I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

28 February 2007

Template Woes

I made the final leap to the new templates on Blogger. I'm not liking it very much. In Firefox, things look OK, but in Safari, "About Me" has me as Imperatri the Tenth. What?!!!

Also, I am sick to death of serif font, and I really would like a nice banner, and I liked it better when that " I'm a freelancer..." bit went across the whole page rather than just 3/4 of it, and doesn't the current post column look narrower to you? (it does to me!), and why oh why can't Blogger templates have sidebars on both sides, and I had been toying with the idea of trading my birthday money from craft purchase to Typepad account purchase, but I decided to do the Big Layout switch with Blogger instead, and I'm cranky because I didn't sleep well last night, and...

Excuse me. It's past my bedtime. See you in the morning.

*mumble* rickin frickin *mumble* stoopid "New Blogger" my a**! *stomp* *stomp* *stomp*

Oceans are Important

So, I had promised to tell you all why the Consort was hobnobbing with Jean-Michel Cousteau this weekend. Forgive the delay, but then the news made me angry yesterday…

Every year there is a Festival hosted by a church in our neighborhood, in collaboration with the university, which focuses on “strengthening the culture of peace” – using the six points UNESCO uses to define the culture of peace (respect all life, reject violence, share with others, listen to understand, preserve the planet, rediscover solidarity). Every year the festival gets bigger (and better). This year they focused on point 5: Preserve The Planet (specifically, water quality). And the Consort was asked to be on the organizing committee as well as be a participant in several of the sessions. The special guest this year was—you guessed it!—Jean-Michel Cousteau. Now, you saw the pictures from this weekend. We had weather. Which meant (a) that JMC’s flight was cancelled, so he rented a car from Kansas City, where he was stranded, and drove up here. In a snowstorm. (Silly Californian.) But he made it! Although the person who was supposed to be the liason couldn’t make it in from their home in the far suburbs. So the Consort was in charge of driving JMC to and fro, bringing him to the sponsors’ brunch, and escorting him to the event.

First of all, did you all know his group, Ocean Futures Society, produces an educational television series about ocean life, shown on PBS? I didn’t (one drawback of not watching TV). He had just returned from a visit to the Amazon, where they are in the process of filming an episode on scuba diving aquatic research down there.

To dovetail with the theme of this year’s Festival, Cousteau’s talk highlighted some of the important points from their exploration of the islands and atolls northwest of Hawaii, shown in the episode, “Voyage to Kure.”

He spent a bit of time discussing the trash that has decimated the plant life on some of the islands, and is killing albatrosses (who eat everything, but then starve when their stomachs are full of undigestible crap like toothbrushes, disposable lighters, and pencils).

Now, the team, in order to prepare for visiting such ecologically fragile habitats, had their clothes sprayed with DEET, sealed, and frozen for 48 hours, in order to prevent any invasive seeds or insects from being brought ashore during their visit. After considering that, take a look at this picture, which shows what they found on Laysan Island:

No, I mean really look at it—in fact, look at the enlarged version. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.

Did you see? They found televisions, computer monitors, glass, plastic, metal—tons of trash. And this stretched for miles. Miles, readers! There was one bit (which I can’t find online anywhere) where you saw Cousteau standing beside a pile of discarded fishing nets that had been collected in a cleanup operation. The pile was taller than he was, and stretched beyond the edges of the screen (I don’t know how deep the pile was, but it looked immense). Wait I found it! Please look. It won’t take but a moment. That’s 82 tons of marine debris collected by NOAA's team at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in a two and a half week period.

Cousteau was a fine speaker. And the work that he and his team have dedicated themselves to is worthy of his father’s legacy. If his series is shown on your PBS station, I recommend you take a look.

If you’re interested, you can do some additional surfing (hah!) here:

  • About the Kure Expedition
  • Kure in the Headlines

  • 27 February 2007

    Do You Wonder Why There Have Been More Food Safety Issues Recently?

    Oh, I don't know ... maybe because:

  • Cuts to the Food and Drug Administration have reduced food safety inspections by 47% since 2003.
  • Food safety tests have dropped nearly 75% since 2003.

    Oh, and -- by the way? The FDA's budget isn't set to get any additional money until 2008, and even then experts fear it's only a fraction of what they need.

