Category: News

And I wish that I weren’t here tonight, but this is my life

Today was the first day that I was homesick. And not homesick for Calgary or those friends or my family. But my Victoria family.

I’m quickly realizing how much the friends and relationships that I’ve made there really mean to me. With Thanksgiving coming up I’m hearing lots about everyone hanging out and all the fun they’re having. And part of me really wants to be involved. I miss having those friends around all the time to do things and talk and hang out and go to shows or go for a beer. The friends I’ve made here in Banff are good too, but it’s just not the same. We haven’t built up that repertoire yet that I have with the people in Victoria. My friends in Victoria are going to be lifelong friends, and I just haven’t found that in Banff yet. I don’t know if I will if I’m only here for three months.

That’s why it was so hard to leave that city. It was even harder to do on your own. I think it would have been easier if I had stayed for a year or so and left with everyone in April. Being the only one of my friends to have my degree finished and moving onwards with my life is tough. I don’t really have any friends to relate to since they’re all still in school.

It’s a weird position to be in. I absolutely love it here and I love what I’m doing. Even being an assistant engineer is great. I’ve been getting praise for helping the artists, my organization and memory and that feels really good to know that I’m doing a good job here. But at the same time, I’m seeing and hearing all the things I’m missing out on, and it really makes me miss my old home. And I think that it’s part of me that doesn’t want to be forgotten. I hear through people about everyone and how they know me and miss me, but it doesn’t get to me. I feel like I’m the one that usually has to reach out to anyone to get any kind of conversation or contact going. And it’s frustrating. It sucks thinking that people are close to you and find they’re not really that interested.

One thing that makes me really sad is how much I miss my old house. In such a short time, that place just felt right, and I fit there and I was happy. It makes me realize how much I missed out on in my three years in Victoria living with the same person. I never had the same kind of fun I did like when I was on my own. And it has everything to do with the people I surrounded myself with and the things we did. I don’t regret the four years I spent at UVic and the relationships I built and lost along the way, but I do wish that those three years were like the last six months.

I don’t know if this is a fleeting one day thing because of Thanksgiving or if the feelings will linger until my program is over. That is yet to be seen. I know that being here is important for me and that it’s really going to help with my career and future and everything. It just sucks.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favourite songs – Hello I’m in Delaware by City and Colour, which is where the title comes from.

I Just Paid for Dick Cheney’s New Heart, Now Who Will Pay for My Daughter’s?

Great article about the health care system in the States.

I Just Paid for Dick Cheney’s New Heart, Now Who Will Pay for My Daughter’s?.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) ended the insurance industry’s cynical practice of denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.  As soon as that provision of the ACA went into effect, my husband and I welcomed our 15-year-old daughter “May” to our private health insurance policy for the first time.  For years May had been covered by an excellent plan provided by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), also known as Children’s Medicaid, because it is subsidized by state taxpayers.

It was only right and just that we assumed responsibility for our own daughter’s health insurance, now that the law allowed us to do so.  After all, why burden other taxpayers with our family’s health insurance needs?

May’s heart defects are congenital, so one might say that her pre-existing conditions were God-given.  All the years she was on a taxpayer-subsidized BC/BS insurance plan via CHIPS we had low premiums, excellent coverage and no worries, because her heart defects never manifested.  The doctors told us they may never manifest, yet still the insurance companies rejected May from any health care coverage at all.

Since my husband is self-employed, we are limited to high-priced individual health care plans; no group plan price breaks, no employer-subsidized premiums.  Ours is a high-deductible private family plan with limited coverage.  But that coverage now includes all of us, because we did not want to encumber our fellow taxpayer with even one more CHIP participant.

Within eight months of moving her to our private plan, the dreaded consequences of May’s heart defects manifested with a vengeance.  Suddenly we were walking on eggshells, and interrupting basketball practice to make emergency room visits wherein May was pumped full of three and four times the normal dosages of heart-rebooting Adenosine just to bring her back to a normal teenage rhythm.  She’s a strong girl, but could only take so much of that.

