Archive for September, 2008

Why Yes, I Have Been Thrifting

And it’s been so long since I posted a trip that you get three in one. I think I spent about $60 all told. Yes, I did, because I can check that in my online banking now! More on that to follow.

But here you are. The big album, and the selected thumbnails.

When I am thrifting, I occasionally find myself buying items simply because no one else will love them for their own ugly selves, like I do.  For instance, my new bowling outfit:  you see it to the left of a button down printed with a topographical map, which the GF wears handsomely.  Poor shirt.  I will give it closet space, and find a 70s party to wear it to occasionally.  It is safe with me.

It gets classier, though.  I found a Banana Republic blouse with a back-button detail, and a blouse that appears to have frilly gills.  Plus, I got a (second) pair of pants- navy Dockers.  My jeans thanked me.

Then there are the wonderful things.  My skirt with polka dots!  I will wear it with boots.  Plus, a boxed set of Italo Calvino’s novels- I’d been reading If on a winter’s night a traveler on loan from the library, and it’s the kind of book I need to own.

Thrifting makes me ask myself the hard questions.  Why do I not wear more sequins, for instance? How come I haven’t worn a belt in 10 years?  How many colors can I combine and get away with? Most retail stores have one style that they sell, and you might as well wear a cookie cutter (unless it is cold).  Thrift stores have everything from nice to ludicrous, and you get to pick your combos. It’s an odd sensation, having clothing that I enjoy wearing, and it causes all sorts of irrational exuberance when I get dressed these days.  For the longest time, my personal style has been “does it smell clean? is it pants? ok”.  It is high time to shift that to “I do feel happy in whatever this outfit is”.


I picked the wonky, detailed ones for your edification!  You’ll love them, I promise!

The EPA continues to refuse to do its job.

The US power grid is really old, which means new green energy plans can’t get far on it. Modernization is necessary.  Too bad we’re spending all our money to buy Wall St. a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card.

Speaking of what the government’s up to, a few things have slipped under the radar while they’re dealing with the bailout.  The House approved $25 billion in financing for US automakers, so they can afford to make the more efficient cars they promised us.  The Senate is expected to pass the bill soon- and they already passed an extension on solar tax credits this week that the House and Bush are expected to approve.  Solar may be the sunniest part of the market these days.  Groaaaaan.

Al Gore urged the youth to go all civilly disobedient on new coal plants being built without carbon capture or carbon sequestration (CCS) modifications.  Given that the technology is so expensive and no regulations exist in the US to encourage CCS, that’s probably all of them.  Go wild. Make environmentalism exciting again.

Swedish people just built a new coal plant this month in Germany with the CCS technology, which makes it the only plant in the world that captures its own emissions.  Their system has some problems, still, and environmentalists and power experts wonder if it was worth it.

Too much for a Fried-day?  I promise soothing pretty pictures next time.

Unemployed At Last

Yesterday was the last day at my old job, and I start the new one in a week and a half.  During my brief unemployment, I hope to address the problem of my budget, sew everything, get a passport, and rearrange my garden for the fall.  This might not be realistic.

I’ve kept my spending journal for a couple of weeks, and the biggest thing I need to eliminate is food.  Not like all food, just the fast food or sandwiches I buy because I’m away from home for all three meals a day and haven’t packed anything for myself.  So, I need healthy, easy, cheap, packable meals. And a lunchbox.  The GF appropriated my rocketship.

Last week I did a little better with not buying food out, because I had a large amount of foodstuffs left over from a housewarming party last weekend.  In order to eat it before it spoiled, I subsisted on cookies, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, apples, and hot dog buns with peanut butter on them for most of the week.  I earned that this is no way to live.

I’d list plans for meals now (cook up a large amount of cous-cous or rice and a small amount of meat!  Chop vegetables!  Combine as necessary!) but I’m headed to New York for the weekend, to check out the exhibit on pre-fab housing at the MOMA, and to investigate how my finance friends are doing (not answering their emails, for sure…not that I blame them).  While there, I plan to mostly eat food from carts.

So, catch you when I get back.

