Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cliche: History repeats itself OR I am really really pissed

Or is it?

From NPR:

"In 1979, Chrysler avoided collapse by getting $1.5 billion in loans from the government. Charles Hyde, professor of history at Wayne State University and author of Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation, says in return Congress insisted that the company come up with some $2 billion in cost-savings and concessions."

I mean, is it a cliche if history DID repeat itself?

Or maybe not, since it seems that at the last bailout of Chrysler, the Gov. actually came out ahead (to the tune of $500 million). How about this time? People have changed in the last 3 decades. 30 years ago people did not grow up with such a sense of entitlement, corporate greed was not openly a norm, and personal responsibilities were taught and valued.

Fast forward to today. Ok, fine, Tuesday. The Big 3 Automakers' CEOs flew on their own private jets, not ONE, but THREE, to Washington today to make the case for their needing to be rescued. Seriously? You can't make this stuff up.

Here is more of this priceless gem from ABC:

"The CEOs of the big three automakers flew to the nation's capital yesterday in private luxurious jets to make their case to Washington that the auto industry is running out of cash and needs $25 billion in taxpayer money to avoid bankruptcy.

The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler may have told Congress that they will likely go out of business without a bailout yet that has not stopped them from traveling in style, not even First Class is good enough.

All three CEOs - Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler - exercised their perks Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC. Wagoner flew in GM's $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone."

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I am changing my name to Fannie Mae!

Ok, I didn't come up with such a clever title, of course not. The venerable Tom Paxton changed his old song "I am Changing My Name to Chrysler" to fit the current climate. Some things just never change, do they?

Watch Paxton sing this catchy song on YouTube:

Lyrics to the song, in case you feel like a sing-along at your Christmas Party where you serve pea soup and Spam this year.


Everybody and his uncle is in debt,
And the bankers and the brokers are upset.
Goldman Sachs’s, Merrill Lynch’s
Saw themselves as lead-pipe cinches,
Now they’ve landed in the biggest screw-up yet.
Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns and all their kind
Have turned out to be the blind leading the blind.
They are clearly the nit-wittest
In survival of the fittest––
Let me modestly say what I have in mind

I am changing my name to Fannie Mae;
I am changing it to AIG.On this bail-out I am betting;
Just a piece of what they’re getting,
Would be perfectly acceptable to me.
I am changing my name to Freddie Mac;
I am leaving for that great receiving line.
I’ll be waiting when they hand out
Seven hundred million grand out––
That’s when I’ll get mine.
Since the first amphibian crawled out of the slime,
We’ve been struggling in an unrelenting climb.
We were hardly up and walking
Before money started talking
And it said that failure was the only crime.
If you really screwed things up, then you were through;
Now––surprise!––there is a different point of view.
All that crazy rooty-tootin’
And that golden parachutin’
Means that someone’s making millions––just not you! (to chorus)

©2008 Pax Music, ASCAP

(Credit to my venerable co-worker for alerting me to this song)

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My pet peeves (Part 1 of a long series I am sure...)

  • People who say "How are you?" or "What's up?" and then give you that look when you actually try to answer the question other than "Fine"
  • People (ok, men) who do not look at you when they are talking to a group of people and you are the only woman in the room -- scan, scan, skip. Repeat.
  • People with bad manners in general
  • People who check their BB constantly when you are talking
  • People who do that hand motion to signal you to hurry up and finish what you have to say - what are you? The time-keeper at a debate?
  • People who say "Fine" instead of "Yes, please." when you ask them whether you could bring them something (to eat)
  • People who do not hold the door open behind them until your hand is on the door
  • Drivers who do not put on their frigging turn signals - your car has one, use it!
  • People with really nice cool powerful cars and then drive slowly like a Florida retiree - You have a nice car. Drive it!
  • People who are rude to "foreigners" because they do not speak English (well enough) - hey, you know what? Their English is better than your "insert the language spoken by the said 'foreigner'"

That's it for today. What are yours?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A good question indeed...

