Sunday, January 29, 2012

Is There Ever A Point Where One Can Have Too Much Money?

Everyone, at some time or other, has wished they had more money than they actually do. Many people have little or no money from a job or business and depend on public assistance.  There are many people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, who naturally wish they had more money to spend for their daily living expenses, health care or education. There are many of us who just wish they had a little more money to spend on that dream vacation, dream house or some kind of special toy. Then there are those who are literally drowning in money. Mitt Romney comes to mind.

I am retired now and I live on a relatively fixed income of social security and a pension. I often wish I had more money to spend on a bigger house or more lavish lifestyle, but I am 100% sure that what I have is what I have, for ever. Unless, of course, this and my other blogs start to make a hell of a lot of money, rather than the meager dollar a month average. So instead of me dreaming about becoming rich  I watch the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination attack each other, with Romney taking most of the attacks. Since I have lived in Massachusetts I knew Mitt Was rich, but I really didn't give it much thought, until a couple of days ago.

When Romney revealed what he paid in income taxes I was a bit surprised. On one site I read that if you take the net worth of all of the presidents from Nixon to Obama and then double that, you are approaching what Romney is worth.  Another site I read allowed the user to figure out how long Romney would have to work to equal their own salary. He would have to work almost 12 hours for him to make what I receive in 1 year. On the other hand I would have to work 731 years to equal Mitt's salary. Maybe I'll just try to stay alive for only another 600 years! Romney's net worth is estimated to be about $200 million. A tad more than mine.

I was trying to think what I would do with $200 million. I really had a difficult time coming up with ideas on what I could do with the extra money.  After getting a bigger, nicer house, giving money to family, donating to charity and buying some tech toys I would still have a lot of money left. I can't imagine what Mitt uses all of that money for. Sure he has 3 big houses, but I am sure they are paid for. Taxes are a concern, but apparently he pays less in income taxes than the average American. He gives to charity, mainly to his church, but this is also tax deductible.

Now he is running for president. He certainly doesn't need that meager income, so it must be just a power trip. One thing is for sure. If he does become president, he will leave office even rich than when he entered. So why do he and other millionaires and billionaires need so much money? I guess the answer to that question will never be known. Most of us, I am sure will never have the chance to find out for ourselves what it feels like to be filthy rich. So I guess we just have to be happy and enjoy life with what we've got.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year.

Living in Penang, Malaysia I am fortunate to be able to celebrate 2 New Years. Starting tomorrow is the Chinese Lunar New Year, the year of the Dragon. When I lived in Boston, I would usually celebrate by going to the home of my Chinese friends for a party or go in to Chinatown to celebrate. It all depended upon what day the Chinese New Year fell. It is not a public holiday in the US or other countries of the West, so if anyone celebrates they have to take the day off or wait until the weekend. Not so here. The celebrations can last up to 15 days. Most people have about 4 days off from work. There are a lot of celebrations including fireworks, lion dances and of course many feasts of delicious Chinese food. In my other blog, Retired in Malaysia, I go into a little more depth of what is happening here in Malaysia, if anyone is interested. So from  Penang, Malaysia I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Chinese New Year,

                             Gong Xi Fa Cai 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

About As Interesting As Watching Paint Dry.

As most of my readers know, I live in Penang, Malaysia. I catch up on the world news by reading the local English newspapers, reading Internet news sites and watching cable news networks, CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. I usually flit from network to network, depending upon what story is being covered at the time. I primarily just want a capsule view of what is going on in the world and making sure that there is no catastrophic events happening in the US and the rest of the world.

Last week as I was looking for some news on CNN I happened upon Wolf Blitzer and the results of the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary. I already knew that Romney won and that was enough for me. I patiently waited to see if there would be another news story coming up. But Wolf kept talking and talking. Then it struck me. I am an America who is reasonably familiar with American political system. I am not really interested in the nitty gritty boring details of why and how New Hampshire residents voted as they did. I was not waiting anxiously for Wolf to  announce each time some poor farmer out in the sticks cast his vote. So who the hell in CNN thinks that millions and millions of average people in Malaysia and the rest of Asia really give a damn about what Wolf Blitzer has to say, especially when he says it over and over for hours on end? Do they really think they will get higher ratings by boring people to death? I was almost hoping some kind of disaster would occur to knock Wolf out of the news!

