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.

28 February 2006

Sign this Petition !!!

Updated at 3:35 pm

The Consort sent me a link to this:

"The Bush administration recently announced its proposal to sell more than 300,000 acres of national forests and public lands to raise money for the federal treasury . . . While increasing military funding by 6.9%, the Bush administration cut education spending by 3.8% in this FY2007 budget. And now it wants to sell our natural heritage to pick up the slack?"

As a phenomenal powerhouse in the blogosphere (who else can boast of a regular readership of eight, I ask you?), it is my responsibility to urge you all to at least go visit the petition site.

You can read the petition and sign it here. And you are going to sign it, right? (You can even see my comment, it's the "Machiavellian future" one. [signer 13427 13465])

Today, Random Questions

What is missing in the rat's diet that, when on my desk, she immediately goes for the carved soap sculptures I received as a Christmas gift from my daughter two years ago? And eats a chunk?

Why do people think hipsters are comfortable? I will need to buy some because the cut of pants has dropped and I can't bend down anymore in public (to get to the lowest shelf in bookstores, duh!) without tugging my shirt (and I don't wear cropped shirts).

Where is the cheap watch I bought just a month ago so I'd always have a way to tell time when out in public?

Why is it that people planning to do nefarious deeds think that by driving around in a flashy car, and playing their music so loud that it rattles windows, they won't get noticed?

Why am I not finishing up my current project right now?

27 February 2006

Monday Random Links

RIP Octavia Butler (thanks to Three of Four for the info). Her first publisher's copyediting inadequacies notwithstanding, her fiction was fresh and innovative. Parable was great, and I plan to read more of her fiction. You all should give her a try.

The Consort sent me this link last week. I think it would be a good idea for any readers of this blog to check it out. Warning: it is not a pleasant video to watch. It took a while for the video to buffer, but stick with it. The message is important.

PETA's take-home message is that we should all stop eating meat/eggs/etc. My take on the message from this video is that folks should rethink the cost of choosing organic meat or meat from a small local farmer over just picking up a styrofoam package of meat from their local grocery store chain. I don't find that torture is necessary or useful to apply to any living creature: human or otherwise.

25 February 2006

Remembering Another Philippines Coup Attempt

August 1987. A college-student is enjoying her month-long visit to the Philippines. She’s been invited on this trip by two college friends who were spending the month with their aunt and her family in Quezon City. This is not a hostel and backpack trip. No, the family she is staying with is a comfortably wealthy family that owns its own textile factory. There is a cook and two house maids, two drivers and a “family companion” for the daughter of the family. Our college student will, in the future, feel slightly ashamed at the opulence of her lifestyle during this trip. But right now, it is a wonderful experience: they have visited the jungle and the beach, and they have spent a few days in the mountains at a luxury hotel (where they met a group of international youth chess champions, and have danced in the hotel nightclub with geeks [but that’s OK, because at heart she’s a geek, too]). Their time in Manila is filled with mornings visiting monuments and “educational” sites, siestas at home, and evenings (very late evenings) going to clubs for dancing and “midnight snacks” at hotel restaurants.

Our college student and her two friends have planned this summer well, they think. June and July were spent at home so they could work summer jobs for school-year money (and put in some time with parents and siblings). August in the Philippines, and they timed their return trip so they’d have two days for getting back on East Coast time before heading to DC for the start of their Sophomore year.

Except that the day before their return, August 29, the military academy begins a coup attempt. The radio is the people's only source of news right now. Stay put, the newscasters warn. People of Caucasian heritage should stay indoors, away from windows. No one knows if rioting and mayhem will be reaching Manila. The US Embassy is closed, and they are not answering their phone. Stay put! But our college student isn’t so sure that the US Embassy would help her. She isn’t even a US citizen, just a permanent resident. Stay put! The airport is closed, flights are cancelled. Stay put!

The host family suggests our student should call home, to let her family know she is alright. This early in the unrest, the phone lines are still up, so she should call. Now.

But there are many time zones between Asia and the US East Coast. When our college student calls home, it is the middle of the night there, and her father answers groggily.

“Listen, I’m alright, but there’s a chance I’ll be a few days late. I’m alright, but could you call my school and let them know I may not be back by the first day of term?”

“Young lady, you damn better be back in time to start school! I know you are having a good time over there, but don’t you play around with this, missy! You are not allowed to—”

Click. Phone line’s dead.

