Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Skiing!!

We're back...it was awesome! Full details later - I'm exhausted now. Maybe on my potential snow day tomorrow? We'll see I guess. G'night!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just let the poor woman die

Feeding must continue for Florida woman - Okay people. It's not about the money. Her trust fund settlement has been drained by medical bills. It's not about the "other woman." For pete's sake, Michael Schiavo's wife has been brain dead for FIFTEEN YEARS. You can't expect a man to never look at another woman again while his wife lies in a bed and drools. (editor's note - I had previously said 25 years. I obviously cannot count. I realized my mistake when I noted that, in order for her to be comatose for 25 years, she would have had to have been married prior to age 16.)

The real moral of the story here is always, always put your wishes in writing. Of course, as I say this, I have yet to actually put mine in writing. So, if anyone ever needs to print this out, here it is. If I am brain dead, pull the plug. If I need mechanical lungs or a feeding tube, and I can't express desires otherwise, I don't want them. If I'm in a coma, but otherwise functioning normally, give me a chance. At least a year. Maybe two, depending on the doctor's advice. But I do not want to be a vegetable. Or a fruit. Personally, I think I'd want to be around 80% of my current capacity, minimum, if something tragic happened. I could deal with some minor disability. But nothing major. Basically, if I can't exist out of bed or unattached to a machine, don't keep me there or attached. Unless I can say otherwise.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Our tax dollars at work

Montgomery County has a frst-time homebuyer's program. The housing administration will finance 97% of our mortgage at a competitive rate (5.625%). They will also pay us a grant of the other 3% to be used as a down-payment. We have to attend a class, which isn't a problem. The problem is that we're just barely under the income cap ($84K) and we'll be above it in July, when Matt's raise goes through. So we'll either be buying a house in the next 4 months, or not until after I graduate from Hopkins.

In the next 4 months, two things need to align. First, we need to find a place we can afford - no small feat in Montgomery County when we're working with a budget of about $210K. Second, we need a seller who's willing to help with our closing costs, because we'll only have about half of what we had initially planned. Or we need $4000 to somehow drop into our lap. My position is, if God means for this to happen, then it'll happen. And if not, we'll keep flinging money at our landlord.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

And if you believe that, I've got a bridge for sale too

So I got pulled over on 695 today on the way home from Kim's, in one of 695's many "work" zones. I use quotes because I've yet to actually see work being done. The officer came up and asked the fatal question: "Do you know why I pulled you over?" Being a dutiful insurance customer, I said no (anything you say in response to that question can be considered an admission of guilt). The officer said, "You were going 100 miles an hour in a work zone! The speed limit is only 50!" I said, "I just passed the sign...it said 'Double Fine.'"

Also funny:
- Radio DJ: "I'm here at the RV Showcase. I just went over to the upscale RV section. These things are like floating palaces! Well, except that they don't float, they roll."
- Cashier at Target: "You've been randomly selected to complete an online survey for a chance to win an Alaskan Cruise. Because I guess it's not cold enough here."

Friday, February 18, 2005

This is why they make baby clothes in yellow

Surgery May Be Hasty for Unclear Gender - This is an interesting problem...and one I had never really thought of before. I do think it's a little weird for people to have sex-change operations. I watched a show on it once (actually two shows - one being a male-to-female transition and the other a female-to-male transition). One of the points brought up by the shows was that, while these people may "see themselves" as having the wrong sets of genitalia, a problem that can be surgically corrected, some doctors compared it to an anorexic. That person may "see themselves" as fat, but no one would ever think of giving them gastric bypass surgery. Anyway, I think this is a slightly different situation - they're talking about hermaphrodites and asexuals, and parents rushing to assign a sex at birth that may or may not be in line with the way the child's brain (or hormones) are hardwired. The case of the (wo)man in Texas that started developing breasts at puberty but isn't allowed to change the male designation on her birth certificate and is now unable to obtain a marriage license demonstrates that this is obviously something that needs to be addressed.

I crack myself up

A few of my gems from last night:

Staci: I'd like to go to Let's Dish with you in April...but would Kim be upset?
Me: I haven't asked yet. But don't worry, there's enough Courtney for everybody!

Me: Do you need a cough drop?
Matt: No, I inhaled water in the bathroom.
Me: Oh. Do you need a stupid drop?

Heehee. So, Kim and I are doing Let's Dish tonight, followed by a run to Applebees. And somehow she talked me into doing step aerobics with her tomorrow morning.

Matt's alarm, for some psychotic reason, went off at midnight last night. The funny thing was that he hit the snooze button as usual. This happened three times before I finally got out of bed and turned the darn thing off (it wasn't the clock he uses to get up in the morning).

Comment on commenting: For all you non-blogger people, you can now select "other" as a radio button when posting a comment and type in your name and website, instead of posting anonymously and then signing your name at the bottom.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Custody Battle

Matt's computer and I worked out a visitation schedule. I can see him Sunday from 9am-2pm, Monday and Tuesday from 7:30-10pm, Wednesday from 5:45-7pm, and Thursday from 7:30-9pm. I also have every other weekend, a week at Christmas, and various other minor holidays. The computer has him the rest of the time that he's not at work or asleep. Somehow, I got all the husband-support payments though (dinner, laundry, etc).

I guess the upside is that, while some women wonder if their husbands are out hitting on other women or drinking with their buddies and not coming home til 3am, I know exactly where my husband is. He's in the den, making leather crafts and slaying evil spirits. Or check-raising.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Social Security Debate, Part 2

So, my recent post on the drawbacks of uncapping Social Security has generated quite a discussion! I'd like to continue the debate by discussing privatization and why that also is a bad idea. But first, a little humor.

My thoughts exactly :-)

Anyway, private accounts. I'd like to immediately clear up any misconception that the money in your private account is yours to do anything you please with. You only have two choices for your optional 4% - leave it in the social security system, or divert it into an investment account that buys government-selected stocks (you can immediately see an area of concern right there). Now, if you left it in the system, you would effectively see a 3% "rate of return" - this is an adjustment due to inflation. Most economists have predicted that, at best, people diverting money into investment accounts will see about the same rate of growth, after inflation, that you would have gotten if you left the money alone - the economy isn't likely to support a huge rate or return, and if it did, the whole idea of "saving social security" would be moot. So at best, you'll probably break even. Which is okay. But if the stock market crashes, or even just dips severely, you run the risk of losing some or all of your 4%. Worst case scenerio, you lose your entire 4% in the investment account, and your overall benefits are reduced to 2/3 of what you would have gotten if you left the money in the system.

Still doesn't sound all that disasterous, right? Well, it gets worse. By diverting the money out of the system and into your account, you're lowering the available dollars that Social Security has to redistribute to today's payees. This, in turn, accelerates the decline of Social Security as a self-sustaining system. Without changes, Social Security will run out of its trust fund (the treasury bonds that are currently the surplus) in 2042. By decreasing the dollars in, we'll dry up those treasury bonds a lot faster. After that point, Social Security will only be able to pay 70% of its promised benefits.

I just pointed out that if you should happen to lose all the money in your investment account, you're benefits would be reduced to 67% of your anticipated amount. Well, 70% of 67% works out to 47% - less than half of the current payout. Not so great (this amount is approximately $22K - barely above the poverty line).

The other issue at hand is how long your private account payments would last. Currently, Social security checks are issued based on an estimated lifespan (I think it's 20 years) - BUT if you live past the age of 85, the checks don't stop coming. You can beat the system simply by living longer. On the other hand, the money in your private account is finite. If they divide it over 20 years, what happens when you turn 85? That's right - you only get the payouts from the 8% you have left in the Social Security system - 47% of today's benefit.

One, albeit small, solution I would suggest is to get rid of the death benefit. As I pointed out, you can get more out of the system than you put in simply by living longer than the average person. But if someone dies at 66, the balance of their account is given to their survivors. I say it should be left in the system, to balance out having to pay some people longer than expected.

Okay, that's it for now. Please continue to comment and discuss!

ADDENDUM: Bush is quoted in this article as saying "I think every citizen, every citizen has got the capacity to manage his or her own money." If that's true, why do we need the system in the first place?!? Give us our money and let us manage it!

FURTHER ADDENDUM: The only person who makes sense so far - the fossil known as Alan Greenspan. Quoted in the NYT, from Mr. Greenspan's Senate testamony: "Beyond the near term, benefits promised to a burgeoning retirement-age population under mandatory entitlement programs, most notably Social Security and Medicare, threaten to strain the resources of the working-age population in the years ahead," Mr. Greenspan said in his opening remarks. "Real progress on these issues will unavoidably entail many difficult choices."
-And: "Social Security as a pay-as-you-go system worked remarkably well for 50, 60, 70 years, largely because a pay-as-you-go system works if population is growing sufficiently quickly and longevity is growing only modestly," Mr. Greenspan said. But with more people living longer, he said, there is "a very major problem for a pay-as-you-go system."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

More proof that the IRS is screwy


We e-filed on January 29th. How could it possibly take 3 weeks to print a check and put it in the mail???

Well, if the government keeps everyone's refund for an extra month, that means they get an extra month's interest on it...if you assume that our refund is average and half of the tax-paying population is getting a refund, that works out to about $157 million extra. How come I can't be paid $218K an hour for flagrant laziness?

Talk about passing the buck

FDA to Establish New Drug Oversight Board - It's the FDA's *job* to oversee the safety of drugs. Not to create some "independent board" to blame when something else goes wrong.

The other interesting thing about this article is when they quoted the HHS secretary as saying, "...it's clear that people want more oversight and openness from the agency." Actually, people DON'T want more oversight. What they want is effective drugs that are 100% safe, and they want them yesterday. This was proven back in the late 80s and early 90s, when extensive safety tests were being done on the newly emerging HIV drugs. The AIDS lobbists cried foul; the public complained that drugs were being tied up in the system too long and in the meantime people were dying. In response, the FDA (granted, probably overswinging a bit here) now rushes drugs to market with the minimum amount of safety data. But it's the nature of the beast that even the most well-designed clinical trial is still only a "representative population," and that a true assessment of safety can't be done pre-marketing. My prediction is that the FDA will keep swinging back and forth on this issue for quite some time before it ever achieves an acceptable balance.

We can survive a hurricane but not roadwork?

So our power went out last night around 10pm. On the entire side of our street. Luckily 24 had just ended, so we didn't miss any TV. It probably had something to do with the continual butchering of the intersection at 29 and Briggs Chaney. It came back on again around 1am, and for some reason I actually woke up two hours later, noticed the clock blinking, and reset the alarm.

Bush's faith-based efforts questioned - an article discussing why nothing has been accomplished in terms of the president's push for increasing the ability of charities and religious organizations to help the poor, including the accusation by the former director of the faith-based initiative commission that the administration is "obsessed with the politics of the faith-based initiative but dismissive of the policy itself." The original beliefnet.com article can be found here.

Speaking of directors, why is the executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis organization a woman?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Disgusting

Southern Food Frustrates Health Officials - How'd you like to chow down on "The Hamdog," a hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and onions, topped with a fried egg and served on a hoagie bun with a side of fries? Or how about a "Luther Burger," a bacon-cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun? I'm not sure which is more gross - the food described here or the fact that they quoted a woman who eats this stuff regularly as being "able to maintain her 5-foot-7, 115-pound physique without regular exercise." Yeah, I can do that too. It's called bulimia.

Now Playing: Feeder - High

Saturday, February 12, 2005

99 red balloons?