At her cardiologist’s urging we scheduled outpatient surgery.  This ended up nearly killing May, requiring several days in ICU and a week of hospitalization, and it did not work.  So May was put on strong daily medication, medication that has unpleasant side effects for a child accustomed to being able to keep up with the focus and speed required of high school basketball, until something else can be done.  May slipped from potential starter to last girl on the bench.  Still, despite missing so much school, she worked hard to catch up and maintained her straight A+ academic streak for the 10th quarter in a row.

And of course, high as it is, we hit our health insurance deductible last year.  In fact, under the circumstances we can expect to hit it every year for some time to come.  We looked into applying for a lower deductible plan, but the application asks if we have been advised that any procedures are needed.  Why yes, we’ve been so advised:  we have been referred to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for a consultation about open heart surgery for May, and we’re going there next month.  There’s no way to hide this from the insurance company, and there’s no way they or any other company is going to grant us a lower deductible plan with that on the horizon.  As it is, they have already increased our premiums due to all the recent activity.

If we had stayed on the taxpayer subsidized BC/BS plan, our costs would have been contained.  The costs to the rest of our state’s taxpayers would have increased, however, because in the last six months alone, May’s heart condition ran up nearly $200,000 in medical expenses.  Each cardiologist visit costs $1000 and that’s before the inevitable tests are ordered.  Of course, hospital and lab costs are phenomenal.  There is seemingly no end to the medical bills already, and Mayo Clinic is not likely to change that trajectory.

Conservatives insist that children with severe health problems get born, regardless of the heartache, regardless of the pain and trauma, and regardless of the expense.  I have no problem with that, and would not, of course, trade my May for anything in the world.  But those same conservatives don’t support funding social programs to serve these children; they don’t support subsidizing schools that are burdened with paraprofessional and nursing expenses when these children enroll; and they don’t want to require, as the ACA mandates, that insurance companies cover these children.  Given that, it is obvious that if conservatives get their way, CHIP programs nationwide would get the axe as well.

Make no mistake about it:  conservatives are NOT pro-life.  They are merely pro-birth. After you are born they don’t give a damn about you, your child, or your family.  Apparently that’s what they call “family values”.I regret leaving the CHIP program.  But I was doing the right thing, wasn’t I?  The thing conservatives say responsible people should do.  I was thrilled when the ACA passed, because it also meant my daughter would not face loss of health insurance once she became an adult.  Now I just hope she makes it that far.  And that I’m not too broke to pay for her college when she does, because there’s not likely to be a Pell Grant for her, is there?

So how is it that I, as a taxpayer, helped pay for an aging millionaire bureaucrat to get a brand new heart, but I can’t even get my own child affordable health insurance to fix hers, so that she can even hope to make it as long as he did?

Here’s an irony I don’t think the conservatives have considered:  If the Supreme Court throws out the ACA, my daughter and her pre-existing condition will go back on the state government-subsidized BC/BS plan that has far better coverage and costs me much, much less.  In fact, CHIP program enrollment is likely to swell exponentially if the ACA is repealed, because these programs serve the uninsured and uninsurable.So do I hope that the Supreme Court votes this week to overturn the ACA so I can shift the enormous costs of my daughter’s health care back to the taxpayer?  Or do I hope they uphold the law so everyone gets a chance to get the care they need?

If I were a conservative, I’m pretty sure I’d opt for the former, and then hope my party took just long enough to get rid of CHIP that my daughter would have time to get her heart fixed on the public’s dime.  Then I’d apply the current conservative credo – “I got mine, to heck with the rest of you” – and proceed to make a big stink about how CHIP programs are socialistic plots to bleed taxpayers dry and ruin America.  Because I wouldn’t just be a conservative, I’d be a compassionate conservative don’t you know.

This week conservative Christian churches have sent members of their congregations to camp out at the Supreme Court so they can be on hand to witness and cheer for the historic reversal of the ACA.  Where were these people when their bible classes covered the lessons about the Good Samaritan, healing the sick, or doing for the least of one’s brothers?  Were they out sick?

