Monday, September 29, 2008

Eco-Friendly Playground, a lesson in Patience

The time has come to create a playground for your great-grandchildren, so they too can live well.

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."
-Arnold H. Glasgow


So I was inspired by Lona's ebay adventures in Thailand and decided to buy a fabulous gem from the far east. I, however decided to go with FEDEX delivery instead of on a sea turtle's back. I've been dreaming of a fabulously garish and huge morganite cocktail ring. I won this 10.3 carat morganite on ebay. I was astounded when it arrived 3 days later! Morganite is a beryl like aquamarine and emerald only pink. Unfortunately my budget doesn’t allow for a Leon Mege creation like the lovely bauble that inspired me above, but I think I will get another ebay jeweler to make a custom setting for it.

For those of you not familiar with Lona’s purchase, she won a 14k alexandrite and diamond ring for $9.99 including shipping from Thailand! She received this response from the vendor:

dear friend

item need take 10-20 days for arriving so i wish you can waiting for some days ,if not receive after some days and you can go to local post office for checking ,

and you not receive items after checking then i think item may be miss on road so i will resend or refund full money

so donot worried

any question i will solve it

because you are my god

looking forward to reply

god bless your family

best wishes

nice day

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Living well on two wheels

This morning when I went out to start my scooter, it had not been started for quite a while due to weather, vacation and other issues. It would start briefly then pooh out. I'm learning about IC engines so I suppose it is a fuel problem probably caused by the float.

This brings me to living WELL on two wheels: I have two two-wheelers. I just started the always startable motorcycle and went on my way. Redundancy is part of living well. The remainder of this post has been redacted in the interest of political correctness.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Credit is a cruel mistress

The whole credit industry defies any logical sense. There are so many things wrong with it that I don’t even know where to begin. Firstly let’s start with how credit bureaus are allowed to tabulate and sell your credit report, but they charge you to see the information that consists of your most personal details. I had some inaccuracies in my credit report, and it gives you the option to say “this is wrong” and they’ll remove it, but they don’t give you the opportunity to actually correct it. Next, is the predatory lending practices, they want you to get into debt, which according to their scoring system you have to do over and over again if you ever want to be able to buy a house. Their scoring system punishes you for being so solvent you don’t have to use debt. You could make $200k a year, never be late on a bill, pay for your car with cash and they will decide you are “high risk”, whereas someone who needs to use debt repeatedly to afford their lifestyle gets rewarded. I have a $7000 limit on my credit card, which is more than ample. However my score is calculated by judging my debt-to-credit ratio. Since I have $4000 on my statement this month my score is penalized for using more than 50% of my available debt even though I will pay it totally off when my bill is due. The only way to avoid this negative mark, was to request them to double my line of credit which they happily obliged, of course. So even though I will likely never charge $14,000 in a given month it brings my debt-to-credit ratio under 30% which is more desirable on my credit report. It is a tricky, tricky game.

Is there a ghost?

I have been having unusual happenings at my house lately. Last night I went to turn on my far bedroom light and it was burnt out, which is not too weird. I had only been using it because my bedside lamp burned out the day prior. So with these two lights out, I then turned on the main light which is an old ceiling fan. The ceiling fan was on too, which is NEVER on. I can't even reach the pull chain to turn it on, and I don't use it because makes a squeaky sound. I use the light every day but never the fan.

Much creepier was tonight. I was on my way upstairs and the front door was open about two feet wide. I didn't even come home through that door and walked by it many times. I thought there must be an intruder. I asked the puppies to check my bedroom for me but I ended up having to do it myself.

A few weeks ago I came come from work and went upstairs and used the bathroom. I then went downstairs and cleaned my jewelry in my fancy ultrasonic cleaner. About 10 minutes later I was near the bottom of the steps and heard water running. Upstairs the shower was going half blast with the curtain open and water going on the floor- something I definitely would have noticed on my earlier trip to the bathroom. I asked everyone and no one had used the bathroom. Brian says that all poltergeist activity can be explained by ultrasound interference, which may account for my creepy shower. But what of the other events? Is there a ghost?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Your Hip Hop Education

I am guessing my readers, being composed entirely of my close family, are not big rap and hip hop fans. This may be because your pallet has not been challenged. Hip hop is the new folk- picking up where Dylan left off. Few other genres offer the witty cultural observations and fresh perspective that hip hop does. I assure you it does not all consist of threatening to "pop a cap in yo' ass".