As people always say, "if you don't like what's on TV, change the channel. I did. Wolf wasn't on BBC or Al Jazeera, but the primary was! Just like home. I couldn't escape it. It was even on ABC, the Australian news channel. Finally I went to my old standby, the Animal Planet. The only wolf there, was way more interesting than the one on CNN.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Color of My Skin

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and attended undergraduate college in another small town in New York State during the civil rights movements of the 1960's. I did not know any Black people when I was a child because I think there were only about 100 Blacks living in my hometown at the time. When I moved away to college I made my first Black friends, who were mainly from New York City or from out of state, attending college on a special program to assist disadvantaged Blacks from the inner cities of the Midwest.  I recall seeing demonstrations in larger cities and in cities of the South in support of Civil Rights for Black people, which were a part of the nightly news almost daily.

I must admit, being from that small town in upstate New York, that I was very far removed from the savage realities of what Blacks had been and were going through. I really didn't understand why some Whites viewed Black people differently, merely on the basis of their skin color. My Black friends were no different from my White or Asian friends, except for the color of their skin. Actually I would not consider any of my friends as being "white". They came in a variety of shades from light skinned to darker shades. Tanning was not popular then, so the different skin tones were genetic, depending upon what the nationality of the person was. At that time I didn't pay attention to what "race" a person was. I was familiar with Nat King Cole, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Sammie Davis Jr. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about, but I could see the suffering of those who were not so fortunate to be a famous celebrity.

I must admit that not everyone I knew felt as I did when I was growing up, but even though they did not feel as I did, they were not as demonstrative about their feelings as the hardcore racists I was used to seeing on the TV news. I was naive enough to believe that the United States was the only country who discriminated against its own citizens, Black people. A number of years after grad school I had a chance to visit Vietnam for a month. I was not involved in the war, so everything I knew about the country was from friends who had served there, from Vietnamese friends who came to the US as refugees and once again from seeing news footage of the war. I remember standing in a field, under a star filled sky late one night, in complete silence, knowing that many Vietnamese and Americans had been killed in that very field. I could never put in words how I felt.

I thought that here in Vietnam, my first trip to Asia, I would not find any of the discrimination on the basis of skin color, that I had found in the US. After all everybody was Vietnamese or Vietnamese-Chinese or of indigenous decent. There weren't any Black people. I was wrong. I discovered that the same discrimination existed there, as well as all of the other parts of Asia. I noticed that some people were darker than others. I learned that people who had darker skin, were farmers or worked outside at low paying jobs as manual laborers. They were looked down upon by the more affluent.These affluent or supposedly higher classed people had lighter skin and took great pains to keep their skin lighter.

I am retired and now live in Malaysia, where I see a variety of skin colors. I still see people being looked down upon because of their dark skin. I see women driving with large floppy hats  and full length gloves, so their skin doesn't tan. The stores are filled with whitening products to bleach the skin of Asian women, so they can look more Caucasian and more affluent. The idiotic side of this is the number of Caucasian women I see baking themselves in the sun, so they can get darker tanned skin. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

 Now that I am much older and am still being educated by life I can see that much has changed in the US and other parts of the world. Things have gotten better in the US for people of different races, but there still needs to be a lot of work done to make sure that we don't become complacent. There are still racists and bigots in this country and all over the world, who would love nothing better than to erase all of the gains that minorities or people who are different have made.   Fortunately in countries like South Africa, Black people have gained the rights to which they are truly entitled to. Civil rights include more than rights of people of different skin colors. Civil rights include the rights of women, children, handicapped, all religions, gays, all races, the young, the old and any member of the human race who may be different in some way.

I guess that I have come to the conclusion that bigotry and racism has been part of the human race since the beginning of time and probably will exist until the end of time. Evolution has not been able to eliminate discrimination. Today we see religious movements that are trying to force bigoted and discriminatory beliefs on entire populations. We see groups trying to deny basic human rights to wide segments of the population. We see groups trying to blame the present word economic situation on other members of the population, just like the Nazis did.  But I haven't given up on the idea of equality yet. Maybe those who promote equality, human rights and fairness, in actuality are those members of the human race who still are evolving as humans, while those who want to go backwards Only time will tell. To this end I often think what would happen at the end of the world when we meet our maker, he turns out to be a Black, female, lesbian Jew!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Isn't the Aging Brain Wonderful?

