Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Happy Mir Mouth: My Technivorm MoccaMaster Is Here...and it Rocks!


I am now the proud owner of one of the dorkiest looking coffeemakers on the planet, a Technivorm Moccamaster with the Thermal jug. No, it ain't purdy. But as soon as UPS handed it over, I dropped everything to set it up, get it ready, and make my first cup. (Well, after I set up the Barratza burr grinder and figured that one out.)

I will add that the instructions are as dorky as the Technivorm. They really need to work on that. And it does have a sort of flimsy look to the plastic pieces. It definitely seems less a handmade quality coffeemaker and more a jerry-rigged mad scientist contraption for impromptu laboratory beverage-making. Someone with a Steve-Jobsian eye for aesthetics needs to go work at the Technivorm company. :)

Anyhow, I decided to deflower my Technivorm with the Indonesia Lintong (Sumatra) from Terroir Coffee. I hauled out one of my special china cups, an elegant cream-colored one edged in 24K yellow gold, one of the pieces hubby and I inherited from my late MIL. I waited for the complete brew to pour into the thermal jug.

You probably heard me moan from all the way over there.

So smooth. So clean. Wow.

What a fabulous cuppa!


The Sumatra Lintong was the "roaster's choice" coffee that came in the bundle with the coffeemaker, and it actually has a sweet "candy" scent. (Maybe that's why it's described as having butterscotch notes. No kidding.) Coffee review gave it 94 out of 100 points. Oh, yeah. It's just too delicious. I'm looking forward to trying other lovely coffees from Terroir (I bought a Costa Rican and a Columbian, too).

Re the Technivorm: I didn't use the little trick I've seen discussed online about closing the filter so that the water pools for 30 seconds, then stirring, then allowing to drip normally. Apparently, this improves the flavor even more.

Me, I'm happy with it just dripping normally. But I may take the extra step one day when I'm less lazy.

Thumbs up on the ugly but wonderful Technivorm--which can evolve into a perfect coffeemaker given a touch of the pretties and better design touches for pouring, auto-off, materials, etc--thumbs up on the Barratza--which sorta takes up a lot of room in my wee-wee-weeeeee kitchen--and thumbs up on the sweet Terroir Sumatra Lintong. I purchased all these items through Terroir, in case any of y'all are tempted.

Happy Birthday to me! (Well, a few days early.)

Mmmmm. Gonna have another cup o' joy.



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Restructuring Household Budgets Harder Than Corporate Finance Restructuring?

Household balance-sheets are more difficult to restructure than corporate ones, which involve far fewer people. Politically, the process raises questions of fairness. How far, for instance, should taxpayers bail out reckless homeowners who bought mortgages they could not afford? On the other hand, the economic dislocation from unwinding a household-debt binge may be less disruptive than restructuring swathes of firms. As Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago points out, one reason Japan was so loth to acknowledge the depths of its banking problems was the knowledge that a banking clean-up would require a large-scale restructuring of Japanese firms which, in turn, would throw many people out of work. Restructuring household debts may be political dynamite, but it would not require a wholesale remaking of corporate America.

Nonetheless, the rebuilding of American households’ balance-sheets is likely to force a reliance on government demand that is bigger and longer-lasting than many now imagine. In the aftermath of Japan’s bubble, firms spent more than a decade paying down debt and rebuilding their balance-sheets. This sharp rise in corporate saving was countered by a drop in the savings rate of Japanese households and, most importantly, by a huge—and persistent—increase in budget deficits.

A similar dynamic will surely play out in America’s over-indebted households. With their assets worth less and credit tight, people will be forced to save much more than they used to. The household saving rate has risen to 3.6% of disposable income after being negative in 2007. For much of the post-war period it was around 8%, and in the short-term it could easily exceed that. But, whereas dis-saving by Japanese households countered the corporate balance-sheet adjustment, American firms are unlikely to invest more while consumers are in a funk. Propping up demand may therefore require more persistent, and sustained, budget deficits than in Japan.
--from "America's Crisis in a Historical Concept--Worse than Japan?"



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Horrifying Irony

A truly awful irony in this article's lead paragraph. God help us.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

An Old Dutch Painting: How
Economic History Repeats Itself



As the home of the first multinational corporation -- the Dutch East India Company or VOC, established in 1602 and which was also the first firm to issue stock -- the Netherlands has long experience of investment manias.

