Just a Day (or two) in the Life

Lest you think I am exaggerating about my way too hectic life, let me tell you about the past couple days.

Halloween: I’m still trying to finish costumes. Big got up and got dressed a little quicker than he has been lately.

(Which is not very ‘quick’. It’s really hard to convince yourself to get up early enough to catch the bus an hour and a half before the sun comes up.) They said no full face masks, so I decided to work on that later.

I also had to get Little up to go to the bus stop since Grandma was out of town.

I had just enough time to finish Little’s Robin mask before we had to go into town.

We got to the school just in time to watch the costume parade. There were several Batman’s, but Big was the only Adam West Batman.

Then Little and I had to take off, just in time to make it to my dentist appointment. Yes, I am crazy enough to see a dentist on Halloween.

After that we had time to get lunch, but Little was not hungry. And adamantly against buckling his seat belt.

(My kids have been having a prolonged battle with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. This means that when they had boils on their hands and I had to keep them home, they were not behaving sick at all, but now we are dealing with appetite loss, crabby behavior, tired, coughing…)

He was willing to put it on to go to the thrift store, so yay! But after that stop, OMG I have never had such a seat belt battle before in my life. For starters, both of us are red heads. We are Very stubborn. He is dealing with all the aforementioned things, and it was just about naptime. He is getting big enough that physically putting him in against his will is not really a viable option, he knows what parts never to bend, and he knows how to wiggle out the other arm, etc. I ended up having to loosen the straps, get him in and tighten it down. And he still wiggled out, so I got him back in and tightened it more. Then he feel asleep before I even got out of the parking space.

I then stopped to get lunch, obviously I had to go to a drive thru. I hate fast food. I know I’m not alone, but I just don’t enjoy it.

After lunch I had to go to pick up Big from school. This also included picking up Winnie-The-Pooh.

A small battle over Little’s seat belt ensued. Then I had to rush to the train station to pick up my mom and grandmother. We have a small car and had to fit three adults (one wearing a walking boot), two kids in car seats, a suitcase, two pumpkins, a walker, and the stuff from the thrift store. Luckily I am very good at Tetris.

Then we rushed home to join the costume parade. We were just late enough that the traffic through town was stopped for the parade. Since we were stopped anyway, the kids and I (yes, from the middle of the backseat between two car seats) jumped out and walked to catch up with the parade. (I grabbed my Alfred coat, but that was all of my costume I grabbed, and couldn’t get Big’s cape or mask either.)

After that the day calmed down. When mom got to the costume contest I went back to the car to get the missing costume pieces, and got back just in time for the family contest. Afterwards we went to dinner at The Holler. Awesome, as always! After dinner we tried to decide whether or not to go to Cerrillos for Trick-or-Treating. Big was super excited and was annoyed when I said he needed a coat. I had just overheard someone saying that it was 16 degrees (Fahrenheit) when they got up. Yes, he needs a coat to go out. Little decided it was too cold before the coat argument even started. We only got around one block before Big decided to go back to the car, skipping over any houses on the way. (Granted this is a rural community, the blocks are big, with only a couple houses on each side.)

Day of the Dead:

Got up crazy early to get big on the bus. I don’t think I got back to bed that day, but we had to get to the gallery and get ready to move furniture. Yay. At two we were expecting a group of people to take a fridge to the ballpark. So we had to empty it, and then started working on clearing off a desk so we can move it.

So right around two: Big got home on the bus, the fridge movers came, the propane guy came to move a giant propane tank, we got a phone call about merchants association dues.

So mom goes to show the propane guy the tank, my grandma writes the check and waits for the guy, I get the kids settled and go realize that the door frame is too small for the fridge. We consider taking down the drywall covering the door that it was probably brought in through. But that goes through the rental unit, and would need to go out through a gate that’s probably also too small, or out the back door and past the propane tank. So we determined to just force it through the too small door. The fridge door came off with a little challenge. The kitchen door came off pretty easily. It’s still too big. So the door jam came off. That didn’t solve it. We had to remove screws because the head of the screw was too thick. That helped, but still did not solve it.

