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.

31 January 2006

Consider, if you will, the following *exact* quote:

"If it looks like someone has run rampage thrice and again in my room, it isn't my fault -- the dog and cat were chasing each other in there"

What if you knew that this was a 9-year-old talking? Would you be worried? *I'm* not worried, but would the general population think that we are allowing too much Role Play Gaming in our household? As I've mentioned before, we're each in the middle of a Neverwinter Nights adventure. But it's only a hour a day, *if* they have time, after chores, homework, and other activities.

Now, add in the fact that the girls are both really into the Fencing Club they joined in the Fall. And that they *love* attending Ren Faires. . . Would the general population think we are allowing our escapism to..., well,... run rampant?

If we stop answering the phone and email, shout "Have at thee, foul knave!" to ruffians in the street, and greet you with a "Well met!", *then* you should worry.

30 January 2006

Just Kill Me Now

“Our results follow from two basic observations. First, zero-sum distribution shocks have aggregate effects if, and only if, there are asymmetries in the reactions of winners and losers to change in wealth. If the individual response of, say, labor supply to a marginal change in wealth is the same for everybody, then wealth changes that sum to zero generate changes in labor supply that also sum to zero.”

Good news: 14 of these done.

Bad news: 16 more to go.

See, I wasn't exaggerating when I said it was a monster.

27 January 2006

"Little Pitchers..." Complete

Well, KW got it, even if she wasn't *sure* she got it.

"Little pitchers have big ears" = "Watch what the heck you are saying because the kids can hear you and they understand more than you think they do!"

I am sorely disappointed in the rest of you. I distinctly remember learning this one in elementary school in a lesson on idioms. I can't believe this was taught only once, in the spring of 1978, say, in one school in all of the United States.

The Consort said, "if you ask me if there's a saying that's been around since 1546 and nobody's heard it, it's not a saying any more. Of great import for something to be a saying is that people somewhere have to be saying it." Well, Mr. I-bet-that-isn't-even-an-English-saying-I-bet-you're-just-remembering-a-French-saying, I am SURE that Faulkner, at least, used it (he must have, it just *sounds* so Faulkner-esque). Maybe if my sample size were larger, I would have gotten better responses (not that I want to data-mine -- no, not me!)

The Consort also said, "Because, you know what they say: 'A saying that most people don't know is like a unicorn.'"

True. And isn't it sad that you can't see the lovely unicorns?

26 January 2006

A Craft Post

I mentioned in passing that I needed to finish a crochet project for the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training. I finished it! Now both girls have a granny-square sweater.

This all started in the summer, when we were preparing to spend a week at a family camp with my father-in-law and his family. I wanted to bring something other than books to read (I didn't want to be impolite and go off to do something antisocial like that [as I am wont to do] at every possible moment). Knitting didn't seem right because the piece of work can get pretty big and cumbersome. So I found this crochet pattern and decided it was perfect: The largest a square got was 4.5 inches; it was repetetive, so after a while I'd get into a groove and be able to socialize as I did it; and I would make this for the Younger IT, who is such a good sport about getting hand-me-downs that she deserved something made especially for her. It didn't take long for me to teach myself the very basic stitches need to make the squares, and voila!

Of course, everybody else brought books to read, so I ended up crocheting in silence as they all were antisocially reading around me. Hmph!

After I put it together, the Elder IT said, "You know, maybe I'd like one of those, too, if you think you could..." (But the time span between Aug 1 and Sept 1 had lots more free time in it than the time span from Sept 1 to Jan 22!) (This last paragraph is to cut short any thoughts you may have that I am a most terrible mother, to not only make GRANNY-SQUARE sweaters for my kids, but to make them BOTH THE SAME SWEATER -- and make them wear them AGAINST THEIR WILL.)

And finally, I received gift certificates to a local knitting shop for Christmas (from the Consort) and for my birthday (from the Cowgirl). I admit that probably one reason the sweater finally got done was that I told myself I couldn't start on a project for me until the sweater was finished. . . But what would I choose for myself? I much prefer knitting and crocheting for kids, because the pieces are smaller, and the projects are actually do-able. But thanks to the Internet, and blogging, I came across blogs that raved about a particular stole/shawl project. I was intrigued. I checked it out. It came highly recommended. And so I began. I won't show you what it's supposed to look like, you'll just have to wait until I'm done.

