Monday, December 28, 2009

New favorite thing: Olay Definity Color Recapture

I wear makeup nearly every day. I think between being raised as a good Southern girl and having terrible under eye circles and various other things that need to be covered up, leaving the house barefaced is just not me.

On the weekends I don't want to go through all the hullabaloo of a full face of makeup, but I still feel naked without something on my face. Given all this I am sort of constantly on the hunt for a tinted moisturizer in particular that looks natural, doesn't get all weird by midday, provides some coverage but isn't too foundation-y, doesn't make the oiliness of my skin worse AND matches my fair, sort-of warm-colored complexion. It's a tall order, and since I've been wearing one form of foundation or other since I was I think about 12, I've tried what seems like everything out there. And it takes a lot for me to really embrace a product.

One of the skincare/makeup message boards I frequent was full of raves for Olay Definity Color Recapture, but I was skeptical. Most Olay products I've tried have been a disappointment, even since they've reformulated and made themselves all fancy, and at almost $24, this was pricey for a drugstore product. Too, my local Target and drugstores didn't carry it and, even if they had, Internet postings indicated that there were no testers available at brick-and-mortar stores to check for color matches. But the online raves were compelling and consistent, so when I was making a order, I threw in a bottle in the fair/light shade.

And I have to say -- I'm impressed. The tube of product is pretty large, and a little goes a long way, so while the price is definitely higher than that of other drugstore options, it also seems like you're getting more for your money. The color is forgiving, so the handful of available shade ranges should work for most people. It provides a little coverage, just enough to hide some redness and make me feel presentable, and after it dries the finish is really nice. And, best of all, it didn't exacerbate my oiliness or wear off oddly in the oily parts of my face. This stuff definitely competes with department-store tinted moisturizers I've tried in the past, and I have to say I really, really like the end result. Several people at church yesterday told me I looked great, which I attribute to this stuff.

I'll still keep more traditional foundations on hand for work and dress-up occasions, but the Color Recapture has earned its place in my makeup rotation.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Song of the day

I'm not sure how many people know of the late singer Eva Cassidy. She reinterpreted many folk, rock and jazz standards, performing them largely for Washington, DC audiences. She released a couple of albums prior to her death from melanoma in 1996 at the age of 33. A BBC broadcast of her version of "Over the Rainbow" several years after her death (an amazing interpretation of a great song) brought posthumous attention to her work and her album "Songbird."

One of my favorite songs ever is Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." It's been covered by artists ranging from Ronan Keating to Matchbox 20. But Eva Cassidy's version remains my favorite. Her clear, haunting voice just stays with me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

--Luke 2:1-21

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'O Holy Night' as sung by Cartman

I love "O Holy Night" -- it's definitely my favorite Christmas carol and probably up there in terms of my all-time favorite hymns.

After Sharon posted the lyrics to the song in both French and English, I felt compelled to poke around on YouTube to see if I could find a nice version to post here for the holidays. And -- well, this just made me laugh. I think it's the way most people sing and know the song.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An old dog learns a new trick

Life can be hard when you're a nearly-15-year-old dog. Winters are tough, even relatively mild California ones, and just getting around like you used to is a bit more challenging. Even at her advanced age, though, Daisy has remained remarkably sprightly and springy. Until about a month ago, that is, when she was trying to jump up onto the couch -- and missed. She fell, hard, and both of us sat on the floor afterward, shivering and crying a little.

So I have finally and officially entered the realm of Crazy Pet Owner with the purchase of this thing -- a pet ramp/step contraption. Yes, I realize that I am now actively enabling (with furniture, no less) one of the very behaviors I've spent most of the time I've had her trying to make her stop. But that spill she took was really nasty, and since she spends most of her time when I'm away at work sleeping on the couch, whether I want her to or not, it seemed like an almost reasonable purchase to keep her safe. Almost.

Of course, not unlike her owner, Daisy resists change. So the ramp/step contraption has spent the last two or so weeks here in the family room totally unused. I've tried to pick Daisy up and put her on it, lure her to it with baby talk and by crawling on it myself (shut up), but no dice -- she's eyed it warily and acted like it's some satanic device from outer space to be shunned and feared. No amount of coaxing on my part could change her very small mind.