I ended up climbing over the refrigerator into the kitchen, including one of those ‘why women live longer’ in reverse. I stepped onto the dolly that was under the fridge I was trying to get over. I looked around all the places that my mom wearing the walking boot couldn’t get to. Nothing was stopping it, but I could see where it was wedged so I used my shoulder as a battering ram. Finally got it through.

Meanwhile the kids want snacks, so mom made corn dogs and passed them over the top of the fridge. The propane guy determined that he couldn’t move the tank, it was too far, so we need to get people and carry it. He capped off the gas line it was connected to. And the merchants association guy came to get the check.

Ok so we got the fridge to the truck, and roped in more help from the bar across the street. We had the dolly rolling up a ramp of two beams. I pulled it to the point where I had to get on the bed or get squished. I got up, I pulled to the point where the ramp pieces would flip up under the weight of the fridge. One flipped and the other didn’t. The fridge nearly slid off the side of the dolly, except that my arm was in the way. I don’t know what happened at that point, but it seemed that everyone thought they were done, but I had most of the weight on my arm. I had to call out to get them to get the fridge moving again. Everything turned out ok, but my arm has a rather significant bruise.

Ok, so then I went to get the kids because we were going to the Maize Maze in Albuquerque. Only Little took a nap. We went in, got a map, and stepped in to the maze. I decided to let the kids choose turns at random.

We succeeded in getting lost to the point where the map did not bear any resemblance to the maze. Since we got there kinda late, it was getting dark. Unsurprisingly the kids got cold and antsy after awhile. I decided to go back to the entrance just to get out and maintain the fun. After I made that choice we got out pretty quick…out the exit no less!

But the kids didn’t want to hang out, they wanted to go home. Which is fine since it was bedtime. But on the way to the car, Big threw up. Little had done that a few days before, I chalked it up to the cough from the Hand Foot and Mouth.

On the way home Big woke up screaming that his stomach hurt, the seat belt was too tight and that he couldn’t take it. I was really close to home, just had to go over the mountain. But I pulled over and took the seat belt off. He has had some stomach aches for the last several days. I wasn’t sure if it was just how he was sitting and squirming, but his stomach looked distended. I knew that could be a really bad sign and that I didn’t have a cell phone signal. So I had to buckle him back in (looser of course) and get home ASAP. I got home, brought him in, thankfully my mom was sitting right in the front room so I asked her to look at his belly while I got a sleeping Little out of the car. She agreed that Big looked distended, so we called 911. The first responders were helpful, but couldn’t tell us anything. The medical guys were able to tell us that it probably was not life threatening his vitals all looked good, but that he should probably go to the hospital just to be safe. My mom told them the story of my grandfather’s older brother who died of appendicitis before my grandfather was born. The doctor had said that everything was fine and was wrong.

So I drove Big into town while my mom stayed with Little. (So proud of Little: with all the chaos and being woken up getting out of the car, Little put himself to bed.) There is a new hospital in town, thankfully. The old one had a monopoly, so they never cared that everyone called them St. Victim’s. The new hospital is amazingly nice. I have had to accompany three people to the ER/Urgent Care since they opened about a year ago and I have never had a wait. Not that we got in before anyone, but that they just never have people waiting. They get you in right away. It is amazing.

So they got him triaged and into a room. The nurse who took the vitals seemed to think it was a stomach bug that has apparently been going around. But when the doctor came in and looked at the big belly, he was immediately concerned. He left immediately to order X-Rays. After that adventure with a very tired, shockingly co-operative child clearly in pain, they gave him an IV and waited for the results.

Big learned that there is no kids TV on at night. A strange concept to a child with access only to Netflix, VHS and DVDs

Turned out it was just a stomach bug, But it was a scary situation I never want to be in again.

The AI Will Steal Our Jobs!

They say that starting a post with a bolt statement is a good idea, so here you go: Artificial Intelligence will destroy our current economic structure. How’s that?

