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 October 2006

Carven Folk

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

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

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

Poor Timing

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

  • 30 October 2006

    Halloween; NO! Beggar's Night!

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

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


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

    You chuckle.

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

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

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

    29 October 2006

    Work In Progress

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

    27 October 2006

    "Hi, I'm a Mac"

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

    They are a perfect Friday link. Get a Mac.

    There are several, so may I recommend my favorites?

  • Counselor
  • Better Results
  • Trust Mac
  • Self Pity

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

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

  • 26 October 2006

    Thank You Secret Pal!

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

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

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

    Very fun package, SP. Thanks!

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

    25 October 2006

    Word Wednesday: The Power of Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    24 October 2006

    The Pervading Aroma of Allium

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    23 October 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Go read the report at the Daily Kos.

    22 October 2006

    WANTED: DeadAlive or Alive

    Have you seen this rabbit:DSC00955.JPG

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

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

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

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

    20 October 2006

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

    ...it's pretty pitiful:

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

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

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

    19 October 2006


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

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

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

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

    Pardon me while I go sulk.

    18 October 2006

    "Na No Wry Moe"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    17 October 2006

    Where We Are

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

    They are my two cutie-patooties.

    16 October 2006

    Knitting Blogging, with Dog

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

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

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

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

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

    14 October 2006

    SP9 Contest: Favorite Things

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

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

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

    12 October 2006

    Shopping: The Bane of Existence

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

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

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

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

    11 October 2006

    Word Wednesday: The Moral of the Story

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

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

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

    (I am not making this up.)

    10 October 2006

    Why We Should Protect Rainforests, Reason #3,796

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

    Read the whole article.

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

    Peaceable Imperatrix: Answering Your Questions Since 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

    09 October 2006

    The Many In Me

    3:30 a.m., go to the bathroom.
    3:32 a.m., get back into bed.

    Chitter chatter. Chitter chatter. Chitter chatter. Shhhhh, it’s time for sleep. You’ve got two projects you need to work on. I know, that’s the plan this week. Ooooh, what if they are overwhelming! They’re not, I’ve budgeted enough time for both of them. Chitter chatter.

    [slumberous breathing, to the left.]

    Check the clock. No, it’ll wake me up further. OK, then, we’ll check. Ooooh! It’s 3:50! Quiet! I need to get to sleep. Stop trying to stress me out.Have you renewed the US Fencing Association memberships for the girls? No, I haven’t. I’ll do it this week. Hurry hurry! What if it isn’t done by the competition this coming weekend? Trouble! Big trouble! No. I can hand in the renewal form on Saturday morning, if it comes to that. Trouble!

    Big trouble!

    [slumberous breathing, to the left.]

    Now hush! I need to sleep. No! Chitter chatter. Chitter chatter chitt— Hey! You aren’t paying attention! I’m imagining a big dark space, just like I remember Bert suggesting on Sesame Street when I was a little girl. So I can fall asleep. Aha! You can blog about that.— Yeah, blog it! Blog it blog it blog it!!!!

    [slumberous breathing, to the left.]

    What?!!! See, we got your attention. So, what’re you going to tell your readers about it? Is that one of the skits you remember even now, 33 years later? Oh, good lord, … How will you bring it up? “I remember Sesame Street fondly…” —No! Talk about us first, then the Bert relaxation thing. Us! Us! We want to be faaaaaamous!

    Just please settle down. I. Have. To. Get. To. Sleep!

    [slumberous breathing, to the left.]

    He’s asleep. Yeah! Sure sounds deep asleep to us. Just listen to his breathing… Hiss—quiet! Innnnn and oooooooout. Innnnnnn and ooooooout. He’s soooooo deep asleep. You hear it, don’t you? Stop being so nasty. Just let me be!


    [Well, except for…]

    [slumberous breathing, to the left.]

    …Have you sent out the PTA membership materials, like you promised?


    PS: It’s now 5:12 a.m.! Heh heh heh.

    06 October 2006

    I Am a Groupie!

    Impera's been taking fiddle lessons since June. She loves fiddle-playing. (More than orchestra class and classic violin playing.) Two of her friends also take lessons with the same teacher; one plays mandolin, the other plays banjo. They've been jamming together from time to time, and yesterday they had their first gig (and they were paid for it!): They were the entertainment at a local school's harvest festival.
    Old-time music

    I also videotaped them using my itty-bitty digital camera. The video came out tiny, so you'll have to use your imagination. I've uploaded it as a Quicktime video right here. (It may take a minute or so to load, depending on your connection.)

    05 October 2006

    Secret Pal 9 Questionnaire

    OK. I meant to do all sorts of neatening up around the site, but that will have to wait (does anybody know how to make an extra page on one's blog? I'd like to keep all the links that are to crafty posts in one place, and I'm finding that list on the left-hand side unwieldy. If not, I'm thinking I'll just have to make a post that I can link to on the left and keep that post updated with all the other links [if that makes sense]).

    Anywhoo, I've signed up again (like I warned you all, dear uncrafty readers), and the first step is filling out the questionnaire. I've answered the questions differently than last time for your entertainment. Here it is:

    1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
    I don't like eyelashy fluttery stuff.

