Sunday, February 22, 2009

of Molars, the Emergency Room, and Televised Babysitting

The Rozzle has been cutting some serious molars for…well, what seems like FOREVER, now! She always follows the same pattern with teeth: first we notice she's a little crabby, then she starts having a hard time falling asleep, then she gets really crabby, then we start dosing first with Motrin and asking questions later. And, it seems like each time she gets a tooth, she gets an antibiotic shortly thereafter. Hmmm. The wonderful women at daycare called on Tuesday last week just as Miss Tessmacher and I were about to leave for home: they'd noticed Roz was warm, and upon temping her found that she was up to 102.5! Yikes! So we hurried home to find a red-cheeked babe fitfully asleep on her cot, with R. gently stroking her head. Such good care! The next day - Wednesday - is a "G. Day" (Tess' mother, who refuses to be "grandma," chose the seemingly-hipper G. as her moniker.), so we didn't have to make any special plans; we left a still-hot baby in her very capable hands and split for work.

Which, not so much. I was only at my desk for about a half-hour when G. called, telling me that she'd temped Roz and found a holy-shit 104.8 reading on the thermometer! Uh…double-yikes! I quickly called the Dr. - with whom we aren't very happy anyway, because it seems like we always need to go to a redi-care facility any time any of us is sick - who flat-out told me "If she's temping that high, you need to take her to the emergency room." Great. What a wonderful day for G. THIS is going to be! I made the necessary arrangements by phone, then hit the road…which was thankfully not slippery as I vastly exceeded the posted speed limit, frightful scenarios playing out in my head: "What if she dies?!?" ("Don't be ridiculous, she's at the hospital, she'll be fine!") "Yeah, but…people die at the hospital all the time!!!" ("You fuckstick, just DRIVE!") And so on.

When I got there the place was, of course, packed: nothing like a busy small-town emergency room at noon on a Wednesday! They had given her a hefty dose of Tylenol for the fever and she was sleeping soundly on G.'s lap. When we finally got into the treatment room, she was starting to cool off with a Fla-vor-ice and was cracking up while watching Tom & Jerry. (Fan-fucking-tastic…I loathe that cartoon! Watch, now she'll start askin' for it.) The Dr. checked her out and found signs of an ear infection, but really nothing else. Strep is going around town, especially in the schools, but he didn't even bother checking for that: he put her on unpronouncicilin and sent us on our way.

Which, okay, great, but an antibiotic again?!? I walk a fine like with doctors and medication: I treat the shit out of headaches and backaches with Motrin, but I'm seriously of the mind that, hey, let's NOT create superbugs, right? Also, what would have been my fate a century ago? Would I have lived? I dunno…it just doesn't strike me as right that Rozzle has been on something like three antibiotics in six months. On the other hand…it sure did the trick! Her appetite is back with a vengeance (today's menu: whole leg of lamb, a silo of corn, and a couple gallons of soup), she's sleeping soundly, and she's a joy to play with again. So, apparently, all's well and etc. etc.

So, we're enjoying a weekend of baching it while the illustrious Miss Tessmacher is down in Mississippi, presenting at a flute conference and getting a day trip to New Orleans out of it as well. Which brings me to the concept of Television as Babysitter. Naturally, being a snotty overeducated liberal fuckwad, I'd read tons of books during Tess' pregnancy, all of which came down to the same basic point about TV (the "idiot box," per Jubal Harshaw): don't do it. TV for kids under the age of two is simply a no-no. Which, not so much. There are a few shows Roz absolutely LOVES: Sid the Science Kid, Super Why, and Pocoyo. They're all on PBS - we're a cable-free household, so no cartoon channel for us - and, well, they're just pretty good shows. We also usually watch a Muppet Show on DVD before bed, and Roz likes both Looney Tunes and Mickey Mouse shorts. But the 1/2-hour shows on PBS allow me to plop her in a chair and go "get shit done." I can organize her lunch and/or dinner without having her underfoot and whiny, I can put dishes away or fold laundry…basically, all those things that contribute BOTH to her happiness & ease of care, as well as general crap that needs to be done in the interest of keeping a sane household. Am I proud of it? No, not really…but on the other hand, I'm a realist, and there are just some things that you give in to. Tess is convinced that Roz will "never" have a phone in her room; I had one all through high school, and I was fine…in fact, I hate the phone now, as good friends whom I'm supposed to call back will attest to (Mike, I'm talkin' 'bout YOU!). Ditto video games: I had a console - granted, it was a Sears 2600 with such thrilling games as Asteroids and Pac-Man - and it didn't rot my brain or keep me from reading books. I'll try to draw the line at Halo, though. So, I'd rather walk a middle ground when it comes to things verboten: a little is okay, too much is definitely not good, and none at all makes it seem all the more thrilling for it's absence. I saw one of my nephews go crazy once he left his parents' house, filling his life with all those things that he was denied while under their roof. That's how I justify it to myself, anyway…while I'm putting dishes away as Roz giggles to the sight of sandwiches running away from Pocoyo and Pato.

