Why to avoid fake food

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I am not generally a big proponent of "diet food," but on the last weight loss attempt before this one (last year), I did make some forays into the diet food world. One of these forays, Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, was actually pretty good, though I remain suspicious of what exactly is in them. Most of the other things I bought I never even tried.

Fast forward to last night. It's 9:30, I'm at home in my pajamas, and I have an undeniable chocolate craving. Unlike some people, this doesn't happen to me very often, but when it does, it is all I can think about or talk about until it is fed. I ransack the cupboard, looking for something. I am incredibly saddened to find we do not have any of the best brownie mix in the world (Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate, for the uninitiated). What we did have, hanging out in the back of the cupboard, was a No Pudge! fat-free mint brownie mix. Just add 2/3 cup of nonfat vanilla yogurt. Hrm. Well, in the absence of a better option, it's worth a try, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. I don't know what the product of what came out of that box+2/3 cup of incredibly yummy Stonyfield non-fat french vanilla was, but it was certainly not brownies. I was trepidatious when I tried to lick the batter off the mixer paddle and it stung my tongue, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt--maybe it would cook up fine. It did not cook up fine. The cooked result seemed to be a plastic product of some sort. Even moltenly hot, it kept its shape--never a good sign in a brownie. And it tasted like Mr. Clean. Seriously.

Here's the part I don't get, though. The worst thing about these brownies was their complete and utter artificial flavor. It was nearly impossible to believe they came out of my own oven, not a factory. And yet, according to the label, there are no artificial ingredients in the mix. Somehow, the makers of No Pudge! have taken real food products and put them together in such a combination as to make them taste like artificial diet food. Which is, I wager, exactly why they are popular--like Snackwells before them, they taste so artificial that the dieter eating them is easily able to make the distinction between them and something "naughty." Something full of fat and calories. Something real.

The take-home message is the same as always: diet food is a bad idea. The first premise of healthy eating should be to eat food that remembers where it came from, or at least food that came from somewhere you can identify. More that all of the fat and calories and sugar in the world, we should be afraid of food that isn't made out of food. And given this experience, I'll add that we should also be suspicious of food that does seem to be made out of food, but doesn't have the properties food should have. In the case of brownies, those properties rightly include both fat and calories. And that's the way it should be.

Cross-posted at Knife-Wielding Feminists.

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Where next?

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Mark and I had a discussion over the weekend about where we should next call home. This is all completely dependent on where he can find a good post-doc, of course, but as it is too early to know about that, he asked me what cities appealed to me. I honestly haven't given this much thought, so I decided to do some research.

Since I can safely start with knowing that I don't want to live anywhere too small, my starting list will be the 50 largest U.S. cities. The 50 biggest cities in the U.S., in order of size, are:

  1. New York, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Houston, TX
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. San Diego, CA
  8. San Antonio, TX
  9. Dallas, TX
  10. San Jose, CA
  11. Detroit, MI
  12. Indianapolis, IN
  13. Jacksonville, FL
  14. San Francisco, CA
  15. Columbus, OH
  16. Austin, TX
  17. Memphis, TN
  18. Baltimore, MD
  19. Fort Worth, TX
  20. Charlotte, NC
  21. El Paso, TX
  22. Milwaukee, WI
  23. Seattle, WA
  24. Boston, MA
  25. Denver, CO
  26. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY
  27. Washington, D.C.
  28. Nashville-Davidson, TN
  29. Las Vegas, NV
  30. Portland, OR
  31. Oklahoma City, OK
  32. Tuscon, AZ
  33. Albuquerque, NM
  34. Long Beach, CA
  35. New Orleans, LA
  36. Cleveland, OH
  37. Fresno, CA
  38. Sacramento, CA
  39. Kansas City, MO
  40. Virginia Beach, VA
  41. Mesa, AZ
  42. Atlanta, GA
  43. Omaha, NE
  44. Oakland, CA
  45. Tulsa, OK
  46. Miami, FL
  47. Honolulu, HA
  48. Minneapolis, MN
  49. Colorado Springs, CO
  50. Arlington, TX
My first step, obviously, is to remove Austin, as that's where we are now. I then take that list and cut all of the ones that I know have weather I could not handle, I end up with:
  1. New York, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Houston, TX
  4. Philadelphia, PA
  5. Phoenix, AZ
  6. San Diego, CA
  7. San Antonio, TX
  8. Dallas, TX
  9. San Jose, CA
  10. Indianapolis, IN
  11. Jacksonville, FL
  12. San Francisco, CA
  13. Columbus, OH
  14. Memphis, TN
  15. Baltimore, MD
  16. Fort Worth, TX
  17. Charlotte, NC
  18. El Paso, TX
  19. Seattle, WA
  20. Denver, CO
  21. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY
  22. Washington, D.C.
  23. Nashville-Davidson, TN
  24. Las Vegas, NV
  25. Portland, OR
  26. Oklahoma City, OK
  27. Tuscon, AZ
  28. Albuquerque, NM
  29. Long Beach, CA
  30. New Orleans, LA
  31. Cleveland, OH
  32. Fresno, CA
  33. Sacramento, CA
  34. Kansas City, MO
  35. Virginia Beach, VA
  36. Mesa, AZ
  37. Atlanta, GA
  38. Oakland, CA
  39. Tulsa, OK
  40. Miami, FL
  41. Honolulu, HA
  42. Colorado Springs, CO
  43. Arlington, TX
My next cut is places I have been and know I could not live in and remain sane. This leaves me with:
  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. Houston, TX
  3. Philadelphia, PA
  4. Phoenix, AZ
  5. San Diego, CA
  6. San Antonio, TX
  7. San Jose, CA
  8. Indianapolis, IN
  9. Jacksonville, FL
  10. San Francisco, CA
  11. Columbus, OH
  12. Memphis, TN
  13. Baltimore, MD
  14. Charlotte, NC
  15. Seattle, WA
  16. Denver, CO
  17. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY
  18. Washington, D.C.
  19. Nashville-Davidson, TN
  20. Portland, OR
  21. Oklahoma City, OK
  22. Tuscon, AZ
  23. Albuquerque, NM
  24. Long Beach, CA
  25. New Orleans, LA
  26. Kansas City, MO
  27. Virginia Beach, VA
  28. Mesa, AZ
  29. Atlanta, GA
  30. Oakland, CA
  31. Tulsa, OK
  32. Miami, FL
  33. Honolulu, HA
  34. Colorado Springs, CO
  35. Arlington, TX
If I next weed out places I've heard a lot of bad things about and have no personal evidence otherwise, I then have:
  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. Philadelphia, PA
  3. San Diego, CA
  4. San Antonio, TX
  5. San Jose, CA
  6. Indianapolis, IN
  7. Jacksonville, FL
  8. San Francisco, CA
  9. Memphis, TN
  10. Baltimore, MD
  11. Charlotte, NC
  12. Seattle, WA
  13. Denver, CO
  14. Louisville-Jefferson County, KY
  15. Washington, D.C.
  16. Nashville-Davidson, TN
  17. Portland, OR
  18. Long Beach, CA
  19. New Orleans, LA
  20. Mesa, AZ
  21. Atlanta, GA
  22. Oakland, CA
  23. Miami, FL
  24. Honolulu, HA
A final weed, to take out places that just do not in any way appeal to me, for one reason or another, leaves me with:
  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. Philadelphia, PA
  3. San Diego, CA
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. Memphis, TN
  6. Baltimore, MD
  7. Charlotte, NC
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Nashville-Davidson, TN
  10. Portland, OR
  11. New Orleans, LA
  12. Atlanta, GA
  13. Oakland, CA
That seems like a fairly reasonable list to start from, I think. What do you think?

Edited to add:
I just did a cost of living comparison between Austin and my list of cities. Things don't look good. The calculator showed me what percentage of salary increase I would need in order to maintain the same cost of living:

  1. Los Angeles, CA +37%
  2. Philadelphia, PA +14%
  3. San Diego, CA +36%
  4. San Francisco, CA +52%
  5. Memphis, TN -13%
  6. Baltimore, MD +15%
  7. Charlotte, NC +4%
  8. Seattle, WA +29%
  9. Nashville-Davidson, TN -9%
  10. Portland, OR +9%
  11. New Orleans, LA -7%
  12. Atlanta, GA +17%
  13. Oakland, CA +47%

It ain't pretty.

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Blogs to groove on

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Not much with the writing lately, am I?

Until I get my wordiness back, here are some other blog entries I'm grooving on:

I will get my head together to write something soon. Until then, happy reading!

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Ecological footprint

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Courtesy of The Princess, I just took the Ecological Footprint Quiz. If everyone consumed what I do, we'd need 3.5 planets. My total ecological footprint is 4 acres for food, 2.5 for mobility, 4.4 for shelter, and 4.7 for good/services, for a total of 16 acres. The average American's footprint is 24 acres, but there are only 4.5 biologically productive acres per person available on the planet.

Gives you a lot to think about.

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Letter to Target

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In case anybody was wondering what to say, here is what I'm saying:

Target Executive Corporation
TFS 1AX
PO Box 9350
Minneapolis, MN 55440

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to inform the Target Corporation of the loss of my business. I have been a Target shopper for over ten years, and in recent years have shopped at Target nearly exclusively for many food items, personal care products, house wares, clothes, etc. I estimate that my household spent about $5,000 at Target last year. Recently, I started filling my several hundred dollars per month worth of prescriptions at Target. I have always been very happy with Target's selection, prices, and customer service. I am sad to say that all of my business will cease immediately.

Target's recent decision to allow pharmacists to not fill customers' prescriptions for Plan B irrevocably changes all my previous good will towards your corporation and your stores. I am incensed that the Target Corporation finds it acceptable to allow its pharmacists to discriminate against women in this way. No pharmacist should have a right to refuse a patient a legal prescription. Target's excuses for this policy, that it "protects the civil liberties" of your employees, leaves me even more angry. How will you protect these "civil liberties" when you hire someone who doesn't want to sell condoms or Viagra? How about someone who thinks Harry Potter books are Satanic and doesn't want to stock the shelves with them, or ring them up at the register? It is clear that this explanation is simply an excuse to allow discrimination against women, and that is something I absolutely refuse to support.

I would love to be able to resume my business with Target. However, until this policy is reversed and a public apology issued, I will not. While it may well be more expensive and more inconvenient for me to take my business elsewhere, I will continue to shop at other stores rather than Target until I hear that these actions have been taken. I will encourage my friends and family to do the same, and several of them have already agreed to boycott your stores. It is my understanding that other people all across the United States are taking or preparing to take the same action. Coming into the holiday season, I am sure many of us would have been making major expenditures at your stores, and due to this discriminatory, anti-woman policy, we will now be making those expenditures elsewhere.

I am fiercely disappointed in Target for enforcing this policy, and for issuing such a blatantly false explanation for it. I sincerely hope that the economic consequences of your discriminatory behavior haunt you this Christmas season, and I will do everything within my personal power to make sure that is the case.

Sincerely,

Grace Mitchell

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The Man in Black

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Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

Today is the opening day of Walk the Line, a movie (and, apparently, the rest of the country) am very much looking forward to seeing. I doubt I'll make it to the theater tonight (I had a very hard night last night and I'm exhausted), but I'm hoping to go tomorrow or Sunday. On this auspicious occasion, I thought I'd share with you some of my feelings about Johnny Cash.

I love Johnny Cash. I admire Johnny Cash. I mourned when Johnny Cash died. Johnny Cash has long been among the only music my boyfriend and I can agree on (and that's been true for several boyfriends in a row now). Johnny Cash is the epitome of cool. Johnny Cash's "Hurt" video made me less afraid to age. But it actually goes well beyond that, well beyond Cash's second incarnation as a post-country alt-hipster. It goes back home.

It goes back to my mom, and my stepdad, and the music I grew up with. The core of this music, as I remember it, consisted of what I now know is the very best of classic country music: my mom's personal favorite, and mine as well, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and, of course, Johnny Cash (with a healthy bit of Steve Goodman, John Prine, and Guy Clark thrown in, because when it really comes down to it, mom is more folk than she is country). We played these men on 8-tracks in the big, dusty, black late-70s Chevrolet my mom drove before she moved into the minivan class. I knew the words to songs like "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "Folsom Prison Blues" well before I could have possibly grasped their subject matter, and I vividly remember bouncing into town on worn out shocks, singing "Mama Tried" along with the scratchy car radio. Neither I nor my mother has the best voice, but what we lack in tune we make up for in volume. And in love.

I remember flipping through my mom's albums, and the ones I wanted to play again and again as a kid. The Outlaws. Waylon & Willie. Live at Folsom Prison. Best of Kristofferson. I loved Cash's booming voice and Willie's smooth one, and it took me many more years to realize that Kris Kristofferson really doesn't have much of a voice at all. I really believed Waylon was a cowboy, and I was more impressed than scandalized when somebody told me The Hag had spent time in the penitentiary. Looking back on it now, I doubt my parents intended me to see these men as heroes, but I certainly did.

And then I grew up a little bit, and figured out how massively uncool country music was, and switched allegiances. And as I developed my own tastes, I found new heroes. The first bunch were more or less throw-aways (there isn't much good you can say for Axl Rose), but I still stand by my love for Kurt Cobain and Ani DiFranco, and still listen to both of their albums. In secret, though, in the car by myself, I never stopped tuning the radio to stations playing country music. Country had mostly turned to pop by then, so mostly it was the same crap as on the other stations, just with a cowboy hat, but occasionally one of those old songs would come on, and I'd sing along just like I had with my mom. But never in front of anybody.

In college I first heard Johnny Cash in the pool hall, and it slowly dawned on me that he'd been dubbed cool. But this was none of the cowboy I'd learned to love as a child, this was the sneering, coked up Cash I'd somehow not seen. No wonder he was cool--he looked like country Iggy Pop. Still, the songs were the same, and it was good to be able to listen to them in public again.

Finally, about the time Cash started putting out records with Rick Rubin, I'd come to my own enough that it no longer mattered what the verdict on Johnny Cash's coolness was--I was getting back into the music I'd loved all along, once again hearing the steel guitar and singing along to songs I'd now known the lyrics to for nearly 20 years. So of course I bought the records, and I was blown away by what I'd been missing. Now an old man, there was a beauty and grace and vulnerability in Cash's voice that he'd never had before. The songs he chose came from all over the map, and everything sounded so beautiful, so brilliant, and so brittle, so fragile.

Which, by that point, he was. While I'd been preoccupied with being a teenager and then a young adult, Johnny Cash had gotten old. Waylon Jennings had died. Kris Kristofferson had turned from the blue-eyed sex symbol of some of my earliest illicit thoughts to a gray-haired B actor. The first time I saw the "Hurt" video, I bawled my eyes out, a little bit for my own early-20s newfound fear of aging, but mostly for the old man in the video, a man who sounded a little bit like the outlaw I remembered, but mostly just looked like an old man.

One day I looked up and he's pushin' eighty
He's got brown tobacco stains all down his chin
Well to me he was a hero of this country
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?

Really, though, I realized upon further viewings, and upon listening to the song over and over again, there was nothing to cry about. This man had lived an amazing life, had been a part of an amazing love, and had carried on, almost til his dying day, with making his music. And making it well. Unlike so many musicians who wash up, who forget, after years of fame, why they do what they do, Johnny Cash continued until his last recording to make real music, the kind real people listen to, and to make it as well as anybody ever has or likely ever will.

Having done a good bit of studying American history, there aren't that many American legends left for me to believe in. I know JFK was a womanizer and a liar, and that no matter how sympathetic his portrayal by Kevin Costner, Wyatt Earp mostly just liked to kill people. I have a hard time sympathizing with Custer's last stand or thinking Lewis & Clark were heroes. Marilyn Monroe and James Dean weren't very smart; Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin were alcoholics, and the more of those I know, the less like legends they look. Johnny Cash, however, stands out in my mind as an American icon. This isn't because I'm not aware of the dark periods in Cash's life--I am--but because he never, to my knowledge, pretended to be anything but a man. A flawed, American man. And there aren't enough of those left.

It may just be chance that Johnny Cash--and the whole passle of American poet-cowboy-outlaw-singers he represents--speaks to me like he does. It may have something to do with growing up in the West, where such things are glorified, or with my own somewhat rebellious spirit. But it's good for us all, I think, to have something or someone speak to us once in a while. It's good to be able to believe in something or someone, no matter how silly. And it's good to have these things or people as links to the parts of our own lives that we are removed from. I still listen to old country songs, and I hear my mother's voice on them more often than not. When I look at pictures of Johnny Cash, I see our shared Native American ancestry in the set, square jaw that looks slightly like my grandmother's. And I don't just miss him, I miss her. I miss six year-old me, singing along to songs I couldn't have understood. And, maybe just for a minute, I'm her again. A piece of American history.

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Me+Target: The End of an Affair

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Nyarly and Portia have both written excellent posts recently about the evil of Target, so I won't go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that they've proved themselves to be profoundly unwilling to protect the reproductive rights of women by allowing their pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Emergency Contraception. While this may not be unusual, it is completely unacceptable.

And so, Target and I are breaking up.

I've thought for several days about writing this post/making my commitment to stop shopping at Target public, because I am going to miss Target like I've never missed a lover or a friend. Target has been a constant part of my life for years, and I'm there at least weekly. I fucking love Target. Probably 80% of my discretionary spending is done at Target. Quitting Target cold-turkey is going to be really fucking hard.

But it has to be done. As a feminist, as a woman, and as someone who at least tries to be a concientious consumer, I cannot contribute my money to a corporation that refuses to defend my basic right to get the medicines prescribed to me. So I'm not going to. And I am going to write a letter to Target, detailing how much money I spend there and how I won't be doing so any longer because of this policy. If Target reverses this policy and issues a public apology, I'll reconsider. If not, I will find somewhere else to buy my worthless plastic crap. It's that simple.

This is the way in which the free market is democractic, folks. We vote with our dollars. I'm not personally a big fan of this system, and it would certainly be easier just to pretend it doesn't matter what Target's policies are--after all, I don't need EC. But it does matter, and taking a hit to the bottom line is the only way this or any other bullshit policy is ever going to be reconsidered by Target or any other bigass corporation. So we have to put our money where our mouths are and refuse to contribute to our own oppression. And, no matter how tough it is, that's exactly what I intend to do.

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Toy of the Day

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This super-fun bit of silliness came from The Princess.


GRrACBear, wooden letter E

Go here to make your own.

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iTunes: The Meme

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Swiped from Frog.

Question: What do you think of me, ITunes?
Answer: "Have I Told You Lately," The Chieftains with Van Morrison

Question: Will I have a happy life?
Answer: "Walking on Sunshine," Dolly Parton

Question: What do my friends really think of me?
Answer: "Is There Anybody Here?" Phil Ochs

Question: Do people secretly lust after me?
Answer: "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," Emmylou Harris

Question: What should I do with my life?
Answer: "Heart Shaped Bruise," Elvis Costello & the Imposters

Question: Why must life be so full of pain?
Answer: "Rain King," The Counting Crows

Question: How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?
Answer: "This Box Contains..." Ani DiFranco

Question: Will I ever have children?
Answer: "A Hymn for the Exiled," Anais Mitchell

Question: Will I die happy?
Answer: "Moment of Forgiveness," Indigo Girls

Question: Can you give me some advice?
Answer: "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," Nanci Griffith

Question: What do you think happiness is?
Answer: "Roses and Hats," Laura Kemp

Question: Am I complete freak?
Answer: "Controversy," Prince

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I Have Chosen to Stay and FightTwisty has a brilliant review of Margaret Cho's new book-and-DVD combo on her site, and that is what got me thinking about writing this, though it has been in my head for some time. While I haven't read the book, I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, I did see a live performance of Cho's Assasin tour (which is what the DVD is), so I am pretty familiar with what Twisty's talking about. And my reaction was very much like her's.

I think Margaret Cho is funny. But I think she used to be funnier, and I think her funniest bits now are the ones that happen when she stops trying so hard to be political, stops pandering to her gay male audience, and tells her own truth. Unfortunately, at least when I saw her, these moments were few and far between.

I have a vague memory of the first time I saw Margaret Cho, doing standup on TV. I still lived at home, so I guess it would have been the mid-90s. She was talking about a tour she took through the South, and said something about southern weather and racism, along the lines of: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity, and it's not the hate, it's the stupidity." It was brilliant. She went on to make fun of her mother, and I laughed until I was on the floor. Later, probably in I'm the One That I Want, she took on the celebrity machine that wanted her to lose weight and take "Asian" lessons in order to play herself on her short-lived sitcom. That was funny. And it was more than funny--it was personal, it was political, it was insightful. I miss that Margaret Cho.

In contrast, her Assasin show seemed mostly to be about the fabulousness of gay men. While I certainly have no problem with gay men, they're men, and frankly, I could use fewer men in my entertainment. More than that, though, I was uncomfortable with the underlying misogyny of the things Cho did say about women (most notable was the Laura-Bush's-pussy-tastes-like-Lysol comment--I really could have lived without that one). If these comments had been in the context of a woman-focused show, they'd have been no issue to me, but because they were pretty much all Cho seemed to have to say about women, they rubbed me completely wrong.

Twisty says that Cho is "an Air America personality, not a militant." I couldn't agree more with that statement. There is something uncomfortably trendy about Cho's politics, and it leaves me with the same discomfort as the rest of the Air America crowd does. Which pains me to say, because these are folks--particularly Cho and Janeane Garafalo--for whom I had tremendous respect before. I have absolutely no issue with celebrities taking on politics--in fact, I think it's great--but when they seem to be using politics to further their celebrity, rather than using their celebrity to further causes they believe in, I get a little bit itchy.

To compound my distaste, I came upon a blurb in some entertainment rag the other day announcing the production of Cho's new sitcom. That's cool, I thought. Then I read on, and saw how proud Cho was said to be about her recent weight loss. Now, this blurb could well have been bullshit (and I can't for the life of me remember where I read it), but if it's not, then how short a distance have we come? Didn't Cho already fight this battle? In my mind, her best work has been what she's had to say about this subject, but that doesn't mean I want her to have to go through it again.

I have great admiration for a lot of Margaret Cho's work, and I don't doubt her commitment to at least some of her political causes. However, Cho's words meant more to me before they seemed so constructed. I loved hearing her rail against racial and sexual stereotypes and the body image industry, and I missed that while I was listening to her go on and on about the fabulousness of all her gay male friends. I miss her being about women. There are so few celebrities out there who really seem dedicated to our gender, and it makes me sad to think we may have lost one.

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For these things I am grateful

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I was just thinking about how many things I have to be thankful for, and how seldom I write about them here. I guess 'tis the season for that kind of stuff. Anyway, I know I spend too much time complaining and not enough time rejoicing, both here and in my day-to-day life, so I want to make a little list of things for which I am very, very grateful:

  • Baths. I am grateful that I have the time, the safe living space, the clean water, etc. that allows me to take a hot bath every night if I want to (and, several nights a week, I do).
  • Mark. There is no way I can ever describe how lucky I am to have someone who knows me so well, loves me so much, respects me so much, and shares my life. I am incredibly grateful for Mark.
  • My house. I am really grateful to have such a nice, comfortable living space, and to have almost no stressors when I am at home. My house truly is a refuge, and having lived without that, I can't overemphasize how important it is.
  • My health. I complain a lot about my health maladies, particularly the allergy issues and the depression, but really, it could be so much worse, and I am so grateful to have a strong, healthy body and mind.
  • My job. OK, so I really don't much like my job--that's true. However, I recognize that I am damn lucky to have it. It requires little of me and pays well, and it gives me the opportunity to do something that I am good at and to develop some skills/experience that may be useful later.
  • Leo. Leo is actually what started this. I was brushing him earlier, and telling him what a complete gift from God he is. Especially given what happened with Chance, and how fragile Mark and I were, I really feel that Leo was the perfect dog at the perfect time, and it doesn't stretch my mind to imagine that someone sent him for us, and sent us for him. It doesn't get any better than that.
  • My friends. I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are such fantastic human beings, and I am blessed to have been allowed into the lives of each and every one of them. I got a surprise email today from a friend from college to whom I haven't spoken in some time, and it made my whole day. Then, just now, my email notify let me know an email had come in from my best high school friend. Getting email from my friends makes me so fucking happy.
  • Coffee. Maybe it's evil and consumerist of me, but I am really beginning to appreciate a nice foofy coffee. So sue me.
  • Veteran's Day. It's been kind of a tough week at work, and today basically sucked, and I am so grateful that tomorrow is a holiday and I don't have to go in. I don't even care that it is unpaid.
  • Girls' Night. Every Thursday, S. and I have Girls' Night. We generally go to a movie, though we once in a while see a concert or go to dinner or something else. Tonight, S. couldn't make it. Not that I haven't had a lovely evening with Mark, but I am definitely feeling how much I appreciate the weekly night out with S.

There is much more, but Atticus (for whom I am also grateful) is biting my fingers, so this will have to do for now.

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In which I get my crafty on

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I used to be very into handbags. Recently, I have switched my femmey obsession to earrings. I just love earrings. Love, love, love them. And as they are relatively inexpensive and do not take up much space, I have acquired quite a few pair fairly quickly.

Which has presented me with a problem.

As you may already have gathered, I have a bit of an issue with clutter and disorganization. More than a bit of an issue, actually. It makes me homicidally angry. Seriously. I just can't deal with it. It fucks up my whole life. So, my books are sorted into fiction and non, then alphabetized or sorted by category, the clothes in my closet are sorted by type of garment and then by color, etc.

messy jewelry boxThe problem, then, was how to house my earrings. I had them in a jewelry box, which is what I presume is meant to house such baubles. For the reasons you can see, this was not a viable solution.

messy jewelry box closer up Not only does it look horrible, with everything all jumbled together like that, but it makes it damn-near impossible to find two, matching earrings, especially in the morning.

So I needed a solution, and I headed, of course, to my local crafts store. My thought was that I'd get one of those plastic boxes crafty folks use to store their crafty stuff in, decompage it, and store one pair of earrings in each little compartment. This is how I've been keeping my necklaces, and it seems to work just fine. I'd just need something with smaller compartments.

After looking around the craft store and ascertaining that something with enough small compartments to hold my crap a) does not exist and b) would be too large if it did exist, I arrived upon plan b:

Supplies needed:
1 wooden embroidery hoop, sized appropriately for your number of earrings (I used a 12-inch hoop)
1/2 yard tulle, in the color of your choice (for a different look, lace or burlap or another porous fabric would also work)

Instructions:
1. Put the tulle in the embroidery hoop and tighten it until it is taunt and secure.
2. Cut off excess tulle around the edges.
3. Apply earrings.

earring holderAs you can see, what you end up with is a place to hang all of your dangling gems, where they will remain paired and you can see them all at once, and where they will look nice and orderly. This thrills me to no end.

Note: I am in no way saying that I came up with this project myself. It is quite likely that I read about it on Get Crafty two years ago and it stuck in my head or something. However, if it did come from someone else, I have no idea who that would be, so if I'm ripping this off, I'm very, very sorry.

Total project cost: $1.02
Total project time: about 15 minutes, including earring application
Bonus: this gives you a motivation to clean out your earrings and get rid of all of the ones that don't have mates or are just stupid looking

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In which I continue to be pissed off

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So that post I wrote down there about Dr. B.'s boots? I didn't get all of my reasons in for being pissed off. I have to add something:

It irritates me TO NO END that people think that because you have, at one time, be that time near or far from the present, been dead broke/complained about being dead broke/asked for financial help or advice that you are forevermore disallowed from spending any money in ways that other people have not approved of as "necessities." There are two reasons this bugs me:

#1: Being broke is a transitory state. Having been broke before does not mean I am broke now, and not being able to afford Thing X before does not mean that I can't afford Thing Y now.

#2: Splurges and treats should not only be morally OK for rich people. Those of us who have "better uses for our money" or even don't have the money at all, should not be looked down upon for purchasing the occaisonal treat. It's Puritanical. Yes, it would be great if nobody were driven by any material wants and we all spent only what was necessary for our organic food and our union-made clothes and our energy-efficient housing and gave everything else to charities, but people, we live in the consumerist capital of all time. It's going to effect us. Once in a while, we're going to want to buy something JUST BECAUSE WE WANT IT. Even if we're poor. This doesn't make us less worthy, it doesn't make us bad people, it makes us just like everyone fucking else. So get over it.

A commenter on my previous post said that she "felt swindled" by Dr. B.'s buying expensive boots, because Dr. B. has, in the past, asked for financial contributions on her blog. This bugs me for a couple of reasons. The first is that I think Dr. B. has every right to ask for financial contributions on her blog, regardless of her personal income. Her blog is a service, a piece of entertainment, and if she wants to ask people to pay for using it, that's her right. It's people's right to refuse, of course, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking. Especially when, if I am recalling correctly, the only occaison on which Dr. B. requested money for herself was when those funds were allocated to redesign the site. Secondly, this complaint once again ignores the temporality of being broke. Having been broke once does not make one broke now. It's that simple.

Another commenter suggests that judgements on other people's spending is not a problem that is limited to women. That's probably true, but I'd still argue that men are not generally treated like foolish, selfish children when they plan a purchase. Not to mention, excessive shopping (especially, good Lord, for shoes!) is a stereotype attributed to women. Women are the ones with the reputation for not being able to keep their wallets closed when faced with a great pair of shoes, or a great bag, or whatever. This dovetails nicely with another favorite stereotype, the one where women are too impulsive/weak/stupid to take care of themselves and really should be all too happy to accept "well-meaning" advice. And anybody who thinks they haven't internalized a little bit of those stereotypes when they are criticizing a woman's spending patterns should probably think again.

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What do I need?

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This bit of silliness is from Rahel over at Going Dutch.

Instructions: Google "*your first name* needs" and see what the Internet thinks you need.

Grace needs:

  • to see what she has helped cause (um, globally?)
  • no help to perservere (wow, that's pretty self-sufficient sounding)
  • to find her will (hrm...find her willpower, maybe...)
  • a new home (I do?)
  • a shrink (yeah, like that's news)

  • a lodger to help restore her house (that will be news to Mark...)
  • to be reading from books (to read from fewer books would actually be better)
  • to learn how to be a little more graceful (this is a lost cause)
  • to touch up (I like this, it's mysterious--touch up what?)
  • to find someone (news to me)
  • to access a file given with a relative pathname (right, but that would be, like, work)
  • external libraries (as opposed to internal ones?)
  • to be recalled (because her parts are defective)
  • more one on one time to be properly trained (many would agree with this)

  • to be a star (I'll say!)
  • no such help (not sure what this one even means)
  • a computing platform that supports Java (I think I have one, actually)
  • a man (um, no)
  • to be exercised (true)
  • to close down shop (I think not!)
  • that human foundation (I'm pretty sure I'm human down to the foundation)
  • new servants (ha!)
  • to be cultivated (it's gonna be an uphill battle)

  • as much healing as a Pilgrim (are Pilgrims in particular need of healing?)
  • to hide a terrible secret (makes me sound very mysterious...)
  • to stop worrying about Chloe (the only Chloe I know is an 8-lb Yorkie-Poo--I don't spend much time worrying about her)
  • to be read and taken to heart (in an ideal world, that's what the blog is for)
  • to find some class (again, a long uphill battle)
  • Tender Loving Care (I'm actually pretty good in that department)
  • to assemble a subcommittee (not if we have to have meetings)
  • to see *everything* (no shit)
  • to find out fast (again, true)

  • an assistant (probably wouldn't hurt, but man I'd be a pain to work for)
  • to be experienced (this would certainly help with the job hunt)
  • constant care (I don't think so, but Mark would likely disagree)
  • help with the simplest chores (only if it involves cooking)
  • a Guide (like a guide to life?)
  • big money (sure!)
  • to be seen and felt (definitely)
  • a family committed to immediate obedience training (OK, that one is just funny)
  • immortality (not really a big desire of mine)

  • our cooperation (that would indeed make things easier)
This meme rules. You all should totally do it.

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Justification

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I have been reading with great interest some conversations over at Dr. B's regarding her desire to purchase some very stylish, but expensive, boots. Many of the good doctor's readers felt that the boots were not a justifiable purchase, either because they high-heeled nature was not appropriate for snow, because they were too expensive, or both. Some readers even queried as to how she planned to pay for the boots, were she to buy them.

Y'all, this pissed me right off.

Dr. B. is a grown, self-supporting woman. And while she did ask for opinions on her possible sexy boot purchase, it seems to me like overkill that what she got back were several dozen judgemental busybodies, voicing their great concern over the practicality of her footware and her spending habits. As if Dr. B herself was not more in tune with both her checking account balance (or credit card balance, or whatever) and her ability to balance on high heels than her readers?

Does anybody do this to men? When a guy wants to buy something, do his family and friends pepper him with "Will you really use that?" and "Is that really practical?" and "Can't you get something similar for less?" When a guy says he is thinking of treating himself to something that may be not completely practical, but is certainly well-deserved, is it met with consternations about his financial responsibilities and how there are better uses for his money? Not in my experience.

Basically, it comes back to people thinking women are children who need to be instructed on proper use of their own funds and proper ways to clothe their own bodies, or thinking that women's assets don't really belong to them, and women shouldn't have any use for money or material things anyway, fueled as we are by our desire to have babies and take care of men. Dr. B. didn't ask her readers to take up a collection and buy her those boots (though let's be honest--we would have done it). She wasn't after any kind of handout. She was considering treating herself. But women aren't supposed to do that. Women--particulary women with children--aren't supposed to splurge on great boots for themselves, particularly fancy, high-heeled boots. It's not self-sacrificing enough.

In part, this is a personal issue to me--I like to buy nice things for myself, and I spend too much and save too little. My spending is, at times (and yeah, now is one of those times) , a problem. I know this, and it's something I am working on. However, I am totally adamant that those are decisions I get to make for myself, and I should get to make them without judgement coming from every corner. Whether or not you agree with my spending, I am a grown up, and I expect to be respected as one.

None of this is to say that I'm advocating mindless consumerism--I'm not. However, I've been reading Dr. B. for long enough to know that she does not spend her every waking moment thinking about what she's going to buy next (or if she does, then her blog has a ghost writer). She's a brilliant woman, she's teaching, she's raising her kid, and if she wants to buy herself some fancy-ass boots, more power to her. Furthermore, how she plans to walk in snow in them and how she plans to pay for them are both her business, and not something that she probably needs a chorus of naysayers about. I certainly wouldn't.

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What are you doing this weekend?

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My plans mostly include the usual--laundry, homework, etc. One thing I am excited about, though, is that I plan to hit the Art from the Streets sale tomorrow. Art from the Streets is this amazing program they have in Austin, run through a homeless shelter, where homeless/near homeless folks create art and they have a yearly sale to benefit the shelter. I think it's a wonderful idea, but I haven't ever been able to make the sale. Inspired by an entry a week or two or three ago by Karen (scroll down to October 27), I have really been wanting to get some original art up in my house. I know I want to buy a piece by Darryl Freeman, but getting something from Art from the Streets would also be wonderful.

So, what are you doing this weekend?

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Four for Friday

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Q1 - Halloween: Did trick-or-treater's come to your house this year? If so, approximately how many came by? Was this year's number higher or lower than you've had in previous years, and what did you give them? We had about 40 this year, which is fewer than last year, but not by a lot. Our bowl contained: Mounds, Kit Kats, Airheads, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and Sugar Babies. So hopefully something for everybody.

Q2 - Allergies: Do you have allergies? If so, what are you allergic to? If you're not allergic to anything, is there anything you wish you were allergic to? This is such a funny question for me. As I've mentioned, I'm allergic to damn near everything. My most extreme allergies are to dust, cedar pollen, and grass, but I'm also allergic to most molds and pollens, several trees, dogs, cats, horses, cockroaches, walnuts, several antibiotics, Codeine, bees...

Q3 - Organic Food: The organic food market in the United States is projected to reach a value of $30.7 billion by the year 2007. According to one recent report, close to 40 percent of the U.S. population now uses organic products on a daily basis. Are you included in that 40 percent figure... do you intentionally buy organic foods or drinks? If so, what are you buying? If not, why? We make an effort to buy organic, but are more vigilant about some things than others. We always buy organic milk and to buy the rest of our dairy (cream, yogurt, butter, etc.) organic as well. We buy mostly organic vegetables. I believe Mark buys grass-fed, free range meat and poultry, but I'm not sure if it's actually certifed organic or not. The only things that I don't really make an effort to go organic on are things like cereals, rice, pasta, etc.

Q4 - Television: Which TV shows from the past would you like to see back on television and why?I mostly just want shows that are on hiatus, like The Wire, The Shield, and Entourage, to be back on with new espisodes. A few months ago, I would have lobbied for a return of Tony Bourdain's show on The Food Network, but now he has No Reservation on The Travel Network, which is even better. The other thing I want is for shows that used to be good but now suck to be good again (the best example for this would be The West Wing). But really I don't have time to watch that much TV, so it's just as well than none of these things happen.

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Depression in dog food

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My co-worker brought this ad in to share with me yesterday, and it amused me so much, I have to share it with all of you. Tell me, does this depressed-ass dog make you want to buy his variety of food?

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Meme the first: What's in your pockets/purse?

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Today, I will likely do several memes. This one is taken from Bitch, Ph.D.:

Erudite Redneck wants to know what's in your pockets. Being as I am a femmey woman, I tend not to carry things in my pockets, so in the interests of equal time, here's the list of things in my purse.

  1. A paperback book, The Working Poor: Invisible in America
  2. An allergy shot receipt
  3. A pot of Cake Kiss lip gloss
  4. A Zyrtec
  5. A blue pen
  6. A black pen
  7. Sunglasses
  8. Keys
  9. Cell phone
  10. My calendar
  11. A National Security Series lecture brochure attached to my calendar with a mechanical pencil
  12. A small notebook
  13. My wallet
  14. A coin purse with two tampons, nail clippers, and tweezers in it
  15. A mini lint roller
  16. A generic asprin bottle with generic Advil and migraine pills in it
  17. Two tubes of chapstick, one Cool Cherry Softlips, one from my dentist
  18. A Starbucks receipt
  19. 20 pennies, 3 nickles, 3 dimes, 4 quarters

I should really carry less shit.

Your turn. What's in your pockets and/or purse?

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Blog advertising

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(Sidenote: Do you pronounce it "ad-ver-tize-ment" or "ad-ver-tiz-ment"? I use the latter pronounciation, which makes no sense given my linguistic heritage. I dunno why.)

So several of my favorite blogs have recently started sporting ads. Bitch, Ph.D. is one. Dooce, who wrote a post about it the other day, is another. First, not that anyone needs my permission, but I'd like to go on record saying that I have absolutely no problem with that. I can ignore the ads, and I am all for these fantastic women being compensated for their writing. I am also firmly of the belief that since we're fucking surrounded by advertising anyway, whether we want to be or not, we may as well use it to our advantage whenever we can.

What I don't get, though, is how running these ads is helping the bloggers. Do y'all get paid just to have them up there? Is it based on hits? Do the ads actually have to be clicked on for your to get paid? Dooce says she's supporting her family with her blog--how is that possible? And, more importantly, how can I help? If I actually need to click on an ad every time I read a post in order for the blogger to get paid, I can certainly do that, but I need instructions!