Its 17th-century art and literature routinely included reminders to not let selfish desires distract people from their duties.

The paintings of exotic tulips and overflowing fruit bowls that reflected the opulence of the Dutch Golden Age were often framed by insidious symbols of the inevitability of death, to show material things do not last.

In Hendrick Gerritsz Pot's famous painting, "Flora's Wagon of Fools," weavers drop their looms to join the goddess of flowers in a doomed quest for riches, reflecting concern that work was being supplanted by idle and illusory routes to wealth.

"These paintings were a warning -- a moral reminder -- to watch what you are doing: since there will be the inevitable moment of death," said Pieter Roelofs, a curator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

"So you can try to be the best in your field and make as much money as you can, but when you are faced with judgment you won't be credited for your wealth but how you acted in the broader social context."

When tulip bulb prices collapsed in 1637 and many people refused to honor contracts, it sent a shiver through a trading community that relied on trust, a wave of self-doubt similar to sentiments expressed after markets tumbled last year.
--from "Moral Rebound Finds Dutch Exploring Calvin"


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What Came Before The Henrietta Hughes "Happy Ending"

Come on, I admit it, I got the seriously warm fuzzies when the wife of one of the state reps from my state (FL) gave a place to live (free) to the homeless woman who made her plea to Obama last week. Henrietta Hughes, touring her new abode, seemed, finally, to be a happy news story in the midst of so much gloom and doom.

But then the curtain started getting pulled back, little by little by little by little by little, and it's much less of a simple tale of innocent woe rewarded with a stranger's generosity.

I'd like to see the NYTimes and Washington Post and Miami Herald and other left-of-center media entities look at this and offer a clearer picture of the causes of this family's woes.

It may come down to some very bad choices and some system milking. If the little background work that has come up is true (ie, they claimed they couldn't pay for medical deductibles while being property owners, but living with relatives; bought a very expensive vehicle at a time when they were claiming to have lost jobs, etc), this is just a sadder tale than we were led to believe.

But all the generosity that poured out is still a good thing. It shows people want to help when they are shown just how to, and that impulse is a good one.

A lot of what is going on now around us, this gloom, is due to human frailty and wickedness--be it the greed, lack of economy, vanity, or foolishness of banks, investors, homebuyers, real estate agents, and assorted players in this big, big game. People bought homes they couldn't afford, figuring they'd finance said home with multiple refinancings. People refinanced to take money out of homes that were half or more paid-off, thinking it was free money, that the house would be worth more LATER, so take the bonus NOW. People spent unwisely. Banks gave loans the ought not to have. Real Estate agents out and out lied as mortgage brokers finagled funky loans to make people think they could buy those overpriced homes. CEO's and a host of others cashed out big on these bad loans and the spending frenzy.

I think the government needs to stop telling us to spend. They need to start telling us to live within our means and use credit sparingly. They need to be the example of living within a budget, an example of what we all ought to do.

I suck at budgets, but I know that this is robbing me of a saner future, a quieter retirement. I need to get MY budgetary house in order.

I don't want to end up living in my car. Even if it's from foolish choices. I need to wise up.

And with this second chance, I hope the Hughes sit down and have a nice chat about how the son needs to hustle like he means it to get a job and help out his mom.

I have relatives who came to this country with zip knowledge of English who got jobs within a couple weeks. Granted, we're talking "menial" work--landscaping, laying tiles, fixing roofs, detailing cars, bussing in restaurants, etc. But they were jobs and they got them, not being educated, knowing no English. I'll add that I'm talking some of them as people of color here, not just lighter Latinos. Some much older than Corey Hughes, with much less education. Why is Corey Hughes not able to do this when uneducated, non-English speaking legal immigrants (and some illegals in Miami that I've known) manage to? That's not a slam. That's an honest question. What is his issue that he's living off his mom's disability?

Makes a gal go hmmmm.

I am still aghast that he refused job training.

Yes, why is a clean-cut, educated, 37 year-old male unable to even get a minimum wage job, which, btw, would have sufficed to pay $400 rent and utilities after the free 90 days as offered by that local charity. That's a roof over his mama's head.

