Friday, November 16, 2007

the bacteria are coming to take us down, that's my prediction

Talk of something new is haunting our house lately, and its name is MRSA.

They have had confirmed cases of MRSA not only in our town, but in the kids' school. Today I found out that someone in Logan's class has MRSA. The kid in his class was not the first or only case in the school, which makes me wonder if it has the potential to become an epidemic.

I am trying really hard not to freak out. But even though I'm able to put on my everything's-in-control face for the kids, inside I am definitely worried. J is not even remotely worried; he thinks that the risks of our kids catching it or anything serious resulting from it is about the same as the Asian bird flu.

The school district did send home letters explaining that they have found cases of MRSA but that it's not anything to really worry about as long as we make sure we maintain good hygiene. The Wiki on it says that the death rate from MRSA is about 34 percent, but I'm not sure who is included in that number. (Maybe patients in hospitals, since otherwise it sounds relatively benign?) The school letter said that MRSA is nothing new and that many people are exposed to it or carriers of it without even having symptoms, and that our bodies fight off the bacteria in most cases.

So I don't really feel like the spectre of MRSA is like the Grim Reaper lurking in the corner waiting to kill us or anything. But at the same time, I look at my kid (not saying which one, to protect his privacy) who is always picking his nose and sticking his fingers in his mouth, and I think, if anyone's at risk of getting MRSA, it's you, Mr. Bad-Hygiene Kid. Obviously I am constantly telling him to stop sticking his fingers in his nose and mouth, and to wash his hands more thoroughly, and that for god's sake he REALLY has to stop licking the conveyor belt and shopping cart at the grocery store, but it still seems to fall on deaf ears. And I also consider the fact that Adam, while not officially immuno-compromised, is far more susceptible to illnesses than the rest of us and he always gets a worse case of every illness than we do. He always reacted badly to vaccines, too, including one that had to be reported to the NVIC, and it led to me questioning vaccinations. I don't know if he would be one of the lucky ones if he were to contract MRSA, and I can't really let myself think about that too much.

I feel like I have to give myself a crash course in learning all about MRSA just so I can understand it and talk myself out of being freaked out. I think Ani DiFranco was right when she wrote the line that I used for the title of my post. Ultimately, regardless of whatever happens to the rest of us and our planet, the bacteria will survive. I just hope they don't gain too much power.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

baby, seasons change but people don't

I've been out in the malls lately, and I've noticed this really eerie emptiness in the stores. I've had absolutely no problem finding parking spaces either. Ordinarily at this time of the year, stores are starting to get a little busier, but it is definitely not happening this year. Stores are seeming pretty desperate for customers, too: I've noticed more "amazing sales" than usual and it's like there's a new sale every weekend. The number of coupons for free items and discounts that I'm receiving in the mail has gone way up. The type of sales they're having now are honestly more like what you would usually see the day after Thanksgiving. You can almost smell the retailers' desperation.

I'm not positive about what's causing the retail slowdown, but by now I think it's a sign of larger problems in the U.S. economy. Michigan is almost always bad, but articles like this show that it's happening all over. They even used the "R" word - recession - and I have to say that I see it coming around here for sure and I'm trying to be more careful. I've been compiling a file of stories relating to the economy and potential recession I've run across in the past couple months and it doesn't look good. Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks it doesn't look good; supermodel Gisele will no longer accept payment in US dollars.

I guess the real question I'm asking myself right now, and trying to answer through all these stories I'm compiling, is whether or not this will be a short-term recession like others that we have experienced before, or if it will be more on the scale of the Great Depression. People I know have said that they don't believe another Great Depression is possible, but I disagree with that. Maybe that cause won't be the same, now that the FDIC exists, but I definitely believe that we can reach that state of widespread struggle and poverty again. But is it possible to avoid it, or just try to make things easier for myself if it happens?

Monday, November 12, 2007

you’re someone who knows someone who knows someone I once knew

I admit it: I am officially fully sucked into Myspace. I now have my husband nearly sucked into it, too. It was actually a really delayed reaction kind of thing for me, because I had a Myspace page for almost 2 years before it finally clicked and pulled me in. I think that graduating college and having a little more free time was probably the explanation for the sudden increase in interest, especially since my husband said that if he was done with school and working for home, he'd likely waste as much time on it as I have.