[Fine then, if they don't care, I don’t need to talk to them! And she spends the next 36 hours staying indoors, listening to the news, playing cards, and getting the airline to re-route her ticket.]

Later, when she gets back home, with about five hours to spare between arriving in New York and starting the drive down to DC, she will be told by her sisters that there was quite a to-do in the house later on the morning of the 29th, when everyone was awake and US news agencies began reporting a coup attempt in the Philippines. Her father realized that he hadn’t been dreaming the phone call, that it wasn’t just an irresponsible daughter trying to get out of going back to school, but that there was something serious going on there. By then the phone lines were either overloaded or down, so her family couldn’t get back in touch with her. Mother was angry. Father felt sheepish. Both were worried.

Our college student feels righteous indignation, but is generous with her forgiveness.

Never distrust your daughter!

24 February 2006

Tying Up Loose Ends

Today I will put a few questions to rest. Maybe not forever, but in case you were wondering:

1) Back in December, I mentioned a project manager at Big Client who had "lost" my invoice, had not replied to my email queries, etc. [Note: There is something I have to change on my blog template so that I can link to older titles. I don't have it done right now, but if you go to the December archives and look for "Trials and Tribulations of a Freelancer, Part I", you'll get it]. I mentioned that I would drop them come January. Well, they beat me to the punch: The journal was transferred to another tyepsetter (nicknamed "Quick and Dirty") in early January. Except that there was another invoice "loss" and they were holding almost $1,000 of my money. I had to go up the food chain, with not much help from the freelance coordinator, and finally, FINALLY, this week I got paid.

2) The podcast idea. Here's a secret: Don't always believe what a company tells you about their product. They may try to stop you from doing what you want to do, but a little doubt will get you a long way. m4p's can find a new life as mp3's. So maybe this weekend I'll play around with getting something together for next week.

3) Yesterday I got hypnotized. It felt very relaxing. I loved it. Cowgirl asked what for, because I don't smoke and I don't have a sex addiction [to which I reply: How do you know?]. Since November I've been "going to see someone." See, I felt like I was always angry. What brought it to my attention was an interaction with an in-law, their implication of blame was totally unfair and misdirected, and I hate unfair. It was just eating at me, so I decided that although for years I had never forgotten anything people had done or said, maybe I should just "let things go." Although at first I didn't think it would do much good ["It sounds to me like you are perhaps depressed" -- No, it seems to me that I am perhaps ANGRY], it's been helping me look at things that need changing. Not earth-shattering, mind you. So one thing I wanted to do was beef up my self-discipline for work [it's time to work...no, let's web-surf...let's finish this reference section...no, let's check if anyone's replied to my post!], food [I don't need seconds...yes, I do...I'm full...but how can one have too much of this homemade tasty food!], and writing [the bane of the perfectionist: it is better to not DO anything than to do something you're very excited about but not do it perfectly].

So there you go. Now I'm off to the library to get the Thievery Corporation CD they are holding for me, and then to send a fax so I can get the name of the first web host I hired off my business domain account. He's been holding a transfer up, and I haven't even done business with him for two years!

23 February 2006

They Kill You By Teeny Tiny Cuts, Day After Day

Last night, we're watching what passes for Olympic coverage on NBC.

Elder daughter (Impera): Hey, look, that skier is the same height as you, Mommy: five-foot eight!

Me:!!! Oof! You sure know how to hurt a woman!

Younger daughter (Trixie): What? Is Mommy taller than that?

Impera: She just *wants* to be tall.

Background: It is a well-known tale in the realm that when the Consort and I were going out, I mentioned that I was 5'10". Because I was. He snorted and replied, "You can't be 5'10". My sister is 5'10" [implication: and you, Imperatrix, are nowhere near as tall as her!]." Ok. So maybe I shrank. To 5'9". But never have I been near the 8-inch mark. Never!

That's all I have for you right now, readers. I have a Battle of the Books meeting to run in a couple of hours, I'm getting hypnotized (!) after lunch, I've got band practice and fencing to drive to and from, plus I have to actually get some work done in between.

22 February 2006

Word Wednesday: Marketing

I was planning to blog about how it seems that once neuroscientists get their PhDs, they have to relinquish their abilities to read simple directions (I would have said all science PhDs, but then the Consort would have taken umbrage), but that will have to wait. Because my business domain name needs to be renewed soon, and in my Inbox yesterday, I got this:

Let's dissect this puppy, as the Consort would say.

