Friday, September 30, 2005

Kudos to

In a serendipitous trip along the www this morning, I discovered a wonderful website. David Morgan (Bothell, WA) is a retailer of menswear, including hats, clothing, leather products, and luggage. They also carry a great collection of silver and gold jewelry. The company is family owned and operated, since 1962. Their on-line shopping site,, stands out for a number of reasons.

First, they offer nearly 700 items that are made in USA. These items are easily found by entering “made in USA” in the search box, and results are displayed on special USA-made product pages.

Second, David Morgan, which is based in the greater Seattle area, displays regional pride by featuring a number of products from the Pacific Northwest. Brands include C.C. Filson (Seattle, WA), Geier Glove (Centralia, WA), Welch Co. (Portland, OR), and Northwest Coast Indian jewelry. The site also offers American-made products by Phillip Hawk (leather goods), Bills Khakis, Ultimate Hats, Five Brothers (shirts), Bosca leather products, and jewelry by Kevin Kapin.

Third, the site includes background information on the companies whose products are offered, as well as information on the art and lore of native tribes of the region. This added depth makes for a rich shopping experience.

Fourth, the overall design of the site, in terms of aesthetics and functionality, is excellent! Colors and layout are attractive, and side menu options allow shopping by product category or by brand.

Congratulations David Morgan! I encourage all of you to check out the site.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thank You's

Life is busy, but that’s no excuse not to say “thank you.” So I told my son this weekend after his birthday party. (And yes, we survived a sleepover with a bunch of eleven-year old boys, so thank you for asking!) Which brings me to the topic of today’s post.

When I started my website,, I wasn’t sure how many visitors it would get or how helpful it might be to other people. Over the last year, I have been pleasantly surprised on both counts. Many people have supported the site, by shopping from the links, sending me notes of encouragement, suggesting companies to list, making monetary donations, and providing free internet publicity. I try to respond to emails, but sometimes I get behind. So this is my chance to say “thank you” to all of you who have supported the effort and the site.

In just the last week or so, I have received monetary donations from and OptaCaddy, a personal donation from Brian McRae, many suggested company listings from Marianne McCormack, and several requests for additional shopping categories. In addition, new links to have been posted by:, United Steelworkers Union Local 9481, Communications Workers of America Local 6350, and United Autoworkers Local 845.

According to the AltaVista search engine, over 80 sites now link to StillMadeinUSA.

Thanks to all of you, and keep sending in those suggestions and comments! Even though I can’t always add content as fast as you would like, I appreciate every suggestion I receive! I’ll keep at it as long as I can spare the time and I feel that people are finding the site useful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hybrid is HAPPENIN’!

Nothing indicates momentum like a full-page advertisement in a major daily newspaper. Using that criterion, I conclude that U.S. automakers finally get it! Yesterday’s Washington Post sported 2 full-page ads announcing the new partnership between BMW, DaimlerChrysler, and GM (“It takes a hybrid to build a better hybrid”) and Ford’s expanding commitment to “the American hybrid.” Wow. My head is spinning.

To top it off, the front page of the Business Section included a story about Ford’s new hybrid initiative. According to the story, Ford Motor Co. is concerned about the environment and the energy crisis, and plans to add a number of new hybrid models in the next few years. Wow again. Regardless of motives, the buying public seems destined to have a wider range of hybrid vehicle options, and that’s good.

With a late start on the market, U.S. automakers may have a tough run to catch up with Toyota (Prius, Highlander, and new Lexus RX), and Honda (Accord and Civic hybrids). Current offerings from Detroit include the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs, and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrid trucks.

A nice summary of current hybrid offerings, including miles/gallon, can be found at and more information on hybrid technology and available models is at

Other hybrid news:

  • Toyota commits to reducing the hybrid premium (the price differential between standard and hybrid models) by half. (full article)
  • Volkswagen announces it will make hybrids by 2008 with a Chinese partner for the China market. (full article)
  • Toyota says sales of hybrids are noticeably higher after Hurricane Katrina and the associated rise in gas prices. (full article)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wal-Mart Bank

For some time, Wal-Mart has been trying to get into the banking business. If that scares you, tell the FDIC by signing this letter.

As described in an article in The Economist, Wal-Mart's bid to open an industrial loan company (ILC) looks like an attempt to skirt federal regulations regarding separation of banking and commerce. The prospect of competing with the multi-tentacled octopus called Wal-Mart, rarely accused of being a good corporate citizen or model employer, is raising concerns on the part of the Independent Community Bankers of America and worker advocates.

For more information on the Wonderful World of Wal-Mart, check out a special series by the editor of the Labor Tribune.

