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As the weather warms up, flowers start to bloom, and allergies kick in (sigh), it’s fair to say that the flu season is (pretty much) behind us. However, it’s important to understand the financial cost of each flu season.
I got an email from someone at FrugalDad (http://frugaldad.com) with a link to an infographic that very clearly lays out the costs of preventing/treating the flu. What stuck out to me was the pretty significant difference in cost between vaccination versus enduring a bout of the flu and all the costs that can come with it. Bottom line: vaccination not only saves you a lot of the physical agony that can come with suffering from the flu, but it can save you a lot of money as well.
There is a Duane Reade (New York’s Walgreens or CVS equivalent) that we normally go to, not too far from my house. There used to be a small, high-end grocery and delicatessen right next door. It seemed, from the time it opened, that it had a pretty large following, so its closing about a year and a half ago was a bit unexpected. In that area, there tends to be a high turnover of stores and small restaurants, so I figured something new would take its place soon enough. Today, the space still has not been filled. I think that’s probably when I first started to get scared.
I think I’ve railed against Long Island a lot, when it comes to their feeling of invincibility owing to the region’s staggering wealth (with some exceptions). Three years ago, I rode on the LIRR through the whole summer, and the conversations among other passengers were mostly monotonous, vapid, or sometimes (on those rare occasions) riotously funny. Now, some of that conversation has turned somber, speculative, and almost scared (don’t get me wrong, there are still those who manage to carry on the vapid and stupid conversations in spite of anything else). I’m seeing large sales and discounts popping up to lure uncertain buyers. New York/Long Island mainstays (like Fortunoff and Steve and Barry’s) have filed for bankruptcy, and both are (or have completed) the process of liquidation. At the supermarket, the number of people using coupons seems to have increased exponentially. Even big-wig restaurant owners and chefs in the city (Mario Batali et. al.) have started to introduce special discounts at their restaurants that were normally only accessible to a select few with deep pockets (though I think the discounts were only through Restaurant Week, I don’t know about now).
On the other end of the spectrum, though, things like train fares (both commuter and subway) have been poised to increase over the next few months (I believe June is when the MTA is hiking up subway fares), making a more environmentally-sound (and sometimes, cost-effective) form of transportation more expensive. Schools are (still) hiking tuition costs at a rate that’s outpacing inflation (hooray for debt!), though some are increasing their financial aid packages in light of the fact that people are less likely to be able to pay for further education now than perhaps a few years ago.
So essentially I’m stuck in a slightly confused world where some are lowering costs, and others are increasing costs, and I’m struggling to keep whatever little money I have on my person. I try to cut down the amount of coffee I consume outside (such a hard habit to break) the number of times I eat out (another hard habit to break), and the number of times I have to go into the city, trying to plan my trips around off-peak hours for the sake of my wallet (though sometimes traveling at peak hours is unavoidable).
I was riding into the city on one of the Babylon LIRR trains and was listening to a conversation the two men sitting in front of me were having. They were speaking in hushed tones about how, given the state of affairs, crime was very likely to rise in the area. It was a rehashing of a similar conversation I had with my father. As much as I’d like to think that they are being incredibly paranoid, they’re all probably right.
