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 March 2006

Knitting, Penpals, and Weekend Plans

A while ago I showed you the Noro yarn I had purchased with my birthday/Christmas money. Well, about two weeks ago I finished the clapotis, and I love it!

I don’t think any of my readers are knitters, but it you are interested, the pattern is online at knitty.com. It’s a bit big to be a scarf (I used an extra skein of yarn), so I have been wearing it as a stole (or shawl). The variegation is great, and my clapotis works well with the is-it-Spring-or-isn't-it weather we've been having. One color duo that I have come to enjoy in knitting this is pink and brown. I know that is an “in” combination with the Gap/Old Navy generation, but I do believe I am going to make it my own.

Two days after I finished the clapotis, my fingers started feeling jittery: there was nothing for them to do! So I pulled out from under my desk a sock project I dropped about 18 months ago. Two years ago I decided I really should learn how to knit socks—because you never know. (Never know what? I don’t know, I never know it!) I made a pair of socks for Trixie, then Impera, then it was the Consort’s turn, and I finished up with a pair for me. Trixie pretty quickly had worn a hole in hers, so she asked me to make her another pair, with the same pattern as Impera. One third of the way through the pair of socks, I got sidetracked. And that’s what I picked up again in mid March. Now they both have a hand-knit pair of socks, made with the same pattern, but done up in different yarn combinations:

Last Sunday (again, two days after finishing the previous project), my fingers began to twitch again. I opened up my sock pattern booklet, read this:

1st round: (P2. K1) twice. K2tog. yfwd. K1. yfwd. K2togtbl. K1. P2 *(K1. P2) twice. K1. K2tog. yfwd. K1. yfwd. K2togtbl. K1. P2. rep from * 3 times more. K1…

took a deep breath, and began a pair of lace pattern socks for me (made in Trekking sock yarn, in a beautiful blue variegated):

This project is a first on several planes: first lace pattern, first time actually working with sock yarn, and first time working on size 1 needles. Knitting with size 1’s is like knitting with wooden shish-kebab skewers (i.e., one step up from knitting with toothpicks!). But I’m having fun, and it’s knitting up faster than I expected.

I’ve uploaded these photos and a few more shots of these projects on my flickr site. Go take a look!

I’m thinking of joining Secret Pal 8. It is a 3-month Secret Santa–type group started by an online group of knitters/crocheters (Secret Santa in the summer: not bad!). Sure, I could go out and splurge $60 on myself, but I think lots of adults would still enjoy the childhood joy of penpals (I know I would). Adults don't often get surprise packages in the mail, and now that so much of our correspondence is electronic, mail has become the harbinger of debt. Yuck.

So check it out. Even if you are a super beginner, wouldn’t it be fun? (And not everything you get is knitting-related, if you read the info blog).

And have a good weekend. We’ll be digging in the dirt, mostly, with trips to Home Depot (kitchen sprucing-up may be in store! More info to come...) and our favorite bookstore in the plans as well.

30 March 2006

Trixie, Vampire Delayer: Conclusion

Previously, on Trixie, Vampire Delayer:
Trixie: “This is so scary this is soscarythisissoscary…”
Imperatrix: “Do you want us to stop the video?”
Trixie: “No! It’s great!”
Trixie: “I can’t sleep because I AM FREAKING OUT!!!!!!!”

And now, the conclusion:

After one night of indulging Trixie’s need to sleep in her parents’ bed, we knew we had to put a stop to it (Well, I did. The Consort, as I mentioned, slept like a baby in Trixie’s bed.). I figured I’d try reason.

Imperatrix: “Trixie, remember how when you were afraid of someone coming into the house to kill you?”
Trixie: “Yes…”
Imperatrix: “And we told you that we’d hear them on our squeaky stairs?”
Trixie: “Yes…”
Imperatrix: “And even if they were able to sneak up the stairs, they’d get to our room first, so you’d be safe because they’d have to deal with us?”
Trixie: “Yes… But … How do I know YOU aren’t a vampire?”

Strike one. So, we left the girls to brainstorm. Impera, nothing if not a seasoned problem-solver, told her sister, “Don’t worry, vampires can’t come in unless they are invited.”

“Yeah, well maybe it’s someone YOU invited into the house another time, and they plan to come back to get ME!” Trixie replied. Impera couldn’t deny this possibility, so they kept their thinking caps on. Strike two.

Trixie then recalled from Buffy that crucifixes swayed in front of vampires seemed to keep them at arm’s distance. Even Buffy wears a simple crucifix around her neck. Now, our house is pretty thin on crucifixes. But wait! When we were in DC last winter, Trixie had stopped in a fancy bead shop, and she had purchased several pendants: some wooden animals, large glass bead shapes, and an ornate metal cross! She found a chain, and immediately adorned her neck with this ginormous cross.

OK. That was a good beginning. Then the girls got more and more excited about recreating Buffy’s tools. Now, no vampire slayer worth her salt ever leaves the house without a stake (Buffy even carries one in her backpack at school). Eureka! The girls ran to the bathroom and Trixie grabbed an orangewood cuticle stick. Crucifix: check. Stake: check check!!

But Trixie needed something else. Because when she was asleep, she wouldn’t be wearing the cross, right? And even if she was allowed to fall asleep with a stick in her hand (which she wouldn’t; I put my foot down), it would most likely fall as she slept, and when the vampire attacked her in bed, she’d be defenseless. Clearly, the goal would be to keep the vampire out altogether.

Then Impera shared another bit of wisdom. “Trixie! Vampires are creatures of habit. I read somewhere that they can’t pass a bowl of rice without sitting and counting every single one before they can move on.”

The proverbial lightbulb came on. We have rice. The vampire could be delayed long enough for Trixie to wake up and escape out her window. They ran downstairs, dumped the end of my bag of brown rice into a mug, and ran back up to Trixie’s room. Trixie then added one last touch: A craft she made at summer camp. “It’s a God’s eye, after all!” she practically sang. (Clearly, the vampire would burn itself on the God’s eye as it tried to count the grains of rice in the mug, and it would howl in pain. “Aaaaaaarghhh!”)

Since then, we have all been able to sleep soundly in our own beds. Trixie wears the cross pendant every day, the mug of rice with accompanying God’s eye stands sentinel outside her door, and, even if a vampire did happen to get past all these defenses, she could poke at it poke at it with her cuticle stick stake of eternal death.

Behold: Trixie, Vampire Delayer!

29 March 2006

Word Wednesday: Why the Dictionary is Fun to Read

If you hang around in word-obsessive circles (for example, associations of copyeditors) long enough, someone is bound to bring up the whole "hopefully" issue. You see, we all agree that "hopefully", as its parts imply, means "in a hopeful manner". So, "'May we have another bit of bread?' the urchin asked, hopefully" is correct, whereas it would be blasphemous to speak "Hopefully we'll get there before the concert starts!"