(You can tell I'm worked up over this one, since it's my second post today!)

Crab and Pun-ishment

As a recovering marine biologist, I have a lot of repressed memories of field work in coastal marshes. Writing about Assateague Island brought back forgotten memories of the joys of sampling. My research animal was the blue crab, fondly known as Callinectes sapidus. Suffering from the hubris that comes with being young and a graduate student, I was determined that my research would be statistically sound. This translated into needing LOTS of crabs for my experiments, all of which had to be males (don’t ask) of a certain size. So, I spent a lot of time baiting and hauling crab traps.

For the uninitiated, crab traps are large wire contraptions with openings that crabs swim into and then usually can’t figure out how to get out of. The standard bate was chicken necks bought at the local Piggly Wiggly store. The older and smellier the chicken necks, the better the crabs liked them. The idea was to bait the traps, throw them off the dock into the tidal creek and leave them until the next day, when hopefully the trap would be full of crabs of just the right sex and size. Crabs that passed the test were packed into Styrofoam coolers with Spanish moss, and taken back to the lab where I did unspeakable things to them.

One cold winter morning, I was in pursuit of the last batch of crabs for the season. I baited a trap and hurled it off the dock into the water, only to watch the rope go sailing past me. Yes, I had forgotten to tie the trap to the dock. You know how sometimes your brain tells your body to do something and your body won’t listen? Well, I stood there for quite a few minutes. I KNEW I had to go in after that rope, but I couldn’t make myself jump into icy water. Of course, I did go in after it. Moments like these separate the sheep from the goats. Baaa. I guess I’ll never make cover girl for Field and Stream.

You would think that my revenge came afterwards in the lab. Actually, though, after working with blue crabs for awhile, I came to really respect them. They are strong and scrappy, can survive in fresh water or salt water, and can really run! Sometimes one would get away from me, and as I chased it all around the wet lab, I wondered which of us was a better survivor. So, even though I stuck needles into large (statistically valid!) numbers of crabs, I never could bring myself to eat the varmints when the experiments were over. I gave them away to fellow starving graduate students with fewer scruples.

Biological Puns (thanks to Fred):

  • Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, "Dam!"
  • A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Friday, September 16, 2005

Economy and Environment: The Case for Helping Detroit

I’ve been very concerned about the state of U.S. auto manufacturers as they continue to lose dollars and market share, and shed jobs. The news from Detroit is grim, and the decline of the auto manufacturing sector affects not only auto workers, but companies and workers that produce parts in the supply chain.

On the other hand, I am aggravated that the “Big Three” have put so much emphasis on heavy, gas-guzzling vehicles. Now gas prices are high, and people are looking around for higher mileage options, and manufacturers who have too many eggs in the SUV/truck basket are feeling it. Eventually, I will need to buy a replacement for my 1991 Ford Taurus, and I want to buy another Ford. But, I also want a hybrid car. So, my options are limited, though my hopes are on Ford promises of a Hybrid Fusion.

Inspired in part by the Apollo Alliance, which is crafting a coalition of worker and environment interests, I am interested in possible win-win solutions for U.S. auto manufacturers and the environment. Imagine my delight, then, when Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) laid out just such a proposal yesterday!

Speaking at a Policy Leadership Forum at Resources for the Future in Washington, DC, Senator Obama described his proposal for a government role in helping U.S. auto manufacturers invest in more energy-efficient cars. His proposal calls for the government to pay 10% of the automakers’ retiree health care costs, with 50% of these cost savings to be invested by the automakers in hybrid, advanced diesel, and other fuel-efficient technologies in the U.S.

This proposal appears to address one of the loudest complaints of the “Big Three,” that the burden of health care costs for retired workers is making it difficult for them to compete (estimates are that these costs add $1500 to the price of each GM car). As well, the proposal addresses multiple policy objectives of helping to preserve manufacturing jobs while reducing emissions from vehicles.

Sounds like a win-win to me! Let’s see if the proposal picks up supporters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Walk the Walk Success Stories

Success at last! For weeks I have been looking for a quality journaling book made in USA. I struck out at a drug store, book store, arts and crafts store, and 2 office supply stores. Then, last night I found exactly what I wanted at my college book store (run by Barnes and Noble): a leather-bound journal by Gallery Leather of Bar Harbor, Maine. So, once again perseverance pays off! A nice selection of Gallery Leather products is available at Spartan Photo Center (SC).