Whenever I leave Penn Station, I walk out and make my way to Herald Square so I can catch the R or W to NYU. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that there is always one wheelchair-bound hobo at the corner of 34th and 7th uttering the same thing, over and over again. “Guys, can ya please help me get som’in ta’ eat?” Hobos are as part of the city as the Empire State Building and Times Square, but generally I never saw many, at least on the route I normally take through the city. Now–perhaps because there are more or because I’m taking greater notice of them–I have seen an increase in the number of hobos and street performers. At that corner just outside of Penn Station, I have seen on some days, two other wheelchair-bound hobos patrolling that intersection, hoping someone will give them something. The West 4th Station has seen an increase in performers who, sometimes, go to great lengths to attract attention (a full jazz band and a guy playing on a regular piano, for starters). The worst I have seen (at least to me) in recent weeks are the rise of teenage (or perhaps younger) street performers. On the F, I have seen on at least two occasions, a group of kids who breakdance on the moving train for money. I can’t deny that it’s entertaining, but I mean, they’re kids! I don’t know if this was their own choice, or their parents or friends put them up to this, but God forbid one of them fell and broke their neck…
Yet getting back to crime, in desperate times, desperate people will make desperate moves. More people are being driven into poverty, some ending up on the streets. It’s almost understandable that crime would be the next step. I don’t know if I can ever entirely trust the media coverage of local crimes, since it seems like crime activity in an area is always inflated for sensationalist value, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. Usually, when I’m walking to and from the subway, I try to walk with someone. It’s not a terribly long walk, so I don’t mind walking alone sometimes, and usually the streets are very well-lit and well-trafficked. However, I have considered buying pepper spray, just in case I do end up staying later (for class, studying, or just in general), when the streets become less crowded. I’m not exactly a formidable figure, at 5’1″.
So at least here in the Long Island/NYC area, the recession has been moving in like a fog through empty streets, slowly and steadily. I suppose there’s no way to predict where this will take us, absolutely, but I hope that this will only be a temporary situation and that an upturn will start within the next few months. I can only hope.
I spent most of my formative years in the nurturing cocoon of the Clinton administration. I was vaguely aware of Bush 41, but the first president I chose (in my head) was Clinton, so he was really my president. I didn’t really know what war was. I had heard of the first Gulf War, but it seemed less a war, more a way to keep a madman at bay. I knew something of Bosnia and Serbia, but these were minor engagements (especially compared to what we’re involved in now). All I was aware of was economic excess and of prosperity. I assumed that everything always came easily, not necessarily without work, but without worry. I realize now that I was wrong to assume. This is not to say Bush 43 is entirely at fault, or that Clinton is blameless. There were mistakes being made everywhere, on Capitol Hill, on Wall Street, in banks, and in our own living rooms. Now the fruits have been borne from our mindless sins of ignorance.
I was talking to a sixth grader I tutor yesterday and we ended up discussing various things. At one point, she asked me about medicine and how long it takes to become a doctor. I laughed and went through the whole spiel. I told her that if she doesn’t take any breaks in between, she’ll probably be in her late twenties by the time she starts working. It was the truth; the road to becoming a doctor is a long, winding, pothole-ridden road. She sighed before declaring the world was probably going to end before then. I was taken a little aback by her pointedly frank pessimism, especially given her age. Pessimism wasn’t supposed to kick in until at least the angst-ridden teen years. Yet as I thought about it more, I realized she was right to assume, and right to worry. We have become conditioned to fear.
I’m not saying the world is going to end. Obviously that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the smooth sailing we have had for the last decade or so has come to an end in the most unceremonious and clumsy fashion possible. Gone are the times when wide-eyed, college graduates can expect a job waiting for them within months after their graduation, followed by buying their first home, setting up their children’s trust fund, and letting their 401(k)s bloat with money. Employers no longer are waiting at the end of the college road with open arms and a fat paycheck. Instead we are seeing college grads moving back with their parents, as they wait and wait for employers to come calling. Over 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, and the number continues to grow. As the economy shrinks, states are now cutting spending in places that could have drastic consequences (like Paterson cutting hospital spending in New York State in a time where healthcare is suffering). Again I used to assume that doctors were at least a little immune to economic crises; after all, there’s always a need for doctors right? Yet when hospitals can’t afford to take on new doctors, and when people can’t afford to get healthcare, even doctors are finding it difficult to find work. There is no real certainty in the current economic climate, and the possible ramifications are frightening.
As I was buying my ticket to Penn Station from my home station, I saw a man who asked me for a buck or two towards a train ticket. This wasn’t your typical bum though, and this wasn’t the city. This was Long Island. He looked like any other Joe Schmo who lived on Long Island. Maybe I’m naive to have even entertained the idea that Long Island was somehow, immune, from the economic downturn. I can’t help but think that the number of people booted onto the streets will increase as the economy continues to sink.
