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For a while now--probably since I first heard about the clams on Prozac problems--I've been trying to use health/beauty products that are better for the health and beauty of the the planet my children will someday inherit. (Scratch that. Those kids are hardly meek.) 

Some easy replacements have been excellent; some have even made me wonder if the original solutions were the problems. For instance, it seems that my lips grow less chapped when I use a beeswax lip balm than a petroleum-based one. Unscented scrubs, creams, and lotions often feel better on my skin, and they let me enjoy the scents that inevitably accompany other products.

But there have been a few things here and there that have been failures. One that springs to mind is the "botanical" facial toner that was mostly alcohol--to preserve the natural ingredients, no doubt--which stung my skin and made me smell like Everclear. That one's easy though; basic reading skills at the store would have saved me that one. Others are less obvious. Rather than let you buy or make these products yourself, I share my own experiences and idiocy with you. If you don't toss out a half-full tube or jar, the world is better off, right? Right.

My bad purchase is your gain! )

This is already long, so I'll spare you my next product failure. If anyone finds this remotely amusing, I will humiliate myself further soon--not just for you, but for the good of the planet.

(Edited for clarity's sake.)

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I'm considering starting a site of my own. In fact, I started to fill out the contact info at a domain service. Then I backed out when it started asking for contact info. I don't have an office; I don't even have a P.O. box. If I register my home office, then will my home address be out there for anybody to find?

GoDaddy has some info about "private registration," but I'm not clear as to what's so private about it.

Can anybody clear this up for me or point me to some useful info?

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Technology and animation journalist/editor Emru Townsend died last night. Although he was lucky enough to get a bone marrow transplant for his Monosomy 7--and his site HealEmru.com has doubtlessly helped many others to get the marrow they need--his transplant did not cure the disease.

I knew Emru only a little bit, completely through e-mail. From what I saw there--and from everything else I knew of him--he was intelligent, funny, and sweet. He leaves behind a wife and young son.

I wish I had gotten to know him better. I wish he were still alive.

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1. Registering online at the National Marrow Donor Registry is pretty easy doesn't take very long. I did it last Thursday.

2. Thanks to a new technology called PBSC, sometimes the needed stem cells can be harvested through a procedure not unlike donating blood or platelets. No anesthesia needed. An old friend of mine is eligible for a bone marrow transplant using PBSC.

3. Getting into the database is the longest part of the screening process. My swab kit is already here, but it will take weeks to process it if I send it back the normal way. If I get it to my friend's family, though, they can expedite it through his marrow drive on Saturday.

I'm about to go swab my mouth and cross my fingers right now.

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This summer, Sweety and I attended a truly marvelous wedding. It was in a tiny space by a pond in a gorgeous wooded hillside. Our considerate friends rented a B&B and hired nannies to watch all the guests' kids. And the ceremony was so moving that even the participants cried. We had to leave before the reception due to the kids' bedtime, but we swore we'd take our newly married friends, A and E, to a nice dinner to catch up and talk about the wedding.

A few weeks ago, A and E came to visit.  We spent a little time reacquainting them with the kids, who they hadn't seen in a while. We went out to a nice Italian restaurant. Wine, pasta, main dishes, dessert and coffee. We reminisced about the wedding, which really was one of the most touching and beautiful I've ever attended. We chatted about friends, former co-workers, and current events.

All the topics of conversation were interesting, but one of my favorite chats happened with A on the way to the restaurant. "How is it being married?" I asked.

"Not much different, really," he told me. "We've been together fifteen years."

I still get a little glow from being married, and I told him that. "But the best part is the way you suddenly become legitimate in society," I mused. "The neighbors ask you over. Everybody wants to help you celebrate."

A nodded. "It made a big difference with family, too." He told me that the marriage made their families more comfortable. Then he added, "No on 8!"

A and E are wonderful people. We've known them for years; Sweety used to work with A, and I always looked forward to seeing A at work get-togethers. When the twins were small, A and E bravely visited our chaotic household and brought lunch. They helped to feed and hold the babies. The babies clearly liked them.

A and E are a fantastic couple. They have the kind of deep love you want all your friends to have. Sweety and I were thrilled when their commitment ceremony became a wedding. And yes, they are both men.

Now the state of California is about to vote as to whether A and E, and others who happen to be in romantic and loving same-sex relationships, have the right to be married. I know that a lot of people are considering voting Yes on 8 to make gay marriage illegal, and I think these people don't have the whole story. Perhaps they just don't know a couple like A and E. 