    Tax cuts. And poor administration. These are the things that make me ANGRY.

  • 26 February 2007

    Weekend Excitement

    Over the past few weeks, z has been posting pictures of the flowers that she’s finding in her early spring garden. I’ve restrained myself from making the obvious comment that it sure seems warmer in England than in Iowa, and that we don’t really consider spring to arrive here until late March. Because saying isn’t as powerful as showing, right?

    Well, we had some weather come through over the weekend.

    On Sunday morning, when the Consort was heading out the door to go pick up Jean-Michel Cousteau* for lunch, he raced back in, called Jean-Michel at his hotel, and warned him he’d be a little late. It seems some of our huge pine tree’s limbs came down in the night (so that was the CRRRRRAKKK heard in the middle of the night!):


    And blocked the car into the driveway:


    As well as broke our garden gate:


    After the girls and I cleared away most of the branches and shoveled the walkway, I called the electric company to warn them that one limb was leaning against the electric lines down the alley, and I wasn’t sure how long it would stay up. “Do you have electricity?” the customer service agent asked. “Right now, yes, but when the line can’t hold the weight of the ice-covered limb any more, this entire block will be without electricity.” He promised they’d send someone out to take a look. I was surprised that he seemed so uninterested in the danger. Until the Consort showed me the newspaper this morning. Oh, OK, we aren’t the priority. No problem! I totally understand.

    And we ended the day with this magical sight:

    23 February 2007

    Overactive Imagination

    Let me warn you: I am feeling rather punchy this afternoon. What else would you expect after (1) spending two hours with an elementary school group (most of whose members do not receive much [if any at all] discipline from their parents or their teacher) at an offsite book chat in a chocolate shop, where I had to spend the first third of the time getting the kids to order, already, and the remaining two-thirds of the time repeating, “No, just because your purchase of chocolates plus a cup of hot cocoa did not use up your entire five dollars does not mean you can plan to buy a second round. Now, about this book we’re supposed to be discussing…” and (2) participating in a conference luncheon that, it would be safe to say, would not rank among the top luncheons remembered for their scintillating conversation.

    That is why my reaction to the Web site I went to visit (hang on a sec, I’m getting to it) may not be the kindest reaction I’ve had to someone’s loss. And I would like to say, that I’m sure this is a wonderful idea, and I am awed at the time people have volunteered to make such a clearinghouse of information available to people in need.

    There is a Web site called L0st Quilt C0me H0me (No, I will not link to it because of what I am about to share with you all. If it is so important to you, do a Google search. Then their sitemeter won’t find any connection between my site and theirs. [You might want to change those zeroes to o’s first, by the way]). This is a site where people who have lost a treasured quilt can share a description of the quilt, where it was last seen, and why it is of value to them, and if you happen to have innocently “found” this quilt, why, you can send it on home! Amen! Hallelujah!

    The thing is, my punchy mood kept inserting little scenarios in my head as I read the descriptions. Let me share some with you:

    1. [The searchee] needs help locating a quilt that was made by her great-great grandmother. It was one of the last quilts made by her great-great grandmother before she died. [Her] grandmother cherished it since she received it when she was nine years old….The quilt was last seen on May 12, 2006, in West Point, Iowa when it was stolen off the wall of her house on the same weekend that there was a large quilt show in Iowa City, Iowa.

    “Henrietta, you better lock your doors and get out the shotgun! Those wicked wicked quilters [spit] are comin’ back to town this weekend… And you know how the police department is in the pocket of the local Quilter’s Guild. Us reg’lar folks just have to watch out for our own, is all. I’ve done called my nephew Rufus and axed him to spend the night. With his double-barrel shotgun t’keep him company—you betcha!”

    2. [Jane Doe] is hoping to recover a quilt … which she made for Mark Knopfler. It was last seen in 1983 in Camberwell, London, England when builders were in the house…Please contact [Jane] at [some e-mail address] if you find this quilt. There is a massive reward for the return of the quilt.

    Gossip 1: “That Jane thinks she’s so high and mighty!”

    Gossip 2: “Yeah!”

    Gossip 1: “Trying to get us to believe she knew Marc Knopfler when she went up to London in the eighties.”

