25 April 2010

What I am reading: April 2010

It seems that I am reading less, yet it also seems that I am reading a lot. I think that I have been concentrating more on catching up and keeping up with current events and with Newsweek, Businessweek, Money, and USNews and World Report. In addition, I am a bit addicted to the Washington Post and the NYT, with a side glance into Der Spiegel.

  1. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. Every time I read an old classic (increasingly likely, as they are out of copyright and freely downloadable to my Kindle), I reel in wonder at the openly racist writing. Sometimes I can look past it and enjoy the book for itself and sometimes I am just grateful that this type of thought is no longer acceptable to be written. Betty MacDonald led a far more interesting life than I would have gathered from this book alone and I will look for other books by her. As I read the book, I was intrigued by mention of Maw and Paw Kettle and their family, because as I child I saw many films with Maw and Paw, old MGM movies. I was intrigued when I researched MacDonald, to discover that those movies were in fact based on her book, as the characters were extremely popular after first appearing in the movie with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, which I also remember as charming. (I'm a huge fan of both those actors and I grew up on MGM light-hearted musicals and movies- gave me what I guess is a really American and optimistic view of life which has been slowly degraded by reality over the last few decades). MacDonald wrote several other semi-autobigraphical books as well as the famous Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories. It's worth reading within the context of books from the 1940's, although I think the movie is lighter and more charming, and I think I'll try to get a copy for the children to watch. I'll be interested to discover whether there are things in her other books that also give me pause.
  2. Silver Born by Patricia Briggs: Another welcome addition to an urban fantasy series. The coyote-shifter mechanic protagonist continues leading her life, dealing with a rough world, and forging intricate and realistic relationships (realistic in the between people way, not in the Pack dynamics way, per se:)).
  3. Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison: I recently discovered that Kim Harrison is actually Dawn Cook, who wrote a series of fascinating fantasies about a young woman's coming of age and discovery that she is not entirely human. It's set in a medieval style world and the climax population was originally not human. Fascinating use of genetics too. Those books have recently been re-issued with terribly soppy covers highlighting that Dawn Cook is actually Kim Harrison because the series of books as Harrison have been extremely popular. This is book 8 and I was a bit worried, as I had read mixed reviews. However, I liked it very much. There has also been an interesting running theme in these books of genetic manipulation and changes in species and race as a result of genetic manipulation and control: the similarities in writing between her two names is very strong. This book also showed one of the results of the recent struggle between Amazon and certain publishers: I pre-ordered this book on Kindle and by the time I read it (about a week after release), I could have purchased it in hard cover for about $1- less. That annoys me and it makes me unhappy with the marketing decisions of the publisher in a way that will make me re-consider pre-ordering titles from HarperCollins imprints in the future.
  4. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr: Here Amazon has succeeded in it's purpose: by giving me the first book in a series, they have tempted me into purchasing the following books. A modern, or urban fairy tale with a twist. Iliked it very much.

16 April 2010

It doesn't end! Happiness keeps coming!

First, I get this in my inbox from President Obama, at 10:27 am ET:
G --

It has now been well over a year since the near collapse of our entire financial system that cost the nation more than 8 million jobs. To this day, hard-working families struggle to make ends meet.

We've made strides -- businesses are starting to hire, Americans are finding jobs, and neighbors who had given up looking are returning to the job market with new hope. But the flaws in our financial system that led to this crisis remain unresolved.

Wall Street titans still recklessly speculate with borrowed money. Big banks and credit card companies stack the deck to earn millions while far too many middle-class families, who have done everything right, can barely pay their bills or save for a better future.

We cannot delay action any longer. It is time to hold the big banks accountable to the people they serve, establish the strongest consumer protections in our nation's history -- and ensure that taxpayers will never again be forced to bail out big banks because they are "too big to fail."

That is what Wall Street reform will achieve, why I am so committed to making it happen, and why I'm asking for your help today.

Please stand with me to show your support for Wall Street reform.

We know that without enforceable, commonsense rules to check abuse and protect families, markets are not truly free. Wall Street reform will foster a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, or offer a new service.

Consumer financial protections are currently spread across seven different government agencies. Wall Street reform will create one single Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- tasked with preventing predatory practices and making sure you get the clear information, not fine print, needed to avoid ballooning mortgage payments or credit card rate hikes.

Reform will provide crucial new oversight, give shareholders a say on salaries and bonuses, and create new tools to break up failing financial firms so that taxpayers aren't forced into another unfair bailout. And reform will keep our economy secure by ensuring that no single firm can bring down the whole financial system.

With so much at stake, it is not surprising that allies of the big banks and Wall Street lenders have already launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to fight these changes. Arm-twisting lobbyists are already storming Capitol Hill, seeking to undermine the strong bipartisan foundation of reform with loopholes and exemptions for the most egregious abusers of consumers.

I won't accept anything short of the full protection that our citizens deserve and our economy needs. It's a fight worth having, and it is a fight we can win -- if we stand up and speak out together.

So I'm asking you to join me, starting today, by adding your name as a strong supporter of Wall Street reform:


Thank you,

President Barack Obama
(edit: I have changed the link from my personal, my.obama.com, to the posting that links to the President's address on the issue. I hope that anonymized it sufficiently:)  And the speech is interesting in itself, for those who follow it out).

immediately followed at 10:39 am ET by:

Can my day get any better? (Politically, economically and socially, in a realistic way, that is.)

Every day brings a new joy.

Who could be against this?

Officials said Obama had been moved by the story of a lesbian couple in Florida, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, who were kept apart when Pond collapsed of a cerebral aneurysm in February 2007, dying hours later at a hospital without her partner and children by her side. 
Apparently, the law. It was a heartless act and any decent person who read this story wept for all the people involved. 

One more victory for decency, true decency, in the USA.

This makes me happy part 2


Exploring space is a dream that I had given up on. Perhaps my dreams will come true for my children, or grand-children.

15 April 2010

13 April 2010

This makes me so happy...

One of the many things that I hoped for when I voted for our President:
The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) applauds the passage of the health care reform package, in particular, the workplace breastfeeding support provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The provision states that employers shall provide reasonable, unpaid break time and a private, non-bathroom place for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth. Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to the requirement if it would cause "undue hardship."
This was the primary reason that I did not return to my last job: after discussing what would happen when I returned before I went on maternity leave, my workplace told me, two weeks before my scheduled return, that my "private place" would be the bathroom on my floor. They were aware what issues I had had with breastfeeding my first and how dedicated I was to being able to breastfeed my second.

So I did not return to work and we started looking for a way to live on one income while being a two income family. 

Hello, Germany!

When we think about when or whether we will return to the USA, one of the most important factors has been health care. I was laid off after 9/11 and luckily COBRA covered me until I found a new job, as the German and I were not yet married. I never want to be in a place again where the loss of a job could leave me or my family without healthcare. Our lives are too important to take that risk.

Thank heavens it looks like this will not be an issue in the future.