Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me! I get a Tsunami!!

We're only about a half a mile from the coast here at my mother's, but up on a high spot out of the evacuation zone. The tsunami should be hitting here in the next 30 minutes, but so far no sirens.  We went for a walk down to the look out above North Jetty park about 90 minutes ago to get the "before" picture, and hiked down the hill to let the dogs swim a little with the seals.  I don't expect it will be much different after - I think we're only projected to get 2 feet.

My heart and best wishes go out to everyone in Chile in the earthquake zone.  And everyone in the Tsunami zone - please stay safe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tonight I'm off to the Home & Garden show after winning free tickets.  I need inspiration for my deck and back yard.  Last weekend we ripped out this old potting bench and 20 foot lattice covered shelves thingy in the corner of our upstairs deck to free up some crucial sunny space for a container garden.   We have a good size lot as far as modern suburban real estate goes, but one of the benefits of buying in an established neighborhood is also one of the curses - fully mature shade trees and mega-huge conifers in every yard.  There are only a few spots that aren't shaded half of the day. It's great for the squirrels and birds (and raccoons, and opossums...), provides a great deal of privacy (when there are leaves, that is...) and helps keep the house cool in the summer, but isn't so great for vegetable gardening.  Or lawns.  Or dahlias :(   I've got pics - I'll post soon.   I need help.

Then it's off to Gramma's Bed & Breakfast on the beautiful Central Oregon Coast tomorow for the weekend.   I'll try to get some pics of those no-longer mising San Francisco sea lions while I'm down there.   Darned Californians moving up here, driving up the property taxes.... **sigh**.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Damned socialists anyway....!

The owner of Bob's Red Mill is giving the company to the employees with an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). 

The first company I worked for out of college was an ESOP.  I can't tell you what a difference it makes as an employee to have ownership in the product/service you're selling or supporting.  Not just ownership of profit (which is a huge incentive itself), but ownership of the decision making process and everyday management.  I've worked in an ESOP to working for a huge publically owned company (as a contractor and no ownership at all), then to a small privately held company and back to public again (with a strong profit sharing plan).  I can't tell you how vastly different the cultures are when employees are given a stake in the profits they produce and a say in the process (and stress factors) of their everyday jobs.    How much better employees and management work together, trust one another.  How employees will step up and innovate, and work harder and longer to solve problems, minimize costs, provide better customer service.   It's like night and day.  A fact which has been supported by numerous studies, by the way....

Yet according to lovers of the mythical magic of capitalism... this business model is anathema.  It's Socialism.  With a capital "S".  Such a company is doomed not only to fail, but to drag down everything America holds dear right along with it. So are member (or customer) owned companies.  Like credit unions.  And co-ops.  Member-owned insurance companies.  At least that's what I heard over and over from soundbites from last week's CPAC convention.   Especially lovely was listening to them talk about how they don't want a crappy "gov't run" healthcare system to screw up their much beloved (... and gov't run...) Medicare.   Then there was Glenn Beck talking about how he taught himself that liberals/progressives are the bane of Democracy..... by reading "free" (?) books at the (tax-payer funded) public library.  Public library systems that were envisioned and implemented in the U.S. (and U.K. before then) by.... progressive "elites".

But as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I'll take companies that are employee-owned or significantly employee owned any day.   Like Google (who gave me gmail, and Blogger...).  And good old socialist ideas like public libraries.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Crud has left the building

Well, almost. At least it's more than halfway out the door.  Though we're still all coughing and hacking at Casa Mustang we're starting to see the bright side.  The frogs are singing, the sun's coming out, the crocuses are blooming, the dog's still alive.... and we're all finally feeling like we have the energy to enjoy life again.

The first week of sunshine in February brings out the euphoria in Portlanders.  Even those who haven't been sick for eons.    It's funny as hell.   After weeks of dismal drizzle and overcast skies we emerge from our winter lairs, take a look at our sodden yards and sprint (or bike)  to the nearest garden center. 

For months you commute in darkness and it's easy to think that you're the last human being left on earth and all the faces you can barely see in the other cars are really pod people.  Until February when it begins to stay light enough after you get home to walkabout the yard, check out the daffodils ready to bloom, see what favorite perennials survived the winter and you spy your neighbors out doing the same exact thing.