If you came to this blog knowing me, you probably knew this would be my take on it. If you didn't, please think about it. The state of California is not going to require that marriage be taught in schools. It's not going to demand that your church perform gay marriages (heck, look at the hoops you have to jump through to get married in a church even now). And if you are married and straight, your marriage will not mean any less because gays can get married, too. After watching A and E get married, and hearing how it helped their families to accept them, it made marriage mean even more to me.

Please encourage all your California friends to vote No on 8. It will hurt no one, and it will help some people who are in love. It will help their families, too.
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I was pleased with the last American presidential debate. It was an interesting, lively format, and we heard some details we hadn't heard before.

Health care is a big issue for our family. Although we're all healthy right now (knock wood), we've had some big scares, and we know the value of good insurance.

When I was pregnant, I worked full-time and got truly fabulous health insurance. This was excellent stuff, covering things I didn't use, such as acupuncture and fertility treatment. I was especially grateful for it when our spontaneous twins decided to continue their trend of spontaneity by arriving eight weeks early (nine weeks, according to some calculations). The total hospital bill for the kids' first five weeks ran $945,000. That's just the hospital bill; it doesn't include the doctors' fees and radiology and breast pump rental and so forth.

$945,000. And I was getting good nutrition and prenatal care. Sure, I had gestational diabetes--a common complication of twin pregnancy--but it went away shortly after I gave birth. The kids themselves didn't actually develop any major problems. The majority of the time they lay there racking up the bills, it was just because they were too small and undeveloped to swallow, to survive without an incubator, and do those other things that full-term babies are born knowing to do.

We continued our insurance through COBRA as long as we could, and then applied for private insurance. Since we weren't planning to have any more kids, we applied for one with no maternity coverage.

We were denied coverage.

I called our insurance agent and asked why, and the agent told me it was because of the gestational diabetes and the premature births. The fact that we planned to have no more pregnancies didn't matter. The fact that we planned to have no more births didn't matter. The fact that my husband, our twins, and I were all healthy didn't matter. We were denied coverage.

So when the candidates talked about their plans, I was interested.

How the candidates' health care plans would work for my family )

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In last night's VP debate, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin both set their hypothetical John and Jane Smiths "around the kitchen table" having difficult talks about the woes of the middle class. Having just made a pasta frittatta for dinner, I had food on the brain, and that got me thinking of the debate in food terms. What if, instead of the mini-speeches we got, we were instead dropping by for dinner at their kitchen tables? Not a fancy Sunday dinner, mind you, but a weeknight "since you're in town, why don't you come have dinner with the family?" dinner.  So I tried to translate their words and messages into food.


One night in Wasilla... )



Then, in Delaware... )


In real-world terms... )


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Today I renewed our Natural History subscription for another two years. It's one of Sweety's favorite magazines, and it's associated wth a museum, so I'm all for it. Didn't hurt that you get such a good rate when you re-up early.

But I paused for a minute when I remembered the latest issue ran 48 pages. I've never counted their edit-to-ads ratio, but a thinner mag usually means less content. Subscriptions help, sure, and so does selling mailing lists (although we're no help in that regard), but ad revenue is still where most mags make their money. When ad pages drop, so do edit pages. I'm not saying NH will stop printing or anything; I don't know how their overall finances are, and I think they probably have some core readers who will never give up on the mag.

I've been told that the first thing people let go when their household budget gets constricted is magazine subscriptions. They're not all that expensive over the time you get them, but if you're up for renewal and see a fast way to not spend forty bucks, a lot will depend on how much forty bucks means to you at that moment. I guess I've always seen dropping subscriber numbers--and you can easily track these at a magazine's Web site, because they have to reassess their rate base quarterly--as a bad sign for not just the mag staffers, who lose jobs if this continues, but for the economy in general. Of course there are surer ways of showing how the economy's doing, but it's a segment I find a little sad when things aren't going well.

The case of Natural History is especially worrisome because it's such a good magazine, always very solid and interesting. Sweety loves the science articles, and even I often tear out their book reviews and add to my Amazon or library list. Discover went ridiculously fluffy a few years back, so there aren't a lot of science magaziness that I can both comprehend and stand any more. If NH gets thinner, it is a loss for both of us. And not just for us; it means there are fewer ways for average joes to learn about science, and it might mean the museum is suffering, too. That's a bad sign not just for the current economy, but for the future of our economy.

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Forgive the lame link, but this is where I found the story about major chain stores expected to close down many--possibly all--stores.

This is interesting to me because I was just in #1-Least-Likely-to-Succeed, aka Sears, the other day. Having suffered through a few seasons of really cruddy kids' clothes that couldn't stand up to washing, I decided to see if Lands' End could do better for at least a few key items. I buy a lot of Sweety's clothes there because they're classic-looking and they last forever. And the kids' clothes were very nice, but some of them were mismarked. Not wanting to wait another five years for one of the girls to wear a certain cardigan, I readied for returns.

