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.

30 December 2006

Back Home

Hello hello! I hope you all had a good Christmas? We had a great time staying with my sisters and their families. I’m sorry I didn’t blog from afar; it seems that we Midwesterners are actually way more connected than folks in Washington DC. Neither sister had wifi (although one has a neighbor with a server called “default” that wasn’t password-protected—how scary is that?).

Some things I learned during my vacation:

  • There seems to be a code regulation in Northern Virginia that all downstairs bathrooms must have a leaky toilet. I don’t know, maybe something to keep the water running fresh?

  • Many of you blogged about your family’s traditional Christmas fare. In my family, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a cheese fondue. I’ve always thought that the kirsch one has to add to the fondue and has to down a shot of at the coup de mi-temps (half-time; that is, halfway through the meal) was a torment designed to burn out one’s throat. This year, I learned that good kirsch is smoooooth. And oh-so-goooooood. Mmmmmmmm.

  • We burned a hole in my sister’s tablecloth because the gel Sterno kind of oozed out of the can and started to burn everywhere. (My fondue pot has the older style burner, which uses liquid Sterno. I like mine much better.)

  • I can put aside that worry I have from time to time that the Consort and I are on the road to overindulging in alcoholic beverages. We are drinking wimps.

  • Sleeping in a room with a log burning in the fireplace is romantic.

  • I never felt more welcome anywhere than when I was hanging out with four- and five-year-old nephews and nieces (which was most of the time during this trip. Everybody’s got them). These kids are cool. They are so kind. And EXCITED. And boy, do they know a lot of Christmas songs.

  • My brothers-in-law are really great dads. It was nice to hang out with them for a while and see them in action.

  • I am going to purge my diet of cheese and dairy for a while (maybe all of January?).

  • Truck testicles are the most tasteless car accessory I have ever seen. Unfortunately (for me), many people who think these are cool happen to drive across the country on Interstate 80.

  • 20 December 2006

    We Are Off!

    We’re leaving in a little while on our 1,000-mile, 16-hour drive out to the suburbs of this nation’s fair capital for some raucous holiday fun with a tribe of little cousins. And aunts and uncles. And grandparents.

    I’m sure my blog addiction won’t let too many days pass before I’m online again with you all. But until tomorrow night, I’ll be sitting in a little metal box with three other people and four iPods, trying to remind them that as the Imperatrix, I have decided that we will NOT listen to Boy Kill Boy or Beyonce (yes, they have very different tastes, these offspring of mine) again until we listen to some Crystal Method first. And if the Consort is nice, I’ll let him play some of his Loreena McKennitt or Fiona Apple. But only when he’s driving. (Because driver gets first dibs on music.)

    I’ll leave you with some bullets from the last time we made this trek (for Christmas two years ago):

  • There are long stretches of highway in Illinois where you’ll see signs which state: “High-Security Prison in Area. Do NOT Pick up Hitchikers”. Comforting, don’t you think?

  • Ohio highways are treacherous. They get slick with ice and they are packed with high-speed trucks which box you in; this makes it very likely that if you happen to need to brake (OK, maybe you were going a bit fast, but not much!), the car will slide and slip. As the car is swerving towards the truck to your right ... then the truck in front of you ... then the truck to your rear, you’ll shout, “I don’t know how to keep control!” Your spouse will respond calmly, “You’re doing just fine, keep doing what you’re doing.” (And you thank the gods you picked such a steady-under-pressure kind of guy, because if the roles were reversed, the only thing you could think of to say would be “EEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!”) You’ll end up in the snowy grass median, facing the other direction. With no real damage to your father-in-law’s station wagon, which he lent you for this trip. And you’ll be able to push out of the snowbank without assistance from strangers (not that any was offered, in any case).

  • Pennsylvania Rest Stops--which are great places to take a break when there’s a snowstorm swirling around you and you wonder how the heck you’re going to make it to DC tonight--house McDonalds which provide veggie burgers as part of their menu. You try not to think of what they were cooked with, because, dammit, you’re all hungry, you’re sick to death of Subway sandwiches, and you need savory food, not Cinnabuns, fer crying out loud.

    See you in a couple of days. (I think I’ll let the Consort do the driving through Ohio this time.)

  • 19 December 2006

    Their True Nature Comes Out

    Lest you had the impression that my two daughters were all sweetness and light, I offer you this photo of what they did to two broken gingerbread men they came across while decorating cookies the other night.

    18 December 2006

    If the Bird Flu Comes, I'll Get It

    Well, although I washed my hands so often that my skin started to crack, I caught Trixie's stomach flu. I "slept" most of yesterday afternoon, and the girls took care of making their own dinner, they folded their laundry, and got the animals ready for bed.

    Trixie had a bit of a relapse this morning (she wanted to go to school, but I really didn't want to have to drive, so I suggested she stay home & take it easy today). Of course, this throws a monkey wrench in my well-laid work and Christmas gift-making plans. Three of Four, your gift was supposed to be made yesterday... I hope I can get it done before we leave Wednesday at noon! I'm sitting on the couch, wrapping my mind around these author changes I have to incorporate on my current project.


    And thanks everyone for the nice cookie comments. (Plus, I did do the Beta thing this morning, so you may see lots of old "new" posts.)

    17 December 2006

    Sunday Frustrations

    The cookie party was a blast. Unfortunately, people didn't take home half as many cookies as they should have, so our menu this weekend has consisted of: eat something healthy (an apple), then eat some cookies; repeat. More unfortunately, Trixie seems to have come down with a nasty 24-hour stomach bug. She was up the latter half of the night Friday to Saturday, and was able to keep nothing down all day yesterday except some water. I think we're over the worst of it, and I hope no one else succumbs (especially as we're leaving on our 16-hour drive to DC on Wednesday!) But, you came here to read of my frustrations, didn't you?

    Frustration #1: This morning seemed the perfect time to finally do the switch to Blogger Beta. Not because I'm excited about it, but because I haven't been able to leave comments on the blogs of folks who have made the switch (Steg? Katharine?). I'm still not sure I'll stay on Blogger (are you reading this, Bloggerpeople?), and I have read one horror story of a person not being able to access their blog once the swtich was made, and, in the end, it seems, I was worrying for no reason because when I logged on this morning, the invitation to switch had mysteriously disappeared from my Dashboard. Rickin frickin. Sunday is a much better day to switch than a weekday. Sheesh. So if you are reading this, and you are thinking "I'm gonna stop visiting her site, she's not commenting at my site anymore!" If you've made the Beta switch, please give me a little more time! it's their fault, not antisocialness on my part!

    Frustration #2: Last week I read at NYT that an online geography competition had been created, pitting the US vs. the UK (traditionally, two of the lower scoring countries on international geography tests). "Sounds like fun!" I thought to myself. On Thursday, the site was down because the article had driven so many people to the site that the server couldn't handle it. They promised more bandwidth within 24 hours; I was busy on Friday (wonder why?) so I decided to try it out yesterday. When I clicked on the "Register for Team USA" button, I was sent to this screen:

    Sorry, we don't offer this challenge outside of the US and the UK, as yet. Please check back in the future for any changes to this policy.
    We apologize for any inconvenience.

    And this is why Team USA will lose the Geography Cup, folks. Because they don't think Iowa is part of the United States!

    15 December 2006

    Cookie Party!

    Ummm, remember when I said that we were making fewer kinds of cookies this year, rather than the typical 15 or so? I think I may have underestimated how many we usually make, because these are just our favorite kinds—I can name at least 10 more types we have made in the past—and we’re already at 14! And I know it doesn’t look like so many, here on this lovely plate (yes, I set up the shot on top of the bunny cage. Shut, up, it was the brightest window in the house!), keep in mind that we have several dozen of each kind. Would you like:
    Fruitcake, meringue mushrooms, coconut sticks, pecan toffee, jelly stars, angel eyes (these cookies were impetus for Trixie’s currant jelly), Christmas wreaths (tacky in so many ways, but a must-make!), mocha balls, spritz cookies, gingerbread cookies, mini-cheesecakes (these have cranberry topping; the lemon curd topping ones are still cooling in the kitchen), chocolate biscotti, or anise thorn cookies?

    14 December 2006

    Lucky Us! Responsible for an Extinction!

    China's white dophin, a freshwater mammal, a species that has been around for 20 million years—TWENTY MILLION YEARS, PEOPLE!—is now effectively extinct. Thirty scientists searched for six weeks, and called off the expedition yesterday, after they had not sighted a single dolphin in all that time.

    We are such a f*cking mess of a species. I don't like us very much right now.

    13 December 2006

    My Unsupportive Role

    Behind every successful man, there is a woman.

    Sure, we've all heard that. But in our case, last night I was an unsupportive, unhappy woman. The Consort has had meetings all month. This week, it actually is every darn night except Friday. Last week, he had to attend a city meeting instead of watching his daughter perform in the school holiday concert.

