May 31, 2009

How To Dress For A Garden Party

As a lover of themed parties, I am very excited for the garden fĂȘte I'll be hosting in a couple weeks. However, some of my potential guests have already expressed the age-old question "But what will I wearrrrr!?" For those of you experiencing trepidation about this, I present:

A Tutorial

Garden parties have long been a way for sophisticated people to entertain guests while showing off the grounds on their estate and wearing fabulous outfits. Since the grounds of my estate consist of a average-sized lawn in average condition and one flowering bush that technically belongs to the backyard neighbor (that I'm praying is still in healthy-looking bloom by the time of the party), the fabulous outfit part is of utmost importance. The rules are fairly simple: dress up and dress for the summery outdoors. From there you can go a lot of different directions. (Another rule I would like to add is: wear something you wouldn't wear normally. It'll make it more fun, I promise.)

As garden parties have been around so long, every generation has it's own take on costume. Since I expect many outfit pieces will be coming from thrift stores, and as everyone has their own particular favorite styles, all eras are acceptable. Take your inspiration from whatever suits your fancy (and whatever you have the pieces for). Be Emma Woodhouse at a garden party. Be Scarlett O'Hara at a garden party. Be Daisy Buchanan at a garden party. Be Jackie Kennedy at a garden party. Whatever suits your fancy. (Men can similarly be Mr. Knightly, Rhett Butler, Jay Gatsby, Jack Kennedy.) I personally will be wearing a dress my mother bought for a dance in the late 70s/early 80s sometime, but it has a kind of turn-of-the-century feel to it (no more detail than that, it's a fantastic piece and worth coming to the party to see). Have fun with it.


Wearing a dress is expected, though if you want to be the girl that rocks a white pantsuit or something, more power to you. Light fabrics (in color and weight) are recommended, as it will be warm out, but don't limit yourself if you are in love with that navy dress. When looking for a dress, feminine details like lace, ruffles, and ribbons are a good idea. I know you all have at least one outfit you wear to church or weddings or such in the summertime, so if you don't have the time/money to go all out, that outfit will be fine (particularly when paired with some good accessories).

The key to doing this right is accessories. Hats and/or parasols will help protect your complexion from the sun and add a unmistakable air of refinement to your ensemble (a slide show of appropriate and inappropriate hats here). Fans, gloves, brooches, handkerchiefs, etc. will also be excellent additions to your look. A collage of some appropriate accessories:


Men should probably wear a suit. If not, then perhaps a dress shirt with a vest or sweater. Classic suit pieces can be worked into various personas: the prep student, the country gentleman, the old-school gangster, the barbershop quartet guy(?). Do what feels right to you. As with the women, fabrics should be light in color and weight (all of you who spent $1000+ on a designer white linen suit once and then never really had on occasion to wear it, here's your chance, you can thank me later). Ties and hats are definitely a good way to give your outfit a little flair. There are numerous options out there for ties and hats, so have fun with it. You may not, however, wear a piano key tie or one of those hats with a little spinner on top. If you show up in either, you will be forced to sit in a timeout corner while everyone else sips their mint juleps and gossips about you (in the most genteel way we can manage: "Harold has rather let himself go since Evelyn left." "It comes down to bad breeding, I say") . Other appropriate accessories include: handkerchiefs, canes, pocket watches, cuff links.

Follow these rules and this could be you:

Additional Tips and Inspirational Photos

Don't be afraid of lots of white. Labour Day is months off:

Do reconnaissance at other garden parties if you have the chance. Me and Extraordinarily-Well-Dressed Guy at a recent garden party (the party was pretty terrific; mine will be better):
Wear something you can move in somewhat for croquet and badminton. The Most Awesome Badminton Outfit Ever:

I hope this is helpful. See you at the party! (Note: if anyone reading this wants to attend, will be in the area on June 13th, and didn't get an invitation via facebook, let me know and I'll give you details.)

May 30, 2009

In Defense of the Payday Loan Industry


I've spent about 25% of my adult life working in the payday loan industry and am pretty much used to it by now: "So what do you do for a living?...oh, well, uh, hope you feel good about that." I hear it from my own coworkers fairly frequently: "I can't believe these people don't realize how much we're screwing them over." Yes, that is me, I take advantage of poor people who are lured in by the promise of quick cash and then are overwhelmed with 700%, 800%, 900% interest. I'm a loan shark. I'm a terrible person. I should probably switch to something more moral, like dealing heroin.

