Wednesday, October 29, 2008

poor Karen Hughes

I was doing some work on my computer while watching CNN on my Media Center PC.
This quote caught my attention: "What Barack Obama is benefiting from as well in this discussion is a wholesale rejection of George Bush."
CNN then showed the face of Karen Hughes, W's former press secretary, who looked as if she was about to cry. Check out the pic of her below left. I think there's a lot of Republican faces that look like that right now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My first Canadian drug purchase

I mentioned how prescription drugs are cheaper here. Well, I made my first purchase for Synthroid, which is a thyroid medication.
In the States, I had private health insurance through Tribune Corp. I would pay a $25 co-pay for a 30 day supply for the name-brand Synthroid.
On Wednesday, I just paid U.S. $24.83 for a 300-day supply.
That extra zero is correct -- three hundred days. I got 10 times the supply for the same price -- without prescription drug coverage, as I won't meet my deductible this year.
I said to the pharmacist it was my first drug purchase here, and I told him what I paid in the United States.
He was baffled. "Who's making all that money?" he said.
And that's a lot of money.
About a third of that cost was a fee. I imagine a fee to the pharmacist -- not a lot of money out of $25.
That means the drug company was getting about $16 for this -- and making a profit or they wouldn't sell the drug here.
So when I spent my $250 co-pay for a 300-day supply, plus my insurance company's money, that's a nice windfall for the drug companies.
So if the presidential candidates want to fix healthcare, maybe they should see how Canada keeps its drug prices low.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Origins of Thanksgiving (in the United States and Canada)

Both the American and Canadian Thanksgiving celebrate the end of the harvest, but they are very different holidays: Americans are forced to spend the holiday with in-laws, whereas Canadians can celebrate it with whomever they dam well please.
Otherwise, they're the same because the United States stole Thanksgiving from Canada, as you'll see later.
Each year, citizens of both countries have Thanksgiving to thank the Lord for three things:
  • Getting fatter and fatter each year
  • The fact that Ice Capades hasn't made its way north
  • The fact that a lot of ice separates Canada from Sarah Palin
The U.S. holiday is modeled after a feast in Plymouth in 1621. Naturally, the people in southern states didn't like anything from northern states. But northerners encouraged southerners to go along, saying they could even e-mail with any questions about cooking turkeys. Southerners complained that the Internet hadn't yet been invented, as Al Gore hadn't been born yet. But soon southerners had no choice about the holiday, as Northerners dominated the federal government and forced the holiday upon southerners.
In 1863, Pres. Abraham Lincoln said that to unite the country, Americans would have to end slavery, kill turkeys and watch football. That year, on Oct. 3, he proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26. Subsequent presidents also chose the last Thursday in November.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, wanted to boost the economy with more holiday shopping. So in 1942, he declared Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday. Of course, the fourth Thursday is usually the last, which led Roosevelt to coin the word "Duh!"
But Roosevelt apparently planned ahead, as 1944 had five Thursdays, so Americans got an extra seven days of Christmas shopping that year. (The next November with five Thursdays is 2012.)
In the following decades, people began to move around the country and decided that getting stranded in an airport was preferable to spending time with in-laws. So Thanksgiving became a day to thank airlines for long delays and cancellations.
In Canada, Thanksgiving goes back to 1578. To take a break, Martin Frobisher, an Englishman who explored Canada's northeast coast, went to Boston Market to buy a turkey and to tax Americans for their tea. Realizing he had arrived 195 years too soon to protest the tea party, he went back to Newfoundland to celebrate his safe arrival in the New World by killing a turkey.Canadians loved the celebration so much that they quickly made it a national holiday 301 years later.
Canada's first Thanksgiving in 1578 preceded America's first celebration by 43 years, yet Canada's holiday only fell a couple of weeks before the American one.
So as not to appear to have stolen the idea from the United States, Parliament, in 1957, moved the holiday even earlier, to the second Monday in October. Another reason for the move: Most of Canada is buried in snow by November, therefore:

  • It's too cold and difficult to get out of the igloos to hunt down a turkey
  • Many Canadians got sick of ordering in Domino's Pizza for Thanksgiving
  • The pizza deliverymen complained the igloos had no doors to knock on

Oh, and the harvest ends a bit earlier in Canada, as the country is further north. So that was yet another reason to celebrate the end of harvest in early October.
So at the end of harvest, Canadians and Americans stuff themselves with turkey and top if off with a healthy dose of fruit in the form of pumpkin pie.

This posting comes at the request of
Caryn, my most loyal commenter. Ahem, people, you can comment on my posts. Thanks to those who let me know my musings are actually being read.

