House…check. Doctor…check. President…check.

November 5, 2008 at 8:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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First of all, GO OBAMA! We won, we won! We’ve been waiting for our regime change, and here it is. I can’t wait to see his administration unfold over the next year. This is just the shot in the arm our country needs.

And I’m going to be living in DC to see it all! I remember last time we lived there, my parents weren’t all that keen for a white house tour with Bush in office. But now, we’ve totally got to sign up! Too bad the inauguration is right around my due date — I’d love to be there.

We had a whirlwind of a weekend house hunting. We had a hitch starting out — our flight was delayed 3 hours because of the fog, so we had to move some of our appointments to Sunday. And then my dumbass forgot the checkbook. But all fared well. We narrowed down our six choices to two. My favorite was in Woodmoor, where my friends Julie and Royce live. It’s a very family-oriented neighborhood with charming cape cods and ramblers. The one I liked was on a wooded lot, with a break-taking view from the dining room picture window of the woods. The rooms were a little small, but livable. The only down side — James would have a mile walk to the bus stop on streets without sidewalks, then a 10-minute bus ride, and a 20-minute train ride to work and back every morning. And on rainy, cold, snowy, or blistering hot days, I’d have to drive him and pick him up. Or we’d have to figure out a car pool. All very complicated and inconvenient. The house we ended up settling on was a little more expensive, but it’s only a 1/4 mile to the Forest Glen Metro, just up the street from the hospital, and nearby a jogging/biking trail. There were also two parks within walking distance. The house was bigger — 4 sizable bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, finished basement — and it was only about $150/month more than the other. It’ll be tight for awhile until James gets his next promotion in May, but according to my calculations, we should be doing well while I’m at home with Liam during my leave. We won’t need daycare until late April, and with the raise coming in May, it should cover everything. We’ll have plenty of room for guests — we’ve got a queen size bed currently in the garage that will be in our guest room, and we’re putting the futon in the basement/man-cave/playroom. I’ll also have a proper office downstairs with it’s own little bathroom. Pretty sweet.

Best of all, we’re only 6 miles to the Ikea. On Monday James and I spent hours there picking out some new furniture and getting ideas for eventual improvements. I heart Ikea!!! We also discovered the CostCo, where I picked out my new office chair. We’ll definitely be frequenting these two spots when we move back.

Tuesday I met with a new doctor, who not only didn’t have fangs and horns, but was also recommended by two families we met during our house hunt. So I’m all signed up to start with her practice.

All-in-all a productive trip, and a load off our minds. There’s still lots to accomplish before we move, but these were by far the two biggest. Now I need a nap.

Oliver Stone’s W, and early voting rocks

October 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James and I went to see W last weekend. It wasn’t quite what we expected from the previews, but we still enjoyed it. In fact, I kind of respect Oliver Stone’s take on Bush’s life — he looks at it in a more objective way than I anticipated. And although I’m not a Bush fan (who is these days?), you almost start to feel sorry for the guy. It really wasn’t a funny movie — probably only a few laugh-out-loud moments. Seeing Richard Dryfus as Dick Cheney sent chills up my spine in some scenes. I’m glad that no matter who gets elected, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld are out.

Speaking of elections, I voted early today, hooray! Kansas is one of about 30 states offering an in-person early vote, and I think they should enact it in more states in the future. It only took about half an hour, the electronic voting machine was easy to use, and best of all, I didn’t have to wait forever in a big line on election day like I did last time. Which was, er, ok, 8 years ago. I know that sounds bad. But in 2004, James and I moved to NYC right before the election, and our absentee ballots got lost in the mail (the first of many mail mishaps). We figured we cancel each other out anyway. The last time I voted, I used a scantron and a pencil. Very old-school.

