Haven't been here in a while

And thought I would see if my account was still here. It is.

I've moved to Wordpress again. I currently have three blogs there - a politics blog, a writing blog, and a web page for work.

Livejournal these days seems more like a graveyard for us non-Cyrillic users. Everyone's on twitter and facebook now.

There's Always A First Time

Through my life I have been called many terrible names. In my line of work it happens, and indicates I'm doing my job. I don't get emotional over stuff, and staying calm, cool, and collected is part of my professionalism.

However, there is one thing that will make me lose my cool and piss me off more than anything else: Accusing me of something I didn't do. It's happened often enough I feel like I have a target on my back. I've been accused of outrageous things. One incident involved someone accusing me of constantly harassing her, sending her threatening emails, and even calling her up at her place of work and screaming obscenities at her. To this day, I don't even know this person's name, but her word alone was enough to kick me out of three fan groups at the same time.

It happened again, this time on Facebook. Someone I considered a friend and had much in common with had an anonymous person contact another friend of hers through facebook and shared with her several screen grabs of things the mutual friend had said about her. This of course caused all sorts of drama, but for some reason the friend thought it was me who did this.

First, some facts:

  • I don't know the facebook friend's real life friend.
  • Although I had seen statuses posted by the facebook friend making fun of her real life friend's choice of names for her baby, it was certainly nothing worthy of screen grabbing and sending to the real life friend. (and frankly, the baby name choice is horrendous. She named her baby after a Homestuck character so I agree it's a terrible name for a baby.)

I really, honestly, don't make a habit of prying into people's personal lives. I like to keep parts of my life private and it makes sense other people want to do the same with their lives. Also, once something's on the internet it's there forever, and you don't want to say or share things that can come back to bite you later.

The facebook friend unfriended me and didn't talk to me for over a year. Her choice, and although I was still completely innocent of what she accused me of doing, she decided I was the guilty party anyway. I noticed that many of our mutual friends also refused to talk to me after that. Typical behavior.

Until a couple of weeks ago. The facebook friend contacted me. She told me that she found out who really sent her real life friend the screen grabs and knew it wasn't me. She then APOLOGIZED to me and we're back to being facebook friends. She told me about the person who did it, a person I am well aware of likes to cause trouble for people.

This is the first time someone has been enough of a decent human being to actually apologize to me. I don't know if other people who have accused me ever get to the point they know I was innocent because they never talk to me again. Weak, cowardly people. It takes guts to admit you're wrong, which is why people don't do it very often.

As for the facebook friend who proved she has a spine, we're back to chatting again, but I won't forget what she did to me. She knows this too.

A Most Unhealing Diet

My father recently took a nasty fall down some stairs. He broke four ribs, shattered his collar bone and punctured a lung. On top of his other health problems, he's going to take a long time to mend.

He's been moved from the emergency hospital to a rehab hospital. The place is clean, the staff are great, and he has a TV with a DVD player so he can watch lots of movies while his body heals. With my Dad's other health concerns, it will take him longer to heal. The food they're giving him however will make the process even more difficult.

I visited Dad yesterday, and I was there during two of his meals. He joked about how strict they were on what he was allowed to order because of his health problems. "If I order eggs for breakfast, I can't have any sausage." He told me, as I picked up the menu and read through the list of options. The protein options are standard 4 oz. cuts of meat or fish, and some of the meats have an option of being served breaded and fried. After he chooses his entré, he has various breads, pasta, rice, potatoes with gravy to choose from. The vegetables are all boiled, except for the garden salad. Thank goodness.

And then there are the desserts! Yes, dad is allowed dessert, because in the United States not eating something sweet after a meal is unheard of. For lunch, they brought him a cup of orange sherbet and gave him sugar-free orange jello. For supper, the dessert item was a large wedge of angel food cake, and they gave him fruit for his meal.

My Dad is diabetic with a three insulin shot-a-day habit. They checked his sugar between meals and it was 274! Not surprising, when they gave him a huge pile of mashed potatoes with gravy, jello, AND sherbet. When Dad's dinner arrived the cod he ordered was a 4 oz. portion, and the rest of the plate was piled high with Promise margarined 'buttered' noodles.

Protein is a vitally important nutrient for anyone with serious injuries needed to heal. They give him shakes with each meal, but Dad didn't say they were protein shakes, but made up of other substances the doctor wanted him to have. I considered the options I would have picked from that menu if I were there and I probably would have more than one argument with the dietitian. Then, I would have someone sneak in plenty of protein shakes to supplement the anemic protein servings.