Below is Makeshift Patriot by Sage Francis.

Thoughts on skin care

This is a follow-up to my first post on chemical peels. I was in the ladies’ room today and my T zone was a tad shiny so I used one of the toilet seat covers to blot my face. They really work amazing for it. That is the most useful and unexpected beauty tips I have heard of that works. On a side note, I always go the restroom on the first floor of my building which has no tenant. It feels so luxurious to use a “fresh” toilet every time. They clean them every night, put the seats up and squirt blue stuff in them so I always pick one that I am assured has been disinfected since the last pair of cheeks touched it. I would not recommend using seat covers from questionably maintained bathrooms.

I have done my previously blogged about alpha beta peel 3 weeks in a row and my skin looks pristine and dewy. The first week after the peel my skin felt hard and oily, but I guess my cellular turnover has adjusted. My complexion looks better than it ever has and I ran out of the aldactone and bactrim that I normally take for it two weeks ago. If this continues I will not refill it for obvious reasons.

The same time I started my alpha beta peels I discovered a new brand of skin care. I used to use aubrey organics, which is quite better than average. But this new stuff is amazing and actually less processed than even aubrey is. It’s called Suki and it is trés cher! I started with a variety pack and this eye cream I read rave reviews of on Amazon (I actually stumbled on it while looking to buy aubrey). BTW- they are 20% off right now if you want to try. I just ordered some more products I found on ebay for less than half of other places. The best thing about the peel/suki regime is that it has eliminated all the hard sebaceous bumps on my forehead which not even prescription drugs helped.

Toner is essential to getting your skin really clean. I loved the itsy bitsy Suki toner in the trial pack but I think I can make it. I plan to take rose water, witch hazel, mix in a little aloe plus a few drops of glycolic acid from the peel. There is this tv dermatologist, I forget her name, who is 52 but looks 25 and says that you need to use 10% glycolic acid toner on your face and neck daily. It's not only an extra cleansing step but it exfoliates without abrasion.

I'm sure some of you think I am putting too much effort into grooming but I hope my good skin luck keeps up!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Financial Prudence

Once important reason for the widespread nature of the present financial crisis is that insurance companies (e.g. AIG), banks, and investment banks were allowed to merge by act of Congress signed by President Clinton. This has mean that millions of people with insurance policies from AIG are left without insurance, or, in the case of personal disaster, without the ability to obtain it from a different company. All the banks were in on the toxic mortgage mess. When I discussed a loan with Suntrust Bank the loan officer was all too quick to suggest that I just include Lona's income with mine in applying for a personal loan. I refused to do so because that would be fraud. It is too bad that the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not so careful about misrepresentations of the trillion dollar magnitude.

Congress is also to blame for the present mortgage mess. They, mostly Democrats, put pressure on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make sure the poor (often with poor credit) could get in on the housing boom. They got in on it all right. This is the origin of the toxic mortgages. Now we have two presidential candidates urging the country to take on the bad debts of many entities all merged and no longer properly financially isolated.

If we really want to make a mess of things just vote for a president of the same party as the Congressional majority.

Dancing is good for you

Credit Karma

I use credit karma all the time to check my credit score for free. Sure you can get free credit reports twice a year from experion, but they charge to see the score. Credit Karma changes that. It used to be lame because they were on a 950 scale which wasn't relevant but they changed it to the FICO scale and it's super useful! Check it out! I went from 756 to 754 last month. I wonder why?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


There is no doubt that plastics have changed the world. The uses and structures of plastics are seemingly endless. Yet plastic is a threat to our earth and safety.