While that statement may seem like a gross overreaction and sound a little nutty, it is quite possibly true. As we move forward, AI will take more and more of the tasks we currently do ourselves. Right now they are mostly in highly repetitive tasks, such as manufacturing. These robots have already displaced many workers, they are cheaper and more accurate. But the presence of those robots have also opened up new opportunities in research and development as well as in maintenance. Here’s the catch: displaced employees cannot afford the new education necessary to go into these fields.

In the past, new technology has largely been geared towards making human beings more efficient at their jobs. If one person makes more stuff, the price of the stuff goes down and makes it available to more people. This has been the driver of our economic growth and high standard of living. Thus far technological progress has been the facilitator of our modern world.

But we are at a moment when this status quo is changing. Artificial intelligence is becoming better than we are at tasks we once considered exclusively the domain of human beings. This means that the jobs that were more nuanced and variable, are going the way of the dodo as those get replaced as well.

For awhile there will be new jobs created by this boom, but eventually those will be taken over as well. Eventually there will be very little, of anything, that human beings need to do.

So now it is not only the ‘unskilled’ laborers who will be out of jobs, but the more technical fields as well. The only people who will be able to make money will be those selling the products that the robots make, this will soon include such diverse things as health care and art to add to the products they manufacture today.

That won’t last long, if no one is earning, no one is spending.

So, now that I have completely depressed you; let me tell you why this could actually be awesome, and what we have to do to make sure that it is.

If you think about it, if robots are doing all the work and there is plenty of everything to go around, why should anyone ever have to go without? The only way this would happen is if we stay on our current economic course. If people need to trade their labor for money to trade for goods and services.

However, if we eliminate the need to pay for those goods and services, why do we panic over the loss of income? In other words, if we make those basic necessities available to all, it won’t matter if the robots do all the work.

Here we get a choice, how do we create an equitable system?

Option 1: Necessary goods and services are provided to all, and money is used to buy luxury goods.

This option is a good middle ground, and very likely to be the solution, but as I see it being implemented, it would be in a simple reactionary way. Like refugee camps, or homeless shelters. Necessities are covered, but living conditions are appalling with no visible path out of the situation.

If we plan ahead, we could create this as a positive way to keep everyone happy and healthy. But it would still leave the wealthy with power and influence over those who just get by on the basics with little upward mobility.

Option 2: Basic universal income.

The results of this option would be very similar to the plan ahead version of option 1. People would get some support, (although that income may not cover everything they need depending on health, implementation, and local economic variation.) but would still struggle to grow. Any growth would depend on the movement of currency to people from all walks of life. This would require that anyone attempting to improve their station from subsistence would have to advertise essentially, to gain the attention of those who do have money to burn. It would just be redistribution of the wealth between the wealthy.

Option 3: Preemptively create a non-monetary based system. No money means that all basic services would be available to all add needed. And anyone willing to grow would not need to convince someone else to part with their money, but only to show that they are providing some benefit to society. Without competition, the existing barriers of the economy would break down.

Everyone could be required to work a certain amount of time in service to community or society as we grow to reach the time of robots doing all of the work. As robots take on more of the workload, the required human workload would be readjusted and distributed equally. Less work for humans would not result in lost jobs creating starvation in a land of plenty.

As a bonus to this idea, if we got rid of money, there would be a huge number of ‘jobs’ that surround the redistribution of wealth that would disappear with it. This means that the starting workload for each person would be much less work than we currently do today. These jobs would include things like cashiers, loan specialists, stock traders, bankers, accountants, investors, and sales to name a few.

Even if we only eliminated that workload and required a lot less work to keep the status quo, I suspect that we would actually make progress toward a work-free future faster. Without all that time spent on the redistribution of wealth, the free time that people would gain would go towards hobbies.

Everyone has a few things they enjoy doing in their free time, and some of those have the potential to drive us to the future. Some people enjoy listening to music or watching movies. Some people enjoy creating neat things. Some people enjoy robotics and coding in their free time. Giving people more free time, and unlimited access to education (one of the most basic services provided) would spawn a massive outpouring of growth in many areas, including STEM. There are many people caught in the day to day grind of living paycheck to paycheck who could do so much for our world if we can unchain them from the money train.