TV this Week, a political debate, and James buys golf clubs

September 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s premiere week for the networks, and my DVR was working overtime to tape my favorite shows. Heroes was my most anticipated, but I thought it fell a little flat. They aired two episodes in a 2-hour block, and the story finally started picking up there at the end of episode 2. I thought episode 1 was muddled and overly complicated, and like another of my fav shows Lost, I’m afraid you need a cross-referenced encyclopedia just to get through this show. I like a little mystery, but this opener left me with a lot of puzzles and plot holes. I’ll continue watching because I love the characters, but I hope they can pull this season through. My Monday laughs were much better: How I Met Your Mother spoke right to the heart for me — Ted wants his fiance to love Star Wars as much as him. Hear, hear! I also loved The Big Bang Theory, which I was afraid would lose some of it’s spunk once Leonard started dating Penny, but things are just as awkwardly geeky as ever, hooray! I gave the new JJ Abrams show Fringe one last shot, but after another convoluted and scientifically convenient episode, I’ve decided to call it quits. I don’t want to get wrapped up in another mystery show, and quite frankly, I don’t really care much about what “the pattern” is anyway. My Wednesday favorites Bones, Project Runway and Top Design were all solid this week. Grey’s Anatomy, another of my most anticipated, packed more of a punch than I expected. I was getting a bit disenchanted last season, but I thought this season opener was much better than some episodes of late, and I’m hoping they can keep this up. The Office was absolutely hysterical, hands-down my favorite of the week. ER was like a douse of cold water after the hilarity of The Office — they killed off a major character (Pratt), and I spent the rest of the night blubbering (probably those pregnancy hormones). Until the end, which was a little campy. I keep thinking I’ll delete this one from my queue, but it’s the last season, and I’ve been watching it for years. My as well see it through to the end.

Now on to the debate. James and I were celebrating our fourth anniversary at Pierpont’s on Friday, so I had to tape it and watch it this weekend. I got through about an hour of it last night before I nodded off. What annoys me to no end about these things is how many false accusations come from both candidates. It’s hard to tell as you’re watching what to believe. I found FactCheck.org an informative website that breaks down all the rhetoric of the debate and analyzes exactly what was fact. My impressions, having not watched much media commentary yet, were that McCain was slinging the most mud, and Obama was put on the defensive most of the night. Foreign policy is McCain’s bread and butter, and it showed. He kept throwing out phrases like, “My opponent doesn’t seem to understand…” or “That’s naive to think…”, which I’ll admit was probably a good debate strategy for him. I tried to put myself in the shoes of an independent, and I’m not sure if this debate was necessarily clearly won by either candidate. What I took away as an Obama supporter was a clear message from the Obama side that I already pretty much knew, facing a bull-headed republican opponent, again which I already knew. McCain sounded good, I’ll give him that, but I fear that if he wins, he’ll be putting Bush’s veto record to shame, block any progress by a reputedly weak Democrat congress, and push the same Bush policies that I’ve opposed for the past eight years. And although the VP usually doesn’t have much power, I can see Sarah Palin pushing her social conservative agenda as far as she can. Maybe living overseas isn’t such a bad idea…

And speaking of James (who I’m still trying to forgive for switching his vote from Obama to McCain) has started yet another expensive hobby. Golfing. Which I’m totally making fun him for. He bought golf clubs yesterday at Target, thankfully not over-the-top, and he’s been out at the driving range with Travis two days in a row. He says I should come with them sometime. For to laugh. I learned how to play golf in high school gym class, and it was booooooring as hell. Unless there’s a windmill involved, I’m not very interested. Thankfully, he and Travis need to work on their putting, so I might get an afternoon at the local putt-putt golf.

Burn After Reading and Fun Time with Bill Maher

September 13, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This morning I went to see the new Coen Brothers movie Burn After Reading. I’d been forewarned by Eric that this was a very dark comedy, different than what was portrayed in the previews, and I’m glad he warned me. Knowing that, I think I could really appreciate the humor, which was subtle, and in some places, rather uncomfortable. I wouldn’t rank this movie up there with Coen Brother classics Raising Arizona, Fargo, or O Brother, but it was still entertaining. And a little shocking. I have a feeling this is a movie I’ll enjoy more on subsequent viewings — the same way I felt about Napolean Dynamite. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but after ruminating about certain scenes, and realizing how truly funny they were, I wanted to see it again. (I’m adding this last bit in on Sunday, and already I’m thinking of Burn After Reading the same way). Check out Eric’s review, which I’m sure explains this much better, heh.

Last night James and I settled in to watch Real Time with Bill Maher, a political show that elicits quite a show in our own living room. This is how it usually goes: Bill Maher introduces his three guests, and James sighs, rolls his eyes, and complains that they always stack the deck toward the liberals on this show. To which I reply, “Of course they do. What republican in their right mind would subject themselves to this kind of abuse? You wussies.” And then the fun begins. Inevitably, some hot button topic will come up, and suddenly James thinks he’s the fourth guest on the show. I’m trying to enjoy the banter, James is huffing and whining and shouting at the TV, and I’m shushing him so I don’t miss all the snarky, liberal jokes. While I’m giggling and mostly agreeing with the guests (though even Al Sharpton and Jeanine Garafolo come across pretty wacky to me), James feels it’s his duty to “set me straight.” Right, dear. Yes, I’ll admit, you do bring up some valid points. But until the conservatives can shake that crazy Christian fundamentalist base, there’s no way in hell I’m ever voting one of them in. And now that Sarah Palin is on the ticket, a far cry from Hillary Clinton, and a woman whose policy decisions and beliefs actually make me fear for the future of our country, there’s no way James and I will see eye-to-eye this election year. Sigh….guess we’ll be canceling each other out at the polls yet again this year. Go Obama!

