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.

30 December 2006

Back Home

Hello hello! I hope you all had a good Christmas? We had a great time staying with my sisters and their families. I’m sorry I didn’t blog from afar; it seems that we Midwesterners are actually way more connected than folks in Washington DC. Neither sister had wifi (although one has a neighbor with a server called “default” that wasn’t password-protected—how scary is that?).

Some things I learned during my vacation:

  • There seems to be a code regulation in Northern Virginia that all downstairs bathrooms must have a leaky toilet. I don’t know, maybe something to keep the water running fresh?

  • Many of you blogged about your family’s traditional Christmas fare. In my family, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a cheese fondue. I’ve always thought that the kirsch one has to add to the fondue and has to down a shot of at the coup de mi-temps (half-time; that is, halfway through the meal) was a torment designed to burn out one’s throat. This year, I learned that good kirsch is smoooooth. And oh-so-goooooood. Mmmmmmmm.

  • We burned a hole in my sister’s tablecloth because the gel Sterno kind of oozed out of the can and started to burn everywhere. (My fondue pot has the older style burner, which uses liquid Sterno. I like mine much better.)

  • I can put aside that worry I have from time to time that the Consort and I are on the road to overindulging in alcoholic beverages. We are drinking wimps.

  • Sleeping in a room with a log burning in the fireplace is romantic.

  • I never felt more welcome anywhere than when I was hanging out with four- and five-year-old nephews and nieces (which was most of the time during this trip. Everybody’s got them). These kids are cool. They are so kind. And EXCITED. And boy, do they know a lot of Christmas songs.

  • My brothers-in-law are really great dads. It was nice to hang out with them for a while and see them in action.

  • I am going to purge my diet of cheese and dairy for a while (maybe all of January?).

  • Truck testicles are the most tasteless car accessory I have ever seen. Unfortunately (for me), many people who think these are cool happen to drive across the country on Interstate 80.

  • 20 December 2006

    We Are Off!

    We’re leaving in a little while on our 1,000-mile, 16-hour drive out to the suburbs of this nation’s fair capital for some raucous holiday fun with a tribe of little cousins. And aunts and uncles. And grandparents.

    I’m sure my blog addiction won’t let too many days pass before I’m online again with you all. But until tomorrow night, I’ll be sitting in a little metal box with three other people and four iPods, trying to remind them that as the Imperatrix, I have decided that we will NOT listen to Boy Kill Boy or Beyonce (yes, they have very different tastes, these offspring of mine) again until we listen to some Crystal Method first. And if the Consort is nice, I’ll let him play some of his Loreena McKennitt or Fiona Apple. But only when he’s driving. (Because driver gets first dibs on music.)

    I’ll leave you with some bullets from the last time we made this trek (for Christmas two years ago):

  • There are long stretches of highway in Illinois where you’ll see signs which state: “High-Security Prison in Area. Do NOT Pick up Hitchikers”. Comforting, don’t you think?

  • Ohio highways are treacherous. They get slick with ice and they are packed with high-speed trucks which box you in; this makes it very likely that if you happen to need to brake (OK, maybe you were going a bit fast, but not much!), the car will slide and slip. As the car is swerving towards the truck to your right ... then the truck in front of you ... then the truck to your rear, you’ll shout, “I don’t know how to keep control!” Your spouse will respond calmly, “You’re doing just fine, keep doing what you’re doing.” (And you thank the gods you picked such a steady-under-pressure kind of guy, because if the roles were reversed, the only thing you could think of to say would be “EEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!”) You’ll end up in the snowy grass median, facing the other direction. With no real damage to your father-in-law’s station wagon, which he lent you for this trip. And you’ll be able to push out of the snowbank without assistance from strangers (not that any was offered, in any case).

  • Pennsylvania Rest Stops--which are great places to take a break when there’s a snowstorm swirling around you and you wonder how the heck you’re going to make it to DC tonight--house McDonalds which provide veggie burgers as part of their menu. You try not to think of what they were cooked with, because, dammit, you’re all hungry, you’re sick to death of Subway sandwiches, and you need savory food, not Cinnabuns, fer crying out loud.