But returning with the included label costs you $6.50. If I understood the woman on the phone correctly, it costs that even if the return is due to their mistake. Returning them at Sears, though, is free. So off to Sears we went.

The return went very smoothly. The items were still tagged; their bags had been opened, but that was it. Everything was pretty close to pristine. And do you know what sticker they put on them? "CLEARANCE--USED." If they're having to do that every time Lands' End screws up an order, then no wonder they're not doing well.
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I enjoyed the season finale of Doctor Who. They really did pull out all the stops. I particularly liked seeing Elisabeth Sladen in her Doctor Who context again.


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About two years ago, when I was pregnant, Sweety bought me a GameCube game called Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life. This is the girled-up second entry in the Harvest Moon line. Basically, it's a farming sim with a tiny bit of plot and a lot of relationships with the neighbors. Oh, and since this is the girl version, you also raise a kid and can buy clothes. Sweety thought I could play it while I was on bedrest, enjoying the progress of root vegetables as our own little harvest gestated.

As it turned out, I couldn't very well play console games lying on my left side with a continual nosebleed. So I just started playing it a few weeks ago. And although I'm enjoying it, it's teaching me some things about how I play games.

Wildfire

Jun. 25th, 2008 10:22 am
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Wildfires are burning all over Northern California. We don't live especially near any of them, and yet the air is hazy and smelly. I tried to take the kids for a wagon ride yesterday, but turned back early because I felt like I was holding cigarettes to their lips. This morning, the smell hit me halfway down the stairs.

Edit: Just check out the fire map. Yikes.

What a scary part of climate change this is! It seems that a lot of people think that if they hide inside and turn up the air conditioners, global warming won't bother them. But the drought--which may be partly due to natural cycles, but is almost certainly worsened by the human-caused heat--is baking the area into kindling. I suspect that homes and lives will be lost. It's a poor swap for an SUV.
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Computerworld posted a riveting look into why women leave technology careers. The main reason is not starting families, but getting fed up with being harassed or belittled at work. There are more reasons, too, some of which seem related.  Having worked in a tech-related industry, I would say that this looks accurate.

The mentoring idea is interesting, too. I have learned from both men and women on the job, but I am especially grateful to a senior woman who took the time to teach me little things I needed to know. I used to get annoyed at the "we must all band together" idea, but I did find that many of my biggest breaks came when I had someone going to bat for me, saying, "She can handle that." Often, it was another woman who was my champion. (And it seems I didn't disappoint anybody, since those projects often grew in scope or became regular assignments.) It's sad to me that a company should need a little subculture to help valuable workers survive, but  if the culture isn't very inclusive to start with, then it becomes a good idea. I think what Cisco's doing is smart.

I'm not trying to create a man-bashing situation here. Maleness is not a bad thing. What I find interesting here isn't that tech environments are man-filled or manly, but that they're macho. That speaks to me of young hires and of a failure to create a truly professional work environment. It gets me thinking, what are companies doing wrong? Are they so anxious to get the talent that they're letting too many people behave like spoiled rock stars? And when women come up with their own networks in a male-dominated department, do we end up with more problems based on that division?
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After reading [profile] whatifoundthere's comment on my last drought post, I re-read the drought restriction notice more carefully. They're not applying drought rate to 90% of what we used, but to 90% of what our allowed baseline usage was. The baseline levels have always been kind of a mystery to me anyway. So it's not so brutal to people who've been careful with their water usage in the past, but Casa Sweetrabbits has some work to do.

One thing that may help: Sweety left for work early the other day and realized that the sprinklers were running more often than we thought. When the landscape designer put in the new watering times for our newly landscaped yard, she didn't delete the old watering program. Sweety deleted the old one, so we will be using a little less water than we've used the past few months, at any rate. No wonder our new plantings looked so lush and green, eh?
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Our water utility has declared that we have a drought, and that we're going to start a new fee structure in August. By this time, we will be expected to use 90% or less water than we have in the same months of previous years or pay a premium.

This isn't going to be prohibitively expensive for us even if we go over the 90%, but I'm trying to think of ways to ratchet down our water use. I try not to waste in general, but I have gotten a little lazy on a few points. There are a few things I won't compromise on--the kids need clean sheets every week, and the new plantings need to establish their root systems if they're going to be xeric later--but I'm making some vows to cut back on our water usage.