This is one of those one-liners that make me laugh out loud... Brilliant, great sense of humor. Indeed a good question, and I have to say, no matter where you stand on this divisive issue, this question does make you pause and give the whole thing some more thoughts.

Picture found here

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Here is a Christmas present idea: Joe the Plumber book!

I am never one to abandon people when they are down in their luck. I do genuinely worry about people who enjoyed their 15-minute of fan and then never to be heard/seen again. I want the follow-up news, the updates. I want to make sure that they were not thrown over the wall like a piece of used tissue. I want to know how they are doing, and I wish them well.

William Hung of the American Idol fan: did he go back to school? Did he graduate and get a job? Did he finally land a girlfriend?? Look at him! He's all grown up and spruced up and look quite dashing now!

Bill and Jim, the twin brothers from the Biggest Loser: have they been able to keep the weight down, and are they still liking each other? How about their wives?

So, naturally, I thought about Joe the Plumber amidst the widespread euphoria over the election of Barack Obama. What happened to him? Anything exciting going on? Last I heard he was going into the studio to make a country music album. As luck would have it, I checked and there it is, updated merely 12 hours ago, the news that his book would be out on December 1!

See? He has not been forgotten. And I do hope that Republicans rally to buy Joe's books since they sort of used him for their political purposes, and now it is payback time!

I also hope that Joe sells more copies of his book than the one that's reportedly coming out by Sarah Palin. (Oh, truly, this has got to be the greatest week of 2008 for the American publishing industry!) At least Joe seems to need the extra income more than Miss Thing here. But I guess it really does not matter since they both received (or would) advanced payments at any rate.

And if I have to choose between Sarah's book (May I call you Sarah?) and W's book, I would have to say Sarah. After all that's said about her, she is after all a working mom of five who is a Governor. No mean feat by any measure. I am sure she would have something to say and something to teach us about juggling demanding work and crazy family life. On the other hand, come to think of it, I am curious, and afraid, to find out what W has to say about himself for the past eight years!

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Go see Mary Poppins live on stage in 2009 (and 2010)!

We spent a too-short weekend in the New York city some time this year, and the boys fell in love with the city. At first we were worried that they might be bored since there really wasn't much to do, if you are a kid, once you subtracted museums and walking around and watching people. Turned out my kids made mama proud by enjoying all of my favorite activities: art museums, strolling in the big cities, and people watching. (And yes, my youngest enjoys Starbucks as much as the next Yuppie... guilty as charged, but only for the whipped cream they generously give him there).

We went to TKTS at around 7:30 pm at night and Mary Poppins was one of the shows available. The 10-year-old was not too sure, "This is a show for girls!" Well, next to "The Little Mermaid" his complaint seemed unfounded, so off we went.

This was not the first equity theatrical productions that they had seen, but Broadway shows are truly magical, and I had forgotten how magical until I went with my children. The looks on their faces almost brought tears to my eyes. I was able to experience the excitement and magic (I know I keep on using this word, but I don't know what else to say...) through their eyes. My youngest was sitting at the edge of his seat the whole time-- he was that enthralled.

Remember the song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ? In the movie version, it was a short episode, a mere comma, a distraction from the main plot, if there is one to speak of... In the Disney production, they extended the song and made it into the main chorus number. They also used it as the encore number after curtain, and invited the audience members to stand up and sing (and Dance!) along. My boys were delirious! (though my 10 year-old would certainly not admit this now. "What? Moi? No way!") The excitement was palpable in the theatre during this number, we were humming and dancing the whole way back to our hotel, and I had earworm for at least two weeks afterwards. Here is a clip of the production in London IF you also want to catch the same earworm...

Mary Poppins will be on tour starting 2009 (the linked page plays MUSIC automatically, I hate it when they do this, so don't click on it if you are at work and your computer sound is on) with the same cast that we saw in NYC. Do check it out if they are coming to a city near you: it is worth it!