Many of you must be reading this and thinking, “She is such a pessimist” and “This is so depressing.” It’s the truth. No one wants to envision a world where we have to be fearful for our livelihood as well as for our lives. Certainly we don’t want that for ourselves, and we definitely don’t want that for our children. We want our children to know that they can do anything they want, with little worry, assuming they put in the effort. Yet it’s something to keep in the back of your mind. To continue assuming that everything is perfectly peachy is a sign of sure insanity.
Yet to those that say, “Why bother doing anything if we’re just destined for a rough road to employment in the end?” the point is not to give up, the point is to work harder. Employers (presumably) will favor the more qualified candidates over the guy or girl who just scraped through with a bachelors degree. Go for the unpaid internships to get your foot in the door. Network as much as you can, a resume and transcript can only tell so much about a person. Do whatever you can, short of stepping on another guy’s toes.
We’ll have to make some changes to the way we conduct our lives now. We can’t continue the same wasteful practices that landed us here in the first place. We can’t allow the market to operate of its own volition. We need strict regulations to rein everything back to some sort of stable state. It’s important to note that all situations are temporary, good times, and bad. I’m just hoping that, for the time being, the stimulus plan passed by Congress will have its intended effect sooner rather than later.
Until then, we have to work hard and stay positive. This, too, shall pass.
I just think back to high school, the day after that abysmal election day in 2000. My global history teacher at the time was bemoaning the results of the election, a sentiment shared by most if not all of us in the room. Al Gore had been robbed, and he worried out loud about the future of the country. He was right to worry.
Eight years later, we are teetering on the verge of a large recession (if not an outright depression), involved in two unpopular wars abroad, and lagging behind most of the world in education and healthcare. To paraphrase a line Chris Rock used in a recent interview, “A president has two jobs: maintain peace and make money. Is that so much to ask?” Dubya’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, did both. Dubya did neither.
Did Dubya achieve anything? Yes, it would be silly to say he was completely useless as a leader. One can’t really blame Dubya entirely for the problems we are mired in now, but he can still be blamed. Is he a bad person? No, but he was easily manipulated by those who were close to him. Ultimately, though, he will bear most of the flak. Under him, regulations flew out the window, and the market operated of its own accord. Under him, defense spending ballooned at the expense of other, more necessary spending for domestic programs. Under him, we lost our respect in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be inaugurated, ushering in a new administration. I hope the change he promised will materialize into legislation and decisions that will lift our country out of the ditch into which it has sunk. Hopefully he will right the wrongs that have gone unchecked for the last eight years. Hopefully we will return to peace and prosperity. Hopefully.
Disclaimer: This will probably be useless to the 90% of all moviegoers who probably have already seen this movie.
There’s no denying that I loved this movie, and for the most part, is deserving of the accolades it has received to date. That being said, though, it wasn’t my favorite movie of all time.
Dev Patel is definitely the real star here. He was clever and funny, and was able to quickly assume more serious emotions when needed. I’m not sure why Freida Pinto has been getting more press, she’s all right herself, but doesn’t really shine. Naturally Irrfan Khan was great, in his usual, understated way. Anil Kapoor gave probably the best performance in the context of all the other ones I have seen.
Being an Indian, I guess it was natural for me to feel a strong kinship to the story, as it meandered its way through Mumbai slums and beyond. There were parts of Mumbai that felt familiar, buildings I’ve seen, streets I’ve been on, so there was a connection beyond the plot and beyond the characters. The movie incorporated a fair amount of Hindi, all with subtitles, which lent it a feeling of greater authenticity. It may have been a hair quixotic–with its story unfailing love and the clean, near-perfect ending–but that’s what draws people in. Nonetheless, it was a story to which anyone could relate. That is probably what made it such a huge phenomenon.
The movie was an emotional journey that made sharp twists and turns, but never let you fall off. Despite the fact that Salim, Latika, and Jamal were raised in a slum–a place that probably few of us really understand, let alone have encountered–they were not distant characters, but ones to whom we could wholly relate.
