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On Last Names and Marriage [Feb. 13th, 2017|01:13 am]
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I'm not married, so I haven't had to decide for sure whether I would change my last name. I do kind of like the idea of everyone in the family having the same last name, just because it makes things easier for other people.

But what would my whole name be? First Middle NewLast? First OldLast NewLast? I decided I like the idea of First Middle OldLast NewLast (two middle names) and if I married multiple times, I would keep adding the new names on to the end. At least so long as I still liked the people attached to my old name.

But what if the groom had some horrible last name like Roachbutt (not a real last name I've ever seen)? Or what if he had a last name that sounded ridiculous with my first name, like Bippert? Maybe I would think twice.

One cool thing is that my maiden name is very common, short, easy to spell, and has no connotations, so it's safe. I figure if the groom had a long, hard-to-spell or -pronounce name that he was sick of dealing with, he could change his name to my name instead of me changing my name to his.

Apparently, that notion is pretty alien in my country.

I just read (in Bustle and Working Mother) that 70% of US adults think that a woman should change her name and half think it should be illegal for married women to keep their last names. I am horrified and irrationally enraged by this statistic.

Apparently, the main reason people give is that changing one's name "prioritizes their marriage and their family ahead of themselves."

So many reactions:

* Making it the law would mean that people who change their names are prioritizing following the law ahead of themselves, not prioritizing the marriage. If you make it illegal, you lose this easy way to figure out who the selfish people are.

* I don't see how my name has anything to do with how I treat my other family members.

* Does it just go without saying that men are also prioritizing their marriages? Or do they not have to?

* What about same-sex marriages--I guess these people are opposed to them and think they should be illegal and so the point should be moot. But I thought we finally had a majority of people not being opposed to them.

I feel like everything I was raised to believe about my country that makes it great was wrong. My parents and all my schools (yes, including ones in Florida and Houston suburbs, not just the ones in California and Chicago suburbs) taught me that freedom was important here.

But apparently, only freedom for property-owning Puritan men was important. And the rest of us can just be their slaves.

No, that's not it either. Even white property-owning religious men should not be free to become women, to marry men, to wear eye shadow, to question their church, to show fear or sadness, or to break HOA rules about too-tall grass, visible laundry lines, the wrong paint color, etc. Even they have to fit into a one-size-fits-all culture in this "ideal" world.

Obviously, names are not that important in the grand scheme of things and it's not like I even picked my current name. But like I said, my emotions reared.

(And now I'm thinking about irrational reactions. I'll change my name to the opposite of his--that will show them! My current boyfriend has a last name that means bald. So I'll change mine to a last name that means harry. So ha!)
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On the Dakota Access Pipeline [Jan. 26th, 2017|05:44 pm]
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Trump signed an executive order allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to go through after all.

So what will that mean? And what's the big deal about anyway? Is the pipeline really just a big scheme for slimy profit-hungry rich guys to ram through another job (before demand gets so low that no one will pay them)? Is the protest just a bunch of whiny law-breaking anti-energy liberals and Native Americans who refuse to accept that they lost?

First, here are my biases:
* I am against adding infrastructure for fossils fuels when we should be switching to clean energy ASAP because of global warming.
* I am against anything that profits Trump.
* I am pro the Sioux protesters and their allies. Although the pipeline would not go through Sioux territory, it would go under the lake/river upstream of their territory. Any leaks into the water would affect them.

And, on the other side:
* I am pro-Canada. They're so nice!
* I drive using fossil fuels, and I buy goods that are transported to me via vehicles that use fossil fuels. Lower fuel prices mean lower prices on almost everything.

Today I found an interesting pro-pipeline site, Dakota Access Pipeline Facts that sure makes it look like the pipeline will be built of state-of-the art materials and that it will be buried pretty deeply (95 feet!) under the water. So that might mean that chances of a leak are actually small. I like that idea.