Otherwise, you have no idea what's been going on two houses down.   Once, we inadvertantly found out and it scarred us for life.  I won't go into details but let's just say it involved bright lights, cameras and very few clothes.  We'd have remained blissfully ignorant but for the afore-mentioned bright lights, lack of curtains and unfortunate dearth of foliage on the trees in the yard between us.  And had Mr. Stang not started smoking again and happened to step out on the balcony with insomnia one midwinter's night.  Just another hazard of smoking they don't tell you about...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

PSA: Don't poison your dog with Sugar Free Jello Pudding Cups

Some weeks zip on by, others just draaaaggg....

This is one of those weeks.  Jinx is fine, by the way.  Now.  Tuesday night however we weren't so sure.  The Monkey had been sick since Sunday.  The heaves had stopped but he still couldn't keep anything down and had a slight fever.  Lethargic doesn't begin to describe it.  Stuporous? Maybe.  Freakishly inert, in any case.  All he wanted to do was sleep, and no food kept down in 72 hours.  So we were a little worried.  In an effort to tempt his appetite I'd bought several varieties of pudding cups.  Because who can resist pudding?  EXACTLY!!!   One variety happened to be sugar free.  And had Xylitol in it (you know... the sweetener in gum that's known to KILL DOGS??) .  And because I'm an annoying know-it-all and read the ingredients of almost every damned product I buy I told Mr. Stang when brought it home, "Oh, by the way honey... this pudding has XYLITOL in it, so DO NOT give Jinx the empty cup to lick like you usually do (she loves licking pudding cups, yogurt cups, ice cream cups... we love watching her get them stuck on her long nose).  He nodded his head (I thought in understanding).

Turns out, not so much.  Because Tuesday night, he gave our beloved black Lab the last half of the Boston Cream Jello pudding cup the Monkey had refused to eat.  I heard the ecstatic licking from across the room and asked "that is NOT the pudding with the POISON in it I TOLD YOU not to give to her, right?"  Wrong.

By this time, I'm getting sick myself with some crap my coworker brought to the office (thankfully not the same gut bug as the Monkey) so I'm feverish, coughing and exhausted while trying to detach a very sick child from the couch to take a bath.  Mr. Stang is running around looking for some kind of measuring device and the hydrogen peroxide to try to induce vomiting (something the vet tech later said, by the way you should not do at home because it can burn the esophogus and cause more problems than whatever they ingested).  I am trying really hard to not bust a "Goddamit I TOLD YOU SO"gasket because that would be entirely non-constructive.  Poor Jinx is just confused and trying to figure to why we're shoving bubbly stuff down her throat.   I'm calling and getting directions to the emergency vet clinic just in case she starts seizing.

Guess we got it out of her in time - she never showed any sign of distress.  Mr. Stang stayed up with her all night just to make sure.  It's sure some week though when you're simultaneously trying to get the kid to quit puking and the dog to START puking.  

Friday can't come quick enough.  I stayed home yesterday and the Monkey and I slept all day. He's eating now (though lost a couple of pounds) and was cleared by the doctor this morning.  I'm still under the weather but am back at work.  Jinx, thank all the gods is perfectly fine and still doesn't understand what all the commotion was about.  Mr. Stang is still torturing himself with guilt.  I'm not trying very hard to stop him.

Monday, February 08, 2010

My Super Bowl Sunday

The pre-game show started about 10:00, when I took the Monkey to the craft store to pick out his own yarn and hopefully some kid-sized (and safer) knitting needles than the 14" #7's he'd found in my craft box the day before and had been mercilessly begging to use ever since.  His sides hurt, he said.  Normally very stoic, the wincing and grimacing on the way home gave me a clue as to what was in store . 

Clutching his side, he said ever so sweetly, "I'm sorry Mommy but I don't think I'll be able to make you something today.  Maybe tomorow."  Foregoing craft projects?  Voluntarily?  Oh crap it's gonna be bad.  And it was.

The Main Event kicked off right on schedule - 3:25.  The half-digested eggs and hot cocoa from breakfast were the first to make it to the endzone. I took a Timeout to regroup and figure out the best way to clean up puke from a shag carpet without tossing my own breakfast. I somehow managed to hang on and make steady, if slow progress - not losing any yards against my unseen opponant until halftime, when Round 2 started. 

By this time, however I'd analyzed the playbook of my adversary and came prepared with my OWN Super Bowl:

Made of durable pink plastic, Kitchenaid mixing bowls are lightweight, clean up easy and come equipped with a handle just the right size for little hands to grasp when overcome with stomache cramps.  High walls keep the ensuing mess well-contained and the non-slip, no tip base is a life saver when quickly setting down on endtables or countertops while reaching for warm, soothing wet washclothes.

