Housing


I recently read that there is nowhere in the United States where a person working forty hours per week on minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. How shameful that this country has come to that.

On the same day, I learned that my assisted housing organization has moved to list applicants for housing to two lists – one for the newly homeless (meaning those individuals/families who have recently lost their homes due to rising rents/mortgages), and one for the disabled. While I recognize that there are special needs folks, i.e. disabled, my experience after five years of living in assisted housing is that not everyone who claims being disabled is incapable of working. Yes, I understand that not everyone who is disabled shows it physically – I am among them; my problems with clinical depression and PTSD could have enabled me to get this housing had I had a doctor I could convince to sign papers for me.

But my assisted housing is because although I worked 47 years in the workforce (officially), and live on my social security, I got my housing due to poverty and age. I cannot possibly live on the economy on my social security, and I have no family to help me out.

So I am in favour of what my housing agency is doing now. My concern is for those who go to work everyday, yet struggle to pay for a roof over their heads, and to buy groceries.

I still say we need to have a Revolution. I’m willing to put my life on the line for it. How many others are?

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Economics, Finance, Health, Homelessness, Mental health | Leave a comment

The World Around Us


I am reminded lately of the old joke where the Secretary of State goes up to an airline counter (old joke, this was before we could get our tickets online) and said “Give me a ticket to anywhere – we’ve got trouble all over”.

In today’s political and war-like climate, we do have trouble all over. It is too bad we, the people, don’t really have much of a say any longer. We the people everywhere, around the world, are at the mercy of our elected officials, or those who have taken over their countries through military actions. People are dying, some easy, some not so much, by the thousands, millions of others are being trod on by those who love money and power more than they do the human condition.

I am reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which is a novel about one of the French Revolutions (there were at least three that I know of, probably more), and was reminded about the man who said “let them eat grass” about the poor and starving. He was one of the first to die when the people rose up. I think this is a period (1775-1792) before Marie Antoinette who famously said “let them eat cake”. I suspect the people during this period would have loved to have cake.

And I was thinking, why don’t we the people of this country rise up. Why don’t we have the same right to live comfortably, and well-fed. Oh, I am not hungry, and don’t have to worry about my personal comfort. But I give full credit for that to the privilege of having a government-assisted housing unit.

But I know that I have to really abide by the rules and regulations because in today’s economy, and I use my town of Austin as an example, when rents are rising, utilities are rising, taxes are rising, and government is fighting against raising the minimum wage, there are long lists of people who would just love to have a home with HACA (Housing Authority City of Austin). And it is the same with all other government housing districts. Because at least we have rent control. I pay only 30% of my income for my housing, and get free electricity and water. As for my phone, it is a free government phone, with 250 free minutes a month. I can add money to it for more minutes, for texting, for access to the World Wide Web, if I want to. I get the phone because I have food stamps. I get only $15 a month, but it allows me to get other benefits. I can afford to buy my groceries, but then I’m not feeding anyone but me and two cats.

But it has not always been that way for me. I had to retire, start taking my social security, get old enough for Medicare, and get “old”. That is okay too, but I will never forget how it was before I got here. I will never lose my compassion and empathy for those who are still fighting the battle of simply surviving.

I have heard that some Republican candidate somewhere has even made the statement that “they should all just die”, or words to that effect. I don’t know if it is true, it could be hearsay, but I have long felt like many of the wealthiest of this country really do feel that way. The Bible used by so many of the non-christian christians says “the poor ye shall always have with you”, meaning to me that when those rich catholic men back in 326 AD put together the current christian bible, this is how they wanted things to be. It is well known that during the darkest times of world history, the Dark Ages and such, that the heads of churches really did live off the people, off the fat of the land, leaving dregs, weeds, rocks, for the people to make their own livings. I cannot help thinking that even in a world where there should be plenty for all, it is still the leaders, religious and secular, who are still taking theirs off the top, and leaving the rest for the rest of us to try and pass around.

Nothing has changed.

I left out military there because even the generals and admirals are living with plenty, and the grunts, the ones who actually go out and fight their wars and get killed, or even worse, wounded, who are going wanting – at least in the United States, and probably everywhere else.