They also say that pipelines are safer than transport by truck or train. Which certainly makes sense. "[F]ederal statistics show that underground pipelines transport crude oil more safely than rail (3.4-4.5x safer), or trucks (34x safer). The Dakota Access Pipeline can replace rail and truck transportation of crude oil with less impact to the environment and statistically greater safety." Does that just mean that spills are less likely? Or does it also mean that even when you add up all the damages of all the spills, the damages per gallon-mile transported are smaller for pipelines? I can't tell.

I mean, Wikipedia has a List of Pipeline Accidents, and there are quite a few of them and, more importantly, the leaks tend to be very, very big, in spite of any 24/7 monitoring. So I'm glad they're at least trying to build a high-quality pipeline.

Interestingly, in an e-mail I received today, Duncan Meisel of 350.org says:

[President Trump] did *not* approve Keystone XL or Dakota Access. He briefly succeeded in confusing a lot of people on this point (including me, I will admit).
* On Dakota Access, he told the Army Corps of Engineers that the pipeline is in our "national interest" and told them to "consider" revoking the environmental review placed on it by the Obama Administration.
* On Keystone XL, he invited TransCanada to re-apply and if they do, mandated a final decision on the pipeline within 60 days and waived input from environmental agencies.
* And when TransCanada does re-apply, they no longer have permits in Nebraska, and their permits in South Dakota are being challenged.
* Trump also placed conditions on approval of the pipelines -- like limiting oil exports, and determining where the steel comes from -- that the oil companies might not accept.

Meisel's sources are the National Resources Defense Council's Significant Obstacles Remain in Building Keystone XL and Earth Justice's The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Litigation on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I saw an interview (Cornyn: We'll Confirm Trump's SCOTUS Nominations 'One Way or the Other') with one of my Senators. He tries to seem very reasonable. For example, he says to do the environmental reviews and if they pass, start building the pipeline already. But he also said the Native Americans "presented their case in a court of law, and to my knowledge, the court sided with the Core of Engineers and those who wanted to build the pipeline. So everybody's going to have to comply with lawful court orders and the law of the land. They're entitled to their day in court, but once they lost, they need to go ahead and go along with the court's order."

However, according to this timeline, it looks like the case has not yet been decided. What they lost was their request for "a preliminary injunction" which they wanted because the pipeline was "already under construction and would be finished before the case could be formally decided." That is quite different.
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My Dentist Must Be Awesome [Jan. 23rd, 2017|11:15 pm]

So, I showed up for my dentist appointment this afternoon and they told me that I was a week early. However, one of the assistants (not my usual one) was available if I would like to have my appointment today after all. (And she convincingly said she liked staying busy and was glad I was there.)

Bizarrely, another lady who came in right after me was told that actually her appointments were on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (not today, Monday).

So I guess we just can't wait to visit our dentist.

Blog Post of the Day - What Kind of German Would You Be at Rita's Notebook - "Unlike us, those Germans didn’t have the advantage of such a recent example of how terrible things in a democracy can get. But we do, and that’s why I’m trying hard to be the kind of German I hope I would have been in early 1933, when Germans could still resist without risking everything."
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Do Your Job [Jan. 19th, 2017|07:57 pm]
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You know, I don't really care if you're orange or have tiny hands or ridiculous hair or can only make stupid facial expressions. I can forgive you for having a grating voice. I don't even care if you have a big ego or a tiny ego.

And I don't want to punish people or ruin people's days by, say, donating in their name to a charity they oppose or talking people out of showing up for their events. I am opposed to revenge of all kinds. (Except in fantasies. I admit that I love fantasizing about revenge.)

But I am really tired of people not doing their jobs. Not just politicians, but all over our economy. There are so many people out there who need jobs and who are willing to do them that we should not have to settle for slacking, entitlement, or willful refusal, let alone gleeful, self-righteous refusal.

You know those co-workers who are only sick on Fridays. I once had a co-worker who called in sick during the entire week of registration. Uh huh. When she left during a hiring freeze (and I got to do both our jobs for the next nine months), I found that she had never dealt with key slips. She didn't like that job duty, so she just never did it and never found another way to get it done. She just let the stack get ever larger.

