Goldilocks And The Three Horsemen Of The Apocolypse

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As the world continues to be an increasingly unstable place, ads for buying gold abound. I am going to say several things I have said in the past, but I think they bear repeating.

Believing in the value of gold is no different from believing in the value of currency. Gold has no more intrinsic value than diamonds or paper or onions or lucky charms cereal- which, in point of fact, is at least magically delicious. If people lose confidence in any one of these things as being desirable, they are worth nothing. They have no value, except that as a current fad, people believe that they do.

I believe that it makes much more sense to eliminate the middle-man (currency), and stock up on what you actually would need in a crisis. Here is my thinking: Most people want a certain valuable thing (let’s say gold) because they think it will allow them to get what they need in an oh-my-gosh situation. So if the dollar becomes devalued or the economy collapses or the zombies attack, gold would let them buy what they need. They could use gold to get food and water and toilet paper and whatnot. But why not just use your money now to buy extra food and water and toilet paper and whatnot? Why would you hoard gold so that in dangerous times ahead you could venture out into precarious places to fight the crowds for scarce resources and try to trade your gold for what you need when you could have those things safe and snug in your house?

If you can afford gold you can afford to start work on a pretty significant underground cistern to collect water for your family. If you are looking to barter something of value it is more likely that people will need tubes of antibiotic ointment than snips off of gold pieces. Gold is pretty and all, but it doesn’t feed your family and it doesn’t meet any concrete need if there is a real crisis going on around you.

The ads for buying gold sound very persuasive, and the ones I have heard are done by some very credible people who should know better. But some basic thinking about how you live and the things you and your family need will point you in the direction of what you really might want if things go bad around you. For us I know that the last thing I want if society gets dicey is to have to send *h out into the madness to be snatching batteries off of shelves and fighting over the last bottle of aspirin in the store. For us, we want a ready supply of bullets, but your choices may look very different from ours. The point is to do some thinking and then put that into practice. The one thing I know we don’t want when chaos is swirling around us is gold.

The added benefit of being prepared in this way is that everything we have is usable right now. As long as we rotate our stock we can eat our food and drink our water and use our medicine and nothing is just sitting around being stuffed under the mattress. We don’t have to worry that in a grid-down situation we could potentially be sitting on a pile of useless metal, or that the only thing left in the stores is some icky thing that doesn’t suit our family.

If you still think buying gold is the right choice for you then you should go right ahead and buy it. But I definitely think it’s worthwhile to get another perspective out there.

Go, Muslims

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Not since the development of algebra has a way of thinking so captured the world’s imagination. Never before has a group of people been able to defy expectations like this. We westerners have always been told that if you stand up to bullies they will back down, but the Muslims have proved us not only wrong, but hypocritical and liars to boot. So now I say, get with the program and cheer them on.

Why not just be ahead of the pack and route for the winners? All along the Muslims have had a consistent message and they have stayed on point: Do what we like and approve of or we will come for you and make you pay a steep price. Disregard us at your peril. And people who believe in the inherent goodness of humanity went on their merry way and worshipped their own God and drew their own cartoons and made their own movies and guess what? The Muslims came for them and tortured them and beheaded them and did even worse. And I say go, Muslims. Stay true to your cause. You are unstoppable. You are mighty indeed.

People can see that the Muslims have a point- that we really shouldn’t offend them. That we really should all be more sensitive to their unique and special needs. People acknowledge that they do have legitimate grievances. After all, in practically every single country where they live, they have to fight their neighbors for their very existence. If they have conflict with Hindus and Buddhists and Christians and Jews and Bedouins and Kurds and women and gays and random indigenous people and other sects of Muslims it can’t just be them, right? So that proves that everyone has it out for them. Poor misunderstood Muslims :(

It’s an intolerant world out there.

And that’s why Muslims have to rid it of non-Muslims.

So rather than stand in their way, I think it’s time we supported them. It’s a noble cause they have. All they want is everything. That’s not too steep a price to pay for eternal peace and happiness, is it?

All we have to do is exactly what they want, in exactly they way they want it, and they are even willing to spell it out for us. because that’s the kind of peace-loving and generous kind people they are. They all just want to get along, see?

