My friend Daniel pointed to that chart from Time Magazine showing the unemployment figures from the past 6 recessions in the US. The current recession is in blue (click for a larger image).

Scary, eh?
Scary, eh?

 

Just today, forecasters announced that they expect the unemployment rate, currently at 7.6%, to hit a peak of 9% this year. “Even in the best-case scenario, with the recession ending sometime in the second half of this year, employment conditions will be tough.” By simply extrapolating the curve, here is what it gives.

It hurts, eh?
It hurts, eh?

 

Now, continue to read the same article and towards the bottom, they say that they expect the unemployment rate to hit 10% next year. This time, we are completely out of the charts!

Everybody for himself!
Everybody for himself!

 

My comments on Daniel’s blog to the first chart were:

If you draw the tangents to the curves, you can see how the declines (and in a large degree the recoveries also) became less and less steep over time in each one of the 5 last recessions. The growing size of the US economy and the interconnections with the rest of the world may have played a role to damp down the crises (a corollary being that modern morasses might not be as deep as they used to but we stay in it longer).

Now I find it worrisome that the current recession is plunging as steeply as the steepest one from the 1970’s, knowing that we (the US) are taking the rest of the world down with us and there isn’t anybody else to cushion the fall. We might very well still be in it in 5 years from now. Or 10. Thank you, George Bush!

After looking at the last chart, I can smell at least 5 more years of merde.
Or maybe, it’s just time to change the kids…
We’ll still be in it when they outgrow their diapers, for sure!
 

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It’s becoming worse by the day! A particularly bleak report from the San Francisco Chronicle, under such titles as “A global calamity” and “Banks are in denial“, now quotes economists warning that “Americans can expect unemployment to reach 11 or 12 percent“. 12 percent!? Let’s extrapolate some more! Here is what 12% looks like:

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth

 

As a note to my European friends, you have to consider that an unemployment rate of 12% in America isn’t at all like the same rate in France or elsewhere. Here, it really is catastrophic! The unemployment benefits are extremely meager and expire after 4 months. In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can’t even pay the rent with what you get, plus you don’t have health coverage when you are jobless (or you have to pay for your own: $1000/month for a family of four + $50 per doctor visit).

A severe recession in America means that entire families are thrown to the street. It’s one of the things that still baffles me about the country and I don’t know what their God and their Jesus think about that. Sometimes I ask a Republican but their response is always the same. They sigh and say with a deeply empathetic voice: “I know… It breaks my heart so much to see these poor people… I pray to God they’ll find a solution… I’m sure they will…” but then they turn around and go vote for the same guys who maintain that the country needs to give more money to the rich in order for it to trickle down to the poor. Dupes. Heartless dupes.

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part of the “real america”
part of the “real america”

Whenever I want me some good ideas for child rearin’, I look no further than to Alabama. Them folks always have something good cookin’ in the pot that I can easily adopt into my own life. And being that money is a scad tight for me and the Mr. now, I found just what I was lookin’ for.

Alabama has the recipe on how to feed men and women for an entire day on less than the price of a Coke and a bag of Fritos!

That’ll teach em!
That’ll teach em!

Alabama prisons have a law allowing sheriffs $1.75 per day to feed inmates*. If they can feed them for less, they pocket the left over money, and you know what? some of them crafty sheriffs are turning a profit.

See, Pierre and I have been feeding ourselves and offspring at a beautiful little San Francisco market a few blocks away with organic produce and free-range meats from local farmers. We didn’t think much of paying $8/lb for broccoli salads, or $9 for their cheapest bottle of red ’cause you know, these are the goodest deals at our little market.

Cool Hand discount
Cool Hand discount

But now I see the error of my ways. Like Alabama prisons, I can be feedin’ my family with a 2 dollar bill each with cha-ching left over. I just have to figure out where them Alabamian prisons are buying their food. I have a business resale license so I’m thinkin’ that buying wholesale may save me even more.

Pierre is gonna be proud. Feedin’ the whole family for well below $10 with change to spare so he can buy more Camembert. Damn, thanks for another great idea Alabama!