I know that some of my friends have the guts to apply for jobs that they don't know how to do. And they sometimes get those jobs. But these are job duties for which they are suited, and they immediately learn how to do them.

If your job is to decide whether to approve someone else's appointee, then you shouldn't ignore it and you shouldn't rubber stamp it. Do some work. Evaluate. Decide.

If you are in charge of regulating something, you need to understand both sides of that regulation. You want to minimize damages to the general public without causing too many problems for business. Not without causing any problems at all for business. People disagree about the best way to compromise between different interests, but it is your job to pick one of those ways to compromise. If you are choosing just one side over the other at all costs, you are not doing your job.

If you are unwilling to do a job duty, you should not apply for that job. If a job duty that you are unwilling to do gets added to your job after you are hired, I understand not quitting right away. But do start looking right away once you realize that you won't be able to negotiate your way out of doing that duty.

This is part of why I never applied to be a graduate coordinator. There are time-sensitive forms that must be signed by the chair. Sometimes the chair is absent during the entire window of time during which the form can be signed. So compassionate graduate coordinators learn to forge signatures. I understand that and even approve, given the conditions. However, I am not willing to forge signatures myself. So I never applied for those jobs. I admit that I didn't lobby for another signature to be accepted, but I wasn't involved in that area myself; I was just kind of next to people who did that, and it didn't occur to me.

Some jobs are really hard and no one could be expected to do all the job duties. You should do at least the most important ones.

If something is against your religion, get a job that doesn't make you do it. If the job makes you let other people do something against your religion, I don't see how that's your problem. If you think it is your problem, look for a different kind of job. There are so many kinds of jobs.

People who do not do their jobs, or do them badly, should be given a chance/warning/training to improve. If that doesn't work, they should be fired or transferred to different jobs that they will do. At the very least, they should have their salaries drastically reduced if those salaries were based on the assumption that they would actually be doing their jobs.

People who break the law should be prosecuted. Breaking the law is more than just not doing your job. So law breakers should not just be fired and they certainly should not be given huge compensation packages for leaving. I keep getting these petitions that say someone has done something horrific and therefore should be fired. No, they should be prosecuted and given a fair trial.

I just found out that one sector of my city's government is doing a great job. I know, shocking! The guy in charge of sidewalks gave a talk at our neighborhood association meeting. They decide where to put new sidewalks based on things that actually make sense like whether the area is high density, low income, doesn't have too many trees in the way, and there's something people might actually want to walk to nearby. They warn you in time to move your plants, they pay for terracing, and they help you move your irrigation system.

Can you imagine a world where everyone competently did their jobs?

To all my readers who competently do your jobs or otherwise make sure that all your important job duties get done, I thank you. And I'm pretty sure that's every single one of you.
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Keeping the Community in Mind [Jan. 18th, 2017|07:58 pm]

A sign next to Highland Austin Community College campus/construction site says something like "keeping the community in mind." I told Robin I couldn't imagine what they meant by that. Then I said I realized that after considering the local community, they decided they needed a fence.

Quote of the Day

From a discussion group for a game I play:

jdubbs1980 - Welcome back @ellevenstill what did you bring me from your travels lol

ellevenstill - I brought you disease from the east :wink:

jdubbs1980 - I already got that lol
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When Politicians Write Back [Jan. 13th, 2017|09:20 pm]

Dear Elected Public Servant,

Please quit being a weiner-head. [Duh. Why do I even have to write this?]

We rely on you to protect the public.



Dear Constituent,

Thank you so much for sending me your thoughts.

As you may know, what you call "being a weiner-head," I call "making America great." I will never quit making America great. [Duh. Why do I even have to write this?]

I value your opinions and will keep them in mind. [Perhaps while I am playing darts. I mean, golf. Or maybe hunting.]

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College Spanish Classes: Did They Work? [Jan. 4th, 2017|08:34 pm]
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Short answer: No. I am not a fluent Spanish speaker.