    Now, add to this the fact that we are having our cookie party on Friday night. This year, instead of us making 15 different kinds of cookies, we're asking everyone to bring some cookies to share, and we're only making our favorites. This was a compromise. Because the cookie party brings out all sorts of stress for me.

    So, back to last night: While I was cooking dinner, I snapped. "Remind me next year to nix the cookie party if you aren't going to be around any night the week before." —People, we are on track for the party. We aren't stressed. I was just being unfair and cranky. These things happen sometimes (the crankiness, that is). It was just the idea of him out there soothing neighborhood and city ills while we three sit at home without him.

    The Consort and I, we make a good team. When he's in an expansive mood, I caution restraint. When I want to buy, buy, buy, he says wait, wait, wait. When I get in one of my moods, he usually knows exactly what to say to smooth things over, or at least to help me see reason.

    He had a perfect comeback last night. It went something like this: "Remind me next year to nix the cookie party if it happens the week before your—"

    Because we are such a good team, and because he can read situations clearly, he didn't actually speak his perfect comeback right then. He waited until later, when I had gotten the crankiness out of my system.

    And that's why he's a very very smart man.

    11 December 2006

    How to ruin your daughter's day in one easy step

    1. Tell her that her father's request for sabbatical for the 2007-2008 school year was accepted.

    But! But... before you feel too sorry for her, let me share a few tidbits:

    "This chapter was fabulous."["fabulous"!]

    "I would definitely consider adopting this book for my course. I look forward to reading the entire finished product."

    "I found the writing to be very clear and well organized."

    "My overall opinion of this chapter is that it as an excellent and comprehensive presentation of the ... issue. I found that every issue that I spend time on in my class was covered in detail in this text and I appreciated the accurate and up-to-date presentation of the science behind [this issue]." ["excellent"!!]

    These are some of the reviewer comments on the chapter the Consort prepared for a potential co-authored textbook in his field. The publisher called last week, and today they made plans for the Consort to fly out to NY to sign contracts [contracts!!!].

    The co-author lives/teaches in New Hampshire. So we'll be spending sabbatical year in a college town in New Hampshire, surrounded by mountains [mountains!!!!], the Consort willl be a visiting scholar, writing the book, I will bring my clients with me (they just need to change the address on the Fed Ex label), and this will be fun fun fun!

    I understand the girls' sadness, because just today, with my car in the shop, my friends came through and gladly shlepped the girls to their activities, and even offered to drive Trixie to school tomorrow morning (these are homeschoolers, so driving someone to school before 8 a.m. is a big deal, indeed!). But it will only be one year, and I hope that our temporary house will be filled with houseguests throughout our time there. New England is a beautiful place to visit, anytime!

    And the girls will have fun, because their Grandma, two aunts and their cool spouses, plus three (soon to be four!) cousins live up there. Plus, I'm pretty sure there'll be fencing.

    I will end here, as the celebratory wine has gotten me tipsy...

    Knowing My Limits

    I was turned on to quilting by a friend of mine in California, back before I had Impera. This friend was amazingly creative, and she would pick out some beautiful fabric, and compose a free-hand quilt just like that, *snap*. I’d tag along on some of her quilt-shop runs, and I’d walk up and down the aisles, running my hand along all the different fabrics, basking in the eye candy before such a word even existed. One time, I felt the urge and I bought one of those fabric packs that quilt shops wisely put together, figuring that the shape of the pack, as well as the rich color combinations, would call to innocent browsers, who would quickly think, “I need this!” and buy it. Look at this:

    I took these pictures this morning. So, you see that in 12 years, I have yet to do anything with this impulse buy. (I argue that the roll is a piece of art, in itself. Taking it apart would be a desecration. Sort of like writing in a fresh notebook of creamy thick paper.)

    Clearly, I shouldn’t make impulse fabric buys. And I don’t. But when I find things like this, at a place like Superbuzzy:

    I find it tempting, nonetheless.

    10 December 2006

    Very Tempted

    ... to filter any emails including the word "sausage" directly to the Trash. I mean, I'm vegetarian, right? How likely is it that anyone I know would send a valid email with that word to me?

    08 December 2006

    Passing the Buck

    Busy busy busy. But if you want to read an entertaining "Six Weird things about Me", then head on over to yesterday's comments. The Consort gave us his six things, and they are *way* better than mine were.

    Go take a peek.

    06 December 2006

    Six Weird Things About Me

    Ally tagged me for this meme, and I promised I’d do it today (although I thought I’d get to it earlier than 10:45 p.m.!), so here you are:

    1.) I have a powerful memory. You’d think that was a good thing (and it is for my line of work), but it keeps getting me into trouble. You see, I can’t ever do the “ forget” in the “forgive and forget” thing. So when others have completely forgotten about a snub, a rude comment, or a cold shoulder, there I am in the corner, seething. It works against me myself, too. I’ll be puttering around, doing something random, when I’ll suddenly remember a moment I said or did something stupid. *Siiiiigh*, I’ll say. “What are you remembering now?” the Consort will ask. (We’ve been together a long time, you see.)

    2.) My favorite treat is chocolate sandwiches. I think this must be a Belgian thing. My favorite way to eat chocolate is to spread some butter (not margarine – yuck) on a slice of bread, fold it up, and take a bite of the bread, then a bite of the line of chocolate. The Consort thinks this is the weirdest way to eat chocolate (but then, he’s not much of a chocolate fan).

    3.) I talk to myself. A lot. I also respond out loud to the radio. I don’t mean shout at it (although I do that sometimes, too), but more along the lines of, “Well, I don’t agree that the administration really thought that through, you know…” (And don’t ask me who “you” is. I have no idea.)

    4.) Summer or winter, I sleep in my skin. Well, on super cold nights I might wear socks. And a hat. Otherwise, whatever I wear bunches up and makes an uncomfortable lump.

    5.) Like Stegbeetle (who’s already completed his 6 things), there is always music on. I’m loving internet radio, because I can listen to great stuff of whatever style I’m in the mood for, wherever I am. In the car, I am an avid station-changer. I’ll keep flipping around to get away from boring songs or commercials. True, this means that I never hear a song in its entirety, but it’s way better than the alternative.

    6.) When I was a kid, we went to church every Sunday, and sat in our regular spot (3rd or 4th row on the left). I had no doubts about the trueness of our religion (Roman Catholicism), because the angels made their presence known every week. See, when the priest concecrates the bread and wine, he speaks the story of the last supper, says “Do this in memory of me”, lifts the plate or chalice up above his head, then does an up-down kneeling. Well, when the plate or chalice was raised up, the angels’ bells would ring in response. It was the coolest thing. But then when my mother was in the hospital having Three of Four, we went with our babysitter’s family, who typically sat on the right side of the church. The side of the altar boy in charge of ringing the bells when the host/wine was raised. I was incredibly bummed out when I realized that it wasn't the angels, it was James Henry. The distress of this moment probably led to my disillusionment with organized religion as I grew up.

    I would tag folks, but many people who haven’t yet been tagged are busy or out traveling right now, so if anyone who reads this is interested, please share six weird things about yourself and let us know so we can take a peek!

    05 December 2006

    Security, Shmecurity

    This morning I went to the Web interface for my student loans to schedule my monthly payment, when I was interrupted by a screen which ordered me to set up some verification information. OK, this is pretty typical (although I’ve been paying online for over a year, so I’ve already made up a pretty hack-proof password). The first one was the one we all expect:

    What is your mother’s maiden name?

    Piece of cake. Easy to remember, not something I mention to strangers, and I don’t have to worry about keeping track of different passwords for different sites.*

    I click on Submit, and I get red warning text all over the page: it seems I have to input four different questions. Sigh. All right. What are the other options?

    What is the name of your first pet?

    Hmm. Do I have to remember the cat Sis #2 cut the whiskers off of at the first apartment we lived in here in the US? (I don’t think I ever knew that cat’s name! I was only 3 and didn’t speak English!)

    What was the last name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?

    …Uhhh, this isn’t a good one. What exactly constitutes a boyfriend? Paul O asking me to the bowling alley in 4th grade? And confusing: the first name of my last, or did you say the last of my first…?

    Which sports team did you like as a child?
    ...Oh, please.

    What was the first name of your closest childhood friend?

    … This one I can do.

    What is the name of favorite fictional character?
    Who is your favorite person from history?
    What is the last name of your favorite teacher?

    …Wait! Too many choices! I read a lot, and, do you mean from a book or from a movie? Are we talking about elementary school, high school, or college?

    What’s your hobby?
    What’s your favorite car?
    What is the place you’d go on your ideal vacation?

    …Well, that might change, wouldn’t it? I mean—
    What is your favorite restaurant?
    What is your favorite place from childhood?
    What is your favorite animal?
    What is your favorite food or drink?

    HELP!!!!!! I just want to pay my student loan, not date the darn loan company! This is going too far. I object!**

    *This is a fear I have: That I will forget which password goes to which account, and not be able to access important time-sensitive information. Not that I would ever dream of preventing this forgetfulness by “clumping” passwords for similar or related activities. Nooooo, never. *Ahem*

    **When I mentioned this to the Consort, he didn’t agree at all. He thought these were very good questions. These were actual security questions. I think that at our age we should be starting to think about Alzheimers (which runs in his family, you know), and these types of questions are dangerous! And too open-ended. And too many!

    04 December 2006

    They Made, I Made

    This weekend was the dog’s birthday: Zephyr turned 6. So the girls went online and found a recipe for dog cake (does it boggle anyone else’s mind that there are recipes out there for dog cake?) They bought the ingredients, baked it (for an hour the kitchen reeked of meat [the batter was made with meat baby food and beef broth]), cooled it, and frosted it. They used cottage cheese for the frosting (rather than yogurt, which was the other option) because supposedly cats can eat the cottage cheese, but not the yogurt (to which I say, “huh?”) (plus, I told them I wouldn’t be very happy if they used the yogurt I had just made to decorate the dog’s cake!) Then, they had the party (you can click on any picture to see larger images):

    DSC01238.JPGThis is the dog thinking, “Hmm, it smells delicious, but—whoa, nelly!—there’s FIRE all around it!”

    DSC01240.JPGHere is Zephyr deciding that yes, she can definitely get used to this birthday thing.

    As I mentioned, the girls made sure the cake would be cat-friendly, because Loki was the other guest at this celebration. What did he think of the dog birthday cake? Let’s see:

    DSC01243.JPG “Excuse me, but can you please get this ‘stuff’ out of my bowl and fill it with my kibble? Look, it’s right here to my left. Sigh, you humans and your silly notions!”

    And here is something I’m putting in my Secret Pal’s December package (which I hope to get out the door today).


    30 November 2006

    The End of a Rough Month

    Warning: If siblings follow links, they may catch a glimpse of things they may not want to see just yet.

    You’re adults. Consider yourselves warned.

    November was not a good month. Although I had great plans (that Christmas Goal thing and NaNoWriMo), after about the 7th I was swamped with work, so I had to put any “me time” activities aside. The Emotional Flux hung out for a while, and that was unexpected. Then, I got the Thanksgiving sinus infection, and although I have been treated with this antibiotic before, this time it has hit my body hard. Above and beyond the typical antibiotic side effects, I’ve had a headache every day since I started the pills. Luckily it is tamed with ibuprofen, but I’ve never had to take painkillers for over a week before.

    December is already looking up, though. First, I turned Impera’s writing teacher on to NaNoWriMo, and not only did she get her classes to participate, but she actually made the 50,000-word goal (so I wrote vicariously through a 7th grade teacher). Rock on, Ms. G!

    Then, yesterday I put the last big project of November in the mail. So today I rewarded myself by not doing any editing. Instead, I went fabric shopping.

    29 November 2006

    Offered Without Comment

    Last week, a couple were threatened with fines of $25 a day by their homeowners’ association unless they removed a four-foot wreath shaped like a peace symbol from the front of their house.

    The fines have been dropped, and the three-member board of the association has resigned...

    In its original letter to the couple, Lisa Jensen and Bill Trimarco, the association said some neighbors had found the peace symbol politically “divisive.”

    A board member later told a newspaper that he thought the familiar circle with angled lines was also, perhaps, a sign of the devil...

    Mr. Trimarco said he put up the wreath as a general symbol of peace on earth, not as a commentary on the Iraq war or another political statement. In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.

    Read the entire article at the New York Times.

    Bullets Over the Heartland, Education Edition

  • In 1999, 2 of 11 middle schools in our Midwest capital had 50% or more students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch.
  • In 2006, 8 of those 11 same middle schools met that criteria.
  • The combined on-time high school graduation rate for our district is 79% (this is actually a pretty good number, nationally).
  • Some of the kids in the class of 2005 (see the first bullet) were a part of a national cohort program called GEAR UP. Of the kids who were a part of the GEAR UP program, 96% graduated from high school on time.
  • Of those GEAR UP kids, 95% went on to college.

  • 28 November 2006


    If I roll my eyes when reading an author's list of desired changes because, beyond the fact that the requested changes are linguistically wrong, the author says these changes must be made because it is "better grammer," am I one?

    27 November 2006

    Craft Post, In Which I Remember the Good Old Days

    Receiving a package from my Secret Pal reminded me that part of the deal of the exchange is not only blogging on a regular basis and thanking the sender when you receive a gift, but to post about crafting (mainly knitting or crocheting, of course). Secret Pal and Hostess, I have been remiss. But that's because I am stuck. This is a picture of the Emma Jacket. Here's a joke for you: When I ordered the yarn in the first week of October I thought to myself, "I'll have this done in 3 weeks so I can still wear it this Fall." Hah! First, it was very dull, knitting in stockinette and increasing every now and again. Then, I had two sleeves to knit. Again, dull, dull, dull. Now, I am ready to cut the steeks and add the lapel, but I cannot figure out what the directions say. I should go to a local yarn shop (LYS) and have someone explain. But (1) I haven't had much time recently, (2) one of the two LYSs is owned by a man who knows nothing about knitting, he just figured this was a cool shop idea; so if one of his assistants isn't in, I'm s-o-o-l, (3) the holidays are upon us and I have gifts to make! And I haven't even started yet! (Family: don't worry, it won't be knitting this year).

    Remember the red socks I started in July? Not done. (I'll update with link later; this is actually a 15-min work break here.) My blue lace socks took forever, too. Some harlots who will remain nameless knit a sock a day. Heaven help me. I haven't been able to finish much at all lately.

    And that is why (Patty my SP hostess, ignore the next few words!) I am cheating right now. I went and pulled Jennifer (brunette) and Rebecca (blonde) from the Animal Park and asked them to take a look at the Emma Jacket. I made these Waldorf dolls for Impera and Trixie about 7 years ago. They received the doll-making kit on Christmas morning, and by New Year's Eve both dolls were finished, and they each had a dress (with bloomers, that the little hussies have supposedly "lost") and a flannel coat. I did that in 6 days. Six days, people. But at least I am posting about crafting. And you all can ooh and aah about my 7-year-old doll-making skills.

    Where did my "oomph" go? I don't know. But I sure wish I could find it!

    25 November 2006

    Secret Pal Strikes Again!

    We received another package from my Secret Pal; this one was full of Christmas-wrapped gifts! I say "we" because not only were there Tim Tams, which I am duty-bound to share, but there was a wrapped gift for each girl and for the Consort, too:

    Three kinds of Tim Tams, plus little Tim Tam balls. Each of us received a bear ornament -- very cute! (This reminds me, we'll probably have to get a tree soon seeing as we'll be trekking across 1,000 miles to spend Christmas on the East Coast...) And, to round it out, some very soft Australian wool in lavender with gray flecks. Oh! I forgot to take a picture of the book. It's called Colours of the Country: Celebrating ten years of the Alice Springs Beanie Festival. Gorgeous knit and crochet hats with amazing colors (that's how I spell it, you see). There are patterns in the back of the book, and--golly gee--the yarn I received in the package is the same kind that's called for in the patterns ;-)

    Thank you Secret Pal, We all love the package and all its goodies!

    24 November 2006

    Fell on Black Days*

    Today is known in the United States as Black Friday. “Wow! That must be bad,” you might say. That would be a reasonable guess, considering Black Monday was a bad day, many times. Black Tuesday followed on the heels of the 1929’s Black Monday. Lest you think that American economics takes all the name days, Black Wednesday is all about the UK (well, and George Soros, of course). Everybody has heard of Black Thursday, but it is more infamous than you may think. Black Saturday also recalls several violent incidents, and Black Sunday defined a decade.

    But, no. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, is named that because this is the day that retailers finally go into the black (that is, they start making a profit). (There may be other historical dates remembered as Black Friday, but when the man on the street is asked what Black Friday represents, this is the one he’ll mention.) People can begin shopping as early as 5 o’clock in the morning**. 12:01 am in some places, I saw on the television news last night. Thanksgiving being a pretty light news day (or maybe this is what the news focuses on all the time, I wouldn’t know, these two days that I’ve been home alone is the first time I’ve watched television news in … gosh, I don’t know, years***, I think), the three network stations filled a good portion of their half hour pablum with tips on how to do best (wear running shoes, start in the back of the store, make lists, bring snacks so you don’t waste time at the food court) and spotlights on everyday people who become Back Friday Shopping Heroes (they scan the Black Friday ad Web sites, they have a plan of attack, they divide and conquer).

    Prices are slashed, special deals are offered to those who shop early, or shop often. It’s all about the Buy! Buy! BUY!!!!

    What does “the American way of life” mean to most people? If you ask them, most people say things like—freedom, the right to vote, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of the press—high and mighty ideals. But that’s just how they “talk the talk.” If you look at how most Americans “walk the walk,” you’ll notice that it’s all about consumption. Over-consumption. Of food. Of natural resources. Of consumer goods. Of anything and everything. Trash. Trash. Trash.

    For shame. A day fighting with millions of others (over 65 million last year, they said on the news last night) over clothes and gadgets and trinkets that will only be used for a season or two? A day of rudeness (“I saw that first!”) and greed (“I’ll buy four of those!”)? Is that really what it’s all about?


    For years we’ve been passively participating in Buy Nothing Day (which also happens to be today). Mostly because shopping is not in the top ten things I do for fun (it’s not anywhere on my “fun” list at all, actually—but you guessed that already, didn’t you?) Now that I’ve seen the newscasts, it makes the point of the protest more important. (And no, I won’t be shopping tomorrow or Sunday, either.)

    Take a walk. Play a game with friends or family. Read a book. Be a person, not a consumer.

    Thus endeth the sermonizing.

    *Tip of the hat to Soundgarden.

    **If you have thought that I have exaggerated in the past about not really being in sync with American culture, let me tell you that when I first saw on the news that stores were opening at 5 a.m., I thought 2006 was the first year this is occurring, and I was outraged. Then, I realized this is just par for the course on Black Friday. Can this be true? Has this been going on around me for years without me knowing about it? Can someone confirm this?

    ***I get my news from The New York Times online and from National Public Radio.

    23 November 2006

    Hey, It's Thursday, Where Did the Week Go?

    Happy Thanksgiving, to all those who celebrate it!

    To all of you who have been visiting this week, wondering what the heck was going on (considering that I promised you the Story of My Macs on Monday, and here we are Thursday…), I offer this brief recap:

    My Mac’s electrical system finally gave a week ago today, so I spent last Friday saving what I could on CD and completing a project on Poppa, our second-generation blue iMac, who is already in semi-retirement. I told the Consort that I didn’t want a new computer right now (not a good time to spend money wantonly, you understand). My work doesn’t require memory-heavy software (the internet, Word, and [for some projects] a pencil suffice, with a dash of Excel tossed in for flavor), and we have that in Poppa. Saturday morning I woke with a dread thought: all my iTunes music and my 1,066 [don’t gasp, I know some of you have more!] digital photos were still on my laptop!!! (Yes, I back up my work files regularly, but I never thought to back up that fun stuff, mea culpa.)

    There was no other option. The Consort and I hurriedly dressed and went out to look at new Macs. The Consort did a quick ebay and MacMall search first, so we’d have something to compare to when out in the world of new computers. Secondary Mac retailers had no better deals than what we found at the Apple store, so I am now the proud owner of an 80-GB, Intel Duo processor, CD/DVD-writable, white MacBook. Plus, because I was buying a new computer, they recaptured my entire hard-drive from the dead Mac to my new one at a discounted price, and we got a new printer, for free. With an automatic backup package thrown in for good measure. (I’m still riding the high so don’t you be asking me about price right now. Let’s just say that in one fell swoop my Christmas and birthday gifts for the next x years came early.)

    There you go: the recap.

    Then, balance needing to reassert itself, I finally succumbed to the sickness that everyone else in the family has had, to one degree or another, since October. My body being what it is, this meant that in me, the sickness resolved itself into a sinus infection. Kind of like the one I had in May. Remember that? (Except this time, no crying in front of the pharmacist.)

    The plan for Thanksgiving this year was to spend it at Dancing Rabbit, where we’d visit with all those cool people, listen to Impera play fiddle with Tamar, and have an all-around good time. Which is what the Consort and the girls are doing right now. I couldn’t imagine bringing my sickness with me to share with everyone there, plus, although I have antibiotics, they haven’t fully kicked in yet, so images of me with my ever-growing pile of tissues dragging myself from one couch to another for Thanksgiving didn’t seem like too much fun.

    My Thanksgiving this year is me, the dog, the cat, the bird, the rat, and the rabbit. So you see, I’ve got lots of company. My appetite isn’t very strong, so no typical fare for me. We’ve got some eggs and frozen organic asparagus, so I may make ersatz eggs benedict later. (I also rented the first disc of Six Feet Under, and I started watching it last night. I didn’t know what to expect, but heck, it’s pretty good!)

    Growing up, I dreaded the traditional Thanksgiving go-around-the-table-and-tell-us-all what-you-are-thankful-for. It always seemed a bit forced to me. So I swore I wouldn’t do it when I was in charge of my own thanksgivings. I don’t think we’ve done it (Three of Four: Did we do it last year?). But I did want to say thank you to all my visitors on this blog. I’ve enjoyed your comments, suggestions, empathy (when I needed it), quips, jokes, and friendship. I hope they’ll continue for a long time. And I promise I won’t give you smallpoxy blankets or trade you glass beads for your blog.*

    *(Because I know you know that I can’t let such a good excuse to mention the shortfalls of capitalism nee imperialism go by without at least a jab at the chin. Just wait until tomorrow. I suppose I’ll have to post at 5 fricking a.m. to make it authentic. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just wait.)

    20 November 2006

    Quick Update

    Thanks for all your kind words about my dead mac. It wasn't a typical mac, and I will explain tomorrow why. But I did get my project out the door on Friday, the battery worked long enough for me to grab my email correspondence onto a CD one last time.

    One tidbit from the weekend: On Saturday, the girls were off to a cast party for the play Dracula they put on with their 4-H group. Parents were invited to stay, or go off and have some kid-free hours. We decided to have a romantic evening with take-out and a movie. There's nothing like a love story to get a couple feeling snuggly. So, we rented V for Vendetta.

    We both liked it more than we thought we would. Has anybody else seen it? I never read the DC comic, so I couldn't speak to the transition from page to film, but the political / terrorism / crowd control aspect resonated pretty strongly with the past 5 years or so. Ah, yes, politics. The ultimate in romantic interlude.

    17 November 2006

    Computer malfunction

    Won't be posting anything entertaining today. Won't be responding to emails you may have sent me in the past 24 hours.

    My laptop has decided yesterday was a good day to die.

    I have a project due Monday, and three others hot on its heels.

    Am trying to recapture email correspondence with authors to be able to get project out the door.

    Hope to be back to a semblance of normalcy on Monday.

    16 November 2006

    Why Is It?

    That when I think to myself, "OK, you've whined long enough on the blog, it's time to be a bit more chipper," I come across the following news:

    Woman Kicked Off Plane for Breast-Feeding Baby (Moral: Let Delta fail in bankruptcy.)

    UCLA Student Tasered Repeatedly at UCLA (Hmmm, his name is Mostafa Tabatabainejad.)

    CNN's Beck to first-ever Muslim congressman: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies' " (Since when has CNN become Baby FOX?)

    15 November 2006

    If I Were the Kind of Person who Used Voodoo Dolls,

    Today I’d be sticking pins into:

  • The owner of the fax machine that is calling my telephone every 12 minutes.
  • The office manager at my doctor’s office, who, in this year of overabundance of flu vaccine, ordered too little.
  • The person who honks and honks and honks when they stop by to pick up their friend in the apartment building next door. (I know you have a cell phone: use the damn thing!)

  • 14 November 2006

    "How To" Bonanza

    Still in the midst of soothing authors who thought their submitted and accepted paper would be published as is, journal style and consistency across articles be damned. Which is taking away from the meat of the work.

    The Emotional Flux have retreated from the Main Square into the warehouse district, sending out sorties only now and again.

    Here are some informational how-tos I came across last night (as usual, third time's the charm for me). I plan to take these recommendations to heart. Starting right away

    Which means--Sorry, guys, I just can't skank around with you all anymore. I'm sure you understand.

    13 November 2006

    Something I Like

    Currently, my personality is being held hostage by a group called The Emotional Flux. I don't know what they want. They usually come and wreak havoc for a day or two, but they aren't consistent, and they haven't been here for a while, and really, in re-reading my post from late last week, I think they've been hiding in the shadows for a while.

    Seeing the pile of papers on my desk and the DUE DATES on the calendar, I have not much to entertain you with anyway, as Duty calls.

    But I did want to mention that one thing that makes me happy is hearing both girls practicing their clarinet and violin at the same time, but separately. Then it feels like I'm living in a conservatory of music, the practice rooms buzzing with activity, and I can let the musics wash over me.

    Pretty cool.

    11 November 2006

    Secret Pal Contest #2

    The hostess for our group is holding a second contest this month. If I post a photo of some knitted washcloths that I made, I might win some yarn. (You can insert here my previous little comment about liking to win things.) I made a bunch of baby feet washcloths for Cowgirl's second baby. This little boy has two sets of doting grandparents, a set of doting parents, an older brother who has outgrown lots of cool stuff, and they live in the furnace that is known as Texas.

    So what use would a knitted anything be for this baby? I'll tell you: if it's got wool in it, not a heck of a lot. But cotton washcloths, hey, those are always useful, right? In making this project I learned how to make bobbles (I don't know if you can tell from the pics, but the toes are mini bobbles). I sometimes think bobbles are over-used in knitting. A toddler dress decorated with cables and bobbles? A sweater adorned with random bobbles? Not for me. But baby toes? Now that's a fine use of bobbles.

    10 November 2006

    The State of My Glass, with Rebuttal by the Consort

    Boy I hate it when work gets in the way of blogging! (And, dare I say, NaNoWriting. I’m still under 3,000 words. Impera, who is participating with her class, is way ahead of me. Sheesh!) I’ve been extremely productive these past two days, and I need to put in probably about 5 more days like that. But—whew!—man, hard work takes a toll on my lifestyle.

    So, *sigh*, yeah, there were elections on Tuesday, and, hey, that was a surprise, wasn’t it? I didn’t really think to blog about it much because others do such a better job, and, to tell the truth, my glass-half-empty mentality has kicked in big time. We have a majority in both House and Senate! (But 51 to 49? There ain’t a lot of power there, my friends.) (And that will mean the Dems have two years to look inefficient and really piss people off, so that they’ll vote Republican in 2008. [I wonder if that’s why Allen conceded Virginia so quickly?]) There’s gonna be some serious change in the first 100 hours! Pelosi said so! (Yeah, but like I said to karan last night, no talk of the environment, despite the research that just came out last week about the next 50 years = end of earth as we know it. [OK, I’m exaggerating. A bit.]) If the planet implodes, it doesn’t really matter who’s in charge of committees, dammit.

    The past six years have been bad for the country, on so many levels. And my immediate reaction to the wins was happy in a “Hah. Screw THEM!” sort of way. That showed me how partisan I’ve gotten. How partisan we’ve all gotten. I blame Republicans (surprise, surprise). Starting Back with Gingrich and his nastiness, all the way to the present administration. (Man, they impeached Clinton for lying about having consensual sex with one woman. The consequences of his actions? A dirty dress. But now Dems want to play all nice and aren’t thinking of impeaching a man for lying to the people of this country about the reasons for going to war. The consequences of his actions? 2,850 soldiers dead; 20,887 wounded. Radical Islam on the rise around the world [in the UK!]. Civil war in Iraq. Instability in the region… Should I go on?)

    You want more good news tempered with bad news? Democrats won the House. In part because people like Jim Leach (IA Republican) got ousted. But Leach was one of the few Repubs who voted AGAINST the war. Democrats won the Senate. In part because people like Lincoln Chafee (RI Republican) got ousted. But Chafee was a thoughtful guy. A MODERATE. And today he sank any hopes the administration had of getting Bolton confirmed as UN ambassador during the lame duck session: “The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy. And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoken out against.” (Entire article at NYT.) *Sigh*. *Double sigh*.

    Man, I need some chocolate. (Anybody got some organic choc on them?)

    I have this very funny post in gothic style rattling around in my head. But this came out instead. Maybe I’ll get it out this weekend. Right now, I’ve got to get enthused about shareholder agreements, regulatory instruments, and speculative investment attacks. (Is it any wonder I’m glass-half-empty right now?)

    But I leave you with a final comment from the Consort:

    08 November 2006

    A Baking Fable

    OK, Cate, just because of your gentle chiding, and despite the pile of work on my desk, I present the following post.

    Back in the summer, we picked some black raspberries and I thought, “Hey, I can make mini-pies with these! We have the mini pie tins ... they’ll look beyooootiful!”

    So I made the crust, and mixed the berries with some spices and some flour for thickening. I had not considered the heat in the kitchen from the preheating oven, added to the heat from the outdoors. Our air conditioner wasn’t strong enough (I hadn’t set it cold enough) to keep things working in this hot environment. I hadn’t prepared enough crust. I thought I had a plan, but instead of beautiful mini-pies, we got this:

    (The members of my partyfamily said they tasted really good, but really, what else would you expect your partyfamily to say?)

    This weekend, the Consort bought some cooking apples, but not enough for a pie. I thought, “Hey, I can make apple mini-pies with these! They’ll be made without tins, so the girls can bring some to school as dessert – won’t that be a treat!”

    Not to be boring, I decided to incorporate some grated cheddar cheese in the crust. This was all new and high-tech, but heck, the best place to test things out is in the field, right? I peeled, cored, and sliced the apples. I mixed in the spices. When I went to roll out the dough, the texture was all wrong. But I persevered. I smooshed and I squooshed, and maybe used the dough a little too roughly. Instead of nice little packets of goodness, in the end I just man-handled the crust around the filling, and we got this:

    (The members of my partyfamily say they smell delicious, but really, what else would you expect your partyfamily to say?)

    What I’m trying to say is, Rummy, I think I know how you may be feeling. Maybe it would have worked out better if your realm, like mine, was a one-party system.

    07 November 2006

    Did You Vote Yet?


    Then what the heck are you doing wasting time reading blogs!

    Close this window right now. Go vote. I'm being patriotic by not have interesting material today.


    06 November 2006

    Monday Public Service Announcement

    I saw this at EditorMom, and warned her I'd tell all of you about it.

    Ever wish there was a broad spectrum medication for a wide variety of ailments? Something like aspirin, but a heck of a lot better?

    You might just want to try this (office workers: warning, it's a sound file).

    03 November 2006

    The Me in Today

    I offer you a slice of my day, in the style of the Reference list I worked on today:

    Clean, I. M. I didn't shower today. Cleanliness 32(10):735-757.
    Perk, Ienjoy. I spent the day in sweatpants and sweater. Good Freelancing 29:1276-1281.
    Going-Crazy, Slowly. To take a break, I made some bread. In: Proceedings of the Leftover Oatmeal Society, pages 107-112. Limerick, November.
    Ercisor, X. I also walked the dog. Your Pet and You 13:889-922.
    Hatted, U. R. and Gloved, T. O. O. It was warmer out than I expected. Understanding (Or Not) Meteorologists, chapter 7. New York: Academic Press.
    Howbuzy, Wasi. Because of the work on my desk, I didn't have time to visit my Must-Read blogs. Bummer 77:54632-54639.
    Whiner, Sheeza. Let alone the ones I go to for fun. In: Fun? What's that?: A Complainer’s Primer, edited by P. D. Q. Attentionloss. Cambridge, MIT Press.
    Listmaker, Profeshun L. This weekend I must: Work on NaNoWriMo, work on my knitting, and TAKE IT EASY. Doing it All Quarterly 9:88-101.

    Yes. It was in single-spaced 6-pt font. You betcha there’s going to be extra charges. If I lose my eyesight, I’m out of a career!

    Well, Knock Me Over with a Feather

    Impera's mock trial team advanced to the playoffs, which they competed in last night.

    And now, they will be competing in the State Finals!

    OK. We now return you to the regularly scheduled blog about ME.

    01 November 2006

    Score! (Update!)

    Remember in July, when I waxed poetic about vintners with a sense of humor? And how a few days later I told you that the folks at Jest wine offered to send me a few bottles in appreciation?

    Well, they never came. I figured it was my own hubris, talking about the gift as if it had already arrived, that made it a no-show. But, last week, considering three months a suitable amount of time to wait, I emailed them a "...Hello?" And guess what arrived today?

    Mmm mmmm! And just in the nick of time, too! Because, as you probably heard today, "Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging report that a natural substance found in red wine, known as resveratrol, offsets the bad effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and significantly extends their lifespan."* Woo hoo! Who needs a 6-week portion restructuring? Jes' gimme some wine!

    Oh, and considering this was Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I guess I should give you that score as well. 893 words. Pffffft. Remember, my goal is 2,500 words per weekday. So this is bad. Well, it's good if I had 50 days to do this thing. But I only have 21. But I have an excuse! Four (yep, count'em--4) projects came in yesterday, and that means NaNoWriMo should have happened in October. Or February. But not now. Plus -- I had packages to mail at the post office (long lines), books and CDs to pick up at the library (they don't open until 10 am), and this morning I helped turn Impera into a mini-lawyer for the Middle School Mock Trial competition, which started at 9:30 (and all that seriously cut into my morning-which-is-always-my-most-productive-part-of-the-day time).
    Holy crap! Their team made it to the top 5 and continues in the playoffs tomorrow!

    *And let us all discount the previous day's article, on how serious calorie restriction leads to longer life, as patent hogwash. Because they didn't get published in Nature. So there.

    Warning to my British Readership

    Someone Googled "scarves to bind & gag with" this morning (and found my site ... how disturbing).

    Anyway, if you are near Lambeth and you notice a stranger acting all strange, GET YOURSELF TO A WELL-LIT AND POPULATED AREA, STAT!

    (Maybe carry around a pair of scissors, so you can cut the scarf as they try to bind & gag you with it.)

    31 October 2006

    Carven Folk

    Impera's is on the top left, Trixies's two are center (smiley face) and right top (spider!), and my kissy-face is on the bottom.

    Don't be taken in by Impera's pumpkin. It is true demon, through and through.

    The Consort's reminds me of those muppet aliens that are freaked out by a ringing phone. (Remember that? Brrrrrrrriiiiiing! Brrrrrriiiiiiiinngg!)

    Poor Timing

  • Taking a luxury ocean cruise back to the US from Liverpool in April 1912
  • Investing in German zeppelins on May 5, 1937
  • Visiting Bhopal, India, on December 2, 1984
  • Deciding to grab the bull by the horns, and lose 10 pounds by Christmas, starting on October 30, 2006

  • 30 October 2006

    Halloween; NO! Beggar's Night!

    There’s a lot to love about Iowa*, you know. Today’s post, however, will highlight one of those things that confirm I will never be able to consider myself an Iowan:

    In many towns around Iowa, Halloween is celebrated on a day other than October 31st.


    And why is Beggar’s Night (from 6 pm to 8 pm ONLY, no less) celebrated on a day other than Halloween? No one is exactly clear on that. There was an article in the paper the first year we lived here that mentioned something about how during World War I there were young hoodlums who would go out on Halloween and do mischief (kick over trash cans, you know, that sort of thing). So the Town Fathers decided the best way to stop these hoodlums was to move the celebration to the night before—that way, when the hoodlums (who, in some mysterious manner, would not have been told about this change) would go out on October 31st to do their naughty stuff, it wouldn’t … I don’t know, uh, have the same panache?

    You chuckle.

    I know. Like I said, I don’t get it either. There are so many weaknesses in this explanation (and that’s assuming that the reason the paper published was the true one! Perhaps this is all a Star Chamber sort of deal, and we will never know the truth). First off, what do hoodlums care whether it is Halloween or not? They’ll do damage whenever, wherever, right? And, if it really was supposed to trick them, then who would really believe that this would work more than one year? Even hoodlums have a collective memory.

    Lucky for us, the news media post lists of when each township will be “celebrating” Halloween. So tonight, as most of you will still have 24 hours to buy candy, hem the costume your child tore when trying it on, or scramble to collect bits and ends of cardboard and duct tape to create a costume for yourself or someone who depends on you, most of us folks in Iowa will be roaming the streets, scoping out which houses seem to be giving out the best goodies, and doing our little tricks* for the homeowners. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow is just another day, and we’ll be one day ahead of you in stomach aches and cavities.

    * In fact, here is something I love about trick-or-treating here in Iowa (and never came across anywhere else): When a costumed celebrant rings a doorbell and says “Trick or treat!” the treat-giver has the right—nay, is expected to—respond, “OK, what’s your trick?” The costumed celebrant is then required to recite a rhyme, tell a joke, do a somersault, sing a ditty—in other words, perform for their treat. Fantastic!

    29 October 2006

    Work In Progress

    "What's that?"
    "The yarn I got from my Secret Pal."
    "Are you starting a new project?"
    "I'm thinking about it."
    *snort* "Don't you already have two projects going?"
    "I finished Impera's socks the other day!" [Let's not mention the Jaywalkers I've had on needles since July.]
    "Oh, OK."
    "Wow! That looks really nice!"
    "Why, thank you."

    27 October 2006

    "Hi, I'm a Mac"

    Have you all seen these commercials? Maybe they've been playing them on TV for months now, I don't know. But we've recently discovered them, and they are hilarious!

    They are a perfect Friday link. Get a Mac.

    There are several, so may I recommend my favorites?

  • Counselor
  • Better Results
  • Trust Mac
  • Self Pity

    I could watch Self Pity over and over (in fact, I have). I love PC's last line.

    Go take a look, enjoy, then come back and tell me your favorite!

  • 26 October 2006

    Thank You Secret Pal!

    Originally uploaded by friuduric.
    Woo hoo! A package arrived yesterday. My SP had asked me if there was anything Australian that I wanted. Food? Treats? Anything like that? Well, I had heard about Tim Tams, and I have always been curious about vegemite (thanks to Men At Work), so I asked for both of those things. And would you look at the haul of Tim Tams? We've already tried all 3 kinds, and everybody loves them. The girls even made Tim Tam Slams with their milk (they said it worked...). I had vegemite toast for breakfast (the jar came with a stern note from my pal: "spread THINLY" -- reminded me of someone being told, "Now, that's Everclear, so TAKE SMALL SIPS!"). I like it. Very salty, smells beer-y (makes sense, as it's a yeast extract), and pleasantly bitter.

    You can also see that I received some Australian wool. I'm not sure the color came out true: it's this beautiful red/blue purply cordovan color. Makes me think of autumn berries. Gorgeous! (I've already put some on needles, maybe I'll show you all tomorrow.)

    And in the center, you notice a beautiful green washcloth, knit with tiny, regular stitches (*very* impressive, SP) that is a picture of ... A Reversed Australia! (Forgive me, I set it up wrong; Oh, the geographical shame! I should go around wearing, hmmm, I don't know, a Chartreuse G on my dress, or something.)

    Very fun package, SP. Thanks!

    PS: I fiddled with those buttons last night. Does the page look any better to anyone?

    25 October 2006

    Word Wednesday: The Power of Language

    As I believe I’ve mentioned, we’re part of a food ordering co-op. This is the largest organic food distributor in the US. It used to be an independent called Blooming Prairie, now it’s UNFI (that’s another story), and it provides food for places like Hy-Vee stores and Sam’s Club (yuck). But at least that means that the driver would be coming this way anyway, so our orders aren’t really creating more food transportation fuel use. Because, you know what they say, it’s better to get your food locally than organically. (I believe the rule of thumb is, if it comes from farther than 20 miles from your home, go local rather than organic; but for the life of me, I can’t find that anywhere right now. You can have a look at The Sustainable Table if you’re motivated. Then come back and give me the link, OK?)

    With the bulk discount and our chest freezer in the basement, we can load up on organic frozen vegetables. Last week, I took out a bag of frozen spinach (we got it in the spring, don’t worry: no E. coli in our spinach) and, as usual, smiled as I took out the lovely package:

    Ah, Woodstock Farms, how snazzy your package looks. And, take a closer look, they have their business philosophy right there on the front of the package:
    How true: “A worthy vision and a necessary endeavor”. I applaud your endeavor, Woodstock Farms!

    Who are Woodstock Farms, you ask? Well, if we turn the package over, we can let them speak for themselves:
    Clearly, they are the Heart and Soul of the commitment to Mother Earth. (Are you hearing the angels sing, too?) I get a buzz out of supporting good business. So I’m happy that this beautiful bag of frozen USDA organic spinach is on my countertop at this moment. A moment which provides an oasis of goodness in a world filled with greedy Ken Lays and ruthless Jeff Skillings, with mega-farms and poor business practices (now you’ve got to be hearing the angels, am I right?). I am a curious sort of person, and so my eye continues down the package. Where, below the evocative description of Woodstock Farms, there is a bit more information.

    Cue the tire screech and the scratch of a needle across a vinyl record album, please. Freeze the angelic harmonies. Now, move in to the close-up of the text:
    Of SomeFairWeatherFriend.JPG
    Product of fricking CHINA?!!!

    The entire package is one big trick. They are honey-tongued devils, those Woodstock *spit* distributor people. Caveat emptor, indeed.

    PS: Bonus points to the first person to identify the creative touch I’ve added to this post. And I mention this because, being an insecure person, I worry that if I don’t mention it, no one will notice it.

    24 October 2006

    The Pervading Aroma of Allium

    Since the late fall of 1993, I have been sensitive to smell. I could probably hire out as a bomb sniffing human, if the editing work dries up. This can be pleasant, smelling the first grape hyacinth of Spring, say, but most of the time it's just a big old bother (there are many more unshowered [or over-showered and over-perfumed] masses in the world than there are grape hyacinths).

    Yesterday, as I was working on a long review paper on the uses of botulism in medicine (let me tell ya, doctors use it for a lot more than just freezing rich faces into masks of disbelief), I noticed it.


    I sniffed my hands **sniff sniff**. Nothing. But the smell persisted. I ignored it as long as I could, but then I had to go wash my hands with my grapefruit-scented Doc Bronner's soap. I returned to my desk and attempted to continue work. **sniff sniff**. The smell was still there.

    Dang. I checked my desk for empty plates from lunches past (thank goodness for the Consort, because without him my workspace would look eerily like a bachelor's kitchen). Nope, nothing. **sniff sniff**.

    Gah! I had to take the dog for a walk to get the smell out of my nose. I continued in this manner until the girls came home from school. Then I didn't spend so much time in the office. I asked them if they smelled anything. "No." It was a foolish thing to do because asking the three others in my family anything about smells is like asking a blind person, "Is this shirt too bright?"

    As I type this, the smell is still here. I think I'm going to have to clean my office. **sniff sniff**

    But then, then, readers, the smell of onions lost its importance. I asked the Consort to sit in my chair, in front of my laptop in its destop contraption, and smell the smell. Nothing. Then he bent down to smell my laptop, because, he said, maybe something is overheating in there. He stuck his nose right on the laptop's removable keyboard.

    "Hmmm," he said, "it smells like BO in there."

    Goldarnit. He's right. How am I supposed to be able to work now?

    23 October 2006

    Something's Rotten in the State of America UPDATE: Even More Rotten

    For a longer list of human-error ballot blunders, see this list.

    The Consort passed along a link to a Daily Kos piece last week, but I didn’t pay attention to it until he brought it up again this weekend.

    Now, I think everyone should go read the entry, and have all their friends read the entry, no matter what political party you call your own; but I’ll briefly summarize here.

    In four critical states, including Ohio, a new Diebold voter registry system has been preparing to purge voter registry lists. They’ve focused on university areas and apartment dwelling areas (both traditionally Democratic and with high turnover). They generated a list of over 1 million addresses, to which a long letter was sent explaining voter risk, voter security, blah, blah, then, buried deep in the letter, was a warning that unless the voter went and confirmed their address, their name would be purged from the voter lists. (Some examples of the discrepancy between lists was a university student who changed dorm addresses and a bloue-collar worker whose voter registration had only his building address, but his drivers liscense included an apartment number.)

    It seems that if one did read the entire letter, and then went to the appointed place to fix any discrepancies, then there would be long lines in which “[w]hile everyone present seemed to have enough information to allow the records to be updated, my friend told me it was being done by one and only one clerk and was taking a very long time, about 5 minutes per person to resolve. Everyone in line confirmed that several voters had given up in frustration and left.”

    I don’t care where one places oneself on the political spectrum, I think most people are honest and fair and would prefer to win in an honest and fair election. Cheating is just plain wrong, folks.

    Go read the report at the Daily Kos.

    22 October 2006

    WANTED: DeadAlive or Alive

    Have you seen this rabbit:DSC00955.JPG

    This felon has been identified as the perpetrator of the following crimes: ruthless destruction of property, wanton vandalism, and seducing young women of good repute to aid and abet a wanted criminal. REWARD for any information as to his whereabouts (extra points for finding us a lawyer willing to write a warrant for his arrest).

    Evidence #1. A small pile of laundry in the hallway. A mix of Trixie's and mine. What do I find this morning? This:

    Evidence #2. The front of the jeans (did I mention these were my favorite pair?) :

    Evidence #3. My silver shoes (I definitely suggest clicking on the picture and seeing the larger size: the strap was chewed, the heel was scraped, and a small bit was eaten out of the side front) :

    20 October 2006

    If It's the Only Way to Get Republicans to Fund Textbooks For Schools...

    ...it's pretty pitiful:

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A candidate for state superintendent of schools said Thursday he wants thick used textbooks placed under every student's desk so they can use them for self-defense during school shootings." Entire story at AP.

    There really isn't anything else to say, is there?

    Well, other than: Gee, I wonder how much money he and his aides spent to produce this 10-minute video? And they say fiscally responsible Republicans are nowhere to be found!

    19 October 2006


    My parents had a tendency to dream out loud. Things like, “We’re going to buy this actual house right here. See this room downstairs, this will be your room, Imperatrix. It has its own bathroom, and when you have friends over, you’ll be able to hang out in the downstairs family room without your younger siblings bothering you.” Or, “We’re going to buy you this car.” Things of that ilk. It turns out that when this is done consistently to a kid, they stop trusting the promises those adults tell them.

    I decided that I wouldn’t prey on my children’s hope in that way, ever.

    I also believe strongly in hubris. Enough that I probably could write a This I Believe essay on it. Seriously. Here’s my definition of hubris: If someone makes a self-assured statement about something out loud and to others, then they have put themselves at risk of failing to achieve that very thing. There is a maliciousness to Fate that never backs down on a dare. For example, “I know I breathed in that carcinogen in the lab, but it was too small a breath—not enough to do any damage.” Or, “That job for entertainment director for the Carribean cruise line? I’ll get it. No problem.”

    Now, I have found that not many other people in my world have this strong belief of the negative power of hubris. So they keep talking. And I keep cringing. And when I finally accept the assurance that something will be a done deal, and we talk at dinner with the girls about something as if it will probably happen, and I think I can finally blog about it, … well, what do you know? Hubris sends me an email and says, “Surprise!”

    Pardon me while I go sulk.

    18 October 2006

    "Na No Wry Moe"

    When I started this blog, eleven months ago, part of my secret agenda was that I, like millions of people out in the world, wanted to be a writer.* I wanted to be famous as Terry Pratchett or CJ Cherryh. I wanted to be rich as Croesus. (Yes, I know writers everywhere say that they do it for love, that you can’t get rich writing, that very few make it to the national stage, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I’m thinkin’, they just don’t want to share the wealth. If they can scare off a slew of potential writers, there’s more cash in the pot for them. Heh. Little do they know I am way wilier than that and can see through their little ploy.)

    I have all these stories in my head. I tell them to myself all the time. I made the mistake of telling the girls about a few of them, and they’ve been pestering me ever since to WRITE THE DAMN THINGS DOWN. Without the “damn” part. They’re way more polite than I am. The problem is, I chose to become an editor. You know, one of those people who pick apart your prose and scramble it up. One of those things that writing courses always warn you about: Your Internal Editor. Except mine was internal, external, as well as a perfectionist. Trust me, you don’t want to be around when my internal monologue is going full swing. What abuse I take from that IE. Chip, chip, chip goes the chisel, and I often find myself several feet shorter than I started at when I sat down to write. (I find it amazing that I haven’t disappeared into nothing after 35 years of this. [I don’t think I was hard on myself the first 3 years of life; who knows? Maybe I’ve repressed it so strongly I can’t find it. Not that I really want to, you know. Find it, that is.])

    So, starting a blog, and trying to write every day, was my first step. Thinking back on it, I think you’re supposed to write a bit every day on the kind of stuff that you’d like to eventually Write. Hmmm. I think I took a wrong turn somewhere…

    Turns out, I made friends from blogging, and I like to go chat with you all at your blogs most days, as well. It’s only being neighborly, right? But, considering I’m not a woman of leisure, blogging time took up most of my free time (and some not-free time that I annexed as my addiction got worse), so none of the stories in my head have made it on paper. (I don’t think I’ve distracted the IE beast enough yet.)

    Thanks to KathyR, I’ve found out about National Novel Writing Month. Well, I’d seen people mention NaNoWriMo on the professional mailing lists I’m on, but I didn’t look into it. It works like this: During the course of one month, November, people try to write 50,000 words (so if you want to take weekends off [like me because I am a certified Lazy Bum], that’s 10 pages a day—a DAY). It may become a novel, but most probably it won’t. I see it as the Liquid Plumr of writer’s block. If you put enough pressure on the clog, all that hair and grease and Internal Editor goop just has to be punched through and you’ll find yourself at the end of NaNoWriMo with one, really good, pure, powerful, brilliant metaphor that you can then use in the start of a real piece of work that’ll come from that kernel of goodness. (Or maybe I’m expecting too much, who knows?)

    I’ve already signed up. Anybody wanna join me in this endeavor? C’mon, you know you want to.

    *(Oh my god. Did I really write that out loud? Holy crap, I actually told real people about this? I am so screwed.)

    17 October 2006

    Where We Are

    Where we are
    Originally uploaded by friuduric.
    I took this picture at the amusement park this summer, when we took the family there for Trixie's birthday. You can see just how excited she is about finally getting her family to the place she's been talking up for months!

    They are my two cutie-patooties.