The factual information, if you can distinguish it from the jokes, comes from the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Thanksgiving, thanks to the awesome online resources available from the Vancouver Public Library.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We have the time for our TV show. Check out

How rude that the debate is scheduled on my birthday. But I have a broadcast journalism class to attend tonight, anyway, so it's not as if we would be celebrating my b'day tonight. Then when I come home, we're going to watch the debate, which I'm recording. Tomorrow, we're going to go out for dinner for my birthday. A CNN story says more states have gone toward Obama.

On Monday, we had a great Canadian Thanksgiving. I'll update you more when I get the pics.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the election and more

I've become sort of obsessed with the U.S. election. I'm regularly checking the electoral vote map. It really is an exciting race.
The latest changes to The New York Times electoral map:
  • New Hampshire, which was a toss-up, is now leaning toward Obama
  • North Carolina, where I once lived and has long been a red state, is now a toss-up state
  • Oregon, which was leaning Obama (light blue) is now solid Blue, with a new poll showing Obama surpasses McCain in that state even with the margin of error
That brings Obama to 196 solid blue states (Obama well in the lead) and 68 light blue (close but Obama is in the lead), for a total of 264 electoral votes, with 270 needed to win.

My absentee ballot was supposed to arrive last week, but it hasn't gotten here yet. If it doesn't arrive on time, I'm catching a flight and voting in person. I WILL NOT miss voting in this historic election. Well, OK, I can't really fly there as I'll be swamped with my freelance work at the time.
I'm sure it's going to arrive this week. The mail here is just really slow. One thing I really appreciate about the United States government is that the mail is really fast.
As for our place, it's really coming together with all the furniture we bought. Soon I'll take some video and post it so you can see the layout.

Friday, October 10, 2008

a few trips in the works

I'm coming back to NY for Thanksgiving. I'll be traveling all day Nov. 22 and on my return Dec. 3. So I'm available in between to see my family and friends. I can't wait to see everyone.
I would love to plan my trip ahead so I don't find myself heading back home and missing visits with anyone.
I don't know if I'm more excited about booking the trip or finding out the news that a certain politician abused her power. No, of course, I'm more excited about this trip -- and another one.
Luis and I are going to Colombia. We just booked the trip. Not that we can afford it. But, hey, how often would we have enough time to visit Colombia for a month. Luis hasn't been there for eight years. So this is going to be an awesome trip. I can't wait to meet his family. And he can't wait to see them once again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

digital garbage

We got a bookcase and filing cabinet for my office, a table for the living room and coffee table, end tables and some display tables.
Because I have a place to put even more stuff that I should have gotten rid of, I'm going through all of my stuff to put it away.
Somehow it's hard to part with gadgets that I've collected over time. That's not so bad. But I even keep manuals for the gadgets. I figure I never know when I might need to refer them, not that I ever refer to paper manuals; I get all my tech help online.
But this has gone a bit far. I opened one of the manual that I transported up here at about 70 cents a pound. It is a Pocket PC manual -- in German. It has been taking up space in our house in Huntington.
Now it will be taking up space in a Vancouver recycling plant, unless there's a German-speaking tenant in my building who has lost his or her Pocket PC manual snatches it out of the recycling bin.
Boy are we getting tired setting up all this new furniture. Luis has been crouched over putting together the kitchen table and chairs. He just said, "I need to see a doctor about the back in my pain."
I said, "You need to see a speech therapist for that problem."

Prescription coverage

We met our three-month mark, so I called up for prescription drug coverage, which is based on income.
The representative just asked for our social insurance number, medical care card number and 2006 U.S. income. She gave us our Pharmacare number right over the phone. I was quite surprised how easy it was.
But I didn't realize it wouldn't be very useful for us. The deductible is $1,500. After the deductible is met, the plan covers 70 percent of the cost of prescription drugs. After I've paid $2,000, the plan will cover 100 percent.
We don't even approach $1,500 by along shot, fortunately So it won't really help us.
I had a pretty good income in the United States. So it's understandable there would be a high deductible. This is an income-based plan.
I mean, there's no additional premium for prescription drugs, as it's part of our dirt-cheap $96 monthly premium for our healthcare coverage. That's $96 total for two of us. So we can't complain.
But I imagine it's a good plan for anyone who requires a lot of prescription drugs. And for low-income people, the deductible would be a lot lower.
So far, I still give Canada high marks on its medical care coverage. As I've said, the coverage will actually make it feasible for me to freelance.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a beautiful sunny day

Staples delivered some bookcases an hour ago. It would be nice to install them and get things organized.
But it's going to be a LONG fall and winter of rainy, rainy days. And today is a beautiful, sunny day.
Later this week is going to be crazy as more data is coming in for me to analyze for my freelance project.
So we're going outside to enjoy the nice weather while we can.
Oh, my driver's license arrived in the mail today. I can't believe it was so fast. I went to the office mid-day Thursday. I'm hoping for the renewal I won't have a double-chin for the photo.
I can't wait to watch the debate tonight.
My absentee ballot should arrive tomorrow. I'm looking forward to voting. I don't want to state the candidate I'll vote for.
I'll just say I favor an intelligent, well-spoken candidate who focuses on the issues, understands the economy during these difficult economic times and has chosen a qualified running mate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I miss my bomb shelter