My friend Amy from undergrad said they did work, so maybe my undergrad was better than the local community college, where I took my Spanish classes. And that could be, if the classes were smaller and they did a lot of talking and the students kept up with the work. I took two other languages there, however, (though not for as many semesters), and I'm going to say that their classes were not better.

My Spanish IV classmate who has learned many languages said that he found taking classes to be the worst way he has tried to learn a language. (And yes, he was one of the better students.) He prefers to jump in and interact with people who know the language. He is a cool and amazing dude and very, very different from me!

So, on to the long answer.


I still can't read the ¡Ahora Sí! newspaper without looking up a bunch of words. In fact, I don't feel any better at this than I did before I took these classes (after having taken three years of Spanish in high school and doing additional self-study after that).

One exception: My grammar knowledge is much better, and I do understand verbs better than before. I pretty much always know what tense they are, which is very, very nice. And in books that are mostly English but have some Spanish in them, I almost always understand the Spanish now.


I still cannot understand Spanish spoken in the wild except for the occasional word or phrase. And sometimes entire sentences (generally spoken by or to three-year-olds). That includes the Spanish spoken in mostly English movies. But I am much better at understanding the simple and clearly spoken Spanish on DuoLingo because I now know most of the words well enough to understand where most of the word separations are.


Talking is much easier than listening because I can use only vocabulary that I actually know. And I now have enough vocabulary that I can often figure out ways to say things I want to say to people. For example, I wanted to ask "Is there a post office nearby?" I don't know how to say "nearby" but I do know how to say "near here" and "around here." I wanted to ask, "Do you know a good place around here to buy stamps?" But instead I settled for, "Can I buy stamps around here?"

But sometimes talking takes a while. Example: Here's what happens when I want to say "The children were six years old."
Head: The children = Los niños
Mouth: "Los niños"
Head: are = ser or estar? No, wait, we say "had six years" instead of "were six years old" in Spanish. Which past tense, though? Having six years is still happening, so tenía. No, it's plural, so that's tenían.
Mouth: "tenian"
Head: six years = seis años
Mouth: seis años.

Nevertheless, I now have to guts to try to speak Spanish to Spanish-speaking restaurant workers. This is big! There is one lady in particular who is often at our favorite restaurant. She will talk for ages with other people in my class who we have dragged to the restaurant, but I can also have a short conversation with her involving a few halting sentences.


I am very good at spelling and writing things in Spanish, once I figure out how to say them. Spelling is so much easier than in English. It really is almost perfectly phonetic, though there can be more than one way to spell a certain sound.

What's next?

I need a lot more vocabulary. And I really only do well with flashcards and by finding patterns (for the latter, see, for example, my blog posts on agent nouns, reflexive verbs, and compound words).

After that, I will also need to learn a lot more about how to make phrases, for example, how to choose the right preposition. I think this will be most easily learned from broad reading and watching movies. But meanwhile, I think I could also benefit from more crutches such as Zen Language, a system compared to DuoLingo.

Reasons to study a foreign language

And on a slightly different note, there are a lot of lists out there on reasons to study a foreign language. They mostly go on about how it will help you in your career in international business. Here are the benefits I would list (besides being able to interact with more people and media).

* learn a cool accent
* increase sympathy for non-native speakers of your own language
* learn specific strategies on how to help non-native speakers; ones I've learned include:
--- speak more slowly
--- pause between words; word breaks are not obvious
--- try different ways of saying things instead of saying the same thing over and over
--- use more hand gestures
* learn better grammar
* increase your vocabulary in your native language (for English, this especially true for Germanic and Latin languages)
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Media from Around the World - 2016 [Jan. 3rd, 2017|12:05 am]
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This year I mostly focused on old favorites (Thailand and Scandinavia) and the two countries I was visiting (Norway and Spain), so I was not as widely read as last year. But I did get a taste of quite a few countries.

I remembered that Graham Greene set some of his books in other countries, and I found some of those, so that was nice, though I didn't love any of them.