    16 October 2006

    Knitting Blogging, with Dog

    What I should be doing right now: Editing economics papers.
    Why I’m not doing it: The furnace man is coming sometime late-morning-early-afternoon (i.e., now) (Did I mention we had freezing weather last week and when I turned it on our furnace wasn’t working [yes, the pilot is lit]? And that when it did start running, about 24 hours after I turned it on, it makes a very loud whining noise? So we’ve been keeping the house temp at 56-58 degrees F? No? Well, I just did.), and my doorbell is acting up (please, no jokes about everything breaking down in my house right now), so I am doing stuff (i.e., blogging) in the dining room to be able to hear the furnace man’s knock.
    What I offer instead: A terribly boring post about the terribly boring knitting project I’m doing right now.

    Background: I ordered the materials from KnitPicks to make the Emma Jacket. I thought it would be a good way to try steeks (eek!). Steeks are when you knit something in the round (that is, a tube), then you cut (hence the eek!) it open. Typically this is used to insert the sleeves in color work like Fair-isle sweaters. In the Emma project, you start with just enough stitches for your back (it probably doesn't help my feeling for this project that when Trixie first saw it she said, "Wow! That looks really small for you!"), increase the number of stitches as you knit your rounds to create a sloped front, add in the sleeves, cut open the jacket front, add a lapel (which, the more I look at it, the more I think it’s way too 1970s wide), and you get a sweater:
    Steek Line
    But it is done in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row; bear with me, non-knitting readers, I’m teaching you something here. Believe me, you won’t realize how cool knowing this will make you in typical barroom banter until you mention it to your new buddies). On circulars, this means knitting every row. Boring boring boring.

    With Dog: Woman, you are freaking me out! First you keep pressing the doorbell over and over and won’t let me check who’s there. Then, when I finally stop howling, you make me sit here with this knitting, when all I really want is to sit under the blanket on the loveseat:
    you're stressing me out

    What do you mean, “don’t touch the little wooden sticks?” They were tickling my leg! I give you the Evil Look of Disdain:
    oh my gawd

    *Sigh*. I give up. Take your damn pictures, but don’t expect me to look at you, lady!
    i give up

    14 October 2006

    SP9 Contest: Favorite Things

    The hostess for my group of SP9ers is having a little contest. If I answer a few questions, I could win a free gift. Never one to let a free gift pass me by, here are my answers. Consider this a meme, if you like.

    Favorite Actor
    Ed Harris.
    Favorite Actress
    Gwynneth Paltrow.
    Favorite Animal
    African grey parrot. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a pet that actually talks to you? I’m one of those people who believe the research showing that African greys do more than just mimic phrases.
    Favorite Band
    *Sigh*. I’ve left the two music questions for last, because how is a reasonable person supposed to pick just one favorite band? No fair.
    That’d keep me happy on a deserted island.
    Favorite Beverage
    Red wine. Wait, does that make me a slush*? Maybe I should note that every day I drink two monster mugs of Celtic Breakfast tea (which is true), and that I have never drunk two monster mugs of red wine (which is also true).
    Favorite Book
    Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. I also like Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight.
    Favorite Bubble Bath
    I don’t really do bubble baths. But I like ginger and orange, say for sugar scrubs, etc. I’ve also started buying unscented Doc Bronner’s liquid soap and adding grapefruit essential oil to it; this is what is in all our sinktop soap dispensers.
    Favorite Candy
    Leonidas Manon blanc. I’d sell a child for these.
    Favorite Color
    Favorite Flower
    Grape hyacinth: They come out early in the spring, and they smell soooooo good!
    Favorite Food
    Mashed potatoes is the ultimate comfort food. Oh, but the question wasn’t comfort food, it was just *food*. So I’d definitely say Thai food. Red curry, yellow curry, green curry, pad thai, anything really.
    Favorite Lip Balm
    The girls and I made our own honey and beeswax lip balm a few months ago, and I like that best because it has no petroleum products in it.
    Favorite Lotion
    Favorite Movie
    Lord of the Rings trilogy, of course!!!!
    Favorite Song
    OK. My sneaky trick won’t work more than once. Let’s just throw a monkey wrench in the works and say Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers.
    Favorite TV Show
    As I always say, we don’t watch TV. But we do rent DVDs. We’ve seen the first season of the new Battlestar Gallactica, and I loved it. Maybe when the Consort and the girls go skiing in January, I’ll rent the entire second season and watch it on my own. As a family we are going through Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (1 disc of each per month), so we really shouldn't add another show to the mix.
    Favorite Vacation Spot
    When I was growing up, my parents would take us to spend at least a week every summer on the beach of Assateague, VA (you know, as in Misty of Chincoteague). Nowadays, we haven’t actually gone back to a place we’ve visited already (not counting visits to family, of course). But I really enjoyed the week we spent camping at Custer State Park in South Dakota a few years ago. There was fabulous hiking, swimming in mountain lakes, and panning for gold; we saw big horn sheep, bison, antelope, burros, and prairie dogs. Oh, and we also saw the Crazy Horse monument and Mount Rushmore.

    *Yes, I know the correct term is lush, but I think slush is more onomatopoeic.

    12 October 2006

    Shopping: The Bane of Existence

    Blech. I hate shopping. I went shopping for clothes yesterday, and I found nothing. Who wants thin silky skirts in the winter? We don’t all work in overheated office buildings, you know. I want some comfy skirts, preferably in thick warm winter fabrics. I like long skirts that are straight then flute at the bottom (I’ve got one black one; I need more. That’s why I went shopping). That way you can take long strides and not feel that you’re tripping yourself up (I’ve got one denim skirt that does that to me; we have a love/hate relationship, that skirt and I).

    It seems my cycle goes something like this: Buy clothes from catalogs. Things work for a while. Realize all the shipping money you’re shelling out. Get frustrated. Buy clothes from stores for a while. Waste hours and hours going to shops, trying on clothes, waiting in lines. Get frustrated. Visit consignment shops. See pretty things in sizes other than your own (the rack for your own size is overstocked with potato-sack monstrosities; I am not a monstrosity, nor am I a potato). Get frustrated. Decide to start making clothes. Make a skirt/dress/top. Become shocked at the price of fabric, curse at the whole lining issue, bemoan the amount of time wasted in cutting and sewing. Get frustrated. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I’m thinking maybe I can break the cycle by doing this: Buy some thick brocade fabric, cut up the denim skirt, and add in brocade panels to turn it into a fluted skirt (I bypass the whole lining issue). Go online and find one or two catalog skirts. Go to a consignment store and buy some warm wintery tops.

    Blech. I hate shopping. I wish there was a uniform to life, just like in high school.

    11 October 2006

    Word Wednesday: The Moral of the Story

    “Hey Joe, Have you got a minute? I’ve been looking at our budget, and I think I’ve found a way to save us some wasted bucks.”
    “Oh, yeah? What’ve you found, Bob?”
    “Well, see this figure here?”
    “That, Joe, is how much we pay the guy who we hired to proofread the docs for us.”
    “Holy cow! That guy sure charges a hefty fee!”
    “That’s what I thought. And then I got to thinking. We’re all educated folks in this office …”
    “… And our word processing software comes with a spell check function. So really, hiring out for ‘proofreading’ isn’t necessary…”
    “Genius, Bob! Get right on it. You know, the taxpayers will thank you for saving them so much money. That kind of initiative will help you go far, buddy-boy.”
    “Thanks, Joe.”

    Typo Will Cost Michigan County $40,000
    (10/10/06 - GRAND HAVEN, MI) - Ottawa County will pay about $40,000 to correct an embarrassing typo on its Nov. 7 election ballot: The "L" was left out of "public."

    Five or six people in [the county Clerk's] office had proofread the ballot, but it was an election clerk who found the mistake early last week.

    (I am not making this up.)

    10 October 2006

    Why We Should Protect Rainforests, Reason #3,796

    "A colorful new bird has been discovered in a previously unexplored Andean cloud forest, spurring efforts to protect the area, conservation groups said Monday."

    Read the whole article.

    Photo by AP. I just can't get the linking right.

    Peaceable Imperatrix: Answering Your Questions Since 2005

    What is an imperatrix, you ask? Considering this blog was the first site returned on that query, clearly I am the embodiment of imperatrix.

    Bosoms? Actually, yes (otherwise I’d be an imperator). But you won’t see pictures here.

    Sometimes, an imperatrix participates in a secret pal game, and she may even sneak in a picture of what she made for her pal on her flickr site and will be mailing out later today. You never know. Imperatrixes are tricksy that way.

    Can you saute okra? Sure, but remember that sauteeing will release its unique mucilaginous juice. I happen to like that, but some don’t. (For those people, you can bake the okra in a corn pudding.)

    And, to the seeker who wondered why okra is not good for the heart, can I just say: Begone, ye of little faith! Don’t be trying to use me for your weak excuses not to eat healthy!

    Lastly, to the person searching for foot phobias: Thank you for bringing to my attention this lapse on the part of Google. I will contact them immediately. It isn’t that I have a foot phobia, it’s that some people have foot philia (Podephilia, perhaps? Philiapods? Philiapodes?).