It is important to note, however, that it may be easy for one to generalize the state of the slums to India as a whole. Poverty is present in India, but so is industrialization (as depicted in the film as well), as well as the clean-cut, beautiful, sometimes touristy side of India. India is taking strides towards a bright new future, but of course in order to secure it, it will need to address some of the problems. Corruption and poverty probably rank near the top.
Yet to those (Amitabh Bachchan et. al.) who think the movie portrays India as a third-world nation…I thought it was a pretty honest portrayal. Of course most people will not think of India as some backwards country, given the rate at which it has been accelerating towards the top. People are very well aware of that, especially in the U.S. We’re constantly bombarded with stories tracking China and India’s ascension to the world stage, alongside the ones tracking our clumsy fall from grace.
Don’t get me wrong, Amitabh is awesome, but I think he’s jumping the gun just a little bit.
So if you haven’t seen this film yet, go see it. It’ll definitely be worth your while.
For someone so far removed from the Abrahamic faiths as a whole, let alone Christianity, I love Christmas. This includes the religious aspects. Yes, Christmas does surprisingly have a strongly religious origin though based on how it’s celebrated by the majority of people, sometimes one wouldn’t think so.
I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I would write long, pleading letters to Santa asking for a list of toys. I would diligently set up the stockings above the fireplace, prepare the milk and cookies, and eagerly await his arrival. I had my heart broken when I realized Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and my father had eerily similar handwriting. I continued, and still continue, to compile my Christmas lists…with limited success in getting anything.
Obviously I celebrate a slightly more secular version of the holiday, but it doesn’t mean I forget the meaning of Christmas…at least the original meaning. I would love to, one day, attend a midnight mass. It seems like such a profound experience, steeped in meaning. There is something very beautiful in the church displays of the Nativity scene, all those gathered gazing with devotion upon the newborn Jesus, outwardly vulnerable but even then, worthy of exaltation as the Savior.
Maybe it’s because I’m an adult, and maybe it’s because I’m cynical by nature, but it seems that there is no humanity left in the holiday anymore. Even the feel-good movies of the season, the ones that always end with “and that’s the real meaning of Christmas” feel empty and fake. What is Christmas now? It feels like, for many (though of course not all), Black Friday is the new Christmas. Naturally, shopping precedes Christmas, since presents are hallmark during this, perhaps the most important of holidays in the Christian calendar…and I suppose in general (at least for people growing up in the United States and other Western nations). Yet anticipation of the Christmas shopping season has reached an almost maniacal level, especially given the way the economy is faring.
For those of you who are reading this and are from countries other than the United States, let me fill you in on Black Friday. Black Friday marks the day after Thanksgiving, and is notable because stores have some of the steepest discounts of the season. People start lining up before midnight, in some cases, so that when the doors open they can get at the best merchandise.
I wouldn’t complain so much about how humanity is lost during the holidays, except for this little tidbit that was in the news:
Yes, people trampled over a worker and killed him in the frenzy to get inside the Walmart. Yes, apparently, they fought off rescue personnel, who were apparently getting in the way of their shopping. Can you imagine what it must be like to have hundreds of feet stomping on your chest, feeling as your ribs crack, your lungs are punctured, and slowly you lose air and people pay no regard to you as you lie dying. All for a bargain? I understand people are hurting because our economy is hurting, and while we may want to shop for presents and get a good deal, still, where is the humanity when your fellow man has fallen and lies dying under your feet? I happened to catch a glimpse of the aforementioned Walmart from my train as it hurtled home, and I felt sick inside.
While I’m not saying it should be all about Christ at Christmas time–some Indian holidays have a tendency to veer on the side of materialism too in some cases–at least try not to forget that there is a little more to the season than rampant materialism and discounts. Whether that’s the religious aspect, or at least the aspect of generosity and compassion sans religious connotations, there is more to the holiday than is apparent in the way it is celebrated by many people. Give gifts, but know why you bought them, and why you are giving them to the loved ones in your life.