Below is the full list, even including shorter works. I have put an asterisk next to books and movies I basically liked with those that I really liked boldfaced. This will be my only blog entry on these--I won't make several entries like last year. But if you want to read more about any of these entries, visit my google doc here. (The entries are in alphabetical order by country, not sorted by part of the world.) It's 29 pages long, so I recommend using the Find command.


Again this was my worst continent with only two books (from two countries). But I am now more interested in Kenya than before and will happily read more.

* petition - “Stop Mining Companies from Using Forced Labor”
* petition - “Help Stop Profits from Slavery in Eritrea”

* article - “The Gambia: Jammeh’s defeat shows voting does count, and dictators do fall.”

* fiction - The Book of Phoenix*

* nonfiction - Kenya*
* article - "Help Stop Child Slavery in Kenya"

The Americas

I read books about or set in only two countries. But one of them was Haiti, which I was not looking forward to, but which was interesting.

* movie - "That Man From Rio"

* movie - "Yoga Hosers"*

* nonfiction - Cuba*

* fiction - The Lady Matador's Hotel
* article - “Maroon 5 Musicians Voice Support for Community Forestry in Guatemala”

* nonfiction - Haiti*
* fiction - The Comedians
* fiction - The Dew Breaker

* fiction - A Death in Mexico

* article - "Capitalism vs. Socialism Summed Up in Two Brutal Pictures"
* article - “Venezuela Finally Turns Communist”
* article - “#AdoptAVenezuelan Provides Tragicomic Relief: As Escape Gets Tougher, Citizens Numb the Pain with Twitter Humor”
* article - “7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Venezuelans”
* YouTube - “What is Going On in Venezuela?”

Asia and Oceana

Asia got some attention with seven books from five countries. Also a couple of movies that totally count from two more countries.

* fiction - The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra*

Korea, North
* fiction - "The Fourth Watcher"*

Korea, South
* movie - "The Wailing"

* petition - “Proctor & Gamble, End Modern Slavery in Your Supply Chain”

* vlog - “Burma! Myanmar? BURMA!”

* petition - "Stop Banishing Women to Cowsheds"

New Zealand
* movie - "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"*

* nonfiction - I am Malala*

Saudi Arabia
* petition - “Stop Military Assistance to Saudi Arabia Until There Is a Peace Agreement in Yemen”

* nonfiction - Syria*
* article - “Preserving Their Heritage: These Creative Refugees are Taking Matters into Their Own Hands”

* nonfiction - Thailand*
* fiction - A Nail Through the Heart
* fiction - Cockroaches*


Europe wins with 28 books from eight countries, but most of them were Spain or Scandinavia. I read a lot of books set in Spain hoping I would find something I really liked, but sadly I did not.

* fiction - Smilla's Sense of Snow*
* article - “Five Food Systems Lessons the U.S. Can Learn from Denmark”

* nonfiction - Finnish lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?*
* movie - "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale"*
* article - "Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subjects”
* article - “No, Finland isn’t ditching traditional school subjects. Here’s what’s really happening.”

* fiction - The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A novel in words and pictures*

* travel video

* article - “From Anti-Semite to Jew”

* nonfiction - Iceland*
* fiction - Hypothermia: An Icelandic Thriller*
* article - “Women in Iceland Protest Country’s 14 Percent Pay Gap by Leaving Work 14 Percent Early”
* article - “Icelandic Humor is as Dark as Their Winters”

* nonfiction - In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream
* nonfiction - Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette: Norway*
* nonfiction - Norway*
* fiction - The Caller*
* fiction - Broken
* fiction - Black Seconds*
* fiction - Out Stealing Horses*
* fiction - Blood on Snow*
* fiction - In the Wake*
* fiction - Midnight Sun*
* fiction - The Ferry Crossing
* movie - "Buddy"
* movie - "Frozen"
* travel video - "Norway’s West: Fjords, Mountains, and Bergen"
* travel video - "Oslo"

* nonfiction - Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain
* fiction - The Time of the Doves
* fiction - The Return*
* fiction - The Shadow of the Wind
* fiction - A Not So Perfect Crime: Murder and Mayhem in Barcelona
* fiction - The Sun Also Rises
* fiction - Tattoo
* fiction - Remedy for Treason*
* fiction - Monsignor Quixote
* fiction - Blood Wedding
* travel video - “Barcelona and Catalunya”
* travel video - "Granada, Córdoba, and Spain's Costa del Sol"
* video from my Spanish text - “Tapas para todo los días" (everyday appetizers)

* fiction - The Ice Princess*

* fiction - The Old Devils
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Resolution Update 2016/2017 [Jan. 2nd, 2017|11:07 pm]
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It's resolution time!