I’m not sure why we didn’t latch onto this before. Now that my eyes are open, I can see quite clearly. Resistance is futile, and complaining is a waste of time. Why whine about rights or oppression when it’s so much easier to just get with the program and submit? There is a glorious freedom in knowing when to say, “Enough!”.

Does anyone out there get my drift???

Is Anti-Vax Anti-Freedom?

6 Comments

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals jut affirmed a State Court ruling from New York that non-vaccinated children could be banned from attending public schools. Further, children who qualified to still attend under the former religious exemption clause could still be forced to stay out of school if there was an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. Parents of children who qualified under this exemption are appealing the ruling and attorneys have said they will try to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. In a classic case of ‘Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’, this is my take on the whole situation: I unabashedly don’t vaccinate my children. Counter to the stereotype of an unwashed hillbilly or irresponsible hippy or worse (I believe I have heard or been accused of most of them), I came to this decision through thorough and painstaking research. I didn’t take it lightly; after all, the health of my own and other children was at stake. That isn’t something I was going to toy with just to make a statement. But once I made the decision, I saw no reason to hide it or lie about it. I know some people, though, who because of the backlash against those who choose not to vaccinate, feel like they have to hide that decision. When we moved to Washington I met with a mainstream pediatrician and asked him what diseases were common in this area of the country and what my kids might be exposed to. I discussed my decision not to vaccinate, and I was fully open to re-evaluating the possibility that, faced with different circumstances, I may have wanted to consider certain vaccinations. When one of my children was preparing to go to school overseas we did choose to vaccinate her against a specific disease that is very prevalent in that part of the world. But every decision we make is done after careful deliberation and with as much information as possible. I also realize that my decisions carry consequences. When we lived in Detroit I had to sign a form each year that stipulated that if there was an outbreak of any disease I would keep my kids out of school (for those of my kids who weren’t homeschooled, obviously). That was just fine with me. I considered it the price we paid for living in concert with our conscience, and if it gave the other parents or the school staff peace of mind, it was a small price to pay. You see, here’s the thing about freedom: with it comes responsibility. Sure I can make a choice, but I don’t get to do it at your expense. I may think the other parents are being stupid or over-reactive, and I may want in my heart to go and educate every one of them, but at the end of the day, I have limited energy and I have to choose my battles. At the end of the day, I have to decide if the cost of a certain course of action makes it worthwhile or not. There are some principles I have that are worth fighting for and dying for and others that I could give up in the blink of an eye. Most are somewhere in the middle. But we have gotten very spoiled about thinking that we should all just do whatever the heck we want all the darn time and everyone else should just live with it and celebrate it. There is a lot of hypocrisy that I should do what I want but you shouldn’t do what you want because that offends me. I think it’s time for all of us to take a big kid pill and just own some responsibility. Public school may be a right, but that doesn’t mean it is a free-for-all right. There are all kinds of restrictions about what can go on in a public school, some of which I agree with, and some of which I don’t. But it’s the government’s party, and if you don’t want to dance to their beat, then play some music of your own. There are plenty of other options for education these days, and truth be told, they are mostly a heck of a lot better than government education anyway. If you feel you simply must must must go to government schools for whatever reason, then roll up your kids’ sleeves and consider it the price of admission. Sorry, I am anti-vax, but this is the stark reality. You can’t have your cake if it makes the government afraid to get smallpox (even if they are completely wrong). Let me know your thoughts…

Carving Up Some American Pie

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How we look at the amount of available resources will determine our stance in any given negotiation. If we believe that everything is finite and the more you get the less there is left for me, that means that I have to shaft you in order to get more for myself.

If, on the other hand, we can find a way to generate more resources in the first place, then there may be ways for all parties in a given negotiation to win. Think of it not like a pie to be sliced up and doled out, but more like handing out water in a rainstorm- or better yet, like lighting other people’s candles from one person’s flame. Giving other people fire doesn’t diminish the original flame even though the original fire is still spread. Very win-win.

There have been many negotiation books written using this paradigm- I think I remember a famous one called Getting To Yes (by Fisher and Ury? If this isn’t the right one, please forgive me, but I don’t have time to go back and check right now…). The Harvard Mediation project did lots of research into how people could generate win-win negotiations, rather than the more traditional paradigm of you win-I lose. A friend blogged about this a few days ago in the context of helping her children learn to resolve arguments (http://avivahwerner.com/2014/12/30/help-kids-negotiate-win-win-instead-fighting/) , and I realized that this would be a great thing to blog about (rather than the usual complain-y stuff I have been tending toward lately).