Watching Mickey with Mom.

Perhaps we need a better humidifier?

"If you're happy and you know it, pick your nose…"

Ready for the cold.

Rockin' her Little People castle, Benatar-style!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

In God We Trust

A close friend from my high school days keeps me on her "fwd" list. I don't mind. Generally I disdain forwards as supreme opposed to, say, blogging, which of course doesn't waste ANY time at all. Yah. Anywho, a recent one that found its way into my inbox was one of those 'round-the-world forwards, that comes to a person, then gets sent to all the members of that person's contacts list, yadda yadda. This one had to do with the newest version of the U.S. dollar coin, and how people (translation: good, Christian people) need to boycott the despicable thing because it DOES NOT CARRY the words "In God We Trust."

Which, if you know me at all, just about made me stroke out.

Folks. Seriously. Seriously? We have to have this conversation again?? Okay. Fine by me. Lissen up.

The motto "In God We Trust", like the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, was never originally part of our coinage. The one word that was a requirement on our money from its earliest days, shown here on the 1793 cent, was very simple: "Liberty."

Naturally the name of the country and the denomination belonged there as well, but that sort of goes without saying, right? So, beyond those obvious inclusions, the only thing - the ONLY thing! - that our illustrious Founding Fathers thought was important enough to declare on all our currency, was the word describing the very reason we were a country in the first place...liberty.

"In God We Trust" came about largely due to increased religious sentiment during the Civil War. Think about it: two countries (the U.S.A. and the C.S.A.) occupying the same landmass, made up of the same people, worshipping the same God. It's the age-old question: "If God's on our side, who could possibly be on theirs?" It's the same question asked during the Crusades (as if Allah wasn't on the side of the Muslims) and World War II (as if the Nazi's didn't believe in God as well). The U.S. thought to out-worship the C.S. by placing the motto on the newly-minted 2¢ piece in 1864:

Pretty coin, innit? Nice & hefty, too...makes me wonder why we got rid of it!

Now, you'd think that, once placed, the "In God We Trust" motto would be good to go. Not so! It's use was interrupted on several of our coins after 1864. The most obvious one, the one most people would have seen on a daily basis, was the Liberty Head nickel of 1883-1913:

Notice that we've started using the "E Pluribus Unum" motto in addition to "Liberty," but conspicuously absent is "In God We Trust." Here too, on the gold eagle (which admittedly most folks wouldn't just carry around), there's no mention of the Christian deity:

Again, a lovely coin. As a collector, I can look wistfully on these beautiful pieces of spendable art and lament the fact that all I have to look at are dead presidents. *sigh*

So, we've established that there's a long-standing precedent of NOT having the "In God We Trust" motto. The bigger problem with the new $1 coin, though, is very simple: THE MOTTO'S THERE! In an effort to not clog the obverse/reverse faces of the coin with tons of writing, the mint chose a little-used option (but certainly not a new one) of putting the motton on the edge of the coin (called "edge incusion):

Again, I don't necessarily think Adam's dour face is particularly artful, but dammit, the motto is there. Along with the date and mint mark. And "E Pluribus Unum."

Part of my irritation is that people will spread what they "see," without really looking at the situation. I guess this is how rumor & innuendo become "news." My biggest beef, though, is that people would use this excuse to boycott one of the biggest money-savers the government could enact: the use of the dollar coin to the exclusion of the bill. The typical life of a paper (really cotton) bill is 18 months. A coin? 30 years. When the Sacagawea dollar was introduced in the '90s, it was estimated that the government could save $500 million (that's with an "m," as in 6 more zeroes) a year if people would use the dollar coin instead of the bill. But we won't, because we're not used to it. Hell, the United States is the only country left with such a small-denomination bill...we're so out of it, it ain't even funny! But along we go, merrily throwing crummy itty-bitty bills at each other, all the while bitching about the government and "wasteful spending." You wanna control wasteful spending? Start to save up those worn-out $1 notes, and when you get a handful of 'em, take 'em to the bank and ask for coins. Refuse to use the bills, I say, and send the message that we could better use that $500 mil somewhere else...or simply not spend it at all. Hey, there's a novel idea!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Consumer Sanity


Yeah. That's the way the headline ought to read, ain't it? Except, it really doesn't. Instead, what we read about is Wall Street shitting itself because consumer spending dropped for the sixth straight month. (God, that's hard to say out loud..."Sixth straight month." Try it three times, real fast!) And as always, I feel so intellectually inadequate when I try to wrap my mind around these gargantuan concepts. did we get here??