Trust me, my brother and my husband would have shined shoes or sold magazines door-to-door or sold flowers on street corners or FOUND A WAY to keep their mothers under a solid roof.

I may be off base, I may be too cynical, but something is not quite kosher in how the Hughes have conducted their financial lives in the last 6+ plus years. How does this family own three lots, make 47K in profit on a sale, still apparently own one lot, and end up profiled in two separate stories on people needing help, not having money for copayments, not having homes?

Man, am I just too jaded?

So be it:

If Joe the Plumber warranted a colonoscopic inquiry, then I think at the minimum, the Hughes do ,too. Get on it, ye journalists, and pay some special attention to Corey Hughes. Is he or is he not a property owner in Lehigh Acres? Why couldn't he sell that to pay for rent, but can keep taxes paid up. Why can't he get employment, of any kind? Why did he turn down free job training when it was offered by a local charity? Why was 90 days of free rent not good enough?

I wouldn't be surprised if the mainstream media wants to avoid this, as it would look like "homeless bashing" or worse, as it would tarnish a HEA tale some. But I hope they play fair and follow this particular trail, or they really are showing their bias.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quote for a Sunday: Needing Revival

Clearly there is a great need for revival in our churches, both locally and in the American church at large. However, the reason we aren’t experiencing revival is that we don’t see ourselves as sinful, but rather as basically “good” Christians, or at least “good enough” Christians. It is as Leonard Ravenhill wrote several decades ago: “The reason we don’t have revival is that we are content to live without it.”

It is time for us see the need for revival, and to increase our discontentment with the common brand of so-called Christianity that neither glorifies God nor spreads the gospel to unbelievers. It is clear from Scripture that God is waiting for a great and desperate outcry from His people, not just the impatient demands of a few of his lukewarm sheep. I shudder to think what it may take to cause that cry.
--from "The Need For Revival" by John Roberts

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DeathSponge NotePants

If you've seen the anime (or films of) DEATH NOTE, this will be killer funny. Soooo well done. The Mir loves a good parody!

Another Sign of the Economic Times

So, it was St. Valentine's Day. Hubby and I slept late--I slept REAL late, as I've been lethargic and sleepy lately--and spent much time just cuddling and smooching and vegging out.

Although we'd planned to have dinner out, wearing some sort of red for the holiday--I have enough red lipsticks and glosses and shoes to cover several Valentine's--I decided I just wanted to continue the vegging. Shoot, I barely brushed my hair. Never got dressed. Stayed in my chemise all day (which was fine with hubby and he likes it muchly).

I suggest we splurge on take-out from one of our fave local eateries.

After suggesting it, I paused and wondered if they even would have take-out, or if they'd be booked with a special holiday menu and eat-in only. So, I called. Take-out was fine. Cool. Chicken Marsala, endive and watercress salad, and French fruit tart, come to me!

Food was superyum. Fruit tart was heavenly. And...we got a bonus: A customer appreciation coupon for $10 off our next visit before month's end.

This also gave me pause.

Context: We've been dining at this eatery for more than 12 years. When I was able to eat seafood (which I have not since December of 1997), I used to go three times a week at lunch for the sauteed corvina, extra lemon, extra parsley, with a side of veggie souffle of the day and roast potatoes. This was my fave meal for years. The cook would see me and say, "Ah, yes. Extra parsley!" It's like it became my nickname.

I have seen this eatery change ownership and seen the menu only slightly tweaked in these 12+ years. In all that time, I never ever saw a coupon or a discount of any sort offered or accepted. I figured its clientele just didn't do coupons. And it's Belgian original owner had a very friendly-but-uppity air, the sort one expects of foodies and wine snobs, ya know?

This restaurant has long been frequented by well-heeled folks from a nearby affluent section of the city. (No, that's not our section; we live in poorer folk area, a little more ragged and with higher crime.) You see high maintenance ladies with "perfected" faces and designer shoes and bags. Lunchtimes you see businessmen with their Blackberries talking deals and networking over their meals. You see Lexuses and Jaguars in the parking lot with regularity. Once, I saw a Rolls Royce--and yes, I stopped to get a really good look. :)

So, while getting a coupon was nice, it does say something about how business must be going these days. Those high roller regulars must be arranger fewer afternoon deals over escargot and pecan-crusted fish and stuffed artichokes.