Until I had a stroke of genius -- cheese! Or, more accurately, "cheese" since she's only ever eaten Velveeta. It's her third favorite thing in the world (her favorite being a tie between French fries and her SnuggleSafe fresh from the microwave), and food is one of the few things that can motivate her stubborn little self.

Here is the clearly menacing contraption with cheese on its three steps, just waiting to lure Daisy into its evil clutches.

And here's Daisy, almost literally as far as she can get away from it and still have me in her field of vision. I think she worried that I was so close to the wicked thing, but not so concerned as to jeopardize her own safety.

Eventually, she nervously, carefully crept toward the couch, the Velveeta's siren song working its magic.

And then, finally, she commits, snatching the cheese morsel off the bottom step.

Almost before I knew it, she was more than halfway up the steps, snarfing "cheese" as she went.

And then -- victory! On the couch, having used the steps to get there, Daisy was quite pleased with herself.

Of course, she immediately jumped down, waiting for me to produce more "cheese" to reward her again for her fearlessness.

Now, after this episode, she goes up and down the steps without a second thought. Like it's her J-O-B. Which, in a way, it sort of is.

And here's a picture of Boo. He didn't use the steps, but then again he never does anything he doesn't want to do.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not sure what I think about this

Lynnie asked today if I'd seen this video yet, and I had not. It is compelling and a clear gospel call. From the Catholics.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Pap schmear?

A coworker said he'd seen this public service announcement last night on CBS, and sure enough, lookee here. Once again, I don't have words. The perfect Christmas gift is, apparently, a Pap smear:

Or Hanukkah gift, even:


Monday, December 7, 2009

Appalled. Disgusted. Aghast.

I am rarely at a loss for words, but after reading Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat's recent piece about a single mother of two children earning less than $19,000 a year who was audited by the IRS, I am. Not only was she audited, but after her parents (with whom she and her two little boys lived) hired an accountant to help her with the back-taxes fiasco, the IRS audited them, too.

Here's the whole column. I have no words.

Rachel Porcaro knows she's hardly rich. When you're a single mom making 10 bucks an hour, you don't need government experts to tell you how broke you are.

But that's what happened. The government not only told Porcaro she was poor. They said she was too poor to make it in Seattle.

It all started a year ago, when Porcaro, a 32-year-old mom with two boys, was summoned to the Seattle office of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She had been flagged for an audit.

She couldn't believe it. She made $18,992 the previous year cutting hair at Supercuts. A few hundred of that she spent to have her taxes prepared by H&R Block.

"I asked the IRS lady straight upfront — 'I don't have anything, why are you auditing me?' " Porcaro recalled. "I said, 'Why me, when I don't own a home, a business, a car?' "

The answer stunned both Porcaro and the private tax specialist her dad had gotten to help her.

"They showed us a spreadsheet of incomes in the Seattle area," says Dante Driver, an accountant at Seattle's G.A. Michael and Co. "The auditor said, 'You made eighteen thousand, and our data show a family of three needs at least thirty-six thousand to get by in Seattle."

"They thought she must have unreported income. That she was hiding something. Basically they were auditing her for not making enough money."

Seriously? An estimated 60,000 people in Seattle live below the poverty line — meaning they make $11,000 or less for an individual or $22,000 for a family of four. Does the IRS red-flag them for scrutiny, simply because they're poor?

I asked the local office of the IRS. They said they couldn't comment for privacy reasons.

"We can't give you any kind of broad interview because your request is associated with the case of an individual taxpayer," IRS Media Relations said in a statement.

So I'll just tell you Rachel's story.

She had a yearlong odyssey into the maw of the IRS. After being told she couldn't survive in Seattle on so little, she was notified her returns for both 2006 and 2007 had been found "deficient." She owed the government more than $16,000 — almost an entire year's pay.

She couldn't pay it. Her dad, Rob, has run a local painting business, Porcaro Power Painting, for 30 years. He asked his accountant, Driver, for help.