Spoiler alert:
Our cheap seats landed us way up on the right side of the auditorium. We didn't mind at all. Turned out they were THE BEST seats in the house because at the end of the story, remember? Mary Poppins flies away in the movie? Well, she did in the show! A "gasp" in unison could be heard when Mary Poppins started ascending, and she flew right in front of us: so close that if we had reached out, we could probably have touched her dress. It was such a great temptation, like hypnosis almost, to be honest, I had to sit on my hands to refrain from doing exactly so...

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I feel empathy for the mom in the Fudge series!

I've read the series of books by Judy Blume a long time ago. We recently picked up a copy of Double Fudge from a garage sale and I started reading it to my youngest this weekend, one chapter at a time. The more we read, the more it became surreal to me: Peter and Fudge are almost like my two boys!

I wonder now whether many many moms feel the same way out there. If that's the case, then Wunderbar! That means I am not alone in this!

I couldn't really tell what my 5 year-old was thinking when he was listening to the antics by another 5 year-old narrated by the older brother. Was he thinking, "Oh, that tantrum at the shoestore bit sounds really cool. Maybe I should try it next time... [Key internal evil laughter: Bwahahahah...]" Hopefully he was thinking, "Oh, what a disgrace to all 5 year-olds around the world! I certainly would not behave this way even if given the chance! [Key more internal evil laughter: Bwahahahah... you wish!]"

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Interview of the Obamas on 60 Minutes

I just realized this: Barack Obama will be a work-from-home-dad with a big-old office at home!

Thanks to CBS for putting the entire video section on the Interweb!

I watched again the section when they talked about transitions ahead for them as a family.

Watch CBS Videos Online

They are such a happy, beautiful family. And surprisingly normal. (e.g. the two of them bantered, joked, poked fun at each other on camera). One of their biggest worries has got to be how to stay "normal" for the family, esp. for the two young girls.

Michelle Obama said that the next day after election night, when they were walking the kids to the school, people were lined up and cheering for them. Malia commented, "Now that's embarrassing!" What a candid moment that speaks volumes...

And, this man does the dishes AND the laundry when he's home! Now I am going to cut out the newspaper clipping and post it to the fridge. Yeah, I will see what excuses my husband can come up this time that could trump this!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How do you explain WAR to a 5 year old?

About 2 weeks ago, my youngest asked me, "Mommy, is there a war now?" I was startled by this question, but quickly steadied myself and said, "yes, honey, unfortunately, there are wars all around the world." "No, I mean, is there one that we are in?" Pause. "Yes, honey, unfortunately, there is at least one, in this country called Iraq."


"Ummm, some people believed that there were people there that wanted to do bad things to us, to the United States... You see, there was this ruler in Iraq, his name was Saddam Hussein..."

"What is a ruler?"

"umm, he's like a leader."

"Oh, like a president?"

"No, not really. More like a tyrant... He has killed a lot of his people in the country, and we decided that he shouldn't be the ruler any more... He was captured and executed..."

(And thank goodness he didn't ask me what "executed" mean...)

So as I tried to explain to my youngest, I got more and more unsure about this whole concept.

"So the ruler is not there any more?"


"So when are we going to stop the war?"

"Well, honey, it is not as simple as it seems... We have to stay because now the country is not stable because a lot of people are fighting against each other... And yeah, we all hope that our soldiers can come home soon...

Hey, do you want to go get some ice cream?"

I swear I didn't make this conversation up and pass it along as a fable or something. This is one of those conversations that, while you child soon forgot about it, keeps you up at night...

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The trend continues: the hat stays. And I am inspired!

And it is not just a hat, nor is it a cowboy hat. It is a FEDORA.

My 5 yo got a wool fedora for his upcoming 6th birthday. He has been wearing that hat ever since. People would comment on how cute he is, esp. when he tips his hat slightly, and say, "How'd you do, Ma'am?"