Review: Barbara Freese’s “Coal: A Human History”

I’ve been prevaricating on this review, because I wanted to say something profound about it.  I didn’t not enjoy reading it, but I’m not sure I got an informational return on my time.  So, briefly, here’s what stuck.

Coal  tells many of the little stories of people and events that make the history of coal way more interesting than it should be.  At times, it feel shallow, like the author is trying to jump from interesting bit to interesting bit, and spare us the boring parts underneath.  I’m a fan of the boring backbone of history, though, so we may disagree on this.

The first part of the book discusses when coal was first used, how it grew England, how it grew America, how it grew unions and anti-union sentiment, and briefly sketches the state of coal and the coal industry in America today (important, but dwindling, sort of).  The second bit describes her trip to China, and how it’s doing industrialization on its own coal power.  Vivid descriptions of pollution in London during the coal years echo recent reports of pollution in Beijing.

There are three things you should take away from this book:

1) Coal is very dirty, and it kills a lot of people at every stage of it’s production and use.

2) Without coal, the industrial revolution, growing of manufacturing economies, and wonderful increases in the standards of living for billions wouldn’t have happened/be happening. (Now juxtapose 1 and 2, and you see our dilemma).

3) We should try to not use coal for energy any more, since there are safer sources, but it is going to be very difficult to wean ourselves from it, much less convince the rest of the world to lay off.

Know that, and you’re solid.

The book is informative and well-written, but unless you make a concerted effort, or are just really into the industrial revolution, it’s very likely you’ll forget it on a table somewhere and not notice you haven’t read it for weeks.

A Conscience Reference

Know how, every couple of months, the New York Times Style Section publishes an article on how well-meaning people are just so frustrated by trying to live green that they don’t bother?  Here’s the most recent example.  They typically don’t give any more information than “green is soooo hard” and “people are soooo confused”, which I imagine is why this “reporting” stays in Style.  It might be helpful if they mentioned any sort of solutions (set priorities?  budget first, buy later?  make it before you buy it?) but that’s not really the point of the article.

Yesterday, though, a company from Berkeley launched a website to help you make sustainable decisions, simply.  GoodGuide rates products based on social, environmental, and safety issues, and gives them a score from 1 to 10.  You can search things that score particularly well in each category, or several categories, and it’s not just hippie brands that score well.  A detailed reasoning behind each grading rubric is included.

It’s small yet (60,000 products small…so not tiny), and hasn’t been able to collect all the data it needs to make it’s scores representative yet- but they’re good approximations.  Plus, you can leave your own reviews on products, and help out.  Most of what they’ve got listed is a household cleaner or personal care product.

So, check it out, if you need some help deciding.  And check it out to see if your product choices really make as much sense as you think…

Tracking Spending

I finally got a day planner to go back to school, and now I’m using it to write down what I spend every day, and what I spend it on.  According to the internet, this is how one should begin to develop a monthly budget.  CNN Money has a series of articles on personal finance basics, and if you ignore the “stop buying expensive coffee” pap, they’re not so bad.  Since I do my banking online and paying with a debit card, I also have a record of monthly spending that I can divide up by pertinent category (fun, food, bills, totally unnecessary, gifts).

But really I just wanted to show you my day planner.  Isn’t it great?  I got it from oh pangaea books at etsy, and life is a lot simpler now- all those lists I make in my head then forget?  Now I write them down.  lmoss, the bookmaker at oh pangaea, used a pretty sweet shiny binding paper too- not sure if you can see it shine in the photo- but it’s lovely.

Anyway.  Simple pleasures.

You can also see the chair I’m reupholstering in the background there.  Photos of all that and a discussion of craigslist fiascos later.

Move Along, Nothing More to See Here

Speaking of public figures I find ridiculous, remember when McCain was reliable on environment issues? Like, before he started the campaign? His ideas on environmental and climate protection are now at odds with his own party’s platform. But it’s cool, he’s not serious about the environment or global warming in the first place, not now. One can’t be, when one needs the Republican party to actually vote for you, and them’s just the breaks.