    Gossip 2: “Yeah!”

    Gossip 1: “The only thing I can believe is that she was so high the whole time, she doesn’t remember anything about the boys she met. They could have called themselves anything, and she would have been all, ‘Here I am, boys, the door’s wiiiiiide open!’ I heard she had to buy new panties every week, because she kept ‘misplacing’ them when she went out…”

    Gossip 2: “Oooooh!” [titter titter] ... "Really?"

    3. [Joan Doe] is hoping to recover a quilt that she made for [John Doe]. It was accidentally left in an apartment when [John] was moving from Colorado to Oregon … It has a hand written label on the back that says, "To [John Doe] from [Joan Doe] Christmas 2004."

    “Accidentally.” Yeah, right. I bet John got an earful when Joan visited him in his new place!

    4. [June Doe] made two sampler quilts as gifts for Christmas 2006. The quilts were wrapped and under the Christmas tree when the house was broken into and all the Christmas presents were stolen, along with an expensive digital camera and their computer. A police report was filed.

    Russ: “Sparky! Look at our haul! A digital camera and a computer! We can hock these down at Fagin’s, and we’ll be able to support our drug habit at least through New Years!”

    Sparky: “Never mind that, Russ—lookee what we got here! Two sampler quilts! You can just toss those old electronics in the trash bin. We got ourselves some sampler quilts!

    Russ: “Sweet!”

    5. Fifteen years ago [Jolene Doe] let her ex-husband's young child use her Horse Quilt. They temporarily moved to Virginia and [Jolene] hasn't seen or heard from them since. At the time, most of his family and the child's mother lived in Alabama so they may have gone back there after Virginia.

    This, this, proves the Cinderella story got it all wrong. It’s not the stepmother who’s the antagonist. It’s always those dang stepkids making off with your horse quilts!

    22 February 2007


    Today, I am going to have to deal with a middle school gossiping issue, and I am not looking forward to it. At all. In fact, I lost some sleep over it. I am in no mood to blog, so instead, I will share with you the good, the bad, and the WTF?

    21 February 2007

    Word Wednesday: Learning to Spell

    I’ve always enjoyed watching children process the concept of spelling. Seeing how children absorb the many rules and exceptions involved in orthography and how they incorporate that into a composition is fascinating. So today I thought I’d share with you something I received in the mail a few days ago from my nephew The Hobbit, who has graced this blog with his presence before (note: you can click on any picture to see a larger version):

    My Favorite Book About Insects
    By The Hobbit”

    Look! The Hobbit does the same thing Trixie did for years: he writes from left to right, but composes a book from back to front. I love it!

    Now, my camera is a point and shoot, so you may not have noticed the dedication on the cover, so allow me to zoom in and show you:
    Betcha didn’t know my real name was Fritec, didja? I consider this a valiant effort by a 5-year-old to capture a very long, very difficult name. It’s close enough to “friuduric” that it works for my offline as well as my online monniker.

    Now, let’s open the book and see what we learn about insects in this wonderful book:

    “Caterpillars can turn into butterflies, but it has to find a leaf”

    That is very true!

    “But if they don’t find a leaf on time, they will die!

    And that ending is probably why this book happens to be the favorite book about insects, I think. (I scoff when people say little ones are too sensitive for discussions of death. Kids thrive on it!)

    This has got to be the best book I’ve received in the mail in a very long while (and it's not even science fiction/fantasy!). Thank you, Three of Four, for mailing the Hobbit’s first published text to me. We all give it five stars.

    20 February 2007

    Poor (Animal) Husbandry

    Lately, Loki has been acting more needy than usual. This is saying a lot, because, for example, Loki’s favorite way to eat his kibble is for one of us to be standing beside him and brushing him as he munches away. He also feels that after the girls are in bed, when I typically settle down on the couch with a blanket and my laptop (or a book), is the perfect time for some neck scratching (on my part) and lap kneading (on his part).