This disturbs my 10-year-old who at this young age, unfortunately, has known first hand how ruthless schoolyard (or rather, bus stop) teasing can be. He has also learned that you really do not want to stand out, "blending in" is the smartest thing to do. (At 10?? What happened to my ham?? And I thought conformity is looked down in the USA! Seriously, the American culture and mentality sometimes is a mythical paradox to me...) So he tried to tell his younger brother that people might think he's different and would make fun of him for it.

Here comes my diatribe of the day:

Ok, let me ask again: When does being different become a negative in this great country of ours?

(Ok, never mind. This is a rhetoric question... more or less).

But what happened to creativity and imagination? So it is ok if it happens in the movies, on paper, on the stage, in the office (i.e. "Think outside the box"), but not encouraged in the suburbs?

Standard response from my youngest? "I don't care!" and "I think I look very handsome in this!"

Bravo to him for being so gutsy! Mama is very proud for his courage to be different.

But at the same time, I cannot help but wonder how long this unbridled unabashedness will last. They all grow up so fast, and part of growing up seems to mean losing part of yourself as you get older... Should I feel guilty also for letting him be himself? For indulging him even since I was the one who bought the fedora, naturally. And I am sure my kids could sense since a young age how abhorrent I am of "mediocrity".

I actually told my kids that the greatest wisdom I hope to ever teach them is "Be thyself."

I must be nuts...

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

My youngest's got a fedora and a cane...

Son: Hey, do you know the name of my cane?

Us: No. What?

Son: John McCain!

(Confession: he was, for the longest time, pro-McCain. There, I said it. He actually cried over this several times pre-election day. His mind was set on McCain because he saw a lot of the commercials by the GOP camp during the 2008 PEK Olympics, and they all said, "My name is John McCain, and I approve this ad!" My son thought it was hilarious, and also McCain looks like a nice grandpa, and who does not like Grandpa??

He begged us so many times to vote for John McCain because, "He would cry if he loses! and I am going to cry too!"

I am happy to report that we did eventually win him over, and he watched the rally at Grand Park on TV with us, excitedly...)

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Obama calls himself a Mutt and I have two!

Is it wrong to have hero worship towards a politician? Ever since the night of Nov. 4, I have been walking through the clouds. Elated, of course, but that feeling also comes from my disbelief that we actually did it. Or rather, he actually did it! And of course, we all know there is a long way ahead to deliver his promises, and truth be told, I don't expect him to be able to deliver all those promises: There are just too many issues to be solved, and the biggest elephant in the room, our economy crisis, is getting bigger every day.
However, I have to say, I am a bit miffed by our President Elect, why? Because he's brought tears to my eyes almost every day since he stepped onto that stage in Grant Park in Chicago and gave one of the most inspiring speeches that any of us have ever heard. This morning, he did it again: I am trying to keep the tears from actually falling down because that would mean crying. And that would be a ridiculous thing to do, wouldn't it? Crying over some news conference remarks?? Obama describes himself as a Mutt, in a passing remark at his first news conference as President Elect.
And I have two here!
My 10-year-old boy just confessed not long ago that he is self-conscious when we are out together because people stare. For some reason, reading this news article this morning gave me hope that my children's lives would not be as unnecessarily complicated as I imagine they will be.
The day after the election, we looked at the Exit Polls statistics on CNN and marveled (but not surprised) about the "racial" divide along the party line: not as pronounced as in the past elections (12% more of the White voters voted for McCain vs. Obama, whereas Kerry was behind by 17% among Whites in the last election. So we could say that Obama did "cross over," but the difference is still obvious in the graphs). My 10-year-old asked me, "Mom, which one will I be?" The question startled and saddened me, because his identify of himself is still being formed, and yet, on any official documents, surveys, forms, he does not exist except as "Other". I have studied all the theories on OTHER in grad schools, but it does make me sad when all those theories all of a sudden become applicable to what I am dealing with at home.
So, thank you, President Obama! Now perhaps we can openly discuss issues around Race, not in a stodgy way, but in an everyday lived-through dealt-with way. They are messy topics and there are seldom clear cut right or wrong answers, but we do need still start talking about it more openly, and in my view, more casually. If we cannot find humors in some of the messiness, and if we cannot make fun of ourselves, then the day will be far away when we can actually be color-blind, which if taken literally by the way, in my mind, is like alchemy... (We will always notice somebody else's appearances first, and we need to learn as a culture to not let certain signifiers become symbols).
Perhaps now it would be easier to lobby for a label for mutts around the country that is better than "Other"?