What passes for a healthy hospital diet is appalling. I know they hire professionals to make up the menus, people with college degrees and initials after their names to give them the veneer of authority. My diabetic Dad with broken ribs, punctured lung and shattered collar bone is not going to heal with a steady diet of noodles, sherbet and angel food cake.

None of your damn business why I didn't buy

Recently LinkedIn offered a free trial upgrade. I usually ignore these offers because the idea of paying for something I can use for free never made sense to me. This time I looked over the list of added features and thought, “Okay, provided they don't require me to give them my credit card info I'll give it a try for a month.”

I made my selection, clicked this, okay, clicked that … and then the page asking for my credit card number came up. “Nice try,” I chuckled and closed the tab on my browser. I forgot about it until I received an email from LinkedIn, and not during the usual time of day when they spam my inbox.

This is what I found:

From: LinkedIn
Subject: What kept you from giving LinkedIn Premium a try?

Kelly, we’re curious: what kept you from giving LinkedIn Premium a try?

We noticed that you recently started to sign up for a LinkedIn Premium trial, but didn't finish up.

We'd love to understand why so we can make the experience better for you in the future. If you've got a second, please select one of the options below to describe your experience.

I had no idea if this is something new or this is the first time I'm seeing it because this is the first time I bothered with checking out the premium service. I let it pass, until today, when I received this email:

From: Online Shopping Website
Subject: Tell Us Why & Receive a Special Offer!

Tell us why you didn't buy and receive a special offer! CLICK HERE

Now I know this is something new, because this website belongs to a clothing store I have shopped at for years before they were online and sent out mailers. This makes me particularly annoyed because I've never created an account with the website, I always check out as a guest.

Online shopping is a wonderful convenience, but I'm considering going back to using the catalogs they still mail me because I'm not happy at all they're tracking what pages I click and whether I ordered anything from them or not. They don't need to know if I was interested in the damn sweater until after I fill out the form and click COMPLETE ORDER.

None of your damn business why I didn't buy.

Week 2 of flood warnings

So far this week in northern mitten land people had their power cut off in a couple of neighborhoods because of flooding problems. Warnings were extended again, people not heeding warnings were rescued. I'm surprised more bridges aren't closed, because the water levels in the rivers seriously threaten to over spill.

People living below Croton-Hardy Dam were evacuated last week. Wraco Lodge Dam failed in Clare County. Schools have emergency shelters set up for people who can't stay in their homes. We have been lucky that the rain we were threatened with this past week never materialized because the inches of rain we got last weekend on top of the melting snow was bad enough. They are forecasting rain for tomorrow. Much warmer temperatures should finish off the remaining piles of snow we have, and add to the flooding.

There's an old farmer's saying that if it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain the next seven Sundays in a row.

Please, no ...

Saw some of the tornado damage from last weekend's storm. Lots of trees down and the Meijer sign in Big Rapids had been completely ripped off the pole.

Happy Spring.

Rain, flooding, torrential rain, tornadoes but at least it's snowing again.

Finally, a few days warm enough to melt most of the snow. Still a few piles here and there, but until tonight we had bare ground. After the hard winter we're weeks behind on everything. Daffodils and tulips are just beginning to push out of the ground. No crocuses yet. I should be hunting morels by June, I think.

It's also very flooded here. Rambadt park in town is submerged by the Hersey River. People below Croton Dam are being evacuated, because the flooding is particularly bad this spring. You can sign up for sandbagging classes in Evart.

The five inches of rain we got over the weekend didn't help.

It's unfortunate this storm came through when it did, because we missed the lunar eclipse.

But for now there's snow on the ground. Until that melts.

Does this mean I have to change parties?

I tried out this website today which asks you survey questions and based on your answers it informs you which political party you are most in tune with. I'm a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, but I know I don't agree 100% with everything in the party platform. I doubt anyone could ever do that with any party.

Here is how I ranked:

Well, that is interesting. I ranked higher with the Green Party than I did the Democratic Party.

The Greens are a great party and as the survey results show, I agree with almost everything they have in their platform. They're strong on the environment and stopping corporations from dodging their responsibility to clean up their ecological messes. They also oppose the KXL Pipeline debacle.