Last year

I didn't have much in the way of a resolution last year. But I did, indeed, follow along in Spanish IV with my ex-classmates who took it in the spring. This was good because there was no way I could have learned as much as I did during my class in the summer. Unfortunately, I just did the grammar and vocabulary and very little of the extras. Also, my classmates were not very active with the e-mails, so motivation wasn't enhanced much by that.

This year

This year, I am willing to make a few specific resolutions.


My online Spanish text expires this year. [Insert rant about negatives of electronic "ownership" here.] So I resolve to read through all of it before that time. I hope to do additional activities as well but am not willing to commit to specific ones at this time.


I resolve to donate blood on a regular basis. For the first time in my life I was able to donate exactly eight weeks after a previous donation a couple of weeks ago. I had hoped that after menopause, my hematocrit levels would be fine, but no. However, after my doctor told me I had an iron deficiency and should take supplements, yes! My hematocrit was not even borderline.


I'm also going to continue to sign petitions, even though it's draining. And I am going to keep my eyes open for other ways to help protect fairness and the environment that I don't mind doing and that could actually be effective. I don't see myself as an activist, but I don't want to just sit idly doing nothing.

International media

I'm also going to continue experiencing media from other countries. More on that in my next entry.
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On Wooden Drawers, Part I [Dec. 10th, 2016|09:16 pm]
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A special blind-leading-the-blind feature! (Actually, many of y'all are probably not that blind in this way.)

It turns out that wooden drawers need maintenance. And that it's easy!

My house was built in 1955 and so the kitchen drawers are made of wood, including the runners. This led to sawdust appearing in my cabinets under the drawers. Figuring out the problem (not termites!) was the first step in finding the solution.

What you do is wax the parts that slide together. You can rub a candle on it or a block of candle wax or even a bar of soap, but I decided to go with paste wax. Here is a convincing video I found.

There is such a thing as furniture paste wax. Don't use car paste wax.

My drawers just have sides that stick down past the bottom of the drawer a bit and that ride over bars of wood. We dusted these off (sawdust everywhere!) and applied the paste wax with a paper towel.

Side note: The sides of my drawers were made with plywood, and the plies going in one direction wore down more quickly than the plies in the other direction, at least on the big (heavy) drawer. This, in turn, led to the development of ruts in the supporting wood bars. Like ruffled potato chips. Tres chic!

This turned out to be AWESOME! The drawers now slide smoothly, in a way that I never knew drawers with wooden runners could. I love them now. Deeply. Seriously, next time you come over, I will make you open and close one of these drawers.

Warning: If you do this in your own house, be very careful that you do not accidentally pull out the drawer and drop it on your foot. I learned this the easy way from another online source. Still, it's very hard to break old habits.


Unfortunately, this treatment also filled the kitchen with the smell of poison from the solvents used to turn wax into paste wax. After a couple of days it has dissipated except while opening and closing the drawer. It never occurred to me that paste wax would be poison.

So Robin and I decided that we should do my dresser drawers right before our next vacation.

Or it turns out there's such a thing as less poisonous paste wax. Or you can make it yourself. Maybe I'll check out Breed & Co. or possibly TreeHouse to see if they have some.

If I ever do my dresser drawers, I'll try to remember to write a Part II on this subject.

Do you have any wooden drawers in your house (or at work or elsewhere)? Do they stick, make noise when you open or close them, or make sawdust? Are you a long-time expert who wants to give me and my other readers additional advice?
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