If so, who took care of them?

I am the Lorax, coo-coo-ca-choo.

I went and saw the new Lorax movie in 3D yesterday. And while it was visually quite stunning, I’m not sure if it message of the movie coincided with the message of the book. Here are some more of my thoughts.

The movie is visually spectacular. Watching in, what feels like, HD you can really see how stunning it is. You feel like you’re able to reach out and feel the silky texture of Truffula Trees. The Bar-ba-loots (bears), Swamme-Swans (birds) and the Humming Fish are all adorable and cute and make you want one. The 3D elements weren’t over powering or scary, and done in a tasteful manner.

The story of the Lorax is one of conservation and preservation, and I don’t think the movie does a great job of spreading that message. To make a 20+ page picture book last more than an hour, there had to be some kind of backstory. In the Lorax book we never really meet the character that the Once-ler is talking to, but in the movie we meet Ted Wiggins.

Ted, voiced by Zak Efron, is a middle schooler and your normal boy in Thneed-ville. We learn about Ted and Thneed-ville and the evil and comically sized Mr.O’Hare who sells the town fresh air, since there are no more trees to produce it on their own. Ted is in love with Audrey, a tall redhead voiced by Taylor Swift.

One of the first things that bothered me about this movie is that Ted’s main reason to see the Once-ler is to get a Truffula tree for Audrey. That’s right, a story about the importance of saving your environment is prefaced only because a boy wants to impress a girl. I feel this completely undermines the entire message of the story.

So we flip between Ted’s story and the Once-ler’s story, and Ed Helm (voiced by Andy from the Office) does a great job as the Once-ler. As that story progresses we eventually meet the Lorax. Arriving from the stump of a felled Truffula Tree, the Lorax (voiced by Danny Devito) arrives. I do not think Devito was the right choice for the voice of the Lorax, he comes off too harsh and condescending, whereas I always pictured the Lorax to be wise and stoic.

Since this is a children’s movie, it has to have entertainment value for them. So there are lots of physical comedy parts in which Bar-ba-loots and the Lorax take part in. It’s cute and funny yes, but again, changes the characters into less serious roles. It’s hard to believe that the Lorax is the protecter of the trees and the animals when he’s eating marshmallows and pancakes with the Once-ler.

Instead of the typical rhyming nature of Seuss, we get songs. Again, I understand it’s a kids movie, but I think that the tone could have been altered if the actual text from the story had been used. There are 4 or 5 big song and dance numbers throughout the movie and while catchy and what-have-you, it doesn’t really add much to the movie.

All-in-all, I think it was an okay movie. I don’t think that it will replace the book in schools as one of the best kids stories with a message. There would have been many places for improvement, and some core elements needed to be changed.

We still see what a world without nature is like and the how the power of capitalistic greed can change people. I just hope that the kids watching it will see that too. Or at least as much as a kid can understand of that.

The main quote from the movie “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” still remains and I think has an odd application to what’s going on now. With the recent exposure of Kony and that whole debate of whether or not it’s a worthy cause – can be answered with this quote. No matter whether you think that the Kony campaign will be successful, it is making people care an awful lot. So as long as it’s making people care and want to make a difference, then I think that’s a good thing.

But that’s just a side note. Back to the movie, if you like Seuss, go see it. If not, wait. If you think you might not like it, go read the book again, and then see what you can do to care a whole awful lot.

Reblog: The Visibile Problem with the Invisible Children and #KONY2012

As part of transparency, here’s an article from 2006 outline the pitfalls of the #Kony2012 Campaign and the Invisible Children.

Hank and John Green, better known as the vlogbrothers from YouTube, have also been slow to jump on this bandwagon. They have been supporting the fight against the LRA for over a decade now.

Apologies for my stunned silence in the face of  the Kony 2012 movement and the internet’s explosion of power. I’ve never felt like the whole internet has simultaneously pushed down the same keys at the same time. Not even the response to SOPA made me feel this level of solidarity. 