Another great find: colorful organizing folders with a flap and cord, made in USA by SMEAD, available at Office Depot. I confess I thought SMEAD was some version of MEAD, but according to the company website, SMEAD is a privately held woman-owned business headquartered in Hastings, MN. They have 15 manufacturing plants, including 8 in the U.S., one in Mexico, and 7 in Europe.

The results of my All-American back-to-school shopping for the kids:

So, it really IS possible to buy American! Keep the faith.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Friendly Guys in Brown

Because I buy American, I do a lot of shopping on-line and from catalogs. That means the UPS truck is at my house pretty often and I know my postman. Over the past year, I have noticed that the UPS guy no longer brings packages to the front door and rings the bell. In fact, many times I don’t even know that he has been to the house. He leaves packages at my garage door and unless I hear the truck drive away, I don’t find the packages until I go out to get in my car.

This weekend I stumbled across a great website (, created by a UPS driver in Denver, and now I understand the situation better. Apparently UPS has instituted a new computerized system for package loading and delivery routing, and pressure has increased on the drivers to deliver quickly, and that means DON’T TALK TO THE CUSTOMERS! I understand the need for efficiency, but I miss the personal touch and the smile.

I recognized a kindred spirit when I read the webmaster’s “About” page, where he says:

I’m publishing this website because I feel a need to speak up. I believe that the disparity of power between the common man and the corporation is growing larger everyday. The laborer is no longer respected as a key element in society. The middle class is struggling to hold on as the captains of industry ship our father’s good paying jobs overseas to be performed at low wages with no benefits. Part time jobs and contract labor are becoming the norm as blue collar careers disappear. The working man today is no longer seen as an added value to a business, but as an expensive burden. We are thought of as the problem, not the solution.
The website ( is a fascinating “behind the scenes” look at UPS from the drivers’ point of view. It describes the process that is followed when a package is “mis-loaded” (i.e., not on the right truck)—the driver gets to the location, spends time looking through the truck, and can’t find the package. The central facility is notified, and another run is required to get the package delivered.

The site also talks about the stress on drivers of changes in routing and long hours, and points out that low wages paid to pre-loaders may affect the quality of service available to drivers, and ultimately customers. In general, however, the site reinforces my belief that UPS is a good employer, paying good union wages, and offering excellent health benefits.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Personal Disaster Readiness

Like many Americans in the days after September 11, 2001, I gave thought for the first time to emergency preparedness. I was not old enough to remember Cold War bomb shelters, so preparing for an attack on my community was something new for me.

In a few days, it will have been 4 years since those attacks and I am no longer prepared. My supply of bottled water has expired, the stock pile of canned goods has been eaten, and the batteries have disappeared into various toys around the house.

Hurricane Katrina is a reminder that individual citizens need to take some responsibility for our emergency preparedness. We cannot place all of our reliance on governments to come immediately to our aid. As part of my remembrance of September 11, I will replenish and improve my store of emergency supplies.

My sister and I did some brainstorming the other day, and here is our starting list:

  • Bottled water (enough for 3 days, and don’t forget enough for any pets)

  • Battery/crank-powered radio with light

  • Flashlight and batteries

  • Matches

  • Non-perishable food (including dry legumes, canned meat and vegetables)
  • Can-opener (non-electric of course!)

  • Ziploc bag with passports, birth certificates, car titles, insurance policies etc.

  • Vaccination/health records/Rx

  • First aid supplies

  • Important family photos (baby pictures etc)

  • CASH (in small bills)

I am packing these supplies (except the water) into a backpack that I could grab quickly in event that I needed to leave my home in a hurry. I will also make sure the children know where it is kept. (Some additional supplies might be useful for shelter-in-place…I hate to even mention duck tape!)

The National Capital Area Region Emergency Preparedness Campaign has a preparedness check list that you may find useful:

My mom would probably say this is alarmist, but nothing is lost by being ready. I hope I never have to grab that backpack and go.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Summer Favorites

The kids went off to school this morning and there's a cool feeling of fall in the air. Time to say farewell to summer. In many ways, it was a sad and painful summer and I'm not sorry to see it end. Some days the only thing that got me through was my music and Dave Barry. (For those of you who don't know, Dave Barry is a humor columnist at the Miami Herald. Dave has been on "sabbatical" from his column to write children's books. Dave: come back! We need your columns to make us laugh MUCH more than the world needs more kids' books!!). So, before I hit autumn running, here is a list of my favorite summer music and reading:

