Our family loves to travel.
I suppose it comes from all the years of when the children were growing up and we used to take a regular annual holiday at the sea and then when they started rowing, camping out wherever the regatta happened to be.
This led to years of taking the caravan out to nearby campsites for weekends whenever the mood was right and visits all around the country including weeks and long weekends at the various game parks.
As the children grew older and were able to take themselves off, overseas travel became a reality with first one going to America for a long visit and then another to Hawaii for a conference and eventually holidays in Europe for the boys and then our own trip to the UK last year.
In December one couple did the same tour we did in the freezing winter weather while another travelled around South America seeing cities, deserts, salt pans and finally Macchu Picchu where one of his tour guides was killed a few weeks later in a mudslide. And then last night he left on his next trip, to Egypt.
While I type this, his flight is about to land at Cairo airport for a very exciting two-week tour of the city and the historical sites around it, including the pyramids naturally then the valley of the kings, the Aswan Dam, Hatshepsut's temple and finally a trip down the Nile back to Cairo and home.
Later in the year, we'll be stopping at various points along the way to Johannesburg from where we'll travel to a little game park close to the city for a week of the bushveld experience. It's not Cape Town which was what my husband wanted to do but which is not a pleasant trip in August, and it's not overseas but I'm looking forward to a week of cool evenings and game viewing.
Does everyone enjoy travel? And do people overseas do as much of it as we seem to do in South Africa. For instance, we are selling our house with the idea that before we settle into a retirement village we are going to store all our belongings and pack up the car, and then just travel wherever the mood takes us in Southern Africa. With our passports in our pocket, we're hoping that we'll be able to see Botswana, Namibia and possibly, Mozambique, before another trip to the UK and Europe.
I love it and I look forward to being able to do more trips before old age and decrepitude force me to travel no further than my front door.
Old Age and memory loss
I want to talk a little about one of the things that happens when we get older.
It starts with forgetting silly things like forgetting where you've left your keys or having to keep a diary, and then losing the diary. You become a little rigid in your routines because it's the only way that you don't lose things or forget to keep appointments.
But then other things start getting lost. Like words, words that you know and because you read a lot you have a reasonable vocabulary but you find yourself having to look up the definition of the word to find the word. Or you forget names of people you know, like film and TV stars and you stop bothering to learn the names of people in your favourite shows and of course having a computer handy when you want to find the artist is easy.
But then it gets worse and even when you know the artist and remember him/her from movies that are current and regular TV shows, but you can't remember their names or the name of their character in the TV show. It's horrifying.
And forget remembering the small details in movies, and TV shows and you are asked a question about something that was the centre of the story line and you can't remember it, and you are even able to watch TV shows, and movies, over and over again, because you can't remember them, but you remember the shows and movies from 30 years ago.
Other things begin to happen, you find yourself typing what looks like a perfectly constructed sentence when you're typing it until you go back to read and find that you've made horrible typos and your sentences simply don't make sense. And what makes it worse, is when people on forums you visit call you out for your errors and you become stressed and it makes your state of mind even worse.
What is the solution? Should old people who are developing short-term memory loss simply abdicate from the world and just spend their days being amused by reruns of shows they've already seen and reading light novels and knitting, or cooking? Or is the continued participation in social networking sites and the outside world a way to keep it becoming a real problem a lot faster?
The US health Reforms
It's really great that the US are going to have some sort of universal health system but I have to wonder why these things have to be so complicated and why there has to be the involvement in insurance companies.
Surely insurance companies should deal directly with clients who want to buy their services and people who don't want to deal with insurance companies should be able to get a basic health service provided for them and paid for them out of the taxes collected from the populace.
And before someone screams in horror about the idea that income tax should be used to provide health care for the unemployed, consider how many people there are who pay enormous insurance premiums for health insurance and never use them.
My opinion is that health care should be available to all who want it, and I'll come to my ideas for funding in a minute without the person making use of the service having to produce anything more than some sort of proof of identity. Now to the details as I think it would work, and work world-wide.
Firstly, there are enormously wealthy people who want the best and who can afford to pay the highest premiums for their health care. These people should be allowed to continue to do this but they should deal individually, I suppose through an insurance broker with their insurer. However, the extent of the cover should be determined by the amount of the premium paid, in the same way that a life insurance policy pays out a benefit according to the benefits, so if you choose the least expensive option, you get to go to a private hospital but have to share accommodation and a bathroom with your roommates. At the top end of the scale, you get a private suite and the most talented and expensive surgeons, all paid for from the funds carried by your insurer and to the limit set by the insurer. And part of this cover is that in order to keep the premiums reasonably low, you pay for your own day-to-day benefits and for regular check-ups and items such as dentures and spectacles and so on. Your insurance will cover you for only the unexpected and unplanned and for pregnancy and childbirth.