Here’s how it can look in real life: a company’s employees want more money and better health benefits. The company is small and strapped for cash. It seems pretty untenable, and the more one side gets its demands met, the less happy the other side will have to be. But what if they can think outside of this narrow box? What if the company can say in good faith, “Listen, we have no extra money, but what if we would offer you extra vacation days and no more work on the weekends? And we can’t buy more expensive health insurance at this time, but what if we partner with the gym down the street- we will give them our services (printing or advertising or computer services or widgets) and they can give our employees free gym memberships to help them stay healthy? In addition we can hook you guys up with free massages every Friday since we also so some work for the physical therapy school down the road…” In this way, the business can offer its employees perks that may meet their needs without laying out cash they don’t have and the employees don’t feel like they are getting shafted by having to work for a company that can’t give them more money or a higher level of health insurance. It isn’t what they walked in asking for, but they can all leave having needs met that weren’t originally even on the table.

Sometimes in a negotiation, you have to look behind the stated demand to figure out what the person really needs and not just what they are asking for. Sometimes a person asks for money because what they really want is acknowlegment or respect. Sometimes a demand for a material thing is really a request for a more emotional need. This is why a smart boss will sometimes give an employee a corner office in lieu of a raise; because they know that the ego needs feeding as much as the pocketbook. Often in relationships people will get irrationally upset about something when actually the issue is something altogether different. So the person who is up-in-arms that she wasn’t given an expensive enough baby gift might really just be upset that she feels you don’t value her friendship or don’t care about her now that she had a baby. If you can see past the words into the need behind it, you can often solve the problem before it escalates.

The problem many people fall into is that we are primed to feel like we are in a resource-scarce environment. We are jumpy about the concept of other people getting something to the point where even when someone wins the lottery, which realistically you had no chance of winning, instead of being so happy that some poor sucker now has a better life, you begrudge the fact that it wasn’t you. Most people’s first thought is ‘Gosh Darn It! That should have been me!’ We are not in touch with the idea that there is constantly money flowing all over the place, and contests being won, and refunds being sent out, and random checks being issued that were completely unexpected- the universe is full of money- not even to mention the vast amount of other resources that are available – and they are always in a state of coming and going. This isn’t some hippy-dippy thing that I am saying. Just think about finding money, or when you or someone you know have gotten an unexpected check in the mail or a raise that you didn’t think you would get… If you look at the free stuff on craigslist or freecycle you will see boundless kindness just waiting to be picked up. People give away everything to each other.

I remember once in college meeting a guy who produced a ‘zine (Does that date me? Do those even still exist? For those of you who don’t know, it was a very low budget newsletter type of thing- like a self-published magazine with a cult following…)Anyhow, his was very cool with lots of rambling poetry and some art photos interspersed- many of friends of mine from the Detroit Cass Corridor scene. I wanted one, but I was a broke student and he asked me what I had to trade him for a copy. I told him honestly, “I don’t think I have anything you would want…” And he said, “I kind of like your earring…” So I gave it to him and he gave me his ‘zine and we both got our needs met. Incidentally, the next few times I saw him around town, he was wearing my earring, and I thought it was super cool. But the moral of the story is that if you can think outside the normal parameters of how transactions take place, you can often get what you want/need and both parties will leave the transaction better than they came in with neither of them being diminished.

In families this works the same way. How many times does a mother baking have to tell each kid that one can lick each beater, one can lick the spoon, one can lick the bowl, and one can do this, that, or the other… There were many times I had to either purposely get other utensils dirty (use a spatula to “smooth” the batter, or a fork to swirl color, or another spoon to stir it extra, or whatnot… lots of kids means lots of sharing!) or find very exciting jobs to bribe kids to give up their treats. In games, the child who doesn’t get the color piece he wants is often the first to get to roll the dice. For doing chores, the one who is stuck with the “worst” one may be the one who gets the best job the next day- and so on. However you can sweeten the pot to balance out the ledger. But the more creative you can be, the more you can make people happy, and the more you can think of currency as not just being money, but also time, respect, energy, benefits, extras, intangibles, excitement, the more you are in the win-win zone.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey!

