I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

29 December 2005

OK, So I Was Wrong

No real post, today. But the Consort and I went to see "The Squid and the Whale". It was very good, but very depressing. Most depressing of all was that they used the melody to "Figure 8" (one of the Schoolhouse Rock vignettes) in some of the more poignant scenes, so now I won't be able to hear it without feeling a bit sad.

People do rotten things to their kids.

28 December 2005

Back in the Saddle Again...

Yikes! I haven't posted in six days! Sorry about that to all those who have been coming to see wassup. The frivolity of the season just took over. (That means there was WAY too much chocolate!*)

One of the nice things about freelancing is that you can work from anywhere, pick your time off... but it also means that when you stay close to home, and the rest of the family is on vacation, you still have to make your deadlines. Bummer. But that's OK, I guess. Because it means that the Imperatrixes-in-Training can focus on things like Neverwinter Nights and The Sims without their mother saying that we should all go out for a walk, or play a game ("we _are_ playing games, mother!" -- but I meant board games, sheesh!). And the Imperator Consort can continue his conquests in Warcraft III without feeling guilty.

Anyway, I should be posting on a regular basis again, starting now. (I've got some opinion posts bubbling around that I need to get down in binary [heh heh, lame joke].)

*The Imperator Consort says he wants to invent a carrot and broccoli Christmas treat. Because that way, when you're putzing around the house over the holidays, and you've got a little rumble in your tummy, you can think to yourself, "Golly, I think I'll have me a little carrot and broccoli Christmas treat!" rather than "Let's see, I've already had five gingerbread men and a handful of coconut sticks. That's no good, I need a little variety in my diet ... I know! I need a couple of mini Toblerone bars!"

22 December 2005

Hey, Look Who's in the News!

It's the Younger Imperatrix-in-Training!
Supposedly, they interviewed her for a long time. The principal said she was a hoot. But they didn't use any of her material in the actual article, which you can read here, at least for the next few days, I'm guessing.

Someone from the Metro Waste Authority came to talk to them at the beginning of the school year about the proper way to recycle, so since then she has insisted that we "respect her authoritah" on things like rinsing out the conditioner bottle before tossing it in the bin.

20 December 2005


In a week that should have been joyous, but is turning out to be less so, a glimmer of hope: Judge Bars 'Intelligent Design' From Pa. Classes.

"Intelligent design cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge [John E. Jones III] said Tuesday...'The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy,' Jones wrote... 'We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,' he wrote in his 139-page opinion."

Here's where I shout "yea, verily":

"Jones wrote that he wasn't saying the intelligent design concept shouldn't be studied and discussed, saying its advocates 'have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors.'"

But, he wrote, 'our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a PUBLIC SCHOOL SCIENCE classroom. [emphasis mine]'"

Rock on, Judge Jones.

19 December 2005

How Cold Is It Where You Live, Imperatrix?

Well, I took a shower this morning. Afterwards, I started a big mug of tea to take up to the office with me. While my tea was steeping, I decided to go fill the bird feeder. It took me all of five minutes to take the feeder off the post, open the bucket of seed, fill the feeder, close it up, and return it to the post.

In that time, my damp hair froze into solid strands.

THAT's how cold it is here.

18 December 2005

Family Game Night

Last night we played Blokus, and awesome game, indeed! So, how was it? Well, the girls are going through a bickering stage, so I now present to you some highlights from the game:
Do you even know what broiled means, or do you just think it's "boiled" with an R?!
Wait, I just had a revolution!
[after being told to stop looking for a spot for her piece, because there wasn't enough space anywhere on the board:]

What's wrong with a little blossom of hope?

Today, they are both down with a cold.
Maybe that was the source of the crankiness.

15 December 2005

Dingle Berries

Sigh. Have I mentioned the cat yet? Oh, yes, that mighty hunter of waters. He actually turned on the water in the tub yesterday (we’ve got those up/down old-fashioned levers, not the 1960s era circular knobs) to get a drink.

A few days ago, the Elder Imperatrix-in-training comes to me, holding him up in her arms and sticking his butt in my face. “Does he smell like poop to you?”

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, he does! And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a soft turd tangled in the fur around his, um, you know.

As the one responsible for some of the grossness of having pets (the Imperator Consort takes care of puke, thank the gods), I cleaned him up and sent my offspring to sniff couch and bed to make sure his little dangling bits hadn’t smeared on any fabric.

And today, as I am adding the sugar and milk to my favorite hot drink, what to my wondering ears should I hear, but the scratch, scratch, scratch of a cat covering up his business. Except that he was in the kitchen. Scratching at the linoleum. Trying to cover up a little package of yuckness.