    2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
    In SP8 I received a folding fabric needle case. This is for my dpns. My long needles are rolling around in the bottom of a drawer of craft-related stuff.

    3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
    My godmother taught me when I was a kid. I did nothing until Impera was a toddler and a friend re-taught me so I could make her a sweater. Again, nothing for a while. Then, in the past two years or so (after a seven-year hiatus), I've eased back into it, such that currently I actually have two different projects on needles at the same time! (This is a big deal to me, seeing as I plan to get a third project on needles by next week, once the yarn arrives.)
    I consider myself intermediate.

    4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
    Yes. I'll come back to that soon, in another post.

    5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)
    I like citrus-y fresh scents. Nothing sweet or cloying (and I realize one person's lovely garden scent is another person's suffocating wheeze [consider the latter person me]).

    6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
    Yes. I'm not original, chocolate is dandy. Liquor may be quicker, but I'm not an alcoholic yet. Let's just stick with chocoholism, thank you. But I like other stuff (But not Juicy Fruit gum. Or too much hard candy.) Actually, I like salty snacks, too. I'm willing to try anything once (for example, dinuguan [blood and guts stew] and balut).

    7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
    I can crochet, I can sew (which reminds me, I need to snug up several pairs of pants for Trixie). I do not scrapbook (I love seeing what other people make; but it isn't something I can see myself doing). We have a drop spindle in the house, but I am not moving in that direction right now.

    8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD). Folk music, world music, 1980s pop, not so much into the hip-hop or current pop. Alternative, industrial, medieval, too. I love listening to Radio Paradise because you never know what you'll hear next. I've got an iPod. We are a Mac family (I used to work for Apple, so I'm sorta prejudiced).

    9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
    Blues, greens, browns, plums; let's say forest and glen, how's that? The pink gene went all to Trixie, I even gave her whatever inherent pinkness I had before.

    10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
    Married to The Consort, mother to Impera (12) and Trixie (10). The house is also home to a peanut-butter-loving dog, a Whiska-Likins-addicted cat, an electric-cord-chewing rabbit, a bat-swooping parakeet, and an olympic-quality leaping rat.

    11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
    Yes. yes. yes. I would but I don't have one.

    12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
    Portable things are nice (socks, for example). But recently I felt the urge to start something bigger.

    13. What are you knitting right now?
    A pair of socks I started for Impera in June; a pair of Jaywalkers I started for me in July. (I'm not *that* slow, I just got sidetracked by a textured washcloth, a cabled hat, and baby washcloths. And books will trump knitting much of the time.)

    14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
    Yes, and I like to make handmade gifts as well.

    15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
    I don't like circulars as much as straight dpns.
    I've got some of each kind of needles, and I find that it's best if on small sizes I use metal (I've snapped two pairs of wooden #1's).

    16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

    17. How old is your oldest UFO?
    4 months (those darn socks).

    18. What is your favorite holiday?
    You know, last time I said Christmas, but I don't know. Probably. At least, I decorate for Christmas. Unlike Valentines Day or Arbor Day. How about we say Christmas?

    19. Is there anything that you collect?
    Not anymore.

    20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
    I have no subscriptions. I love the KnitPicks site (but not their needles).

    21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
    In my upcoming project, I will have to do steeks (EEEEEK!!!) . Because I am so smart, I will be doing them on a one-color project, rather than on intarsia.

    22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
    Yes! But they do take me a while to complete. My shoe size is 9.5; length from center heel to toe is 10 inches.

    23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
    January 17.

    A New Low

    So, I'm sure you've all heard about Representative Mark Foley (Republican, Florida) and his inappropriate emails and explicit instant messages (I read a few; I felt sick to my stomach) to former house pages, right?

    Well, it seems that Fox News and the Associated Press have "mistakenly" labeled Foley a Democrat in their reports.

    That, my friends, is dirty playing. I'm sick and tired of playing with cheaters. I'm taking my marbles and going home.

    04 October 2006

    When Combining Values and Profit = Success

    Last night we went to hear Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield talk at “An Evening of Social Responsibility, Radical Business Philosophy, and Free Dessert for All”. Sure, you know them: Ben and Jerry. Of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

    I’ll admit, I think the girls were mostly swayed by the “free dessert” bit, but they got a lot more than that out of it. Jerry spoke of the founding of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. He kept the audience laughing with tales of their un-businesslike antics. They were true children of the sixties and when it struck them that, hey, they were running a successful business—one of those things that drained the joy out of people’s lives and sucked communities dry (I told you: children of the sixties)—they thought about bailing. Luckily, one of their mentors told them that if there was something they didn’t like about how business is normally run, here was their chance to fix it.

    So they did. The guys care about social issues, so they found an organization in New York City that helps the “unemployable” (ex-cons, the homeless) by hiring them to work in their bakery; this is where B&J’s gets all the brownies for their Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. In Vermont, small family farms were at risk of disappearing under the shadow of mega-farms; B&J’s gets 100% of their dairy from local farmers. Ben and Jerry also care about the environment, so they developed their Rainforest Crunch flavor, which uses Brazil nuts from the Amazon rainforest (Brazil nuts must be allowed to grow wild, they can’t be farmed, did you know? I didn’t) plus 60% of the profits from that flavor goes to rainforest protection groups.