    See you in a couple of days. (I think I’ll let the Consort do the driving through Ohio this time.)

  • 19 December 2006

    Their True Nature Comes Out

    Lest you had the impression that my two daughters were all sweetness and light, I offer you this photo of what they did to two broken gingerbread men they came across while decorating cookies the other night.

    18 December 2006

    If the Bird Flu Comes, I'll Get It

    Well, although I washed my hands so often that my skin started to crack, I caught Trixie's stomach flu. I "slept" most of yesterday afternoon, and the girls took care of making their own dinner, they folded their laundry, and got the animals ready for bed.

    Trixie had a bit of a relapse this morning (she wanted to go to school, but I really didn't want to have to drive, so I suggested she stay home & take it easy today). Of course, this throws a monkey wrench in my well-laid work and Christmas gift-making plans. Three of Four, your gift was supposed to be made yesterday... I hope I can get it done before we leave Wednesday at noon! I'm sitting on the couch, wrapping my mind around these author changes I have to incorporate on my current project.


    And thanks everyone for the nice cookie comments. (Plus, I did do the Beta thing this morning, so you may see lots of old "new" posts.)

    17 December 2006

    Sunday Frustrations

    The cookie party was a blast. Unfortunately, people didn't take home half as many cookies as they should have, so our menu this weekend has consisted of: eat something healthy (an apple), then eat some cookies; repeat. More unfortunately, Trixie seems to have come down with a nasty 24-hour stomach bug. She was up the latter half of the night Friday to Saturday, and was able to keep nothing down all day yesterday except some water. I think we're over the worst of it, and I hope no one else succumbs (especially as we're leaving on our 16-hour drive to DC on Wednesday!) But, you came here to read of my frustrations, didn't you?

    Frustration #1: This morning seemed the perfect time to finally do the switch to Blogger Beta. Not because I'm excited about it, but because I haven't been able to leave comments on the blogs of folks who have made the switch (Steg? Katharine?). I'm still not sure I'll stay on Blogger (are you reading this, Bloggerpeople?), and I have read one horror story of a person not being able to access their blog once the swtich was made, and, in the end, it seems, I was worrying for no reason because when I logged on this morning, the invitation to switch had mysteriously disappeared from my Dashboard. Rickin frickin. Sunday is a much better day to switch than a weekday. Sheesh. So if you are reading this, and you are thinking "I'm gonna stop visiting her site, she's not commenting at my site anymore!" If you've made the Beta switch, please give me a little more time! it's their fault, not antisocialness on my part!

    Frustration #2: Last week I read at NYT that an online geography competition had been created, pitting the US vs. the UK (traditionally, two of the lower scoring countries on international geography tests). "Sounds like fun!" I thought to myself. On Thursday, the site was down because the article had driven so many people to the site that the server couldn't handle it. They promised more bandwidth within 24 hours; I was busy on Friday (wonder why?) so I decided to try it out yesterday. When I clicked on the "Register for Team USA" button, I was sent to this screen:

    Sorry, we don't offer this challenge outside of the US and the UK, as yet. Please check back in the future for any changes to this policy.
    We apologize for any inconvenience.

    And this is why Team USA will lose the Geography Cup, folks. Because they don't think Iowa is part of the United States!

    15 December 2006

    Cookie Party!

    Ummm, remember when I said that we were making fewer kinds of cookies this year, rather than the typical 15 or so? I think I may have underestimated how many we usually make, because these are just our favorite kinds—I can name at least 10 more types we have made in the past—and we’re already at 14! And I know it doesn’t look like so many, here on this lovely plate (yes, I set up the shot on top of the bunny cage. Shut, up, it was the brightest window in the house!), keep in mind that we have several dozen of each kind. Would you like:
    Fruitcake, meringue mushrooms, coconut sticks, pecan toffee, jelly stars, angel eyes (these cookies were impetus for Trixie’s currant jelly), Christmas wreaths (tacky in so many ways, but a must-make!), mocha balls, spritz cookies, gingerbread cookies, mini-cheesecakes (these have cranberry topping; the lemon curd topping ones are still cooling in the kitchen), chocolate biscotti, or anise thorn cookies?