I stay off my computer most of the time these days because every time I open it, I read about more and more stupidity, selfishness, me-first and good luck to you, that it is severely depressing. I wonder if this year will be the year the people will stand up, or if they are once again going to say “why bother, nothing will ever change”.

It is horrifying. Well, I won’t fail to vote, and will continue to help where and when I can, with my meager resources, and can only hope that goodness will become the norm. I won’t hold my breath.

For now, I am going to watch Volcano and then Jurassic Park, and pretend that life is good.

Stay hopeful, my friends, and try to stay happy.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

PS: I left out racism. I just don’t understand how it is still so horrible. I love President Obama, and will continue to back him, because I am so sick of his having to fight so many battles without the support of the people. In spite of our electing him twice. Keep smiling, Mr. President, and love to you, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha.

Posted in Crime, Economics, Equality, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Gay Rights, global warming, Health, Homelessness, Medicine, Mental health, Politics, Religious, Voting Rights, Women's Rights | 1 Comment

A post written by a Facebook friend of mine


My Facebook friend, who is one of the smartest women I have ever “met”, wrote this, and I asked her for permission to copy it to my own blogsite. I have not changed one single word, and Malina gets all credit for having written it. I think it is brilliant.

Malina Lobel-karimi

Thank you, John Boehner for threatening a lawsuit against this president. So far, it has accounted for OUR BIGGEST FUNDRAISER, YET.

It took you SEVEN YEARS to get a bachelors degree in business administration. (It takes most of us four years). You worked as a janitor before entering politics.
No doubt all this, gives you a great legal background especially when suing the president for…? For wearing mom jeans? For…mixing cotton with silk? OR…FOR DOING YOUR DAMN JOB?
Throughout these last six years, all you have managed is obstructionism. Then again, that was the intent all along. Doesn’t that give the American People a better claim to a lawsuit against YOU and the republican party? Just sayin’…

Your own party is thinking you a fool. Then again, your entire party is by and large, extremely foolish, so if they are murmuring these words, there may be something to it.
Just for the record, we ALL KNOW who is backing unwittingly this escapade into the judicial system; WE The People. It’s OUR money you’re using foolishly.
I and many others, would prefer you use YOUR OWN FUNDS for this foray, but you’re money has gone towards purchasing a $835,000.00 condo in Florida on your $200,000+ salary.
Well done.
I don’t know many of us who can buy a second home costing four times our yearly earnings. But you’re not the AVERAGE person, are you? You’re a politician who receives all kinds of bennies from the likes of say…Koch Bros., the banks and any other corp you have given tax benefits to and or any other favorable legislation enriching them directly at our deficit. If you don’t use your personal wealth, instead, use theirs! Anyone other than our monies!!

Thank you, Malina, for your generosity is allowing me to share this. My blogs reach a lot of people, and there is no way I could have written this better myself. You are a darling woman.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Flips, slips, and paranoia


First of all, let me assure you that I am well – mentally and physically. But there has been a bit of turmoil in my life because of a thing my doctor told me a few weeks ago. I believe it was simply a mistake in a reading he took, but he told me, in a standard visit, that I had had a heart attack, and never knew anything about it. And I am very paranoid about my heart.

It all started with a doctor in the early 1980s who did give me some bad advice. I started having anxiety and panic attacks then. It took about 15 years, including visits with psychologists, and meds for depression, to get me back to what was considered normal for me. But because I had both parents die of heart-related problems, because I smoke (though I quit for 1t years between 1983-1998, when I had really bad stress problems), and because I am a Type-A personality, inclined to stress, and because I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes a few years ago, telling me I had had an unknown heart attack set me off on another round of panic attacks.

Anyway, on May 30, I found myself calling EMS because I had a bad cramp in the area just below my heart, which quickly turned into a bit of a circus. When the firemen and the EMS folk got here, they found me running around in the courtyard chasing my cats which had got out of my door. I was told I should probably be sitting down, and I had neighbors running around asking how I was, and chasing my cats down for me. The EMS folk ran an EKG on me, and said there was nothing wrong with my heart, and no sign that I had ever had a heart attack. I commented on the cramp in my middle, and we decided it was a stress cramp – a squeezing of the muscles in my diaphragm because I was stressed out.