    Of course, they were forced to sell to Unilever (a Dutch corporation) a few years ago, so buying B&J’s isn’t as strong a statement as it used to be, but Jerry is president of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which still does a lot of good.

    Ben started out as a less fluid speaker. Until, that is, he got into the topics that he really cares about. He founded TrueMajority (a shorter bullet list of their goals is on their Wikipedia page) and is also involved in Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. (Has anyone else seen their red van with budget pie chart in their localities? Or are they only here in Iowa because we’re the first caucus?)

    I found links to the two demonstrations he did for us. First, he used giant oreo cookies to give the audience a sense of the Pentagon budget vs. other discretionary allocations. (This animated video looks like it is a bit on the long side, I didn’t watch it since I’d seen in in real life last night.) Then he asked us to close our eyes and he did an audio demonstration on the size of the US nuclear arsenal vs. others. There is a video version, nice and short, that you can watch.

    In the end, seeing as it was after 9 pm, and the line for the free ice cream reception was oh-so-long, we left and bought some B&J’s ice cream at our corner gas station to celebrate an enjoyable evening before sending the girls to bed. If any of you watch the videos, let me know what you think.

    03 October 2006

    "Imperatrix's Escort Service" Has a Nice Ring to It, Don't You Think?

    When the Consort first brought up starting a family, one of the things I stressed was that this would be a joint undertaking (stop your sniggering, you dirty minded readers!); I wouldn’t be raising any kids alone. (At the time, my concern was more along the lines of civil disobedience that might lead to incarceration.)

    Back then, the Consort was a generously supported graduate student and I was a fully employed science writer. A few years and two offspring later, he moved on to a reasonably well-paid post-doc and I dove into freelancing, having done the stay-at-home thing for a year after each girl was born and just being laid-off after a part-time stint with a consulting firm.

    By the time Impera was six, the Consort was ready to join the job market. With his high credentials and long list of universities attended, he could have gotten a job for The Man, and we’d be rolling in the dough (can you imagine, Imperatrix en croute?). Instead, for many reasons, including wanting to make a positive difference in the world and having the job flexibility to try different things (him), not being attracted to the consumerist culture (both of us), and not wanting to raise the kids alone (see above) (me) (well, and him, too, he’s a fantabulous dad), academia was the direction he (we) took.

    Academic + freelancer = not much money, but lots of time. Time for volunteering in the classroom and in the schools. Time for gardening and chats with your kids. Time for camping and family game nights. Time for cooking together and eating together. Time for month-long travels, both abroad and within the US.

    We’ve got ourselves two intelligent, well-rounded young ladies, lucky us. Curiosity requires stimulation, however, and here is where we run into our current dilemma (but it’s a nice dilemma [I think]). Impera and Trixie joined a fencing club last year, and just last weekend they participated in their first competition (a small, local competition, but it whet their appetite). They enjoyed it, and are looking forward to future competitions. They even said that for Christmas they’ll probably be asking for bouting gear from relatives. That’s a wonderful idea, as they’ll need their own equipment to continue competing (the club can’t furnish everything for everyone): two electric foils, a body wire, and a lamĂ©—each. I haven’t priced everything out, but I think we’re talking near $200 per fencer (and that’s only for foil; they’re taking sabre classes now, too, and that’s a whole nother set of gear).

    Then yesterday, we got an invitation for Impera to participate in a People to People trip to the UK and Ireland. Doesn’t the program look incredibly cool? We’ll be going to the informational meeting next month. But I’m guessing that a 20-day trip as described on the Web site will be more easily supported if we did work for The Man (like I said, lots of time, not much money, in this household).

    D’you think I could sell out for just a little while? …But keep my freelancing independence. And my flexible schedule. Oh, and school volunteer time. Oooh—I don’t want to have to spend lots of money on a new wardrobe, either. Plus, no second car, that would be silly. And no office politics. That’s reasonable, right?

    Hmmm. I think we’ll just have to get creative, is all.

    02 October 2006

    A Quick Note To Suicidal Men with Murderous Intentions

    [begin: release id]

    Stop killing young girls in schools, motherfuckers.

    Or we'll send Adrienne Rich after your dead ass.

    [begin: restrain id]

    Mystery Squash

    Mystery Squash
    Originally uploaded by friuduric.
    What is this thing? We've been watching it grow over the past few weeks and we are stumped. Its shape is exactly the shape of a pumpkin. Before you smart-aleks say, "Well, then, it's a pumpkin!", let me remind you that we are not newbies to this squash-growing thing, and last year we got 4 beautiul big carvable pumpkins from our garden.

    Pumpkins start out GREEN, then burnish to orange after they've hit their final size. This squash has been a bright buttery YELLOW since day 1, and is still growing.

    The only yellow squash I can think of off the top of my head is summer squash. The timing and the shape would rule that out. Help me, people, this is distracting me from better blogging.

    Identify my squash. (click on the picture to get a better look.)