Massachusetts–Good, bad, ugly?

There is a new senator in Massachusetts.  He is Republican.  It hasn’t happened since 1972.  Martha Coakley was supposed to be a sure thing.  She wasn’t.  I have been trying to figure out what I think about this.  I posted something about it on Facebook and thought it was interesting to see my friends–some extremely conservative, some much, much more liberal–line up on opposite sides of the fence.  Apparently, either Coakley’s defeat and Brown’s election is an answer to prayer or it is a sign that we didn’t pray hard enough.  

I find that I am not of one mind.  I can’t celebrate the election of someone who supports waterboarding as an interrogation technique and opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  It is hard to feel happy to see the chances for more Americans to enjoy health coverage decrease.  On the other hand, I didn’t like the looks of the “reform” bills coming out of the House and Senate.  While these bills accomplished things that were important to me, (for example, no denials based on pre-existing conditions and healthcare extended to more people) they seemed to do it the wrong way.   Where are  the promised cost savings?  How will these plans be sustainable in the long term given ever rising medical costs?  How will we pay for it?   I am frightened and appalled by our massive debt and deficits.   

Unfortunately, the healthcare reform I favor–public option and rationing at a  minimum and hopes for single payer in the future–isn’t politically possible.  The question becomes: if we can’t do healthcare right, is it best to do it wrong and try to fix things later or is it better to stick with the status quo?  Without healthcare coverage, many Americans are suffering greatly today.  With massive debt and a messed up  health care system, we will all suffer in the future.  Being realistic about what is possible politically, which way  is best?  I don’t know.  That’s why I don’t know what to think about Scott Brown. 

I do know that I was surprised to see the citizens of Massachusetts ( supposedly a U.S. model for universal healthcare  coverage) vote as they did.  I need to learn more about why.

Wig Shops–Orem, Sandy, Salt Lake

Regular subscribers: My apologies for what is doubtless a boring topic for you.  I wrote this up mostly for myself and also for any possible hapless internet searchers.  Just skip to the next post in your reader.  Thanks!

Diane’s Wig Shop–Orem. Small shop, but they’ve fit a lot of wigs in there! They carry mostly Jon Renau, Raquel Welch  and Revlon.   There is never more than one person working there at a time.   If you buy a wig somewhere else (the internet, for example), they are willing to thin and style it and help you with it for $35.  This service is free if you buy the wig from them.  It is best to call ahead for an appointment, but it is possible to get help if you walk in and  they aren’t busy with another customer.  Diane is knowledgeable and ready to offer advice on choosing a color.  Prices appear to be  10-20% higher than at the other shops.     347 E. University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058 (801) 224-5070

Creative Wigs & Toupees– 2 locations–one in Sandy and one in Salt Lake.  Visit both locations while you are in the area (as well as Headcovers by Joni)  because they are less than 20 minutes apart.  The Sandy shop is smaller and has a more limited selection than the Salt Lake shop.   The person who helped me at the Sandy shop, Linda, was  willing to steer me away from wigs she thought didn’t work.   The Salt Lake location of Creative Wig was the largest shop I visited.  It was impressive because they had several styling chairs and many, many wigs on display as well as more stock tucked away in the back.  There were at least 3 employees there at the same time when I was there and they stayed busy!  I didn’t get the name of the woman who helped me there.  She seemed  nice initially, but started helping someone else, and then never came back to see how I was doing.  I think she had perhaps (correctly) identified me as a difficult customer:  I’m interested in finding something as close as possible to my own hair color rather than going blond or redheaded just because that’s what they happen to have in stock.  Go figure.  But I was still surprised to be abandoned without any notice.  814E. 9400S. Sandy, UT 84094 (801) 553-0669 and 1124 E. 3300 S. Salt Lake City, UT 84106 (801) 486-4604