So far so good, I’d say, with some exceptions:
Rahm Emanuel: I cannot think of a better person for the position of chief of staff, given his reputation as someone who “takes no prisoners.” He has been involved in politics for some twenty three years, from political staffer to Congressional Representative from the state of Illinois. Besides his experience, his no-nonsense attitude is much needed to keep President Obama’s staff on task, with regard to seeing his agenda through.
Bill Richardson: This one I’m not terribly sure about. Bill Richardson has had ample experience in federal office, as a representative, and as a member of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as Secretary of Energy. However, I’m not certain much in his years of political experience has set him up to serve as Commerce Secretary. I could be wrong, the man did serve as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., so that in itself may have given him some understanding of the state of foreign commerce. His tenure as Governor of New Mexico, too, lends itself to some understanding of domestic commerce. Who knows.
Janet Napolitano: I feel like she would have been better for Secretary of Education than Homeland Security, given her accomplishments as Governor of Arizona. Her nickname was the “Education Governor,” so I’m curious why Obama tapped her for Homeland Security, of all things. I would rather have someone like, I dunno, Wesley Clark or someone with at least some experience in that realm. Nonetheless, she could surprise me.
Tim Geithner: This one was a solid pick, I have no complaints. He served as 9th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I think that speaks for itself.
Larry Summers: Good pick, but I think many of the women in the country may have simultaneously shuddered at the announcement that he was going to be head of the National Economic Council. Gaffes aside, he was Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, and I think he’ll be fine in this position.
And then of course, best for last:
Hillary Clinton: I’m wonderfully conflicted about this one, which I know is not “confirmed” yet, but looks highly likely. On one hand, she has solid foreign policy experience (minus that little thing called the Iraq War). For better or worse, by appointing this Clinton, you get the other Clinton as part of the package and he is still an active (not to mention mostly beloved) presence in most of the world, so that in itself could be a benefit to the Obama administration. On the other hand, I would have rather seen her in another role, like head of the Department of Health and Human Services, given her strong support for universal healthcare.
More analysis to come as the appointments roll in.
I go to grad school in the city, but live on Long Island, in a town where I have lived for the past 19 years. Getting to and from the city means (for most Long Islanders) taking the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), a commuter rail system that links the city with most of Long Island, extending as far out east as Montauk on the South Fork, and Greenport on the North Fork. Heaven forbid I have to take the train at rush hour, here is the general scenario:
I get on the train and start walking down the aisle, trying to find the seat. In each car, there are two sets of seats: two-seaters and three-seaters. The general rule, logically, would be that if there is an extra seat and there is someone that needs a seat, the other person would make room for that person to sit down. Not the case on the LIRR. Three seaters are occupied by one person and five bags, two seaters likewise. There are times where I just give up and stand in the vestibule, hoping people get off at Jamaica. Other times, I will march down the aisle, find the person most unwilling to give up their extra seat, and make them make room. That coupled with the businessman who can’t stop cursing on his phone, the Botox-ed fiftysomething drawling on and on about vacuous nonsense, and the teens who are perpetually inebriated and inappropriate, well that pretty much sums it up.
Ok not exactly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But why?
Perhaps it is a function of our being so close to New York City, the financial capital of the world, but I can’t speak for Westchester or Rockland counties, or for New Jersey or Connecticut. From what I’ve heard, they don’t quite have quite the same…er…aura that Long Island does.
Perhaps it is a function of our being Hollywood’s little haven. J.Lo has a home in Greenvale, P. Diddy has a pad out in the Hamptons, and the list goes on.
Nonetheless, there’s something that’s causing Long Islanders to be these cookie cutter people. Men have their suits, briefcases, and Blackberries; women have their fake orange tans (or worse yet, leathery skin from real tans), gaudy French-manicured nails, excessive makeup, plastic surgery, Tiffany jewelry, Coach bags (or maybe Prada), and Blackberries. Starbucks and tanning salons are ubiquitous. Materialism is their god, indulgence and excess, their salvation.
