Today marks the 1st Anniversary of our arrival on US soil and my becoming a legal resident of the United States of America, with all the legal rights to live and work that entails.
It's been an unusual and fun year, and Beth and I are greatly enjoying our life in Eugene. There are lots of things we haven't done yet (e.g. skiing, kayaking) that we still intend to do, mostly held back until we had full health insurance (via Beth's job), but we have plenty of time.
Yesterday I had my annual evaluation at WalMart, and my overall rating of "Exceeds Expectations" results in a 50c an hour payrise starting from 2nd Feb 2011, which will be the anniversary of my start at WalMart, and also our 5th wedding anniversary. 50c may not sound a lot, but it converts to $1,000 a year, a bigger payrise than I ever got year on year in my old London job, and will be very welcome. It's also good to know that I'm doing all the right things as far as management are concerned, and that my efforts have been noticed.
Yesterday President Obama backed down to the Republicans and, as part of a deal to extend unemployment benefits, agreed to retain the "Tax Cuts for the Insanely Wealthy" enacted by Bush in 2001 and 2003. America is wallowing in debt and needs to start to think about paying off some of its creditors, and sadly this isn't going to help. It is astonishing to me that a handful of super-wealthy Republicans can hold the country to ransom like this and get away with it, convincing their supporters that millions retained privately will somehow trickle down into the pockets of the poor and create more jobs. Yup, just like it hasn't been doing for the last 8-10 years. On a more positive note, a number of multi-Billionaires are pledging to give away large chunks of their fortunes to Charities. Once you've got a certain amount of ready cash at your fingertips, multiplying iteself through financial investments, any more is superfluous, and people such as Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) have the wisdom to realise that they can shake out a few millions in loose change and not feel one jot poorer. I applaud their generous actions, and am sure they sleep more soundly at night.
There is a continuing slow upswing in retail sales, as many people, who have for a couple of years managed to tighten their belts, are now feeling like spending more on life's little luxuries. Of course a retail upswing is good for the country, but it's a shame that people have forgotten that saving a little every month is better than spending every last cent.
In another week I will need to add some minutes to my pre-paid cell phone. A year ago, on Beth's advice, I bought a $20 phone and $100 of calling time. I still have $70 of calling time unused, which I can carry over by adding $10 more, and extend my service another 3 months. In comparison one of my colleagues spends $80 a month on her contract phone plan, and many WalMart customers buy a monthly calling card for $30-$45 and think they are being parsimonious. I guess I'm just not a phone person.
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