to Chicago.  However,  we got to LaGuardia about 7:30p.m..  on Monday, March 5. We attempted to fly ‘stand-by’ but were told—twice—that  we would be charged  an additional $99 each to change our booking.  In fact, the  9:00 p.m. flight did not leave until after 10:00 p.m.,  We also attempted to check in our baggage and they would not let us do it.  This does not make any sense. We  were  not only freeing up our seats for you to resell the next morning, your unsold  seats on that Monday evening flight were wasted You can not recover that in any way.  We ended up spending the night in arrivals sleeping on the floor.  We ultimately,  around 2:00 a.m. ,slept in wheel chairs & were chased out of those at 4:00 a.m.   Not that anyone needed the chairs.  Just policy.  LaGuardia was under construction. We could have  walked to another terminal, but   we didn’t want to do that & possibly miss the morning flight, and obviously it didn’t make sense to  go into the city for a room.

But it gets worse.

So…people started arriving to check in for  morning flights about 4:00 a.m.  There wasn’t a line, so we, again, attempted to check in about 4:30.  Your staff would not allow us to do this and made us wait an additional 10 minutes.

What I’ve seen happening more & more…due to ‘policy’—is airline staff making people wait until they are ‘ready’, a long line  happens, things get  bogged down due to  issues over luggage, then there is a crowd at TSA security screening, and everyone is frazzled & flights leave late. Makes no sense.

I’ve traveled internationally and have never had this happen even on an African airline.   “It doesn’t make any sense, it’s just our policy,”  is why Northwest folded.

So, except for the airline travel, it was a great trip.