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by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & Badgered and Bullied & r & & r & Is it any wonder that we feel intimidated by the onslaught of society's demands?


There's a Pepsi machine in our neighborhood, for example, that's a real taskmaster. "Only $1.00 bills," it commands. "Insert bill face up. Do not fold. BILL MUST LIE FLAT! NO CREASES!"





Every year, two Americans are killed by vending machines. (You can look it up.) All these nice people wanted was a bag of chips, and then some coin-operated drill sergeant started screaming demands, and the citizens got angry and shook those vending machines (which are top-heavy and can weigh half a ton) until they toppled over.





So if the vending machines say, "NO CREASES!," they mean it, all right?





Aid China


Northwest-based workers are leaving to help with both emergency and longer-term recovery efforts in central China's Sichuan province, where tens of thousands of people are still afraid to sleep indoors because of fear of aftershocks. Donate at www.mercycorps.org or call (800) 852-2100.





We're Coming Back!


Men's Journal lists Spokane this month as one of six cities poised to make a "Comeback." (Where had we gone? Oh, that's right: "Back before Expo '74 ..."). Yet in the very issue where Spokane gets some ink, Portland is selected under "Best City," period -- and with Seattle as a runner-up. MJ praises Portland for its breweries (but have they tasted Northern Lights' Chocolate Dunkel?) and for having "the largest forested urban park in the nation."


Manito is just fine, thank you. We're not impressed by size.





Slender Cinquefoil


For $86, you can cover 25 square feet of your garden with perennial and drought-resistant plants and grasses that are native to this area. (They have cool names like Idaho fescue and taper-leaf penstemon.) Visit www.nativeseedfarm.com for information on local nurseries that carry these "Prairiescapes."





Who Are Those Guys?


Walk down a city street. Count and take a close look at the first 100 adults you see. George W. Bush actually gets a thumbs-up from 28 of those people. Seventy-one of them give the president an F. One said he didn't understand the question.





Feather Boas Are a Necessity


Spokane Civic Theatre's Costume Shop is having a sale on Saturday from 9 am-3 pm. Call 325-2507.

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