I saw a JC Penney valentine's day gift commercial that had "99 Red Balloons" as the background music. That is so unbelievably wrong.

So it turns out that we're going to Red Lobster instead of Bertucci's tomorrow night for dinner. I like Bertucci's as a restaurant better; the bread and dipping oil is incredible, and I was planning on getting their Dessert Trilogy - tiramisu, tarfuto (a hazelnut ice cream) and chocolate torta - mmmmmm. But other than the pizza, the only thing that has really interested me on their dinner menu was the Lobster Basilico - pasta with lobster meat in a tomato basil cream sauce. It was great. But they don't have it anymore! I even called and asked, on Matt Green's sage advice. Red Lobster, on the other hand, has brought back LobsterFest, and they have their lobster asparagus penne pasta back on their menu. Which is also very good...but I'm still ever so slightly disappointed - mostly about dessert! And I know there's no way we'd be able to get into two restaurants in one night on the Sunday before Valentines day.

I'm watching Winnie the Pooh's Valentine's Day Special on ABC :-)

Scheduling Conflicts

Why is everything happening on Saturday, April 30th?????

Matt's company picnic at Kings Dominion is scheduled for that day. Last week, our church's youth coordinator asked me to help out with the teens again at Acquire the Fire, a youth retreat that I helped with last year - April 29th-30th. And I just got an e-mail from Gillian, asking me to join her team for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer - April 30th-May 1st.

I can't do all three. I can't really even do two. I have the feeling that if I went to Kings Dominion instead of doing one of the better causes, I'd feel guilty. Any advice?

Now Playing: Barenaked Ladies - She's on Time

Ah, memories

Have you ever been so tired that you lie down to sleep under the covers, and later you get hot but you're dead to the world because you're so exhausted and can't move, and then you wake up sweating some time after that because you've been under the covers the whole time? That happened to me all the time in college (normally after getting up for class on about 3 hours of sleep, and managing to squeeze in an hour or two that afternoon). It happened to me again this morning. I forgot about the church breakfast today at 8:30 (somehow Matt managed to wake up at 8am anyways) and got up with about 7 hours of sleep. I was still really tired when we got home, so I went back to bed while Matt went to run errands. He woke me up two hours later when he got home, and I was all icky from sleeping under the comforter. I don't know why I was so tired.

As I was getting out of the car when Matt dropped me off at home:
Matt: Have fun sleeping.
Me: Have fun shopping. Boy, that's backwards.

I'm working with kids sunday school tomorrow morning. We're making a yarn craft. Luckily for me, it's only a half-hour :-) I'll try to do links later. I don't really have anything better to do today than entertain my small internet audience.

Now Playing: Bon Jovi - You Give Love a Bad Name

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Green cracks me up

The Green: and yes, valentines day is everywhere
Me: it's nuts
Me: what did you get the love of your life
Me: or whoever she is :-)
The Green: well i'm going to buy myself a root beer
The Green: oh i already got one, i win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Warning: The following pictures are cute!


The cats normally have better things to do than pay attention to us.


Max is cute!



Roxie just looks silly. But still sweet :-)

Why we shouldn't uncap Social Security

Currently, there is a $90K cap on social security - meaning that you only pay SS taxes on the first $90K of your income, regardless of how much money you make. Some people say that we should remove that cap, and make everyone pay their "fair" share. It's anything but "fair," and here's why. (Bear with me through a few numbers).

Let's say my average salary over 40 years is at the cap - $90K. I would pay 6% a year, or $5400. My employer would contribute an equal amount. At the end of my career, I would have $432,000 in my social security account. Disregarding inflation, and assuming payouts over 20 years, I would get $1800 a month. This is currently the "maximum benefit," whether you're fictional me or Donald Trump.

Now let's say I've done much better for myself - I averaged $500K a year. Without the payroll cap, I would have paid $30,000 a year into my account; my employer would have done the same (ouch!). At the end of my working life there would be $2.4 million in my account. Assuming the same conditions as before, I'm now getting a $10,000 check every month.

Well, I didn't do anything to "save" social security - it's a money-in, money-out system. What people *really* want to do is remove the payroll tax cap, but keep the benefits capped. In the example I've just given, the government would be forcing me to make an $8200 "charitable contribution" to social security every month (without tax deduction benefits, of course). That's really "fair," huh?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I don't get this comic


Can anyone explain this to me?

It's been a while

Yeah, I haven't posted since Monday. It's been a rough week. I kept meaning to post, but then got caught up in other things. Like my presentation that I have to give tomorrow. It's finally done, but I can't make copies yet because the copier leaves a big black line down the center of the page for some reason (apparantly something's wrong with the drum).

This is where we're staying during our ski trip. Rock on.

Tuesday was a mixed-up karma day. On the way home, I stopped for gas. I waited in line behind several cars, and finally it was my turn. But when I pulled up to the next open pump, I couldn't reach the pump because there was a giant SUV at the pump in front of me and they were taking up more than their share, so I had to wait some more. While I was waiting for the SUV to back up, a car pulled into the gas station from the exit lane (note: the exit is clearly marked with at least 6 "do not enter" or "exit only" signs). For a brief moment, the stars aligned - the SUV backed up, and I shot forward into the newly vacated space so the other car couldn't get in. The driver was clearly aggrevated, honking her horn and waving at me to move back so she could steal the pump from the person in line behind me. I got out of my car and *shook my finger at her* and yelled that she wasn't allowed to come it that way. One small step for Courtney, one giant leap for justice, humanity and decency. All was right with the world, until I got home and made dinner. As I was taking my freshly cooked pot pie out of the microwave, the back end of the box came undone. The pot pie slid out, somersaulted, and landed face down on the kitchen floor. Splat. I actually almost cried.

Here's a nice headline: "North Korea Says It Has Nuclear Weapons and Rejects Talks." I think nuclear weapons scare me more than chemical/biological weapons. With those, there's always the hope for an antidote or drug, or even in rare cases natural immunity. With a nuclear weapon, there's no hope at all.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Oh yeah...

Happy Birthday to my sister Alyssa, who turned 17 yesterday. I would have put it up on her birthday, but we were only home and awake for about 45 minutes on Sunday.

In case you were dead last night

Ad watch: Tracking Super Bowl commercials - A nice recap of last night's non-football entertainment. There were some funny ones. Overall I think the quality of the commercials have been slowly declining over the last few Super Bowls. And what's with paying $2 mil a spot to show the same, not that great commercial three times?

My research advisor has been asked to consult with Tom Clancy on his next book. How awesome is that?? :-)

Morning Randomness

A hodge-podge of interesting tidbits to start off your week - now with a full day's supply of vitamin C!

My cousin Rachel (some of you may remember her as the extremely cute flower girl at our wedding) sent us a postcard. It reads: "Dear Courtney and Matt, I had sow much fun at the weding. I am glad to be your flowr girl. When we will go back to vrgina I will miss you. I hope you get children. Love Rachel." Heeheehee.

The average divorce rate in the US today is about 50%. The average divorce rate among couples that pray together daily is about 1 in 1,152 (about 0.0009%). Wow.

What do Rocky Balboa and the Eagles have in common? Both are fictional champions from Philadelphia. Go Pats! Props to Kim for an entertaining and highly amusing super bowl party last night - I always have fun when we get the old gang together. Many good lines were to be had, and maybe if I think hard I'll post some this afternoon (those of you who were there, feel free to add any nuggets you remember). I'll throw one up to start:
Matt Green: That's a fallacy.
Me: Matt Green just said "phallus."

