Feb 07

Snow Day!!!!

Today is a snow day! I have my coffee and there will be scones later. Oh yes, there WILL BE SCONES! And maybe a pot roast if I feel like braving the walk down to the market to pick up a cut of beef. I have some carrots and onions that are on their last legs and need to be cooked to yumminess soon.

The goal for today will be to get the taxes in order. This year is probably the last year it will be fairly simple. Next year I will have business expenses to fold in to the fun and games with the IRS. Which reminds me, the library book on home business tax deduction that I checked out is due soon. I need to finish it this weekend to help me to get my book keeping house in order. Maybe I’ll post something about some of the best tips that I find.

Speaking of planning ahead…. A future post will be a soul-baring outline of my student loan debt. Get ready for some scary stuff! I have been a bit of a coward and not really faced exactly how much student debt I really have. But I will start a series of posts here with quarterly check-ins to see how much (or how little … EEK!) debt I have managed to pay off. Check back often! I should try to find one of them thermometer thingys to make it very visual. Or do an infographic, since that seems to be all the rage these days.

So, I’m off to get a start on the day….


Feb 06

Change it’s a-coming!

So, I’ve been chipping away at my student debt. The sales from my two PODs, Cafepress and Zazzle, helped a bit. Of course, I will likely end up paying additional taxes on the wee bit of income, but such is life.

This blog is going to change over the course of the next few month. I am starting on a new adventure with trying to add income to my wallet to help pay down my student debt faster. I’ve been reading up on running small businesses, tax regulations for small business, and all kinds of fascinating and enlightening things on running blog for fun AND profit.

From what I’ve seen online there are several tracks, the first is some pretty blatant THIS BLOG IS ABOUT MAKING MONEY BY BLOGGING blogs out there. More power to them, so say I. Not really my cup of tea. There are also the Mommy blogs that simply scream OMG I LOVE MY KIDS AND CLEANING HOUSE SO HARD but I fear that is also not for me. (You’d agree too, if you’d seen the state of un-cleanliness in my current abode) But I am learning a lot from reading their awesome and informative posts.

One of the things I have up my sleeve is a new blog for re-enactors and living historians called All the Times Past. To do this, I will need to move web hosting servers as the place I am currently using is just a tad too expensive now that I am moving from hobby for-fun to a small business model. This makes me sad, because I love my host as they are so responsive with supporting my frequent issues and questions.

The next few months will bring a new hosting service, a fun-filled blog design and testing, and pulling a whole bunch of content together. I figure to have it up and running by July. Yay! Something new and exciting and challenging, and I am sure…. rewarding.

This idea was sparked when my Dear Husband casually remarked that it would be awesome if we could get paid to visit other re-enactor groups in Europe. MMMmmm. What a clever clever man! So while I am sure there will be other benefits from running a blog for re-enactors and living historians, meeting new people around the world is one of my center-of-the-matter goals.


Nov 30

Save the endangered tree Octopus….

One of the rarest creatures to haunt the Pacific Northwest, the elusive tree octopus shines in the pantheon of fantastical animals. Rarely seen, the shy tree octopus loops itself around the branches of trees to lay in wait for it’s next meal. Currently, one of the most endangered of the arboreal arthropods, the tree octopus needs your help if it is to survive.

Save the endangered tree octopus!

Save the endangered tree octopus!

This retro design in the colors reminiscent of the tree octopus will remind people of the care we need to take with our tree-dwelling eight legged friends.


Save the tree octopus t-shirt

Save the tree octopus t-shirt


Check out these designs at Malarkey Pie!


Nov 22



EVENT: Hood & Portland To Coast – Providence Cancer Center

EVENT DATE: AUG 22, 2014





In August 2014 this team of 12 crazy, amazing, strong, dedicated, determined, did-I-mention-crazy friends is walking from Portland to – you guessed it – the coast (which is where the beaches are).

Did you catch that? We’re walking to THE COAST. The. Coast. That’s *approximately* one million miles from Portland. Approximately. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still huge. And crazy. And hard. But we’re doing it because cancer sucks. A lot. And having cancer, knowing someone who has cancer, or even just knowing that *anyone *anywhere* has cancer is a lot harder than walking.

Every step we’ll take will be particularly meaningful. Every step will be a punch in the nose to cancer because every dollar you donate here will go to Providence Cancer Center. Every dollar.

Let’s put this all in perspective… As we open up this donation page in early October, the event is about 300 days away…  About 40 weeks…  About 10 months…

If you skipped one latte every week between now and the event, there’s $160. BAM! Punch in the nose.

If you just got a cup of drip instead of that latte every day between now and then, there’s $600. BAM! Sock in the eye.

If you put $1 in a shoebox every day between now and then, there’s $300. BAM! Kick in the knee.

