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...So I read this article...

...about the ratio of girls to boys in India. Reminds me of what happened in China (and is still happening, but in the countryside only).

People are notoriously bad at really thinking ahead. A lot of people in India (and rural China) want boys, not girls. They want someone to "carry on the family". Here's the catch. As it stands now, in China (and soon, in India too) there won't be anyone for those boys to marry. A family name can't be carried on by someone who can't have kids... and men, alone, can't have kids.

In China, it was interesting because in the countryside, people had sons most of the time... but there were very few daughters. So the few girls around could pick and choose and marry who they want, then the rest were left in the dirt with no bride and therefore no family to carry on the farm.

So a lot of men went to the cities for work, generally in construction. In the cities, people had had more daughters because jobs were available that were suitable to boys or girls. Also, probably because the government was able to keep a tighter eye on things like abandoning baby girls or aborting them... and there was just less bias. A desk job can be done by a man or a woman, but many people viewed tough farm work as men's jobs only.

Well, anyway, all these guys went to the cities to find work and girlfriends... and then married, then they liked the city and their wives were from there... and so they didn't want to move home to their parents and the farm. Dutiful Chinese send money home to parents, but they wanted no part in running the farm.


The added kicker meant that many women we met in China felt very powerful. They knew that there were plenty of men to date and they could take their time and find who they really wanted to be with. On the other hand, men felt lost and frantic, and in some places were trying to find ways to go to other countries to find wives. What this may cause is a serious disconnect in Chinese culture, but at the very least, it's given Chinese women a tremendous amount of power -- combined with being able to work the same jobs as many men, and being needed to provide future generations, it will be interesting to see how things turn out.

Many people in rural India, I think, are in for a rude awakening about twenty years down the line. Just ask Chinese farmers.

Brief update

I haven't updated this in a long time for various reasons.

In any case, I'm going to be starting another blog for my fiction writing... I've decided rather than try and shelf stuff back for whenever we move back and I try to hunt down a publisher, I'm just going to put it up online and see if people are interested in reading it. I think I'm more interested in just seeing people read my stuff than making a boatload of money... although money is nice, I don't know if I'll ever be able to make a lot of money writing or editing, regardless of any actual skill or talent I have. A lot of it is luck.
No, really!

I was reading this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/26/AR2010052601200.html and came across the following line:

"Several recent public opinion polls indicate that as many as 70 percent of Americans surveyed support such a police requirement" [the Arizona law requiring police to check paperwork on people they suspect of being illegal immigrants].

Okay, now I'm going to make 70% of my fellow Americans mad: Congratulations, you want to be citizens in a police state, ala Nazi Germany. Really. This SCARES me, folks.

Yes, Americans want less illegal immigrants. It's understandable that there's concern about all these people skulking in, possibly running off with jobs Americans could use and sticking Americans with semi-wanted fellow citizens (in the form of kids born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants).

I can understand all of that. But people don't seem to quite understand what this law entails. It's not how it affects illegal immigrants that bothers me. Frankly (and this sounds a tad harsh, I know), illegal immigrants should have minimal rights in the U.S. They're not citizens. They're not legally there. They don't pay a lot of the taxes (they're why Texas doesn't have state income tax!). Therefore, it's tough cookies. It's not how this law affects THEIR rights -- they don't really have so many.

It's how this affects American citizens and legally present immigrants. This law tells police officers that not only should they, but they must, search people they suspect of being illegal immigrants. All that stuff about racial profiling aside (and that's a nice mess in of itself), this means that cops should be going around checking people all the time for their IDs, not because the people have done anything wrong, but because the cop thinks they might be. And what a difficult job to stick a cop with -- okay, potentially violate citizens' rights, or have everyone be angry with you for not fulfilling the laws? I can see a lot of cops just looking at this and going for a new job.

Okay, so, where are your papers? Seriously. That's called a police state. That's random searches and fear. That's not just a baby step in the wrong direction, that's a giant leap backwards for Americans. :(

...And, honestly, I lived in China, and people talk about how oppressive their government is -- and cops didn't stop me and demand my visa paperwork.

Looking for a recipe

I'm looking for a recipe... xiangde shaobing, 香的烧饼, I THINK. It's for savory round breads, common street vendor food in China, especially northern China. I used to love these things.

When we lived in China, I ate them all the time, until one time I accidentally left one on the kitchen counter overnight and then ate it anyway the next day... Then I got food poisoned. Badly. By the way, did I mention that food poisoning and giving birth feel really similar?