    14 December 2006

    Lucky Us! Responsible for an Extinction!

    China's white dophin, a freshwater mammal, a species that has been around for 20 million years—TWENTY MILLION YEARS, PEOPLE!—is now effectively extinct. Thirty scientists searched for six weeks, and called off the expedition yesterday, after they had not sighted a single dolphin in all that time.

    We are such a f*cking mess of a species. I don't like us very much right now.

    13 December 2006

    My Unsupportive Role

    Behind every successful man, there is a woman.

    Sure, we've all heard that. But in our case, last night I was an unsupportive, unhappy woman. The Consort has had meetings all month. This week, it actually is every darn night except Friday. Last week, he had to attend a city meeting instead of watching his daughter perform in the school holiday concert.

    Now, add to this the fact that we are having our cookie party on Friday night. This year, instead of us making 15 different kinds of cookies, we're asking everyone to bring some cookies to share, and we're only making our favorites. This was a compromise. Because the cookie party brings out all sorts of stress for me.

    So, back to last night: While I was cooking dinner, I snapped. "Remind me next year to nix the cookie party if you aren't going to be around any night the week before." —People, we are on track for the party. We aren't stressed. I was just being unfair and cranky. These things happen sometimes (the crankiness, that is). It was just the idea of him out there soothing neighborhood and city ills while we three sit at home without him.

    The Consort and I, we make a good team. When he's in an expansive mood, I caution restraint. When I want to buy, buy, buy, he says wait, wait, wait. When I get in one of my moods, he usually knows exactly what to say to smooth things over, or at least to help me see reason.

    He had a perfect comeback last night. It went something like this: "Remind me next year to nix the cookie party if it happens the week before your—"

    Because we are such a good team, and because he can read situations clearly, he didn't actually speak his perfect comeback right then. He waited until later, when I had gotten the crankiness out of my system.

    And that's why he's a very very smart man.

    11 December 2006

    How to ruin your daughter's day in one easy step

    1. Tell her that her father's request for sabbatical for the 2007-2008 school year was accepted.

    But! But... before you feel too sorry for her, let me share a few tidbits:

    "This chapter was fabulous."["fabulous"!]

    "I would definitely consider adopting this book for my course. I look forward to reading the entire finished product."

    "I found the writing to be very clear and well organized."

    "My overall opinion of this chapter is that it as an excellent and comprehensive presentation of the ... issue. I found that every issue that I spend time on in my class was covered in detail in this text and I appreciated the accurate and up-to-date presentation of the science behind [this issue]." ["excellent"!!]

    These are some of the reviewer comments on the chapter the Consort prepared for a potential co-authored textbook in his field. The publisher called last week, and today they made plans for the Consort to fly out to NY to sign contracts [contracts!!!].

    The co-author lives/teaches in New Hampshire. So we'll be spending sabbatical year in a college town in New Hampshire, surrounded by mountains [mountains!!!!], the Consort willl be a visiting scholar, writing the book, I will bring my clients with me (they just need to change the address on the Fed Ex label), and this will be fun fun fun!

    I understand the girls' sadness, because just today, with my car in the shop, my friends came through and gladly shlepped the girls to their activities, and even offered to drive Trixie to school tomorrow morning (these are homeschoolers, so driving someone to school before 8 a.m. is a big deal, indeed!). But it will only be one year, and I hope that our temporary house will be filled with houseguests throughout our time there. New England is a beautiful place to visit, anytime!

    And the girls will have fun, because their Grandma, two aunts and their cool spouses, plus three (soon to be four!) cousins live up there. Plus, I'm pretty sure there'll be fencing.

    I will end here, as the celebratory wine has gotten me tipsy...