This week, our local paper had more than one article about how to economize for St. Valentine's Day. They offered recipes for romantic at-home dinners and ideas for less-costly treats and gifts. They listed freebie fun activities, such as galleries to visit around town before or after one's espresso.

Doesn't bode well for restaurants when the only major paper in town is basically accepting that local folks are gonna stay home and smooch rather than spend hundreds on dining and dancing.

The predictions that this recession will get worse and linger two or more years are scary. Getting a nice little coupon from a restaurant seems like an omen in light of such predictions.

If MAC COSMETICS lowers the price of their addictive lipsticks and lipglasses, of which I own about 3 dozen, I'll know we're staring at an all-out depression.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

What I'm Listening To Now: Coheed & Cambria, Sci-Fi Meets Prog Rock

Well, I am late to yet another party. I just found out about Coheed and Cambria and their sci-fi-related driving sound. The singer does remind me of Geddy Lee (Rush), which is NOT a bad thing at all. (Well, my husband would beg to differ, as he loathes Lee's voice.)

And how is this for cool: There's a comic series associated with the music.

If you hate high-energy rock, insistent guitars, and occasional explicit lyrics (or Geddy Lee's vocals), keep away. Otherwise, enjoy.



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Octomom Opera Gets Even Soapier

The soap opera continues, with Octomom Nadya Suleman creeping out Angelina Jolie--that cannot be easy to do, either--then being called a fibber by a Calvary Chapel church, and putting a gag order on her own mother--a woman bankrupted and made haggard by the actions of her daughter--for selling her side of the story. Excuse me, but isn't Octomom herself trying to sell her story to any and all high bidders? Word is that her publicist asked the media for bids to start at 1.2 million, and that was when Oprah and others just walked out. Gag yourself first, lady!

Oh, and the Wii gaming system comes into "play," too. Sorta.

And there they are, those beautiful wee babies who have this wacko mother to look forward to. How scary and depressing is that? Man...I want to scoop up the octoplets and run and hide them!

Call me a beeyotch, but I hope the octuplets are taken from this loon and placed with adoptive families who will give them loving, sane, responsible upbringings away from the media glare or the horror of reality show displays.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Whedon's DOLLHOUSE Tomorrow, And I wish I Was More Excited About It

Okay, it's no secret I'm gonna tune in to watch a show Joss Whedon's behind. It could be named Crappiest Show Ever and I would at least give it a fair viewing. Joss has cred with me. He earned it with the triple-crown fabulosity of Buffy/Angel/Firefly. And then he put a sceptre on it with SERENITY.

But tomorrow's debut of Dollhouse has me, well, skeptical. First off, I don't like Eliza Dushku. She was the least interesting and least appealing actress in the Buffy roster. She just didn't act anywhere near as well as the rest of that terrific crew. I was delighted when her character got locked up. :)

Really, I don't get why Whedon is so into Eliza Dushku. Maybe he harbors a crush on her or something. She's cute, sure, but man, is she a not-so-great actress. She was sort of one-note and annoying as Faith (which is fine, she wasn't on that much, so she could be annoying and not ruin either show, although I wouldn't have minded seeing her get snapped in two in the Buffy finale Big Fight). She was wooden and bland on Tru Calling, too, where she was the lead, a show through which I could not sit, not even once, though I tried to three times before calling it an "out."

When I heard she was cast as the lead in Dollhouse, I had that sinking feeling in the tummy.

But I kept the hope when I heard the terrific Amy Acker would be in the cast as well, she who rocked as resourceful nerd Fred on Angel, and rocked even harder as Illyria, all blue and spectacular. I also like Olivia Williams, also in the cast. So, there's hope.

Second: The promos sucked. Nothing in those promos I saw made me tingle with anticipation. On the contrary, more sinky tum-tum.

I will try to ignore the promos and the bad review in my local paper today, and just watch the show tomorrow, trusting--nay, hoping--that some of the Whedon magic rises like stardust, enough to coat with much sparkliness the dullness that is Dushku's acting.

Anyone else planning to watch? Anyone else let down to see Dushku in the lead?