Okay, I'm outtie for the morning. Unfortunately some of us have to work (cough*Matt*cough).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Another wrench in the abortion debate

Couple May Sue Over Discarded Embryo
And... UN Treaty Writers Weigh Abortion Ban for Disabled

Now Playing: Pat McGee Band - Carolina In My Mind

Discussion Topic

If you knew when and how you were going to die, would you take more risks (physical or otherwise) in life? Why or why not?

Now Playing: Reel Big Fish - She Has a Girlfriend Now

Friday, February 04, 2005

What a moron

General Counseled Over 'Fun to Shoot' Talk - this guy could theoretically be in charge of my brother. I wonder if he knows the president of Harvard? They could get together and stick their feet in their mouths.

I'm exhausted - it's Pharmacology recruiting weekend. I didn't get home last night until just before midnight, I've probably walked three miles so far today getting people to various places, and it'll be another late night tonight and about half my day tomorrow. The perk is really nice free food and drink. But for now, I gotta run to class.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

This is Disturbing

Half of Bankruptcy Due to Medical Bills - the scariest part of this article is that 68% of the medical bankruptcies were filed by people WITH health insurance.

Also disturbing: Many Unhappy Returns - a number-filled article about a lot of the assumptions that proponants of social security privitization are making.

Funny

A Briton, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.
"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."
"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."
"No clothes, no shelter," the Russian points out, "they have only an apple to eat, and they're being told this is paradise. They are Russian." :-)

I read an article yesterday about a new dieting approach - fast every other day. On your "eat" days, you can eat whatever you want. On your "fast" days, you only have calorie-free beverages and sugar-free gum (I guess to keep your mouth occupied). They said people lost an average of 5 pounds a month, the idea being that the average person can't consume enough on their eating days to make up for not eating the day before. The pro is that it's very easy to follow - no counting anything, and you know exactly what you can't eat on your fast day. The con is that the researchers said that everyone on the diet was very crabby - quite understandable. I think I'll stick to my "eating less every day" diet.

We're going to be pinching pennies for the next 6 months or so (ski trip excluded, because we already budgeted for that) in the hopes of buying a townhouse towards the end of August. Matt is slightly less committed to this than I am, but I guess in the end a couple hundred bucks isn't going to matter that much. I'm projecting about $8000 by the end of the summer, and hopefully with a little luck and prayer we can get something with a low up-front cost. More on this later.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I want this



I've wanted an mp3 player for a while...this one is only $99 ($150 for 1G) and plugs right into your USB port. How cool is that? :-)

UPDATE: No one has this in stock. Can this be true? I only saw the commercial yesterday!

P.S. "Well I'll just get killed in a wreck on the way home so you can afford them" - Matt's response when I (jokingly) asked for $23,900 earrings from Tiffany's for Valentine's Day

New Picture!

The picture over on the right has been updated...it's still about 8 months old (taken at my brother's high school graduation last June, and yes that's him with the Marines t-shirt in the lower corner of the picture). That was right after I cut my hair, so it's a bit longer now (almost to my shoulders). We're getting better on the recentness...and my face doesn't look fat either! Speaking of fat, I lost 6 pounds of it in January.

Headline Summaries

A few brief things, not necessarily link-worthy but definitely mention-worthy.
- From Newsweek: An article about miscarriages, which mentioned a woman who, at 33, had no trouble conceiving or carrying to term, and then at 37, had problems with both. Well duh...is anyone surprised? You're 37 years old. The majority of women at that age have problems, regardless of their prior pregnancies.
- From AP Headlines: A crematorium owner is sentenced to jail and fined for 787 counts of theft, abuse of a corpse, service fraud and making false statements. Seems that, instead of cremating the bodies, he just dumped them in piles in the woods behind his house.
- From the Washington Post: The Pentagon is bowing under Congressional pressure to increase the death benefit for families of servicemen killed in Iraq from $12,000 to $100,000. We'll file this one under "Nice idea, but where's the money coming from?" (Note - just to make this law retroactive would cost $126 million dollars).