The Democratic Party are also strong in the areas I consider important, and I only scored slightly lower with them. The 16% with the Republicans is mostly on the issue with Common Core. Democrats and Greens are for it, I am opposed to it, but not the reasons Republicans are against it. This is where surveys like this become less accurate. They only have room for so many questions, and pigeonhole you into one category or another based on a single answer. Common Core is the idea of having a national set of education standards. The problem is none of these standards are designed by educators, and don't follow any logical method for teaching. They put too much emphasis on standardized testing, and expect every student regardless of individual abilities to pass it.

Am I turning in my Democratic Party membership card for a Greens Party card? Probably not, but still, it was interesting to see I'm more aligned with them then the Democratic.

Ode to my @Blackberry Gmail @googleapps.

Gmail used to have this great app for Blackberry that allowed you to read and send email without opening up the browser on your cell phone. I used it constantly on my Blackberry because although I love my Blackberry, it has a problem with the battery running out in a matter of hours whether I'm using the phone or not. This is a Blackberry thing, which instead of addressing the problem by putting a battery with a longer life in their phones blame their customers for not being conservation minded.

Two weeks ago the gmail app stopped working. It can't connect to the network anymore and that means it no longer updates with new email messages when I get them. Being a freelance writer who relies on my clients contacting me by email 90% of the time, this really sucks.

Sure, I can open the browser on my phone and access gmail that way, but that requires finding a strong enough wifi connection for the internet to work on my phone. I didn't have that issue with the gmail app. It worked wherever I could get a strong enough signal to make a call. Huge difference living in a national forest in northern Michigan. Wifi is terrible here and there are large sections of the region that are dead zones because who needs a cell phone when they're hiking in a forest full of animals like bears?

I know Google stopped supporting the gmail app in 2011, and boo on Google. Why would you stop supporting something that people liked? Was it because people liked it and not your crappy Google + that no one wants to use despite you doing everything possible to force people to use it? Still, it was a handy, useful little app I actually used every day, and I'm sad it's gone now.

A Real Pro-Life Policy

On December 11, 2013 the state legislature in Michigan voted on a petition measure titled, "No Taxes For Abortion Insurance." The petition, circulated by Michigan Right to Life collected signatures telling people this was to make sure tax dollars didn't pay for abortions through the ACA. Of course, anyone who take a few seconds to execute a Google search knows taxes haven't paid for an abortion in the United States in 40 years. Nothing like lying to the public to push your pet agenda.

Another thing the petition did to Michigan was make sure private insurance - the insurance you're paying for - also no longer covers abortion. This is another overreach of big government into the private lives of American citizens, but we'll overlook that too when a small segment of the population has an agenda to force on everyone else. The bad news for Michigan women is now if you are a victim of rape or incest, your private insurance won't cover the cost of having a possible resulting pregnancy terminated. That's right, you have to plan ahead just in case you get raped. Women in Michigan must purchase a separate rider to their insurance plan, a private insurance plan that very likely covered the medical procedure already.

This latest anti-woman move in Michigan is part of the GOP agenda to deny women reproductive health care across the country while at the same time cutting many programs that would help poor women raise and support their families. Food stamp benefits, WIC programs, education, housing and on and on. In Michigan, taxes were raised on the poorest families while retroactive time limits started kicking people off programs they relied on to survive with only a few weeks notice. Across the country, the Republicans continue to make it more difficult for the weakest and most vulnerable to survive - our children.

It's counterproductive to insist women bring pregnancies to term while at the same time not offering any help in raising and caring for children struggling to survive. Of course, in the United States, the so-called richest nation on Earth, we're told we can't afford all of that expensive child supporting stuff like maternity leave, child care, health care, education or food and shelter. We can make them have the babies, but once they're here, well, that's the parent's job to keep them alive.

If not enough money is the problem in the United States, then how do other nations with the same standard of living handle this problem? Actually, most do much better that the US when it comes to supporting mothers and children. For an example, lets look at Finland and how they manage to do the impossible.

Finland is about the size of the state of California with a population of 5.5 million. They enjoy a high standard of living, are in the Eurozone and their economy is on par with Germany, France and the UK. Their major exports are electronics, lumber and Angry Birds. In the 1930's Finland faced a crisis. Their infant mortality rate was at epidemic levels; over 65 deaths per 1000 births. The government of Finland came to the conclusion that if they provided expectant mothers with what they needed to help care for newborn infants, more of them would survive. In 1939, the first boxes of baby supplies were delivered to expectant low-income mothers.

