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 July 2006

The Perks of Blogging

Wow. I can understand now why some bloggers see their blogs as income producers. You remember my post on Friday, about Jest Red wine? Well, the folks at Jest Wines saw my post (the beauty that is technorati, I'm guessing), and they liked what they saw. (They said I "totally got what they are about", the blogger says, smugly.) So they offered to send a few bottles as a thank you. Rock on, Jest Wines people!

Now one thing I am, is a fast learner. So really, I just wanted to say to you all how cool it is that Toyota has come out with the Prius. Unfortunately, when our car got smashed 18 months ago, they were on back order (way back), so we weren't able to consider it. The Honda Civic Hybrid was super cool, but it is all fitted out with leather seats and XM satellite radio, which ups the price beyond what a freelancer and an academic's family can afford (and really, Honda, the Consort is one of the few and the proud which educates the next generation of Honda employees and Honda executives' dependents, remember that!)

And, being the radical environmentalists we are, at heart, I just wanted to shout out to Real Goods that we think they do a fantabulous job selling folks products for an ecologically sustainable future. If we could, we would refit our house with all sorts of great products like solar panels, so we could get off the grid, and maybe even give something back to the community; a solar-powered water pump; maybe convert to geothermal heating; and definitely get a high-efficiency refrigerator like SunFrost.

But you know, sometimes surprises are the best.

Oh, and Oxford? Impera was very impressed when we visited the UK a couple of years ago, and has been talking ever since about maybe doing her studies at your prestigious institution when she gets to college age (only 6 years away!). I told her that I've heard say that maybe the whole Oxbridge rep has become overstated in the past decades, but she has a lot of faith in that new committee the government established that is charged with strengthening your academic results. Anyway, if you think about it, maybe having an intelligent young spokesperson for your school may be the way to go. (What's the cost of one full-ride scholarship in comparison with the income potential from heightened international interest? Think about it. I've got plenty of sidebar space -- let's talk.)

28 July 2006

Fun With Wine

Last night, at our weekly potluck, we opened up a bottle of red wine, and I fell in love. I was intrigued before the bottle was opened. You see, it was one of those random cheap bottles of wine the Consort brings home from the wine shop, just in case we want to imbibe, without snobbishness. Yes, I can be a wine snob if I choose: I prefer red to white, I prefer dry to sweet, and a small amount of Good Wine can be preferable to a large amount of vinegar. But sometimes, you don’t want the heaviness, or the expense, of Good Wine.

“Giddy pleasure, leaping grace … this red wine, blended from seven noble grape varietals, was crushed by the bare feet of 69 beautiful women in the wee light of dawn one misty October day.”

The Consort tells me we probably have about $2,000 worth of wine down in the basement (excuse me, in the caaaaahve). (I don’t know if this includes our homemade wines or not [but really, who can put a price tag on our Cherry Berry or the delicious Black Currant we took camping with us?]). Some of it is wine for those times we relish in our snobbishness, and some of it is questionable. Questionable in the sense that we don’t know yet if it is good, not in the sense of “hmm, I ran out of silver polish, will this do, d’y’think?” Because of the label, I hoped that last night’s wine would make the cut. Not to Good Wine (that would have been asking too much), but to good wine.

“The nose is deeply perfumed with wild dewberries, Himalayan breeding musk and horehound candy, while the flavors, so titillating they may only be disclosed in the Ecstatic Singing Mantra, will remain cloaked in silence until the bottle is uncorked.”

I like my winemakers to have a sense of humor. This is one reason why I like Frog’s Leap organic wine ("Time's fun when you're having flies"; but nope, last night’s was not Frog’s Leap). At the bottom of their labels, they have a note which reads, “Open other end.” Those are my kind of guys.

And now, I’ve found another table wine I can serve with a smile. Jest Red. They also make a Jest White and a Jest Pink (but I stopped doing pink wine in college). I don’t know about those. But if you are ever looking for a wine that’s fun to read while you drink, try Jest Red.

“Sip delicately, sing with abandon.”