Luis and I had a big, unfinished basement on Long Island. We would go to Costco and buy everything in bulk. There were shelves alongside the staircase to the basement and then lots of shelves in the basement, all filled with food, neatly arranged.
Someone once dubbed it a "bomb shelter." There was enough food for a couple of years. I learned from my Mom to buy in bulk when things are on sale.
Now we have a little locked storage area in our apartment's ground level. Maybe it's 5-feet-by-8-feet and about 7 feet high.
We had lots of storage area in our apartment and the storage area -- until 63 boxes of our belongings arrived just under two weeks ago.
Yesterday, we just went grocery shopping, and then we had to figure where to put all the stuff.
In addition to ground-level storage, the apartment has a storage area right near the apartment's front door but we use that as my office. That room can't fit all of my office stuff.
In the living room, we've got our collectibles -- fossils, kaleidoscopes, crystals -- all over the windowsill and on the mantel.
So we just bought a bookcase and little tables for the living room and a bookcase for the office.
All of this comes AFTER we purged so much stuff before our move. We had two garage sales, made lots of trips to the thrift store and gave away stuff.
It was actually very cathartic to purge all that stuff. But every once in a while, I say, "Do we have this or that or did we sell it, give it away or donate it?"
But the apartment is very nice.
At least we aren't making trips upstairs, downstairs and all over the place. With 650 square feet, including the 45-square-foot balcony, there's not a lot of place to move around.
And as I've said in earlier posts, we are in the heart of the city. We overlook the inlet, the mountains, part of the skyline and even Stanley Park - the Central Park of Vancouver, though it's not as central here -- it's at the west end of the city.
And at least we have parking in an underground garage, so we don't have to worry about driving around forever looking for parking.
So overall, it's nice. But we've decided we'll only stay here until our lease expires July 15. Then we'll look for another place.
So for my family and friends reading this, if you want to experience the heart of Vancouver, you'll have to visit by July. Who knows where we'll be next. Maybe Saskatoon.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our 3-month Anniversay

Today marks three months from the date we got on a ferry in Seattle and arrived in Victoria, BC, becoming new residents. I cannot believe all that has happened in three months. It feels like a year.
The other day I said to Luis that we had such a long to-do list and only two things remained:
  • get a driver's license
  • get a job :)
OK. So the last one is a big task. I got my driver's license today, though. Luis already has his. So now we're just onto the last item.
I'm going to do some freelance and see how that works out.
Luis will try to get a job as a lab assistant, as that doesn't require a license.
We're starting to see the beginnings of fall / winter here, with lots of rain. I guess you just have to remember to always have an umbrella in "Rain City."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We've got healthcare and other news

This is just a mix of various items...
  • New residents receive health insurance two months from the 1st of the month after their arrival. We arrived on July 2, so the two-month anniversary from Aug. 1 is today. So we have health insurance. We applied soon after we arrived, and had already received our cards with today's start date. That means I can now go to a doctor for my hypothyroidism. We still have to wait for our prescription coverage. But, as I may have written before, prescription drugs are so cheap here.
  • I finished tutoring one of my students in the SAT. He takes the test on Saturday. He's hoping to go to a university in California. He started out with a very low grade on the grammar. Now he's getting either a perfect score or just missing one or two questions. That's awesome. He also improved in the math section. I started on blog on my SAT tutoring in Vancouver, hoping to attract new clients.
  • Tonight I had my fourth "Introduction to Broadcasting" class. It's really interesting how broadcast writing is so different from newspaper writing. The leads have to be in the present tense. We had to interview another student and write about it. I wrote about how this other student became a volunteer in emergency preparedness after a fire struck his apartment building. He told how Luis and I came here to get married and that our commitment ceremony will be on TV.
  • Funny that I just had to pay $375 for the last two months of my electric bill from Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). Today, I received my first bill here: $37. I thought, "Wow! that is so cheap for one month." Then I saw that it was for TWO months. Sure, I'm in a smaller apartment. I really think LIPA scams people. There have been times when I was away on vacation for a month and still had a big LIPA bill. Come on. My refrigerator doesn't use that much electricity.
  • Earlier this week was insane because I was doing my freelance for the AP. I had to analyze a government database that was in complete disarray. So it took so much work. I was up until 8:30 a.m. on Monday working on it.
  • I've cut back on the work as an extra on TV and movie sets because I want to focus on doing more freelance work. Yesterday, Luis was on the set of a movie called "Tooth Fairy" with The Rock.
  • I might be going back to New York later this fall. I got a call from the law firm representing Newsday and me in a lawsuit filed by the subject of a story I wrote. I have to go back to New York for a deposition. The lawyers haven't set the date yet, though.