This does require a whole new way of thinking. But in a world without scarcity, we do not need to create a system of artificial scarcity, which is how money works.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Should I have Kids?

This is a common question these days, and I know I struggled with it. For many people the answer is obvious, for others it is not. I know that when I was trying to make this decision I looked to others to tell me what to do. Obviously that is not the best way to make such a personal choice, but it is easier to just do what you are told than to make a choice, or to be the one held accountable if your decision is not the best. In order to possibly help, I will tell you a bit about how I made my decision.

When I was little, I always wanted company. I lived in a small town with very few children my own age. I always wanted siblings, and I would often pretend that I had them. But I was a very bossy kid, and I found that my imaginary friends didn’t complain, so I usually pretended to be a mother. I remember imagining a line of millions of babies following me around no matter where I went.

In elementary school, most of my friends were several years younger than I was, and I spent my recesses ‘mothering’ them. I taught them some arts and crafts, as well as playground games. But really only a few of them do I really remember, they were the ones who I played with a lot, but it was mostly an ever-changing group of younger kids that were willing to listen. At this time, one of the greatest compliments I ever received was that I would make a great mother.

It may seem odd then that by high school I had decided unequivocally that I would never have children. By this point I had not really spent much time with young kids in several years, the most I had really seen of them is grocery store temper tantrums. All of the anti-teen pregnancy campaigns had worked better on me than intended. I was completely disgusted by anything baby. Pregnancy sounded miserable, and the physical changes like bigger feet and un-losable weight did not seem worth it. All for an outcome that did not sound so great to me; sleepless nights, diapers, burping, feeding, cleaning… I could go on. And the kids themselves seemed like nothing but trouble, at the time I was not a perfect angel, and I knew people who were way worse. The spoiled kids at the store didn’t help either. It all seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I enjoy my freedom, and I did not want to be tied down. That said, I had always known that if for some reason I did end up with kids, I would do the best I could for them, but I was terrified that it would not be good enough.

I kept this attitude until long into my marriage, but it was wearing through a bit. I knew that a lot of what had shaped my opinion was about teen pregnancy, and since that is not where I was in my life anymore it was not a bad thing at that point. My concerns still were there, but the more that I spent time with people my age and older who had good kids, the more my fears about spoiled kids and rule breaking subsided. I was still scared stiff by the idea that I would not be good enough. I spent several years debating whether or not to have kids. I knew my husband wanted kids, and that he would be a great father. He never pressured me, the only time it even came up was when I talked about it, but I did want to give him something special, which might be part of why the idea kept coming up at all.

After awhile of doing a lot of soul searching, internet searching, and pros and cons lists it occurred to me that I would be happy with either outcome. This may not sound like much, but for me it was an epiphany. Still terrified that I may not be good enough, I knew that I would not be as bad as many parents. I also was beginning to form ideas of how kids learn behaviors and the different things that people can do to shape them, so I told myself that I would do whatever I could to make my kids the best they can be, and they would not be the spoiled ones in the store, but rather the (probably more numerous) ones that I had never really noticed because they were so well-behaved.

We stopped trying to avoid getting pregnant. After awhile, a close friend, who was deliberately waiting, got pregnant. I was shocked to discover that I was jealous. I thought that the world had decided that I was not worthy of kids. I was rather surprised at how hurt I was. We did not change anything that we were doing, but this realization helped me to know that the decision that I had made was not a bad one for me.

Soon enough, I did get pregnant, and we had our son. Now we are expecting our second child. I am very glad to have kids, but I would never tell someone that they should. There is one argument in favor of having children that I would like to take this opportunity to dispute. I do not think that they fill any void that I had before. I know that many parents would think that is a horrible thing to say, but in reality my life was complete before I had kids, and it is complete now. Think of it like a pie chart of my family. Each family member has their own slice, but there is not some void represented that a child would fill. Each kid also gets a slice, but before the pie was still at 100%.