27 July 2006

Getting Your Priorities Straight

The girls have been using an older PowerBook for their RPG (role-playing game [think Dungeons and Dragons]) adventures (let’s call it Gamer), but this PowerBook had lost the capability to recharge its battery. This was a bit of a problem because Gamer also didn’t recognize the power cord. So we kludged together a system where they would play for about an hour, save and shut down Gamer, switch out the drained battery with the fresh one in my PowerBook (let’s call it Workhorse), and start up Gamer again and get another hour’s worth of playing time. This was a bit awkward, but it worked. Until Workhorse decided that its electrical system was going to become wonky, too. It sometimes would not charge up a battery, just sit happily at 23% charge and use power from the power cord.

Workhorse also freezes up if the power cord is disconnected unexpectedly (but isn’t this portability supposed to be the beauty of laptops?). There have been a few times, in the middle of a project, that I’ve justifiably been stressed about getting things done on time, what with my files irretrievable, and switching data from CD backups onto our even older iMac (GranPoppa) to be able to move forward on my deadline-driven work.

Now, one of the academic perks which makes up for the low salary of professors is the new computer you get through the university every few years. The Consort just brought home a new laptop. A sweet little MacBook with tons of memory and extremely fast processor speed (so let’s call it The Puppy [“look at that puppy run!”]). He’ll need it from time to time to run some data, but he’s happy to share its use with the family.

Create a cascading priority list makes a lot of sense. That is, I get The Puppy and the girls get my wonky but still useable Workhorse—which runs RPGs well—and we place the Gamer in retirement. Then, if the Consort needs to run one of his experiments on The Puppy, he takes it from me, I take the Workhorse from the girls, and they either don’t play for a while or we wake the retired Gamer for them.

It is a fact that RPGs work much better if the processor is fast. It is also a fact that the software I use for my projects is Word, Excel, and Acrobat Reader. Which, really, don’t need the speed, actually. I guess.

So the girls got The Puppy.*

It comes with a webcam built in to the top of the screen. It is shiny and new. It is pretty and clean.

Excuse me now. I need to go fetch the Workhorse another nosebag of grain.

*This was voluntary on my part. I was the one who suggested it. (A moment after which I thought, “What the hell was I thinking?!!!”)

26 July 2006

We spent three days camping and caving with my father-in-law and his 10-year-old son. Here are some comments, in no particular order.

  • After several years of Big Vacations (UK, Belgium, & Switzerland; Montreal, New Hampshire, Maine; Christmas out East) this year we decided to do Little Trips (camping with un-friends; camping/caving in East Iowa; end of summer campout with friends [to come]). I have decided that I prefer Big Trips (less packing & unpacking of camp site).

  • Camp Hosts can be sticklers for the rules. Some of their decisions are reasonable (only 2 tents per site), others are not (switching sites allowed only if you pay an additional site fee [but you already paid for 2 sites, you just want to open up one of the original ones to someone else and take a closer one]).

  • Caving is necessarily an Extreme Muddiness sport.

  • A mother’s sense of safety of her family is not helped when she is told of all the very narrow passages squeezed through and slippery ledges grasped at from vertical climbs during a caving afternoon. Chuckling about it and adding, “But that wasn’t as bad as when…” does not help her pacing heart return to a normal rate.

  • If its shadow looks like a cat and its sound is a snorty snuffling, it’s probably a raccoon.

  • If you hear an intense QUACKADOODLE in the middle of the night, it’s probably an owl. (Whatever happened to soft too-whoos?)

  • The civic administration of Galena, Illinois, is very weird. They think that a sign placed at the top of a very steep hill which reads “QUIET ZONE. No braking unless in emergency” makes sense. But this is also the town where the local rock shop says there are no rock deposits in the area (Galena – as in galena, the mineral, for crying out loud!)

  • Camp-fire pyromania is genetic and can be considered a competitor sport. (Imperatrix has retired, but can beat any of these young whippersnappers if she so chose.)

  • Children will insist on telling scary stories at campfires, even though it has been proven time and again that someone will have trouble sleeping afterwards.

  • Having children in their own tent is a fabulous thing. (We’ve been doing it since Impera was 5 and Trixie was 3.)