Headcovers by Joni–If you visit the Salt Lake location of Creative Wig you should also stop by Headcovers by Joni as they are both on 3300 South in Salt Lake.  It is a fairly small shop, but they have a surprising amount of inventory for their size.  I met three of the people who work there (but not all on the same day–on any given visit there will be only one or two people working).  Joni is the owner.  She is also the most experienced and has a lot of experience styling and thinning wigs.  She does get cranky with people who stay and stay and stay and can’t make up their minds (it wasn’t me!)  Camille, another employee,  also styles and thins the wigs if you purchase one, but she has less experience with wigs (as opposed to regular hair) than Joni.  She is extremely patient.  If you really don’t know what you want and just want to try a whole lot of different pieces, she is a good person to work with.  Unfortunately, her opinions lack credibility because she will tell you that you look great in everything you try on.   Janet is the person to see if you need an opinion.  She doesn’t mind telling you which wig she thinks suits you and which doesn’t work.  However, if you are hoping to find the wig you are looking for and to have it styled and wear it home that very day, Janet doesn’t style wigs, so you need to go on a day when either Camille or Joni will be there.  2286 E. 3300 S. Salt Lake city, UT 84109  (801)467-5665 or 1-866-700-5664 

My favorite so far: Brooke by Jon Renau

General Notes: None of these salons have as much inventory as would be ideal.  If you first shop online and then visit the stores, it will be hard to shake the disappointment.  Unsurprisingly, your choice of both styles and colors is heavily circumscribed.  This is especially true if you are interested in one of the more realistic (and therefore expensive) monofilament top wigs.  Monofilament wigs are desirable because they are lighter weight and more comfortable (less itchy) to wear than other styles.  It is possible to change where the hair is parted and offer a much more natural look.  But apparently the higher price results in  less local demand, so there is less selection available in these types of wigs.  Unfortunately, after comparing the way monofilament wigs looked and felt with the non-mono models, I don’t think I would try a non-mono top wig.     

The local shops are all willing to order in a different color (although they like the idea of you buying out of their  inventory on hand even better!) or possibly even a different style.  However, if you order something in, many of the advantages of buying at a local shop v. the internet (seeing how the wig looks before you buy it, for example) vanish.  It is cheaper to buy from the internet, but then of course you have to add back in the cost of having your wig styled.      

My favorite internet wig sites are Wigs.com, e-wigs.com , and theheadshoponline.com.  Wigs.com is great because they have made videos displaying  many of their wigs and this gives you a much better idea of the wig than just a picture.  E-wigs has fabulous personal service.  If you call their 1-800 number, Marty will answer the phone and take time to answer endless questions and give you his e-mail address in case you have more questions later.   Unfortunately, if you are a Utah resident, e-wigs costs more because of sales tax.   Theheadshoponline.com (be careful typing that or or you will end up at a very different website!) has the best search filters.

 Earlier post on similar topic: Wigging Out 

Principles Gone Awry?

The principle: Mom is not going to fix different foods for each family member.  We are all going to eat the same thing.  Mom decides what that is.    [For  my defense: I am willing to listen to timely suggestions, but I didn't receive any suggestions before everything was prepared today.  For my prosecution: By "fix" I mean reheat leftovers].

The scene: Mom is eating meat and potatoes for lunch.  Duncan: May I have some [brown] rice for lunch?  Mom: No.  You can have what I’m having:  meat or potatoes.  Kate:  [Enthusiastically points at an orange].  Mom: No.   You can have what I’m having: meat or potatoes. 

Result: Mom finds herself ridiculous.  My children ask for brown rice and fruit and my response is:  it’s red meat, starch, or nothing?  What kind of mother am I anyway?

My big little boy

Duncan missing tooth

Ta-da!

My little boy is so big. He will be six in less than six weeks. I’m not ready. He is so excited to get older, to grow up, but I miss the sweet, obedient little boy he was before. I know that there is a lot to look forward to in an older child–Amelia has taught me that–but I also know that there is a younger child who will soon mostly be present only in pictures. (Note to self: Take more pictures!) I will miss him.

Duncan and I had a rollercoaster day today. We had a wonderful morning enjoying one of our favorite shared tasks: searching through piles of cookbooks in hopes of finding the perfect recipe. (Duncan is the only person I know who likes to look at cookbooks as much as I do). Duncan’s criterion was chocolate, mine was chewy. Finally, we found the January 2009 Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Chewy Chocolate cookies. We made them together and they surpassed our hopes: They were indeed chocolatey and truly chewy! A recipe breakthrough.

The afternoon brought an ugly metamorphosis. Duncan was so badly behaved–screaming, crying, carrying-on. It was frustrating after our nice morning. This wasn’t a day that warranted me turning inward and saying I must pay him more attention. He was badly behaved for no reason at all.