    Knowing My Limits

    I was turned on to quilting by a friend of mine in California, back before I had Impera. This friend was amazingly creative, and she would pick out some beautiful fabric, and compose a free-hand quilt just like that, *snap*. I’d tag along on some of her quilt-shop runs, and I’d walk up and down the aisles, running my hand along all the different fabrics, basking in the eye candy before such a word even existed. One time, I felt the urge and I bought one of those fabric packs that quilt shops wisely put together, figuring that the shape of the pack, as well as the rich color combinations, would call to innocent browsers, who would quickly think, “I need this!” and buy it. Look at this:

    I took these pictures this morning. So, you see that in 12 years, I have yet to do anything with this impulse buy. (I argue that the roll is a piece of art, in itself. Taking it apart would be a desecration. Sort of like writing in a fresh notebook of creamy thick paper.)

    Clearly, I shouldn’t make impulse fabric buys. And I don’t. But when I find things like this, at a place like Superbuzzy:

    I find it tempting, nonetheless.

    10 December 2006

    Very Tempted

    ... to filter any emails including the word "sausage" directly to the Trash. I mean, I'm vegetarian, right? How likely is it that anyone I know would send a valid email with that word to me?

    08 December 2006

    Passing the Buck

    Busy busy busy. But if you want to read an entertaining "Six Weird things about Me", then head on over to yesterday's comments. The Consort gave us his six things, and they are *way* better than mine were.

    Go take a peek.

    06 December 2006

    Six Weird Things About Me

    Ally tagged me for this meme, and I promised I’d do it today (although I thought I’d get to it earlier than 10:45 p.m.!), so here you are:

    1.) I have a powerful memory. You’d think that was a good thing (and it is for my line of work), but it keeps getting me into trouble. You see, I can’t ever do the “ forget” in the “forgive and forget” thing. So when others have completely forgotten about a snub, a rude comment, or a cold shoulder, there I am in the corner, seething. It works against me myself, too. I’ll be puttering around, doing something random, when I’ll suddenly remember a moment I said or did something stupid. *Siiiiigh*, I’ll say. “What are you remembering now?” the Consort will ask. (We’ve been together a long time, you see.)

    2.) My favorite treat is chocolate sandwiches. I think this must be a Belgian thing. My favorite way to eat chocolate is to spread some butter (not margarine – yuck) on a slice of bread, fold it up, and take a bite of the bread, then a bite of the line of chocolate. The Consort thinks this is the weirdest way to eat chocolate (but then, he’s not much of a chocolate fan).

    3.) I talk to myself. A lot. I also respond out loud to the radio. I don’t mean shout at it (although I do that sometimes, too), but more along the lines of, “Well, I don’t agree that the administration really thought that through, you know…” (And don’t ask me who “you” is. I have no idea.)

    4.) Summer or winter, I sleep in my skin. Well, on super cold nights I might wear socks. And a hat. Otherwise, whatever I wear bunches up and makes an uncomfortable lump.

    5.) Like Stegbeetle (who’s already completed his 6 things), there is always music on. I’m loving internet radio, because I can listen to great stuff of whatever style I’m in the mood for, wherever I am. In the car, I am an avid station-changer. I’ll keep flipping around to get away from boring songs or commercials. True, this means that I never hear a song in its entirety, but it’s way better than the alternative.

    6.) When I was a kid, we went to church every Sunday, and sat in our regular spot (3rd or 4th row on the left). I had no doubts about the trueness of our religion (Roman Catholicism), because the angels made their presence known every week. See, when the priest concecrates the bread and wine, he speaks the story of the last supper, says “Do this in memory of me”, lifts the plate or chalice up above his head, then does an up-down kneeling. Well, when the plate or chalice was raised up, the angels’ bells would ring in response. It was the coolest thing. But then when my mother was in the hospital having Three of Four, we went with our babysitter’s family, who typically sat on the right side of the church. The side of the altar boy in charge of ringing the bells when the host/wine was raised. I was incredibly bummed out when I realized that it wasn't the angels, it was James Henry. The distress of this moment probably led to my disillusionment with organized religion as I grew up.