Notice a difference? No? Well, then, you just aren't paying attention. It's there, alright.

But this is one battle for which I've never felt much passion. At times I would attempt to remove "hopefully" from my conversational options, but it was always half-hearted and not worth much energy.

And perhaps because of said affiliation with wordy types, I find the following incredibly humorous. To you this usage note (found in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition) may sound extremely restrained. To me, well, imagine as you read this a small pale man in a bow tie, his shirt sleeves rolled up, his ink-stained fingers continuously pushing his sliding spectacles up the bridge of his nose.

usage: In the 1960s the second sense of hopefully [it is hoped: I hope: we hope { ~ the rain will end soon}], which dates to the early 18th century and had been in fairly widespread use since the 1930s, underwent a surge in popularity. A surge of criticism followed in reaction, but the criticism took no account of the grammar of adverbs. Hopefully in its second sense is a member of a class of adverbs known as disjuncts. Disjuncts serve as a means by which the author or speaker can comment directly to the reader or hearer usu. on the content of the sentence to which they are attached. Many other adverbs (as interestingly, frankly, clearly, luckily, unfortunately) are similarly used: most are so ordinary as to excite no comment or interest whatsoever. The second sense of hopefully is entirely standard.

Word up, brother! Punch that fist in the air! Stand up for the Common Man! Don't let those self-important Guardians of Language get away with it!

Sorry. Maybe it isn't so funny to you. But really, the dictionary is a fun read. Try it.

28 March 2006

Easily Distracted

Tax papers are almost all organized. So, of course, I find myself easily distracted. Kitchen Witch asks in the comments if I have other recipes like the snickerdoodles I can share. And I ask, Do you mean Amish recipes or cookie recipes?

If you mean Amish recipes, I suggest Shoo-fly Pie. Our family's first experience of this pie has a story behind it (and what do you know, there's alcohol involved!), and it goes like this:

We lived in a New Jersey suburban town, on a small street of small houses, but with big neighborly feeling. To our right lived Ray and Gail. He worked for the electric company, she was a nurse. They had one child (Little Ray), for whom they bought a motorcycle one year before he could get his motorcycle license, so he'd go a-round, and a-round, and a-ROUND the small house (on its small lot) on his bike, tearing up the grass and making alot of noise. But that isn't what this story is about. It's just a little bit of landscaping. Another bit of landscaping: Ray built a wooden porch by himself off their back door. So on Fridays, Ray would get off work at four, Gail would come off her shift at the hospital, and they would sip white wine on their back porch, (lots of white wine), and be all neighborly and chatty.

One day, our parents had decided we'd take a little weekend trip up to Amish country. So on Friday my father got home early from The City (New York, that is), my mother had packed up the tent and all the gear in the old Impala, and we kids were all jittery all day at school, looking forward to our mini-vacation! As we are driving out of the driveway, Ray saunters drunkenly over his front lawn to the window of the car. And he starts being neighborly. Chatting. The engine is running, my parents are being neighborly back to him, and it looks to us kids like we are going to be stuck here forEVER. If it wasn't clear from his walk that Ray had started the wine-sipping a little early this Friday, what he says when he is told that we are going up to Amish country for the weekend confirms it.

"Make sure you try some shhhhhhhhooo-flypie when you're up there. It's delishhhhhhous."

Yeah, sure, Ray. Whatever (you silly sot). The crazy talk of some drunks!

Imagine our surprise later that weekend when we have a meal at an "Authentic Amish Smorgasbord." There, on the dessert table, is this gooey, extra-sweet, molasses pie called Shoo-Fly Pie. "Hey, he wasn't totally out of his gourd! Rock on, Ray!" We thought as we overindulged in the sweetness. (Not that we said "rock on" for real. That's just to give you a sense of the frivolity of the moment.)

[Note: This pie is very sweet. And what we call molasses is what is called treacle in the UK (or so I've been told).]

If it is cookies you are after, then I suggest Peanut Butter Cookies. These remind me of the first summer after the Consort and I started dating. He went back home to the mountains and I stayed down in DC to work. He would send me care packages, which were very much appreciated by my entire dorm floor when they included baked goods. Although I was willing to share the mix tapes he'd include, nobody got a kick out of those like I did. Plus, you can't eat mix tapes. In the first care package I found a bag of home-baked peanut-butter cookies. These being a particularly "American" treat, I don't think I'd ever had them before. So, being the first time I had them, and being from my sweetie, I have a special place in my heart for peanut butter cookies.

[Note: The actual recipe is further down the page on the link I provided. This site will bear some investigating, I think: Cooking for Engineers, hmmm.]

27 March 2006

I'm Not Complaining, But...

When one is trying to do taxes, which includes tallying up what household expenses can be applied to costs of running a business with a home office, the following REALLY doesn't help:

Prior Account Balance: 55.04
Payments Received: 57.02
Total New Charges: 47.69


The most annoying problem: That the number I am looking for (Total New Charges) is often not the largest number on the page.

The most confusing problem: Weird numerology payment systems. Now, I understand sometimes it is easier to round up and pay a check for $56, rather than $55.04, and that would still be a PITA since it will mess up the next month's payment (and I would still have to look for the tiny Total New Charges rather than the large Total Amount Due). But why would writing a check for $57.02 to cover a statement for $55.04 make things easier for anyone?

Did I mention that the Consort is in charge of paying bills?

Not that I'd ever, in a million years, want to take over that chore. He does a fantabulous job! Yes, indeedy!

But why $57.02?

A Placeholder Post

Today is the first day back to school after Spring Break. And it is raining. Pretty apt, don't you think? (Well, for the girls, maybe. I don't mind it so much.)

Things I'd like to blog about: The continuation of the Trixie vampire saga, another supernatural event that happened during our Europe year, another drinking story (with other, more responsible, people being more drunk than me, for a change), music on the Web, update on knitting adventures, and maybe some politics (although I am, not purposefully, not paying much attention these days), the pros and cons of Ethanol use in cars (see Cowgirl, I haven't forgotten!), ...

But today is Get All the Papers Together for the Accountant to Finally Be Able to Do Our Taxes Day. So, fun stuff will have to wait.

Too bad for you.

Mega too bad for me.

25 March 2006

A True Fable

Circle in, friends, and bend your ear this way, hear a tale of the wondrous wacky world we call our own. This story happened during the year Imperatrix (before she acknowledged the mantle of power which was her birthright) and the Consort (before he was Consort, but was already consort) spent traveling the wide world (in this case, Europe and North Africa) during the year which should have been their Senior year of college. Why they chose this time of their lives to do this ramble is a story unto itself, and why the trip, which originally was anticipated to be eight months in Greece became much more international, is also its own bit of yarn, which deserves its own unraveling at another time.

I bring you to a time in the Spring of the year, during the five weeks Imperatrix and Consort did travel to the land of Socrates and Plato, Sappho and Homer. Let us circle in to the time they spent on the island of Santorini, whose long-slumbering volcano is thought by many to have made Santorini the truth behind the fabled Atlantis …

As in many places in Greece, we found lodgings in someone’s home. People would meet the trains (or, on the islands, the ferries) and offer a room for rent. On Santorini, we had our own small whitewashed room that opened up onto a walled courtyard, which provided an accessible bathroom as well as allowing entry and egress without disturbing the family’s living quarters. Santorini, being the crescent-moon shaped caldera of an ancient volcano, is often a very windy place. Ocean winds blow across it, swooping up the steep sloped cliffs of the island.

Our travel companion during this year was the Let’s Go: Europe guide. As our Cape Sounion story (another tale for another day) attests, this travel guide was not always the most dependable. But during our stay on Santorini, we trusted it without question. And one thing that it mentioned in passing, but that is confirmed in many places, is that Santorini is an island of vampires. We had a friend in DC, Jay, who believed in vampires wholeheartedly, and so we were not ignorant of the offbeat beliefs of some of our fellow travelers on this road of life. But we chuckled when we read this in our travel guide (“tee hee!”), and moved on to the ferry schedule paragraph of the Santorini section.

Every now and again during our travels we would find ourselves flush with cash (thanks to self-imposed poverty), and we would splurge on a nicer than usual dinner. So one night on Santorini, we had dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Fira with a gorgeous view of the ocean and the curving island’s arms to either side of us. A nearby bar was playing great music, so we lingered at our table as the sun set, listening to the music while enjoying our after-dinner ouzo. Finally, the waiter began to show his impatience with our constancy, so we got up and began to walk up the cobbled streets. As we passed the bar playing the great music, we noticed a sign advertising half-price shots that night. Who could resist? We couldn’t. So we walked in, sat at the bar, and ordered. Good music was still playing, so we ordered again. And maybe, even a third (or a fourth?) time.

We finally made it back to the walled courtyard and our room, without disturbing the neighborhood or our hosts, and tumbled into bed. Now, being young, we hadn’t yet become wise drinkers (who ensure that their intake of water equals the intake of alcohol [to mitigate the hangoverishness of drinking]), but we had that night been rather generous drinkers. So, after an hour or so of sleep, I woke up to empty my bladder. The wind had picked up tremendously while we slept, and I had to hold onto the screen door to make sure it didn’t bang against the wall as I made my way to the toilet. As is usual when two people share a bed, my midnight rambles had woken the Consort, who took his turn going out to the toilet after I came in.

Now, the mind is a wonderful thing. But it is rather susceptible to flights of fancy when (a) under the influence of alcohol and (b) half asleep because of said alcohol and (c) trying to make sense of all the whistling wind noises swirling in the courtyard and (d) regurgitating random bits of facts that are bubbling up to the conscious. While I was in the bed, waiting for the Consort to return from the toilet (which was taking a long time, in my opinion), I realized what any sane person would have realized was happening: The Consort had been bitten by a Santorini vampire during his trip to the toilet and was now on his way back to the room, to initiate me into the legions of the undead! My GOD, why hadn’t I realized this sooner?

There was no back exit from this room, the door and window both opened up on the courtyard, where he was readying himself for the kill. But an exit out the back wouldn’t have helped me, I realized, because, as I remember Jay saying, vampires move unnaturally fast, and there would surely have been one hiding back there to cut me off as I attempted my escape. I was DOOMED! And I became as nervous as my inebriated state allowed… Maybe if I pretended I was asleep? Maybe if I made certain my covers went up above my ears, I couldn’t be bitten? (As I had believed when I was a little girl afeared of vampires in her bed in suburban New Jersey.)

But then, HALLELUIAH!, I remembered something else Jay had said, which is common knowledge among humans: Vampires can’t come in unless they are invited! That would be how I could keep myself safe until morning—if the Consort asked to come in, as he surely would, being reincarnated as the spawn of the devil (I decided in rambled and rambling drunk-thought), then I would shout an emphatic NO—But…!

But, I didn’t want to get him angry (vampires are superhumanly strong, Jay had warned us), and I certainly didn’t want him to know I KNEW he was a vampire, so that I’d have time to jump on the next ferry leaving Santorini before he could catch me the following night. What to do? What to do?

I had it! When (no longer “if”) he asked if he could come in, I would answer, in deep sonorous tones:

I don't know, Consort, do you?”

Hah! That covered all the bases: (1) He wouldn’t be invited in, so, being a vampire, he wouldn’t be able to come in; and (2) I wouldn’t have antagonized him, so I’d be safe during the daylight hours to pack up and leave without fearing him stalking me!

I heard him approach… the screen door opened… he came in… and tumbled into bed. He wasn’t a vampire. Well, … I knew that. Yeah, I knew that. Sure. Ha-ha.

The next day I admitted my nocturnal alcohol-induced fears to the Consort. And he admitted he had a similar train of thought about me when I went to the toilet (“Imperatrix, you do whatever you think you can do.”).

Damn ouzo. Now, we stick to Sambuca.

24 March 2006

Trixie, Vampire Delayer, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, Trixie went to a sleepover birthday party. We were trying to think of something we could do with Impera that would be fun, but wouldn’t make Trixie feel like she had missed something by being out of the house (like, going out to eat or renting a movie we all wanted to see).

“Let’s rent Buffy the Vampire Slayer!” Impera said. Now, Buffy was one of the last TV series the Consort and I actually watched on TV, lo these many years ago. And Impera had been curious about it since then, when she would not be allowed to come out of bed and peek at the TV screen (she was 5 years old, folks, it just wasn’t appropriate) ( I admit, on those nights we would make a big deal about the girls getting to bed on time, because “Buffy was coming on in a few minutes”). Recently, when she had seen the discs at the video store, she had mentioned it, but “No, your sister’s too impressionable yet,” we’d say, and Trixie would hear us and shout across the video store, “No way do I want to see that!!!!”

So, yes, we decided to watch the first disc that night. It was fun for all because we hadn’t seen the first season of the series, so they were new to all three of us. We all enjoyed the piquant humor of the writing, Impera enjoyed getting to know these teenage characters, and the vampire bits were scary, but in a good way.

Then, Trixie came home. “Oh boy,” Impera said, “Buffy was so funny!” “There’s this character, Willow, and a boy named Zander, and help Buffy and they have cool adventures… I loved it!” And so on, and so forth. So the inevitable happened. Missed cool video is just as bad as a missed Olive Garden meal. “Trixie wants to see Buffy, too,” explained Impera. “Can we rent the next disc? I told her all about the show, and she says she won’t be scared when the vampires come on.”

Yes, we gave in. Having recently viewed it, we figured the vampires bits weren’t as bad as we remembered. Plus, Trixie is totally “into” sassy smart-mouthed teenage girls (Avril Lavigne, anyone?). We even managed to push from our minds the memory of the months of distressed nights after she accidentally watched an episode of one of those criminal mystery series, where a girl had been killed in her bed by a neighbor (We weren’t around when she saw this TV show, BTW. We were in a hotel, and we had told Impera and Trixie that they could watch TV in the room while we went down to the bar and taught our German exchange student how to play pool.)

So we watched. She laughed at the funny parts; she squealed at the scary parts, pulling the lap blanket up to her nose. She came to sit on my lap. “This is so scary this is soscarythisissoscary…” “Do you want us to stop the video?” we asked.—“No! It’s great!” she said.

Then we went to bed. Around midnight, both deep asleep, the Consort and I jerked awake when a nebulous eldritch form whispered right by our ears: “I can’t sleep because I AM FREAKING OUT!!!!!!!” We tried all three sleeping in the same bed, but that didn’t work, so the Consort lumbered off to Trixie’s bed, where he subsequently had a restful night’s sleep. I, on the other hand, was kept awake by toss, toss, turn, turn [stillness] turn, toss, toss, turn [stillness]. And on, and on. Eventually, she fell asleep, after making sure that one body part of hers was touching one body part of mine. And if by chance I turned over and broke the connection, the tossing and turning would start all over, until she had moved closer to me and regained physical contact. As you can guess, I woke up sore and cramped on the very edge of the bed, one leg and my face actually hanging off, numbed by loss of blood circulation.

...What will our heroes do? Will they ever sleep again? How will Trixie be able to live in a world gone vampire-ish? Tune in next time for Part 2 of “Trixie, Vampire Delayer”!

Scenes from the next episode:

Impera: “Vampires can’t come in unless they are invited.”
Trixie: “Maybe it’s someone YOU invited in another time, and they will come back to get ME!”[eerie music interlude]
Trixie [speaking to Imperatrix]: “How do I know YOU aren’t a vampire?”[organ crescendo]

23 March 2006

Cookie Saga

Last night the girls were going to have two friends come sleep over. These two are part of the homeschooling group of friends that we have, so our schedules don’t often mesh (meaning the girls were very excited about the upcoming sleepover). “Let’s make snickerdoodles for dessert for when J &F are here,” said Impera. “Sure, we can make cookies if you want, but I’ve found this recipe for homemade Thin Mints—you wanna try that?” I asked.

So we did. She helped me mix the batter, then we flattened it into a disc and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes, just like the recipe said. First mistake. Either other people’s freezers aren’t as powerful as ours, or the recipe designer meant refrigerator. When I took out the disc of batter, it was solid as a rock! That kind of turned off Impera, so she deserted me to go read a Parenting magazine she had borrowed from the library. I pushed, and pushed, and finally our marble rolling pin got the batter thin enough to cut out the shapes. (I’m not sure I got it down to 1/8-inch, as the recipe required, but close enough!).

They baked up very easily, they cooled every easily, and then it was time to glaze them with the peppermint-chocolate coating. The recipe called for one pound of chocolate. “That is too much!” I thought, so I only used 3/4 pounds. Second mistake. We still had so much left over that I made some mint chocolate pastilles to snack on later. (But that really belongs at the end of the story.)

The melted chocolate was really too thick. The recipe said you were supposed to coat each one separately, bring it out of the melted chocolate on a fork, and tap the fork on the side of the bowl until the extra chocolate dripped off (now maybe I understood how a whole pound of chocolate could be used). But the beauty of Thin Mints, to me, it the thinness of the chocolate coating. So I cursed a bit, and the Consort came into the kitchen to help. “It’s too thick!” I cried. “Here, let me thin it with some milk,” he offered. I thought that was a dandy idea. Third mistake. It seems that when one adds milk to melted chocolate over a double boiler, one gets fudge. Hmmm. I cursed some more, blamed the Consort, scraped out the batch of fudge, and started again with more chocolate (good thing I had purchased an extra bag of chocolate, “for next time”).

I really didn’t feel I had the time to spend ten minutes per cookie (in a batch of 4.5 dozen) tapping and tapping until each was covered with a thin coating. So I improvised and coated only half of each cookie. Eureka! After I was done, I went and gave the Consort a kiss and apologized for blaming him for the fudge mishap, since I had no idea the fudge thing would happen, either; I called the kids and gave them a plate of cookies to take back upstairs to eat as part of their 21st century D&D game (spies and Martians rather than trolls and orcs); and I settled down to eat my own serving of homemade thin mint cookies.

22 March 2006

Word Wednesday: Brought to you by the Letters I, N, and T

When I told Cecil that I had a blog, and I did a themed Wednesday post every week, he said "You have got to blog about this!" So, this being Spring Break and all (i.e. a lazy week), I bring you Cecil's "this":


....pint? Pint?

What's up with that?

Follow-up: It seems that now verbing nouns is out, and adjectiving them is in:

"Everybody knew that this program was very impactful for kids, that it was a great supplement to what teachers were doing." Entire article here.

21 March 2006

Dancing Rabbit Trip Recap, Updated with Photos

Note to self: When the blogger’s away, the commenters do play … in weird ways (I ask again, TOOD? And F.U.T.?).

Photos are at my new flickr site. I haven't quite figured it out. If you want to see the photos in the order I think is best, click on the Dancing Rabbit set. But if you do the slideshow, you miss all the comments I inserted to explain what you're seeing. Sigh.

The trip to Dancing Rabbit was great! Too short, as always. The community is really growing: There is a member family with three kids (ages 4, 7, and 9), one of the couples is expecting a child in the summer, and this year is going to be wedding-central (three weddings in the next nine months). It is expanding physically, too. While we were there we sat in on a meeting discussing the look for the upcoming town center, and a new neighborhood is opening up for construction of new warrens (that’s what they call plots of developed land).

We went just to visit with friends and take a bit of time off, but all four of us came back thinking seriously about Dancing Rabbit as a possibility for us. I admit, every time we return from a DR visit, we have a few days of yearning for it, but this time was different.

Yes, we are going through a frustrating time being yanked around on the tenure merry-go-round. But it isn’t like the Consort and I haven’t discussed this type of change before. There are real reasons that I wouldn’t want to move to a megalopolis like Boston, New York, or DC (we’re East-Coasters, so those are the three that come to mind). I feel alienated enough from nature here in a midwestern city. We’ve been drifting from the consumer culture for years (and those of us who know us, realize that). I’m just not cut out for chi-chi clothing, sparkly baubles and the latest makeup, fancy new cars, climbing the corporate ladder, training my kids to compete in the private school / country club league, and so on.

There are several issues that we would have to work out first: Education for the girls (our current city has a fantastic program for accelerated kids, but if we had to move, would we find something comparable somewhere else anyway?) Saving for college for the girls (one perk about academia is that there is typically a consortium deal with other institutions so that professors’ kids can go at a reduced rate [And let me tell you, profs need that because it isn’t like they make more than interns do in corporate jobs. I’m serious here.]). Saving for retirement for the Consort and I (Right now we are contributing to the Consort’s 401k, with matching funds from the University. Because of the low income levels I talked about above, we really haven’t been able to do anything else for me [other that Social Security, which will be all cleaned out by the time I am ready to retire, anyway], although it’s always on the to-do list.). Medical care for all of us (How I wish the U.S. was a civilized society where health care coverage wasn’t dependent on working for The Man a structured business!).

Those are the drawbacks (which I don’t see as insurmountable). The pros are: Living our beliefs (earth stewardship, sustainability), focusing on what’s important to us (family), and community, community, community. When was the last time you (the general “you”) were able to squeeze in a game night with friends? Or had a project to finish and had folks just show up to help? Visited with a neighbor? Cooked with people you like to hang out with? Harvested, canned, and dried (with help from friends) the food from your garden, which would take you through the winter? Participated in a sewing circle, a knitting round, a crochet square (I’m getting silly here)? Watched a movie with friends, had an evening of fiddle-playing and dancing, sang around a bonfire, cooled off in a pond? These things all happen on a regular basis at DR, and these are all things that appeal to us four.

I took some pictures (but because it is me, there aren’t tons of them). I will post an update later today when I get them up.

So, how was your weekend?

17 March 2006

Dancing Rabbit!!

We’re going down to Missouri for the weekend, to visit our friends at Dancing Rabbit ecovillage. Huzzah! The girls were hoping for warm weather, so they could swim in the pond, but mid March is still too cold for that. I’m planning to take pictures, because I don’t think anyone we know has ever been there.

Shameless plug: Of course, if you have watched FX Network’s series “30 Days”, you may have seen Cecil, Tony, Tamar, and the rest of the Rabbits in the episode “Off the Grid”, when two dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers had to spend one month living at DR. The series is the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock (the guy who did the movie Supersize Me). The Rabbits have all sorts of stories about the filming (they say, like anyone who has been involved in reality TV, that some of it didn’t happen quite as it was portrayed in the final product). If you have the chance, give it a peek. What’s nice about Spurlock is that he includes facts and information about the topic at hand, so you do come away feeling like you’ve learned something.

But back to us and DR. The Consort and I were involved in the beginning of this project, back in California [I still remember a phone call when I first mentioned the idea of an ecovillage to my mother. She hung up on me (!), called one of my sisters, and cried, “We paid for college and she’s just going to drop it all to raise sheep!” (Let’s not get into the fact that college was all loans taken out in my name, and that the woman at times still has a hard time understanding that at 38 I am an adult and can make my own choices…but no, I’m not still sore about it)]. [I also remember going to eco-fairs and manning the Dancing Rabbit table. So often these blue-haired ladies would come up to us and in all seriousness say, "You shouldn't name it Dancing Rabbit, because rabbits do terrible terrible damage to your garden. No one would want to be a dancing rabbit!"]

But it was a lot of talk—for a loooong time—then I got pregnant, and we needed to make some decisions. The other members weren’t ready to make a decision, so we bought land in Vermont and moved more in the background of the project. The initial group decided to buy land in Missouri (“The midwest!” I shouted when I heard. “Who in their right minds would move to the midwest!” Two years later, where do we end up? You know the answer: The midwest.)

Anyway, we love going to visit, the Consort is on their Board of Directors, and let me tell you, if they were located in the woodsy Northeast, we wouldn’t be waiting around for Mr. Duck U. to yank us around any longer.

So go visit their site, have fun, and we’ll see you on Monday!

16 March 2006

People, you have got to go to Daily Mumps and check out yesterday's picture.

Go. Go now!

(And no, I do not know these folks.)


I think the Imperator Consort is seeing someone. And that he is bringing her to our house.

I’ve been finding blonde hairs all over the place, and they are too short to be Trixie’s.

I’ve been finding them on the couch, on the carpet, on the towels in the bathroom, everywhere!

I don’t know when he’s bringing her here (I do work from home after all) and I can’t believe that he—wait. Is that blonde, or is it—perhaps—gray?

Hmmm, let me see that.

. . .

Uh, never mind. They’re mine.

15 March 2006

Word Wednesday: Misplaced Food

Lest you begin to think that Word Wednesdays = Excuse to Complain, today I just mention something I’ve noted. It seems that people around the world feel that food terms need to be “placed”, and often, they are placed incorrectly.

For example, French fries. In French, they are just frites [fries]. And in actuality, the Belgians are much more famous for their fries than the French. Every little village had at least one Friture, where you could go pick up fresh, hot, just-fried-in-beef-fat, fries. (The French enjoyed making the Belgians squirm in the 1980s when they would often drop in conversation that friture was the fat used in making fries, and that friterie was the actual term for the place one went to purchase frites. The Belgians huffed, they puffed out their cheeks, stated to everyone around them that the French were insufferable snobs, … and a few years later all the shops names were changed to Friterie.)

Another example: Belgian waffles. Really, we understand where the confusion has come in. Because, again, the Belgians are renowned for their waffles. For instance, there are gaufres de Bruxelles ("Brussels waffles", what in the U.S. is meant by Belgian waffles)—puffy, large-holed, crispy batter treats. But in Belgium, you have it as a gouter [afternoon snack], with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fruit. But when one purchases a waffle iron in Belgium, you get a variety of plates, so you can also make thinner, small-holed cookie-type gaufres. And in Liège, during the October Fair, you can buy Lackmans, which are two of the thin waffles, sandwiching a thick sticky apple goo (called sirop de Liège [syrup of Liège]). Mmm, mmm, good.

And let’s not forget French dressing and Russian dressing. Neither of those countries would take ownership of these two mayonnaise-based sauces. But that’s OK. The French speakers of the world have gotten even with the U.S. by calling raw chopped beef combined with (raw) egg, (again, raw) onion, and capers Filet Americain. And I have never met an American who would willingly eat the stuff. Even before mad cow disease.

And just so you didn’t think I was being eurocentric, let me mention to you that if you went to China and asked for “General Tso’s Chicken”, which is a staple in all Chinese restaurants in the U.S., the people would look at you with a blank look on their face. It seems that General Tso was a 19th century warrior, particularly apt at crushing Muslim rebels. And that the dish we in the U.S. relish is not really worthy of a war general. Maybe his peasant foot soldiers ate it, but surely not him.

So where does this all leave us? Nowhere in particular. I just thought is was interesting. And it reminded me that I should ask my mother to bring me back some sirop de Liège sometime soon!

13 March 2006

Too Busy Commenting

Sorry, I spent too much time commenting here (The Rat Tale), at KW's, and at KathyF's this morning to be able to write up a decent post.

I'm trying to get a week's worth of work done in 3 days, because Spring Break starts on Thursday, and I'd like to be able to take it easy when the Imperatrixes in Training are home. Ergo, Rush! Rush! Rush!

So check out the comments, and add some. I'm sure I'll have time to respond to any continuing comments (since responding didn't take quite as long as a post would have, so I've got a bit of time left to chat with [does that reasoning make sense, or is it only self-delusional?]).

10 March 2006

A Rat Tale, Updated

Updated 13:30 (Do you guys realize how difficult it is to snap a photo of a rat? She's like a 3 year old little girl: "What are you doing? Are you taking a picture of me?! This is my best side. Helllloooooo in there! Is this the screen? Oooh, that's shiny! What does this button do?"-- So the pictures are probably way too big, and they'll take forever to download. But YOU ALL ASKED FOR IT!)

For Valentine’s Day, Trixie made little paper heart valentines for each of the animals, which she attached to a small treat. The cat completely ignored his. The dog said, “Thanks very much for this biscuit, but did you notice there’s this bit of paper stuck to it? Oh, never mind, I tore it off, now I can eat the biscuit!” The rat, who is hers (and Trixie takes her responsibility seriously), got to see the pink heart through the bars of her cage, but the treat of special seeds and nibbles was placed in the rat’s food bowl, and the heart remained on the desk.

During one of her desk perambulations three weeks ago, the rat became curious about the pink heart. Mostly, she was curious about the bit of tape still stuck to it. So she began to nibble. And nibble. Being the softie that I am, I let the rat have her valentine. It’s just a piece of paper, right? And rats in the wild eat such terrible things, a bit of paper can’t hurt. (I did remove the tape, though.)

Trixie was a bit worried at first, but she’s a first-time mom, after all. The rat brought the pink heart into her little wooden house, and we would see a corner of it peek out the door, from time to time, when the rat was rearranging her living space.

Last week, for some reason, after Trixie changed the litter in her cage, the rat decided to move house up to the eating platform, and she brought up a large piece of brown paper towel and some bits of litter material to line her new cozy house/food bowl (it’s all the rage among young urban rats this season, I hear).

And, to decorate her new home, she brought—you guessed it, the valentine. It’s been nibbled a bit on one lobe, but it’s too cute to see her snuggle up to it when she’s sleeping.

1. See that little pinkness on the left? That's the valentine.

2. Once she woke up, I had to bribe her back into her bed with a kibble. You can see more of the valentine.

3. Here she is, face on. Again, a wee bit of the valentine is also visible below her.

09 March 2006

The Code of Excision

“There are too many short pencils in this cup.” The Imperatrix has her aides sort them into two groups, short stubby pencils on the right, long easy-to-use ones on the left. If there is one thing she cannot stand, it is a stubby pencil.

The short pencils can do nothing about this. As it ever was, so it shall ever be—the Code of Excision. They serve at the pleasure of the Imperatrix. And they know it.

“Wait!” All attention turns to the Ampad pencil who has shouted. “I’m not that short! I shouldn’t be in this pile!”

“What do you mean?” the Imperatrix booms. The pencils’ splinters shiver at her commanding tone.

“Just look at me…I—,” now that the Ampad has her attention, his resolve is weakening. He glances around frantically. “… I’m not shorter than that Ticonderoga over there!”

“Shut up!” hisses the Ticonderoga out of the corner of his mouth.

“It’s a mistake! I’ve got plenty more Sudoku scribbling in me, and I’d be great at that economics project you edit on hard copy, I know it…” But it is too much. The Ampad can’t hold up beneath the Imperatrix’s steely stare; his eyes slide nervously over his compatriots, all of them ignoring his piteous looks for support. If he can’t take this like a trunk, then they will have nothing more to do with him. It is the Code—how dare he pollute their final moments with this unacceptable show of weakness?

The weight of the realm tugs too strongly at the Imperatrix for her to spend much time on such a trivial matter. When nothing is forthcoming from the Ampad, she motions to her aides.

“Hans, you know what to do.”

Her mind is already on other things as the stubby pencils are dispatched to the trash can, the remaining pencils returned to the cup (albeit with a very pale Ticonderoga), and quiet descends once more on the kitchen.

As it ever was, so it shall ever be.

08 March 2006

Word Wednesday: Why Shit but not F***

Five years ago:

Impera (singing): Chuck, chuck, bo-buck, banana fana fo-f-(oooooh!)
(pregnant pause)
Consort: Why did you stop singing?
Impera: Because that next word was a BAD word.
Consort: How did you know that was a bad word?
Impera: Because Mommy uses it, and I don’t know what it means. If Mommy uses a word that I don’t know, usually that means that it’s a BAD word.

Now, I know enough about the Internet that I understand that much of the volume of Web searches is of a sexual nature. I would prefer that teenage boys, lonely men, unimaginative men, etc., stay off my site. Considering that the post in which I used both these words also had the word “rape” in it, I may already get some weird searches. If someone reading this was directed here by a Google search of this kind, Get off my site now, you deranged ^ sicko ^ male ^ pervert! (Note: ^ = spit).

But beyond that particular post, because honestly I didn’t think twice (twees?) when I wrote out the one and euphemized the second, I consider bad language to be on a sliding scale from the slightly vulgar to the incredibly obscene. In this day and age, shit is slightly vulgar, but nothing more. I know how to control myself (despite what my spouse and children think) (and most of my lapses have to do with the idiocy of our current political leaders), and I don’t think I’ve used f*** (uneuphemized) with friends. Family, yes (but isn’t that the joy of sisters getting together?).

And audience counts for a lot. Consider for a moment this incident about two years ago. Impera was upset with me because that morning, on the drive to school, she said I used a bad word in describing an inept driver, IN FRONT OF OUR CARPOOL PARTNER. I became worried. I remembered the driver in question, but I couldn’t remember what I had said. “Shit!” I thought, “what did I say??!” It turned out I had called the driver (now, get ready, and promise me you won’t think any less of me) “stupid”. Phew! It took incredible strength of will on my part to not start laughing. That’s not at all what I expected.

Another example: The word “bloody”. It is my understanding that in the UK one wouldn’t accept polite children or business underlings saying that word to their betters (is that still true?). Here in the States, when one says “bloody”, it is said with no freight whatsoever, in fact, it’s pretty much a joke. (But any Brits reading this, don’t worry, when you come over here and pat our cat and say “what a sweet pussy”, some of us have to put our fingers to our eyelids to keep the eyeballs from popping out.)

I won’t provide you with a list of words from vulgar to obscene. On this site I think I’ve used shit, hell, and the euphemisms frack, frick, f***, and mother. Oh, I may also have use the word “ass”. But I will tell you that I will refuse to talk to anyone who uses the T word or the C word. Abso-frickin-lutely.

This post isn’t as tight as I’d like, but it’s all you’re going to get (Hah. Just imagine what the word “tight” is going to do to the weird Google searches [Scram you obsessed loserly losers!]). I’d be interested to hear what others think of the gradation, or lack thereof, of strong language. Thoughts anyone?

07 March 2006

Random Blogging

People have been nice and leaving comments to my posts, but recently I haven’t responded to them. That’s not very nice. After all, I was the one who wanted a forum for conversation with friends old and new. So, I’ll be responding to questions you all left at the end of this post (because I don’t think it’s as easy for general readers to know when a comment has been left at a much later date than the post).

The reason I haven’t responded so much is that I’m trying to find a happy medium between posting and checking the blog once a day, and checking back continuously, so that all of a sudden I look up and, golly gee, it’s 2 o’clock! Not a very good use of time, indeed. So I dedicated one chunk of time to writing up a few posts, and I’ve tried just cutting and pasting a pre-written post in the morning. Well, there’s not a lot of life in that, is there? And, since I’ve typically been a last-minute person (I can’t think of a single paper I wrote in college where I could have handed it in early!), maybe I just can’t write that way.

So don't give up, keep reading (and my regular readers who don’t comment: just give it a try, won’t you? You might enjoy it). It is funny, I think, how some people are blog readers and some just aren’t. I’ve given the link to several friends, and some haven’t even visited once. I’ve also given the link to my sibs-in-law, and one visited once, the other never. In fact, one of my sibs (I won’t say who it is) originally said reading blogs seemed a bit dirty, like snooping in someone’s diary (well, except I want folks to read it). Hah. That was before she became addicted, I suppose, because she comes here all the time. (But she feels that her comments induce 24-hour silence on the list…)

I have a dilemma (let’s see who is still reading here in the middle of the post). There are currently two blogs that I read consistently that I haven’t put in my links list. Because one is a guy who from time to time talks about his love of visits to lap dancing establishments and his salivation for all the sexy co-eds where he teaches. And the other is a woman who I’m pretty sure got divorced because she cheated on her husband (he was clueless about the impending breakup). So, see, I don’t really respect these people, but I read their blogs. But I wouldn’t want my readership to think that I am condoning their type of behavior. I don’t think I’d be friends with them if I ever met them. The dilemma: should I keep reading these folks? I think I should just stop. But part of me wants to know what happens to them… Aaargh.

Now, as to some of what we’ve been discussing: 1) Ave Maria: I still disagree with Cowgirl and the Consort. If the guy wanted to have a small private fiefdom, fine—as long as it was kept private. Once the town becomes incorporated, it’s a different story. Now he can use my tax dollars to fund his wackiness. Think of Utah. They had to change their religion before they were accepted into the Union. That’s what I’m talking about. 2) Why can I say shit but not f***? Aha, I will use that tomorrow for Word Wednesday. 3) KW worried that the cat was on his way out because of the dog’s post. Never fear! Those two are really great friends. Right now the dog is in a bit of a post-surgery funk, that’s all. But I have to admit the cat definitely likes to test his limits; he knows when he’s getting close to bugging the dog. And he tries to stay right on the line between what she will ignore and what will get her goat. I’m pretty sure he likes it that way. 4) As to why we waited 5 years to spay the dog: That’s one of the problems of marrying into a pure-breed show-dog family. When they give you a dog, you pretty much have to have a litter of puppies to continue the line. And we did. Of course, I was the one who had to stay up all night, making sure the runt got enough food. I was the one who had to deal with all the puppy poop everywhere. So I’d been working on the Consort ever since the puppies. “Look how much cheaper it would be to register a spayed dog vs. a bitch”, “We won’t be showing her anymore, so we really shouldn’t produce any more puppies from her line”, “I will not be staying up all night anymore”, and so on. One day I will blog about how she got pregnant that time… But now, I really have to get to work!

06 March 2006

In Which the Dog Guest-Blogs

My life sux rox. It all started last Wednesday, when She offered to take me for a walk first thing in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised. Usually, I’m just shooed out back before the sun has a chance to heat up the yard, and I freeze my toes trying get back inside as quickly as possible. But a walk! That’s my favorite.

It was a nice long walk, better than the typical two blocks. I should have become wary when we entered That Place. That Place that smells of fear and loathing: cats, dogs, studs, bitches, and those peculiar types like Dulce the big St. Bernard that used to live across the street (no matter how “in the mood” I would be, he would just ignore me and amble on, lumpedy lump).

Anyway, I really did get worried when they tried to get me behind the swinging door, and She wasn’t coming along. I sat down and refused to budge. She finally came next to me and together we went through the swinging doors. But then all of a sudden She was gone and they brought me to one of those metal kennels. (I hate those, they’re all hard and grid-like when you try to sit in them—even with layers of newspaper on the bottom).

Funnily enough, I must have dozed off, because the next thing I know, I’m being brought to one of the smaller rooms, and She and my two Sisters are waiting for me. I’m feeling pretty tired, woozy, and a bit numb on my belly. They are all cooing around me and pick me up to take me to the car. (Good thing, too, because I kept losing my balance and tripping.)

As the afternoon wore on, I was feeling all out of sorts. I definitely seemed to have a balance problem, I wasn’t interested in food, and there were these itchy little bugs clasping onto my belly. (Probably the damn cat. He’s always hanging around with the wrong crowd outside and bringing back unwelcome guests) Anyway, I didn’t understand it because whenever I tried to get those bugs off my belly, my People would stop me—scolding, moving my face, and in the end using the firm “No” voice. Good thing I was tired and could just fall asleep on them.

Thursday morning is when the sucking rocks thing started. He came back from driving one of my Sisters to school carrying the most dread torture device I had ever seen. Not only did it keep me from gnawing at those itchy bugs (And man! Were they getting itchy!), but I kept banging into doorways and walls; plus it made me look like a fool. See?:

At first, the cat steered clear of me. I heard him. He thought I didn’t but I heard when he mumbled, “Dude, I have no idea what you did wrong, but I am staying the frack away from you! I’ve got my rep’ to be careful of, y’know?” But now he sticks his face right into mine, his stupidass cat breath up my nose, teasing me. But I just snap a bit and he’s outta there! This turf is still mine. I’m allowing him to stay here, but only because he does such a good job licking my ears. And really, the boy has no idea how to do a good butt clean. What would he do without me?