Again, I clean up the mess. I call the vet to see how much a “hygienic clip” costs (oh, am I sorrowful for the mockery I made of my sister’s cat who would get these hygienic clips twice a year!). We’ve got a feisty little bugger, so the clip ($20) plus sedation ($30) is more than I choose to handle at this time.

Hmmm. The Consort’s electric razor is in the bathroom. . . Maybe I’ll give that a try. I bet the Consort wouldn’t even notice (since he hasn’t visited the site in a while!).

14 December 2005

Christmas Tree Water

What's the best way to serve water to your Christmas tree? I know that the first batch should be hot (to get that caramel-like sap moving), but should each new addition be hot, too? (Although that just means the tree gets warm water, since the stuff already in the holder is cold.)

Also, in vases of flowers, I always add a teaspoon bleach to keep the water from getting algae-y and smelly. Do some add bleach to their tree water? Or soap, maybe?

Does it make a difference to your answer if you knew that the cat needs to "hunt" for his water, and so prefers toilets, tubs, and Christmas trees as his hunting grounds?

Trials and Tribulations of a Freelancer, Part I

I have a new project. Same client, different manager. And I really think that come January, I will be dropping this project. Why, you ask me? Well, let's consider the facts.

A long-time project was moved overseas (you know, I was just Friedman flat-worlded). The freelance stablemaster then put me onto this problematic project. I was thrown right in, just "Here's the style guide, here are a couple of previous issues, and here are ten files to work on!" Great, except that the style guide was not clear on several points. And the file info I was given wasn't complete. I start sending emails to the manager, but I get no responses. I do the best I can, finish up on time, and send my first invoice.

By now, I've gotten more files (still no closure on the queries from before), so I start working on them. My first invoice is currently unpaid. Now, I've been working for this client for over 5 years, so I know I'm in their system. I email about that. "I'll check into it again for you," he says. [my internal monologue: Again? This is the first time I've asked.]

The list of unresolved style issues is getting longer. I even ask the manager if his work schedule is uncommon. "Nope," I'm told, "I am usually here between 8:30 am and 4 pm." [Ho-kay.]

Second batch goes off, but now, with the first invoice over a month late, I tell him that I will stop work on any files in my possession (I've gotten batch 3 by now) until I get paid for invoice 1. [I'm a freelancer, dude, and I can't pay my bills until I have money in hand. How would you treat a freelancer that just sat on stuff and made your deadlines slip? You'd FIRE his ass, dude!]

Still no word from him.

Soooo, I call.

"Oh, yes, I found your invoice, it was covered by all these piles of paper on my desk." [Rickin, frickin, &^%( #$@!] "I'll be submitting it this week."

I finally receive payment, so I alert the manager that I am resuming work on batch 3. One big file is not a typical file, and so I ask the manager for guidance on Tuesday. Nothing. Wednesday, nothing. Thursday, nothing. Friday, I email (subject header: "Are you there?") that I am ready to send all the other files, but I really need feedback on what to do with the big file.

"Oh, we had to get that one out in December, so I took care of that one myself." [Why the blasted bleepity bleep didn't you TELL me then?].

I received another batch yesterday. "Got it," I email. "I notice that there is some info we weren't getting before that now we have. Should I incorporate it, or has the style changed?"

Haven't. heard. anything. back. yet.

[You better be getting COAL in your stocking this year, buddy! Santa, are you reading this? He has been a VERY NAUGHTY BOY this year! And I don't mean it in the good way, either!]

12 December 2005

Where's the "Service" in the Service Industry?

So, I had my first really frustrating holiday shopping experience today. And at one of my favorite stores, no less.

We are big book fans, so we love to shop for books, we love to hang out at bookstores, we love to listen to the music they play in the bookstores, and we love to drink the coffee drinks they sell at bookstores. And our favorite book store franchise is Borders Books. Barnes & Noble seems bigger and less personal, their staff isn’t as friendly, and their seats aren’t as comfortable.

I went in to our Borders today looking for a gift for my nephews. I know I’ve seen the kind of story I was looking for at school libraries and other places, so I didn’t anticipate a difficult time finding what I needed. After browsing in the Children’s Department for a few minutes I think to myself, “Hey, this may take me a while to find, and the Customer Service folks have always been so helpful -- golly, I’d probably save myself a lot of time if I just go ask them directly!”

So I skipped over to the desk, la di da, waited my turn in line, and, when it was my turn, I smiled to the Borders employee (not one I’ve noticed before, and I can recognize many of them on sight, we spend so much time there) and started to explain what I was looking for. The guy looks at me superciliously and says (now, you must read this with deep open vowels), “Well, do you have a title for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this type of story.” He gives me one of those fake sympathetic eyebrow frowns, purses his lips, and shrugs. I have just been officially blown off.

That sound you hear is my internal holiday background music screeching as the needle scrapes across the record and the arm flies into empty air. Then what you hear is silence.

I take a breath. “That’s all fine and good,” I respond, with an edge of ice in my politeness, “but maybe someone from the Children’s Department may know a bit more about this than you?”

“Sure, there should be someone back there,” he replies, tilting his head towards the back of the store, “you might want to go and check.”

I still just look at him, no smile on my face now. He continues, “Unless you’re already been back there?” I nod my head and give him one of those oh-so-impatient closed-lip smiles. [Yes, damn you, of course I went back there to check. I had ignored the irritation of not finding anyone back there because I am in my favorite store, and I was willing to give Borders the benefit of the doubt!]

He messes with some papers on his desk. “Unless she’s at lunch [people, it is 10:30 in the frickin morning] . . . no, she should be back there,” he looks towards the back of the store. “It looks like she’s helping someone in . . . DVDs.” Now, he hasn’t looked at me since I gave him the Freeze-o-smile, so I know he’s feeling uncomfortable, but whether that’s because he realized he had made a faux pas or because he didn’t like me by this point, I didn’t know.

So I decided to simplify this unknown variable by asking in a terse and frustrated voice, “Would you mind give me a NAME or a description of what she’s WEARING, so I can go back there and try to find her myself, then?”

There, now he definitely won’t like me. He runs off to go to her and calls to me over his shoulder that I should go to the Children’s Department and he’ll send her right over.

The long and the short of it is, they didn’t have the kind of book I was looking for. And he didn’t even offer to help me order it through them.

Now, I agree that I got pissed. But I wouldn’t have had to get pissed if he had taken my question seriously in the first place, and if he had actually made some effort to help me find the answer, rather than base his inaction on whether he, personally, had ever heard of this type of story.

Maybe we’ll have to go check out Barnes & Noble.

09 December 2005

The Next Generation is Getting it Right

Wow. The Elder Imperatrix-in-Training is so amazing. Remember that post a couple days' back which I suggested she not read? Well, she didn't read it! She was checking out the blog here in the office, turned to me and said, "So, I shouldn't read this?" When I told her that she could, but she wouldn't like it, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "OK, then I won't read it."

Boy oh boy, do I need me some of that self-restraint.
"Today I will have no chocolate."
"Well, I won't have any more than this piece here."
"Hmmm, maybe my chocolate-free state will begin tomorrow, so I might as well have three pieces right now."

Me: "You really shouldn't do that. It will only make you not happy."
Myself: "But won't not doing that make me not happy?"
Me: "Don't do it, I'm telling you. . . . See, What did I tell you? How do you feel now?"
Myself: "Not happy."

08 December 2005

I Spent My Last $3...

...on being a community sucker. Some dude (white, kempt, and in his late 30s/early 40s) came up to my door with a gas can in hand, saying his car was out of gas & wouldn't start. Could I PLEEEEEASE lend him $3-4 , which he would pay back after his car started. So, I had exactly $3 left in my wallet, which I gave him.

It's been 1 hour, and he's not back yet. I did see him approach the house across the street, probably to get some cash off them as well.

This being the "transitional" neighborhood that it is, I'm not really surprised that this happened. I do this sort of thing in the belief that I am storing up some good karma for myself and my kin, to redeem at some nebulous point in the future. What? You say karma doesn't work that way? I can't keep track of it to withdraw some at a time of my choosing? Oh, well.

The gas can was a nice touch, though.

07 December 2005

Oh, My My. Oh, My Oh My.

[Note to the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training: You’d be less discomfited if you didn’t read this. Trust me.]

Someone just pointed me to this article on Scooter Libby’s 1996 sex novel, “The Apprentice.” Jeepers creepers, those Conservative Leaders are pervs. Deer necrophilia, and – bears and little girls, fer crissakes! And to think it took him twenty years to write this. My oh my. Really, you should go read the review for yourself, but don’t be drinking anything while you are doing it – you may ruin a perfectly good keyboard. And don’t do it at work with the door open, your gales of laughter will disturb your co-workers.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. For instance, I’m sure there's a very easy paper to write there about the whole domination thing (“Giving it to The Man: International Roles in Third-Rate Pornographic Writing”). And what better way to write about that metaphorically than with Asian women (e.g., T’sa Li) and Western men [How do I know it’s Western men? Rand’s glans, you know – not Gua Yong’s dong (… as in “ding dong bell” Elder daughter, la di dah, the world is sweet and peaceful…)].

This is probably why they work so hard to continuously criminalize homosexuality: They can’t get their jollies unless something is against the law (VPs dying of heart attacks *with their mistress* [in this case, biblical law, "That Which Trumps all Other Law"], etc.). Homosexuality is becoming so mainstream these days they can’t really reach levels of pleasure (she still may be reading, folks) unless we’re talking Cervidae and Carnivora Ursidae. And remember, these people don’t want to be anything like the liberal elite, so who can get Mr. Big happy using THOSE big words?

Wait! I thought of another paper topic: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Turning Fantasy into Reality, The First Step in Proving that Saddam Actually Had Ties with al Qaeda”.

Anybody else want to try? Just pick something from the article (Buckley would be hardest, I think), and give me a serious paper topic. Let’s give Haloscan a workout. USE that Comments feature!

06 December 2005

Manly Style

OK, so I have a hard enough time living without ever having found a justification for opposite button placement on clothes for males and females. But this morning, the Imperator Consort tells me that when men wear button-down sweaters (maybe it's just button-down sweater vests, that oh-so-sexy accoutrement of the academic), it is de rigeur to leave the last button undone.


What, so you can call attention to The Bulge?

I just don't get it. Can someone explain it to me?

05 December 2005

Gift-Giving Dilemma

Let's say there's an acquaintance with whom you exchange gifts. You know what you want to get them, and see that gift at a locally owned business where you shop often. And you buy it.

Then, at one of those nasty nasty mega franchises, where you seldom set foot (and you are there looking for something else), you see the deluxe edition of the gift for the same price as you purchased the regular edition of the gift (we're talking a 30% differential here, comparing the regular to regular or deluxe to deluxe prices). And you buy it, too.

Do you upgrade at the nasty store? Do you exchange for the regular edition at the nasty store? Do you suck it up and stay local?

What do I do, people?

02 December 2005

Charitable Giving

We recently subscribed to Mother Jones (because what better way to spend $10 than by receiving another magazine that agrees with your political bent?), and the theme for the December/January issue is “God and Country: Where the Christian Right is Leading Us.”

There are some very interesting (and scary) articles on the insinuation of evangelical beliefs into American culture and (closer to home here in our realm) the weakening of the philosphy of academic freedom.

I know, I know, some of you are tuning out as you’re reading, but let me suggest you take a look at the information in “Who Gives a $%&T?”, which is available online for free. Some of my favorites:

--In 2002 Americans deducted $654 million for cars they donated to charity; 7 times what the cars were actually worth.

--8 in 10 dog owners buy their pet holiday gifts. 6 in 10 cat owners do.

--Americans spend $8 billion on Christmas decorations, almost 4 times what they give to protect animals and the environment.

--There is a graph which shows the percentage of income donated to charity, by bracket. You really should check it out, because the words don’t have the same impact as the graph. But the numbers, for 2003, were: $200,000 and over (3.4%); giving stays in that range down to $30-50,000 (5.3%). People who make between $15,000 and $30,000 almost double giving, to 9.2%; and those who make under $15,000 gave 26% (yes, you read that right, TWENTY-frickin-SIX percent) of their income to charity.


So go out and donate to your charity of choice, preferably a local one that gives directly to the needy; go through your kids’ toys and thin out the herd (another number: the typical American child receives 70 [SEVENTY!] new toys in a year, most of them at Christmas); clear out your closets and bring those coats and jackets (and hats and mittens) you never wear to a shelter; and do your part.

Today! Stop reading this blog and do it!

(But come back tomorrow. Lonely Imperatrixes can do dangerous things when left to their own devices too long. You can tell me what action you took to help the poor!)

01 December 2005

Secret Santa or Sinister Snake?

We had our first real snow last night (2-3 inches). I decided to go shovel the sidewalk before all the early-morning class students packed it down. But when I got out there, it was cleared, with the unmistakable treadmarks of a snowblower! It must have been done by the person who clears the sidewalk of the apartment building next door.

My first thought: Wow, people in the Midwest are so nice. What a great way to start December (the REAL holiday season start)!

My second thought: Hmmm. I bet those nasty landlords (the favorite way for those two brothers to address me is "Bitch") are trying to butter us up for something, like adding another big barky dog to the building.

The Consort's thought: Jeez, I bet the new hired man doesn't know where the property ends and made a mistake.

Too bad my East Coast survival training kicks in so quickly.