Making History

February 5, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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37. That’s the number of democrats in my district of Johnson County, KS, who caucused in 2004. Wanna know how many showed up tonight? All of them. Over 1300, to be more precise. And I was one of ’em.

It took two hours to get us all registered and seated. Along the way I met a woman who had never voted before, a couple who brought along their 2-month-old daughter for “baby’s first caucus”, a seasoned voter who was one of the 37 from four years ago, and a mother of two teenage girls who was fed up with the Bush regime. We all were. And together we marveled at our numbers in a county heavily dominated by republicans. It was clear those in charge of this caucus were not prepared for our numbers — our group overflowed the original venue and filled both the large and small theaters in the Carlsen Center at JCCC. Once we were finally settled, the head of the Kansas Democrats went through some formalities, representatives for each of the candidates gave a little speech (Obama, Clinton, and for some reason, Edwards), and then we divided into groups to be counted. This whole process took nearly another two hours. By 9:45 we had our final count — 831 for Obama, 343 for Clinton, and a smattering of undecideds and Edwards supporters. Because the latter didn’t make the minimum requirement for viability (they had to get 15% of the total vote to be considered), they all had to realign to either the Obama or Clinton camps. I didn’t stick around for that — it seemed pretty clear who won. I sat with the majority, along with 73% of my fellow Kansans across the state.

I like what both candidates have to say, and I think either one would make a good president. But what really pushed me over to the Obama camp was James saying he’d consider voting for Obama over McCain if he gets the nomination. If Obama can sway my die-hard conservative husband, I bet he can sway a lot of others. Hillary’s so divisive, I’m afraid we’ll still be fighting for Universal Health Care if she’s not willing to compromise. However, there are up sides to having a president willing to go to the mat on liberal issues.

It’s too soon to tell how this will all end up, but I’m glad I got to do my part.

I thought voting was supposed to be easy?

February 5, 2008 at 9:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Ok, so I haven’t voted in six years. I know, I know, not very civically responsible of me, but I have some good excuses. In 2004, when James and I moved to NYC right before the presidential showdown, I went to a lot of trouble to fill out and send in all our paperwork for absentee ballots. But they were the first of many parcels we never received due to the third-world nature of the United States Postal Service in Brooklyn. And because we’ve moved almost yearly since then, it’s been hard to justify voting in local elections for places I don’t really consider home. We didn’t own property. Hell, we didn’t even own a car!

But this year, I vowed to break my trend. I hurriedly registered to vote before January 15 so I could participate in Super Tuesday. I watched the Democratic debates. I argued with my republican husband (who actually agreed with me on a few liberal points, like healthcare and the war – gasp!). I did my research. I even went so far as to email my friend in England to ask her about the healthcare system there, which was featured in Sicko. (See below for her informative answer). This morning I got up early, drove to my polling place (the presbyterian church by my house, which sort of irks me, as separation of church and state is a big issue for me), braved the inclement weather. And when I got there, I only saw one other car in the parking lot. Not. Good. The doors were locked. Damn. I called the election office number on the back of my voter registration card. I got a recording: “There are no presidential primaries in Kansas.” Goddamnit. I’m here! I’m ready to vote! What gives?!

Turns out Kansas holds a caucus, which operates differently than a primary (I knew that it was a caucus, but I had assumed I could vote at the polls). So, tonight I’ve got to drive to JCCC after work, stand in line with some fellow liberals (good) and wait in a room for who knows how long until the decision is made (bad). And all of this during a possible sleet storm. This being my first caucus, and with such a close candidate race, I really want to go. I’m going to try my damnedest. Stupid Kansas.
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Here’s my email and my friend’s response about UK Healthcare:
Subject: question about socialized medicine