Going from high school to college meant a few drastic changes. It meant going from a place where the teacher and the students excitedly talked about getting highlights that weekend, where Prada and Gucci were a way of life, where conformity trumped any other pursuit to a place where…well…people were actually concerned with varied pursuits, new points of view (political and otherwise), and just plain old diversity. Gone was a lot of the racism and homophobia, replaced instead, by a healthy respect for all things unique and different.
Not all of Long Island is racially/ethnically homogenous, but it feels like much of it still is. Certainly Long Island does feel like a conservative stronghold, among the older generations, though the younger generations are slowly starting to break the mold.
Oddly enough, coming from Long Island I didn’t think too much was wrong, but it was when I realized what Long Island’s reputation is on the outside that I realized that there was much that needed to be addressed. “You don’t strike me as a Long Islander,” people would say, and when I asked why I wasn’t, they would often just roll their eyes and laugh congenially. “It’s a good thing,” they would finally add.
Long Island has been my home for the last 20 years of my life, for better or worse. I went to Long Island schools. Among my closest friends are friends from high school. I’ve shopped at Roosevelt Field, gazed out from Montauk Point, and done research at Long Island’s premier labs. There is a connection I have with Long Island that I can’t deny.
Not everyone from Long Island is as I’ve described above, to assume that would be foolish. Really this can be applied to any similar piece of suburbia in the backyard of a large, populous city. This is just the trend that I’ve seen among the majority of Long Islanders, a trend that is disturbing and needs to change. I can’t comfortably consider myself a Long Islander without adding to it, all the baggage and stereotypes that come with the title. I can’t see myself living here in the future, past marriage, past having kids, and beyond. I can’t imagine my kids growing up to be among those often disgruntled, boorish, and self-centered LIRR riders. I don’t want my kids to just settle and conform to the vapid norms, I want them to stand up and take a chance, I want them to think of other people besides themselves.
The world does not revolve around any one of us, none of us is entitled to anything. I don’t care if you are a big shot trader on the floor of the NYSE or a plastic surgeon, netting millions of dollars a year. I don’t care if you own a mansion in the Hamptons, I don’t care if you’ve partied with the Olsen twins. I don’t care if you own stock in Armani, or drink only fine Bordeaux. Get over yourself. Get over yourself and make room for your fellow passenger. Heck, maybe strike up a conversation with them, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn.
Yet there is hope too…
A week ago, I was again, caught in an LIRR train at rush hour, waiting at Penn Station. I was in a three-seater, filled to capacity, with most other seats taken up. It took me a while before I noticed the noticeably pregnant woman standing next to me, her swollen belly creeping into my peripheral vision. I think she might have been standing there for a good five minutes before I even noticed. Clearly no one else noticed either, because she was still standing, and no one had offered her a seat. She must have been seven or eighth months pregnant, and she was still standing. Can you imagine standing with a ten pound load on your abdomen and legs? So I turned around after no one else decided to do anything to ask her if she wanted to sit. She declined, saying she was getting off at the next station (Forest Hills, as it happened to be, which is a ten minute ride). Yet really, I can’t stand for ten minutes with my bag slung over my shoulder. How would she fare for ten minutes, standing with a living load that needs far more protection from the jostling of a train? So I gave up my seat, much to the shock of everyone in the train. Really people? Is it that unusual? So I stood, sandwiched between several people standing in the aisle, and when the woman got up to leave at Forest Hills, I moved aside and let her pass before sitting down. The man standing in front of me also grabbed a seat. What surprised, and moved me, though was that at Forest Hills, another woman had come in weighed down with bags. The man, who had just gotten himself a seat after standing in the aisle from Penn Station, thought better of it and gave up his seat for the woman.
I consider that a little victory in my book. First one person, then the whole LIRR ridership, then who knows? I’m not saying I’m a crusader for all things good, but if I can do something to inspire someone else to do the right thing, then I think I’ve won something.
Conclusion: Long Island is a place of good people who, unfortunately, have lost sight of the more important priorities. Long Island is not all bad, though if someone can direct me to the parts that have not been overrun by corporate ambition and wonton materialism, that would be lovely.