Good Riddance, 2014

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Some years of my life have been rockier than others, but 2014 has been a right S-O-B. There are years I have been more poor, and years I have been more sick, but 2014 has put me through the meat-grinder in ways I can barely articulate. I am not a date-sentimental girl, and I don’t get attached to birthdays and anniversaries, but I am fervently wishing that as 2014 comes to an end, my juju will change and the winds of fate will blow in a better direction for my life. I believe in theory that a lot of “luck” is about positioning ourselves in a place to receive the good that is out there, and to both recognize and appreciate the wisdom and the blessings that are inherent in many situations.

But 2014 has run me over like a monster truck and left me laying on the ground in a heap. Some challenges show you that you are stronger than you ever knew you could be. This year has shown me that I am more fallible, more fragile, and more easily broken than I ever anticipated. The secular year is over, and I am limping to the finish line, relieved that I made it and clinging to hope for better times ahead.

In the coming year, I wish all of you the fulfillment of your heart’s desires, that you should have the strength to bear any challenges that come your way, that the hard times are few (if you must have then at all), and that each day leaves you hoping in eager anticipation for another and another and another. I wish you the best of everything there is, and that no sadness comes upon you.

Out with 2014 and in with 2015- may it be for the best for all of us…

Supply Side Economics

8 Comments

While putting away something in the band-aid drawer today, I stumbled on a bit of a horror show.

No, there was no blood trail and no left-behind body part. In my OCD-ishly organized world, a horror show looks like this:

Band-aid wrappers were strewn carelessly about the drawer, long delivered of their internal products and now utterly useless and sad. Empty tubes of both antibiotic ointment and hydro-cortisone creme also littered the drawer, as if some sick and dying vampire had done a midnight raid and sucked out their contents in hopes of staving off both blood-borne infections and itchiness. Broken containers from medical tape were fragmented among the wreckage, for what purpose I can’t even speculate, but clearly the person who both broke it and left it there had something noble in mind because any rational person would not be saving shards of plastic “just because”. Incidentally, there was neither medical tape nor the roll it comes on in the drawer, so I am left with one conclusion: that it looked at its surroundings and made an escape when the vampire opened the drawer. I hope it’s in a better place.

oh. lonely trash... would you like to live in our drawer???

oh. lonely trash… would you like to live in our drawer???

Now here’s the deal in my house: I am the supply chain manager. That means if we run out of something ( a situation which I constantly try to avoid, since I find it intensely anxiety provoking), I need to be notified so I can replace it. In an ideal version of my world, the people inhabiting it would let me know when we were running low and BEFORE we actually run out of it so I could have a new whatever-it-is ready to go before we don’t have the crucial (or utterly superfluous) thing. This way when someone asks me, “Mommy, where is the ______________________________?”, I don’t have to answer, “It’s on the shelf at Target being bought by someone’s mother who knew they were about to run out of it and not someone whose family hides empty things in drawers so they had no idea how much they had left in the house…”

I know that I am asking a lot of people to carry that big heavy empty antibiotic tube all the way out of the bathroom WHEN THEY ARE COMING OUT ANYWAY and just put it in the recycling bin, but I am having a hard time seeing why it is unreasonable to expect them to at least let me know when they have used the last of it. It’s not like they will be in big huge trouble for taking a band-aid or using a piece of tape, but when they use things on the sly, it makes my job harder and makes it more likely that when someone really does need whatever it is, we just won’t have any.

And that’s kind of frustrating.

Can you tell?

I don’t know how to put a system in place that works for everyone, and yet doesn’t have me doing spot inspections of every area of the house like some kind of deranged stalker gone awry. It’s pretty pathetic to think of myself skulking around in the shadows after everyone has gone to bed with a flashlight and a notebook, counting the number of Ritz crackers that are left in the box (That would be zero, by the way- my family also loves to take food and then put back empty containers. Or maybe they just take the food out by doing some sort of convoluted gymnastics that allows them to leave the packages in the cabinets so they never have to actually see that they are taking the last of something, even though they are obviously feeling around. Perhaps it’s all about the plausible deniability…).

look, ma- no eyes!

look, ma- no eyes!

I think this could be a hilarious situation if I was a different person. Do you guys think it’s funny or tragic? Maybe I should be super tech-y and try to add the first-ever poll to the blog (I have a button just sitting enticing on top of this page…).