Oh, and if does suck, there's always this.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

READ OR DIE: A Fun Anime with a Delightful Bibliophile Superheroine

Yomiko Readman would be ME if I had superpowers and wasn't middle-aged and fat. And if I hadn't had Lasik. And if I was Japanese. :) She has black hair, lives in a clutter of books, loves to read, gets all hyperventilatey around rare tomes, hangs out in libraries, and carries a large accessory (the better to carry books, my dear).

Okay, so me back when I was her age....and if I was Japanese. :)

(I actually own a case very similar to Yomiko's!)

When Yomiko has her "I'm having a book orgasm" moments, I totally, totally empathize. Been there, done that, loads of times. My husband has witnessed the euphoria and can testify to the rush of endorphins that walking into a bookstore, library, or just seeing a pic of a great libary in some manor house sends me into oohs and aaaaaaaaaahs and I get all woozy.

No, really. My husband spent the first few scenes of this anime snickering and saying, "Not that that reminds me of anyone." :::throat clearing::::

So, READ OR DIE---

This is a three part anime--although this isn't the only part of this story, as there is another series-- where, as sometimes happens with SF-action anime I've seen in the last couple months, the plot itself is rather weird and doesn't make total sense, but the action, inventiveness and animation are terrific and the fun factor is high.

In this one: cloned notables of the past, a powerful organization (helmed by some British blond dude who mostly says little useful and sits a lot looking stoic or frustrated while the superpeops under him do all the work) called the British Libary Special Engineering Force, a big threat to the world, useless Americans (and a cheap shot in the president who keeps falling to the floor and pissing his pants), and my newest fave superheroine--Agent Paper, also just called The Paper. She's in "manuscript retrieval" work.

She be cool.

Young, glasses, bookwormy, dowdy, sweet, slightly distracted, carrying her big briefcase/suitcase all over the place, with the ability to make paper (from books, bookmarks, money, any form) do her bidding, becoming shield or weapon as needed. How much do I love this? I want this power!!!

If you haven't seen READ OR DIE, go rent it. Such fun. Leave logic aside and just enjoy The Paper and the visuals.

~

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Friday, February 06, 2009

"Star Walker" Needs Better Prose for Promo

I was googling that loopy-laugher of an American Idol contestant, the totally self-absorbed and bat^&%t--but lovely--Tatiana del Toro. Doing so, I came across a MySpace page promoting a speculative work that claims inspiration from the Bible and calls itself a God-driven project: Star Walker.

Ms del Toro is one of the cast of actors.

Well, whoa! You know I've gotta stop and take a look whenever a project robes itself in terms that hint at both the Christian and speculative. I read the two informational entries...

And I still wasn't quite sure what the project was. (Film? TV series? Online series?) The promo prose referred to "the story." It did offer a url that took me to a site that features loads of options. One, an animated trailer, I hit first, bypassing linky boxes for a web series, radio episodes, a book, flash games, a community, newsletter, and events.

Okay, so it's a multimedia "experience." That's cool.

But, ya know, if you're publicizing something that aims to be "the greatest saga ever told," you really need to spruce up the MySpace blurbs. Right now, the two major front page entries about Star Walker are long-winded, cliche-drenched, and oddly vague. From all those words, I expected to glean more about the actual story.

Not so much.

Suggestion: A bit of snap and a lot more detail. Post a few paragraphs drafted for minimal wordiness and maximum impact, with specific detail about the project--conflict, characters, setting, what makes it fresh and special, such as the Biblical aspect, sure. The "greatest saga ever" didn't come across as anything near that in those entries.

It's dull and plodding MySpacing in need of some copyediting. (Lots of pictures of the pulchritudinous actors, though.)

Granted, MySpace publicity yammering doesn't necessarily relate to the quality of the project itself, right? So, check out Star Walker here, the official site, including a trailer.

Oh. Hang on.

Notice the glaring grammatical booboo and stylistic clunkiness in the following brief quote from the trailer's text?

"Only by the grace of God and their training as Ken Ju Kai would save those destined to become Starwalkers from a sure and terrible death from an enemy that already dwells in the shadows among us."

You noticed it, right. Bet you did.

Trick question! There's more than one.

BTW, the Biblical aspects are present in the narrative offered in the trailer. So, I might want to check back and see what's what with Star Walker. (Not that I'm hooked. Just curious.)