They left. Then on the following Tuesday (June 4), I again was feeling bad, and sort of nauseous and hot, sweating, and a I was convinced to call EMS again. This time I let them transport me to the hospital because my general chest and belly area were hurting. I was in the hospital for three hours, they ran three EKGs, and took an X-ray of my heart and chest area. The diagnosis was that there was nothing wrong with my heart, that the pains I was feeling had nothing to do with my heart. The ER diagnosis was I should try to find something to alleviate my stress.

I called my doctor, and he came over on the following Friday, and he said he would try to get me into a psychiatrist.

OK, to begin with, I have a doctor who does not want to prescribe my Klonopin (Clonazapam), which I have been taking for 25 years, and which is a Benzodiazepine, and thus, addictive. But it works, has worked for 25 years, has never been raised in strength, and is compatible with every other med I take, particularly my anti-depressant. That is very important. I had two refills left of the Klonopin, five pills at a time. He assured me that he would give me a prescription for 30 pills while I tried to get into the psychiatrist to give me the prescription. He never called in the prescription. I did go through a couple of sessions with the Heart Hospital of Austin, including the dye in the heart for photographs of my arteries, and a stress test for physical reactions. I passed everything with flying colours.

Look, I understand that the heart is a weird organ – that one can pass every test on the heart, get a clean bill of heath, and walk out he door, have a heart attack, and die. That doesn’t worry me – just telling me that there is something wrong with my heart would worry me. And I have a perfectly healthy heart.

Well, the psychiatrist’s office called me and told me they couldn’t take me because in addition to my Medicare, I have Medicaid backup (because I’m poor and have QMB). Look it up if you don’t know what that means. But they said they could not send Medicaid a bill. I told them it was Medicare who billed Medicaid, but they said no. I called my doctor’s office and left the message about the psychiatrist’s office, and that I had this horrid rash on the back of my legs that I needed him to look at. I’ve never heard from him again. BTW, the rash is Uticaria (aka Hives), and are caused by stress. I took the last of my pills yesterday, called the office, and left a message that if I could not get my pills through them, I was going to be forced to change my doctor to another company, and would be looking to buy “black-market” Klonopin in the meantime. I don’t figure I will get a call-back from them until Monday at least. And, I believe I know where I can buy at least a couple of the pills.

I don’t understand why I, as a 73-yo woman, should have to experiment with new drugs that are supposedly better than the Benzos – the doctor tried me on Seroquel, but it did nothing but make me sleepy – it did nothing for my stress.

Now, what about the stress? I am not going to bore you with the story of my life, I’ll just say there were incidents that built up over the years, and brought me a diagnosis of PTSD several years ago. That, and my Type-A personality, make me susceptible to excess stress. From my sessions with therapists, and some yoga training, I can pretty well handle stress to an extent. But sometimes, I just need extra help, and that is by using an occasional anti-anxiety pill, what they used to call “mother’s little helper”. I don’t abuse the med, I am too interested in having a clear mind, and don’t want to drug myself out.

One thing I have taken on, and don’t want to get rid of at the moment, is I consented to serve as Vice-President of our Resident Council. You know the story. You can’t please everyone, so naturally, I’ve caught a little flack by residents who don’t understand, or don’t care, that we do this voluntarily, that we really are trying to help residents with problems that are not management-related, and that all we are trying to do is good. But too many people are not satisfied with that. I feel like this is a worthwhile job to do, and don’t want to give it up. And that leaves me in a quandary. Will it bother me more to keep doing the job, or to throw up my hands and say I cannot handle it. Elections are coming up in a month’s time, and if I can get back on my Klonopin, I will want to continue trying to be of some use.

I’ve given up politics because of the stress. Must I give up everything else that might have a little stress involved?

So, I have a couple of dilemmas to solve here, but I am healthy, and all I need is to find someone who will write the prescription for a med I have been taking for 25 years, which has done nothing but help me when I need it, for the little extra help I occasionally need to keep from going off the deep end.