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* Alabama sheriffs feed inmates on $1.75 a day:
During the days of the chain gangs, Alabama passed a law that gave sheriffs $1.75 a day to feed each prisoner in their jails. More than 80 years later, most Alabama counties still operate under this same system, with the same $1.75-a-day allowance. Read on dear reader ….
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,356436,00.html

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Earlier this month, a sheriff in Alabama actually went to jail for having pocketed more than $200,000 out of the inmate food stipend. How long did he stay locked up for? One night! It’s not specified what he was served for dinner or even if he ate at all. Last year, he and another sheriff paid $500 for half a tractor-trailer full of hot dogs, which were served to the inmates at each meal until they had been depleted. The sheriff is now back at work but the jail’s nutritionist lost his job - boohoo. If you want to congratulate the sheriff for his cost-saving acumen, please give him a call. Here is his contact page and two articles narrating his achievements:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/01/09/alabama.sheriff.jailed/
http://www.waff.com/global/story.asp?s=9640226
 
 

Alabama has many fans
Alabama has many fans
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I still have a little catching up to do to save prosperity. This one tells of how Max and Manu made it into the world via a sharp knife, a slick doctor, and a spinal tapped, ultra frightened girl.

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Do Elephants howl?
Do Elephants howl?

Here at the hospital while on bed rest, Pierre and I press our ears against the walls — listening to the women in the other rooms as they go into labor and eventually give birth. We’re stiff with rapture, like kids seeing a full-frontal naked person for the first time, or a game show contestant freaking in anticipation over whats behind door #3. We are experiencing our own lives, our own pasts through the women. It’s how we all entered this world. Through the greatest canal… The grandest right-of-passage of all.

Portal from another World
Portal from another World

The primal, the very animal howl from the women is unlike any call or cry I have ever heard, and from the deepest, most primal space it triggers in me that ancestral attachment. It fails to temp me into a drug-free birth however — the vicarious ease drop is enough. It’s a beautiful sound.

I’ve loved my 18 days on bed rest and me & the twins are super at 27 1/2 weeks. The doctors are talking about releasing me this weekend, saying they see no reason why I cant spend the remainder of my pregnancy at home.

Pius the teenage pope
Pius the teenage pope

The problem is, I dont want to go!
Here, my pals come visit me, Pierre comes each and every night to visit with Pius, my Whippet. Yes, CPMC even allows your dog to come and stay with you while you’re locked up. I coax Pius in bed with me, but Pierre ends that immediately. “Dont take advantage of a hospital letting your dog in by letting him climb in the sheets with you”. No fun those French.

Other reasons I like it here: I dont have to do remedial labor like cooking or cleaning, and I like having people from all backgrounds of education, ethnicity and experience to talk to, and most of all, I like being cared for by people here because in the real world, it’s difficult for me to ask others for help. Here, it’s safe. So, a few days before I am set to leave for home, I get my wish to stay.

The following morning I have my first contraction, and within 2 hours it is all over, or rather, it all is just beginning…

I have my first contraction at 7:30am, then at 8:30 then 9:00, then every 20, 15, 10 minutes. The nurses, 2 doctors and the pre-term delivery team run around my bedside in cool pandemonium.

Erma Vep says,
Erma Vep says,”Give me drugs!”

The contractions send me to the roof. “What the hell was that!?” I shriek as they grow in pain.
A pain much more severe than when I fell over a cliff on my motorcycle, than when I hit a fence with my face while jumping horses, more so than when I intentionally lit my skin with red hot metal. None of these come close to the pain of a contraction. I’ve heard men tell that the passing of boulder size gall stones through their eurethra comes close. So they say…

I yell to everyone, that women who choose to go through hours of labor are crazy! One nurse humorously agrees with me. I’ve never felt anything like it. I grab the bedpost, bury my head and wail. Shit. Budda. Breathe. Finally Paulette, a favorite nurse has me by the shoulders saying firmly, “Look at me. Breathe. You’re okay. You are going to deliver 2 beautiful children. We will take care of you. I’m here for you, look at my face.”
That was it. A connection to someone and I broke down crying.

Meanwhile the doctor is trying to get me undressed. She grabs me, forces my clothing off, demanding I cooperate. Her grounded firmness tempers me, an animal under duress being commanded by it’s owner.