But -- you can take a look at the luscious silk/mohair blend I picked out with my gift money:

Not a Perk of Home Offices

... Is when the city decides this morning would be a good time to do a little sewer work on my street, meaning that the smell of rotten eggs is permeating my house (via any open drains [i.e., all of them] and cracks through the windows).

I can't even "open a window" to get some fresh air, because it is even worse out there!

On a different note, I find it interesting that when I specifically ask for comments, I only get one (see yesterday's Word Wednesday), yet when I say I am oh so busy, folks want recipes.

"Woe is me, I am SOOOOOO busy -- I sure hope no one responds to my Word Wednesday query about 'Little pitchers have big ears'!"

24 January 2006

Word Wednesday: Is It Idiom, or Idiot?


"Little pitchers have big ears"

Ever heard this phrase? What does it mean to you? Where does it come from?

Take this quiz. All will become clear after I get enough responses. (And one day when I have more time I'll figure out how to make a real Internet button-select quiz. But not this week.)

*And yes, I realize it isn't Wednesday yet, but I kind of wanted to get this thing rolling.

Who Says Blog-Surfing Wastes Time?

Look what I just found.

I'm betting The Imperator Consort and Three of Four will enjoy this muchly; you others, maybe not so much (but maybe I just don't know you that well yet).

Driving Restrictions

Teens are all up in arms here in the Corn and Soy state because the governor wants to put some restrictions on teen driving. He says distractions make young drivers dangerous drivers. They say he's stopping them from enjoying the very things they like to do while driving.

Let's review these onerous suggested new restrictions, shall we?

1) No cell phone use while driving. Personally, I think this should be a universal law. Unless you have a hands-free phone, my guess is that if you try to swerve and talk at the same time, you will not drop the phone (it's ingrained in us not to just let go of the phone during a conversation), hence making it highly likely that you will crash, and potentially kill me or my kids as we innocently walk down the street.

2) Teen drivers may only have one passenger who's not an adult or family member. Remember when you started to drive? Remember how it seemed like you had to be looking front and back, side and side, all the frickin' time? That's because it takes a while to do those things authomatically. And teens, who haven't been driving as long, will probably get distracted by the three different conversations going on at the same time as they drive their 4 best friends, each of them on a cell phone with *their* other best friend, to someone else's party; making it highly likely that they will crash, and potentially kill me or my kids as we innocently walk down the street.

3) Teen drivers also would be barred from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless an adult or family member is riding with them. Now, there are exceptions for getting home from a job (but wait -- teens shouldn't have jobs that let out after 11 p.m.!) or school functions. But aren't teens always complaining about how tired they are? Why would I want someone out there driving at 2 a.m. when they're tired, enhancing the likelihood that they will fall asleep at the wheel and crash?*

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege, and new drivers should not be let loose (at the age of 14 here in Iowa) to wreak havoc because they feel they have the right to do it.

To be fair, I also feel that older drivers should be reviewed more often than every 5 years, because I am tired of reading about mothers and their children being killed as they walk into the grocery store or the farmer's market because some grandparent "mixed up" their accelerator and their brake pedal.

Really, we could all save ourselves alot of grief if we had a good public transportation system, but that's just pie in the sky, right? Now pardon me while I deal with my liberal self freaking out because of these very conservative thoughts.

*Although I acknowledge that falling asleep at the wheel can happen at any time. Once I was out taking a walk with the two girls (when they were still in the double stroller). A man fell asleep at the wheel. His car left the main road, drove diagonally across the access road (on which we were were walking) and crashed into the tree in someone's front yard. I only turned around when I heard the crash -- the car ran silently behind us into the tree. If we had been 30 seconds slower, the car would have hit all three of us, and you wouldn't be reading this post right now.

23 January 2006

Foods Through the Ages

**UPDATE: Some people wanted the soup recipe. It's in the comments.**

Three of Four gave the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training a medieval cookery book as a gift last year, and we use it from time to time for a themed dinner. I adapted a few recipes last night (it's interesting that in a world where so many people could not afford meat to eat, every recipe in these types of books are meat-laden; the classism inherent in this area of historical research is amazing). It was a good meal: winter squash soup, garlic and pork [aka Boca Bratwurst] pie, salad, and poached pears. But every plate (except for the salad, because I added that in myself and made the vinaigrette) was flavored with the brown spices (mace, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg).

This mix of the sweet with the savory on the same dish is something I just couldn't eat every day. It's more of a cultural thing than a generational thing, I believe, because this mixing reminds me very much of current Phillipino cooking (thick sweet crepes sprinked with sea salt, or three-bean ice cream, for example).

Hmmm, as I write this I'm thinking that maybe these dishes are so sweet because there'd also be roast beast of some kind or another as part of the meal (remember, if we went back in time we'd ALL be lords and ladies), and that would be the counter to the sweet-scented vegetable dishes and pies? Maybe. Especially if it were wild game.

I'm sure I'll be thinking on this as I tackle the monster project, which I will begin this morning, after a quick shower.

20 January 2006

Update 2.

I decided I really shouldn't cut out early, so I began Project 3 (Project 2 was just too much of a monster to think about starting it on a Friday afternoon). But I learned something. Thomas Dolby is alive and well. He is working with data sonification: he takes data and transforms it into music in order to better understand and interact with the data. Hmmm. Okay, if you say so. And this helps you understand the data better ... how, exactly?

Anyway, I also learned that he has a brother who teaches at the University College of London and works at Microsoft Research (blech to that!). Neat-o. You never think of 1980s pop sensations as doing anything "serious", nor of their having siblings who do real work in a related field. (Can you envision Adam Ant talking at academic conferences? No? Neither can I. Sorry, Adam.)

Update 1.

12:15 and the package with project 1 is on the porch and waiting for FedEx to take it away. It was hard, though. About halfway through I had to open an email to retrieve some author changes, and it took all I had not to click on "Get New Messages". Someone was looking out for me though, because right then my connection went out (not that I *did* click on "Get New", but my iTunes radio stream got cut, so I glanced at the modem. Honest!).

I decided to let the dog out before the snow got hard & heavy. She's an African dog. She hates winter. I usually don't force the going-outside issue until midmorning in the winter months, because she's such a passive aggressive type when she doesn't want to do something ("What -- oh, you want me to go OUTside? Is that what you were calling me about? Oh, sure, just let me, um, streeeetch my front legs. Sure, hey, I'm moving, but next I've got to stretch my baaaack legs. Surely you don't want me to strain a muscle, do you?").

When she finally got outside, it took her 10 minutes -- I am not exaggerating -- to find a convenient place to pee. She'd circle widdershins in the dead daylily patch, squat, then run over to the dead lemongrass patch and frantically circle clockwise, squat, find it unacceptable as well, and move on to the sunflower stalks, do some sniffing, and, off again she'd go. Silly dog.

And as soon as she finally did do her business (I saw her, I can confirm it), she ran right up to the back door and started whimpering. "I'm sooo cold, I can barely feel my toes!" (That's because you HAVE no toes, silly.)

Now, I will have lunch and decide what to do next. I hate starting a project after lunch. What I really want to do is work on the crochet hoodie I've promised the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training I'd have done soon. Oh, so soon. Really. Before Spring arrives. I promised.

Slow Out of the Gate, Today

I've got one project that I should finish today. It will take me about 1-1.5 hours and then it'll be out the door.

I've got a monster project that I've been delaying starting, and now I've got 3 weeks to do it. (Yeah, 3 weeks sounds great until you actually see the huge pile of material for it!) And this is a new-ish project, so I need to continue impressing them. I've got another project that is due in a month, and I am putting my money on it being placed on the back burner for a while.

So, what have I done? Read some blogs, participated in comments. Had some tea. Put some chocolate chips out of their misery ("eat me, eat me, PLEEEEASE eat me!" they cried in their pitiful little voices). Taken a shower. The rat really looks like she'd like to be taken out, and that makes me feel guilty. But, holy camoly, it is almost 10 a.m.!

OK, I am posting this, then quitting Safari until project 1 is out the door. I will update later to let you all know how it's gone.

18 January 2006

Jon Swifties -- Better than Tom Swifties!

Take a few minutes and read these beauties.

Word Wednesday: Sometimes Tried and True is Best

Sorry for the late post today, but l've got some deadlines looming, so I actually buckled down to work first, with only 5-minute breaks for email and blogs.

It was so nice out this afternoon that when the girls came home we took the dog for a long walk around Gray's Lake. I was feeling irresponsible in not having a Word Wednesday topic, but serendipity always comes through: at the lake I noticed something that's bugged me for quite a while. Since the lake renovations were complete, in fact.

After making the walking paths smooth, and stocking the lake with fish, and adding a boathouse for canoe and kayak rentals, the city added, at half-mile intervals, plastic bag dispensers / trash cans for doggie-doo. What a great idea this is. I really think it keeps the place cleaner than if we had to count on some dog owners to bring their own bags. But what bothers me is the phrase they've placed front and center on each of these dog centers:

"Please pick up behind your dog"

??!? ??!

Obviously, someone thought that the old "please pick up after your dog" was just plain overdone, so they must have taken out their handy-dandy thesaurus and chosen "behind" as an appropriate synonym.

But I ask you, what if consequent to doing her business, your dog spins around and is facing in the direction of the little pile -- you wouldn't be picking up behind your dog, would you? Maybe you wouldn't think of picking up the pile in FRONT of your dog. But considering that wherever the pile is in relation to your dog, your action takes place AFTER your dog's business, that is obviously the apt word. Dontcha think?

17 January 2006

Birthday Wishes

As I embark on a new year today, I hope all of you are having a good day, too!

Mother Earth must have an internet connection, because a few days ago I wrote here that I needed snow, and what do I see out my window right now? An eeety-beeety bit of flurrying. Happy birthday to me!

16 January 2006

Bill Gates is such a copycat

The Imperator Consort just shared some videos with me, so I share them with you.

Folks have been curious for a while now about the new Windows version. Which has already been delayed. And won't be out until September 2006.

Are *you* one of those who stay awake at night wondering what tantalizing super-new features Vista with incorporate? Here we provide you with an actual audio stream from a recent Windows conference:


(you need Quicktime to be able to watch the videos)

15 January 2006

As I expected, most of my plans of things "to do" yesterday were waylaid by a busy sort of laziness (although the feeling is fleeting and I already regret not having done more). BUT, I did go for a long walk in the sunshine (it was too hot though -- 49 degrees in January? not good. And it will be even worse today they say: 54 degrees. I really need some cold and snow, people).

I ended the walk by going to The Best Place Ever (their name, not mine -- although I agree completely) and renting "The Constant Gardener." Anyone who has a hard time imagining what things are like for people in Africa, and particularly anyone who does not have a clear picture of what the atrocities in Darfur are like (i.e., most of us coddled non-Africans), really should see this movie. Only a brief part happens in Sudan, but during that short time there is a Janjaweed attack on a poor village. Trust me, the images will stay with you. As they should.

14 January 2006

The Consort and the girls have gone north for a skiing weekend. I've got all sorts of plans. I wonder how many I'll actually get done? Hmmm...

13 January 2006

Friday Time-Waster

I've just found this site, engrish.com.

This is another time I am sooo happy I don't have to worry about co-workers hearing me laugh uncontrollably. I suggest starting with the Menu section.

Update: No! I changed my mind! Start with this one.The caption is what made the tea spew.

Rah! Rah! Siss-bang-boom!!

I never have "gotten" the school spirit thing. It just seems so fake and stupid to me (but then again, I find many of the people who are into that sort of thing fake and stupid).

In high school, I once went to a pep rally, and it was soooo boring. The team ran out onto the gym floor and did some basketball drills, the cheerleaders shook their pom-poms, and we sat on the bleachers and screamed.

So what was that going to do for the team — get them in a fighting frenzy? Come on, that would only work if they were going right into a game; you can’t hold a buzz in check for a few hours! (Plus, this was a girls’ private high school, you can’t really “get down” in a houndstooth skirt, polyester blazer, and knee socks. [And who would we be "getting down" for? -- *Gasp!* OMG! Could we really have been in a hothouse of lesbian lasciviousness? Pat Robertson has been right ALL ALONG!])

I’ve been reminded of this because it is Student Appreciation Week at the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training’s middle school. Some parents got to the school at 7 am today and stood out in the freezing cold until 7:40. They waved banners and shook noisemakers, cheering the kids as they entered the school. Why? Because we are proud of them. How lame is that? No *wonder* kids begin to alienate themselves from their parents in middle school.

There will also be a 6th grade dance during the two last periods of the day today. They sent home a note earlier in the week. Here are some of the choicest parts (punctuation and capitalization as in the original):
Are you READY??? . . . Get FIRED UP!!
The Student Appreciation Day
6th Grade Cougar Pride Party
will be held Friday


All parents/guardians are invited and welcome to attend […]
Stop by and visit a class, cruise the hallways and/or hang in the lunch room!


Hot damm, that just PUMPS ME UP! Who WOULDN’T want their ole ladies cruisin’ the halls, hangin’ wid’ da ho’s in the caf’? Am I going to be there? Fo’shizzle, mah nizzle… NOT.


*But I will say that the Elder IT was one of 15 kids who were recognized during an asssembly earlier this week as a (I’ll have to check with her, I don’t remember the exact term: ) Student of Character. She got a school t-shirt, which she is wearing to the dance. She likes her school, just feels this stuff is a bit over the top. It made me laugh because every year since first grade all the district’s schools do this module on “Character Counts” (responsibility, trustworthiness, etc. – there are seven Pillars of Character). Every year it’s the same old thing, and the Elder IT got really fed up with the repetitiveness and hokey-ness of the whole thing. And here she is a pillar of the Pillars! Very funny.

11 January 2006

Word Wednesday: Let's Hand out Some Recognitio!

Back when I still participated in the slave market (before I started hiring out my lance for free, that is), I worked for a year at one of those ubiquitous consulting firms (let’s call them ABC Technologies) that spends most of its time forcing workers to participate in meaningless, meandering staff meetings. And because half our workforce happened to be at the client’s site most of the time, we office drudges would be sitting around a conference table, chatting with a phone set up in the middle of the table.

Now, ABC Technologies understood the need for a happy workforce, and a happy workforce is one in which achievement is acknowledged. So, when someone did something particularly noteworthy, we’d give them kudos [from the Greek kydos; praise given for achievement].

I’d like to interrupt the story here to tell you about a college friend of mine, named Lucie. Now, Lucie liked language, and at gatherings she always would mention how the plural of octopus should really be octopodes, because the roots for the word were octo [eight] + pous [foot] (both Greek words), and the Greek plural would be formed by “podes”, not “pi” as those upstart Romans did in their language. And we’d nod, hmphh, roll our eyes, and hand her another Milwaukee Beast (or chug our own, depending on our mood).

Fast-forward back to the ABC Technologies meeting, where one fine day the office manager decides to mention the good acts of one of our workerbees. He described the project she was working on, the stuff she did above and beyond the call of duty (or paycheck), and ended by saying, “M— deserves a great kudo for her work on this!”

A kudo? A KUDO? It took all I had not to groan out loud. Let’s not back-form in front of the children, please. Sheesh.

Lucie, wherever you are: I’m sorry I rolled my eyes. I get it now. And I totally agree. It should be octopodes.


10 January 2006

Someone please explain to me why it seems reasonable for it to be my fault if my phone line was not working until about half an hour ago and somebody couldn't get through.

(Yes, I will take responsibility for many things, but I have never screened my calls and I have never purposely disconnected my phone to bother anybody).

09 January 2006

True Nature


I admit my treacherous and evil nature.

I am a demon from the Seventh Level of Hell, sent as a trusted minion of the Lords of the Underdark for one purpose, and one purpose only: To torment innocent maidens by brushing their hair. I insist on uptails, using as an excuse the need to keep hair out of one's eyes during the school day. I take joy in forcing ponytails on gym days and fencing nights, for no other reason than that I am a successful and powerful demon.

None shall escape my talons.

06 January 2006

The Most Subtle Use of Psy-Ops Ever

In today's (award-winning) Des Moines Register, there is an article about the new streamlined "Critical Assets" list that every state had to create after 2001. It seems that our list of 11,600 or so critical assests was too large and confusing. So, they trimmed the list to 1,360 of the most important.

To accompany the article, in the print edition there were pictures of three of the most critical assets still on this pared down list. You can see the photos online at http://tinyurl.com/chfta on the left-hand side if you scroll down a bit.

And what are these oh-so-valuable sites, you ask? The Field of Dreams (because if you build it, they will come), the Krispy Kreme in Clive (a DM suburb), and the Ruan Tower (Mr. Ruan is a very wealthy DM developer and land owner).

Sigh. Yes, this is one of those times when we imports wish we could change our driver's license and not have to tell anyone we live here.

The *Krispy Kreme*? You have GOT to be kidding. I can so see a cell of al Quaeda operatives hunched over a table, mapping out places to target in the midwest, and one of them saying, "No, no -- I tell you, if we just take out the Krispy Kreme in Clive, the people's morale will be broken, and we will be able to CRUSH them like the little bugs that they are!"

05 January 2006

Confession of a Lapsing Environmentalist

We own a chest freezer, and I love it! We didn’t buy it new, we weren’t even looking for one. It found us. Our neighbors were moving to Colorado and didn’t want to take it with them, so they asked if we wanted to buy it at 30% of the price (it was only 2 years old).

Yes, I feel ashamed to revel in such wanton energy use, but I can’t deny that the freezer is darn useful. I rationalize that thanks to the freezer, we can buy ORGANIC frozen vegetables in bulk through our buying club, we always have ORGANIC frozen dinners on hand, we can buy our ORGANIC nuts and flour in bulk and they won’t go rancid, and we no longer have bread that goes bad because some loaves can’t make it through the week (we go through 4 or 5 per week).

But really, I love it because we can finally make homemade ice cream that WORKS! Our freezer compartment never froze the bowl completely, so the finished product would be more of a slushy than soft-serve ice cream. And when we would try to harden the ice cream by keeping it in the freezer, it would harden into a big clump.

But no longer – nay, now what comes out of the 20-minute ice cream process is soft-serve ice cream, and a brief stay in the freezer produces real, honest-to-goodness, ice cream!

Last night we made candy cane peppermint ice cream. Deeeelicious! (and the peppermint was, yup, you guessed it – ORGANIC [so that ain't so bad, right?])

04 January 2006

Word Wednesday

As an editor, misuse of language really bugs me. I mean REALLY bugs me. So on Wednesdays I will share my [anti] favorites. We'll start with a local one. There is a Denny's style chain here in the midwest called Bakers Square. And their tagline? It's "Baker's Square: Restaurant and Pies".

Sure, both those things to the right of the colon are nouns, but does it make sense? No! How would you scan that, "Baker's Square, it is a restaurant and it is pies"? Sounds stupid. How about, "Baker's Square, we sell restaurant and we sell pies"? Nope, that doesn't make sense, either.

Just because you can find two things that describe your business, doesn't mean you can just slap them together to the right of a colon and expect people to make sense of it. There's another similar chain, and at least they hired someone who understands English for their tagline: "Perkins: Restaurant and Bakery". That's more like it: both those things make sense together, they are both eateries. See, if I ruled the world, advertising would have to make sense [what an outlandish thought!].

But the sad thing is, their pies are terrible. At either place. Better to eat pie less often and eat good pie. (In our household, it's thanks to the Consort's magic way with fruit pies that we are kept happy throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall.)