First, the highlighting. Usually, highlighting emphasizes the best deal (especially when the text in green, right before the green highlighting arrow/bar combination, actually says "best savings."

Is it really the best savings? No. I only save 42% if I renew for five years. I could save 57% if I went with nine years, so they are lying. (Because in my math, 57, being a larger number than 42, means that that provides a better savings. How does it work out in your math?).

--But wait! Holy mackerel! Do you see what I see? If I renew for one hundred years, I can save 70% -- yes seventy percent! Oh my gee (as my younger daughter would say), what am I waiting for?

Well, let's see. If, in 1850, I was offered a chance at investing in horse-drawn carriages, and could purchase 100 years of ownership at 70% savings, then in 50 years I would be very, very, sad.

Let's think back, not that far. Let's think back 15 years. Did you know some people actually used Word*Star as their word processing software? Never heard of it? That's because you are a whipper-snapper (one of the rights of turning 38 is that you can start calling people whipper-snappers).

Even if we are generous and allow that domain name registration stays stable for twice that amount of time (30 years, if you weren't paying attention), I will probably be out about 500 dollars. (And where do I go having $999 to spare now, anyway?)

So, what kind of idiot puts together this kind of marketing table?

The kind that won't be getting my renewal. I'm switching to aplus.net.

21 February 2006


In one of these conversations, I am italic. In the other, I am not.


A conversation between a mother and a daughter

These pants are too short.

No, they're not.

Yes, they are. You can see ankle. They're practically floods!

They look just fine to me.

New pants must be bought. This is ridiculous.

They've got several months still in them. No new pants. These are fine.

A conversation between a woman and her cat

Meeow. I want to go outside.

You can't. It is literally freezing outside, and when we let you out after 7 PM you don't come back by the time we go to bed at 10:30.

Meeeooooow. If you loved me you'd let me go outside. Mrawl!

It's because I love you that I won't let you go outside.

Just open the door. Come on, I neeeeeeeed to be outside.


All the cool cats are outside!


You just hate me!

[moving away from the back door].

Meeeeeeeooooooooooooooooow! I hate you!

. . .

What? Is that a cat treat you've got there? [rubbing up against a leg]. I looooove you. You're the best.

Now, can I go outside?


Word for word, conversations I have had recently in this realm. True dat.

20 February 2006

Green Risotto

Here's the risotto recipe:

1 lb fresh spinach, washed, or 10 oz frozen spinach
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. heavy cream
7 c. broth, kept at a low simmer in a saucepan
1 onion, finely chopped
2 c. arborio rice
1 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. parmesan, plus more for the table

1.) Cook the fresh spinach, with the water that clings to the leaves, over high heat for a few minutes in a covered pan until wilted. Or, thaw the frozen spinach. Pulse in a food processor with 1 T butter (melted) and the heavy cream. Set aside.

2.) In a large casserole, heat 2 T butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir with a wooden spoon until coated (another 2 minutes). Whent he grains become translucent, add the wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed.

3.) Start adding the broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until each time the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Adjust the heat if necessary to keep the risotto is always at a gentle simmer. After about 15 minutes, add the reserved spinach mixture. Contine adding broth in increments until the rice is al dente yet creamy (probably another 5 minutes or so).

4.) Add the parmesan and remaining 1 T butter. The cheese has adequate saltiness to it, but if you want, add salt to taste before bringing the pot to the table.

Serve and enjoy!

This makes four main-course servings. I made 1.5 times the recipe, and we had generous leftovers.

Like I said before, just enjoy the process; don't worry about stirring constantly. At a low simmer, nothing bad should happen. And, since you opened a bottle of wine for the risotto, have the rest with dinner (of course!).

19 February 2006

Musique du Jour

If I had a time machine, then I'd make it so that in my teen years I’d be less of a book nerd and I’d:

  • Learn to play the Spanish guitar so I could jam with Ojos de Brujo (like on Memorias Perdias [scroll down]) .

  • Then I’d switch over to the electric guitar so I could jump onstage for Chop Suey! when I went to a System of a Down concert.

  • And I’d be able to visit with Audioslave and help not remind them of anything [scroll down to track 4].

  • But mostly, I would become a world-class ice skater and win Olympic gold in the pairs competition, choreographing our long program to The Crystal Method. Something from their Vegas album: Trip Like I Do or Keep Hope Alive [yeah, I'm not very creative, they're what everybody likes on that album]. But the boys would have to tighten it up to the 4.5 minute mark. But we’d be buds, so they’d be happy to help out.

    Can you guess what I did yesterday? I finally used my Christmas stocking iTunes cash. I’m still pondering getting a music podcast up — but it isn’t on the front burner. So, enjoy 30-sec snippets of the random stuff I bought. (But I bought the entire Vegas album. Oh, yes I did!).

    In writing this post I discovered calabashmusic.com. I will definitely be checking it out. And one day I will give Last.fm a spin. So much music!

  • 18 February 2006

    Risotto: Squisito!

    I made a spinach risotto last night. So good! Perfect comfort food for these blisteringly cold days we are having.

    And really, so easy. Sure, you have to add the broth cup by cup, but it isn't like you have to stand over it, worrying that it will scorch. And by that time, the other ingredients (simple and few) are already prepped and beside you.

    If you've never tried a risotto, you should. Two rules: 1) definitely use arborio rice, and 2) don't stress. It really is very forgiving.

    A perfect meal in a bowl.

    (And arborio also makes the best damn rice pudding you ever ate. I only allow it once a season, it tastes so rich. But the ingredients are the very same as other recipes that use more pedestrian rice.)

    17 February 2006

    "It was battle conditions ... "

    The Louisiana attorney general's office is investigating whether mercy killings took place in a New Orleans hospital after Katrina hit. I heard it this morning in on NPR, but it seems CNN reported it back in October, as well.

    I understand the fear many people have about euthanasia, how easy it would be to get caught up in a slippery slope of convenience and deafness to the desires of those who would become victims. But, one of the results of advanced medical research is that today more and more people are living longer, but are dependent on highly sensitive hospital environments for survival: special diets, life-supporting machines, consistent drug intake, etc.

    The CNN piece gives a clear picture of what life was like at the hospital in the days after Katrina:

    Food was running low, sanitation wasn't working, and temperatures inside soared to 110 degrees. Floodwaters had isolated the hospital, where about 312 patients -- many of them critically ill -- were being treated when Katrina hit.

    No one knew when rescuers would arrive. Without power to operate medical devices, staff could only provide basic care. Evacuations were sporadic -- an occasional boat or helicopter picking up patients.

    "It was battle conditions," said Fran Butler, a nurse manager. "It was as bad as being out in the field."

    The NPR story focuses on the seventh floor: a floor dedicated to long-term care. In other words, the patients surviving on the most delicate, most highly advanced equipment and medical care.

    I can't help but think that the doctor and nurses involved were doing the best they could in terrible circumstances. I'm not seeing maliciousness, I'm seeing people stuck in a problem not of their making, trying to alleviate pain and discomfort to those they are bound to help. Sometimes, help means ending pain. Imagine the reality of what survival without 21st-century medical care would have meant for these critically ill patients.

    Yes, mercy killing. With emphasis on mercy.

    16 February 2006

    Big Dreams

    Oh, readers. For the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about being able to make up a podcast from time to time, for the elite few who visit this site, to introduce you all to some of the more interesting and fun music I listen to.

    I looked into a bit, and I'm not sure it's going to work. I downloaded Audacity from the web, but it doesn't seem to be able to import m4p's (what you buy off of iTunes) And that's what alot of my new music is, since I've gotten more daring as to music choices thanks to NPR reviews and iTunes.

    I tried using GarageBand, but we only have version 2, and it looks like it's version 3 that has podcasting capabilities.

    I realize this is a stupid question to ask this readership, but: Anyone have any ideas for me? It's got to be Mac-usable, and free software would be best. Or maybe there's some way to get Audacity to recognize m4p's? Right now, when I try to import, all I get is one second of PzzzZZZZTTTTTzzZZZTT.

    15 February 2006

    Hey -- Did you know that there is a Belgian competing in the Men's Figure Skating? Yup: Kevin van der Perren. There's also a Frenchman named Brian Joubert competing.

    And I wonder, why do they have such American-sounding names, hmmm? I checked them both out, and they say they were born in the country for which they are competing.

    I can't even begin to imagine how one says Kevin in Dutch. And "Bree-an" doesn't sound too good, either.

    Word Wednesday: Teachers Who Don't Proofread

    I think I freaked out some people with my post yesterday. But golly, I can’t always be the hostess with the mostess! So for Word Wednesday, I offer you the following, reproduced verbatim [my comments are in square brackets]:


    Dear parent/Guardian [oh, so biological parents aren’t as important as court-appointed adults, eh? You fosterist!]:

    I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Student Teacher; the students may call e Mrs. Teacher [How do you know e? And are you sure she wants to be known as Mrs. Teacher? I know she prefers Ms. Purple Pen!]. I am a student teacher from Local Barely Accredited Pseudo-College teaching in Mrs., [actually, I thought Local Barely Accredited Pseudo-College was within the city limits] Normal-Teacher’s room […yes?]. I began at C— Middle School on Jan. 3rd and to date I have given all students one typing project that was due on January 13, 2006. My policy is to allow students to make corrections and resubmit their assignment for a higher grade. I firmly believe that students learn from their mistakes [So, when will you be resubmitting this letter for a higher grade? Right now, you’re getting a “D”].

    Thank you for allowing me to work with your children. [I don’t remember approving you -- show me the paperwork]

    [Some teachers don't get any respect. But when 6th graders can find all your typing mistakes, well, you've got to *earn* yourself some respect.]

    14 February 2006

    This is What Happens When You Don't Have a Project to Keep You Busy

    So. This whole Danish cartoons thing. I haven’t blogged about it, because there are more than enough people on all sides of the issue discussing this on the radio, on TV, on blogs, in newspapers and magazines. (Plus I’ve been talking the Consort’s ear off about it here at home, so whatever I’d write, I’d feel like I had already said it and was repeating myself.) But I did hear something on NPR yesterday afternoon that surprised me. I had heard a few days before, in passing, about the peaceful protests by British Muslims. Reporters were saying that this was the way to do things: March, but with no threat of violence, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, OK, I thought, that’s right.

    But it seems that during the protests, there were placards calling for the “extermination of the enemies of Islam” or for the “beheading of the enemies of Islam”. Can anyone reading this confirm the presence of these posters? Were they prevalent, or was it just a small fringe group? I’m trying to get a clear picture of these “peaceful protests”.

    It’s disappointing that everywhere we see this reaction of answering any disagreement with violence. No one is immune of course (viz. US aggression in Iraq), but really, does no Muslim see the irony in this: “How dare you show the prophet, a man of peace, with a bomb in his turban!…. We will … exterminate you!!!!”—but here I am, rehashing what many others have said.

    It saddens me that only 17% of Britons polled by the London Sunday Times can envision a peaceful coexistence with their Muslim communities. But I have to agree. I don’t see much positive outlook to the future. Either between different religious groups in the international arena, or between different religious/cultural groups here in the US.

    Cowgirl, you may want to stop reading here.

    I’ve been mulling over for a while the fact that, when I had my girls, in the mid 1990s, things were looking so positive for the future. And that definitely had something to do with my agreement to have kids at all (growing up, I figured that when The Bomb was dropped—as it surely would—I would run towards the explosion, not away from it; it took the Consort a long time to get a promise out of me that if a bomb was dropped, I would run away from the blast, with him).

    If I was fast-forwarded to the present, would I still make the same decision to bring children into this world? I don’t know. I really don’t.

    13 February 2006

    A Guest Blogger

    I had no inspiration today. (Well, I've got a great photo for a mini blog-skit, but I want to wait a bit [I've used lots of pictures in the last few days].)

    And then I got this from Three of Four. Now that I've posted it, I better ask her permission to post it!

    In case you were looking for inspiration today, you *so* have to blog on this article: http://tinyurl.com/c53y2.

    This is the hosed up little state we live in. I've long been pushing for secession by everything north of I-66 in order to form a more reasonable political entity. Now I am reminded why.

    Where does one begin? The act itself -- breaking the law to catch crooks? Profiting personally from police investigations? The lame justification "that only unmarried detectives are assigned to such cases" just doesn't quite cut it for me... Of course, we could peel back more layers and question the wisdom of outlawing the practice in the first place. After all, if everyone's a consenting adult, what a great source of tax revenue!

    My favorite part, though, has to be the respect and sensitivity shown by chief prosecutor Horan when describing the individuals who find themselves in the trade: "there aren't a lot of Phi Beta Kappas in that field."

    Apparently, there aren't a lot of PBKs in the Spotsylvania Police Department, either.

    And in case you don't want to sign in at the Washington Post site (it's free though), here's the intro:

    Spotsylvania Deputies Receive Sex Services in Prostitution Cases
    By Tom Jackman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, February 13, 2006; Page B01

    They enter the massage parlors as undercover detectives. They leave as satisfied customers.

    In Spotsylvania County, as part of a campaign by the sheriff's office to root out prostitution in the massage parlor business, detectives have been receiving sexual services from "masseuses." During several visits to Moon Spa on Plank Road last month, detectives allowed women to perform sexual acts on them on four occasions and once left a $350 tip, according to court papers.

    11 February 2006

    Of Pins and Pens

    As we all know, people in the south of the United States have a very distinctive accent. And this accent can cause confusion in conversations. Take, for example, the words “pin” and “pen”. In all other parts of the US, there is a distinct difference in pronunciation for these two words.

    Not so, in the south! They are both said “piyun”. And when people complain about how confusing this is, southerners explain that when someone asks, “Kin I have uh piyun?” the correct response is, “Do ya wahnt a stick piyun or a ink piyun?” And in that way, all your confusion about meaning is resolved!

    Well, I asked the Consort to buy a pack of pens when he went shopping today, and he brought us back this:

    "But, Bubba," she whined, "Ah tole you Ah needid ink piyuns!"

    10 February 2006


    I love sports competitions that come every 4 years: Olympics, Soccer World Cup. In fact, I was heavily pregnant with the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training when the US hosted the World Cup -- right in our backyard! Someone even offered us tickets to the local stadium game (with the US team, no less!), but that was her due date, and being a first-time parent, I didn't think it was a good idea. She arrived a week late, so, damn! I could have gone.

    It's at times like these that I wish for cable television (we're weirdos who only get the standard stations). It sure would be nice to watch an entire event, rather than just (a) highlights of Americans doing really well or (b) highlights of others doing really poorly (Remember the German figure skating couple a few years ago who fell early on in their routine, and the young man scooped up his partner in his arms, her face all bloody, and skated her off the ice? We had to watch that replay every frickin' 15 minutes that night).

    The girls are looking forward to the Olympics, but they've already said they can't wait until the summer Olympics because they want to watch the fencing (Note to self: We will *definitely* need cable in 2 years, because little do my girls realize that there is no way a US station is going to show *fencing* on TV for an extended period of time! ... or, could we perhaps be in a different country by then? Hmmmmm.)

    Anyways, I'm wishing everyone an enjoyable 15 days of winter sports watching.

    Go Apolo! Go Bode!

    09 February 2006

    The Beast is Slain

    All hail Imperatrix! The dread monster Big Job, which has been terrorizing these parts ere this past month, is no more. Her Grace, with her fell red pencil, Always Sharp, and her trusted steed, Sticky Note, dispatched the monster this very afternoon (via her squire, FedEx).

    Our Lady Knight plans to feast joyously this evening, then march swiftly to the next encounter early on the morrow.

    Huzzah! The kingdom is safe once more!

    Out of the Loop

    What does it mean when I know and love the punk record of the year (Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dream"), own and like the country album of the year (Alison Krauss and Union Station's "Lonely Runs Both Ways"), yet have NEVER heard of the U2 stuff that won awards?

    I'll tell you what it means: I have been taken over by aliens. The Green Day is understandable (I am the one in our house that owns Korn, Kid Rock, and Soundgarden, after all). But the *country*? I hate country! What am I doing with country music? And why haven't I heard of the U2?

    Damn that NPR and its eclectic mix of music.

    08 February 2006

    Word Wednesday: Language Hijackings

    Anybody in the US back then: Remember the early 1980s? When you could stuff your LaChoy crispy noodles (“LaChoy makes Chinese food that [rat-a-tat-tat] swings American!” — ay ay ay, those heady 1970s; thank god I was too young to be responsible for them; but the LaChoy isn’t really important here, stay focused!) into your Le Bag, get into your Le Car, and zip off home for dinner, hoping for the day someone would “discover” quiche so you’d have something really tasty for dinner? And then you wouldn’t have to add “Le” in front of everything anymore to make it cool?

    Well, I have just observed the mid-oughts new euro-cool catch-phrase (really, “catch-word”, but anyway): Boo-coo.

    I first heard it a couple weeks ago by a woman in her late 50s. Born and bred Midwesterner. Very snazzy in her purple flats to go with her purple pants to go with her purple appliqued sweater, with her mega-body chin-length silver hair framing her face and shiny silver jewelry around her throat. She was talking about a young therapist dealing with a difficult psychological case, and to make her point mentioned that the young therapist in question found herself feeling boo-coo stress trying to make this case work out.

    I let it go. I pretended to know what she was saying. (I don’t like to look a fool.) Later, in the car, I realized what she said. “Oh! She meant—” But then I was distracted by a driver, cell phone at ear, trying to make a left turn across my lane, so I was distracted and moved on to other thoughts.

    On Saturday night, the two Imperatrixes-in-Training were at their first night “party”, 5 pm until 10 pm, so the Consort and I went out to dinner with a couple we know. Being the liberals we are (all 4 of us), the conversation got to state politics, and one of them, who works for the Natural Resources section of the state government, mentioned that all those out-of-state “consultants” this state is fond of using costs us all boo-coo bucks.

    One is weird. Two is a trend. Why boo-coo? It sounds stupid. English has more words than any other language (so I’ve heard). That’s great, but I really don’t want to have to experience first-hand the word-swiping that keeps the language vibrant, especially when the word in question is said “boo-coo”. Yes, in fifty years it will be a part of the English language: used in newspapers and speeches, found in Merriam Webster’s 18th edition. But I tell you now, I will cringe every time I hear it. I will be boo-coo irked. Every time.

    06 February 2006

    Mark 11:15

    There is a new club at the Elder Imperatrix-in-Training's middle school. I know because when I went in to run the lunchtime book-chat club last Thursday there were huge fluorescent posters everywhere announcing it. The Elder IT also says they made announcements over the PA urging kids to attend.

    The club is called Youth for Christ. The posters and the announcements all urged the same thing: Come to our meeting and get FREE pizza and pop (soda to us non-Midwesterners). AND, you may win one of three iPods!!!!!!

    Too bad Christianity has to stoop to bribery. What say you: WWJD*? (Hint: Check out that bible verse I gave ya.)

    *WWJD = What Would Jesus Do. It's been a big fad on keychains, bumper stickers, jelwelry, etc., for the past few years. Not that anybody really pays attention to what it means. There's a lot going on in this country that I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't approve of. But then, I'm a heathen, so what do I know?

    03 February 2006

    Time Keeps on Ticking

    Sorry everybody. We are awaiting a big decision today (it was promised on Tuesday, and has been postponed again and again). So I am a bit scatterbrained and I just can't focus.

    You'll know when the decision is announced, because I will either be vindicated or really, really pissed off. And you'll know it. Trust me.

    02 February 2006

    Blogichef Recipes

    I’ve been spending my time visiting some British blogs for a while, and e and KW have been very nice to let me blib and blab on their sites, so here is where I submit my two entries for Blue Witch’s Blogichef Quick and Easy Recipes week.

    Having been raised in a European household in the US, I’d notice when the cultural edges wouldn’t quite fit, but we (my sisters and I) would come out ahead. For example, where US kids would get pancakes on the weekend, we’d get crepes. And where they’d have that traditional American staple, macaroni and cheese (often, if homemade [which is rare], made with that unnatural Velveeta “cheez product”), in the winter we’d get my mother’s twist on it, which has been reborn for my kids as Bonne Maman’s Macaroni and Cheese.

    Bonne Maman’s Macaroni and Cheese

    Note: This one is 1) quick and 2) comfort food. No claims as to healthiness are implied

    1.5 lbs elbow macaroni
    1 brick Emmentaler cheese
    1 package sliced ham (for you meat eaters. We vegetarians just leave it out)
    bread crumbs

    Cook the macaroni al dente. While it is cooking shred the cheese. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Immediately mix in the shredded cheese. It will start out as a blobby and tangled mess. *Don’t worry*, keep stirring until the cheese (and ham, if you’re a carnivore) is/(are) relatively distributed.

    Dump it all into a greased baking dish, sprinkle on the bread crumbs, and pass under the grill until the top is a crispy light brown.

    The best way to enjoy it is with ketchup (for the kids) and ketchup and Tabasco sauce (for the adults). A salad on the side would be nice, too.

    You may think 1.5 lbs is a lot for 4 people, but man! the kids just snarf it down. Very addictive—just don’t have it every week, is all.

    Also, my parents (both of them) really took to American football. Many a Sunday afternoon, my sisters and I would be off in our rooms, while my parents would be shouting and cheering in front of the TV, following every game (every week) with the zeal of born and bred Americans. We’d just roll our eyes.

    My father would often make this soup (I’m pretty sure it’s the only time he’d cook on a regular basis) on football Sundays, because he could do the prepping while watching the game. So, in honor of my father’s soup-making skills and the upcoming Super Bowl on Sunday, I offer you Papa’s Sunday Soup. (Yes, he’s Bon Papa now, but this soup was named way before my kids were around.)

    Papa’s Sunday Soup

    Water (we vegetarians use broth)
    Some kind of meat bone (don’t ask me, I never paid very close attention, because even as a carnivorous kid, I was grossed out by the whole sucking out the marrow part)

    Wash the leeks and potatoes (I keep the skin on the potatoes, you may prefer to skin them; whatever works—but my way’s healthier). Slice the leeks, cut up the potatoes, traditionally done sitting in front of the TV. You should have the same volume of each (I’m thinking, start with 6 cups’ worth). During a commercial break, place leeks and potatoes, water/broth, (bone, *shudder*), and salt in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Cook until veggies are tender. (Take out bone, if you’re using it).

    During half-time, blend up the soup (using a Mix-Soup is a lot neater than the US way of using a blender or food processor). My father would always leave it a bit chunky because he knew I liked it better that way (Awww, isn’t he sweet? No, I was the oldest, so of course my desires should take precedence over my sisters. It’s just the natural way). Serve up and eat in front of the game, maybe with some hot bread, or add croutons (our favorite when we were kids). Whatever you do, make sure you are focusing on the game (dampening out any other sounds) while the inevitable Sucking of the Marrow from the Soup Bone ritual takes place beside you on the couch.

    01 February 2006

    Sidebar Changes

    I've added a couple of items to the sidebar. How does it look to folks? (On Safari, it looks fine).

    I'll be trying to get a better font for the "Need A Laugh" section, but the template I'm using has very pretty gifs for "Recent Posts, Links,", etc. What I've got right now is scripty, italic, but not quite the same.

    And don't think I'm not doing real work -- I actually got most of this together yesterday afternoon, but am just putting it up now. This is really a 5-minute break from the rapidly shrinking Monster!

    Word Wednesday: The Copyeditor Makes the Book

    At first blush, I'm sure most authors would disagree. And some might point out that my being a copyeditor somewhat biases me, but let me share from my current reading.

    I'm a SciFi/Fantasy junkie, but I had never read any Octavia Butler. She's important to the field for several reasons. Her story ideas are fresh (that's most important, to me), her characters are African American (a severely underrepresented group in SciFi), and, at least in this novel, the main character is a woman (many others have been writing from a female POV, for sure, but I'm always up for a strong female character).

    I decided to read The Parable of the Sower, which describes a dystopian near-future of ineffectual government, dangerous gangs, and drug addiction. When the main character's small enclave is destroyed, she decides to find a better life in a trek north from LA through California, Oregon, Washington, into Canada. (I don't know if she goes all the way, I'm at the point where her family and neighborhood is destroyed by drug-addled thieves/rapists). Anyway, when she writes in her journal, or talks to other people, about going north, everyone points out how there are "dangerous boarders" between LA and Canada. And this happens *every* time. This is not a one-time typo. Each time I hit one of these, I get pulled out of the story, and it is pissing me off.

    You may think, "But maybe because these are her journal musings, it's just part of who the character is." Maybe, except I'll take her word for it that she's intelligent and top of her class, and there is the added annoyance that there is also a constant mix-up between its and it's, as well as random start-quotes in descriptive paragraphs. So I think it's just bad copyediting (if it was copyedited at all!).

    And if I didn't already know that Butler is a Big Name in SciFi, I may have given up on this book. And that would have been too bad.

    Now, I'm reading the original 1993 edition put out by Four Walls Eight Windows, and a visit to their site shows that it was bought out by Avalon in 2004. I hope that subsequent editions were fixed, because it is a very good story, and I recommend it to all of you.

    Just be prepared for those jolts.