  • Listening to stories on tape is the best thing for long trips. This time we listened to Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. (“Nae king! Nae queen! Nae laird! Nae master! We’ll nae be fooled again!”)

    Now I'm off to being anxious about all the work I need to get done. I dont' know why. I've got things under control. But somehow my body thinks this would be a good time to get all stressed out. Sheesh.

  • 23 July 2006

    We're Off

    I'll be back Wednesday.

    I'm sure I'll have only good stories to tell.

    21 July 2006

    You People Aren't Making My Life Easier

    Really, it's my fault. I didn't have to read your comments to Impera and Trixie, but I did. They are revved up to get the magazine online. I was thinking in the next few months. They are thinking in the next few hours.

    (Oh, have I mentioned that in the past three days I've gotten three projects sent out to me, which means that I have the same three weeks to do three times three weeks' worth of work?) (And had I noted that in the two weeks prior to this, I haven't had any paying work on my desk, so I got into some pretty slothful websurfing habits, that need to get expunged RIGHT NOW, because of the information in those previous parentheses?) (e: This is Joy #73 of freelancing.)

    Add to this mix the visit this morning of Idea Boy and Action Girl, and things were a bit hairy for about 15 minutes. Wait -- you don't know Idea Boy and Action Girl? Well, I think a replay of this morning's episode is about to come on:

    It's Idea Boy and Action Girl! Starring the Imperator Consort as Idea Boy (great with the thinking, not so great with the follow-through) and Peaceable Imperatrix as Action Girl (the one who has to pick up the threads and run! run! run!!). In today's episode, Idea Boy joins in on the webzine conversation:

    AG: If you two want to get this thing off the ground soon, then maybe you should just start up a Rat and Rabbit blog, where each post is an article. Impera knows how to upload graphics, you guys could add whatever digital shots you want to include, you can cut and paste your articles from Word... that sounds workable.

    The girls: Thoughtful silence.

    IB: Instead of a blog, maybe this should be hosted from your [Imperatrix's] business website. And maybe they could produce a pdf file to send to subscribers.

    The girls: Yes! Yes!

    AG: ...but ...but [Visions of three three-week projects due in 21 days, a time period which includes a short camping trip, school registration days, and other such administrivia run through her thought bubble.]

    IB: Really, that would be a better learning experience. They would learn how to code in html, how to do layout in a Word template, how to turn the document into a pdf...

    AG: I don't have the full version of Acrobat, just the Reader! [Note how that sneaky Action Girl doesn't mention that one can Save As pdf from Word.]

    The girls: A real magazine! A real website! Cool!

    AG: Will you be helping them with this?

    IB: Me? No, I have an article to submit, some data runs to complete for another paper, I've got classes to prepare for. Plus, I'm going to the gym this afternoon. I figured you could do it.* [*Trademark 1994-2006, Idea Boy. all rights reserved]

    AG: I think the blog idea is the most reasonable one.

    The girls: Thoughtful silence.


    Now, I better get back to work.

    (Oh, and I'm sure the Consort will want me to add the disclaimer that sometimes, we have to deal with the evil twins of Idea Boy and Action Girl: Idea Girl and Action Boy. But I would like to point out that this is my blog, and he is more than welcome to blog about those other two, if he ever wanted to start his own blog.)

    20 July 2006

    Today, Bad Parent

    As I noted in the comments to yesterday's post, this morning we headed out to the 4-H County Fair to see how the girls' project fared (yesterday morning they presented their project to the judges).

    What was their project? BoyOnTop asked. They've started a magazine they have titled "Rat and Rabbit Magazine." It is a bimonthly (using definition 1: ocurring every two months, not definition 2: ocurring twice a month [is this not the stupidest word there could be? meaning two very different things at the same time? "Here is the bimonthly report on the bimonthly software updates" -- riiiiight]) magazine chock full of informational articles, product reviews, and Q&A advice columns.