BPA, a hormone disruptor, is found in certain types of plastic. It has been considered potentially toxic since the 1930’s, but has been leaching its way out of our containers and toys and into our bodies for decades. It is found in the urine of 95% of Americans, and evidence is suggesting it may be causing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Phthalates are added to plastics to increase flexibility, and are suspected to cause neurological and reproductive damage. Some people believe you should try not to touch plastic too often, and never let it touch your food.

Many plastics do not biodegrade, and when they do, it is estimated to take hundreds of years. Other plastics Photodegrade instead, meaning they break down into smaller and smaller pieces when exposed to sunlight. The small pieces then contaminate our soil and water and eventually enter the food supply when they are eaten by organisms. Plastic particles now outnumber plankton in some parts of the ocean, 6 to 1.

But I recycle! Well, it is not enough. Less the 6% of plastics are recycled. Only plastic numbers 1 and 2 can be recycled in our neighborhood. Some places also recycle number 5. Even when recycled, they are really being downcycled to a non-recyclable end product. The majority of plastics end up back in the landfill the same year they are produced. Reuse is not always an option, as some plastics are only considered safe for one time use. Most plastic is also a petroleum product, a non-renewable resource.

I am not ready to give up using shampoo and deodorant, but there are many ways we can easily work to reduce our plastic use. I heard one estimate that suggests 2/3 of plastic waste can easily be avoided, though the remaining 1/3 is very hard to eliminate. You can start by avoiding disposable products, in favor of reusable ones. Chose products with less packaging, buy natural fibers, ask for no straw, lid or excess plastic packaging. Buy high quality wood, metal and glass items instead of cheap plastic alternatives. If you are going to buy plastics, look for used items, or items made from recycled materials.

  • Buy glass or stainless steel food storage containers
  • Get a Klean Kanteen for beverages
  • Use cloth diapers; try Bumkins or a diaper service
  • Consider using washable feminine hygiene products
  • Get cloth bags, including compact bags for your car, purse, backpack and diaper bag and produce bags for produce and bulk foods
  • Use paper-packaging tape
  • Avoid prepared foods, too much plastic packaging
  • Metal camping dishes are great for babies and kids
  • Make your own yogurt (its easy - you can borrow the yogurt maker my neighbor gave me, but it is made of plastic)
  • Don’t use paper towels or paper napkins (they come wrapped in plastic), get extra washcloths and cloth napkins, and throw them in with your regular wash
  • Buy toilet paper in individual rolls, wrapped with paper
  • You can even get glass straws
  • Carry a set of reusable eating utensils, or keep a set in your desk at work
  • Any other ideas?


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Time for revolution?

The proposed new financial 'Patriot Act' is shocking in its sweep. From London Banker's latest post I got this excerpt:
Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Implications: "There is no rule of law if this passes - there are no markets. We’ve all been had, and the worst is yet to come. (London Banker)"And it certainly looks like, from this little snippet, democracy will be a thing of the past. Contact your congress industry lapdogs and tell them to vote no on this 700 billion dollar bailout.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Opposite of a locavore

One of my goals in starting this blog was to talk about finance. Archers Daniels Midland (ADM), the stock I bought last week gained 10% today. ADM is one of the largest producers of grain and processed foods and is the largest producer of ethanol which is now added as a stabilizer to all gasoline as a replacement for the recently banned MTBE. I have owned ADM before. In 2006 I bought about at about $31 and sold at about $42 to help with my house down payment. So around $23, this stock is a company with strong financials and market presence selling at a huge discount. It's a conservative and somewhat contrarian stock with a P/E around 8. Obviously it's up and down a lot right now but I think it will trade in the $40s again in less than two years. As soon as I get some more dough I'm going to set a limit to buy more next time it dips to $19-$20.

For reals this time...

After five canceled trips, Brian left for Afghanistan for real last night. He'll be gone eight days.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Miracle hiccups cure

I was just struck by the most violent case of the hiccups I ever had. All my coworkers within earshot were wondering what was going on. I tried holding my breath several times and swallowing sugar to no avail. I went to my desk and googled “cure hiccups” and this came up. It worked the first try! I should mention that it was a green smoothie a-la-lona which caused the offending hiccups!