I know that some people are not cut out to have kids. I know that some people’s lives would be unsuitable for raising kids. I know that some people cannot afford kids. I know that some people just don’t like kids. I have been there and I respect that. If that is you and you are struggling to decide because you feel pressured by others, stand your ground. Down the line you might change your mind, or not. Either way it is okay. Right now, you come first. It is your happiness that matters. If you think that you could not be happy taking care of children, then don’t let others talk you into doing it. Your unhappiness would affect your kids, if you cannot be happy with it, they will not be happy.

I don’t care what other people say, you do not need kids to be happy. Lots of people are very happy without kids. This idea comes from the old-fashioned notion that people are supposed to have as many kids as possible. Many religions still encourage large families. I cannot say that is a bad thing, but we do have to put it into a modern context. The reason behind this is so that people would be ensured that someone would be able to take over the family business. Kids were less likely to survive into adulthood, and having more kids increased the odds that some would make it. People also needed the labor to help take care of the land, or produce whatever it was that made the family money. This is not such an issue now either. There are plenty of people already in the world to do this labor.

We are at a point when overpopulation is becoming a problem. For this reason I choose not to have more kids than would replace my husband and I. Two kids, that’s it. That said, with better health care and longer life-expectancies, we are still adding to the total.

Money is another big contributing factor. While at one point having kids made the possibility of earning money easier, today raising kids is a huge financial cost. Even though most everything that my son has is second-hand, mostly gifts, the cost in essentials like diapers and food is noticeable. If you feel the need for your kids to have all-new things and a full nursery you will be feeling the pinch a lot more. That is not to say that my kids are lacking anything, I just have a different idea of what is essential than many people do. I believe that my kids will benefit more from the time and effort that I give them than the money I spend on stuff for them. I would rather save it for experiences and college than to spend it on stuff.

Ultimately the decision is yours. Do not let others make it for you. Notice how you feel in reaction to events in your life that may play a role. Put thought into it. Consider other’s opinions, but know that what is right for some people is not right for others. Make sure that you balance what is important to you with what would be necessary for raising kids. Right now I am putting off a lot of travel I would love to do so that when I do it I can share it with my kids. Right now they are too young to appreciate it, and we are taking the time to establish ourselves so that we can do this when they are older. I realized that my life did not have to end when I had kids, but some things do get put on hold.

Remember kids are a lifelong commitment, if that scares you right now, it might be better to wait. If you are nervous about the commitment, it is healthy. It means that you are taking everything into consideration, and it is a lot. Just think it through and be patient. Not all of the fear will ever go away. I am still terrified that I will not be good enough for what my kids deserve. I am still afraid for the world that they will be inheriting. But I made the commitment, and I am sticking to it. The fear helps motivate me, but it was not that long ago when I was frozen by it.

I am not saying that this is the natural progression that everyone will follow, because it is not. Everyone is different, some people know the answer before they ask the question. I was there for a long time, on both sides. I understand both, and I know that the answers lie within.

 

Choice in Health Care

This is a really big topic, and the center of a lot of debate at the moment.

When I was pregnant with my son, we spent a lot of time looking over all of the information about the different tests and things that were available to us. We decided not to do any tests that we could not do anything about. What that means is that if the result of a test would tell us something, but we could not do anything to change the outcome then there is no point. One of these tests would tell us that our child would likely have down syndrome. Because there would be no way to lessen the probability following the test, we decided not to do it. Additionally the risks associated with the test were far more likely to cause problems than the likelihood that it would find anything. I have worked with down syndrome kids and we knew that if anything were to happen we would deal with it.

That said I was seeing many different doctors within the practice so that I would have met any of the ones who might end up delivering the baby. One of these doctors (luckily they were no longer employed there by the time I went into labor) was very indignant that we opted not to do this test. I understand that doctors have their own personal beliefs, and that they are supposed to do no harm. We were very upset that she refused to respect our choice, especially since that choice, according to the statistics, the science, was the less damaging. The doctor agreed that there was nothing that could be done about the results, and understood our risk/benefit analysis. Unfortunately the doctor’s personal preference to know took precedence and made us very uncomfortable.

