The visit up to Oklahoma City and Chicasaw territory had been a spontaneous decision, made possible after I had used my last bit of gas to arrive at my parents’ place with an empty tank of gas, no money for groceries, gas, books, computer repair, or anything else. They had put some gas in my car, and given me enough cash ($100) to get another laptop. The trip up to OK and back had taken two 12 gallon tanks of gas in a car that gets about 40 mpg. It had been yet a breath of fresh air for me to get out and hike and explore a bit.
Anyway, refugee insight. Years of experience have taught me to use one’s last resources to move to situations where resources are available, rather than be completed depleted. I’m sure that I’m not the first person to figure this out, but it is interesting how the crisis always deepens to the point where there are only just enough resources to leave. And then one decides.
We had begun to talk about a budget, and they had asked me to think about it. I decided that I would develop an incentivized structured option plan with earned credits that would translate into a dollar amount that would still place me around the poverty line, considering common values for food stamps, social security, medical allowances, dependents (2 dogs), unemployment, etc.
The Health Option
Regime in French means “diet”. I decided that one of the options that I would have in the budget would be a “health option”, where I would earn credits for:
1) testing my blood sugar 3 times a day, weighing myself, and measuring my blood pressure (1 credit/day).
2) Staying under my recommended daily allowance for calories (1 credit/day). about 1700.
3) Staying under my recommended salt intake (1 credit/day). About 1500 mg.
4) Staying under my recommended cholesterol intake (1 credit/day). About 80 mg.
5) Exercising (1 credit for every 15 minutes of exercise).
6) Brushing teeth twice a day (1 credit/day).
So, there would be a total of about 300 possible health credits that could be earned/month, and each credit would translate into about 20 cents, so this would be earning about $60/month by doing something that I want to be important to myself.
The Environmental Option
For this option, I would earn credits for:
1) Recycling. 100 credits given. Lose 5 credits for every bag of unrecycled trash removed.
2) Fuel efficiency. 100 credits given.
3) Energy efficiency (keeping temperature control, water heating, cooking) to a minimum.
100 credits given. Lose a credit for every 8 hours and degree of temperature control below 78 degrees in the summer, or above 65 in the winter. Lose a credit for every tank of water heated. Lose a credit for every meal cooked. Lose a credit every time an appliance is used (washer/dryer/dishwasher).
4) Purchasing/eating minimally processed food from manufacturers or growers who care about the environment.
100 credits given. Lose 8 credits for every ounce of meat. Earn 1 credit for every 5 organic fruit or vegetables I eat. Earn 1 credit for every 8 oz of water I drink. Lose 1 credit for every packaged food item I eat.
Credits would be earned for:
1) Books read
Earn 5 credits for every book that I read. Earn 5 credits for every scientific or medical paper that I read. Earn 1 credit for asking 10 intelligent/exploratory questions about the research, or lecture. Earn 3 credits for answering them using other people’s work. Earn 3 more credits for trying to design experiments to answer the questions myself.
Earn 1 credit for discovering/documenting an animal or plant in nature. Earn 1 credit for every bird that I identify and learn to recognize its call. Earn 3 credits for synthesizing (writing a page) about cultural/linguistic explorations.
3) Building and Engineering
Earn 10 credits for every program that I write.
Earn 10 credits for every “project” that I undertake and complete.
4) Language proficiency
Earn 1 credit for every language bench that passes with an A on one of my programs. Earn 1 credit for every 60 words of Hebrew that I read.
Earn 1 credit for every math proof that is correct.
Earn 1 credit for every lecture I sit through with intelligent notes or comments on my part.
8) Music and Art
Earn 5 credits for every new piece of music that I master. Earn 20 credits for composing a piece of music. Earn 3 credits for analyzing a piece of music.
Conflicted about whether or not to assign credits to this section. I think that there is charitable work that is simply donation, and charitable work that is physical investment. They might need to be counted differently.
Maybe earn 1 credit for every human rights letter that I write.
Dependent Care Option
Credits would be earned for:
1) Dog walks – 2 credits/15 min. dog walk
2) Dog grooming – 2 credits/dog bath, nail clipping, or coat brushing
3) Dog training or education – 20 credits for every new dog trick that can be trained to be performed 10 times without missing.
4) Dog medical need care
Manual Labor Option
Credits would be earned for doing “difficult work” like cleaning, or landscaping, or building, or trash removal, or car/other machine repair. Work that is traditionally given to immigrants.
8 credits for every hour of cleaning or involved care-giving.
12 credits for every hour of landscaping, farm work, repair work.
Family Option (broader definition of family to include friends)
Credits would be earned for doing things to promote family and individual family member well-being. Credits would be taken away for fighting, or doing things that make family members feel stressed.
1 credit/phone call
15 credits attending a family event
25 credits for hosting a family event that includes family members and friends outside of one’s household.
40 credits for hosting an event that includes people that are only slightly known, or unknown.
lose 10 credits per point for a fight where the severity of the fight is graded from 1-10. 3 might be yelling, 5 might be name-calling, 8 should probably be walking out.
get half the credits back for being the one to apologize first.
So, my Dad thinks I’m going to have to be a full-time accountant to keep track of everything. I’m going to try what I have already tentatively sketched out for a couple of days to see how many credits I earn, before I allocate the other categories, or change some of these.
I guess that at 20 cents a credit, I could strive for 190 credits/day, and still stay under the poverty line. I’m still working on the credit values. It may be that they should be worth more or weighted differently. I guess the way to tell, is to take a really hard and exhausting perfect day, and adjust the number of credits to 190 for this day. And maybe count “day of rest credits” as attending Torah study, services, prayers, Hebrew study, family credits, writing about biblical themes (although from an orthodox point of view, one is not supposed to write on the day of rest either). I still do. So, credits on one of these perfect days would have to add up to 190 even though one is rested.
In math, this is called scaling. I guess that technically, one could consider a rational basis for deciding an average poverty level for the 3 different groups of countries (developed, developing, least developed), and contemplate the problem of living at those poverty levels. One institute in the the US defines the poverty line as 3 times the amount required to sustain oneself with food. Or maybe use another indicator like GNI to set the poverty level of individual countries, scale to that, and decide which country one is living in. There should probably be neighboring country effects in the calculation, as well as some averaging. So, say one has 7 neighbors as a country, one could use the length of the boundary with that neighbor as an individual scaling factor in the neighbor averaging term. And then one has to decide the relative value of neighbor to oneself. The length of the border should probably not be the only term, here. There are political factors as well. Some kind of immigration pressure that corresponds to each country. A really repressive, war-torn, or poor country might have a high immigrant pressure. Just thinking, here.