Fall Veggies

Piri mentioned she is more interested in growing food than flowers. I guess you have to choose when you only have 100 square feet to grow on. Here’s a list of vegetables you can start now.

Best Vegetables for Fall Growing:

Kale - Nutritious leafy greens on productive plants that over-winter easily even in cold climates.

Collards - Another leafy green similar to kale but with larger, stronger flavored leaves.

Lettuce - Plant varieties bred especially for growing during the fall season or in cold frames.

Spinach - Not as easy to grow as kale and collards, these leafy greens will also over-winter.

Turnips - Here’s a quick maturing root crop that’s productive and easy to grow.

Rutabagas - Larger and sweeter than turnips, plant earlier in the summer for fall harvests.

Broccoli - Popular, productive and much easier to grow than cauliflower.

Cauliflower - Finicky grower, planting must be timed well in order to develop large heads.

Mustard - Spicy hot leaves, this is a very fast growing vegetable.

Mache - Very cold hardy, mild greens can be grown right into the winter months.

Cabbage - Grow from transplants (like broccoli and cauliflower) or start seeds indoors under lights.

Oriental Vegetables - Wide range of unusual varieties are available for fall production.

Escarole - A bitter leafy green vegetable that can be cooked or used raw as a salad green.

Endive - Similar to escarole with attractive frilly leaves.

Brussels sprouts - Start seed in early summer or purchase transplants.

Arugula - Fast growing leafy greens for salads or gourmet recipes.

Leeks - One of the hardiest plants in the garden, leeks can even withstand winter freezes.

Absurdia Ex Nihilo

Jon says that he has seen two instances of people riding their motorcycle with a dog on back wearing goggles. When you stop to think about it, its pretty cool of both the dog and the rider.

Jon's mean goose, who, for lack of a better name, I will call Old Bastard, is limping pretty badly these days. Both Tom the dog and Greeleo have been chasing him to my regret. Jon says he is going to dress up Old Bastard in a Nazi uniform, and take a movie of him goose stepping with a limp, then send it to YouTube. Old Bastard acquired his limp from biting at the tire of a car backing up. Exactly the same act killed Cosmic the Goose. Cosmic acquired his 15 minutes of fame by Lona taking a picture of him acting mean then sending the pic to the local newspaper. Geese really hate moving car tires it seems.
I was too brash in thinking the gasoline powered generator would really be repairable. I changed the governor spring. Now it won't start at all even with Soren pulling the crank. It worked before. Maybe a repair reversion is in order. Oh, well, plenty of generator fun to be had. I'm off the Jon's to see if he is available to help deliver the propane generator over here.

A point of English orthography that has always eluded me is why generator seems to be spelled with OR instead of ER. Does anyone know? Since GovernOR is a position in society, while a GardenER is also a position in society, perhaps it has to do with social rank within society. Maybe someone anthropomorphized generat?? to produce generatOR with a high societal rank. I think we should call in Roal to explain all this to us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's that time of year again...

Now is the time to plant fall bulbs and peonies. This year I want to do tulips surrounding the driveway as well as snowdrops, muscari, and corydalis. If you have something that grows great in your yard, swap a few bulbs with your friends to enhance your yard's biodiversity and aesthetics. I plan on getting poppies and peonies from my neighbors this year. Anyone want to have a swap meet or split an order? How about planting parties? I am thinking of ordering from Van Engelen.


Locavore was the 2007 word of the year for the Oxford American Dictionary. A locavore is someone who eats food grown or produced in his or her local economy. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Guy and I have been making efforts to change our eating habits.

The globalization of our food supply now means that that the average distance our food travels is 1,500 miles. Precious fuel is used in transporting, refrigerating and processing these foods. If every citizen in the U.S. were to eat one local meal per week, we would reduce our oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels per week.