    This neediness started (I think) last Thursday, and I attributed it to the frigid weather (which made it nearly impossible for even a furball like him to want to spend any time outside, hence: intense boredom). All weekend, he insisted that one of us be in the bathroom with him whenever he ate. We’d walk in, give him a quick pat, and walk out (we do have better things to do than be our cat’s personal slave, y’know). At first, he tried to get us back in there—by walking out to us, whining, looking pitiful, and taking a few steps back towards the bathroom, all the while looking over his shoulder to make sure we were following. By Saturday, he felt that maybe surfing the Web would give him an answer to his troubles:

    By Sunday, he figured a change of scenery would cure his ennui:

    On Sunday evening, Trixie said, “Mom, I think Loki cries when he eats.” Sure, sure, the poor pitiful unloved cat. Whatever.

    Monday morning, I happened to be in the bathroom while he was at his food, and—ohmygoodness!—he was crying; not whining. Something was wrong. I scheduled an appointment at the vet’s, and found out Loki has sores in his throat. The vet implied this can be common in cats. He got a shot of steroids, which should help the inflammation for about a month (although he hasn’t eaten anything yet; even when I put some kibble in my hand, he turns his head away like a poor pitiful soul). If this is a run-of-the-mill virus, then the sores should be gone by then and everything is peachy. If the inflammation comes back, then we’ll have to discuss the two treatment options. Which are: (1) Monthly steroid shots to keep the inflammation down. Side effects: It might induce diabetes, which would resolve as soon as we end the steroids (when would that be?!), but in the meantime would need to be treated (she implied diabetic cat care is a big pain in the butt). (2) Pulling out all his teeth. She says it’s amazing how quickly this tends to resolve the sores in the mouth problem. Side effects: No teeth! And .. No teeth!

    Poor kitty, I sure hope this goes away on its own in the next 4 weeks…

    And if this story hasn’t provided enough cat-ness for the day, then I will end with the following YouTube link:
    Nora, The Piano-Playing Cat (2:48)

    19 February 2007

    Book Review: The People’s Act of Love (aborted)

    I admit my weakness: I am a genre fiction whore. I am drawn first to the science fiction/fantasy section of the bookstore. I feel this failing, deeply. Because SFF is not highbrow fiction. And it is highbrow fiction that puts a reader “in the right camp”, so to speak. (Don’t get me wrong: I’ve read my share of highbrow fiction. My favorite authors are Hemingway [but that gets me in trouble with most feminists], and James Joyce [Ulysses, anyone? And my 22-year-old self pitched a fit when my James Joyce prof canceled the sequence on Finnegan’s Wake, because we were taking too long with Ulysses. Pshaw! We should have come in for extra sessions and made the time!].)

    When I feel I’ve overdone it with the SFF, I force myself (and perhaps here is the crux of the problem: my calling what I do “forcing”) to read some “quality” fiction. The New York Times liked The People’s Act of Love, by James Meek, and it was in paperback, so I bought it and started it that very day.

    On the cover, I read that The Washington Post Book World said, “Doctor ZhivagoAnna Karenina … Lermontov’s A Hero of Our TimeThe People’s Act of Love will remind you of all these books … Magnificent … heart-pounding.” (By the way, when reviewers feel they need to provide the author of a classic work when citing it, I would argue it isn’t a classic, really; they’re just trying to cover up their own feelings of inadequacy.) On the back cover, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland’s, that is) gushes, “The heft and passion of classic Russian literature … Anna Karenina set to the rollicking pace of a modern-day thriller. Epic yet heartbreakingly intimate … it feels like a revolution.” (Reads a little over the top, no? Too bad I didn’t realize that before I started reading.)

    We meet Samarin, as a young man, and then as an escapee from a Siberian work camp. He escaped with someone called The Mohican, who Samarin claims took Samarin along so he could eat him as they made their way to freedom. Curious, macabre, but I let this pass. We meet Balashov, the barber of Yazyk, who is returning home from another village. Then there is Mutz, a lieutenant in the Czechoslovak Legion in Russia. Here is where I learn something: masses of Czechoslovak soldiers were stuck within the boundaries of Russia after World War I, caught in the upheaval of Soviet revolution. (That’s what good fiction is all about, learning something in the course of the book!)

    On page 55, we learn that Balashov, and most of the residents of Yazyk, are part of a Christian sect. A sect which believes in the ultimate evil of all things carnal, and solves the whole body/mind dichotomy by castrating the men.