Being over 30, I am clearly not fully a member of the Myspace Generation. Good example: my husband looked up all of the graduates from his high school to see if he could find any of the people he wanted to be in contact with again. He searched for a 3-year period, and there were only 88 people - and that's out of nearly 1000 students! But first he had checked it without putting on the filter for the year, and there were nearly a thousand, most of whom were between the ages of 16-21. Most of my friends - even those in my same age bracket - have Myspace pages, but overall my friends are a self-selected group of internet-savvy people. I would say that we're definitely the minority in our age group, because most of the over-30 year olds that I know do not have Myspace and are not even remotely interested.

It's funny, because I don't normally get hung up on the ages of people, and I have friends who are 10 years younger than me and 10 years older than me. Most of the time it doesn't matter. But it seems that technology is one of the greatest divides among these 10-year cohorts. Just as I am way more internet- and tech-savvy that most people I know in their early 40s, I feel nearly technologically illiterate compared to those 10 years younger than me. They don't remember life when there was no blogosphere, no way to download music from the internet, when there wasn't even a way for the average person to take a picture and upload it instantly to a computer. I remember when there were no cell phones - and then of course when the only cell phones available were the size of a brick and expensive. There was no GPS in cars, or chips able to be implanted in people or pets. No instant messaging. My cell phone is much smaller than my wallet, and it can take pictures, send emails, access the internet, play games and download music.

It's not that any of this makes me feel old. Though I do occasionally feel wistful for the freedom of my younger years, I also know that 33 is not even remotely old in the context of a modern lifespan. But it amazes me to think of how much technology separates generations now. I know that to some degree, every generation has experienced this since the Industrial Revolution. But it seems like it's going much faster than it used to. For example, from the post-WWII "Baby Boom" era, to the mid 60s, were there anywhere near as many technological advances as there have been in the past 10 years? That's not a rhetorical question - I really don't know the answer. There are some things that are the same between generations and it's only the slang that changes. (The slang is one of the aspects that would most bug me if I were single and actively trying to date someone 10 years younger than me - I would go crazy being called 'ma' or 'mami' by anyone other than my actual child. I don't understand calling someone your "boo." A lot of the internet lingo/1337-speak is funny and easy to catch on to, but I still can't make myself write in text-message speak.)

What will the changes be that my kids will experience 10 years from now that will separate them from the cohort between us? And perhaps the more important, philosophical question to ponder is: how long can this rate of technological advancement consider? It can't be indefinite, so what happens once it has to end - and what will make it end?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

you know the shape my breath will take before I let it out

There's this myth out there that alcohol makes writers more creative. It's one of the oldest myths about writers (and any other creative artist types) that there is, I think.

I don't usually drink much, in quantity or frequency. I have a family history of alcoholism and I am terrified of going down that road. But every now and then I decide maybe I'd like to drink a bit, and it doesn't make me creative at all. It makes me bliss out for a bit, which is really good, but I don't produce anything of value during that time. It seems that pain and anguish is actually more often what really what leads to creativity for me, which is almost as much of a cliche as alcohol and drug use for writers. But even that is not consistent or reliable.

But in truth I really haven't found the answer yet, for what will give me instant creativity right when I need it. I hope I can find it soon - I keep looking for it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The way the blue could pull me in, if they only would...

Total WTF musical moment of the day:

BLINK 182 covering The Cure's "A Letter to Elise". It's a pretty horrifying cover, but I do have to give them props for being a bit more original and not covering "Lovesong" like virtually every other band covering The Cure seems to do.

I have this theory, I'm sure you'll think I'm on drugs but that's okay because I'm used to people thinking that about me. Part of my job is keeping up with product recalls, and I'm sure you've probably noticed that there have been quite a few of them from China lately. In aggregate though - especially considering that there have actually been quite a few more than the average person knows about unless they're going out of their way to follow it - it all looks pretty horrifying. If you were prone to believing in conspiracy theories you might even think that China was trying to take over the world, and were trying to ensure that America was never a threat again. They have the perfect weapon after all: our love for cheap stuff and endless consumerism. But in reality I don't really think that is what's going on; I think that Chinese companies are taking advantage of their ascent in the global economy and accidents happen when you get careless. I suspect the same thing happened with the U.S. as well in the early days of our rise to economic power, but there just wasn't the immediate access to information back then.