Food grown elsewhere means that the money spent on it leaves our community. Food bought locally triples the income for our local economy. Not to mention the longer the food travels, the more flavor is lost. Tomatoes in January are just disgusting. Eat foods that are in season, eliminate prepared and processed foods, and embrace slow foods, made exactly to your own personal preferences.

Greenbelt has a fabulous new farmer’s market that we visit every week, before doing any of our regular grocery shopping. Everything is grown or produced within 100 miles of Greenbelt. They even have ice cream! No farmer’s market near you? Get a CSA subscription, or if in Maryland, check out our new virtual farmer’s market at

Inspired by the book, we started making our own cheese. We found that at the local chain, MOM’s, we can buy organic milk that is produced in nearby Pennsylvania and is not ultra-pasteurized (the ultra-pasteurized milk usually found at the grocery store can no longer be used to make cheese). So far we have just been making mozzarella, but we hope to expand soon. We have a new bread recipe that uses some of the leftover whey. The bread is light, tasty and firm, it is excellent for our regular sliced bread needs. We do our best to drink our own homebrewed beer, though we are going to have to look into local ingredients. We did just get a hand-me-down grain mill!

In previous years, we have hauled away our leaves and garden waste to the city’s composting facility where it is shredded and composted. In the spring we haul it back for mulch. It is not a very efficient process. We have started composting, and we are planning a larger garden for next year. We are considering buying local, in season produce and preserving it for the winter by drying, freezing or canning. When I buy prepared foods like salsa or spaghetti sauce, I select based on the closest factory. So far, we have been buying Linnea locally grown peaches or tomatoes to eat instead of the bananas we used to feed her. I can’t bring myself to give up chocolate, yet.

Obviously living off our land is not going to happen, since we only have about 10x10 feet of partial sun, and not much more shade, but every bit makes a difference. Whole Foods and even Walmart have made efforts to provide their consumers with local produce. So far, we like the movement. Our locavore efforts have improved the quality of our diet, reduced our carbon footprint and strengthened our neighborhood economy.

Piri's Test


Quote of the day....

"You and I are standing this very second at the meeting place of two eternities: the vast past that has endured forever, and the future that is plunging on to the last syllable of recorded time. We can’t possibly live in either of those eternities - no, not even for one split second. But, by trying to do so, we can wreck both our bodies and our minds; so let’s be content to live the only time we can possibly live: from now until bedtime."

From my Guru, Dale Carnegie. Discussion: Who is your favorite self help Guru?

Guide to living well: I've been too inconvenienced by the occasional long term lack of electricity during snowstorms, thunderstorms, and hurricanes, etc. It is particularly bad since my CPAP requires power and I really need CPAP.

Consequently I've been on a crusade to ensure backup power for the house. I've already acquired a $50 old gasoline generator now under repair. Brian helped adjust it with this really neat voltage and frequency measuring tool for generators called a Kill-a-Watt. The Kill-a-Watt instrument is less than $30 bucks and I, like every other generator user, highly recommend it. I just changed the governor spring on the generator so it needs yet more adjustment. I don't have the strength to start it myself because it lacks an electric starter.

That brings me to my second generator purchase. There was an ad on Craigslist for an Onan propane fueled 5 kilowatt generator. It had been removed from a house owned by a lady who was upgrading to a bigger generator. It has an electric starter. Propane is highly desirable for a backup generator because it stores indefinitely unlike gasoline or diesel. Onan generators are the top-of-the-kind brand. They are extremely expensive new. I got it used for only $300 and that is quite a bargain even used. The downside to all this is that now I need to build a generator house for it and install a transfer switch for the generators.

Now, for those of you who are into the art of living well, you might superficially think that I'm not living well at all what with all these repairs on used generators. That would be an incorrect conclusion. Actually I think all of this mechanical and electrical stuff is a great deal of fun. For those of you who don't think it is fun, just buy a new generator for thousands, buy a transfer switch for a few hundred to a thousand, pay an electrician 2k to install it. It takes a lot of ducats to do that. Only an MBA with an indentured servant could afford it.

Who knew?