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mom redeemed herself from being the Worst Mom of the Year...

... by dumpster diving for child's missing homework!
Thank goodness they are not perfect...

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Questions I ask myself every day (No.1)

Just because I am aware of my inadequacy as a mother, I am able to make fun of myself and I give myself the title "Bad Mommy of the Year", does it absolve me for doing a bad job bringing up my children?

If I call myself out as a criminal, does it make my crime less appalling?

By calling myself a Bad Mommy, does it make me superior to women who are unaware of what a bad job they are doing or frankly don't care?

By calling myself names, does it necessarily mean that I care? Or is my need to call myself names a desperate attempt to prove to myself and the others that I actually do care even though it may seem that I don't?

And I want to make it clear: when I call myself "Bad Mommy" or "Worst Mother of the Year" it is definitely not a "Backdoor Brag" like the "Worst Mother of the Year" in this essay. (This mom certainly reads like a dream mom to me, and I am sure that she knows it and is proud of it even: "I am such a great mother with strong convictions that I do not succumb to my children's whining and blackmailing!") I really really mean it and I live with regret and fear every day...

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Overheard at my house (Episode 1)

Scene: after mommy serves them breakfast (oatmeal) with loud bang on the table and great indignation and runs upstairs to take her 1-minute shower before they have to rush to their first activity on a Sunday morning...

5-year-old boy: I wish mommy is less mean. Do you wish mommy is less mean, Older Brother?

10-year-old boy: Ya.

5-year-old boy: I wish daddy is nicer too and does not yell so much. Do you wish mommy and daddy are nicer?

10-year-old boy: Ya...

(Two brothers have a rare moment of peace and camaraderie)

(Bad Mom upstairs has to brace herself to prevent an emotional outburst and hits Sleeping Dad with the pillow)

(Two brothers break out in an argument over some trivial matter)

Bad Mom: (Forgetting temporarily her vow to be a less mean and nicer mother and screaming at the top of her lung) STOP IT THE TWO OF YOU AND HURRY UP BEFORE I COME DOWNSTAIRS!!!!!!!

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So, how do you explain Roe vs. Wade to a 10-year-old boy??

Am I a bad mom? Sometimes I worry that in an effort to bring up children that are progressive, tolerant, self-aware, and self-reliant, and to make sure that they become "contributing members of a civil society" in the future, I may have pulled a cloud over their childhood. If they are fortunate enough to not to know about "the world out there", who am I to ruin their parade by telling them the "truth"?

So my 10-year-old had to do a research report on this presidential election. One of the projects was to interview a democrat and a republican, ask them this one question: "What do you think a Democrat (or Republican) believes?" I felt bad for putting our loved ones on the spot: voting is a private matter, in my opinion, and sometimes the true reason someone votes for this party vs. the other is for that person's conscience to know, and their conscience only. The people we ended up interviewing over the phone, surprisingly or maybe not so much, gave similar answers with regarding to almost everything: such as "A democrat/Republican believes that the middle class should receive tax reliefs."

The differences we learned from our friends and families are, based on their own subjective opinions of course, "A Republican believes in a smaller government, whereas a Democrat believes in more taxes," and "A Democrat believes in equality in all people and the responsibilities of the government to come to its people's aid when they are in need."