Anyway, I'd like to set the record straight for anyone out there judging me (yes, President Obama, that includes you and your support of the proposed 36% APR interest cap...since you totally read my blog...):

Let's consider, for a moment, a man named Harold. Harold works hard to feed/shelter/entertain himself and his family, and is generally able to do so, but rarely has anything left over by the next paycheck. Harold runs into some sort of financial emergency: an unexpected medical bill, a car repair bill, a check deposited from a while ago that he had forgotten he wrote. Whatever the case my be, he needs money immediately and won't have anything until his next paycheck, 12 days from now. He doesn't have any friends or family members who can afford to loan him the money. He only needs $200-$500 to get him through, and banks don't really give out loans that small. What is he supposed to do?

Whatever the case may be, thousands, if not millions, of Americans live paycheck to paycheck like Harold, and most run into financial emergencies at some point. For some it's their own fault, for others it's not, but the fact of the matter is they are there and and no increase in minimum wage or other government intervention I can think of will ever change that fact. What are these people supposed to do?

Now, let's go to a company called Hip Hip Hurray Early Payday (you would not believe how many hypothetical company names I made up before finding one that didn't turn out to already be a real company). This company has acquired some money and decided to divide it up into $300 lumps to give out small payday loans. The goal is to make money for the company, but not charge too much that they don't have any customers. The costs of marketing, credit checks and manual underwriting that goes into each loan before it is ever funded is about $60 (the amount varies somewhat from company to company on this, depending on how careful they are about who to fund loans to and how large the company is, but from my experience and research, $60 is fairly typical). So to be breaking even on a $300 loan for two weeks, the APR would need to be 520% ($60 times 26 two-week periods in a year divided by $300). A little higher than 36%, yes?

Except there is another factor: payday loans are high risk loans. A rather high percentage (it would be compromising to share statistics from the companies I've worked for, and I'm not really sure what industry average is, but let's just say you would likely be surprised at how high it is) of the loans that Hip Hip Hurray gives out never pay back even the full $300. So, unfair as it may be, in order to provide the service they do, the people who do pay back the loans have to cover the funds lost from the people who don't pay. So the APR would need to be higher than the 520% we already calculated to be breaking even. And obviously to be making a profit, it would need to go up from there.

Granted, many people don't pay off the loan in full on their first payday and pay more interest as they extend the loan, so Hip Hip Hurray can perhaps afford to go a little lower on the fees there. Some people think it's wrong to count on people not being able to pay off their loan in time in order to make any profit, but that's how the majority of financial institutions in this world work (banks, credit card companies, etc.) so Hip Hip Hurray is not too torn up about it. Virtually nobody takes a full year to pay off a payday loan, so for those who think that 800% APR means that someone getting a $300 loan is paying back $2400, that's just ridiculous. We're really not that terrible.

If our pal Harold decides to get a payday loan to make ends meet and has been smart about planning how quickly he will pay it off, it is quite likely that he will end up being charged less from Hip Hip Hurray Early Payday than he would be from his bank if his financial emergency causes a few NSF charges (not to mention it looks better for his credit to have received a loan and paid it off rather than to have gone in the hole with his bank). And it's entirely possible that his payday loan has saved him from future financial trouble that would be worse than the interest he will pay. I've heard many stories from people I'm funding loans to (because of the stigma attached to the deal, I think a lot of people feel like they need to justify why they're doing it to the company they're getting a loan from) about how they would loose their job if they can't pay to fix their car to get to work or how they would have to pay an insanely high re-turn-on charge if their utilities get turned off because they couldn't pay the bill...that sort of thing. It can be worth your money to get the loan in a number of situations.

So basically moral of the story: I'm not destroying peoples lives constantly at my job. I'm providing a unique service and charging what I feel are reasonable rates for it. If you still have a problem with it, I'd actually love to hear what you think, as I'd hopefully have an answer and can add another bit to my "payday loans aren't pure evil" speech that I give from time to time to friends and coworkers. And if I don't have an answer for it and discover the error of my be it. It'll be easy to find another, more fulfilling job right? Right?

May 24, 2009

I Love My Mom (two weeks too late)

I am incredibly blessed to be a part of the family that I am in. And one of the top reasons that my family is so awesome: my incredible mother. It's kind of a cliche concept, but I'll say it anyway because it's just so dang true: The older I get, the more I realize how much my mother has done for me over the years. And so, here is the post I meant to write on Mother's Day, but didn't really get to until today.