    This project has been great for the Consort and I because now instead of having to answer, "Name the types of hay that are OK to feed to your rabbit..." or "Name two requirements that your rabbit must meet in order to compete in rabbit hopping competition..." or, better yet, "List the signs of heat stroke in rats, organized by stage of dilemma..." when we are trying to play a computer game or read a book, we can tell them, "Just write an article about it!!!" and they leave us alone. (Of course, this has meant that they disappear for hours on end in the office, stealing my desk chair and chattering away, so that I have to either put on earphones to drown out their noise with music or do my work in some other, quieter, room.)

    This morning, we found out that "Rat and Rabbit Magazine" took the gold ribbon! Best in Class (class being Communications). Woo hoo! This was their first year in 4-H, and they weren't sure how the projects were supposed to be organized (never having gone to the County Fair before). The judge yesterday got them very excited as she suggested they bring their magazine to their local library and offer to have the library keep the past issues in the stacks (oh, my!).

    The bad parent part comes in here. See, I brought the camera yesteday morning. But there wasn't anything to photograph. Many of the projects hadn't been submitted yet (we went first thing in the morning on the first day), and I couldn't really take a picture when they were presenting (they keep the parents out in a "waiting pen" while the kids go to the table and do their stuff for the judges). Today, I forgot the camera. One of our friends said she'd take a picture, but as I typed this I realized that ... maybe we can get the Consort to go with us to see the exhibits and I can take the camera then! Phew. Not that that absolves me of bad planning, of course.

    How have the girls taken their success? A little too well, I fear. They're already talking of putting the magazine online, so they can actually get it out to people. And using color graphics rather than black and whilte copies of photos. And they have been playing around with designing return address labels and business cards for the magazine. (Thanks alot, vistaprint.) And noting that if the magazine becomes a webzine, they can then get submissions from other rat and rabbit aficionados for guest articles... and.... and.... (What have we started?!)

    And I will finish off with another multimedia humor link. This is very funny, and guess what? It isn't even political:

    Punctuation in E-mail.

    19 July 2006

    Bad Neighbor

    Wednesday is our neighborhood's local farmer's market. Today was also the day our neighborhood hosted Jazz in July (Throughout this month, jazz concerts by local bands are held across the city; there's a concert every four days or so.)

    We didn't go to either community-building activity.

    (It was 98 [37] degrees today. With heat index, it was 114 [45]. I'm sorry I'm such a wuss, but I just. couldn't. do. it.)

    Bad neighbor. Bad. bad.

    18 July 2006

    I'm feeling some frustration, here, people.

    A group of friends (5 families) have decided to share a meal once a week during the summer (that's pretty language for have a weekly potluck; I like it better prettified) (and no, this isn't the frustrating part, this is the informational background part). Now, we don't check in with one another about what we're bringing. That's part of the fun, you know? For example, last week was Pasta Salad night. We had three different types of pasta salad. What could be better than three different types of pasta salad? My friend E. said, in passing, "One of these weeks everyone will bring dessert." That's what could be better than three pasta salads: five desserts. So of course, what do I feel like making this week? Yes: dessert.

    I have my mind set on making those papaya-coconut cupcakes with ginger-lime frosting by Chockylit that I made back in April. They are tasty, they are filling, and they're not too sweet (Canada Dry ginger ale, anybody?).

    So on market day (fancy talk for Saturday), I asked the Consort to bring me back a papaya. The farmer's market didn't have any (no surprise: this is the midwest, after all; it isn't quite the right climate [we cram our 260 days of heat into 100 days]); the grocery store didn't have any; and the organic market (the place of the $5 organic broccoli) didn't have any. Rats. Yesterday I called another chic market (we call it "the healthfood store"). They didn't have any either (we're deep in the territory of the frustration, now; in case you hadn't picked up on it).

    What the heck, people? Why can't I find papaya in July? Huh? I can find apples in July (sure they're mealy and tasteless, but they are there, in the produce section!). I can find asparagus in October. And don't go telling me that papayas are a delicate fruit -- I can find berries in March.