Duncan so happy to have lost first toothFortunately, by evening, he was a happy little fellow again, entertaining himself and playing with Kate, glorying in the role of wonderful big brother. He does it so well! Then he exulted in the loss of his first tooth, giddy at the milestone met. Growing up can’t come fast enough for him. I just wanted to hug him tight and say, “Don’t leave me! I’ll miss you.” I did say something about not letting him get any older, and he just laughed and laughed. Silly mama.

Asus UL20a-a1

After the sad demise of my laptop several months ago, I tried to get by without one.  I discovered that I am weak.  Some people glory in their high tech cell phones, others in their large televisions, some in their nice vehicles, others in clothes or manicures or expensive  hair treatments.  Apparently,  my weakness is little  computers.    

Pmom and Kate

Kate and I both liked our presents

After exhaustive research (as in Pdad, Amelia, Duncan and Kate were all exhausted by my obsessive and unending inquiries), I ordered the ASUS UL20a-a1 notebook.  It is a great little machine–although only 12 inches it has a Core 2 Duo processor (as opposed to an Atom like its underpowered netbook cousins).  It weighs only 3.4 lbs and was a bargain at about $500.   After using it for almost a month, I am  happy with it and would recommend it, although I have discovered a couple of significant flaws. 

My review of  it follows (probably only of interest to those considering a computer purchase):

What is great about this computer: I love the size. I can easily put it out of reach of my children on a window sill or shelf or on the mantel above the fireplace. I can carry it from room to room in the house with one hand without any strain. This wasn’t true of the 15 and 17 inch laptops I’ve had. I was a little worried that at 12 inches I might be getting the worst of both worlds–a computer that was too small to be useful yet not as handy and portable as the little 10 inch netbooks. Fortunately, it’s just the opposite. This computer is just big enough to have a nice screen size with the better resolution–web browsing and photo viewing are comfortable. Yet it is still small enough to be very convenient.

Another thing I like is the one year accidental damage warranty offer by Asus (rhymes with juice!). Squaretrade says that accidental damage is a common cause of computer demise. That is very true at my house. My children ruined both of my last two laptops through “accidental” damage. I was committed to ponying up the money for an accidental damage warranty this time. But check out the cost of those policies–at Best Buy it can be about half the cost of a computer like this one. So Asus’s one year damage policy is probably worth an extra $200 to me. The Acer Timeline 1810 (which is the UL20A’s principal competitor) doesn’t offer that.  On top of that, Asus rated at the top in Squaretrade’s study of laptop reliability. 

Why I chose the Asus UL20A over the Acer Timeline*: I strongly dislike these shiny piano black laptops that pick up every fingerprint. They only look good when you open the box. Who wants to spend all day polishing a computer? Who wants to look at fingerprints all day? By contrast, the silver finish on my UL20a doesn’t show fingerprints. I think it is very attractive as well, without being flashy. Three more adjectives–understated, professional and sophisticated.

I also need to praise the keyboard. It is impressive that you can have a typing experience this excellent in a machine this small. The chiclet style keyboard is similar to a Sony Vaio. I had never had a chiclet keyboard before (and I was a bit concerned about it) but I may never go back. I think my typing accuracy may have improved! I am able to type at top speed. It just feels good. I have read other reviews that mention a problem with keyboard flex. I’m not sure what keyboard flex is–but either my machine doesn’t have it or it doesn’t bother me at all, because I have nothing but praise for this keyboard. It is outstanding.

This machine is speedy and responsive for my needs. Of course, I just do e-mail, internet and word processing. I haven’t upgraded the RAM yet, but I have found that I can have many, many, many windows open at once with no noticeable downgrade in performance.

I also like the screen–it’s just big enough and really bright. It may be a tad glossier than would be ideal– I was worried because I have a lot of large windows in my house, but I haven’t found this to be much of an issue so far. I haven’t had the chance to try it outside yet.