I got a statement from the hospital a couple of days ago for the three hours I spent there, which would have given me a “heart attack”, if I didn’t know I didn’t have to pay for it. Three hours, an ambulance, three EKGs, and one X-ray – $6100. Holy cow!!!

I’m fine, really I am, and ready to get back to Facebook and friends.

Love you all,
Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Health, Medicine, Mental health, personal thoughts | Leave a comment

Hello, all


It is a long time since I wrote a blog. But then I have spent quite a lot of time away from my computer. I have just had a bundle of things going on in my life lately, and somehow, the computer was not of much importance to me. I do miss my friends when I am gone. I have thought of several blogs I have wanted to write, yet just didn’t drag the computer out to do so.

I miss my writing, and will do my best to get back to it very soon. I don’t seem to have a large agenda of things to do in the next few weeks, so I’ll make a point to get back.

I hope all is going well with my regular readers, and I have noted that there are quite a few readers re-reading some of my previous blogs during this time I have been away. Thank you all very much.

Love to you all.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Star Trek The Original Series


I have long been known as an original series Star Trek Trekker/Trekkie (either title is okay with me, but I don’t buy and wear costumes, nor do I attend Star Trek conventions these days). But as someone who was excited about J. J. Abrams taking on Star Trek and putting his stamp on it, I was as excited as anyone about a new addition to the franchise.

I was already acquainted with JJ because of Lost, and since his doing his version of Star Trek, I have also found I love his work on Revolution. Well, guess what, JJ Trek to me is just garbage. Now those who are new to it, who are not familiar with Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and his timeline (and canon) are understandably interested in this new version. However, we who love the original trek are not so much.

What it caused me to do, and which JJ would not be happy about, is that I decided to order the original series of which I have only a few videos, as well as all five of the movies. Today I got my set of DVDs of the original series, all 69 episodes, which I ordered by computer. It is advertised as enhanced, and is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. I was guaranteed by every website I went to that it was true to the original series, just enhanced. Well, when one reads enhanced, one wonders exactly how enhanced it was – not wanting all the bells and whistles, but loving the original because of the great storylines and the very human aspect of those space farers, and the beings they met along the way.

I have to say I am completely pleased. First of all, it has been many years since I saw most of the original episodes, depending on my memory when I was with people who wanted to talk about it. So watching this is going to be a fairly new experience for me to see some of the episodes I have not seen for some 30-40 years.

The discs are set up to show the episodes by date it was first run. And tonight I watched the first three. In the process, I saw some things I had not remembered, particularly based on trying to get the series off the ground. I always thought Where No Man Has Gone Before was the first shown (after The Cage), but it was the third shown by television dates. So there were changes in the costumes, changes in the cast, and changes in makeup. There is a difference in some of the traditional thoughts about the show – like only red shirts got killed. I have always knows the traditional gold for officers, blue for medical, and red for engineering. Staff wore different colours of the non-stars in the show. But it was not like that in the beginning.

So the first three shows I watched, in order as they come out of the set (which is divided into three seasons) were The Man Trap, Charlie X, and Where No Man Has Gone Before.

In Man Trap, we had Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, and Sulu. Kirk was wearing his gold shirt which we saw most of. Four men were killed – two were in blue, one was in gold, and one was in a uniform apparently worn by the maintenance people, coveralls, these in white with black accents.

In Charlie X, Kirk started out with the green wrap-around shirt with gold braid, ended in the gold shirt. Sulu was in blue. The only people killed were the men in the Antares, not seen on screen, but known when Charlie did it. All of the rest of the people who came to harm were not killed, thus the Thasians, when they came to the rescue, restored them all (even though all we actually saw was Janice Rand in her pink negligee reappear on the bridge). Again, we had Kirk, Spock, Bones, Sulu, and Uhura.