If you set $10 aside every week between now and then, there’s $400. BAM! Smack in the face.

Chances are your company has a donation matching program, which would double your contribution. BAM! BAM!

If you took the change in that jar on your dresser (doesn’t everyone have one?) to the coin machine at the grocery store, I’ll bet it would be a donation amount you’d feel good about, and you’d probably find that button you thought you lost. BONUS!

None of these small sacrifices would be painful. In fact, helping is the opposite of painful! It feels GOOD. True story. You know you want to punch cancer in the nose. Hard. Because cancer sucks. So do it.

You donate – right here.

We’ll walk – to the coast.

And we’ll both feel reallly good about it.

We raise a glass to you! THANK YOU!


Nov 22

10 Best-selling t-shirt designs at Malarkey Pie

Bold (and often snarky) graphic designs for geeks and science-y types abound at Malarkey Pie, but some designs rise to the top and become best-sellers. Here is a review of the designs that have been purchased recently! Every single item that I sell helps me to pay down my student loan even faster!

1. Apparently, fiber geeks also like coffee (or tea! or hot cocoa!)

I am not easily distracted... oh look, Yarn!

I am not easily distracted… oh look, Yarn!









2. Do you love that science fiction television show with the LSD dropping mad scientest, the peacoat wearing prodigal son, the sensible show wearing FBI agent, and a Holstein cow named Jean? Yeah, I loved FRINGE, too! Because, really, every laboratory needs a cow!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!

Every science lab needs a cow like Jean!









3. Even feminists love a  comfy t-shirt, and they really seemed to love this fiery feminist symbol. This seemed to pop up on jewelry a lot.

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart

Where there is smoke there is a fiery feminist heart








4. Edgar Allen Poe himself  would probably drink absinthe wearing this t-shirt.

I'm just  Poe boy from a Poe family!

I’m just Poe boy from a Poe family!









5. If you are looking for geekwear for your favorite geek to wear while watching Star Wars for the thirty thousandth time, then this is just the thing.

Come to the dork side! We have pie!

Come to the dork side! We have pie!









6. Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy, this design  showcases beautiful calligraphy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri's 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.

Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, the Divine Comedy.










7. The great state of Oregon is represented here. Pentagon, Octagon, Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!

Pentagon! Octagon! Oregon!





8. The Ride of the Valkyries is not just an awesome song by Wagner used in a quirky slapstick comedy called Apocalypse Now. No, these awesome female riders carry the heroic Viking fallen warriors to Valhalla.

Ride of the Valkyries

Ride of the Valkyries






9. The real Seven Deadly Sins ….

The seven deadly sins ...

The seven deadly sins …









10. Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien’s words are so right on today.

Not all who wander are lost....

Not all who wander are lost….










Check back for more best-selling t-shirts and gifts for geeks and scientists!


Jun 13

Press Release: Artist is crushing student loan debt with t-shirts and coffee mugs

Salem, OR,  June 12, 2013.

With student loan debt passing $1 trillion dollars, one doctoral graduate is taking an unusual approach to paying off her debt. Dr. Althea Rizzo, a 2010 Ph.D. graduate from Oregon State University, is selling her graphic designs on apparel and gift items at Cafepress.com to pay down her student debt. Starting tomorrow, she is in a race with Congress, who doesn’t seem inclined to move forward on legislation to curb the impending rise in interest rates. She has over $100,000 in federal and private loans and currently pays about $1400 per month.

Like many other students graduating with crushing student debt, it was difficult to save up money for emergencies. Then Dr. Rizzo’s car died, the clothes dryer motor seized up, and her daughter broke her thumb last week. After that, Dr. Rizzo decided to take matters into her own hands to find a creative solution to the financial dilemma.

“On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful,” said Dr. Rizzo.  “For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on Cafepress.com/malarkeypie. This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.”

These unfortunate circumstances spurred her to pay down her student loan debt faster.  Something had to be done and she ramped up her graphic design business. Her goal is to sell 50,000 items before Congress raises the interest rate on federal subsidized student loans in July, 2013.

“Will it be hard? Sure, but if 50,000 people buy just one thing each, that’s only 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. That’s totally doable.”

Dr. Rizzo is an employee of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, where she heads the Geologic Hazards Program. She created a Café Press shop to cater to those who are interested in progressive politics, science, and general geekery at www.cafepress.com/malarkeypie. She blogs at www.alfalfapress.com.




Jun 12

Recent grad races Congress to retire student debt before rates rise

Going back to graduate school when I was 41 years old and a single mom was not an easy decision to make. But I was in a dead-end (but well paying) job and needed to look to the future. So I looked at the nearby state school, Oregon State University, and hopped right in. I knew there would have to be student loans as being a single mom meant I couldn’t do the “stuff-a-handful-of-grad-students-in-a-loft” cheap route. Having kids also impacted my studying routine as I rarely got to hit my own books until after 9PM once the kids were put to bed and the house cleaned (well, somewhat cleaned).

Just like many other graduate students leaving graduate school with a useful degree and a pile of debt, I think it was very worth it. I love my current job and I would never have landed here without my doctoral degree. I mean really do love my job, deeply and passionately. That huge pile of debt? Not so much. I work in public service for the state of Oregon, so the theory goes that after 2019, the balance of my federal loans will be retired, but I’m not holding my breath that Congress actually authorizes that particular budget item.

Having over $100,000 in debt means that my economic life is stunted at the barely pubescent stage of economic life. My monthly student loan payments, both federal and private, are nearly $1,400. Luckily, I don’t have much personal debt, just a small amount left over from grad school that I have been paying down. The upshot of having this huge amount of student debt means that I don’t have a lot in savings. Actually I don’t have any savings at all, if you don’t count that jar of coins in the back of the closet.

Not having a savings account built up nice and fat means that when something happens like say, your old car throws a rod, your clothes dryer motor seizes up, and your daughter breaks her thumb all within a few days, you don’t have the resiliency to recover quickly,  if at all. And being an emergency management professional who travels around the state trying to convince families and communities to be more resilient, it was both embarrassing and ironic.

If you add my monthly totals to the fact that Congress is going to double my interest rates in a scant few weeks (unless it gets off its frakking collectively gridlocked ass), then you come to the conclusion that something needs to be done to crush my student debt before it finally crushes me. So, I spent an angst-filled weekend kind of freaking out at how my student debt was impacting my ability to quickly recover from a few days of bad luck.

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful. For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on Cafepress.com. This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.

I also like to think of myself as optimistic. So, I thought that I could bump up my t-shirt sales and pay down my student debt even faster. Then I thought, hey, go big or go home! If I sold a LOT of t-shirts, I could really make a dent on my student debt and create some financial breathing room in the family finances. I will have two kids in college in two years, so I really need to get this cleaned up so that I can be the whole parent and help my kids in their own endeavors.

After spending some time on the webs, brushing up on some of the latest thoughts on marketing and using social media, I put together a game plan and launched this current effort to Crush the Debt in a Race with Congress. Will I be able to retire more student debt before rates rise in July? I need to sell about 50,000 t-shirts or coffee mugs or messenger bags to pay off a huge bulge of my debt and to pay the taxes on that income (or you can hit the donate button on the side over there and I won’t have to pay taxes on that. See? I can be bipartisan!).

So, how about it? Want to buy a t-shirt? Don’t think of it as giving me a handout, think of it as getting an awesome t-shirt! Please help spread the word! Share this on your Facebook page, Twitter (#tees4debt, #crushthedebt), Digg, Tumblr, or whatever social media you crazy kids are using these days. My brief research into social media marketing tells me that getting “bloggers of authority” and “thought leaders” to talk about something on their websites is a great way to make things go viral. So feel free to contact me to arrange for an interview. Yes, I know this kinda like begging, but I’m racing Congress. Who doesn’t want me to beat Congress at their own game, rigged as it is? I think getting rid of my student debt can be done. (See above about being an optimist!)

So here is the Plan ™. I want to sell 50,000 t-shirts, coffee mugs, messenger bags or other whatzits on my Cafepress.com/malarkeypie website. I need 50,000 amazing people to step forward and help a girl out. That is 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. But even Canadians and Australians can play along.

So just buy a damn t-shirt!



Mar 07

Understanding your community

“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.”

M. Scott Peck

Define your community – An outreach program is as much an opportunity for you to learn about your community as it is for the community to learn about earthquake and tsunami preparation. Begin by understanding what makes your community unique, what are its strengths, and weaknesses. This portion of your program will enable you to identify leaders that will make your program a success.

Community can be anything from a single hospital or school to an entire county or region. Some will have defined organizational structures and others will be less structured. You can leverage the various advantages from either system,

Example: “Small regional hospital in mid-sized town”

Define your community.

Write down the “Who, what, where, how and why.”

In order to function well and foster a “sense of community”, a few traits need to be considered.

  • People feel like they belong to the community
  • People believe they can influence the community
  • People are integrated into the community
  • The community fulfills a need of the people
  • There is a shared emotional connection to the community.

Spend some time defining and learning about your community and then write up as detailed summary as possible. Include points that address the concerns above. Since the goal of an outreach program is to influence behavior, in this case, to create action in the public leading to earthquake and tsunami preparedness. There are many ways to listen to a community hopes, needs, priorities, and resources. Some involve surveys, extensive interviews, mapping technologies, and complex processes. Those detailed processes are vital for community-wide visioning and strategic planning for public outreach and education. And while these resource-heavy strategies are good, you can also accomplish this process with much fewer resources. Anything that you can do to stimulate dialogue and community-self- reflection will help you to better define your outreach program.

Geographic communities: These communities are based on place or location. They can be a neighborhood, a town, a city, and state, a country, a planet, or a universe.

Communities of culture: These communities are based on interests, whether they are hobbies, special needs, sub-cultures, or arts.

Community organizations: These communities range from informal kinship groups to civic organizations to faith based groups to political organizations.




Jan 16

Identify your target audience

The “General Public” should not be your audience. Be much more specific when defining your target audience. Otherwise, you will waste resources (and who has an overabundance of those?!?) on trying the get the right message to the wrong people.

Who are you trying to reach with your message? You will likely have several different groups in mind when starting to craft your outreach program. And that is a good thing. It means you have a healthy and diverse community. And it’s also a not-so good thing because you will need to craft different strategies for each target audience. What may work well for one group may completely alienate another.

Here is where you can learn from one of my mistakes. We developed a publication that we called the “Go-Kit Passport.” It was a small, durably-produced product meant to hold information valuable to have in an emergency situation. It had pages for drawing maps of your neighborhood and designating meeting places, pages for photographs of people and pets, pages for medical information, and many more pages for useful information. It was very popular in English. But, when we translated to Spanish, an issue came up because of the word, passport, in the title. This caused confusion and prompted a call to our office from ICS. We changed the title for Spanish publications. So the lesson here is to think about your solutions from many different angles and anticipate problems from serving more than one narrowly defined audience.

So take some time and think about the differing groups in your community.

  • Policy makers
  • Responders
  • Parents
  • Retired people
  • Pet owners
  • What are other groups in your community?


When creating your list of target audiences, use the following list of questions to finely tune who you are targeting. Ask questions as you build the profiles in order to learn how best to serve the information to your target audience. Their answer will guide you to the framework needed to best serve them. Come up with your own questions that reflect the needs of your unique community and target audiences.

  • Who do you depend on to get information about hazards in your area?
  • Who do you depend on for help during a disaster?
  • What are your concerns about earthquakes in your community?
  • What are your questions about earthquakes in your community?
  • Would you need help during an emergency? What kind of assistance?
  • How do you describe yourself?
  • Who are the stake holders?
  • Who are the leaders of your group?


Once you decide who you need to reach you need to find out how best to do that. By answering the above questions, you can learn a lot about your various target audiences. And more importantly, how to reach them with your messages. You will want to find active methods of getting your message to the audiences. Don’t stick a flier in the utility bill, and expect to reach a large percentage of the population. That is an example of a very passive method of outreach. While it can be effective, when targeted and timely, it can also fail utterly and completely, thereby wasting your time and the audience’s attention span.


Nov 22

Know what a successful outreach program looks like.

You have to know where you are going in order to get there.

When you set out on the journey of implementing your outreach program, you probably had a pretty good idea of what you wanted to accomplish. Increased awareness and increased protective actions are just two possible broad goals of your program.

How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
During the process of planning your outreach program, you will have spent a lot of time thinking about very tangible goals that can be measured. Measurable goals are important in order to make sure you know when you have arrived at your destination, but also important for planning next steps. You won’t know what your next steps should be unless you know if your last actions were successful.

Whew! It seems like we are right back at where we started. And we kinda are. The thing about outreach is that it never really ends. Once you complete one campaign, you start another with what you have learned about works and what doesn’t work in your field. That knowledge comes with time and experience.

  • Have you educated your community?
  • Have you engaged your community?
  • Have you put solutions in front of your community?
  • Once you reach your goal, what then?

Educating your community
Find the corners of your issue and work toward the center. The limitations can be liberating and spur creativity. Unrestrained choice can lead to paralysis of decision and action, so find the structure of what you want your community to learn about your issue and then get out there and educate away. How you do this education process will be dictated by the who, what, where, when, and why of your issue.

Engage your community
The last thing you want is to have your hard work be for naught. Nothing is gained by having passive community engagement. You want your community fired up and raring to go on your issue. this may mean at some point giving up a certain amount of control over the process. But your hard work should show fruit by having the community itself stepping up and taking on the issue in a grass roots manner. Find ways for the community members to get their hands dirty, to get up and moving, to create their own programs.

Provide solutions for your community
Solutions come in all types of flavors. It could be training for shelter management or first aid; it could be curriculum available to K-12 schools; it could be evacuation drills and exercises. These solutions need to be a part of the plan and should be sustainable after your program ends.

Key words: public outreach, community, education, natural hazards, seismic, earthquake, tsunami