Now that I am getting older I realize that I have taken my body for granted all of these years. I now am aware of body parts I didn't even know I had when I was younger. I didn't know what the hell a prostate gland was when I was in my teens and twenties. But in the past few years after going to the bathroom more often, getting up in the middle of the night to pee and the loss of hydraulic pressure when going, I now know what a prostate is and what BPH is.

I never gave my knees much of a thought and after growing out of childhood asthma I never gave my lungs much thought either, as I bounded up flights of stairs. Now when I walk up a flight of stairs I feel as though I have climbed Mt. Everest. I never knew there were muscles in my back until now, when I am sorely reminded of that fact every single day. I didn't know what my sinuses were until a few years ago, when I had teeth pulled, just to find out I had sinusitis. I never gave much thought to my bowels, as they worked whenever I wanted them to work. Now with IBS, my bowels have a mind of their own, which is usually in disagreement with my own mind. And of course my eyesight was perfect, being able to see far and near. Now after years of being glued to a microscope and the effects of aging, I either have to get longer arms or use those drug store magnifying glasses.

The one part of the human body that I never ever thought of and I think most people never think of is the brain. It has always worked, sometimes not as hard as I would have liked it to work, but it did work. As I find my other body parts are not working up to snuff, I am beginning to see my brain backfire. The other day I was having lunch with a couple of friends and mentioned that I had to stop and get milk on the way home. I stopped at 7-Eleven and got everything but the milk. Quite often I go to the store for only one specific item and return home without that item, but with many things I really didn't want. I find many times that when people introduce someone to me I forget their names a few minutes later. I think actually I really didn't want to know who they were in the first place. I find that I usually don't forget big things or very important things, but the little things in life. I occasionally forget my phone, my watch, my wallet and the exact time I am supposed to meet someone. I think most of the time I am just not paying attention. I hope. I also, at times have a little trouble remembering what I had for dinner the preceding day. No big deal.

I guess being a little forgetful has to be accepted with the aging process, but what is odd is the things we remember. I can remember the names of every kid in my first grade class at Hamilton Street School. I can remember details of childhood birthday parties and what I received as birthday and Christmas presents. I can remember events from my childhood as if they happened yesterday. I can remember the details of shows like The Life of Riley, The Pinky Lee Show, The People's Choice and Our Miss Brooks. They were on over 50 years ago. When it is very hot and humid I can remember sitting at home on a snow day and watching the snow fall from my living room.

What also is strange is that I remember only the good and pleasant things. I had very severe asthma and other allergies growing up, but I have little memory of that. It is almost like these are selective memories that we consciously have no control over.  Many times I will lie on the bed for a rest and daydream of playing tennis, doing gymnastics, climbing or running a race, yet there is no way in hell I could do that now. It's another game our brain plays on us. I guess it is like the old saying, "The mind is willing, but the body is weak." Even when I am at the gym there is a big difference in what I can envision doing and what I can actually do. So depressing.

I guessed most people see these changes when they retire or approach retirement age. I really didn't feel that bad about it just beginning now, until I saw the results of the latest research from University College London, that brain function begins to decline at the age of 45. That means it has been happening for a long time and I didn't even know it! Another cruel trick of the brain. Oh well. We have no choice, but to get old, but I think I will exercise my brain more, from now on. If I can remember.

                                          A Youthful Human Brain



                                                A Retired Brain

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Just Another Addiction.

Some of the more popular television shows being aired these days deal with addictions or extreme behavior, such as hoarding, obesity, anorexia and drug addiction and intervention. These shows center on otherwise normal people who have become addicted to certain forms of behavior or have taken their interests to extremes, which place themselves or others in danger. Each of these programs often show the extreme behavior in gruesome detail which is shocking to some viewers, who may think this type of extreme behavior is a rarity and far from their own little world. The viewer sees that in each of these programs help is offered by professional mental health practitioners, but in most cases the effected persons deny the severity of their behavior and refuse any kind of help. One can plainly see how much the families and friends of these people are suffering from these types of extreme behavior.