This is something that is the patient’s choice. It has no effect on anyone else’s life. Us knowing in advance would change nothing except potentially adding problems because of the test.

Some people choose to have the test because if the child is more than likely going to have down syndrome, they would terminate the pregnancy. This would be considered a medical reason and is subject to different rules than if the parents chose abortion for a healthy child. I respect that choice. Having children is a huge responsibility, children with special needs more than doubly so. Although I do believe that every person has worth I know that many people would not be able to handle the care that these children require.

Abortion is a choice that does affect other’s lives, mostly the parents and the child’s. That choice should be about what is best for those people. If the parents, specifically the mother, know that the child would not be well off growing up in that household or situation, they have the options of adoption or abortion. It is the responsibility of those involved to make the decision about what is best. Just being alive is not always the better option. I used to say that having a child would end my life, not in a literal sense, but in a figurative one. When I was younger I would not be able to devote the time to improving my situation if I were to care for a child. The child would come first, and unfortunately would not be able to be brought up in the way I would like if I did not have a job and an education.

So what about the other big debate right now? Vaccines. I believe in free choice. I do not like it when the government imposes things we have to do. As far as I am concerned wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice. The statistics are out there, it is undoubtedly safer with a seat belt, but the only life lost would be your own, yes other lives are affected by this as well. In a perfect society I would say that people need to take that into consideration as they weigh the risks and benefits (?) of not wearing a seat-belt. I know however that people tend to be self-centered and not consider that others would be affected by their passing.

What does this have to with vaccines? I believe that people should be allowed to make their own choices. However people are not very good at weighing the data, or considering others. I really feel silly for repeating some of this, but the original study used to back the argument that vaccines cause autism has been retracted, and the author discredited. The other risks that are often cited are concerns about the inefficacy or side effects of the vaccines themselves. If the vaccine is ineffective, you are no worse off than if you did not have it, so I believe there is no more to be said about that. As far as side effects, these are usually minimal, a little soreness, but come on, you stuck a needle there, why wouldn’t it be sore? Yes, some people are allergic to certain elements of the vaccines. The chances of this are extremely remote. Those who are too young, do have a bad reaction, or find that the vaccine is ineffective are those who have to count on herd immunity. As a culture we have had this type of immunity for long enough that some people forget what the risks really are, which makes a real risk/reward analysis skewed. It can also allow people to forget that their decisions can affect others.

This is an article about a child who was exposed to measles. And this is the response from an anti-vaccine advocate. One of the points made in the response is that the man who carried the infection had been vaccinated. This means that he is just as much of a victim of the shrinking herd immunity as the child. Yes, I have problems with the pharmaceutical industry, but that is about them charging too much for things. They have something of value and a monopoly on it. They are taking advantage, and not realizing who that might hurt, but I do not believe they are evil. If you look at some of her links you can see that the evidence does not all fit. The risks associated with the vaccine are stated, but it is clearly stated that those risks apply to the people who should be counting on herd immunity. Her link about the court case has a headline reading “Merck Whistleblower Suit A Boon to Vaccine Foes Even As It Stresses Importance of Vaccines”.

I do believe in free choice, but I am an idealist and think that people should have the ability to make informed decisions when they are given the information. I have a problem when what I believe should be the case is not the case. In the case of vaccines, I am tempted to say that the government should take away people’s right to choose, for other’s protection. But if I do that, am I any different than those who want to take away women’s right to make decisions about abortion? Am I any different than those who advocate taking guns away because some might be used to kill? Am I any different than those who are trying to take away our right to choose our leaders? If I choose to limit people’s right to spread misinformation I am not different than anyone who tries to limit my speech against corporations or governments. These are rights I believe in, and I refuse to participate in setting a precedent that would assist taking away these rights, and others. I can only hope that giving people the information and teaching them how to use it (including reforming our current school system) is the best way. I am not willing to risk the future of our democracy in order to combat one ill-informed decision. A functional democracy depends on having an informed populace. That is what we need.