A Few Reasons My Mother is Awesome (incomplete list; no particular order):
  • Mom has always encouraged music in our home. She taught me how to play piano. She has attended about every band and orchestra concert I and my siblings have participated in (which is a lot). She has purchased so many instruments and music accessories and driven her children to so many lessons and practices over the years. She participates whole-heartedly in the sing-a-long fests that occur rather often in the car and at the dinner table in my family. Music has brought so much joy into my (and the rest of my family's) life and the time and enthusiasm Mom put into bringing it into our home has made that possible.
  • My mother has spent countless hours of her life up late helping make costumes and science fair boards and a variety of other projects for her children. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from those late nights with me and Mom up late, a little slaphappy, and making petit fours for French class or whatever. I admire her willingness to sacrifice and be there for her children with whatever they are doing.
  • Mom is one of the most kindhearted people I have ever met. To everybody. In kind of an odd way, living with her kindness has made me a much more open-minded person than I think I would be without it. She has a hard time with being critical of people, so I grew up hearing over and over things like "He's a good man, just doesn't understand...", "I'm sure she's doing what she thinks is right", "You don't know why he choose that, perhaps [insert explanation that paints him the the best light here]". And she's always on the lookout for ways to help the people around her. She's a good woman like that.
  • I can never doubt my mother's love for me. How excited she gets when I'm on the phone or visiting makes me feel like the most special person in the world.
  • My mother is also a smart woman. My father is more of an intellectual than she is, so I think growing up I didn't recognize this as much as I should have (don't worry Mom, I never thought you were dumb or anything, I just didn't always have as much respect for your intelligence as I do now). But she knows her stuff. She can hold her own in conversations about a wide variety of topics and loves to learn. She always fostered learning in our home and these days is a little bit of a look-it-up-online junkie whenever she doesn't know something, which is awesome.
  • I love Mom's ability to laugh at herself. She can be really hilarious when embarrassed and I think it's a terrific quality.
Anyway, I know most everyone thinks their mom is great, but I just love mine, thank you for indulging me. I admire so much about her and am grateful that she's been there for me my whole life. I can only hope to be as good of a mother as she is someday.

May 10, 2009

A Letter To The Producers of the English Language

To whom it may concern:

I have been using your product for my entire life (minus the while before I was trained in its use and a few semesters in Mme Sacco's class) and want to let you know that I'm quite pleased with it. It has met or exceeded my needs in nearly every occasion I've used it. However, I have a couple suggestions for the next patch you release:

1) Could you please make a short, one- or two-syllable word for "writing utensil"? I've brought this one up with my friends and family several times over the years, and we all agree that it's definitely in order. It would save us all the unnecessary conversation: "Can I borrow a pen?" "Is a pencil okay?". And I think you would find supporters of this in the marker and crayon industries, as their products are rarely requested for a writing utensil, but would fall under the category of the word you would create, and probably see more usage after its release.

2) I would also like to see a stronger, more positive adjective for someone who does everything with great care. You may have something like this, but I've been trying to think of one for a good long while (as it would be very useful when describing my cat, Julius) and can't think of anything. The only words I can think of for someone who thinks everything through thoroughly before acting or speaking have connotations of weakness, indecisiveness, fear. "Careful", "tentative", "wary", "cautious"...all great words, but none are quite what I'm looking for. And "thoughtful" has another meaning and may get confusing. There is an aspect of intelligence that this quality can signify, but there aren't really any words with that connotation. I'd appreciate one, and I'm sure plenty more of your consumers would find good uses for it.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


American Fork, UT

P.S. Not that this is why I'm writing, but I know that generally when people write into a company like this, they'll get sent coupons or samples, so I've attached a list of words and phrases I commonly use and don't need any more of. Also, I'd like to mention that I'm a huge fan of old-fashioned words/phrases and would greatly appreciate a life-time subscription to a Victorian exclamation or a Shakespearean insult or something along those lines.

May 7, 2009

Dangerous Dears

I love looking at classifieds. Even when I'm really happy with my employment, I will look through job postings about once a week. Even though I know I can't afford to buy a house at this point in my life, I will spend a hours every month looking at houses for sale all over the country (a typical project: Do research on weather, culture and such in Portland. Once Portland passes the test, set a price limit. Do research on the pros and cons of different parts of the city. Find the best house.)

But there is: one part of the classifieds that I must avoid. I want them all. Please.