If I could have one wish, though, I'd really need a promise, preferably notarized, that Ms del Toro will not, even once, laugh throughout this series. Singing is fine.
~

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Something's Fishy With Octuplets Mom

Okay, I'm about to get really snide.

Saw a video interview with the woman who had octuplets after having sextuplets. Now, I'd like to preface this with: If you have enough moolah to support a dozen plus kids, then knock yourself out. I think big families are pretty cool. If mom and dad and the extended family can deal with a big brood without asking taxpayers to fund their DNA largesse, by all means.

But the second you start taking money, ie subsidizing your large family, WITH MY MONEY, I'm not happy.

This dame is on some sort of dole--worker's comp? disability? Excuse me. She can't work, but she can carry octuplets and sextuplets? Really?

And who paid for the IVF? That can't be cheap. If she wasn't working, did she have insurance? If not, then who paid?

Also, she's on disability and can afford plastic surgery?! Look at her face, to me, that's a noticeable nose job, uber lip job, possible cheek job, Botox (for sure!) and maybe other cosmetic procedures, who knows? She's definitely done to my eye.

(Wild speculation online is that she might have been emulating Angelina Jolie in looks and reproductively. I can actually even believe that. Sounds psycho enough.)

And she's been living with the parents, or they've been living with her, whatever--probably off them, too, not just with them--who themselves declared bankruptcy on a huge debt recently. And all this in a three bedroom home. Three adults and fourteen kids in a three bedroom. Ouch.

My cynical side can't help wondering if Nadya Suleman decided that having a ton of kids would mean a fortune for her. She's surely seeking lucrative offers now. But if there is a clue as to who will be paying for the care of those kids (including the millions that prenatal care and ongoing care for health issues, common with high-number births), it's the taxpayers:

Nadya Suleman, who describes herself as a “professional student” living off education grants and parental money, broke up with her boyfriend before the birth of her first child seven years ago.


Education grants. Disability of about $170,000 since 2001. Yeah. Get ready Californios. This bill is just starting.

Personally, I hope she doesn't get a single deal--not book, film, or corporate sponsor. I hope she gets to look straight up at what bed she made for herself, and the sleeping upon it is hard and fitful for many years to come.

I am feeling really no warm fuzzies for her. (The kids, they get fuzzies from me. Too bad their mom is, well, their mom.)

I suggest legislation to prevent future Nadya Sulemans doing their thang, one that requires a couple things before doctors do their fertility treatments: a psych exam and a means test. Is this person sane and having kids for non-compulsive or pathological reasons, and can this person or couple afford the multiple children that may result and have the insurance to pay for the medical treatments, pre and during and post. Maybe even proof of sufficient housing (plenty of rooms) and some savings (in case one parent has to take the sleep loss to care for the babes). Nutjobs and slackers and those without the resources for a huge brood should be turned away.

This case has me really ticked off. And I think this lady needs to be investigated. If the state picked up the tab for all that neonatal care, then she needs to cough up her future cosmetic surgery kitty and hand it over. If she gets a book deal/film deal, I suggest that any medical expenses that were picked up by the state or feds be repaid before Ms. Octuplets Mom gets her shots of collagen.

~

Update: Granma speaks out. And it's not pretty.
~

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Three Strikes....Maybe Good Idea To Just Avoid Chinese Products--If You Can!

I mentioned a year or two ago how difficult it was to find sneakers that were NOT made in China. I eventually acquired several New Balance athletic shoes and four pairs of Chacos sandals (all made in the USA).

Well, I got lax. I may return to avoiding Chinese products. After the tainted toys, the tainted milk and milk-including products that sickened a large number of wee ones, and now the toxic Chinese drywall, it looks like Chinese products are not good for one's health and may be best avoided until they improve matters.

Toxic drywall? Geesh. That's scary.


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Winner of THE BOOK OF NAMES

A day late, but the book is not short. :)

The winner of a free copy of THE BOOK OF NAMES, selected by an archaic random process including bits of folded post-it notes dropped into a lovely black velvet pouch with a drawstring closure, is:

SMD (aka #4 on a post-it)

I'll be emailing you for your snail mail.

Thanks to all who entered. Happy reading, y'all.
~

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