What strikes me the most was the fact that women from both parties see "Roe vs. Wade" as the main dividing line that separates Republicans from Democrats: one mentioned that Republicans believe in the "Right to live", the other, Democrats believe in "Roe vs. Wade". My son, being 10 years old, naturally had no idea what they were talking about, and our friends and families, bless their heart, naturally did not want to go into details.

So, how do you explain Roe vs. Wade to a 10-year-old boy?

This was why I woke up with self-doubt for my ability to be a good mother this morning: I actually gave it a try last night by giving him a general description of what Roe vs. Wade was about. How successful, I am not sure. My son understandably was disturbed by the concept of abortion, which I didn't go into too much detail of course. He does not even know how women become pregnant yet, oh my goodness... {{surge of more self-doubt}} At one point, I could see in his face his regret for supporting the Democratic Party (i.e. Obama in this election: he thinks Obama is the man, and the democrats will bring equality to the society, without me or my husband steering him either way... in fact we were quite puzzled by his interest in this election since we didn't talk about politics in front of the kids until he himself showed interest in the topic... ) And I was upset with the teacher's naivete in giving them the homework assignment: how does one talk about this presidential election, I mean, really talk about it, without getting into a discussion on the two sides over the "Roe vs. Wade" issue? How am I supposed to explain to my 5th grader, who despite his uncanny maturity still hugs stuffed animals at night? I know a lot of people would argue that this is the reason why there shouldn't be abortion allowed, period, if you don't know how to explain such a procedure to a child. This way you don't even need to explain it. To me, this is the reason why the issue of abortion should not be made to hijack the public political debate. It is a personal choice, and yes, I believe that women should have the right to choose. It is ironic to me that Republicans, for all their push for a smaller government, desperately want to extend their control over private matters such as gay marriage and this, and leave public health care issues to strictly between "patients and their care providers"...

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What I learned from my 5th grader's homework this weekend...

My 10-year-old came home with a 10-page homework packet last week, a research report on this presidential election. (Let me not start with the fact that the packet is from 1997 and asks for an example of a printed ad in newspaper or magazine. I don't remember the last time I saw any candidate spending their money on a printed ad, at least, not in publications that we read at home, e.g. The Economist...)

Here is what I learned:

1. It is not easy to find out what exactly the Democratic party and the Republican party stand for. We went to both parties' websites and we ended up frustrated and confused. The "party platform" manifestos put out by both parties read so similar: they both use the same vague, generalized statements to show that they are THE party that will watch out for the little guys, the working American families. Both parties believe in education, better teachers, and the freedom for parents to choose the best education for their children. I had to explain to my son that nobody will come right out to say, "Oh, yeah. We are going to raise your taxes, and we are not going to do anything about the education system nor the health care crisis." You just have to read between the lines. Here is one great example from the "Republican Party Platform 2008" document:

"It is not enough to offer only increased access to a system that costs too much and does not work for millions of Americans. The Republican goal is more ambitious: Better health care for lower cost.

First Principle: Do No Harm

How do we ensure that all Americans have the peace of mind that comes from owning high-quality, comprehensive health coverage? The first rule of public policy is the same as with medicine: Do no harm.

  • We will not put government between patients and their health care providers.
  • We will not put the system on a path that empowers Washington bureaucrats at the expense of patients."

  • (by the way, how many people actually read this document? It is entirely fascinating the wordsmith effort that went into this...)

    The GOP certainly did not state that they are against "health care for all" since that, on the surface, will certainly provide bad PR and negative sound bites.

    2. The symbol for the Democratic Party has been a donkey since the 19th century: it has its origin in Andrew Jackson's campaign in 1828 when he was called a Jackass, and Jackson, true to his larger-than-life persona, adopted the image of the strong-willed donkey for his campaign. The symbols of elephant and donkey were later popularized by Thomas Nast's political cartoons, (in which neither animal was portrayed in a positive light, therefore, it's curious that both parties readily adopted the images!)

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