Finally, in Where No Man Has Gone Before, there was a different cast, and very different uniforms. Kirk, Spock, Sulu, we saw Scottie for the first time, and Dr. Mark Pike, who had been in the original pilot for The Cage. Nine people died at the beginning, but we never saw them. Uniforms were shirts with knitted turtle-neck type collars. They were worn outside the pants, and they wore belts to carry their lasers or other paraphernalia. Kirk and Spock wore greenish gold with green knit collars; Sulu and Dr. Pike in blue; Uhura was not there. Gary Mitchell, who was navigator, Scottie, and Lee Kelso, the pilot, were in pale golden tan shirts. Lee Kelso was the only other person killed on the episode (besides Gary Mitchell and the doctor, of course). And Spock has those eyebrows which went up at a strange angle, and looked quite funny. He also smiled a few times.

I decided to not watch that many tonight; I need to chew them up a few at a time. Tomorrow, when I begin disc two of the first season, the first show is The Naked Time. As I recall it from so long ago, I believe it will be the first one to have the complete cast (other than Chekov, who doesn’t show up until season two) in their regular parts, and wearing their regular uniforms, although I might expect Kirk to wear that green wrap-around again.

As for enhanced, it is excellent. I would say the biggest amount of work was done by Michael and Denise Okuda, working under the supervision of a man named Dave, and what they have done is take the old negatives, which were fading fairly fast, and had cuts and tears in them, and were colour-enhanced and repaired, along with giving us more views of the Enterprise 1701 from different angles than the static view of it simply passing in front of our eyes; there have been things like we would see Scottie cutting and all we would see were the sparks, but now we can see the laser beam leading to those sparks; the planets the Enterprise floated around in the outside shots, instead of just being red, blue, green, or yellow fuzzy orbs, now are seen with geographical differences, and clouds in the atmosphere. When you see the phasers, you don’t just see two blue lights out in front of the ship, but they look like moving lights as phasers would appear.

I cannot think of anyone better to do this work than Michael and Denise because I have long known them as two people who absolutely respect what we older folks fell in love with so long ago.

Finally, the musical score has been redone. Instead of the scratchy sounds from years ago, they have taken Alexander Courage’s original score, and re-recorded it with a 28-piece orchestra, and I think the original soprano singing, or if not the original, a woman who sounds very like the original. Along with that, they found the original tapes of William Shatner with the “……….these are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise……..” in his original voice.

Altogether, a beautiful experience, and one I am looking forward to continuing until I get all of the shows seen, and then very likely, I’ll go back and rewatch favourites from time to time.

Live Long and Prosper

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Music, Other media, Science fiction | Leave a comment

The Lowering of the Human Spirit


Lately, I have read a few books about humans in all sorts of dire circumstances. Particularly, I have looked at aspects of today, and compared to life as it was 50-60 years ago. I try to stay away from the news, whether on various TV channels, or even the newspaper. What I pick up mostly is when I go on-line, especially MSN which is my home page on this computer. Of course I have political friends who keep me updated on things going on in Congress, and what idiotic things some of these politicians are saying.

At the end of World War II, there was a general lowering of the human spirit when the US military opened the camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbruck, and other camps where Jews, gypsies, the disabled, and various others were exterminated. People were astonished when they realized the depths of what was happening, and how many people died. Then, after the Japanese surrendered, and the Red Cross and Lady Mountbatten opened the internment camps in the Far East, especially those working on the Burma railroad, the human spirit went even lower when the atrocities became public that were done to Americans, English, Dutch, and Australians in that area of the world.

The thing is, stuff like this was known by many who simply shut their ears and eyes to it, not wanting to know, and blowing off what was told about these prisoner of war camps. Humans simply do not wish to believe the worst about themselves. Because, of course, every human being has within him/herself the capability of doing exactly the same thing to one another. Only the civilized can defeat that black side of themselves.

These things have happened in every war or police action since. Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, the Gulf Wars. We turn our ears and eyes away from famines, bombers, stabbings, shootings, rapes, mistreatment of one another, and worse of all, of those who cannot take care of themselves. During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, even we Americans who tout ourselves as being the most civilized people of all are guilty of atrocities and horrors. We turn aside and tell ourselves, I’m glad it is not me. And yet the day may come when it is “me”, and who will be there to care about “me”.