Sort of a heavy question, but i figure you’re the best person I know to answer it. James and I watched Sicko the other day — Michael Moore’s documentary on the failing US healthcare system — and he touts the benefits of socialized medicine. He goes to doctor’s offices in the UK and interviews all these people about it. In the US, James and I have to pay about $100/month (or maybe more) EACH for health and dental insurance, for which we still pay a $15 fee for each doctor’s visit, and 20% of any procedures, etc. Plus, there’s a likelihood that if we had some serious ailment, our insurance company could deny coverage. In this documentary, he cited several cases, and even talked to insurance people who said it was company policy to deny everyone they could. Such a sham! In the UK, as I understand it from the documentary, all visits and procedures are free. No paperwork. No premiums. And no one is denied. I feel like it’s too good to be true, so I figured you might know the catch, if there is one. I assume you pay for all of this with taxes — in the US, our sales tax is roughly 7%, and our income tax is between 30%-40%, depending on your income bracket. Is that comparable to UK? Do doctors get paid less in the UK than they do in US? It would seem so, assuming your medical school was free, and in the US, most doctors starting out have very high loan to pay back, hence their high salaries. Is there something I’m missing, or is the UK system really the Golden Ticket for healthcare?

And her response:
Well I’ll do my best to answer it though I’m probably ignorant about quite a lot!

Our health care is completely free – you don’t pay to go and see the doctor / go to hospital, and all investigations and procedures are completely free. Of course if you ask people over here, a fair amount of people would do nothing but complain about the NHS (you don’t value anything you don’t have to pay for!). Of course it’s not perfect – there are limited funds and limited time and people to run it all. Sometimes you have to wait for things. Some expensive, specialist treatments (e.g. some cancer medications) may not be available on the NHS. You also have to pay a nominal fee towards prescription medications. On the whole though, I think we’re really lucky (but then again I work for the NHS).

We pay 17.5% tax on all goods (which you can claim back if it’s equipment for work etc) and I think our salary tax is roughly the same (think I pay about 40%) although that can go up if you earn more. You also get taxed on your savings interest. We also pay a lot of tax on fuel and pay car tax. We pay a council tax for our houses. I think there are quite hefty taxes on tobacco and alcohol. That’s all I’m aware of although I’m sure there are sneaky taxes all over the place that just haven’t occurred to me!

What does that sound like to you then?? It’s tax city over here! Did I answer your questions? Golden or fools gold??

More Movies

January 12, 2008 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Eastern Promises, an Oscar-contender starring Viggo Mortenson as a London-based Russian mafia guy. Naomi Watts finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, trying to find the identity of a pregnant girl who dies during delivery of her daughter, and leaves a disturbing Russian diary behind. Very intense. Very moving. Of course, I’ve got to comment on the naked fight scene, which was less “ooo-la-la” and more “run for your life!” I knew James would like this movie (he loves that mob stuff), but I really enjoyed it, too.

New in theaters, The Savages stars Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in my opinion two of the most talented actors on film today. I heard about this film on NPR, and the rich dialogue and characters attracted me right away. Hoffman and Linney play brother and sister, faced with the daunting task of putting their senile father in a nursing home. A bit of a black comedy, but also very touching. The characters are so real — so much so, I found myself talking to them during the movie, and cringing at their many foibles. Very well-written and acted.

Michael Moore’s latest offering Sicko, James and I think is hands-down the best of his documentaries, and probably the best of the year. James, being a tight-laced conservative, usually hates anything Michael Moore does, but this was an issue we could both rally behind. It prompted a two-hour discussion last night about universal health care, politics, the up-coming election, and amazingly, James and I were on the same page. (For once!) We even watched all of the DVD extras–the most poignant for us being the interview with a university professor (which didn’t make it in the final cut) all about the myths of the middle-class insured, and how no one was safe. It made us both thankful neither of us has had an serious medical problems, but worry for ourselves and our parents if or when some catastrophic medical ailment might strike. Interesting statistic: 50% of families declaring bankruptcy did it for medical bills, and 75% of those people were fully insured. Their claims were denied, which of course is in the best interest of the insurance companies. And don’t get me started on big Pharma. I’m convinced that my IC problem went without a name or diagnosis until there was a drug they could push to help it. (which, incidentally, didn’t help me one bit, even after two years. I’m resolutely off of it now, and $60/month richer). This movie made James and I more seriously consider retiring in Europe — something we always talk about doing, but now feel even more firmly about. The Kansas Caucus is coming up February 5, and I’ve got to take a good hard look at the candidates before I cast my vote. I’ll definitely be putting universal health care at the top of my list — something Hillary used to stand behind, but now I’m not so sure anymore.

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