If people do not know anyone who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, hoarding, eating disorders or other extreme behavior, they may think that they are not effected in any way. But they are wrong. Look at one aspect of life that is present in our every day routines. Religion. Every day people are seen or heard praying. They say grace before meals. They go to mass, church, temple or mosque once a week or more. We hear people preaching in public, whether we want to listen or not. We usually don't give this a second thought and accept it as a normal aspect of life.

But take a closer look at what can happen. The Twin Towers bombings were carried out by Muslim extremists. Suicide bombings are an every day occurrence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East and Africa. The Taliban is terrorizing Pakistanis and Afghans to force them to adhere to their archaic beliefs. These terrorist attacks are all carried out in the name of Islam. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda have vowed to destroy the West and replace the governments there with their form of Islam. They kill tens of thousands of innocent people, including thousands of peace loving Muslims, because they think or pray differently. Even in moderate Muslim countries there are groups trying to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of the population.

In Israel ultra-Orthodox Jews known as Haredi Jews, a minority in the country are attacking school girls walking to school in a small city near Jerusalem. This sect of Jewish extremists believe in strict segregation of the sexes and they are determined to force their beliefs and practices on the majority of secular Jews, even if it involves attacks on police and other acts of violence against other Jews. Peace talks in the Middle East have been a failure because of religious extremists on both sides. Even in Judaism the different sects attack each other.

Now don't feel smug because the above examples deal with Muslims and Jews. All we have to do is take a look at the current political campaign in the United States to see many examples of Christian extremists. Most of the front running Republicans are courting the Christian evangelicals, who are in reality extremists. Each of the candidates is professing their Christian faith and are promising to force their Christian values on the rest of America. They are not even talking about the possibility that Americans may believe in a different faith.  They threaten war against those Muslim terrorists who are trying to force their beliefs on their own countrymen, while doing the same thing to their fellow Americans in the US. What hypocrites! They value freedom of religion as long as it is their religion.  We all remember the fanatical Christian extremists of the Westboro Baptist church whose hateful rhetoric and practices of demonstrating at military funerals and those of gay or gay friendly people. There are only a few members, but they are trying to force their views on the rest of the country. There are many sects of the Christian religion in the West and they each think they are the one and only true Christian religion.

Religious extremism is not only attributed to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. All religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and many others have their extremist members. Even atheism has its extremist elements. There are a couple of big differences between religious extremists and those extremists mentioned in the first part of this post. Firstly religion is quite often considered to be a sacred cow (excuse the pun) and people are either afraid or unwilling to discuss religion in public. Therefore many extremist religious practices or beliefs are ignored or tacitly accepted. People don't want to criticize someone of their own faith, even though they are not in agreement. Secondly, a big difference is that drug addicts or hoarders and others exhibiting extreme behavior can and do receive treatment for their disorders. Religious extremists are just as sick and unbalanced as other addicts, but no one wants to recognize this. No one offers or even suggests mental health assistance. Because these peoples illnesses are a result of religious beliefs, no one wants to touch upon this subject. It is taboo. It is normal for people to want to express a belief and practice a certain religion, but when those beliefs and practices endanger other peoples lives or the lives of the believers, something must be done. We must recognize that religious addiction does exist.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Needles and Pins

For the past few weeks it has been hotter than hell here in Penang, with the temperatures in the 90's and the humidity almost as high. Everyone seems to be down with the flu and I'm hoping I don't catch it. Even though I don't have the flu, I have been suffering from my chronic sinusitis, which seems to have become my closest and best friend in the past few years. Now I am not complaining, but my chronic sinusitis, my GERD, my IBS, my back pain and of course my BPH are getting to be a real pain in the ass (and luckily I am not talking about hemorrhoids).  I have written another article in my Hubpages Hub, The Scourge of Chronic Sinusitis and GERD Combination, a while ago and nothing has changed since The weather just seems to be aggravating all of my ailments. Getting old is no fun.