We may think to ourselves that politicians and those who buy them are not so bad when you look at one of the many embassies, or bombs in hotels in Jakarta or India, and breathe a sigh of relief that this is happening somewhere else. Poison in the subways of Tokyo? Not my problem. Bombs on the trains in Spain? Not my problem. Bombs in Dublin, or Belfast, or Paris, or London, or anywhere else in the world? Not my problem. Not to even speak about the bombs in Moscow or places where most Americans believe everyone is not worthy of our thoughts. Not our problem.

The thing is, it would be so much better if everyone learned to be tolerant of everyone else – to show kindness and compassion and love to all. There are a huge lot of people who do this all over the world, every day. But there are more who are surly, unfriendly, hateful, destructive – and who makes the newspaper, the television, the radio? What sells the news? What does the man sitting in his recliner drinking on his beer think about it? He yells about how horrible “they” are. The woman who is shopping cares more about what she is going to make for dinner. The youth tarting up for a great night out, a good concert, that cute person they might meet in the library, only care if their teeth are clean or if they smell nice. The gangsters standing on the corner only care if they can remain king of the neighborhood.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have become so inured to hearing about evils done by other human beings that sometimes I find it difficult to care too. And I hate that that has become a reality for way too many of us.

I know that each one of us, working alone, can not take on the saving of the world. It will take all of us, working together, to bring about some sort of peace and stability to this planet. Each of us needs to simply do our part, think with some common sense.

As I write these words, I realize that it is just too overwhelming to believe that anyone can do anything at all. We are at the mercy of those who lead us, at those who would bring us down, at those who are so afraid they will lose their importance, their leadership, their selfishness, and frankly, maybe it is easier to sit back, keep your head down, don’t interfere, and save your own butt. I know I am tempted every day to just sit and watch television, read books, drink my coffee, stay inside and don’t interact with anyone. I feel helpless.

But what I do try to do everyday is get out and mix with my neighbors. Smile at them, talk to them, ask if anyone needs my help. Be pleasant, don’t start arguments, thank those who give me help, even if it is a clerk or a bus driver. If just one of those people I have been pleasant to has a happier day because of it, then who knows how many people that one will touch, and pass on the same sort of pleasantness, niceness, compassion.

I would like every single person who reads this to think about this when you go out tomorrow. Be pleasant to everyone you meet, even if you have to pin a smile on your face, and bite your tongue if someone is rude to you. I think by the end of the day, you might actually feel good about yourself, and more at peace with what you have done.

I know on Facebook, we often have days among us set aside as a day for doing Random Acts of Kindness. Then we tell one another what we have done that day.

Try to make everyday a random act of kindness day. A pay-it-forward day. If that is difficult, try to set one day aside each week and tell yourself “today I am going to be kind to everyone I meet, smile, refuse to allow anything or anyone to bring me down”. If you can do that one day a week, then in a month or so, you may find yourself doing it two days a week, then four days a week, then six days a week, and finally, you will be so used to it you will do it every day of your life. One smile, one act of kindness, will ripple.

I know, I don’t want to smile at the man who is trying to force the XL Pipeline, or fracking, or such things, but rather than be surly or make a face at him, or cursing him out, at least just walk away. Soon, you might even see that if everyone does that, they might get the drift of how unpopular they are. Just don’t be violent.

I know as well that this whole thing probably sounds absurd, and soppy, and impossible, and silly. Still, try it and see what happens. Just bitching about things that bother you to someone else might ruin their day, and that might spread as well.

I remember an anecdote I read about a woman who goes into a store with her daughter, and proceeds to run down everything she looks at, is rude to the sales folk, gripes about quality, or prices, or that she isn’t being treated like she wants to be. As she and her daughter are leaving the store, she happens to glance in a mirror and says “Do you see that face?” They gave it to me in this store. And the daughter calmly says, “no, mother, you walked into the store with that face.”

Just remember, I love you all, and I hope that knowing at least one person has told you they love you will help you get past the next one who acts like they don’t.

Let us not turn out to be the next group of people who cause, or ignore, the next Dachau, Auschwitz, Burma railway, bombing in a hotel in New Delhi or Nairobi.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

Posted in Crime, Equality, Foreign Affairs, Gay Rights, global warming, Homelessness, Other media, personal thoughts, Politics, Religious | Leave a comment