I'm told that consumer spending accounts for (take your pick) 70%/two-thirds of our economy. HOW?!? How did we get to that point? What accounted for the majority of our economy 100 years ago? 'Cause, I can't believe that it was consumer spending. Don't misunderstand: I'm not advocating a return to subsistence living, and I know that we're such a huger country now than we were then. I know we can't put the genie back in the bottle...I just want to understand. Like, does anyone have a book to recommend? Preferably titled "The Economy from 1900-2000: How We Got Here from There."

I know that we've cut back in our household. Oh, I don't mean on things we actually want; we're doing our best to keep the economy afloat, sometimes all by our lonesome! We recently bought a giant storage bench to keep The Rozzle's "downstairs toys" in. I still buy "necessary" items from Amazon (like gifts for upcoming occasions, movies with the Gene Krupa Orchestra that I recently discovered, etc.). No, our cutbacks have been at a basic level; things that, having cut back, I don't really see returning to previous spending levels. F'r instance: wine. We'd been gradually pushing our per-bottle limit up to the $9.99-$12.99 range...and that's for sale bottles, which originally started at $15.99 or more. (I blame most of that movement on our go-to wine friends Andy & Carmen, who, goddammit, simply drink wine that's too good. Now that we haven't seen them in months, I'm okay drinking corporate swill again.) I've pushed us back to bottles that top out at $7.99, and most of them come in a buck or two less than that. Organics are a similar story: I have deep convictions about buying organic when I can, but when the organic version of (fill in the blank) is $2.29, and the non-organic version is $1.19, well...I save a buck-ten on a dozen items, and that starts to make a real difference. I'm also using more coupons, and being really insistent about getting our bag credit.

Other cuts: I'm driving slower and less aggressively, which saves on gas. We're eating less meat - not abandoning it altogether, just reducing our input by, say, one or two meals a week. Veggies and beans and rice are cheaper than meat. When I buy clothes - which is far less often than "the norm" seems to be - I never pay full price, either buying cool vintage or drastically-reduced sale items. I've stopped my monthly comic pulls, and if I get into the mood to catch up on what the Fantastic Four or Hulk are doing, I'll buy a year's worth of issues from an online retailer, usually at 30-40% off the original cover price. I've stopped so-called "impulse" buys almost completely. I still buy what I want/need, but in general I think about most purchases first. "New bench to store Rozzle's toys in?" Check. "Cool vest that's been marked down 50%?" Check. "New shoes because I'm tired of the old ones that still fit fine and are totally comfortable" Ch--, er, wait a minute. Let's wander around the store, come back & look at 'em a few times. Ahh, nope. Don't need 'em. Walk away.

That makes sense, though, right? When did we become a country of impulse-buyers, a society so in need of instant gratification? Did someone convince us that that was either 1) necessary, or even 2) a good idea? If so, who? Maybe this comes out of the concept that each successive generation is supposed to "have it better" than the previous. What does that even mean? How am I supposed to "be better off" than the Boomers? Am I supposed to make more money? Should I buy more crap that I don't really need? Or, is it okay to make less money, to have fewer things, but still "be better off" by having a richer life, by knowing what's important? So many philosophical quandries....

Ultimately I think it's a good thing for Americans to discover that instant gratification is a spiritual dead-end, and that having, I don't know, 36" plasma-screen TVs in every room isn't necessary. But now that we've gotten to this point of propping up our economy with that kind of brash spending...what takes its place? What if we (gulp!) actually decide to save 10% of our annual income and think about what that'll mean for the comfort of our retirement years? Well, then, lots of those jobs that have been lost in the last few years...they ain't ever comin' back. Could we do that? Is it even possible to shrink our economy in that way? Or, would that put us in a permanent Depression? Have we become too big a society - in terms of literal numbers of people - to even think about that? What happens if 35 million people - 10% of our population - are just...out of work, permanently? We already don't make so much of the stuff we buy in this country; what if we just start buying less, and keep buying less? That seems like the most sensible why, if that happens, are we so fucked?

So many few answers. Big problems that seem insurmountable. A path that must lead forward, but is shrouded in mist. Where do we go from here?