Category Archives: Priorities

What’s important?

Priorities… I’m moving on, getting to less

Priority: n. something meriting attention before competing alternatives

365 Words Beginning with P is winding down. Not because of a paucity of peachy P-words – indeed the peerless pantheon of P words is scarcely pricked.

My purpose – nay, my priority – was to prod my procrastinating pea-brain into a practice of producing pontifications on a daily basis until I had proffered at least 365 of them, thus proving to myself that I could write regularly.  This is #377. Who knew vocabulary could be so much fun!

(To those whose interest in 365pwords was more literary than political, I apologize for all the Palin posts last fall. It’s not my fault her name began with P.  I thank god she’s not our vice-president — pity those poor people in Alaska.)

What I’m saying is my priorities have shifted and I must move on. Literally. To a much smaller home, with much less stuff.

But I’ve caught blogging fever, and my new blog, Getting to Less, is shaping up nicely.  If you’re at all interested in getting to less in your own life, or you just want to keep me company on the journey, please please c’mon over.  And bring your own downsizing tips and (mis) adventures.

Pitching your possessions has got to be more fun than pulling your own teeth, right?

I’ll be back here occasionally when a P-word just screams to be written about. Meanwhile, join me over at Getting to Less.

Possessed by possessions: P-post #366!

Possessed: adj. influenced or controlled by something (as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea)

Possession: n. something owned, occupied, or controlled; property

With this morning’s post I have proffered and probed 365 words beginning with P.  365 P-words may seem like a plethora, but really it’s a paltry potpourri; I’ve barely penetrated the pregnant possibilities P-words provide.

You could say I’ve been possessed by P. Although I will continue to post here, it won’t be so regularly because I have a pressing priority: dealing with my Possessions.

I’ve got to get rid of about half my stuff so I can sell this house and move to a smaller place.  But, I’m not going away.  I’ve started another WordPress blog – on downsizing, cataloging the process of Getting to Less.

I hope that some of you will join me over at Getting to Less. Advice, moral support and tips from your own experience always welcome. Maybe you’ve got ideas about selling art? antiques? Dealing with boxes of photos, big honking scrapbooks.  Aaaagh.

The blog is a bit sparse so far… I’ve edited and moved over about 20 former P-posts that seemed on topic (so if you read a post that seems strangely familiar; it is – like I’m using this post title but the content is different).

Soon the material will be All New!

Pressure to pare down

Pressure: n. the burden of physical or mental distress; the constraint of circumstance; the weight of social or economic imposition; the application of force to something by something else in direct contact with it.

Pare: v. to trim off an outside, excess, or irregular part of; to diminish or reduce

Because I haven’t posted in a week you may think that I’m moving prematurely into slow blogging.

But no. I’ve just come to the realization that I can no longer afford to think about down-sizing. I need to DO down-sizing. Which means putting time and effort into planning, divesting, tossing…

Which means that instead of thinking about P words, I’ve been inventorying my stuff in preparation for the Great Divestiture.

Really, there’s no way I can go looking for some cute little shoebox until I sell the home I have – my beloved home.

To buy something, even a shoebox, would be silly when it could take months to sell my place in this challenging real estate market. And who wants to be paying for two places?

I’ve made myself a fine Excel spreadsheet on which I’m listing all my stuff, including measurements (will it fit in my shoebox?), and whether it’s a keeper, a give-away, a “store it in case the kids ever have real homes AND want Grandma’s embroidered antimacassar” , a “will it sell on eBay?” or “could I just dump it?”

I started with the easiest space – the guest bath. How much can a guest bathroom hold? I asked myself. Turns out quite a bit: a nice little rug, an antique commode, three pieces of art, and a very very very old Greek water jug. Sigh.

None I want to part with. And I’m just getting started.

I

Pressfield on the Protean Power of Resistance

Protean: adj. readily taking on varied shapes, forms, or meanings. Exhibiting considerable variety or diversity.

Power: n. ability to act or produce an effect

Screenwriter Steven Pressfield has written the definitive book on the struggle involved in becoming a professional writer (artist, creative person), The War of Art. He is, how shall I say it, a muscular writer. Very yang. The artistic process is a WAR in which you either emerge victorious (and bloodied) or you die.

He attributes all my procrastination proclivities to RESISTANCE, that force that prevents me from producing a plethora of perfect prose .

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be….

Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mown down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: we don’t even know what hit us. I never did. From age twenty-four to thirty-two, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again thirteen times and I never even knew it existed.

Once he’s kicked the reader’s ass around, he grapples with what it takes to be a Professional. It has to do with nailing your butt to the chair and just DOING IT. Every Day.

Although I write for hire, I’m clearly not a Professional – at least as concerns my OWN writing.

I’m taking a 4-week writing workshop in which we are to move a stuck project forward.  The third class is this weekend and  I’ve done almost nothing (again) on my project. While it’s true I’ve been busy with other things that seem essential, I should have been able to carve out a mere 30 daily minutes, for gods sake, to work on it. Flails at head and shoulders in pathetic gesture of self-abasement.

Even this blog, which has been such fun, is seeming onerous right now. 344 posts in 11 months; don’t stop now!!! Who cares. (the critic speaks.)