Advice gladly welcomed ;)

Deadly Force

7 Comments

Several days ago there was another police officer-involved shooting in the news. Yet again there was lots of outcry and armchair quarterbacking about how the police should be doing their job. Without getting into the specifics of that case, I would like to make some general observation about the nature of people who have guns and people who interact with them.

When you take a basic gun safety class, one of the first things you learn is never to draw your weapon if you are not prepared to use it. You never want to needlessly escalate a conflict that can be resolved without pulling out a weapon, and it’s clear that pulling out a gun instantly ups the ante in any conflict about a hundred degrees. Regardless of what was happening beforehand, once a gun comes into play, things get serious.

That’s part of the reason that police, who we entrust with such life-and-death situations, need to have that option at their disposal. They need an instant trump card.

And that’s another reason that, if you have any kind of sense, you don’t pull a gun on a cop.

maybe it would be better if the police lobbed marshmallows at people... or there is always the effective weapon pictured above...

maybe it would be better if the police lobbed marshmallows at people… or there is always the effective weapon pictured above…

If I draw my weapon on some random yahoo on the street, he may or may not be armed. I may or may not be up against someone who is equally able to engage me. But if I draw against a police officer, I know with 100% certainty that the person standing opposite me has a weapon which is operable, loaded, and ready to go. He is trained to use it, and less likely than a civilian to miss his target under pressure. So unless I am full-on crazy or suicidal (which some people are- most people are familiar with the term “suicide by cop”, which is always a tragedy on all sides), I would be an absolute fool to pull a gun on a cop, much less point it at him.

When people take classes to carry weapons, they learn about what conditions allow them to shoot legally. They learn when they can and cannot draw their weapons (There is an actual crime called brandishing, and if you go around just showing off your gun, you can be guilty of this, even if you weren’t trying to be threatening. I guess some people are threatened by the mere presence of a gun in their midst, so you have to be extra careful. Yes, the last sentence was deliberately snarky. Sorry. You do have a right to your opinion on this. For real.). They learn how to de-escalate confrontations, because it is always better to walk away than to have to get embroiled in explaining why you had to shoot someone. Nobody who is legally carrying a weapon (Almost nobody? I would like to believe it is nobody, and statistics would bear me out when we are talking about legal carry permit holders…) wants to go around shooting people. Contrary to what some would paint a picture of, legal gun holders are peace-and-justice kind of folks who want their gun rights because they are trying to avoid violence, not perpetuate it.

I think that in general we have gotten so into the habit of assuming that police are wrong so much of the time that we often don’t let facts get in the way of us forming an opinion. I am not trying to say that police are never wrong. I am not trying to say that there aren’t bad cops, or those who abuse their authority. But the majority are good and they went into police work because they had noble intentions, not because they wanted to lord their position over lowly folks in downtrodden neighborhoods. Often police came from similar backgrounds to those they patrol. Think about it- how often do you find an upper class rich kid who throws it all away to become a beat cop? Okay, I rest my case.

When we have people in the media who play snippets of tapes or flashes of sound, we get a distorted sense of reality. When a grand jury who has had an opportunity to hear all of the facts in a given situation find that an officer acted justly and people go bonkers because they think they know better, we have to ask ourselves what is coming into play to make people with less information think they are in a position to know more. When people threaten the families of officers with violence and death, we know we are living in a world turned upside down.

Listen, it’s a pretty simple equation: if you pull a gun on an armed man, expect to get shot. If the armed man is a cop, you can expect to get shot accurately. On the plus side, the wound will probably be fatal, so you won’t suffer too much, and his partner will shoot you too, so that’s extra insurance. He will warn you first, and he will give you time to do reasonable things, like drop your own weapon, raise your hands (so they can verify you are not reaching for other weapons), and look like you are willing to listen to them. Very straightforward stuff.

The world without police would be a pretty frightening place. I know that, in spite of being armed myself, when I dial 9-1-1, I sure as heck want someone to show up, pronto. If I need help, I don’t want the media or the ACLU or Al Sharpton to come to my aid- I want some of America’s finest at my doorstep or wherever I am when I placed that call. And if I am the one on the wrong end of their orders, I have no problem with listening in the moment and sorting it out afterward. Because I don’t just live my life by what I hear on the news; I try to live my life using common sense.

I just wish that was a little more common…

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