At 9:50am I’m on the gurney, rushing to the delivery room. When there I’m told my spinal tap will hurt alot. They plunge it in, and I say, “Is that it?” After them contractions nothing was painful.

Dr Huh, my OBY and woman delivering my twins, said to me before she cut my abdomen, “Its going to feel like I am sitting a heavy bag on your stomach, and that I am rooting around in it for something. I’ll talk you through it. Try and relax.”

It did feel just like that, and I imagined them peeling back all the muscle, searching for Baby A, then Baby B. Pulling them out through a tiny incision and handing them over to the special group of strangers in the corner in blue sterile suits. I must have been in shock. It all went so well. I knew the kiddos had left me. They were being attended to in the corner by the doctors. I could feel Dr Huh putting me back together and I asked at the end to watch her sew me up and damn, she let me! How cool is that? There was so much blood, and I was super bloated like that cat I found washed up on the beach a few years back.

The twins had flown the nest. I could hear their cries off to one side, so faint, so small as they took them off to the ER. No romantic interlude for us, no insta-bonding, no eye candy reward in my arms. Just their cries disappearing through the corridor.

A Spork
A Spork

I was able to see each one for a split second before they were rushed to the NICU (Neo-natal intens. care unit) but I felt nothing. I was numb. Where was Pierre? What just happened?? Actually, we’d agreed Pierre wouldn’t be in the room since he faints at blood. Also, I would have totally fed off his nervous anticipation and so I was glad to be alone with the experience.

Afterwards though, he was the only one I wanted to see! He was outside and we rested in a waiting area until the doctor came to take us to see our new family. Max and Emmanuelle. They were like tiny baby birds lying in an incubation nest. Breathing 1000 times per second, absolutely no fat on their bodies under a glaring bright yellow lamp.

I didnt think about if they’d live or not, or complications. We were just all together in the room, my family, and for that moment it’s all that mattered.

A most perfect pair
What gives life?


You’ll never be alone
You’ll never be alone

>

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  • french
Kiddos’ weights in grams
Kiddos’ weights in grams

On the minus side, Max still needs some oxygen. He’s got two little tubes in his nostrils and he doesn’t like it much. We are also waiting for the result of a genetic test that Merritt and I had to take to see if he’s not suffering from a rare disease that would prevent him from assimilating milk. He tested positive at a screening but no big concern yet: it’s a test that has a lot of false-positives. Only 1 or 2% of those who test positive have the dangerous form of the disease (galactosemia) and less than 10% have just an mildly annoying form of it (Duarte galactosemia). All the other ones are false-positives. As for Manu, the only thing she’s got is a tiny little bleeding in the brain. Yes, I know, it sounds bad when said like that but it’s common in preemies and in the vast majority of cases, it resolves by itself without consequences.

On the plus side, they are both doing fine (or great, say the doctors) by all the other tests they went through: genetic, x-rays, ultrasounds, blood exams, etc… They are being fed more and more - a big syringe of milk every 3 hours with a volume that’s increased of 1cc more every 6 hours - and they are gaining weight. It’s impressive to see the size of the syringe next to the kids. It’s looks as if an adult had to swallow a bottle the size of a big fire-extinguisher in less than 2 minutes. Burp!

Manu sleeping after gulping down 20cc of milk
Manu sleeping after gulping down 20cc of milk

 

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  • english
  • french

The kiddos lose weight, they have the jaundice and a murmur in the heart, but it’s all normal. They received injections of surfactant in the lungs yesterday, and they’re breathing better today. Manu doesn’t have a big tube in the mouth anymore, just two little hoses in the nostrils. They’re both wearing googles and stay all day under UV lights to fight the jaundice.

They seem weak and distressed. They miss the permanent contact that they had in the womb. When they cry, we block them in our hands and they immediately calm down.

The Pods Room
The Pods Room

 

Manu under the spotlight
Manu under the spotlight

 

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Bad night, not a lot of sleep. Yesterday night, for the first time Merritt was having some really strong and worrisome contractions and I wake up with a lousy feeling. She calls me a few minutes later but I press the wrong button and her call gets forwarded to the voicemail. Here is the message she left me. If you have never heard a pregnant woman scared shitless of losing her kids, that’s what it sounds like.