    What use is being a world hegemony if I can't get papaya in July? And it isn't like we'd have to twist the arm of places like Indonesia to get them. THEY GROW THEM IN HAWAII*, for crying out loud! Hawaii is part of the fifty states! What are they doing holding back on the papaya shipments, I ask? Don't they know -- can't they -- see, the irony is what they need to do is get the Hawaii to get the growers to stop doing this shit and it's over. It's all about transparent shipping, folks.

    If I can't find any today, then I may have to give in and make peanut butter pound cake; but that just seems so -- autumnal. Double rats.

    *I find it hilarious (but reasonable) that the University of Hawaii extension has a description of papaya; it's such a different world than the Iowa State University extension, which has pages on how to preserve gooseberry jam safely and can identify the disease that is making your buckeye tree turn yellow early (just send them a 12-in. bit of branch with leaves on it, a check for $10, and within two weeks you'll receive a letter detailing the problem and how to deal with it.

    17 July 2006

    Reason #68 to Use Organic Eggs

    [CBS] plans to announce today that it will place laser imprints of its trademark eye insignia, as well as logos for some of its shows, on eggs — 35 million of them in September and October."

    Entire article here. Read it and weep at another example of why our civilization is doomed.

    Then dry your eyes and watch this. George is a U2 fan. Who knew?

    (PS to Three of Four: Sorry. I know how you dislike posts that are just links to other sites. But it's Monday.)

    14 July 2006

    IF-THEN Statements are Great, If They are Respected

    Log for Spouse Unit Device version 1.2. Run-through 2006-07-13.22:37:47

    Device Driver Rules. Buffered.
    IF hands wet
    THEN use hand towel
    ELSE hands drip everywhere

    IF dishes wet
    THEN use dish towel
    ELSE long time before snack

    IF dog or cat wet
    THEN use dog towel (old, holey towel in closet)
    ELSE muddy mess in house

    Run Device.

    Error 236541: This device cannot find any free dog towel resources to boot.
    Driver Command: Increase focus resolution. Make second search attempt.

    Error 45: This device cannot find any free dog towel resources to use.
    Driver Command: Increase focus resolution. Make third search attempt.

    Error 000003: Device attention fragged.
    Error 000078: Device registry may be corrupted.
    Error 245669: Hand towel corrupted by wet cat.
    Error 006732: This device is causing a resource conflict.
    Error 435520: This device may be bad, or your system may be running low on memory or other resources.

    Driver Response: No duh.

    Driver Command: Abort hand towel usage.
    Error 293768: Command unrecognized by device
    Driver Command: Ctrl-Esc.
    Driver Command: Ctrl-Esc.
    Driver Command: Ctrl-Esc.

    13 July 2006

    Old Wives' Tales

    Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard of these. Things like, a mayonnaise won’t “take” if it’s that time of the month; chewing gum will take seven years to work its way through your digestive system; eating within one hour of going swimming will cause cramps. Aren’t they silly?

    On an unrelated note, I have, in the past 4-6 weeks, lost about 9 pounds. I haven’t started exercising (what kind of silly person would exert themselves in humid weather?), and I haven’t DIEted (sorry KathyR). I think it’s because of summer schedules. See, I am not running errands the way I do during the school year (you know, getting a few things done before it is time to pick up Trixie from school, giving myself way too much time to do those errands, so having time to kill, and—hey, would you look there, a Starbucks! Mochas are not good for one’s figure. We all know that, but what better way to keep yourself occupied when it is 2:40 and your kid gets out at 3:00?

    Also, with other people in the house, it is less easy to relieve boredom by eating a handful of chocolate chips (don’t gasp all self-righteously, we all do it [except the Consort, who isn’t “into” chocolate])—because 1) then you’d have to share with the witnesses and 2) you just aren’t as bored when other people are around (plus there’s a little bit of shame involved in there somewhere, I think).

    I’m not particularly proud that cutting out coffee drinks and surreptitious snacks will so easily drop 9 pounds from my frame. And, you know, 9 pounds lighter and I’m not into the next lower clothing size. My clothes are all a bit looser, but really, I must have been at the upper edge of my current size before the summer, which is scary to think I was this close >--< to having to move up a size.