The latest weirdness out of China: toys linked to date-rape drug recalled. Again, probably totally accidental, but apparently the chemical coating on these toys metabolizes to GHB (aka "roofies") when swallowed, and kids have died from it. What the hell is going on? It makes me scared to buy anything for my kids that I didn't hand-make by myself. Of course I will still line up for game boy games with all the other suckers parents, but it makes me think twice.

Reading about the number of dangerous things that get recalled and realizing that only a very small fraction of items ever even get inspected, it's kind of scary. I am not a vegetarian because I love animals or because I'm mostly Buddhist (though both of those things are true about me), but because I've read too much to trust the food inspection system. I realize that compared to the past, when people didn't have refrigerators and didn't understand sanitation, illness from contaminated food was far more common than it is now. That knowledge is the only thing that makes me able to eat anything at all. But considering how much wealth is at hand in the world economy, there is absolutely no excuse for this sort of approach to risk management. We have the resources that we could make sure nearly everything was safe, instead of taking a "ehh, good enough" approach.

The written word is a lie

Bucketful o' randomness:

- On our first wedding anniversary, J and I called into the Adventure Club, this radio show in Dallas that we listened to every Sunday, and requested that they play some Joy Division for us. Josh, the DJ, said about us, "Man, if these guys want to hear Joy Division on a happy occasion, what do they listen to when they're miserable?" I think I still have a recording of that on cassette* somewhere, lurking in that dark recess of the house with the other cassettes that are mostly being saved just for posterity and torturing the children with waves of nostalgia and proof that CDs haven't always been around. That gives us the ability to sound really old, which we can use to our advantage.

Sadly, when I was looking for that link, I discovered that apparently KDGE very recently got rid of Josh, who started as a DJ there the same year we moved to DFW. KDGE also appears to have turned into the hits-and-tits kind of testosterone-fueled radio station that I hate, too. Oh well, they say you can't go home again...

- Did you know that Suave deodorant actually has more of the active ingredient in it than Secret? Good ol' aluminum.** (Aluminium if you're British, though I've never understood that.) I thought everything Suave sucked based on my experiences with the shampoo and the deodorant many many years ago. Apparently they reformulated it and now the shit actually works. Color me shocked. I guess it's good to review my product snobbery periodically and see if it even makes sense anymore.

- Do you ever just bust out into an impromptu chorus of "Rise" by Public Image, Ltd.? Okay, that's just me then. I could be wrong, I could be right... That's one of the few songs where I actually get most of the lyrics right. I am the original Queen of Misheard Lyrics, you know.

- Why did so many of the people who used to be punk - who lived based on all these really hardcore, uncompromising principles and criticized the people like me who had to "sell out" to keep jobs or who didn't think appearance was everything - end up living in a manner so inconsistent with what they used to believe? I think it has something to do with the nature of uncompromising principles in general. I remember a few years ago, when my kids were barely verbal and still definitely almost completely within my control, I had some really hardcore uncompromising beliefs of my own - perhaps replacing the punk ethic I could never fully commit to, I could replace with equally strong parenting beliefs. I haven't exactly changed my views on most things; I'd go for the homebirth all over again, but I wouldn't have beaten myself up over it so much either; the breastfeeding advocacy was something that stuck with me; and now that my own babies are too big to carry in slings, slings that I sew have become my standard new-baby gift to people. So it's not that there was anything wrong with the beliefs; I just think that when you're that hardcore about anything, the only place there is to go is backward. Translation: my kids now eat Fruit by the Foot and yogurt with rainbow colors. I kept what really mattered to me and eased up on some of the rest. I wish that some of the former punks who judged me so harshly could have done the same, instead of doing a total 180 and now pretending that they never cared about abolishing racism, sexism or the government. Extremism seems to hurt just about any cause.

*Yes, we really were that lame, that we listened to the radio on our anniversary and sat there like dorks waiting with a cassette queued up so we could record the DJ talking about us on the radio. What's your point?

** I do, in fact, know that aluminum based antiperspirants are allegedly potentially linked with breast cancer. Unfortunately I hate being sweaty more than I fear breast cancer, pink ribbons be damned.
So something changed once I switched from my old blog under this name from Blogger, to my own domain, now to livejournal. The creativity I had with the very first blogspot domain never returned, so somehow it's available again, so we'll see if it's good luck or not. I'm going to try to be creative here and keep my LJ for the more personal stuff...