Overheard on the elevator, person 1 says to person 2 "There are lots of things you can do to enhance your appearance without resorting to plastic surgery". Person 2: "Comb your hair...". Person 1 (nodding) "Yes, comb your hair ...and get a nice cut".
Who knew it was that simple! What other things could I have learned if they hadn't gotten off on the third floor!

Shake it, baby

As the maternal unit responsible for producing an agrarian M.B.A, I am thrilled to be invited to contribute. Let me talk a little bit about a morning shake as an ingredient to 'living well'. Soren and Chrissy came back with the idea after a Gary Null seminar. I have toyed with the ingredients a little and make it like this: almond milk, flax seed oil, wheat germ, tofu, berries (blue or red are best), protein powder and spirulina-veggie-probiotic powder (Garden of life Perfect Food Super Green Formula) all blended together in the cup that comes with the immersion blender ($20 at Target) that I bought for the process. I sip or spoon (depending on the thickness since I never measure anything) in the morning while surfing a few internet news sites....mmmmmmmmm. Well, I've been faithful to this drink for about six months that is supposed to reverse grey in your hair. I think it may be time to let my dye job grow out and see if it worked. Another note- I have not gotten sick since I started drinking this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pimp my page

found some neat gadgets. Are they too busy? The fish are my favorite but I can't adjust the color, background, and number of fish like I can on my igoogle. You have to feed them regularly or they'll get ferocious.

All polish no substance

I am blogging from the VW dealership, where they have these fancy glass offices with phones and computers for customers to use while they wait for their cars to be fixed. I am here getting them to replace my brakelight which they pretended they fixed last week but obviously didn't though they certainly charged me for it. $70 to replace 3 lightbulbs is exorbinant. I know the parts are under $3 each. Last time I brought the bulb to jiffy lube and they installed it free.

I am having my porch painted something called "kale green". Sounds delicious! The handyman is also repairing the morter in my front steps. I feel like the house is shaping up pretty nicely. So far our major improvements have been replacing the carpet with marble, new vinyl siding, and some plumbing improvements I don't notice. Oh- and we had the Brothers Sharp replace the peak of the roof. However it blew off like a sardine lid at the first bad storm. Brian and his dad rolled it back flat and added more nails and it has survived a tornado since then just fine. Leo, my indentured servent, is also doing a good job of cleaning up the trees from said tornado.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ducats in a Row

Since January I have been using the free Yodlee Moneycenter to track my finances. You add all your bank accounts, investments, 401ks, credit cards, loans, airline miles and mortgage accounts (under 2 layers of SSL) to it and it automatically updates them and tracks your net worth and spending. It is so nice to have everything aggregated and know where my money is going. It is amazing that something this indispensable can be free.

Why are you wearing that mask, were you burned with acid or something?

I have been wearing SPF 70 sunscreen nearly everyday this summer. However, I lost it for a couple weeks and got way too much sun on my lunchtime walks. I feel really haggard and leathery - plus I have a freckle on my nose that Brian always tries to wipe off because he thinks it’s dirt.

So I did a little experiment to see if I could reverse the sun damage. I ordered an Alpha-Beta Peel from the Original Skin Store for $22 on Ebay. It consists of two steps: 10% salicylic acid and 40% glycolic acid. It was advertised as eliminating acne, fine lines and sun damage. I washed my faced and painted the salicylic on with a paintbrush and waited 3 minutes. It really stung so I spent those 3 minutes setting up a fan to blow on my face. Next came the glycolic painted over the first layer, that also stung but not as bad (or maybe I was used to it). I waited another 3 minutes then patted baking powder paste on my face because I couldn’t find the baking soda it called for. This neutralizes the acid, but the baking powder was a bit abrasive on freshly burnt skin. I put Aubrey organics moisturizer on and my face felt and looked pretty normal.

On your second to fourth day you are supposed to peel a little bit. It’s been two days and no sign of peeling yet. This is supposed to be mild enough that you can do it once a week. I will update you with the results once I’ve shed.

Blog Envy

It seems like everyone has a blog but me so I am jumping on the bandwagon!