My daughter is blaming her blahs on sun-spots or solar flares. Sounds about right to me. Better than blaming it on my own resistance.

Prevention: vaccines as public health superstars

Prevention: n. the act of keeping from happening, holding back or hindering

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’m working on an article for a health magazine on vaccinations for children.

If you don’t have little kids you may not be aware that vaccinations have become a focus of parental angst since a (now-debunked) 1998 study of 8 autistic children by Andrew Wakefield in the UK, which claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine could cause autism.  Turns out that the doctor was a shill for the kids’ families who were seeking financial settlements. And last week several cases trying to link autism to vaccines were thrown out of court.  (Newsweek‘s Sharon Begley just did an excellent feature on the history and current state of the vaccination kerfuffle – Anatomy of a Scare….)

Wakefield’s British medical license was revoked, but the damage was done. Parents with autistic children had found themselves a scapegoat in the vaccine, and parents of healthy infants began to question the whole concept of vaccination.

  • There were so many shots: “Why when I was a kid,” they said, “we just had the DPT and polio vaccines….”
  • Is this an evil collaboration between Big Government [the CDC] and Big Pharma to get more money from us?
  • Had the vaccines been properly tested – separately and in combination? Was it safe to give babies so many shots at one time?
  • What are all these diseases anyway? Why should we worry?

To make matters worse, the media picked up the controversy and rumors spread like wildfire on the Internet. Celebrities ignorant of science and the scientific method ranted on TV. Some parents decided to forego vaccinating their kids;  some (thanks to a misleading and poorly researched book on vaccinations by the Dr. Robert Sears) decided to formulate alternative vaccination schedules for their babies – delaying some and dropping others.

I interviewed several pediatricians, family practice physicians, and epidemiologists for the article and they all were disturbed by the level of public misunderstanding and the potential repercussions of fewer kids being vaccinated.

“The problem,” said one pediatrician, “is that many of these vaccines have been around long enough and have been so dramatically successful that today’s young parents are unaware of how devastating these diseases can be. In my travels to less developed parts of the world I’ve seen kids struggle for their very lives or die from them.”

Another pediatrician told me that parents always fear for possible health threats to their babies. “Without the actual diseases themselves to fear, they are now focused on vaccine side-effects. Instead they should be worried that many of these childhood diseases are just a plane flight away. Or an unimmunized buddy at daycare away.”

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center:

Before the vaccines we use today parents in the US could expect every year:

  • Polio would paralyze 10,000 children
  • Rubella (german measles) would cause birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns.
  • Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing 3,000 and causing severe brain damage in many others.
  • Diptheria would be one of the most common causes of death in school-aged children
  • A bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae typ b (Hib) would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) would kill thousands of infants.

Additionally, the recent rotavirus vaccine protects the against an intestinal infection that’s still one of the  leading killers of the very young around the globe.

The other issue big on young parents’ minds is the timing of vaccinations – so many so close together. But that is how they have been studied, said the docs I spoke to – the current vaccination schedules have proven effectiveness and safety, and alternative schedules have not.

I could go on and on, but this is just a blog post.  If you’d like more information check out the CDC website.

Update 4/23/09: Jim Carrey wrote an outrageous post at Huffington Post yesterday – another celebrity rant by someone who doesn’t understand science. I’m not linking to it, but I will link to Skeptic Dad at Science-Based Parenting, who rebuts in detail the Carrey post. Nice job.

Purchasing Power: passé; ditto “consumers”

Purchase: v. to buy, to acquire in exchange for money

Power: n. the ability to act or produce an effect

Passé: adj. out-moded, past its prime

James Kunstler says it’s time to pucker our purses. Put down those precious pearls. Hands off the purple Prada pocketbook. And for god’s sake don’t purchase more plastic.

Say goodbye to the “consumer society.” We’re done with that. No more fast money and no more credit. The next stop is “yard-sale nation,” in which all the plastic crapola accumulated over the past fifty years is sorted out for residual value and, if still working, sold for a fraction of its original sticker price. This includes everything from Humvees to Hello Kitty charm bracelets.

It will be a very salutary thing if we stop even referring to ourselves as “consumers.” This degrading moniker, used for decades unthinkingly by everyone from The New York Times Nobel Prize pundits to the Econ 101 section men of the land-grant diploma mills has been such a drag on our collective development that it has extinguished the last latent flickers of duty, obligation, and responsibility for the greater good in a republic of broken communities shattered by Wal-Marts.

Kunstler is right. It’s high time we the people were called “people” or “citizens” instead of “consumers”.  The first step in changing our behavior is changing our thinking and language. I’d much rather be known as a citizen, which implies an awareness of and participation in the society around me.

We do have lives beyond the shopping mall, don’t we??  Lives of meaning even: we’re parents, children, workers, savers, helpers, voters…

Time to reclaim our humanity.

Patients’ patience: waiting costs us

Patient: n. an individual awaiting or under medical care and treatment

Patience: n. the quality of bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain

For years my ex had an internist who habitually ran an hour behind. No matter what time he arrived for his appointment he was seen an hour later. He spoke to the administrator about it, he chewed out the doc, and even threatened to bill him for the wait time (he was a lawyer, and had billable hours down!). Finally he found a new doc.