    Now hang on just a second! I chose this book because I wanted to read some good, highbrow, fiction. Something rooted in the real world, that would evoke the human condition in all its poignancy. Excuse me, but I would bet that it would be just as likely for a work-camp escapee to come across a castrating sect in Siberia as for the battle between the High Folk and the Night Lords to wash across a world cowering between its two angry twin suns. Why would the first deserve reviews in all the best places and a $15 cover price, whereas the latter is considered reviewable only by pulp magazines and a $6.99 cover price?

    Now, I am sure that beyond page 57, The People’s Act of Love will break my heart with its intimateness. I don’t disagree that the epic scope might knock my socks off. That, as I reach the climax of the story, I will shout out, “Doctor Zhivago! Anna Karenina! Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time! Fantastic!!!” But it isn’t the kind of story I was looking for at this particular time. So I’ve put it aside, and started something else, instead. Soemthing that is so rooted in the real world, it's fabulous.

    I will finish The People’s Act of Love. If only to tell you all that I did. But if you choose to start this one, consider yourselves warned: you better be willing to accept fantasy/horror mixed in with your fiction.

    16 February 2007

    It's Friday. No Content Here.

    Wanna know what the chocolate was used for in a science project? Well, first Impera made some instant vanilla pudding:

    She also used a long-handled spoon to shape the melted chocolate chips:

    This morning, she combined the two parts:

    And that's how you recreate this:

    Tectonic plates. Sweet!

    I thought it would be cool if she pressed down on the plates during her presentation to show earthquakes, and if she had left a hole in one of the pieces (say, Hawaii), then she could have shown an erupting volcano, too. But no. The wiggly-jiggly is enough. Other kids used things like edible peanut butter playdough (may I just say, "eww, gross"?) shaped around a half an orange, all placed in a round bowl (bowl = the crust) to represent the layers of the earth (may I just say, the combination of orange with peanut butter playdough sounds even more gross?)

    On a separate note, for Valentines I downloaded some pdfs from The Toymaker. From the Valentine page, I made celtic boxes for Impera and Trixie and the magic box of hearts for the Consort. I then filled the boxes with chocolate truffles and little heart notes. If you have some cardstock and a color printer, then go take a look at the fun paper crafts Marilyn Scott-Waters offers on this neat site. Why didn't I share this with you earlier in the week? Because I wanted to keep my valentines a surprise, and I'm a bad blog friend that way. Don't count on me to tell you about a fabulous prize online until after I've had a chance to register first, and maybe even win. 'Cause if you don't register, that would increase my chance of winning by 0.000000034%, and every little bit counts.

    Don't worry. I'm doing penance. Today I have to clean up the office, which over the past few weeks has morphed from a working office to a pig sty. Think I'm joking?

    Think again.

    PS: I've found the bestest time to go to the university gym. Not at 8:30 a.m., because that's when the diehard sporty-types go (this is a college campus, so these are considered the "early risers"). Not at 10 a.m. because that's when the people who recognize the importance of balancing a good exercise regimen with a good sleep regimen (and who have wisely not scheduled any morning classes) go. But at 12:30 p.m., the machines are mostly free, and the place is populated with profs, who are, of course, my age group. Although, because I know these people socially, some of them want to chat. But let me tell you, when I'm walking backwards up a hill on an elliptical machine, there's no breath left for chatting. I admit I've told one to shut up (kindly) when he wanted to start a conversation. Dont' they realize I'm listening to my rave mix on my iPod? I can barely hear them, anyway!

    15 February 2007

    One Third?

    Originally uploaded by friuduric.

    Hmmmm. When I handed the unopened 24-oz. bag of chocolate chips to Impera for her use in a science project, I explained she should put about one third of the chips in the double boiler to melt.

    I think New Math isn't working.

    14 February 2007

    Word Wednesday: Shades of Meaning

    This morning I spent more minutes than I should have worrying about today’s post. Because it is Wednesday, you know. And what would be the use of resuscitating Word Wednesdays if I can only last two weeks? Sure, I should only post word-themed posts if I have something to talk about, and it shouldn’t become a chore, but really, only two weeks in a row? If that’s all I can do, then that’s pretty pitiful. But then, while making my second monster mug of tea, I was distracted from my self-criticism by the intro to a local public radio program. Today’s guest was someone from Temple University, an anti-Holocaust scholar.