Anyway... in spite of that I still miss this tasty food.

And it's THAT time of year again... Allergy time! Poor Kenny is suffering the same as me, too, which adds to my suffering, because in the morning, when I can barely sleep due to clogged sinuses, Kenny wakes up and wails about clogged sinuses.

The Backwards American

So I was looking up some stuff today for the hubby's work, looking at some English language-teaching sites, and I realized how backwards I am.

That is, most of these sites are for teachers in Japan, and they all have stuff to help people learn kanji, or Chinese characters.

Note they are Chinese character. Yeah, I learned many of them in China. So I'm the backwards American; most people here expect at most for me to read a smattering of kana (the simpler phonetic stuff) and me, my kana still kind of sucks (especially my hiragana). I can read it, but I really can't write it. Kanji, on the other hand, I can frequently write and read, although my reading is better because at home I'm lazy and I type on a computer.

I do, however, frequently understand characters but still forget the pronunciations. That was true in China, too. You can certainly be able to understand kanji (or hanzi, as the case may be) without being able to say it. So sometimes at home I know a character I want but I can't type it because I forgot the pronunciation... so instead, I pull out my (now old) Wacom tablet, open up the writing interface on the language bar, and scribble it in. Then I look up the pronunciation.

What that generally means is I confuse the locals. At the hospital, they hand me horribly complex paperwork loaded with complex kanji that kids here don't learn until junior high, and I go, "oh, okay, I understand most of this" -- because I learned lots of medical hanzi in China, so I could read medicine and deal with doctors, and it's the same stuff.

On the other hand, hand me a kid's book and I slowly plod through the kana. I can see why I brain-fry people.

Overall, reading ability-wise, I have about a fifth grader's comprehension level of kanji, but I rarely know all the pronunciations. I am better at on-yomi because I can recognize the pattern of differences between on-yomi (Japanese's Chinese-based pronunciations) and Mandarin Chinese. (If the Chinese ends with "ong", the Japanese on-yomi will have a long vowel, and so on.) But I know some complex and rare kanji, either because it's something important (like medical terminology, government information, etc.) or because it's a character common in Chinese, but not common in Japanese.

I enjoy turning this around on the students, sometimes, especially the junior high ones. I give them something in Chinese and let them decipher it. For instance, I still frequently download recipes in Chinese. I'm always looking for a better Sweet and Sour recipe. (http://www.ttmeishi.com/CaiPu/c74442490dc2f60f.htm)

Oh, and I think instead of horrible allergies, I actually have a cold. What fun!

Oh good.

The Internet is for...stupid people?

So this morning my husband had a new class and took off early, and I was planning on climbing back into bed to catch a little more shut-eye, but the kid wakes up early and decides he wants to play. So that's that. At least the little guy had a good night instead of a bad one -- Kenny does not do things half way.

Kenny decides to get new teeth, and he gets four at the same time. When these are done coming in, that's 18 of 20 baby teeth. He's very much a toddler now, starting to talk and communicate. He says "mama", "Mom", "Dada", "this", "that", "drinky", "oooh!", and "huh?" as distinct ideas and sounds. Notably, "mama" is scrambled up with "dakko", which is Japanese for pick up/carry, because I used to always say "Mama dakko", as in "Mom will pick you up," but now he thinks "mama" will get me to say "dakko" and that after that I'll pick him up. Go figure. He also understands "no" and shakes his head, but doesn't say "no"... yet. He does like to shake his head like crazy, so IT HAS BEGUN anyway. The "no to everything" phase, that is. He understands a tremendous amount more than he says, of course, including questions as to things he wants, like "do you want toiley?" and "do you want drinky?" He is very emphatic with shaking his head, but nodding is coming along more slowly.

Right now he's sitting on my lap trying to figure out how to get the mouse and mess with stuff.

Anyway, the REASON FOR MY TITLE POST IS... so since the little guy is up and happily playing, I thought I'd load Champions Online on the hubby's computer and fiddle a bit. He has the Star Trek Online beta, but I've seen it crash so much I'm not really interested in fighting with login and then crashing out.(It releases in a month, but that's eh typical for MMOs... including WoW, bug-a-rific at launch.)

So it doesn't load up. Looks like they're doing server resets or something. They're supposed to be getting up new hardware, etc., etc., for STO, and they have integrated networks, so I expect when one has problems it might affect the other (namely, login server). So after a few tries I say, "eh, oh well," and decide to look at their forums.