    I would tag folks, but many people who haven’t yet been tagged are busy or out traveling right now, so if anyone who reads this is interested, please share six weird things about yourself and let us know so we can take a peek!

    05 December 2006

    Security, Shmecurity

    This morning I went to the Web interface for my student loans to schedule my monthly payment, when I was interrupted by a screen which ordered me to set up some verification information. OK, this is pretty typical (although I’ve been paying online for over a year, so I’ve already made up a pretty hack-proof password). The first one was the one we all expect:

    What is your mother’s maiden name?

    Piece of cake. Easy to remember, not something I mention to strangers, and I don’t have to worry about keeping track of different passwords for different sites.*

    I click on Submit, and I get red warning text all over the page: it seems I have to input four different questions. Sigh. All right. What are the other options?

    What is the name of your first pet?

    Hmm. Do I have to remember the cat Sis #2 cut the whiskers off of at the first apartment we lived in here in the US? (I don’t think I ever knew that cat’s name! I was only 3 and didn’t speak English!)

    What was the last name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?

    …Uhhh, this isn’t a good one. What exactly constitutes a boyfriend? Paul O asking me to the bowling alley in 4th grade? And confusing: the first name of my last, or did you say the last of my first…?

    Which sports team did you like as a child?
    ...Oh, please.

    What was the first name of your closest childhood friend?

    … This one I can do.

    What is the name of favorite fictional character?
    Who is your favorite person from history?
    What is the last name of your favorite teacher?

    …Wait! Too many choices! I read a lot, and, do you mean from a book or from a movie? Are we talking about elementary school, high school, or college?

    What’s your hobby?
    What’s your favorite car?
    What is the place you’d go on your ideal vacation?

    …Well, that might change, wouldn’t it? I mean—
    What is your favorite restaurant?
    What is your favorite place from childhood?
    What is your favorite animal?
    What is your favorite food or drink?

    HELP!!!!!! I just want to pay my student loan, not date the darn loan company! This is going too far. I object!**

    *This is a fear I have: That I will forget which password goes to which account, and not be able to access important time-sensitive information. Not that I would ever dream of preventing this forgetfulness by “clumping” passwords for similar or related activities. Nooooo, never. *Ahem*

    **When I mentioned this to the Consort, he didn’t agree at all. He thought these were very good questions. These were actual security questions. I think that at our age we should be starting to think about Alzheimers (which runs in his family, you know), and these types of questions are dangerous! And too open-ended. And too many!

    04 December 2006

    They Made, I Made

    This weekend was the dog’s birthday: Zephyr turned 6. So the girls went online and found a recipe for dog cake (does it boggle anyone else’s mind that there are recipes out there for dog cake?) They bought the ingredients, baked it (for an hour the kitchen reeked of meat [the batter was made with meat baby food and beef broth]), cooled it, and frosted it. They used cottage cheese for the frosting (rather than yogurt, which was the other option) because supposedly cats can eat the cottage cheese, but not the yogurt (to which I say, “huh?”) (plus, I told them I wouldn’t be very happy if they used the yogurt I had just made to decorate the dog’s cake!) Then, they had the party (you can click on any picture to see larger images):

    DSC01238.JPGThis is the dog thinking, “Hmm, it smells delicious, but—whoa, nelly!—there’s FIRE all around it!”

    DSC01240.JPGHere is Zephyr deciding that yes, she can definitely get used to this birthday thing.

    As I mentioned, the girls made sure the cake would be cat-friendly, because Loki was the other guest at this celebration. What did he think of the dog birthday cake? Let’s see:

    DSC01243.JPG “Excuse me, but can you please get this ‘stuff’ out of my bowl and fill it with my kibble? Look, it’s right here to my left. Sigh, you humans and your silly notions!”

    And here is something I’m putting in my Secret Pal’s December package (which I hope to get out the door today).