By picking Palin, McCain’s gone ahead and given up all pretence of environmentalism.  Palin thinks global warming happens and that it’s bad for Alaska, but she doesn’t think global warming is a man-made phenomenon.  Fortunately, that makes it logical for her to believe the answer to our energy problem is to drill for as much oil as possible, as soon as possible, since our use of fossil fuels has nothing to do with the danger her state and it’s icy resources are in.  She hasn’t offered other ways to solve the energy crisis, and contradicts herself on whether drilling will actually help or just make us feel like we’re doing something.  Plus she is totally into wildlife, in the sense of she likes to kill it.  Details here and here.

She’s not really big on science or truth anyway, so there she’s consistent.

So, hum a dirge for rational, responsible Republican environmentalism, and head on.

(Specifically, head on over to Biden’s record on the environment.  Obama/Biden are the only candidates left with environmental integrity, so it’s now just great that they have an actual plan to solve the energy crisis and reduce our dependance on oil.  Not that voters concerned about the environment won’t have to settle for whatever this pair doles out, but they give a good, strong product, so whew.  Biden is a fine compliment to all the groundwork Obama’s laid on the issue.  Would that they’d talk it up!)

Progress: Better

I spent the bulk of August trying to get better at my past resolutions.  I dumped some compost into the garden, planted my fall crops, and practiced shower-water reduction.  Actually, not true, I spent the bulk of August looking for a new job.  But I did the other stuff, too, and it would appear that compost actually works.  Before and after shots of my climbing flowers:

It used to bloom once every two weeks or so, but a week after the compost I had three flowers and it had gone all jungly!  Also, I killed some bromyliads, as you see, but that was not related to the composting.

And I’m a pro at Navy showers now.  Quiet, good month environmentally, plus I started classes again and I’m turning in my two weeks tomorrow, so great month for the rest of my life.

With all the brou-haha in the parts of life I don’t blog on, the blog has been sparse recently.  After a year, that makes sense:  I’ve done 11 whole things to be more eco-friendly!  What more could there possibly be?  I could turn this blog into a series of rants on how ridiculous I find various public figures, or pictures of the cat I borrow from my new housemates?

Enh, let’s just assume this environmental ennui is due to job-related stress, and switch it up a bit this month.  I’ll pick a goal that delivers a glancing blow to environmental problems, and works on some things I just need done, now.

I have this new job, see?  Or I probably do, the offer letter is not physically in my possession, so we’ll see.  I also have another part time job, to fill some gaps that might arise when the “real” job is offered.  Plus, I’ve got a few more semesters at my current school, then a Master’s Degree to save for, and one day I’d like to pay a mortgage, not rent, and one day I’d like to retire and spend most of my time dozing on a porch or traveling the world or something, so I need to keep saving hard.

Thus, it would behoove me to create a budget, and stop buying junk I don’t need- or at least limit junk-buying to a reasonable, set amount.  So, that’s the September plan.  Evaluate and better direct my finances.  Practice frugality, if not austerity (depending on what’s in that offer letter).

Now for the environmental reasons. Consuming less means less drain on resources, which is cool.  It would appear that most of what I buy these days is either edible or second-hand anyhow, but tracking my spending would help me figure out how to best conserve all sorts of things- what resources I’m really draining, too.  I’ll probably find out I should shop for groceries differently, and make more of my own food.   Also, on a more tycoonish note, I’d like to spend some time moving my fledgling investments to more environmentally-friendly areas.  Make sure I’m not investing in oil or anything I’m not a huge fan of.

Plus, with Christmas and a brother’s wedding coming up, I’ve got some presents to buy.  Good time to save, and consider how to get people nice gifts without violating my own shopping ethos.  Also:  can I afford to buy organic foods this month and get my brother an engagement gift?

PS:  To start out frugality with a bang, I signed up for six months at the Wardrobe Refashion site.  I’ve pledged to not buy new clothing for the next six months, but instead, to get it second-hand, alter it, or sew it myself.  Expect to see some projects posted soon!


I stuck my first post up here a year ago today.  I’d have some fireworks prepared to celebrate, but I’ve been away for almost a week celebrating two years with the GF.

So, soon.  Meanwhile, thanks for joining in and sticking around!

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