Anyway, last night in my kennel I was able to pull off the torture device, and I tried to destroy it. But this morning, they cleaned it up, duct-taped the raw edges, and put it back on.

Like I said, my life sux rox.


03 March 2006

Where I've Been

Sheesh. You’d think that a year of hanging out on a continent would result in more than a pinky-nail sized splotch!
Where in the world have you been?

Good thing we visited South Dakota before all the politicians ate aflatoxin-laced peanuts and went crazy.

Create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

I Really, Really, REALLY Don't Understand Judges

Two judges, two states, two idiots?

First, there is the case of Travis Frey, a 33-year-old Iowan who wrote up a "Contract of Wifely Duties." When his wife wouldn't sign it, he tied her up and sexually assaulted her at least three times. There is a question as to whether the Contract will be allowed as evidence because the judge in question deems it hearsay. Excuse me? My Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, defines hearsay evidence as "evidence based not on a witness' personal knowledge but on another's statement not made under oath." Well, 1) I would imagine the wife is a real witness, no? And 2) we have a copy of the contract (see the Smoking Gun's publication of the 4-page graphic document (note: it is graphic). And on top of that, 3) the police confiscated his computer, which had "illegal" pictures on it. From the tone of the contract, this guy was pretty cock-sure, so I bet there is a copy of the contract on the computer as well. Three different places to find it, and none of them seem like hearsay to this civilian.

Then we have the Illinois sexual assault case where, on Tuesday, a judge threatened a young woman with contempt of court if she didn't watch the videotape of her assault. People, she had answered questions from the prosecution and defense for about an hour -- she was being a compliant witness. Now, she was unconscious during the rapes. So please tell me how reviewing the tape could be seen as helping her "jog" her memory? Second, tell me who, in consensual sex, says,"First I'm going to drink myself into a stupor, then you and your buddies can f*** me. Oh, and when you're done, I want you to spit on me and write derogatory terms on my thighs and abdomen."

As an update, On Wednesday the judge backed off, saying, "I am not going to force her to watch the video during cross-examination. I don't believe Adrian Missbrenner's case is being injured." No shit, Sherlock.

Where is the common sense? Why should these decisions even for a moment have been considered as the right thing to do?

02 March 2006

As If We Didn't Already Have Enough Reasons to Not Support Domino's

If Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan has his way, a new town being built in Florida will be governed according to strict Roman Catholic principles, with no place to get an abortion, pornography or birth control. . .

Sorry, the only link I've got is to the NYT article. Sign in -- it's free.

New Café

We have some friends who just opened a café in our neighborhood. This is a good thing. We have several sub shops, an art film theater, a Hip Hip clothiers, two hairdressers, but no café. On rare occasions, I have taken the girls for a morning at Starbucks. We either write or read, listen to funky music, and drink a frothy concoction. But Starbucks, despite having been started by a handful of cool Stanford grads, has become too much of a convention. Plus, we have to drive to it. So a neat new place to go, within walking distance, sounds about perfect.

On Tuesday night, the Consort and I went to their pre-opening party. Free food, free drinks, lots of body heat, and many wooden tables and chairs. Not bad (except for the body heat part). Now, let me share the menu with you: organic and fair trade coffees and teas (great!), from-scratch pastries and tortes (alright!). Sounds perfect. But then, wait a sec, we also see wine, international beer, and microbrews (oooookay), as well as hummus and artisanal cheeses (errrr…).

And the hours? 6:30 am to 11 pm. Seven days a week.

Now, I do not consider myself a business genius. (Honestly, I don’t consider myself a genius at anything… Well, only rarely… and I always deserve it…) But doesn’t this business plan strike anyone else as a bit overextended? Whatever happened to that old chestnut, “know your niche”? Is it no longer a chestnut?

And that’s not all! I peeked in on their first morning. Let’s support local business, right? I ordered a loose-leaf ginger tea. Cool, they spoon it in your very own mesh bag, right in front of your eyes! $1.75—$1.86 with tax (not bad, not bad). I only had a twenty dollar bill on me, and “Well, umm, let me see if I’ve got change in my wallet,” says the owner. He doesn’t. The cash register doesn’t. He hands a $20 bill back to me. I push it back—I came in here to support local business, not get free handouts! I see a $10 bill. I suggest that he give me $10 back and the rest will be a tab they can start for me. OK. So he writes on a piece of paper “Imperatrix: TAB: $10”. But wait, I note, it isn’t $10 anymore, because I’ve bought the tea, right? “Oh yeah!” and he painstakingly does long-hand math and lets me know that I have $8.14 still on the tab.

It’s the first day of business. Even regular folks having garage sales know to start out the day with plenty of change, don't they? At least, that's been my experience.

I sure hope this business venture flies.

But I better get the girls in there soon and use up my tab. Just in case.

01 March 2006

Word Wednesday: Verbing Nouns

Let me start out by saying, yes, I know that this isn’t a new phenomenon*. In fact, some verbing is necessary. For example, what am I doing right now? I am blogging (v.)—that is, writing and sharing on my blog (n.)—my Web (adj., n.) log (n.). And so on and so forth, into the depths of time. When the first word was a gruff … “Mine!” (followed by a thwack! as the Neanderthal emphasized his ownership of the last haunch of semi-roasted meat).

But really, with a language as replete with words as the English language, do we need to destroy any last vestiges of everyday poetry by using wretched verbed nouns?

Do we need to “dialogue” with our children about talking to strangers on the street?

Is “gifting” someone a book on Amazon the best we can do?

When we have a problem with a co-worker, can we do no better than “interfacing” with them to solve it?

Can we really be so disappointed that Bode Miller didn’t “medal” at all in Torino?

And, my least favorite: Must I really know that the current unrest in the Middle East continues to “impact” fuel prices around the world? (It is my least favorite because, to me, using impact in this way conveys the essence of constipation, discomfort, and cramps…blech.)

So please, let’s talk with our children, purchase gifts for our loved ones, resolve misunderstandings with our colleagues, move beyond Bode’s disappointing Olympic results (because there's always another competition around the bend), and contemplate the effects of civil unrest on our nasty drug habit: oil addiction.

Because language isn’t a business plan.

Because action words should have charisma.

Because I don’t like being reminded of constipation.

*I really should start all my Wednesdays with this asterisk representing the disclaimer, so that I don’t have to say it every time.