In reality, I am really aggravated by the inability of so called modern medicine to come up with a treatment for any of my conditions. I have been to an ENT specialist and underwent the surgery, that I am sure they all prescribe, as it makes them the most money and still I have sinusitis as bad as before. That route was useless. I have taken all kinds of medications for my sinusitis, but nothing works for more than a week. I also have taken all kinds of medications, both prescription and over the counter, for my BPH. Once again, nothing works. My IBS can be embarrassing, irritating  and painful at times and can prevent me from eating breakfast out, where there are no bathrooms conveniently close. Once again there is no medication to help. My acid reflux is luckily under control, but I have to take medication daily. My chronic back pain, can be slight or very painful. I don't want to take pain killers, as I really enjoy being conscious during the day.

I gave up looking for the perfect medication to help my ailments and decided to try something different. I subscribed to newsletters from Harvard Medical School and  Johns Hopkins University, in regards to BPH and IBS. Both of these newsletters are ripoffs. They give you minimal information as teasers and then charge you for more information.  They are absolutely self serving and useless.  I then tried Pilate's and yoga at my local Fitness First gym to help alleviate my back pain. After months of  3 or 4 classes a week, my back pain became much worse. My instructors insisted it will get better. I insisted that it is my pain and it is getting worse with each class. Needless to say I gave up on the Pilate's and yoga classes and my back pain eased remarkably.

I have now decided on an alternative medical approach to my physical ailments. I have decide to try acupuncture. I have talked to many local people here in Penang and some of them recommend acupuncture. I have also done research on the Internet and have found that acupuncture can be of help with ailments similar to mine. I have found a acupuncturist near my home and the price seems to be reasonable. They charge by the number of needles used. I have decided to give it a try, but I now have to decide which ailment I want to treat first. I figure if I tried to treat all of my ailments I will be a human pin cushion. I think I will try to treat my chronic sinusitis first. If that works I will then go for the back pain and then the IBS. Who knows. If it works for one I will go for the works. I might be able to turn this tired old body into something that works again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Have I No Shame?

If you are wondering about the changes in this blog, where some of the words appear to be highlighted by a highlighter pen, don't be alarmed. It's not your eyesight of me trying to drive you crazy. These changes are also visible on my other two sites, Retired in Malaysia and Senior Neurons. The highlighted words are a form of in-text advertising called Infolinks.

When I first started writing blogs I really enjoyed it and still do. I do admit, however, that I like making a little money too. That is why you see ads on my blogs, from AdSense. Every time someone clicks on an ad and the clicks add up to about 1000, I make a few cents. The Infolinks highlighted words act in a similar way. Now don't think I am just doing this to get filthy rich quick. That will never happen. I have to pay $10 per year for my domain name, which adds up to $30 per year for the 3 blogs. After about 7 months, with my blogs and another site I publish on,  http://steveso.hubpages.com/ , I have enough money to pay for 2 of my 3 domains. Another $10 more and the rest is all profit. I might be able to buy lunch at McDonald's, if I am lucky.

As I have said before I enjoy writing my blogs, but it is a lot more work than I had expected. Writing the blogs does not take a great deal of time, but promoting them and trying to increase traffic to the blogs is extremely time consuming. I can spend hours at a time searching for ways to drive traffic to my site and make a little cash, but accomplish nothing. I am not a computer geek, so a lot of the blogging tools are Greek to me. In order to promote I have to get backlinks, which are not that easy to get. I also have to know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is like a foreign language to me. None of the SEO help sites take into account that some people may not know what the hell these so called experts are talking about. I don't.

 I found a site that advises to increase site traffic and make more money, I should use "keyword tools". So I started using "Google Adwords:Keyword Tools".  It takes a while to find the right and most profitable keywords to use and sometimes it is difficult to use them correctly in my blog. I work backwards on this. I write my blog and then search the words and phrases in my text for keywords. I have been doing this for about a month now and I see absolutely no difference from using the keyword tool and just going with what I have written. Confused? Don't feel bad. I am too. I really don't think I know what I am doing when I use all of these tools, to be quite honest.

Back to the changes you are seeing. I admit that I am not savvy with all of these blogging and publishing tools. And I certainly will not pay for someone to promote my site for me. So that is why I am going for the sympathy route and asking you to bare with me in regards to the advertising on my blogs. Yes I have no shame and I am asking my readers to click on a few ads once and a while, to give me a hand. In case you have not noticed I also have a donation box in the upper right hand side, for those who might still be drunk from New Years or who are feeling a bit charitable. But the most important thing for me is that people enjoy what I write and hopefully share my blog with others.

Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues