Catch up

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I haven't written in a few days, but it's been busy! Lots going on!

First, Friday found his forever home, and it's a great situation. He's living with a single man who was obviously just yearning for a dog. The guy works at home, so Friday has his own full-time person, and his own giant yard (at least twice the size of our yard). His person is not at all adverse to getting another dog in the future, and there are dogs living on both sides of his new home, so he won't be lonely for canine companionship either. A match made in heaven.

oliver_edie_small.jpgBut we weren't without additional dogs for long. Our new fosters, Edie the middle-aged heavyweight, beautifully-tempered beagle and Oliver the rambunctious puppy joined our pack yesterday. Both of them were in danger of euthanization at an overly-crowded city pound in one of the suburbs. I had just come for Edie, having been alerted by the Hound Rescue, but they showed me Oliver and it wasn't like I could leave him there to get killed. I have no idea what manner of puppy he is (guesses are welcome), but so far he's a joy--hyper, of course, but very well-behaved, sleeps through the night, and only a couple of minor potty accidents so far.

On other fronts, things are good. Work is busy, but I'm thriving on it. My plants are doing exceptionally well. I'm harried enough that I don't have time to shop anyway, so not shopping is going well.

Also, I went to church on Sunday and it felt really, really good. Better and more comfortable than it ever has before. Maybe I'm ready this time.

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I wanna...

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I had really hoped I'd get more than four days into not shopping before I started a list of stuff I want to buy, but I am who I am, and so the list begins. It will probably get long.

Things I'd buy if I weren't not shopping:

1. Obama merch. My favorites are this sticker, this one, and this one. But I have to admit there is some small part of me that would love to display this one somewhere on my person.

2. Spring shoes. I really, really want spring shoes. Something cute and flat. And some sandals. I'm digging the Earth Echelon and Allure, the Dunham Juniper Mary Jane, and these incredibly cute New Balance yoga shoes (think I could pull those off with skirts?). I also really like these Red Wing Cosmos flats. For sandals, I'm tempted by a number of the Clarks styles, especially the Twill, but what I want more than anything is just some really nice, comfy flip flops, like these by Columbia or these by Simple.

I'd also love to get some boots for next year when they go on sale...

3. The Windowshoppist is giving me all sorts of stuff lust. In particular, I am nutso about the retro print laptop covers by Nanda (particularly the Stella green) and the truly fabulous Broken Plate Pendant Company jewelry. I'd have a hard time choosing just one, but right this moment I am lusting over the Peacock Broken Plate Pendant.

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Wal-Mart sucks again!

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I came upon a story today about a California Wal-Mart asking a woman and her service dog in training to leave the store. Why? Because the dog, 10 month old Chloe, is a pit bull. You can see a bit of local news coverage of the incident here.

There's so much wrong with this...first, it is illegal, as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), to deny access to a person with a service dog. Everybody should know that by now. I t shouldn't ever be questioned. That's the last thing folks who use dogs to help them get around and get through their days need or should have to put up with. Secondly, there are no breed specifications on who can and cannot be a service dog. Just because we are used to seeing labs in service vests doesn't mean they are the only dogs that can perform the tasks needed of service dogs, or even that they are necessarily the best choice for service dogs. There are many breed characteristics of pit bulls (including loyalty, strength, and intelligence) that make them great candidates for service animals. The Wal-Mart employee who approached this dog and her owner/handler asked them to leave because "there are children in the store and we can't have a vicious breed in here" was showing nothing but plain ignorance.

And it's all so typical. Because the dog is what some schmuck recognizes as a pit bull, she must be aggressive, vicious, mean, and untrustworthy. Even though she's a well-trained and vetted dog, identifiable by her service vest, there's something wrong with her based on the physical characteristics that help someone who clearly doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground identify her by her breed. Did Chloe do anything wrong in the store? No. Were Chloe and her owner/handler completely within their rights as per California state law in being the store? Yes. But does any of that matter once people get "ooh, scary pit bull!" into their heads? No.

Now obviously, I am not a fan of Wal-Mart anyway, and this hardly surprises me in the context of their bizarre and prejudicial store policies in general. What really burns me up about this is the number of people to whom it seems perfectly fine. Pit bulls shouldn't be service dogs, they say, or what do you expect, bringing a member of a well-know vicious breed into a family store? Well, what I expect is for stores and their employees to respect the hard-won rights Americans with Disabilities are owned via the ADA. That is the very very least I expect. Beyond that, I'd love for people to get a fucking grip on their pit bull paranoia and actually listen when they are educated about the breed. Expecting every dog who looks like a pit to attack you the minute you see it is not only ill-advised, it's flat-out stupid, and you have no right to take your stupidity out on other people or their dogs.

For more up-to-date information on this story, see www.chloethepitbull.com.

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The hole I'm crawling out of

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One common thread among the debt-buster bloggers I've started to read is that they come clean on their blogs not just about being in debt, but about exactly how much debt they are in, when they make what payments, etc. I've thought a bit about whether I wanted to do that here, and felt very uncomfortable with the idea. Thinking about it further, I realized that the reason I felt so uncomfortable about it was (a) because I am embarrassed by my financial picture and have been lying about it to myself and others for a long time and (b) because I was brought up, like most people in this country, to think that talking about money was crass, particularly if you actually use numbers.

Well, fuck both those reasons. This is about accountability and changing my behavior, and the first step is definitely coming clean. As far as it being crass to talk about money, that seems almost laughable given the level of conspicuous consumption surrounding me and perpetuated by me every day. So I'm going to publish the numbers.

As of today, my financial picture is as follows:

Total credit card debt: $8,093.16
Total student loan debt: $33,674.75
Total savings: $163.77
Checking account balance: $11.69

My current post-tax income is approximately $2,868.97 per month, but should be going up slightly in the near future. I contribute $1,700 to our joint account each month. My personal monthly bills are as follows:

Audible subscription: $22.95
Cell phone bill: $48.57
Student loan payment: $257.03

That leave me with approximately $840 per month that is currently unaccounted for. That money has to go towards that ridiculous credit card debt and low savings balance. My plan, as I conceptualize it today, is to put $600 per month towards these goals--$500 to the credit card, $100 to the savings account (after I build up a month of extra money in my checking account from my no-spending Lent so that my checking account balance will stop going down to near zero every month). That will leave me with about $240 per month to spend. Part of this will certainly go to non-regular but necessary expenses, such as prescriptions and doctor's visits. The rest will be my spending money.

Finally, I am expecting a tax refund of about $1,800 in mid-March. That money will go to pay down the credit cards, period. No taking some out for fun money--I've already had too much fun. Also, if/when I get my expected raise, any difference between my current salary and my future one will go directly to the credit card debt.

'So that's what I'm working with. It feels good to have written it out, for some reason. More manageable. I've always been a person who has to write things down in order for them to be true, so I guess that's not surprising. I have a lot of work ahead of me.

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Not Shopping, Day 3

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The good news is that the weather has taken a turn for the beautiful. It is supposed to be 80 degrees today.

The bad news is that I have very close to no clothes that fit and absolutely no acceptable shoes for warm weather. I've gained 30ish lbs since this time last year, and threw out a bunch of old summer shoes at the end of last summer. But, until after Easter, I'm just going to have to live with what I've got.

This is not going to be easy.

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Not Shopping, Day 2

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Day 2 of not shopping is going fine. I'm at work. I spent lunchtime at Ash Wednesday services at the campus Episcopalian church, and I think the service really helped to center me and get me thinking in the right direction about why it is so important for me to stop this reckless shopping. The bit from Matthew that is included in the Ash Wednesday service, warning against accumulating goods that can be moth-eaten or rust, but instead accumulating treasure in your heart, spoke to me today. It has before, I know, but given that I am starting this particular journey, it was especially loud today.

So it's the beginning of Lent. I am committed to not shopping until Easter. I am around $8,000 in debt and it is time for things to change.

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Assassination Vacation

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assassination%20vacation.jpgby Sarah Vowell
Simon & Schuster, 2005

Sarah Vowell, will you marry me?

I liked The Partly Cloud Patriot, but I loved Assassination Vacation. Vowell's pilgrimage to sites associated with the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley struck so many cords with me it is hard to know where to begin. First, I learned a ton. I knew a lot of what she mentioned about the Lincoln assassination (though by no means all of it), but really, does anybody know much about Garfield or McKinley? I knew McKinley's assassin was somehow associated with Emma Goldman, but that was about it. So the book is worth reading (or, in my case, listening to, because Vowell's story-telling style lends itself so well to audio book) just for the information it contains.

But it's so much more than that. It's also funny, and it's funny in a dorky way that I just adore. Vowell's ability to embrace her inner civics geek is commendable, especially for someone who was once a rock journalist. The fact that she is giddily interested in presidential assassinations and all manner of morbid and grotesque history is impressive, but what is more impressive is that she relishes this interest and is unapologetic about it. The story she tells connecting her Oneida tea pot to the Oneida cult/"intentional community" in upstate New York and then to Garfield's assassin is not only fascinating, it also seriously makes me want to marry her. Or at least be her best friend forever. I mean, who wouldn't love someone who could come out with that while pouring you a cup of tea?

It's not Vowell's relentless and uber-cute dorkiness that gets me the most, though, it's her honest devotion to and nearly spiritual belief in U.S. history, government, and myth. More than anything, the book made me want to take a trip to Washington D.C., to see if I'm as mesmerized by the Lincoln monument as Vowell is, to move through the Smithsonian at a snail's pace like I'm sure she does. As someone with a degree in American history and a lifelong interest in it's minutiae, I'm hardly a tough audience, but Vowell got me more excited about it than I have been in years, and excited about a whole different aspect of it (i.e. presidential history, which I've never cared for at all). Like Utah Phillips, her words convince you that the past is important, that it means something, and that it ought to be considered, honored, respected, and made fun of. I'm into that.

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Not Shopping, Day 1

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And so it begins. The truth is that the only way I am going to get myself out of debt is to stop fucking shopping. Just stop. Completely, at least for a while. And as the season of Lent is upon us (though I am starting a day early), the next 40 days seems as good a time as any. So that's the goal--no shopping for 40 days (aside from grocery shopping). And that makes today Day 1.

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Where there's a dog, there's a way

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Came across this article this morning, about some lost hikers who made it off Mount Hood alive. In part, their luck was due to the lab mix hiking with them, Velvet. Quoth the article:

"The dog probably saved their lives" by lying across them during the cold night, said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team. As the group started out on Saturday, the weather was clear and Velvet was leading the way, Liston said. "She looked back every once in awhile to make sure we were OK."

Gotta love that.

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Blogging debt away?

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There's an interesting bit in yesterday's NY Times, "Debtors Search for Discipline via Blogs." It chronicles a few blogs folks have started in order to be (anonymously) accountable to someone for their spending choices while trying to get out of debt. I am fascinated by and personally interested in this idea. Like "dieting," it seems that learning to spend responsibly is one of those things that may be better accomplished in a group setting (which is how things like Weight Watchers are so successful). However, most people just do not feel comfortable chatting up their friends about how much they are making and spending. Therein lies the beauty of the blog--anonymity, to whatever degree, and feeling like you are burdening your audience only if they are interested enough to keep reading.

I'm going to be adding a few of these debt-reducing bloggers to my side-bar and keep up with them for a while. Maybe it's even something I should consider doing myself.

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In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle

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hope_is_a_muscle.jpgby Madeleine Blais
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995

After reading Larry Colton's Counting Coup a couple of months ago, I became a little bit obsessed with women's and girl's basketball. In keeping with that obsession, this book, In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle was repeatedly recommended to me. So, this past week, I read it.

It certainly begs comparison with Colton's book. Both books are about high school girl's basketball teams with big dreams in the early 1990s. But really, the similarities end there. To begin with, Colton's book is about poor girls in a lousy school on a Montana reservation. Blais' book is about upper-middle class girls at a good high school in Amherst, Massachusetts. The problems faced by Colton's subjects, white and (mostly) Native American, are quite different than those faced by Blais', who are largely white, with the exception of two Black girls and one Cuban. Sharon, the star of the high school team Colton follows, harbors a hope to go to a regional or community college (and she does not succeed). The stars of the team Blais follows go to Stanford and Dartmouth. Perhaps most importantly, Blais' team wins, and Colton's loses.

There are also striking differences in the authors themselves. Both Blais and Colton are journalists, but Blais is a "serious" journalist and a professor at the University of Massachusetts who says she's never played a team sport, while Colton is a former professional baseball player who writes about sports and heads up a Portland, Oregon non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of writing instruction in public schools. Maybe most importantly, Blais is a woman and a feminist reflecting on the importance of sports for women. She goes into detail about the mothers of the players she observes, how they weren't allowed to play the way their daughters are, and how they feel about that. She talks extensively about Title IX and what it has meant for women. She puts basketball in a larger context of teenage girls learning to respect themselves and their bodies and raise their voices. Colton is...not. He pays some homage to Title IX and to the importance of girls being respected as athletes, but his perspective as a middle-aged white man is by definition very different than Blais' as a woman of the same generation.

Blais' book is certainly more uplifting. The players Blais follows are headed to college. They have stable families and bright futures. If basketball doesn't work out for them, something else will. Colton's players have a much harder row to hoe. However, I still preferred Colton's book, with its focus on life on the res and the surviving vestiges of American Indian culture to Blais' look at a politically correct Massachusetts college town. Simply put, even if they aren't as talented, basketball seems to mean more to the girls with whom Colton interacts than to those in Blais' book. They need it more. Even though Blais addresses Title IX and the need for women's sports more directly, Colton's argument for it is stronger, and I care more about his players.

I would recommend both books, and I certainly think they are excellent to read together. Maybe now I'll be able to move on to another subject.

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More on Fantasy Bath

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I've tried two more of Fantasy Bath's bath bombs, and I can now recommend them without reservation. The first one I tried, Tupelo Honey, is still a bit strong in the scent department, but nice (I think I'd prefer it without the addition of rose and carnation scents to the honey and ginger combo, but it's still good). The second, Enchantment, is amazing. It's a large, round bath bomb (8 oz--huge), and it turns the water a lovely dark pink-purple. The scent is very complicated--"violets and hyacinths mingle with melissa, neroli, bergamont, orange flower, tuberose, magnolia, and lotus flower. The base of sandalwood and amber balance," but not overdone. It has lots of staying power, but doesn't make you sneeze or feel overwhelmed. I LOVED it.

One caveat is that you have to treat these bombs like bubble bars and crumble them under a running tap, or you won't get any bubbles, they will just behave like slightly foamy regular bath bombs. I forgot that this time. It was still quite nice, but next time I'll remember and get lovely bubbles as well.

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More competition for Lush

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Last night I had the opportunity to try my first Fantasy Bath product. They shipped very quickly, and each of the bath bombs came wrapped up in its own small box, complete with a color label. Perfect for gifting. They also have free shipping with all orders over $40, which is fantastic.

The bomb I chose for my first trial was the purple heart-shaped "Little Things" bath bomb. From the website:

All of us have those special little things that never fail to lift our spirits. A dog's smile. A good book. A warm sunny spot. Remember to take time for the little things every day. Scatter some bird seed on the ground, breathe deeply, and remember to smile.

Perfect after a hard day.

Well, not exactly. First, let me say that the way the bombs work is fantastic. They are somewhere between Lush's bubble bars and their bath bombs. They smell and fizz and soften the water, but they also create soft foamy bubbles. It's great. I only used 1/2 of the bath bomb and it was plenty of bubbles, moisture, and scent.

Yeah...scent. The smell just does not work at all. It's very strong and very perfume-like. The website categorizes the scent as "violets and hyacinth are cooled with subtle notes of citrus and the base is a threefold hit of syntheic musk, sandalwood and sweet sweet amber." I should have known that would be too much all together, and it most certainly is.

That being said, given the overall quality of the product, I am excited to try another one, with a scent more up my ally. I'm generally not much of a flower or musk girl, so it's not that surprising that I didn't care much for "Little Things." I'll report back.

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Westminster Wrap-Up

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The second night was just as exciting as the first!

westminster_golden.jpgThe first group of the night was the Sporting dogs. So a very long parade of spaniels. I was very fond of the Golden Retriever, but he didn't place. The other dogs that stood out to me were the Brittany, James, who took first, and the Irish Setter, Fonzie, who took fourth.westminster_setter.jpg

westminster_pbgv.jpgThe next group were the hounds, my second favorite. Again, I called the winner, the PBGV, Fairchild. I also really liked the look of the Deerhound, Margot, who took third.margot.jpg I've seen her show before and she's a gorgeous dog. I didn't expect either of them to place (and they didn't), but the Wolfhound and the Bloodhound were also really nice looking dogs who showed well, given their breeds.

bouvier.jpgThe final group was the herding dogs, and I couldn't make a prediction for this group, because our cable went out for a few minutes right in the middle of it. I did note, however, when viewing the first few dogs, that the Bouviers, Indy, looked particularly good. And he won!

t2.james.ap.jpgAnd then best in show. At first, I insisted that the spaniel would take it. Then I saw how well the PBGV was showing and changed my call. Apparently I should have stuck with my original thought, because the spaniel won. And it wasn't a ridiculous choice--he showed beautifully. Still, I would have loved to see the scruffy hound dog take it. Maybe next time. At least it wasn't Bill Cosby's Dandie Denmont.

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Valentine's Day

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That dough you were going to spend on candy/balloons/flowers/landfill matter? How about giving it to V-Day instead?

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Westminster, Day 1

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As you may or may not know (depending on whether you are a dog dork like me), last night was the first night of the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Even though I am (some would say nastily) against purebred registered dogs, I love watching dog shows, and this is one of the biggies. So Mark and I plopped ourselves in front of the TV for multiple hours last night and watched the dogs, making predictions, naming our favorites, and making fun of the truly funny-looking breeds.

Here's how the first night went:

maceywestminster.jpgThe Working Group was the first in the ring. This is both Mark's and my favorite group (unsurprisingly, given the dogs we live with). From the minute she entered the ring, my money was on the Akita to win. A 3-year old female, called Macey, she's one of the best looking Akitas I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a number of them (my aunt bred and raised them for years). Her coat is phenomenal and her movement is beautiful. How surprised was I when the judge agreed with me!?

westminster_dane.jpgI didn't much agree with the other top-ranked Working dogs--the Malamute that took second looked a little shaggy to me, the Kuvasz at fourth was bleary-eyed. The Newfoundland at third, who was sired by Josh, the Newfie who won Westminster in 2004, was beautiful, but I would have put him at fourth. My picks for second and third would have been the phenomenal, regal Great Dane, Ch M&M's Kevlar's Guardian Angel (I didn't catch his shortened name) and theCharzard.jpggorgeous Bernese Mountain Dog, Charzard. I was also disappointed by the Anatolian, Maggie, who got more attention than this breed (one of my favorites) ever gets. She had a great line and a strong gait, but I just can't reconcile myself to the bland beige coloring when Ata's markings are so striking.

harry_westminster.jpgNext came the long, long Terrier group. My Lord there are a lot of terriers! I had read enough before the show to know that the Dandie Dinmont co-owned by Bill Cosby, Harry, was a shoo-in. And he didn't disappoint as a show dog. Lots of personality for such a strange looking little thing.

staffie_westminster.jpgThe second and third placements, the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Sealyham, didn't do much for me, but I was very excited to see the Staffordshire Bull Terrier take fourth.

irish_terrier_westminster.jpgMy picks for second and third again didn't place, they were the Irish Terrier, Lily, and the Parson Russell, Duke.

The next group was Toys, and frankly, I didn't watch it. There are big dog people and small dog people, and I am the former and just can't get too excited about toy dogs. For the sake of inclusivity, though, I'll tell you that the toy poodle, Vikki, took the group. She was followed by the Pekingese in second, the Pug in third, and the Brussels Griffon in fourth.

remy_westminster.jpgThe last group of the night was the overly broad Non-Sporting group. This was a really hard one to pick winners for, but I ended up with two of the top four on my list. The winning dog was the standard poodle, Remy. I can't tell one poodle from another, so I didn't pick her. Irock_westminster.jpghad my eye on the either dog that took second, the bulldog, Rock, or the one who took third, the Dalmatian, Boomer.boomer_westminster.jpg I was also totally surprised by the Shar-Pei taking fourth--my pick was the American Eskimo Dog, Juneau.

All in all, the first night was a good time. Of the four top contenders, I still like the Akita, but I'm afraid it's going to be the Dandie Denmont. Tonight will tell!

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Lush, I am so over you

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I tried a couple more Bubbles bath products this weekend, and I'm officially converted. Lush is but a distant memory.

Home_Sweet_Home.jpgThis is the Home Sweet Home bath bomb. So far, it's my favorite Bubbles product. It has an amazing smell, like freshed baked goods, not just sweet but also spicy and warm. It's not too strong, and it makes the bath water pink. The only thing I don't like is the odd button-shaped thing on it, which the website tells me is meant to be a soap "pie." It doesn't dissolve in the bath water, it just kind of floats around and gets slimy. A small price to pay for a great bath, though. I used the whole 6 oz bomb, but I'm sure you could get two baths out of it if you could figure out how to break it in half. That's too much thought for me when I just need a nice bath.

The other new product I tried was the Candy Cane bubble bath bar, which isn't listed on the website (I suspect because it is seasonal), but came as a free gift in my order. This one was not as hard as the last one, so I was able to break it and just use 1/2 in my bath. Half worked fine, but whole is definitely better, as far as creating a stronger scent and a ridiculous amount of bubbles. The bubbles were nice and fluffy and skin-softening, and the scent was very mild peppermint. It was nice.

I should be getting my order from the next Lush replacement candidate, Fantasy Bath, should be arriving in the next few days. Stay tuned...

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Next-To-New Shop

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next-to-new.jpg5335 Burnet Road
(512)459-1288
Monday through Friday 10:00AM-4:00PM
Saturday 10:00AM-5:00PM
(but give them a call first, as I believe they are moving stores soon)

The last stop on my route was worth the wait. Next-To-New is a fantastic store. It is large and full of furniture and house wares, including the best selection of glassware and dishes I've seen in forever. Full sets, mismatched pieces, you name it, they have it. And tons of furniture, most of it in good shape and quite a number of things I'd actually like to have in my house.

Their pricing structure is also fantastic. They start items out with pretty average private thrift-store prices, but the prices are reduced based on how long items sit on the shelves. For example, I bought a gorgeous set of margarita glasses. They were originally priced at $10.00, but had been in the store for more than a month, so they were $5.00. If they had been there into the next month, they would have been $2.50. This I can get behind.

The clothing and books sections of the store are not particularly strong--stuff for your house is really where Next-to-New shines. It's going to become a regular stop on my thrifting list.

The store benefits St. David's Episcopal Church in downtown Austin. I believe it is run by their "ladies' committee" or something like that. As churches go, St. David's has pretty good politics--they stress diversity, and being welcoming of all people. They have a great program that provides box lunch-type things to homeless people in Austin, as well as some other admirable charitable works. I'm OK with supporting them.

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Bethesda Resale Shop

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Bethesda Resale Shop
5353 Burnet Rd.
(512)451-2652
Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
1st & 2ndThu. of each month 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

My next stop was the Bethesda Resale Shop. This is an old-style thrift store. It's tiny, crowded, and smells kind of odd. The prices are lower than those at the previous stores, but still higher than the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Selection is limited, though they have a pretty strong plus-sized clothing selection for such a small store. They also run tag sales, where certain items are 50% off. The day I was there, it was women's pants and blouses that were on sale.

It took me less than 10 minutes to inspect everything in the store, and there wasn't anything there I wanted. Once again, though, it's probably a place worth another stop into some other time, as the potential for great stuff is always there, plus it's just kind of a fun place to go into.

Bethesda Resale is a fund raiser for Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, an organization that provides support services to people with disabilities and their families. The shops are volunteer-staffed and 100% of proceeds support the organization.

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St. Michael's Academy Thrift Store

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5907 Burnet Road
(512) 323-2001

(Note: I didn't write down the hours when I was there, and can't find them online anywhere, so I'd suggest calling for hours before you go. I know they are closed on Sundays.)

The next store on my way down Burnet was St. Michael's Academy Thrift Store. This was one I hadn't been in before. I haven't really been missing much. Once again, prices are higher than I think they should be for thrift, and the store is small with limited selection. I did run into a great colorful cotton sweater, which I bought for $7.95, even though I thought that was too much, but that was it. The clothes were mostly older and smaller sized, the books were nearly non-existent, and the house wares, as is generally the case in this kind of store, were mixed. Once again, it is certainly possible to find a treasure here, but you're probably going to have to visit often for that to happen. And you're going to pay a premium for whatever you do find.

This thrift shop is set up to benefit St. Michael's Catholic Academy, a private Catholic high school. Do with that what you will.

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Junior League of Austin Resale Shop

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junior%20league%20thrift%20store.jpg6555 Burnet Road
(512) 459-4592
Mon-Sat 9:30AM-5:00PM
Thurs evenings until 8:00PM

Having nothing of particular importance to do on Saturday, I decided to check out some of the small thrift stores that dot Burnet Rd. I started with the store closest to my house, the Austin Junior League Resale Shop.

I've been to this shop before, and never been very impressed. Their stock is limited and their prices are quite high for thrift. This visit was only different because they were having a sale--75% off all of their clothing. I found two Banana Republic shirts for Mark for $2-$3 each after this discount, which was great. However, that still makes their prices $8-$10 without this sale, and that's just too high for a thrift store, in my opinion.

Clothes are this shop's strong point--most of what they have is fairly nice, newer styles and brand names. They have a fairly strong maternity section, which I know can be the hallmark of a great thrift store if you're expecting. The book section is small and of no particular use. The house wares are mixed--I could see the potential to find a treasure, but the only thing I found on this trip that was worth a second look was a set of embroidered napkins, and I wasn't going to pay the $15 they were asking for them.

The store is very clean and organized, and always seems over-staffed. Customer service is a strong point, as the clerks there are very friendly and anxious to be of help.

The Junior League is a woman's volunteer organization. As far as I know, they do no evil, but rather are dedicated to a variety of causes, mainly having to do with kids (see their list of charitable affiliations here). They also give significant time and money to Animal Trustees of Austin, which is, in and of itself, a good enough reason to support them in my book.

I'll continue going to this store in search of the perfect item that is worth their high prices, but if you are looking for true thrift bargains, this store should not be your first stop.

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Breaking up with Lush, continued

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Queen%20Bee.jpgLast night, I tried another product from Bubbles, the Queen Bee Bubble Bar ($4.95). It was a very, very pleasant bathing experience. The scent is a light mix of honey, apricot, and vanilla--not too strong or too sweet, just right. I see now that the site suggests using one bar for 2-3 baths, but I didn't realize that, so I used the whole thing. It created a huge amount of long-lasting and soft bubbles. The flowers and little bee that are embedded in the bar are made of sugar, so they dissolve right away and don't leave anything weird in the tub.

One caveat is that this bar was much harder than Lush's bubble bars, and was difficult to crumble up at the beginning. I had to soften it under the running water for a while before I could crumble it. This might be a problem if you want to break a piece off and use the bar for several baths. I will explore that later, as I have another Bubble bubble bar to try at home.

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Top Drawer Thrift

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topdrawerthrift.jpg4902 Burnet Road
(512) 454-5161
Monday- Saturday 10-7

Top Drawer Thrift is consistently considered, by those who know these things, to be Austin's coolest thrift store. Which may be the reason I don't like it. Every time someone tells me how very hip it is, I try to give it another chance, and every time I am disappointed.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't like my thrift stores to be hip. I don't want a thrift store to be somewhere I am uncomfortable, where I don't feel like I'm dressed correctly to shop. I like the worn out comfort of thrift stores. I like the mixed clientele. I like shopping next to elderly women and mothers with three kids in tow. And that's not at all the scene at Top Drawer.

Also, I've never actually found anything there that I wanted to buy! Their selection is small and often seems quite run down. Prices are OK, but that doesn't do any good if there is nothing worth picking up.

The high point of Top Drawer, of course, is that the proceeds support Project Transitions, which provides hospice, support, and housing to people living with HIV/AIDS. I am completely supportive of that cause and politically I'd love to shop there. But realistically, I won't, both because it's not fun (and what good is thrifting if it's not fun?) and because there isn't anything to buy.

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Assistance League of Austin Thrift House

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Assistance League store4901 Burnet Road
(512) 458-2633
Wednesday-Saturday
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Assistance League Thrift House is one of those thrift stores I have been meaning to stop into forever, and it is write on my path between home and work, but the hours aren't the most convenient, so it took me a long time to actually get there.

It's a nice little store, clean and well-organized. The prices seemed a bit high for what they were selling, but were also variable. While it definitely seemed like a place you could stumble upon a great find (especially in terms of housewares), I didn't actually stumble upon much myself. I left with two Moosewood cookbooks, both in very good shape, for $4 each. That seems high for thrift store books, but it still beats the hell out of new pricing, so I think they were worth it.

The strong points of the store seemed to be housewares and children's books and toys. Clothes and adult books were weaker points. They also had a variety of more-expensive vintage and collectible pieces behind the counter, for those interested in that stuff.

Assistance League of Austin is a philanthropical organization with multiple aims, some of which you can read about here. They seem to be doing good work and I would have no qualms about supporting their store.

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In which I break up with Lush

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For the last year or so, I have been semi-obsessed with Lush bath products. I've been a bath person for quite some time anyway, and the products Lush makes, especially the bath bombs and bath oil melts, are divine. I've spent a good chunk of money in the last year keeping myself stocked with these products, and spent a good many hours enjoying them.

But, all good things must end.

Recently, Lush raised their already exhorbant prices. For me, this moved them from the realm of expensive-but-probably-worth-it luxury item to just plain ridiculous. And it motivated me to try and find a substitute to fill my smelly and soft bath needs.

So far, I have come up with several candidates, each of which I plan to sample. The first is Bubbles. Bubbles has a huge selection of bath bombs, as well as salts, tub teas, bubble bars, etc. Their prices are much lower than Lush (for example, their bath bombs, which are about the same size as those at Lush, are all $3.99, while Lush's are $4.50-$5.70). They are also a woman-owned independent business. They focus on using natural ingredients, though not to the extent Lush does (for example, I believe they use artificial dyes in their products).

I ordered several bath bombs and bubble bars from Bubbles last week, and my shipment arrived yesterday. The packaging was lovely, and it included several free samples and a 10% off coupon for my next order. The shipping was much, much faster than Lush. The products themselves look and smell very nice. I used the first one, a Wild Honey Bath Bomb. The scent was nice, but not perfect--a little bit more artificial than I would have liked. The color it turned the water was kind of an odd yellowish that didn't look particularly appealing. However, it was very moisturizing and fizzy and the scent lasted for quite a long time. All in all, it seemed like a very quality product, though I will have to try a few more to be sure.

I will also be trying some bath bombs from Fantasy Bath. Fantasy Bath is also an independent, woman-owned business, based in Georgia. It is eco-friendly and does not use animal materials or testing. They are also committed to purchasing raw materials that have not been tested on animals and are from countries with fair-trade practices. And they have a "please spay and neuter your pets!" tagline at the bottom of their website.

Most of the bath bombs at Fantasy bath are $3.95 each. However, the site says that they are a different kind of bath bomb, which also creates bubbles, and that they are soft and can be broken into several pieces to use. The bombs are between 6.5 and 9 oz each (compared to 6.3 oz for Lush's biggest bath bomb). They do not contain any "extras" the way the ones at Lush (and Bubbles) do--no glitter, sprinkles, etc.--but it is totally dependent on the consumer whether that is a positive or a negative attribute. As I just paced my order, I don't yet know about shipping and handling or packaging, or how the products are in the bath, but I will update when I find out.

A third retailer I would like to try, but have not yet ordered from, is Bella Bomb. Bella Bomb focused on supplying large numbers of its products to stores, but they also sell to private consumers. Once again, Bella Bomb is an independent, woman-owned business, this time out of South Carolina.

Bella's bombs are shea butter based and contain natural ingredients, though they do seem to contain artificial color and perhaps some artificial scent. There are a bunch of varieties, and they sell for $3.00 each (unless you are buying 100 or more, in which case they are $1.50 each). The size of the bombs is not listed on the site. There are also several other things I'd like to try sold by Bella's Bombs, including honey foaming bath gel and tub cakes, which seem to be akin to Lush's bath oil bars.

A final place I may try is Bauble Bath. Bauble Bath is an independent business in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, which endears it to my heart. The website does not specify if it is a family or woman-owned business, but my guess would be yes. They also ship free samples with each order, which is a definite boom.

Their selection looks great--not as extensive as some of the other sites, but several things that sound like they are worth trying. Their bath bombs, called Bath Baubles, are priced between $3.75 and $4.20. Their size is not disclosed, and they are made of natural ingredients, as far as I can tell. Bauble Bath also offers tins of bubble bath for $6.11 and bath melts similar to Lush's for $5.95. They have lipgloss, lotion, foot and hand cream, and body scrubs for sale as well.

As we can see, then, there are many non-Lush fish in the sea. I'm not even going to miss it.

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Mimi rockin' the house

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Run, don't walk, over to read Mimi Smartypants' entry for yesterday.

Quoth Mimi:


To sum it all up: I am not going to switch doctors. I am not going to lose ten pounds. I am going to go to the gym, run on the treadmill (Dinosaur Jr, Daydream Nation, and some embarrassing downloaded cock-rock songs [shhhh]), lift weights (over-loud Christina Aguilera mixes), come home, and drink Old Style (Wu-Tang, Schubert's Death and the Maiden quartet, my daughter's monologues) just like I always do. I am going to continue to wish I were a brain in a jar, but I am going to try and appreciate my body for its alcohol-processing, fine-cheese-digesting, LT-pleasuring capabilities. And if the topic comes up next year, I am going to politely tell my doctor to eat a bag of dicks. Is there a polite way to do that? I will find one.

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murphy_brown_book.jpg"/by Allison Klein
Seal Press, 2006

This is a fun little book. Basically, Allison Klein writes about the roles of women in sitcoms in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. She focuses on a handful of shows to illustrate the metamorphosis of women's roles from the typical 50's sitcom mom (June Cleaver, etc.) to the independent women that came with and after Mary Tyler Moore. She addresses women's relationships with men, children, careers, and their own bodies. Though there has been linear progression of women's roles by no means, Klein argues, women have in each decade been able to push a bit farther on television, in one arena or another.

Parts of the book were a bit lost on me, as a result of having never or rarely seen the shows Klein analyzes. Though she talks about a lot of shows, she focuses heavily on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude,
Roseanne, Golden Girls, Murphy Brown, Friends, and Sex in the City. Of these, the only one I ever watched often was Roseanne (though I am, of course, aware of the premises of the other shows and have seen a few episodes of Golden Girls and Friends). Her points seem well argued, though, even for someone who isn't familiar with all of the characters about who she writes. She views certain things a bit optimistically, I think, but the claims she makes are generally well-founded.

Though she also talks about examples of non-beautiful TV women (Roseanne, Maude) and women aging on TV (Maude, everyone on The Golden Girls), Klein focuses the bulk of her book on TV women moving from a single type (married upper-middle class housewives with children) to multiple types (married or single, mothers or non, various careers, various classes, etc.). The title character, Murphy Brown, illustrates single career womanhood and single motherhood. Roseanne and Grace from Grace Under Fire illustrate two types (married and unmarried) of working-class motherhood (and both work, at least in part of the shows' runs, in traditionally masculine occupations). The women on Friends and Sex in the City show sexual liberation and updated attitudes towards dating. And so on. While many of these arguments leave me with a feeling of "well, duh," they are still interesting to read.

There are issues I think Klein could have addressed that she does not. In particular, I would have liked to see a chapter on younger women on TV. Not only is Roseanne interesting, but so are Becky and Darlene. How does having these newly feminist TV moms change TV daughters? She alludes briefly to My So-Called Life and The Gilmore Girls, but doesn't go into any detail. But perhaps that would be another book. I also found her treatment of body image (particularly weight) and aging on TV to be more cursory than I would have liked.

All in all, this book is worth reading. Klein draws on some good books for her background and theory, and she has obviously done her homework in terms of watching countless hours of sitcoms. It's nothing revolutionary, but if you are a TV-lover, it is fascinating.

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Woman Making History #78: Gloria Steinem

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steinem.jpgI keep meaning to do these and forget. Have to get back on track with them.

Gloria Steinem has one of the most, if not the most, famous name and face in American feminism. She's been on the radar for a long time, and in a big way, and even if she were not notable for anything else, she'd be notable for that. But that's hardly all she's done.

Steinem was born in Ohio in 1934. Ten years later, her parents split up and Steinem lived with her mother, who was mentally ill. Steinem was forced to take a lot of responsibility quite young, in terms of caring for herself and her mother and helping to support her family.

In 1952, Steinem went to Smith College. She did well and graduated four years later with a degree in government studies. She then traveled in India before returning to the U.S. to find a job in journalism. In 1960, she became the assistant editor of Help! magazine. She also worked as a freelance journalist. In 1963, she quit help to freelance full-time. She achieved some notoriety with a controversial article about time spend "undercover" as a "bunny" cocktail waitress in the New York Playboy club. After spending some time doing celebrity interviews, Steinem covered George McGovern's run for president. This coverage won her a permanent position at New York magazine.

While covering an abortion hearing for New York, Steinem began to think seriously about feminism. As the United States' women's movement heated up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Steinem became increasingly active. Because of her high profile as a celebrity and political journalist, she was an easy candidate to be the burgeoning movement's media spokeswoman. In 1971, she co-founded the Women's Political Caucus, and in 1972 she helped to start Ms. magazine, for which she served as editor for several years. In 1974, she co-founded the Coalition of Labor Women. In 1993, she was appointed into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Steinem published several books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and Revolution from Within. She has remained very active in feminist politics, traveling and speaking extensively. She also serves as a contributing editor to the revitalized Ms. magazine.

Steinem has struggled with several health problems, including breast cancer. In 2000, at the age of 66, Steinem married for the first time. Her husband died only three years after their marriage.

Sources:
Wikipedia
CBS News
National Women's Hall of Fame

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Thrift finds

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I have been reading a lot of thrifting blogs today, and am inspired by the stuff people have found and the pictures they've posted on their blogs. So I thought I'd post a few of my favorite thrift finds.

godinger%20boxes.jpg

These are my two Godinger silver jewelry boxes. The larger one is something I found at the Goodwill for $2 or $3 a couple of years ago. I was jazzed about it then and have remained jazzed since then. I am generally not a fan of the options of storing jewelry, and I have and wear a lot of it, so it fit a need in my life, besides being very cool. The small one, which is the same company but a different pattern, appeared to me at the Goodwill yesterday, for $4. Well worth it, as I had outgrown the first one.

I looked them up on Ebay and they don't have any real value, but I don't care, because they are perfect for me and I wouldn't sell them anyway.

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Question for my new thrifting friends

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Since my previous post, regarding the social ethics of thrifting, seems to be garnering me a bit of attention from other thrift-store loving Bloggers, I have a question: Is there an online forum anywhere where people trade their thrift finds? I know some boards have their own forums for that (such as Mothering Dot Com), but I was thinking of something more general, or a forum attached to a DIY/Craft/Thrift board. Anybody know of such a thing? I'm always finding stuff that is great, but just not something I need. I'd love to have a reason to buy it.

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Thrifting and social responsibility

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Someone asked me a bit ago whether I feel guilty for shopping at thrift stores, since I could feasibly afford to buy things new and many thrift shoppers could not. I've gotten this question a few times, and I figured I might as well give a go at answering it.

To be totally honest, it did not even occur to me until someone asked that I would have anything to feel guilty about with thrift shopping. It just never entered my mind. What kind of person that makes me is questionable, I guess, but there it is.

After giving it some thought, though, I still don't feel guilty about my thrift shopping. While I can see an argument against people who can afford to do otherwise taking advantage of low-cost resources meant for the poor (for example, I wouldn't take my pet to the low-cost spay and neuter clinic for this reason), I think that, on balance, thrift shopping is still a good thing.

There are a few reasons for this. The biggest one is environmental sustainability. Put simply, every time you buy something used rather than new, you do aren't increasing demand for the manufacture of that product, and you are also increasing its life span and often keeping it out of a landfill. A connected second reason thrift shopping is good is that buying an item in a thrift store does not add to the demand of that product, which I generally consider good, given that so much of what we buy is made by unorganized and exploited labor and under questionable environmental regulations.

Another reason I think thrift shopping is more good than bad is that many thrift stores (and nearly all of the ones I personally frequent) are non-profit enterprises that support jobs programs, homeless shelters, etc., so by shopping at a thrift store, you are contributing to these programs. Clearly this is not true of for-profit thrift stores, but it is true of your local Goodwill.

Another reason I personally feel fine about thrifting is that I give more to thrift stores than I take away from them. On balance, my presence increases, rather than reduces, their stock. Again, that maybe says something about me and my consumerism and collection of stuff that I wouldn't be proud of, but it does alleviate any guilt I may have felt about snatching up all the good thrift finds.

I could just be rationalizing, because I love love love to thrift shop (I found two Alice Waters cookbooks for Mark this weekend for $2 each), but that's my rationale. In case you were wondering.

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It's never a good sign when NPR talks about home

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I can generally count on listening to NPR on my way to or from work without hearing any news, good or bad, from southern Oregon. The neck of the woods from which I hail just doesn't draw national media attention all that often. However, much of my commute this morning was taken up by this story. It didn't make for a good start to my day.

For those who don't want to listen to or read the story, here are the broad strokes: for many years, the federal government made a shit-ton of money off logging federal timberlands. This happened all over the country, but it happened a disproportionate amount in Oregon. Because the land was federal, the profits weren't taxable under state income tax (which is one of Oregon’s main revenue sources, as there is no sales tax there). This was, understandably, a fiscal disaster, so in order to moderate it, the government gave grants to counties in which it logged.

This worked for quite a while, until logging on federal forestland was pretty much shut down in the 1990s. Since they weren't making any dough from logging in those counties anymore, the feds no longer wanted to give them annual grants. So, in 2000, Congress passed a safety net measure, stating that they would continue to pay the counties for six years, in amounts based on past timber harvests. This amounted to a $400 million subsidy every, of which Oregon received the biggest chunk, about $150 million.

And now time is up. The last of the checks were sent out in December. And all hell is breaking loose.

For example, the NPR piece noted, Jackson County, the southern Oregon county that includes the city of Medford, is closing all 15 of its public libraries. Not cutting back hours, or restricting the purchase of new materials--closing them completely. Next door in Josephine County (which is admittedly less populous), police services are going to be reduced to the point of one squad car patrolling an area roughly the size of Rhode Island. And in my home county, Douglas County, lay-offs in public education and the road department are planned to start any time.

Oregon is not a rich state. It's become a less and less rich state since timber busted and flat-lined. This is, in some of southern Oregon, what has to feel like a crimp in the ventilator line. Perhaps a fatal one.

The question of whether or not it is the state's own fault is complicated. On one hand, they should have known for the last six years that these funds were going to end this year. On the other hand, even if they did know, given the dismal resources county commissioners were faced with (low income tax returns due to high joblessness and a pathetic economy being the biggest), how much could they really do? And does the amount the federal government has already remitted really come anywhere close to paying the state and counties back for the tremendous federal benefit received from logging all of those public lands? And then, of course, the biggest question--should logging on federal land really have been near-completely shut down at all?

Several Oregon politicians were interviewed for the piece, including Congressman Peter DeFazio, who is currently working to pass an emergency one-year extension of the subsidies. The most interesting, though, was Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson. The piece stated that Robertson "assumed that Republicans would take care of these rural, "red" counties in the waning hours of the last session." But they didn't. Then he assumed they would pick it up in the lame-duck session. They didn't. Then he thought they'd have a plan when they returned in January. They don't. His quote was clearly one of a rural man discouraged with the party that is supposed to look out for rural folks.

Maybe I'm just in an optimistic mood, but to me, that sounds like silver lining. If this disaster helps people in rural Oregon (and maybe the other places where this is happening as well) realize that no, the Republicans really aren't their champions in Congress, then maybe it's worthwhile. For far too long, poor people, especially rural poor people, have been snowed into thinking conservative politics are in their best economic interests, when time and time again it has been shown that they aren't, that conservative politicians want to gut programs the poor need to survive, roll back laws that protect them, then give all the tax breaks to the rich. It is only stuff like this that drives home the impact that these corporate-loving Republican assholes are really having. May this be one of the final nails in their coffin.

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February Giving

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You probably know that February is Black History Month. Did you know that it's also Library Lovers' Month? In acknowledgment of both of these things, my February dollars are going to my local public library and to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. If you have the notion, think about where these to month-long observations would lead you to give your time or money or resources, then proceed accordingly. If you are anything like me, you'll be glad you did.

Edited on 2/2/07: Mark and his mom went to visit the Austin Zoo yesterday, and on his request, I am adding them to this month's giving. Like some other zoos (and unlike others), the Austin Zoo is based on providing a safe and happy home for animals rescued from abusive and inappropriate situations, including private ownership and circuses. It's as much sanctuary as zoo. I can definitely support that.

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