The program worked. It worked so well that in 1949 the baby box program extended to all expectant families in Finland regardless of income. Rich or poor, part of becoming a mother in Finland for the past 75 years includes a cardboard box containing over 50 items ranging from baby clothes, blankets, toys and a mattress that fits inside the box everything arrives in. Many Finnish babies begin their lives sleeping inside a cardboard box. This box enabled the infant mortality rate to drop from being one of the highest, to being the fifth lowest in the world. Finland's current infant mortality rate is 2.8. The United States has the highest infant mortality rate of all industrialized modern nations at 5.4 per 1000 births. Cuba's infant mortality rate is lower.

Finland didn't stop helping families with the baby box. Finnish mothers also have 90 days paid maternity leave, and the first 30 days of that leave start before the new mom gives birth. A month before the due date, Finnish women go on maternity leave because less stress in the new mother's life means a healthier woman will give birth to a healthier baby. You might be thinking it's much easier for a country of only 5.5 million people to be able to allow this policy, but this map proves otherwise. Even more populated countries - India and China - still manage to provide paid maternity leave for new mothers.

And it gets even better. All parents in Finland receive a per-child stipend from the government until the child turns 17 regardless of income. The child benefit is increased per child if the children live in a single parent home. Every Finnish citizen also receives universal health coverage. Your medical bills are covered.

So now that Finnish mothers and babies have the help they need to not only survive, but thrive, what about education? In Finland, public education is free through the first four years of university. Get good grades, earn your Abitur and your college tuition is covered. There is even money to help with living expenses, although many Finnish college students will need to supplement with some financial help. The main point to remember is that many Finns finish their secondary educations without the staggering debt American university students face after four years. Imagine what life would be like in the United States if our citizens didn't have to face enormous medical and education debts? There would be more money in our pockets to spend on what we want, meaning more money for the American economy.

Teachers in Finland enjoy a very different culture too. They're paid professional salaries and treated like professionals. The education system shares nothing in common with the education system in the United States, except there are school buildings full of students and education staff. Teachers in Finland don't face useless standardized tests or merit pay based on test scores that assess nothing. Unlike Americans considering career choices, many Finnish people consider the teaching profession a desired one.

Being the typical American, you're probably saying to yourself right now, "Sure, they get all those social programs, but they cost money. How much more taxes are they paying?"

Good question, let's take a look at individual taxes in Finland. Finnish taxpayers pay income taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, pension fees and corporate taxes. They also have a VAT tax on things they buy. Being part of the Eurozone, all of the taxes in Finland can't exceed the standards set by the European Union. Income taxes progress from a rate of 6.5% to 30% based on income. The corporate tax rate in Finland starting in January, 2014 is 20%. VAT taxes are 24% with lower rates of 13% and 9% for food and restaurants. Pension fees are 23% of gross income, but the employer pays most of that. Capital gains taxes are 30% or 32% based on income. In the United States income taxes alone range from 10% to 39%.

What does this mean? It means that the Finnish pay a little more in taxes, but they get heath care, free public education through college, and a healthy start when they're born. Finland has a truly pro-life policy that Americans can't even imagine.

And what about abortion in Finland? It's legal, and covered by their federally funded universal health care. Even with the incredible level of support for new mothers and their children, a Finnish woman still has the ability to be in complete control of her reproductive health.

Here in the United States the so-called Right to Life movement has never advocated for anything that would help parents raise healthy children. Instead, conservative Christians elect politicians who vote to cut support for women and children. Sequester cuts to WIC and welfare programs, cuts to SNAP benefits, huge cuts in public education, and right to work laws allowing multi-billion dollar profit businesses to pay slave wages, forcing families to rely more and more on welfare programs to help them survive. Those programs thanks to the GOP are disappearing. The good, compassionate Christian members of Michigan Right to Life lied on a petition that the Republican dominated state legislature passed. Michigan women are now forced to spend more money on their health care just in case they get raped. I've yet to find the verse in the Bible that says God allows people to lie when it promotes a political agenda.

The United States leads the industrialized world in child poverty. Another conservative Christian value Americans can be proud of, right? How can one in four children living in poverty be pro-life? It isn't. That's because in the United States the "pro-life" movement has nothing to do with preserving life, it's all about punishing and shaming women for having sex.

Oh right, see that dark blue country on that map with the lowest child poverty rate? That's Finland.