***What is not so great about this computer***

The worst problem with this computer is hands down the trackpad. This will be no big deal for you if you always use an external mouse anyway. But I don’t want to use an external mouse! I have done everything everyone recommends. I downloaded and applied the Synaptics generic driver. I tweaked the settings. Honestly, I’m still not happy. The button is far too stiff. The touchpad isn’t responsive enough, even at maximum sensitivity. I’ve given myself a month to get used to it, and I’m still super disappointed. The tweaking did help: I now have pinch zoom and two finger scrolling. It helps that with a tap you can simulate a left mouse click. Also, surprisingly even though I turned the sensitivity to maximum, I haven’t had any trouble with accidentally brushing the pad and having the cursor jump across the page as I’ve had with other machines. To sum up: you can make the trackpad work if you need to, but it still isn’t pleasant to use. I’m going to purchase an external mouse. What a bummer.

Wireless issues: I noticed that when using the machine wirelessly (as most people do with a laptop), Youtube, CNN, and Cook’s Illustrated videos would not play smoothly. When I used a wired connection to our network, the hiccups and stalls went away. I did a speedtest and my download speed seemed to max out at about 3.5 – far less than what we pay for with our high speed cable. Wired I was able to download at 23. I thought it was a problem with the wireless card. But then I visited my in-laws and tried the wireless there (they also have high speed cable) my internet connection was blazing fast! So, we ordered a new router. Now my wireless works great (16 or more) and I have no trouble watching the short video clips that were such a problem before. So, if you have troubles with your wireless, be sure to try it at a friend’s house with a different router and see how it does then. The Linksys WRT350N router that didn’t work with this machine was only a year or two old. The router that works great is a Netgear Rangemax WNDR 3700 Dual Band Wireless N. I don’t know if it was some sort of compatibility problem with the Linksys or if the much, much, much larger antenna on the Netgear made the difference. One other note: so far, I’ve only been able to use the 2.4 band, not the 5.0 band on the Netgear router. I wonder if it is a limitation of the UL20a because our other computer connects to the 5.0 band. I don’t care, because I have the speed I need now.

*Updated to add: I just noticed that Acer will soon release a  silver Timeline 1810tz.  If I hadn’t already purchased the Asus, I would be tempted to consider this Acer model.  The  silver finish might fix the fingerprint problem.  If the Acer’s trackpad is superior to the Asus’s (which wouldn’t be hard) then it might be the machine to buy.  It has 3 Ram instead of 2, and a 320 gb HD as opposed to the Asus’s 250.  It also has an HDMI output, if you need that.  The footprint is about 3/4″ smaller–(of course, is an 11.6″ screen as nice to view as a 12″?  I don’t know.)  Of course, Acer ranks much lower in reliability than Asus and they don’t offer the Accidental Damage Warranty.  There are always tradeoffs!

Why I’m A Donor

I am a latecomer to blood donation .  I regret this.  I have always wanted to be a person who donated blood.  The 4th grade teacher I idolized, Mr. Dunkley,  took us on a fieldtrip to the hospital and donated blood before our eyes.  He was so noble! so brave!  I wanted to be like him.  Later, in high school, Hawkeye Pierce and the gang, my M*A*S*H friends, were always ready to lie down and pull up their sleeves when someone needed them–and someone often did. 

Well, I don’t live in a war zone, but the Red Cross tells me that every 2 seconds in the United States someone needs blood.  I can donate as often as every 56 days, but my blood’s shelf life is only 42 days.  In fact, last year a study suggested that patients who are transfused with blood older than 28 days are more likely to suffer infections.  So, the fresher the blood, the better.  That means the more donors the better.  The difficult part is that donors are hard to get.  Less than 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood.  Of those eligible, most don’t donate.  There are a lot of us who are squeamish and afraid of needles!

But if you are someone who can donate, consider the cancer patients, the new mothers, the car accident victims, etc., who may need your blood.  Some day you could be the one who needs blood or your mom, sister or daughter, your dad, your brother, your boss, or your best friend.  Or several of you.  One thing is almost certain: if you can donate regularly, you will help people.  The need for transfusions is rising 6% every year, and the number of donations isn’t rising that fast.  We hope for artificial blood, but it’s still a hope for the future.  Today what’s true is that if you can donate blood, YOU ARE NEEDED.  If you can’t donate, you can help by volunteering, organizing a blood drive, or my personal favorite:  babysitting for someone who wants to donate!  (The donation process takes almost an hour start to finish and no one wants to take small children to a blood donation center).

