Archive for August, 2009

Aug 25 2009

To: letters@nytimes.com

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The Times didn’t run my response to Krugman’s column on health care, so here it is:

As a recent American expatriate, living in Switzerland this past year
has been my personal dry run with health care reform. From a routine
checkup to a weekend ER visit and hospital stay for a diagnostic
dilemma, my care has been quick and comprehensive, with specialists on
hand when needed, and I have never worried about whether the private
health insurance all residents are required to purchase will cover me.
There was no such thing as a co-pay to deter me from an elective
consultation about lactose intolerance—essential in a land with many
more varieties of cheese than the holey Emmental. Health insurance is
not cheap, so I would prefer the possibility of a public insurance
option, but as Krugman correctly points out, the mix of subsidies and
regulation means coverage is universal. Krugman should check one
fact: although lederhosen may have originated in the Alps, they were
never common in Switzerland.

Krugman did, however, hear from a number of people on his confusion about properly stereotyping the Swiss, ending his recent column with:

In my column last Monday, I made a joke about the Swiss that fell flat with some readers. Also, the Swiss don’t wear lederhosen.

He also had this on his blog:

The Swiss: Correspondents assure me that the Swiss don’t wear lederhosen. OK, they’re yodeling holey-cheese eaters. Actually, I’ve been to Switzerland enough to know that the national dish isn’t actually holey cheese — it’s spaghetti carbonara.

Spaghetti carbonara?

6 responses so far

Aug 19 2009

Krugman on “The Swiss Menace”: stay tuned for my 150-word response

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In case you missed it, Paul Krugman’s column “The Swiss Menace” in yesterday’s New York Times is well worth a read. It’s about health care and how current proposals for health care reform in the U.S. resemble the health care model in Switzerland. In response, I sent a letter to the editor. Maybe they’ll publish it! In the likely case that they don’t, I’ll post it here in a few days. This sentence, in particular, required a response:

But the truth is that the plans on the table would, roughly speaking, turn America into Switzerland — which may be occupied by lederhosen-wearing holey-cheese eaters, but wasn’t a socialist hellhole the last time I looked.

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Aug 18 2009

American institutions you never knew were American institutions

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  1. Question people.  You know, that designated question-answerer at any big event or orientation.  They’re everywhere.  And they’re helpful, or at least friendly.  I was unbelievably happy to see them in great numbers the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago (shoutout to Ezra Furman and the Harpoons!).
  2. Baggers at supermarkets.  Not only are there bags in the supermarkets (this is a bad thing in my opinion), there are people hired to put your things in those bags (a wonderful thing in my opinion)!  Ohmygosh THAT is why I’ve always wondered why it seems so difficult for me to get all the groceries in our bags fast enough so as not to make the whole line back up, when it had always seemed a breeze growing up when I accompanied my dad to the supermarket.
  3. Baby carrots, prewashed greens, portabella mushrooms.  Corn syrup.  Burritos. Grits.  Vegetarian options as standard at Thai restaurants.
  4. Strangers making small talk.  I suppose this happens in places other than America, but not where we live in Switzerland.
  5. Routinely splitting food items, splitting bills, and wrapping up food to take home at restaurants.
  6. Dependence on the car.  And on having big cars.  Also, the strip malls and big box stores/restaurants that accompany and facilitate this habit.
  7. Jews
  8. Attending university away from home and doing many extracurricular activities there.
  9. Hulu, Pandora, iTunes & Amazon mp3 downloads/movie rentals.  That’s right, these are blocked outside the US.
  10. Clothes shaped like squares.  Or at least, they look boxy and baggy on Seth.

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Aug 02 2009

Jetlag in the USA

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Seth and I are back in the states!  Crazy.  Also it is 6:35 am, and not only have I already showered and dressed, but I am writing a blog post because, well, there isn’t much else to do at this hour.

Some highlights of our last week in Paris:

  • We tried to get out of our apartment building last weekend, only to discover that we were stuck inside the building.  The magnetic electric locking door’s switch stopped working, trapping us inside.  We did, on the other hand, get to meet these cool gay, French, at least one of them Jewish neighbors who were trapped with us.  Eventually somebody from a nearby cafe was called and came to open the door from the outside, where the switch was not broken, and we turned off the electric power to the door so we could get back in later.
  • I needed some  prescription medicine to deal with my not-going-away cold.  After considering the various possibilities of trying to get to a doctor in Paris, having my parents fed ex me a script, just dealing with my cold, etc, we had the bright idea of calling a few pharmacies.  They told us they would accept American scripts.  So we provided a fax number, my dad faxed the prescription over, and voila, the next morning, there it was sitting in the pharmacy near the Yiddish center.  Although I was bracing for high fees when the pharmacist warned me I’d have to pay out of pocket, it was only 4 Euros.  Socialized medicine…or just a cheap drug?
  • We finished our last week of Yiddish.  Seth actually can speak some Yiddish now, and I feel like I can once again speak and remember some grammar, not just read poems.  It was really great to meet that many people who also spoke some Yiddish, to go to workshops and lectures in and on Yiddish, etc, to meet Jews from all over and particularly Francophone, etc.

And now, some first impressions of the United States.  Remember, we haven’t been here from almost a full year:

  • I can speak English to everyone, including custodians and other workers.  And they understand, and they don’t look angry at me for asking them questions.  And the second language on signs is Spanish, not English, so I should aiming for the second row on signs.
  • The supermarket is really overwhelming.  The regular old supermarket in my town has at least one kosher row, a row of organics featuring my favorite cereals and crackers, an aisle with Mexican cheese blends and tortillas, and billions and billions of other rows with who knows what in them.  Also, omg, everything is SO CHEAP.  Whoa.  I was just kind of standing in the supermarket with my dad yesterday looking around in amazement and a guy unpacking boxes was like, “You ok?  Can I help you?”
  • My toilet does not have a low-flow flush option, and the water swirls around in such a strange way when fleshed.  Also, the toilet paper feels all wrong and is the wrong size.
  • I had BOTH HANDS FREE in the shower this morning.  And my good old fragrance free shampoo and soap.
  • It is too cold indoors, but also has far fewer bugs.  Seth and I were really confused as to why the airport was so chilly, at first.

That’s it for now.  I’m looking forward to eating and to seeing lots of people in the coming days!

4 responses so far