If you don't want to pay for private insurance, then you pay into the government fund, as most people do for government pension schemes and unemployment benefits. Again, if you are able to pay for your own day-to-day costs you do so, or accept the most basic generic alternative at a state 'out-patients' clinic, however if you are destitute and ill and need medication, you can get whatever you need at the state hospitals and clinics. This way, ordinary people at the bottom of the earning scale don't have to pay for expensive private insurance but they pay instead into a fund run by the government and that is available to everybody, even the wealthy, as long as their record in the system shows that they are contributing or that they are destitute, in which case their file in the system will reflect that.
My feeling is that giving all health cover to insurance companies is not as economically efficient as a system run by the state would be. Health department employees earn less than insurance company staff do and overheads in government departments are cheaper, so doesn't it figure that these premiums would also be cheaper.
Or do I continue to imagine a sort of governmental utopia of incorrupt people and wonderful service?
The Pope's apology
This is perhaps going to provoke a bit of a stir, but do other people think that the pope's apology was as much good as a wet dishrag?
Where is the moral outrage? Where is the sympathy and emotion about the children who've been traumatised by perverted priests for more than a thousand years?
And how dare he blame the 'secular' world for having had the influence that caused the priests to behave in this way? And why only to the people of Ireland? What about children in other parts of the world who've been manhandled by priests in the past?
]Here is the full text of the letter
Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.
That is just an insult. While should the more liberal and open-minded attitudes of the world towards sex and the bringing it out of secrecy into the open where children can feel free to discuss whatever it is that adults do to them and that makes them feel uncomfortable be the reason for the abuse of decades past.
I think Ratzinger needs to take a reality check, he needs to learn a little about the real world and to stop protecting these criminals. They ought to be brought before the courts of the land and be sent to prison for their crimes.
This is MO on a soapbox expressing outrage against the abuse of children by the people they should be able to trust more than any other than own parents.
Friendship and the internet
When I spoke about getting a broadband internet connection, people used to ask me why and what I would use it for. Mostly people who don't use the internet, seem to think it is this bad thing that you 'buy' from a telephone supply company and that allows you to keep in touch with children who live far away and possibly, if you are really clever, to do internet banking, which of course is very dangerous because, they say "the bank has your personal PINs and the employees will be able to steal your money" and it doesn't help that news stories about the odd child who gets into trouble because o indiscretion on the internet blow the idea of "stalking" out of all proportion.
But what they don't know, and what they don't do, is to allow for, or even stress, is the friendships that result from having access to the web and from the membership of social networking sites.
When I first got 24-hour access to the web, I used it yes, to do internet banking and emails, but to also do research for my studies, as I was still actively pursuing my university qualifications at the time, and it was easy access to material I couldn't get at local bookstores or our local library; but then I also started joining messageboards. On one of these I met my two best internet friends, who I know will be friends I'll keep for life, Petal and Heart. Between the three of us we searched for a permanent home where we could stay in touch without having to sign up for the complexity that is Facebook and that was when I stumbled across Runboard.
In the first week here, I found some of the other people who I now regard as good friends and who are still active members of my board, Kaunisto and Leo. And further there were the Runboard staff who I would also love to meet in real life but as that's not likely to happen, for which I am a little sorry but the chances of my being able to travel to America are very slim, so to Lesa, Corey, Rick, Erika and Queeny and Barbara, Miss Piggy and others who are 'new' old members of AG, the chances are that we may never meet in person but I still think of you as "friends," and not in the Facebook sense where your friends are just the people who ignore your daily updates.
But I digress, I really wanted to say how this week that I've been worried about Petal being in hospital has made me realise how real interent friendships are. People who don't understand how it works and how these friendships develop, tend to dismiss them as being "not real" because, according to what these people say to me, "it's not the same as talking to someone on the phone or seeing them in person" and that's where they're so terribly wrong.
These friendships are every bit as real as the ones we make in real life. To me they're even better because, even though you might not be speaking to your friends in person, and sometimes don't even know what they really look like, they are there for you whenever you need them, more than the ones who you have to drive out to see, or wait for a convenient time to talk to one the phone, your internet friends respond to whatever you post directly without all the other social baggage that comes with going out to see them and, now, that Petal is really ill in hospital I really know that my life will have a huge hole in it if I lost her.
So to all my internet friends, cheers. And may our friendship continue to thrive.
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