Pointless Service: Does it have a Point?

3 service scenarios: 1. You donate blood. 2. You make a dish for a funeral luncheon. 3. You help paint the local school playground. All three types of service are laudable. Each situation involves sacrificing a precious resource–time. Unfortunately, it is easy to feel disappointed, to believe that the resource we offered has been squandered. Has it?

Duncan, despite his current wall-drawing, house destroying, desire to be a clown rather than be obedient ways, is a sweet boy and a hard worker. He is so eager to make a contribution, to help in the family’s work. But it can be difficult to make significant useful contributions when you are only 5. The other day I found him helping his Daddy clean the basement. Somehow he ended up with the job of examining a box of old receipts. He was supposed to locate and remove any clips that might be holding the piles together. He did this by examining each receipt in the box one at a time for 45 minutes (Daddy got a lot done!). An adult could have accomplished the same result in under a minute. The receipt sorting was a make work project, but it sure made Duncan feel useful.

Is the adult who donates blood at a time of surplus (however slight) in a different situation? Donating blood is a good thing to do. Heaven knows we need people to donate blood. Blood supplies often run low. But consider: blood has a specific shelf life. Blood donation rates rise and fall. This means that sometimes there is a surplus. Yet how often do bloodbanks turn donors away? If you donate blood and it doesn’t find its way to a patient who requires a transfusion, did you squander your time as well as your blood? Was it pointless service or did it have a point?

My question is the same for the playground painting and the funeral luncheon dish. If you sign on to help paint the local playground, but 100 others show up as well, so you stand around talking and waiting for your turn to use the paint (the organizers prepared for 20) was your service pointless? If the funeral is not well attended, donated dishes may exceed eaters. Your pan may come back empty, but it wasn’t the bereaved who enjoyed your cake. Was your service pointless?

Why not? Why is this type of service not pointless? Can you explain it? Does your rationale apply to other things like voting as well?

January–Back to the Slog or Resolutions

I like the idea of often using this blog as a gratitude journal. But I don’t always feel sunny. January, for example doesn’t seem to have much to recommend it. Weather = bad. Anticipation = none. Children = back in school. Pdad = back to work. My goals for the vacation = unmet. I really like the days we had off of work and school, I just wish there could be more of them. And now, as so often, it seems like there is so much to do. I wonder how I can possibly get it all done. I’m not sure which strategy to choose: first get the house clean, then make returns? First make returns, then get the house clean? First do errands (carwash, preschool signup, grocery shopping), then clean house? Meanwhile, outside of this routine, where do I find time to work on the new things, the things I wanted to do better or spend more time on this year? If I get all or even a lot of these things done as I so much want to do, will it mean that I am messing up on something else? That when Kate and Duncan asked me to read to them, I said “later?”

At Church today, we were counseled to make and honor New Year’s Resolutions. I think of New Year’s as a secular holiday and of New Year’s Resolutions as a therefore secular practice. However, I guess there is no reason it has to be that way. Making resolutions is a practice full of hope. Hope than one can change and that things can be different. Hope can transform a slog into something else. It is January. I am desperate for that hope.

It is tricky to set resolutions realistically–high enough to be worth doing, but reasonable enough to be possible to accomplish. I find that when I consider all the possible resolutions I could resolve–fix dinner every night, fix dinners that include vegetables, stay current with the laundry, file all paper and keep it filed, learn windows 7, learn word 2007, be in bed no later than 11:00, read with Duncan every day, make time to play with the kids every day, read several books, exercise, be loving, stop criticizing, donate blood every 56 days, help my neighbor improve her English, read the scriptures every day, blog every day–it is discouraging. It is discouraging because if I am honest with myself I know I can’t accomplish all of those things. If I resolve all of those things, I will fail. But I do want to resolve them, because these are things I really need to do and really want to do.

How do I select between such worthwhile resolutions? Suddenly, making resolutions doesn’t seem secular at all. I can’t possibly sincerely participate in this resolution ritual without prayer. I can’t accomplish my resolutions alone. I can’t even decide what to resolve. Despite my misgivings about January, I am grateful. I have a father to to turn to, to ask for counsel, to pray to. I can put my anxieties in his hands and follow his paths.