...I have to say, after a few minutes of browsing the forums... THESE PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS! Not the game designers, not the company -- the players. They are so bitter, negative, hateful, and plain idiotic that if I were a Cryptic exec, I'd wonder what the heck these people are doing. No wonder medical care reform has ground to a halt in the U.S. -- Congressmen are trying to make these miserable dingbats happy!

So these people ASSUME the game studio is out to get them and that anything the company does is to screw people over. (They hate their customers?... well... if I read these forums all day, I'd hate them... so maybe they have a point...) They also assume the people building these games really don't care in the slightest about them. o_O To quote the typical internet post, "Wat?" Er... wat?

Of course they care! They care about the project they've poured their last few years into, they care about their jobs, they care about doing things to make the game right -- but my goodness, none of those people would believe it. If I had my own forum account on there (I use my husband's account, so I'm not going to post in his name) I think I'd post up, "You people might as well shoot yourselves, because there's no way any game company is ever going to make you miserable, bitter, hateful people happy." But then again, it'd probably launch into a long tirade about how I should be bitter and hateful too, because it's obvious the company hates us all and wants us all to suffer and die or something. I mean, good heavens, can people ever think anything positive? I strongly suspect there used to be happier posters, but then the game didn't get worse, the angry and bitter posters dragged everyone down with them.

Which is the other reason I wouldn't want to post anyway -- what's the line? "Never argue with idiots... They'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."


Anyway, I'm glad I'm not an MMO developer. What an unforgiving job!

I think my toddler son is a kinder, more intelligent being than many of those forum posters.

And don't get me started about health care reform. I have a much different point of view than most Americans about it. There are so many stupid "facts" I have been quoted about the health care changes that "Obama and Democrats" want that are going to cause "death panels" like in "other countries", etc. etc. that I want to scream. No one in the U.S. really has any idea what health care outside the U.S. is like and they don't bother to try and find out beyond really poorly written sound-bites from biased groups (in both directions!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay, I haven't updated in a while.

So, Happy Thanksgiving! It isn't a holiday in Japan, but I roasted chicken, made stuffing, made mashed potatoes, and cream gravy. I even made a pumpkin pie... but we ate it yesterday. We gave some to the students, too. They actually liked it. Interestingly, Japanese people really seem to like traditional Western food... sometimes more than the pizzas and hamburgers and cakes they know better.


Hehe, seven weeks ago was my last update.

The kid is VERY mobile now, he runs. He's also decidedly right-handed. He points at things, says a few words (like "drinky"... to indicate what he typically wants more than anything else) and in general destroys everything he touches. Yeah.

Anyway, I am very busy today, but I'll update again at some point.


People Are Afraid of the Unknown...

So the whole health care mess in the U.S. ...now, that one's interesting. See, my personal interest vested in it is that my experiences in Japan have made me much less likely to want to return to the U.S. and that mess.

I was born and raised in the U.S. The hubby and I moved to China in 2004. Now, the PRC has NOTHING, unless you happen to have a government job. They're changing that right now, but for the most part, YOU HAVE TO PAY UP FRONT or you get nothing. Really. They'll turn you away. A news article recently quoted a Chinese person as saying, "Don't get cancer [in China], it's too expensive." That is a good sum of it. If you have an expensive condition, you're screwed.

For us, it wasn't bad, because we were effectively rich. At one point we looked into having a kid there. It was too expensive because I wanted to go to the international hospital in Beijing -- which has American prices, but then we'd need (very expensive) international insurance. I was a little too worried about having a kid in a Chinese hospital. Although honestly it wasn't that expensive for _us_, well, Chinese doctors seemed nearly useless to me. They'd prescribe medicine and send you home... sometimes weird medicine... and when Kayn hurt his back there they didn't even have therapy or traction for him.

Then we moved to Japan. Here, we pay a chunk of change out of the hubby's paycheck every month (about an eighth of his monthly pay) and then we have co-pays for everything. What that means is that an _emergency trip to the doctor at the local hospital_ costs about $25 for us and $6 for the kid (kids and elders are heavily subsidized). We can't get stuck for more than 70% of the cost, and the costs are highly regulated by the government, at private and public hospitals. (There are only private hospitals around here; you have to go to Sapporo for public ones, but it doesn't make much difference as far as I can tell, it's just a little cheaper.)

When Kayn had -- get this -- emergency surgery for his sinus infection, at a hospital in a different town, where they had to knock him out (general anesthetic) and he had to spend three days, two nights, in a hospital... the total bill was about $800. We paid it the same week and were done (and the local savings was wiped out, oh well, most of our savings is in the U.S.). This is in contrast to when I had very minor surgery in the U.S. It was my shoulder, I had a lipoma (fatty tissue deposit), and it was IN a doctor's office, not the hospital. $500. And that was like seven years ago.