    There is one unexpected thing though. We all know that when a woman loses weight, she’ll lose it on top first. Skinny women always complain that that happens to them (and we have to stand there and use our best Jedi training to keep our hands still at our sides, rather than up around their scrawny little necks as they bemoan the fact that they are losing the minimal buxomness they had started to enjoy during pregnancy…). Now, I’ve checked, and my bras fit just as well as they did two months ago. What is going on here? This is so unfair. Every time I have planned to think about starting to lose weight, the one constant thought that allows me to think maybe it would be a good idea is that when a woman loses weight, she loses it on top first! And I am here to prove that that is clearly an old wives’ tale (which here means an old tale told by wives, not a tale told by old wives, OK?). The Consort is happy with this turn of events (he stopped buying lottery tickets when I mentioned that I sure would like to use a bit of the splurge money we’d allow ourselves from winnings on an appointment with a plastic surgeon). I am not.

    11 July 2006

    Admission (now, with graphic!)

    There’s something I haven’t mentioned here, although I’ve known about it for a while, and it became irreversible a few weeks ago.

    It’s been hard to admit that my youthful idealism can so easily be swayed by personal investment in a living being. If you had asked me 16 years ago, when the Consort and I first started talking about these sorts of things, or 13 years ago, when the Consort and I were taking the first steps to increasing our realm, I would have responded in absolute terms. We knew our limits, we knew what was the right choice for us, and we were cocky enough to think that if more people used us as their guide … well, let’s let that one be, since I can no longer consider our situation to be one I think everyone ought to follow.

    I know the astonishment some people will feel when they find out about our new addition (“Another!” They’ll say to each other, rolling their eyes with implied meaning), because I myself have felt it when I’ve met others who (although I admit our realm won’t be as prolific as many) have chosen this. But there are extenuating circumstances! (Aren’t there always? I really can’t use that as an excuse. We have made this choice and we shouldn’t try to pussyfoot our way around it. [As you can see, I’m still conflicted about this; but like I said, at this point it’s irreversible (and now that it’s irreversible, it’s hard not to get that happy excited feeling, you know?).])

    Yes. The realm is getting used to having another citizen. A boy.

    His name is Tamarind (but you can call him Tam). And technically, he is Impera’s (although she doesn’t want him to dislike her, so guess who has to do most of the collecting of the rabbit when it’s time to go back in his cage? That’s right: Imperatrix. [What?—Don’t look so shocked; don’t you keep your rabbits in a cage?])

    I’d like to think that, although this brings us now to 5 animals in the house, we only have one of each, and most (those in whom this matters) have been spayed. But the innuendoes have already started; mostly by family members who are fecund in their own way (and I know for a fact they won’t be spaying their boys, let me tell you!)

    (Not least of my worries is that now I’ll have to redo the blog’s masthead.)
    KW requested a picture. Here it is. Although part of the conflict I'm feeling is that after 3 weeks of being a well-behaved addition to the family, yesterday Tam chewed through an $80 laptop cord and halfway through the cord to the digital camera (I've put that one aside until the Consort can fix it for me). Lucky for him we had already taken this shot.

    10 July 2006

    Frightening: Definition

    "It was essential that the F.B.I. get rid of its pre-9/11 mentality of not making an arrest until they have enough evidence to convict..."

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled day.

    Summer Camp

    We’re a one-kid family this week. Trixie is off to 4-H camp; I drove her out yesterday afternoon. The girls have done Girl Scout camp in the past, and even in the brief time I was out at the camp, I noticed differences:

    Girl Scout Camp

    girls only


    counselors separate

    pit toilets

    delicious buffet-style meals

    4-H Camp


    air-conditioned cabins

    counselors in cabin

    flush toilets

    limited choice generic

    When she returns from camp, we’ll see how many other differences there are, and whether she liked 4-H camp better than GS camp.

    She seemed excited about camp, and introduced herself to one of her cabin-mates right away. Trixie is definitely “cool” about meeting new people, or about going to camp alone. She’s a brave little thing. It’s funny because she always describes herself as being shy, but of the four of us, I’d rate her as the least shy and most confident at meeting new people.

