Friday, March 30, 2007

Quote of the Day: On Women

"Veiling and nakedness are two sides of the same coin.
Both mean that women are bodies without a mind that should be covered or uncovered in order to suit national or international capitalist interests."

Nawal El Saadawi

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Happened To The Birds?

Taking a trip down memory lane, I recently had occasion to peruse some old posts I've written over my (2) years in the blogosphere. Ahhhh, how time flies.

This one, from October 2005, is about the avian bird flu, about which we were propagandized to fear and prepare for by stocking up on Tamiflu. The government, Big Father/Brother, also promised to buy as much of the vaccine with our tax dollars in order to prepare for this impending crisis.

So, what ever happened? Last I checked, America hasn't been overrun with disease-ridden birds carrying viruses that would mutate and kill us all.
Looking back on this story makes me wonder if Americans still read The Boy Who Cried Wolf and understand the moral of the story. Yesterday it was bird flu, today it is Iran. Perhaps tomorrow it will be cheesecake.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

eBay - The Last Bastion of Free Market Economics

The world of online auctioning seemed so foreign until that fateful day Hubby and I received a wedding gift we knew we would never use. Peering through the crack we made in the gift wrap, we could see there was no point in opening any further and we puzzled over what to do with the new addition to our marriage. It was too valuable to just give away, but so far outside the realm of our tastes that it was guaranteed to sit in a closet unused. There had to be someone out there who would appreciate the gift more than we did.

eBay instantly came to mind.

We went online, researched the retail value of the item, chose an attractively reduced opening bid and there began my personal eBay journey. And voila! There was a bidding war and the item sold for not too far under retail value. Now I use eBay to get rid of anything and everything.

As I headed to the post office this morning to ship an item that sold last week, the greater meaning of eBay hit me - the free market. eBay's system is based on five basic values -
  1. A belief that people are basically good.
  2. Everyone has something to contribute.
  3. An honest, open environment brings out the best in people.
  4. Recognition and respect of each person as an individual.
  5. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Putting these principles into action, eBay engages the active participation of the entire community through its honor system. After a sale closes, you are asked to give feedback about the other side. The feedback you receive is linked to your screenname, which pops up with a rating next to it and anyone contemplating buying from or selling to you can look up what everyone else has said about you. With one click, one can learn whether a seller packages a product safely, whether a buyer pays in a timely fashion or if someone has a history of skipping out on deals. The most egregious violators of the honor system can be banned from the community.

If the financials are any indication, this simple free market formula works. eBay posted net revenues of $1.7 billion in the 4th quarter of 2006 alone.

No government regulations needed. No tariffs imposed that favor one seller over another. No quotas on how much can be sold or restrictions on to whom. Good old integrity, buyer beware and personal responsibility.

So far, I have 100% positive feedback. As a seller, it is important to me to package items well, ship promptly and refund any overcharges I may have quoted for shipping. It is the way I would want to be treated.

This week, however, I confess that I fell short of my own standard. The buyer paid for the item on Tuesday and my carpool/work schedule essentially guaranteed that I would not make it to the post office until Saturday. The buyer paid for Priority Mail, but will get the item a week after he paid for it. It occurred to me that the buyer might give me negative feedback. If so, would it discourage others from doing business with me? When I got home, I marked the item as shipped and sent a note to the buyer apologizing for the delay. A few days from now I will find out if the buyer is willing to vouch for me as a seller and encourage others to buy from me.

That is the free market.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Saqqara Step Pyramid

Egypt's first pyramid
Built by the Pharaoh Djoser circa 2630 B.C.

The Djoser complex includes a miniature city constructed so that the Pharaoh could work in the afterlife, just as he did in this life. The Djoser Pyramid complex had a heavy influence on the art deco movement in architecture.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


N.M.K. is an acronym coined by hubby while we were in Egypt.

My cousin's 7-year-old son was having a hissy fit one morning because he hadn't yet had his Nescafe. In the throes of his ostensible caffeine withdrawal, my aunt (his grandmother) hurriedly made the cup of coffee without any apparent sense of concern over injecting a young child with a lifelong addiction to caffeine. Hubby and I looked at each other in horror and he said "n.m.k." - not my kid.

This has since become our secret code (not so secret anymore) when we witness what we believe to be bad parenting; the other cousin who allows her 1-1/2 year old to drink 7Up out of his sipper cup; a friend's girlfriend who lets her 2-year-old eat Doritos like it's going out of style; the woman on the plane last weekend who succumbed to her young child's cries of "I want soda" by ordering Coke from the stewardess.

Short of molestation or severe physical abuse, most people will accept that it is no one's business what a parent does or does not do with her children. Raise them to be diabetics, bigots, caffeine addicts or religious fundamentalists and no one will question your ultimate authority as the parent to make those choices. Feed your children McDonald's and I assure you that no one will say a word to you, no matter what you order.

My sister, a pediatrician, has endless stories about 10-year-old diabetics, nurses who find McDonald's wrappers in the trash after a parent visits a child who the doctors have placed on a strict diet because of high blood pressure and other behavior she labels "criminal". She speaks with disdain of the parents whose kids are "frequent flyers". Is this not child abuse too?

The concept of n.m.k. is tough. It is painful to watch a 1-1/2 year old who can otherwise say few words but cries, arms outstretched, "seven". To know that his teeth are going to be rotted by the time he can enjoy food, it is very difficult to be silent. But I am not his parent. So I turn my head and find conversation to distract us.

Is this wrong? Is it apathy or respect?

There are a few friends and relatives who I now choose to spend less time with. It is very difficult to enjoy their company and think of them as good people as they thoughtlessly endanger their children's health. My friend whose daughter was eating Doritos is mature enough to be approachable for such a conversation, he was equally as horrified as I and has since put a stop to it. That was a positive, but there are many more who are extremely defensive about their parenting skills and are not open to it. What is one to do?