(click the icon)

Merritt is shaking in bed
Merritt is shaking in bed

I arrive at the hospital too late. Merritt is still in the Operation Room; I wait for her in Recovery. When she comes on the gurney, her whole body is shaking because of the drugs. The room is hot and stuffy. There is a heat wave today with temperatures not seen in 40 years; records are falling all around the Bay Area. I don’t understand why a hospital doesn’t have a better air-con system. I don’t understand why the doctor is blabbing so much about the anesthesia but nobody gives details about the kids. Merritt is still stiff and shaking. No sleep, no food, no air, no kids and my girlfriend straight from The Exorcist… My head spins, I need to sit down.

20 minutes later, a nurse takes me to see the kiddos. We cross two doors with access codes and enter the Intensive Care Unit. It’s a long room full of medical gear and computer screens, lined on both sides with sci-fi pods - the incubators. As soon as we step in, I see about 20 feet away a dark mauve fetus lying completely still in an open incubator. The thing seems to be about the size of the puppets that anti-abortion demonstrators love to exhibit on TV, and as life-less. Lights are off, nobody’s around. A few feet behind, a group of doctors, all masked and in surgical gowns, fuss over another pod under bright spotligths. The nurse hesitates: “Er… stay here, I’ll go check.” She talks five seconds to the doctors, comes back, grabs me by the arm and leads me back out, explaining vaguely: “They’re not done yet, we’ll come back later”. From all I see, one’s dead, the other’s a guess, but if the nurse doesn’t feel like telling, I certainly don’t feel like asking. She tries to put up a smile; it’s a bit futile but I’m grateful.

Back to Merritt. She’s still got the shakes. Her lower body is numb, she can hardly move her feet, but her upper body is shaking as if she’d just had 20 espressos. I feed her ice cubes, apply wet clothes on her neck and fan her with a cardboard sheet to keep her temperature down. Half an hour later, the docs come in: “Everything’s fine, they’re both hooked up now”. Wow! Phew!

Eraserhead
The little screams of Baby “A”

Back to the pod room, I finally get to take a peek up-close. The nurse claims they’re fine I ‘m not sure I believe her: two small fetuses strapped to the bed with velcro bracelets, struggling to breathe with pipes, wires and tubes coming out of their mouth, plugged into their umbilical cords or attached to the arms and feet. I don’t want to give them names yet. They’re not finished. Baby “A” cries weakly. Baby “B” looks like he’s not going to see the end of the day.

Manu at 2 hours
Manu at 2 hours

 

Max at 2 hours
Max at 2 hours

 

Merritt & Manu
Merritt & Manu

Two hours later, Merritt is feeling better, she can leave the Recovery Room. Of course, we are not going to take her directly to her bedroom. The nurse and I push her bed through across the hallways to the pod room and she finally gets the see the babies. “I can’t believe how tiny are these things!” I tell her. She replies sternly: “They’re not things anymore, they’re little people!” And she’s right, they’re not “A”, not “B”, not “things” anymore… Welcome Max & Manu.

I stop by the house in the afternoon. A quick check on the web shows me that the kiddos’ numbers are in fact perfectly normal, their condition is fine. 29 1/2 weeks, 1300 grams: It’s almost a no-brainer nowadays. So much relief. A bit later, Merritt calls with more good news. It’s starting to sink in now, the joy of being a dad. I check my phone at a red light on the way back to the hospital. It opens on the Yahoo News page with a big rainbow flag: “Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban”. “Yes!!!”, I scream. I immediately turn left to go through the Castro, the gay district of San Francisco. Everybody’s out celebrating, laughing, smiling, kissing. What a symbol to have our kids born in an America where people are finally free to marry whomever they love, an America where the President might soon be a wise, thoughtful, competent, articulated and brilliant young black man. I feel waves of joy and I am immensely proud.

May 15th, 2008. The happiest day in San Francisco since 1849.
May 15th, 2008. The happiest day in San Francisco since 1849.

 

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