Princeton economist Alan Krueger wrote about this a couple of days ago:

…Time is money. So, although it doesn’t currently enter into our national statistics, the time that patients spend getting health care services should be reflected in the way we calculate America’s national health care expenditures.

Any student of Econ 101 knows that economists measure costs by opportunity costs, meaning everything that is given up to get something else. Time spent interacting with the medical system could be used for other activities, like work and leisure. Moreover, spending time getting medical care is not fun. This time should be counted as part of the cost of health care.

He suggests that we undervalue the cost of health care by about 11% by excluding the opportunity costs of waiting for care, which he calculates at about 847 million hours annually. Valuing the time at an average of $17.43 he says Americans spent the equivalent of $240 billion waiting around in 2007.

He says that if we’re going to modernize health care record-keeping, we should be including patient time in the equation:

Failing to take account of patient time leads us to exaggerate the productivity of the health care sector, and to understate the cost of health care. The time that patients spend seeking, receiving and paying for health care services is just as real as the dollars they spend for medical services.

I know scheduling is a constant challenge because emergencies do arise, but other industries have figured out a way to keep irregular systems rolling; why can’t physicians?

President “not a plates kind of guy”

Plate: n. a shallow usually circular vessel from which food is eaten or served – from Greek platys broad, flat

Our new president is a more casual guy than the former occupant of the Oval Office. According to a sweet story in today’s NY Times, he takes off his jacket to work, and doesn’t mind if his staffers take off theirs.

This is something the FO wouldn’t stand for – it was suits and ties always, or you got seriously chewed out. Which leads us to wonder: was W’s insistence on show to mask his deep insecurity and fear of being outed as an imposter?

The new pres seems more concerned with getting things done than protocol or decor. So far he hasn’t changed the furnishings of the OO at all, except yesterday he mentioned that Ws commemorative plate collection was going to have to go.

“I’m not a plates kind of guy,” he said.

Is anyone surprised? Commemorative plates are so last year; actually they’re so last generation (or even Grandma’s generation).

What we’re seeing is generational turnover, and not a moment too soon.

The  Times article also described Obama’s delight at being able to eat breakfast and dinner with his family, and see his kids off to school before commuting downstairs.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if this commitment to family and shared family meals set a new model for families across America? This is one old-fashioned idea that needs to return.

Pending “midnight” regulations put on hold?

Pending: adj. not yet decided, being in continuance from French pendre, meaning to hang (like Pendaflex file folders…)

Put on hold: v. to stop or shelve temporarily or permanently

One of the Past Occupant’s narsty habits (oh how I LOVE saying Past Occupant!) was sticking his own narsty regulations into legislation in the form of signing statements that bypassed congressional approval.  He whisked a bunch of these in at the last minute, effectively pissing into corners of the realm to show Obama who was the Biggest Baddest Cowboy.

Well.  Ha! Piss on you, cowboy.

Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, his right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, issued a memorandum ordering all agencies and departments to stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.

Among the noxious regulations put on hold were rules that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons in some national parks and prohibiting medical facilities from receiving federal money for discriminating against doctors and nurses who refuse to assist with abortions or dispense contraceptives based on religious grounds (which I wrote about here back in August – and which were put through despite tens of thousands of letters of protest.)

Also included were measures relaxing protections for endangered species, allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, and making it easier for coal companies to dump mining debris in nearby streams and valleys.

Obviously the Obama staff had been working on this maneuver for a couple of months, indicating that the moss is not growing under their feet.

According to the NY Times, Democrats in Congress, now that they are in the majority, have several possible tricks up their sleeve to make these regs go away, but it may not be a slam dunk.

So much wreckage to undo, so little time…

President Obama!!!!!!!!!!

What is left to say but WOW. Yes we did. Yes he did.
Yes he IS….

President Barack Hussein Obama

I declare today a national holiday – and celebrated with friends – starting at 7:30 a.m. – by watching the whole thing together over coffee, oatmeal with berries, and champagne!

(Brief aside: Pastor Rick Warren left me cold… a fat cat evangelical, but Rev. Joseph Lowery? He’s the man!!)

Obama’s inaugural address pulled no punches. He listed all of our present troubles and then – alluding to what would be different from the last administration he said:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

Our capacity remains undiminished.  But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed.  Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.  The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.  All this we can do.  And all this we will do.

He even spoke to those of us who are not Christians – and a first time any major political figure has acknowledged “non-believers”:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.  We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

The White House website at 12:01 Eastern Time made the changeover as well:

whitehousegov

What a blessed relief to have a president who is smart, articulate, compassionate, and (let us go on record here) HOT- all at the same time. One who is genuinely striving to bring us together, to bring out the best in us all, to give us hope…

And to be free of of an  inarticulate sociopathic overgrown fratboy!  We cheered as the helicopter lifted off, and I heard (should have been off-mike but wasn’t) the sounds of happy laughter in the NBC control room).

In the spirit of Sam Cooke “It’s been a long time coming” ….

Hallelujah and Amen!