The LRA has been around, being evil, and making the world suck more since I was in college, and that’s when I first tried to raise awareness for stopping them…more than ten years ago. Sometimes it feels like there are so many terrible things in the world, it’s impossible to figure out what to focus on. But the LRA is getting that focus now. And I hope we can maintain it. (source)

I too believe that there is a large possibility of #Kony2012 failing within 3 months as the attention span of the population wains. That being said, I’m still choosing to donate.

i\'m a fan of postcards

EDIT ON MARCH 7, 2012: This post was originally written in 2006.  As you read and comment, please consider that it has been over 5 years since I wrote my thoughts here.  I personally still have the same concerns about IC that I did when I posted this and have chosen not to contribute to their cause.  However, Uganda continues to hold a very special place in my heart.  When I wrote this article, I supported and I continue to support relief efforts in Uganda through the work of Steve Hoyt at Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization with a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator.  If you’d like, you can support Steve’s work in Uganda here: https://emisecure.org/donate.html .  To  learn more about the work that eMi does in Uganda visit http://emiea.org/index.html.

Thanks for continuing to be a part of this important conversation.

James

Original Post:

Invisible Children (IC)…

View original post 1,829 more words

Who Is Joseph Kony? #KONY2012

Step 1: Watch This Video. Now.
Instead of clicking through some pictures of cats, watch.

You have a half hour, you can sit and just watch.

Step 2: Make a difference.

I know I tend to get caught up in these idealistic kind of things that promote world change and using the mass to make a difference (there was the AIDS dog-tag campaign with Aldo that springs to mind) – but I have faith in this one. Why? These guys have their shit together. They have a plan. It’s set out, clear as day. The objective is to make Joseph Kony famous. And by the end of this year, he will be.

People rag on me all the time for the amount that I use social media. Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Skype and MSN and the list goes on, but now is when these networks will come to my aid. I tend to be a pretty passive activist, choosing to stay anonymous and help out where I can. Retweet’s and blog posts are of my usual do-gooding habits. So if I can use all the people who I have a constant contact with – who I talk to half way around the country and have never met, if I can get them to be passionate about this too – then I will consider myself successful.

I’m going to act on this one. I plan on buying one of those kits and posting the stickers and posters around my school and city in hopes of affecting a few others in the same way.

For those of you who want some more background:

Joseph Kony is the leader of the LRA – a rebel group out of Africa who abducts children to increase the numbers in his army. He forces the boys to murder, the girls into sexual slavery, and is the number 1 on the ICC’s (International Criminal Court) list of war criminals still at large. (link)

Joseph Kony claimed to be a distant cousin of Alice Lakwena’s and the natural successor to lead the Holy Spirit Movement. Soon after Joseph Kony assumed management of the group, he changed the name to the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA.  Joseph Kony wasn’t able to maintain the group’s number or regional support, so he started stealing food and abducting children to fill the ranks of his army. Subsequently, he lost any remaining regional support. What had started out as a rebel movement to end the oppression of the north became an oppression of the north in itself.

Joseph Kony’s tactics were—and remain—brutal. He often forced children to kill their parents or siblings with machetes or blunt tools. He abducted girls to be sex slaves for his officers. He brainwashed and indoctrinated the children with his lies and manipulated them with his claim of spiritual powers. 

At the height of the conflict in Uganda, children “night commuted.” That is, every evening they would walk miles from their homes to the city centers. There, hundreds of children would sleep in school houses, churches, or bus depots to avoid abduction by the LRA.

Kony and the LRA abducted more than 30,000 children in northern Uganda.

(more)

So hopefully you do something. We here in the Canada and the States are the luckiest people on earth, and we should be trying to make that reality for everyone else we share this space with.

So will you?

‎”There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time is now.”

http://www.kony2012.com/

http://www.invisiblechildren.com/

http://c3424386.r86.cf0.rackcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Kony2012_digital_kit.zip (Digital Download Kit)