I saw this on Emilin's blog the other day. Is it for real? Does it have something to do with this question?


My blog is worth $9,032.64.
How much is your blog worth?

I'm very confused.

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It depends what you mean by "forced"

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Does anyone else, when they read that the Democrats "forced" the Senate into closed session, picture the bank robbers in presidential masks from Point Break busting into the Senate and slamming the doors shut?

Maybe that's just me.

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Tired

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I have been awake since 3 o'clock this morning. I mean really awake, not half-sleep. So awake that sometime after 5, I just gave up, got out of bed, and went to the gym.

This is happening a lot lately. I sleep OK for a couple of hours (though last night I didn't even get that, waking up 2-3 times an hour between 11:30 and 3), then I'm awake off and on for a couple of hours, then I'm just awake. It sucks, and it concerns me, because I've had very bad bouts of insomnia before (my first year in college was nearly intolerable). I've slept so well for so long, I can't figure out where this is coming from. My caffeine intake has not increased nor gotten any later in the day. The drugs I am taking ought to have the opposite effect. Exercise also should have the opposite effect.

Any ideas?

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The ghosts of costumes past

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In honor of yesterday's holiday, Wendy over at Pound shared recollections of some of her past Halloween costumes. I had so much fun reading them, I decided to write my own. Years are approximated to the best of my recollection:

1985, Care Bear: I was the red Care Bear with the hearts on its belly (Tenderheart Bear, Google tells me). My mom made the costume out of footsie pajamas. I believe there was a headpiece involved as well. My brother, who was about six months old, was another Care Bear, as was my cousin Jessie, who was around 4. I think Jessie was Grumpy Bear. She was pretty cranky at that age. I saw some Care Bear costumes for kids when I was at Target the other day, and my mom's were vastly superior.

1986, Minnie Mouse: Another mom-made costume, this one included a polka dot skirt with matching suspenders, which I wore to school for the next year. I was so not a cool kid.

1988, The Secret Garden: This was probably my mom's most impressive costume for me (though the ones she's made for herself over the years have been even better). She used some kind of big box and drew the cover of the book (the old skool cover, as shown) on it, coloring it all in with pastels. Then I dressed in a green leotard and tights underneath, with my hair up in a top ponytail and sprayed green (I was the bookmark, see). It was a great costume. Massively uncomfortable, though, so I spent most of the night running around in just the bookmark part, and people thought I was supposed to be a blade of grass.

1990, pirate: At this point, it became uncool for my mom to make my costumes, and so I began making them myself. All I remember about this pirate costume was that included an eyepatch, a sword, and spandex. What made think pirates=spandex, I cannot tell you. The most memorable thing about this Halloween was my acquaintance, Jenny, who dressed as a Playboy bunny. Who the hell lets their 11 year-old dress as a Playboy fucking bunny?

1994, Nicole Simpson: Of all of my Halloween costumes, this is the most horrifying one. A few months after her murder, I actually dressed up as Nicole Simpson. I have no excuse for this, other than that I was 15 and I sucked.

1997, devil: My first year in college I dressed as a devil. Not a particularly enlightened costume, except that it was based on a my freshman prom dress, which was a wide-skirted knee-length red number with a halter top, and was the perfect basis for a devil costume. I also had just bleached my hair platinum for the first time, so the effect was kind of frightening.

1998, showgirl: Again, not a particularly enlightnened costume. However, I was mostly just an accessory anyway, as Simon (the ex-boyfriend who bears a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp) dressed as the Las Vegas-era Hunter S. Thompson that Johnny Depp portayed in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. My costume was mediocre, but his was truly great. Also, my showgirlness was accented by the fact that I was at that time sporting inches long magenta hair.

1999, Medusa: This was my best college Halloween costume. I got these really cool shiny colored stretchy rubber snakes from The Discover Store and made a wig out of them. I don't remember what else I wore, but man that wig was cool.

2001, Vince Neil: I believe this was the last time I dressed up for Halloween. Perhaps the experience was so traumatizing that I'll never dress up again? My roommates, Natalie and Jenny, and I, as well as Mark, were heavily under the influence of the Motley Crue biography, The Dirt, and decided to dress up as Motley Crue for our Halloween party. Being, at that time, blonde, I was Vince Neil. My costume included a leather vest with no shirt underneath it. Vince Neil does not have breasts. I do. it was an ill-advised costume choice.

I need to start dressing up for Halloween again, though, because I really love costumes. I think I get it from my mom. Her costumes are something to be reckoned with. My mom and her three sisters, as well as her mother, generally dress up together for Halloween. One year, my mom and her sisters with the four queens from a pack of playing cards (my super-artistic mom made sandwich boards with card front and backs on them, then they dressed in all black or all red and wore Burger King crowns) and my grandmother was the joker. Another year, they did the Wizard of Oz. Mom's sister Joan was Dorothy, because she had red shoes; Pam was the scarecrow, Lisa was the lion, and mom was the tin man (she spray painted all of her clothes silver and had a funnel on her head, as I recall). Grandma was the wizard. Another year, Pam was Cinderella and the other sisters were evil stepsisters, with grandma as the fairy godmother.

And mom gets it from her mom. Besides being involved in all of the costume schemes above, my grandmother ALWAYS dresses up. She has a clown costume and a Mrs. Claus costume she pulls out for some occaisons, but when I was a kid, she used to dress up as Uncle Remus, complete with black face. Horrible, I know, but if you knew my grandmother, you'd see that she meant it in the best possible way. And, blessedly, she had stopped before I was old enough to figure out what the problem with it was.

So I come from a long line of costumed women. I have to remember that next year.

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