What I'm trying first:

  • Put more items in the dishwasher; hand-wash fewer items.
  • For plates that need hand-washing, remember to use the spray head instead of the faucet. It uses less water, and it works better anyway.
  • Wash hair every other day. I do need to wash the rest of me pretty much every day, but hair often benefits from less washing.
  • Stop using the warm shower as a place to work out muscle stiffness; do a little tai chi every day instead.
  • Collect water left from heating shower water and use it to water houseplants and garden.
  • Using bibs, washcloths, and kid clothes of the color due for the next washing. This will keep me from doing extra OxiClean soaks or doing laundry before a load is full.

I found a site that has a lot of clever ideas for conserving water and finding leaks in the home, too. I'll have to try some of their recommendations.

It's kind of nice to have an impetus to cut back on water use. I'm big on conserving in general, but working at home and having kids has really let our use of all utilities balloon. I have found it pretty easy to look at the bills and say, "Well, of course it's high. It's because we have kids." But we may not really need to do a load of laundry every day. We may not need to hand-wash all the kids' dishes. It's time to re-examine our patterns and see if they couldn't be more efficient.
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I read a really good article about clutter a few weeks ago. Lots of these articles either seem too peppy and unrealistic or else just don't seem to get the problem. This one worked better for me, for some reason, so I've been trying off and on to follow its advice.

The idea of decluttering a small area or spending a short length of time on it every day works pretty well. In some cases, all I'm doing is consolidating clutter--but at least I know that that pile of magazines is just a pile of magazines and not a pile of magazines, catalogs, letters to be answered, and Costco coupons. I have to remind myself to do it. The results are visible around the house (and would be downright impressive if I decluttered daily).

The part that's really getting to me is getting rid of five things for every thing you bring into the house. This is a great idea. All you have to do is look at the piles of things lying around and note the absence of visible flat surfaces, and you can see the logic of this. The trouble I'm having isn't just the stuff I can't bear to part with or the things that I'm not done with yet (someday I'll finish that baby blanket and watch those anime, really I will). The problem is that I can't completely control how much stuff comes in.

I'm not being idiotic about the stuff that enters the house. I am not counting groceries or mail, and I have re-thought some impulse purchases and held off. However, we have to get stuff for the kids. They need swimsuits and swim diapers, sun hats, weather-appropriate clothes that fit, and so on--and even if I could find anyone to take their outgrown winter clothes right now, I wouldn't be able to unload them at a 5:1 ratio. The kids have to have clothes to wear (and now that we've got a drought, I'm even trying to figure out if I can wash clothes less often).

What's more challenging is the stuff that we can't control. Friends and family send us hand-me-down clothes, books, etc.. It is a wonderful, generous, useful, money-saving, green thing to do, and I love them for it (as well as for other things, of course). That said, I thought I was decluttering pretty well until we got a raft of much-needed kid clothes. Suddenly, with the 5:1 ratio, I owed it to the clutter project to get over 200 items out the door. After more back-and-forth with donation trips and occasional necessary items, I'm still 188 items in the hole. It really gets you thinking about how much stuff it takes to run a household--and makes you wonder how much of it is really necessary.
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PopCap Games, makers of delightful and addictive casual games, are having a fund drive for breast cancer research. From now until Mother's Day (May 11), they're donating 30% of the price of every game bought to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

PopCap makes mostly puzzles and arcade-type games, all with energetic music and attractive graphics. Titles you might know include Peggle, Bejeweled, and Chuzzle. The company promises a special gift to everyone who donates if the donations reach $100,000.00.

So, if you were looking for a new game to play, here's a good reason to download a trial and see if there's a PopCap game you'd like to buy. Heck, I'd ask my kids to do it, if they had credit cards.
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Now that the kids are more independent and easier to care for, Sweety and I find that we sometimes have an entire hour and a half of time before bedtime in which we can get stuff done or goof off. Sci-Fi's Friday lineup gives us enough fodder to do a bit of each for an entire weekend.

Sarah Jane Adventures


I think this show is rather sweet. I'm a little mystified by the villainous Slitheen--I thought the evil ones we saw were criminals?--but it's amusing to see a Slitheen child. Maria and Luke don't grate on me like many child characters. But does anyone else think that Elisabeth Sladen and Mary McDonnell are identical cousins?

Doctor Who


I was a little worried about the whole "new attitude" commercial. I liked the old attitude. This was a fun episode (Christmas special, I'm sure). And hey, Street Fighter wasn't Kylie Minogue's finest moment as an actor!

Battlestar Galactica


spoilers )
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Tonight, while looking for a template, I discovered something called "Pleading Wizard."

Nice, huh?
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Today, Big Baby took three tiny, lurching, unsupported steps into my arms. In one of the great ironies of motherhood, I celebrated her new skill and independence by sweeping her off her newly useful feet and hugging her tight.

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