    She typed up and printed directions for Impera to take care of her rat, including an example baggie of food portions, plus a description of the best ways to play with the rat. The rat snuck a little note in Trixie’s toiletries bag, wishing her a fun week at camp (you can’t use the words “miss you” “homesick” or “sad” in letters to camp—you don’t want to give the camper any ideas!).

    But I already miss her. I hope she’s having a good time…

    07 July 2006

    Weak Endings

    Several of you have chimed in about Poisonwood Bible, saying it was a great read -- despite a weak ending. Thanks for the heads-up, and don't worry, it doesn't make me want to read it any less.

    In fact, because you all weren't phased by PB, I have my own recommendation: The Bone People by Keri Hulme. It is a *fantastic story*, and Hulme tackles a serious topic, but in the end, this is a first novel, and she loved her characters too much to stay true to them. Which works out better for them, but not for us as readers. I highly recommend it. (In fact, the Consort & I loved it so much [it was one of the books we read on our traveling year abroad] that we gave it to Sis #2's spouse as a gift. Not once -- but twice! [This is why I now keep a little notebook of what gift we've given to each family member, and for what occasion.])

    06 July 2006

    Gifts for Me, A Recipe for You

    Have I already mentioned that my Secret Pal is great? I got another box of treasures yesterday, so many that I had to break it into two pictures:
    Once again, books for me (I've been meaning to read The Poisonwood Bible for a long time; my father grew up in the Belgian Congo, but his stories have been sparse), and books for the girls (Trixie already called first dibs on one of them and hasn't gotten up off the couch unless I insist). There was also a magazine on Iowa gardens, with an article on kitchen gardens (yummm), and some snacky treats and peppermint tea!

    Then there were the crafty items. I now have a beautifully soft blue knitted facecloth (SP, you said it's your favorite pattern, would it be shareable?), some yummy (in the scent sense!) artisanal goat milk soaps and deliciously scented lemon verbena/lavender hand salve (you have a Whole Foods near you? I am *so* envious!). And see that gorgeous yellow and green thing? That is a knitted dishcloth from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Here's where it gets spooky: just last week we went to the bookstore, and I sought out MDK because I was curious about the dishcloth pattern. How did you know?! (Of course, I didn't want to seem to be copying down info from a book I wasn't going to buy just then, so I only glanced at it -- how *do* you make those 3-row cross-over stitches?) And she included a ball of variegated cotton yarn -- I'll have to figure out that pattern and try a dishcloth myself! There were also some double-pointed needle holders in the shape of little sweaters (I'll have to take a close-up shot for you-all, they are too cute!) And yes, the astute will have noticed: more office supplies! Thank you, Secret Pal!

    And now, I am sure the rest of you are feeling pretty down that you don't have a secret pal as well, so I will share with you the Rhubarb-Lavender Lemonade we made this weekend with a recipe from Prairieland Herbs (a local farm):

    Rhubarb-Lavender Lemonade

  • 5 stalks rubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh lavender (or 1/2 cup dried, but we used the fresh)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup (or more, to taste) sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

    1. Bring water, rhubarb, and lavender to a boil in a large pot. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes with the top on.
    2. Turn off heat, and let sit until cool (this is the hard part!)
    3. Strain out rhubarb and lavender, and put in your compost pile (this is straight from the recipe -- I love these folks!)
    4. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice.
    5. Pour over ice, and enjoy!

    We did this with the last of the rhubarb. We liked it so much we talked about next year making up a whole lot and freezing it. One warning: don't drink too much at once, or you will get the subtle sense of being in a lingerie drawer. But the bouquet is half of the draw; try it!

  • 05 July 2006

    Youtube Find: Edited

    Three of Four noted in the Comments the other day that because the U.S. invaded Iraq and made a mess there, there is a responsibility to stay and fix the problem that was created. I used to feel that way, too. However, I do not believe that this administration can fix it, and I am also not sure that a subsequent administration will be able to do anything about it, either (I mean, gods almighty, Kerry is thinking of running again [blech!], as is Edwards [hock-ptui!]. Who is there anywhere in the U.S. who could make a significant difference?)