Favorite music downloads (alphabetical order):
  1. Beck: Que Onda Guero
  2. The Click Five: Just the Girl
  3. Coldplay: Speed of Sound
  4. Embrace: Gravity (though this one makes me cry)
  5. Fall Out Boy: Sugar, We're Goin Down
  6. Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out
  7. Franz Ferdinand: 40'
  8. Green Day: Holiday
  9. Green Day: Blvd of Broken Dreams
  10. The Killers: Change Your Mind
Favorite Dave Barry Books:
  • Dave Barry is not taking this sitting down!
  • Boogers are my beat : more lies, but some actual journalism
  • Dave Barry turns 50
  • Dave Barry is from Mars and Venus
  • Dave Barry's complete guide to guys : a fairly short book

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Meaning of Labor Day

I don't pretend to be very knowledgeable about Labor history or the origins of Labor Day, but I plan to learn. The U.S. Dept. of Labor website has a short history of the holiday. (If any of you can recommend good books on the history of the labor movement, I would welcome that.)

I hope the holiday tomorrow gives hard-working folks a day to relax, and that we take some time to celebrate the improvements in working conditions (pay, hours, benefits) that labor activists achieved for all of us. Some of these gains may be at risk, and we need to be more vigilant (I include myself here). Labor Day should be more than the last 3-day weekend of summer and a blizzard of sales in every store.
Endangered American Worker?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Assateague Island: Ponies and Greenheads

Last week I visited Assateague Island, a barrier island off the coast of Maryland, to see the famous wild ponies and undeveloped beaches. The island is entirely in public management, with the northern end as a Maryland state park, the middle under management of the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the southern-most end as a Virginia state park. The ponies are actually maintained in two distinct populations that do not mingle. The northern population is managed by the NPS, including birth control administered by dart gun once a year. (That sounds better than the birth control options available to human females!) The southern herd size is kept down by the annual auction of wild ponies by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department; this is what most people (myself included) have heard of.

It was my first visit to the island, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. First of all, the ponies stood around on the beach in groups of 2 to 4, seemingly oblivious to the many human sunbathers just inches from them. The beach was teaming with beach towels, umbrellas, and beverage-sipping tourists. It was hard to take a photograph that DIDN’T include people. Not quite the wild scene I had envisioned!

The other problem was the greenhead flies. Those guys can really bite! It brought back memories of pulling a seine in tidal creeks of South Carolina and being bitten mercilessly by greenheads with no free hand to swat them away. Sometimes we would have blood running down our arms and legs from these bites. Wow, field work in SC (a.k.a., Why I Have an Office Job). But, that’s another post.

Bottom line: if you get a chance, I recommend a visit to Assateague. More information at

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina--More Ways to Help

Thanks to Diane's comment and suggestion for temporary housing for families that have had lost everything from Hurricane Katrina. It turns out that has set up just that sort of thing. Their email says:

"Hurricane Katrina's toll on communities, homes and lives has devastated the nation. Now victims must face the daunting question of where to go next--we can help.

Tens of thousands of newly homeless families are being bused to a stadium in Houston, where they may wait for weeks or months. At least 80,000 are competing for area shelters, and countless more are in motels, cars, or wherever they can stay out of the elements. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross are scrambling to find shelter for the displaced.

This morning, we've launched an emergency national housing drive to connect your empty beds with hurricane victims who desperately need a place to wait out the storm. You can post your offer of housing (a spare room, extra bed, even a decent couch) and search for available housing online at:

Housing is most urgently needed within reasonable driving distance (about 300 miles) of the affected areas in the Southeast, especially New Orleans."

Hurricanes and Humans

The newspaper today is filled with stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The photographs online are perhaps the most helpful in trying to really grasp the extent of the damage. I can't add anything to the coverage, but I didn't want to act like it wasn't happening. A few observations come to mind:
  • Hurricanes are natural disturbances, although some scientists feel that human changes to the global climate system may be increasing the number and severity of these storms.
  • The human impacts fall disproportionately on those with the fewest financial resources (including the ability to evacuate, having a place to go, the wherewithall to rebuild).
  • The veneer of civilization is rather thin. Stripped of our support systems (telephones, electricity, water and sewer service, INTERNET ACCESS!!), the more primitive "me and mine" survival instincts surface pretty quickly.
  • Cities are especially vulnerable because they are artificially high human density zones sustained by massive inputs of energy and services from outside. This is one reason why terrorism experts worry about city targets.
  • Hurricane Katrina is a regional natural disaster, but the economic ripple effects will remind us how interdependent we all are. Goods (including agricultural products from the Midwest) that flow in and out of the Port of New Orleans, oil and gas supplies from Gulf Coast rigs and refineries, disruptions to rail and trucking distribution hubs. A good article on this in today's Washington Post .
I guess the best way to help out is to donate to the Red Cross.