The Japanese system does have a catch. It figures you have more time than money -- you'll have to wait a while at the clinic or hospital if you don't have an appointment and it's not a critical emergency. But, frankly, since that IS true for most people, I don't see a problem with that. Plus since I live in boondockia, I've never seen really bad waits, nothing any worse than I had in the U.S., and sometimes better.

So basically it's just like an HMO with a copay, except that the "network of allowed doctors" is everything around you. They prefer you go to your local hospital or doctor's offices, but the town hall can give you an extra insurance card just for emergencies and other situations where you have to go somewhere else. (Like Kenny, for the first four months of his life, had to go to the next town, so they covered all the costs... yes, all of it. The local hospital and offices don't deal with kids under four months old.)

There is no possibility that you'll have any truly horrible wrangling with the insurance over treatment, the worst that happens is you have to drop by town hall and get some extra paperwork before you pay the final bill. (We had to do that for Kayn, since he went to Otaru hospital.) There's no waiting weeks or months while the insurance argues with the hospitals and bills hang over your head that you must pay, and then wait and hope for a refund, and on and on. (By the way, that's a bad way of doing it... you should just hold your money and insist they straighten everything out first.) Also, the doctors and hospitals don't have a mountain of inconsistent, confusing, and awful paperwork to deal with.

The other catch is one that we don't have to deal with, but is there. The government does have a lot of overhead to deal with. It IS like Social Security or Medicare, cranked up a few notches, that gives the government a lot of infrastructure, money, and paperwork to deal with. One of the things Japan really needs to do is clean up some of its outdated, redundant bureaucracy. They've been saddled with some of that since long before the modernization, though, they've had plodding bureaucracy here since at least 1600. The other problem is, of course, paying doctors well enough that you want to be a doctor, which makes things more expensive. (Canada does have problems keeping specialists, they like to move to the U.S. and make more money.)

The reason people in the U.S. are scared is simple. It's change. It's needed, yes, but no one likes changing things. It's already REALLY BAD -- what if it gets WORSE? (Kayn said, "Better the evil you know than the evil you don't?") And since no one there's dealt with another system, and we're taught to fear government interference, people are running around scared coming up with all sorts of scary scenarios.

It's not scary. But it IS scary to us if the U.S. DOESN'T change. It certainly makes us wary. My mom talked about how the local government in her town subsidizes medical care for moms and newborns -- your hospital bill can't be more than $3000. Well, that IS really good for the U.S. ...but we paid $500 after our insurance here, with a private hospital room, for a week, and with Kenny having spent a night in an incubator. A friend of mine paid almost $10,000 for her own kid, after insurance, in the U.S. We're a little terrified of the idea of having kids in the U.S. ...and oh, if Kayn had had the surgery in the U.S., I don't even want to think about how much it would have cost. Three days in a hospital??? Oh God.

The other thing that bothers me about the U.S. system is the gross lack of preventive medicine. When I got pregnant, it was expensive towards the end for the doctor's office trips, but they also gave me tons of free extra stuff, like classes and things for the kid. Now, yes, my Japanese sucks, but a lot of the written info and materials were really helpful. I spent a week in the hospital not just to rest up, but they were constantly teaching me how to take care of a baby. When I went home, I knew how to slap a diaper on that kid and how to bottle feed and nurse him, with few problems (nursing is tough at first). Since then, most of his shots have been free, too, and his checkups are all free. He's gotten medicine cheap, like cream for his skin, and Tylenol syrup. I don't have to fear a late-night rush to the doctor -- it's six bucks (unless it's for a preexisting problem, which is free). Which is good, because Friday night we rushed him to the doctor with a 102 fever. (He's got a bad cold. I do too!)

A free-market system for medical care doesn't work because medical care is inherently not free-market. I didn't volunteer to get a cold (complete with fever, sore throat from hell, and the super-snifflies) this week, that's for sure.

So if you're worried about the system changing -- don't be. Most changes will be improvements. Kayn said, "that's the great thing about rock bottom, it only gets better." The fears about "public medicine" systems are pretty unfounded. Ask some Canadians.

Speaking of things being sick or broke, now we have to go get the hubby a new monitor. His does this cool thing of going white and showing all the circuits in the screen as it does so... Wacky. That also means half the time it doesn't work.



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