    Including all the reservations of Saddam's iron-fisted leadership, let's remember though that before March 2003, there was no Al Qaida presence in Iraq, women had a significant amount of freedom, there was a working infrastructure, and the streets were safe. Now, the reverse is true on every point.

    Things are only spiraling out of control now, and the reputation of the U.S. military and the U.S. government in Iraq is hemorrhaging. In an interview last week with a retired Air Force JAG (is that the correct terminology?), he said that the international repercussions of Guantanamo will be felt not only in this generation, but in our children's generation.

    I have no answers.

    And here is the video mentioned in the title today. I came across it earlier today. (I even bought the music, afterwards.)

    * If you can't see the video as embedded, then you can use this link: http://youtube.com/v/QSClSrcGpMo

    04 July 2006

    Independence Day

    I don't mean to be a skitzophrenic blogger (i.e., angry one day, happy the next), but there isn't anything new to say on the Mahmoudiya case right now -- no! I mean it's such a beautiful day! -- that I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July.

    We've had a great day. The weather has been perfect (although it's been perfect because there were some severe thunderstorms last night). After pancakes for breakfastr (thank you Consort!), we picked raspberries in the garden, then decided to go on a long bike ride. We packed a picnic lunch and set out. The girls did very well (although it was all downhill on the way to the park and so uphill on the way back).

    The neighbors came over to play in the sprinkler, and now all the kids (the girls + the 4 neighbor kids) are drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. I knit outside, then did some weeding with the Consort, then knit some more.

    We'll be grilling Boca burgers later this evening, and Impera and I will be preparing lemon-raspberry mousse for dessert.

    Hope everyone has enjoyed celebrating a nice summer day (which is pretty much what we did).

    03 July 2006

    The Plot Thickens

    Remember those two US soldiers who were tortured and killed by insurgents a couple of weeks ago? Well, they belonged to the same unit as the rape/murder suspects. (Note that the New York Times is still calling her a "young Iraqi woman.")

    The suspects belong to the same unit as two soldiers kidnapped and killed south of Baghdad last month, a military official said on condition of anonymity because the case was under way.

    The military has said that one and possibly both of the slain soldiers were tortured and beheaded. The official said the mutilation of the slain soldiers stirred feelings of guilt and led at least one member of the platoon to reveal the rape-slaying on June 22.

    Now, remember that the Mahmoudiya incident happened in March (we're only hearing about it now). And that in that part of the world, rape usually calls for an honor killing. I'm not condoning the torture/murder of the two soldiers. But at least it explains some of it (and dammit, the suspects participated in torture/murder as well, don't forget).

    Why was Green discharged? Did anyone know about this and hope it would blow over? Why must these people (PR people? Military people, I don't know, ... the decision-makers) show the same idiocy over and over? It didn't work at Abu Ghraib, it didn't work in Hamdaniyah, it's not working in Mahmoudiya; IT JUST MAKES THE U.S. LOOK BAD.


    US troops suspected of raping Iraq teenager

    I can't find the Washington Post article by Ellen Knickmeyer the the DM register reprinted this morning, but as I read it, I became more and more disgusted.

  • Abeer Qasim Hamza was 15/16 years old
  • She was afraid, and so was her family. They knew she had gotten unwated attention from US soldiers at a checkpoint she had to cross every day.
  • The mother told a neighbor she was afraid the soldiers would come for her daughter in the middle of the night.
  • They did come, the very next night.
  • The soldiers separated her from her mother, father, and 7-year-old sister.
  • She was raped.
  • The US soldiers shot the four family members.
  • The US soldiers tried to burn her body (to hide the evidence of rape, I assume)

    These soldiers were not in a fighting frenzy. They deliberately planned and staged a rape/murder. There is no sympathy in my heart for them. None what.so.ever.

    On a larger scale, this incident and last week's discussion of the murder of a civilian because some soldiers couldn't find an insurgent in the area of their search shows, yet again, that this whole Iraq fiasco can not be salvaged. That George Bush and his administration are the worst thing the United States and the world have ever seen in a US administration. And that the US people fucking RE-ELECTED this man.

    For shame.