Pouring edge makes disposal of resulting mess a snap. This is a truly, and remarkable Super Bowl.

Needless to say, I missed whatever game was on T.V.   I hear the Colts choked.   The Monkey hasn't eaten anything solid in over 24 hours, but his last go-around with the heaves was around 3 am and he's been able to keep down clear fluids since then.  So I think we're on the mend.  But he's still not up for crafts.  According to a co-worker I wasn't the only parent up all night fighting the Intestinal Flu-bugs so I guess there's something going around.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics

Well this sucks. Consumer Reports tells us the FTC is coming down hard on retailers who are marketing rayon fabric products (bedding, apparel) as "bamboo" and therefore environmentally conscious. 
snip: "Among the companies warned by the FTC are, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, Kmart, Lands' End, Sears, Target, and Walmart."
From the FTC :
"Looking to be a more environmentally conscious shopper? You’ve probably heard about bamboo. Bamboo stands out for its ability to grow quickly with little or no need for pesticides, and it is used in a variety of products, from flooring to furniture. But when it comes to soft bamboo textiles, like shirts or sheets, there’s a catch: they’re actually rayon.
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know that the soft “bamboo” fabrics on the market today are rayon. They are made using toxic chemicals in a process that releases pollutants into the air. Extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming, and textiles made just from bamboo fiber don’t feel silky smooth.

There’s also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant, as some sellers and manufacturers claim. Even when bamboo is the “plant source” used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product. "
Another newfangled cotton/linen "alternative" I've seen (and bought... it feels wonderfully silky smooth but wrinkles like a Shar Pei when not blended with cotton) is "modal"... produced from the fibers of beech trees.  Looks like it's really just rayon, too.
Example of BB&B primer on fibers used in sheets (it appears they haven't changed their website yet to comply with the ruling).

Thursday, February 04, 2010

That was a quick week!!

One of my new addictions is this fantastic show on the Sundance cable channel called "Man Shops Globe".  Keith Johnson has my dream job.  He's a buyer at large for Anthropologie and gets to travel all over the world scouring exotic flea markets, bazaars, antique stores and the like for unique arts, crafts, furnishings and other paraphenelia to decorate and sell in their upscale, esoteric women's apparel stores.  The coolest part is when he gets to commission work from artisans.  What I wouldn't do to be able to walk through Portland Saturday Market, or go studio hopping at Portland Open Studios (or the equivalent halfway around the world) and say "I LOVE that piece!  I'll take 20."

Every time I watch it I'm fascinated by the fact that someone:
  1. Gets paid (very well, I'm sure) to do this;
  2. Regularly travels on carbon-sucking jets halfway around the world (and back again) to find some innovative 3rd world artisan/ vendor who is recycling garbage into masterpieces (that are then marketed as "eco-conscious"); and then...
  3. Can find enough people who don't have anything better to do with their money than buy enough of said items to make a considerable profit in the midst of a global recession.

But as I'm looking at many of these "remarkable" finds I'm thinking "dude.... I've seen that bottle/ jar etc. in a dozen different antique stores for $2... saw that rusty old iron bed frame in someone else's guano-bespackled barn during an estate sale for $10..... or OMG give me a hot glue and/or staple gun, a couple yards of fabric,   foam and some scrap plywood & wood trim and I can make this EXACT same thing for $50!"  Maybe $100 if it's really, I mean really - expensive fabric.  But for $1,000 (marked down from $2G) that toile better have come from Marie Antoinette's personal parlor!

I guess they need to pay for that jet fuel somehow. Most of the time, all they seem to do is rip off said 3rd world artisans/vendors and reproduce it themselves for pennies on the dollar - cutting their inspirational source entirely out of any profit. Those items are they seem to sell at pretty reasonable prices.  I have a feeling it's mostly the "one-of-a-kind", artisan-direct stuff that is sold at a premium.  Which is fair.  But I still like to feel superior while living vicariously via the net in my almost entirely second-hand furnished house.

Do they not have antique malls in Manhattan?  Ever heard of Etsy?   Craigslist?  Why can't he shop online, repurpose locally like the rest of us and save a little gas?  But then, if repurposing junk into "found item" decor is de rigueur nowadays the only way to differentiate oneself is to find foreign, exotic junk. 

It occurs to me that maybe I need to quit my whining.  It's one thing to sit up on my high horse all superior and scoff "I could do that for $50!".... and it's quite another to actually get off my ass and try to DO it.  Then turn around and sell if for $2,000.