Rachel's returns weren't all that complicated. At issue, though, was that she and her two sons, ages 10 and 8, were all living at her parents' house in Rainier Beach (she pays $400 a month rent). So the IRS concluded she wasn't providing for her children and therefore couldn't claim them as dependents.

She stood to lose what is called earned income tax credit, a refund targeted to help low-income workers. You qualify only if you're working, as Rachel has been.

Driver quickly determined the IRS was wrong in how it was interpreting the tax laws. He sent in the necessary code citations and hoped that would be the end of it.

Instead, the IRS responded by launching an audit of Rachel's parents.

"I was floored," says Rob Porcaro, 59. "I get audited now and then in my business, so I've been through it before. But to have them go after me because of my daughter, well, I've never heard of anything like it."

Rob and his wife, Patty, had to send in house blueprints, bank statements, old utility bills. Rachel was asked to prove her children were hers, as well as document the money she'd spent on her children's clothes, health care and so on.

They racked up $10,000 in accountant bills — $8,000 of which Driver is trying to recover from the IRS.

In the end, the parents were cleared. The IRS also backed off trying to reclaim Rachel's earned income tax credit.

But the agency insisted Rachel couldn't prove she was supporting her children — she didn't have enough receipts — so she had to stop claiming them as dependents. A few weeks ago she paid back $1,438 (plus penalties and interest!) on that issue.

Way to go, IRS. You did an investigation likely costing tens of thousands of dollars (counting both sides). To squeeze a grand out of a single mom who did nothing wrong.

Legally, Rachel's kids now are in tax limbo. I met them at the Porcaros' house and they seemed real enough, jostling and pleading to play video games. But as far as the IRS is concerned, they don't exist. Neither Rachel nor her parents can claim them as dependents.

"I tell you, we don't buy a roll of toiler paper anymore without keeping the receipt," Rob said.

Why did this happen? The IRS won't say, but Congress has been fighting for years about the earned income tax credit for the working poor.

Republicans have called the credits "backdoor welfare" and tried to cancel them. When they controlled Congress, they ordered the IRS to ramp up audits of people who claim the credit.

In 2006, credit recipients such as Rachel were more than twice as likely to get audited as the rest of the 140 million individual tax filers.

The Porcaros say they get that the IRS can't just audit the wealthy. Poor people commit fraud, too. But the intensity and duration of the IRS' "obsession," as Rob called it, as well as that it appears the agency was trolling for the working poor, remains a sore point.

It's why they agreed to talk about their finances in the newspaper.

"I feel they're persecuting the people who are down in the mud making the bricks," Rob says. "I'm sure there are tons who don't have the resources to lawyer up. What a way to go, to have your own government take you down because you're too poor."

Driver, the tax specialist, says it's well-known that the system targets the weak — people with sloppy returns, for example, who don't tend to be well off.

"It's the way a wolf goes after the weakest sheep."

Rachel says an irony of her year in tax hell is that the IRS is right about one thing — you can't get by in Seattle on what she makes. That's why she's living with her parents. To try to make a life in our shimmering city without relying on welfare, food stamps or other public assistance.

"We're an Italian family," she said. "We're surviving as a tribe. It seems like we got punished for that."

OK, maybe I have a couple of words.

If it wasn't possible for her to provide for her children on so little money, according to the federal tax people, why was the IRS reviewers' response to that finding to audit her for missing income? If that theory were true, shouldn't social services have been notified of a case of potential neglect? I guess not. Or -- how about focusing the audit to be sure she took all deductions available to her? No, apparently not.

Um, what?

So I was minding my own business this morning, reading online weather reports because the snow level is supposed to drop low enough today for Sacramento to get snow and I was worrying about the morning's commute. Like Sacramento drivers need a reason to crash into each other.

ANYWAY, so I was checking the weather. And this ad was on the ad page for my suburb. You may need to click on the image to en-bigger it:

The "homeowners fail to take advantage" ad is what caught my eye. Does a bearded, bare chested man with long straggly hair have something to do with refinancing? Is it a play on the Geico caveman ads? I am at a loss here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Comic of the day

Modern day Three Little Bears. Click on image to en-bigger it.