    It just blew me away when I first heard the ad for this particular show a few days ago. In fact, I shouted at the radio in the car for a moment or two. I couldn’t believe that here in mild-mannered, polite Iowa, our public radio station was going to dedicate most of a show to an anti-Holocaust scholar. We aren’t Missouri, south of us, which has a tendency to swing conservative; we aren’t Kansas, southwest of us, home of Fred Phelps (as an aside, I’ve been proud of local Iowans who have made it abundantly clear to Phelps and his bully gang that they aren’t welcome here when they’ve come to disrupt Des Moines graduation ceremonies or military funerals with their message of hate), so why on earth are we interviewing an anti-Holocaust scholar on public radio? And why was this person invited to speak during the University of Northern Iowa’s Holocaust Remembrance and Education Program? Have we gone insane? Why should we give a platform to one of those deluded academics and neo-cons (I prefer to call them “whackos”) who deny the Holocaust? For the love of all gods great and small, Why?!

    I tuned back in to what the announcer was saying. “Dr. Weiman is director of Temple’s Institute for Interreligious, Intercultural Dialogue. Her work focuses on informing and preventing the repetition of similar Holocaust situations world-wide. Weiman describes herself as an ‘Anti-Holocaust scholar.’”

    Oh. That kind of anti. Not Merriam-Webster’s definition 2a (“opposing or hostile to in opinion, sympathy, or practice : anti-Semite”), but definition 4 (“combating or defending against : antiaircraft, anti-missile*”).

    I always like to spout the truism that English has many more words than other languages, thus that in English you can better distinguish between shades of meaning. Well, I think we need at least one more prefix. Just to prevent misunderstanding. Don’t you agree?

    And also? Dr, Weiman? Maybe you should self-style yourself something else. Just a thought. But, thanks! I now have a perfectly good Word Wednesday post.

    * Does it bother no one else that the one has a hyphen and the other doesn't? I wonder if this is a typo in the dictionary? Heaven forbid!

    13 February 2007

    TV's Not All Bad, I Guess

    I'm sure I had things to say. But I just spent the past half hour watching clips from Dateline (a TV news show -- usually I add quotes to the word news, but this time I won't) on their series called "To Catch a Predator". They film adults who, after explicit online chatting, come to a home thinking they'll find a 12 or 13 year old (boy or girl), alone. It's amazing how these guys immediately know they've done something wrong. Some acknowledge it, others try to spin their motives ("just a quick visit to make sure she's OK while her mom's out of town" -- good lord).

    Yeah, TV's not all bad. We're probably the only family who hasn't seen this, but if you haven't seen it either, follow this link, and scroll down to where it says "Free Video". There are a series of clips you can watch. I was able to watch it on my Mac.

    Thanks to Cowgirl for bringing this to my attention.

    12 February 2007

    Book Review: Kushiel's Dart

    If you were to ask—“Imperatrix, I’m bored and I need a suggestion for something to read. Nothing deep, I don’t have the energy, but something with Wow! and panache. Can you recommend something?”—then I would have to answer with an exuberant, Yes! And I’d go into this long explanation:

    Last year (two years ago?), I picked up a book on the library’s New Books shelf, and from the moment I cracked the cover, I could barely put it down. That book was Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. It is historical fantasy, meaning in this case that the framework is Renaissance courtly intrigue set in a land that is clearly a reimagined France (just look at the map in the frontispiece; it's called Terre D’Ange in the novel), and its capital city, the City of Elua. There is magic, but that's not really the driving force in the story.

    It isn’t the magic that draws the reader, it’s the language. Carey’s use of language is brilliant. You envision the people, the culture, and the accoutrements of the characters thanks to her fabulous sensual (meaning visual, tactile, and aural) descriptions.

    But the novel is also sensual its more carnal sense. I have to warn you: Carey speaks frankly about sex in this novel. A central plot point is the religion of Terre D’Ange, which involves honoring sexuality in all its forms as a gift of the creator. Love as thou wilt is their credo, and so it is unsurprising that we learn quite a bit about the Night Court—the thirteen Houses which are home to the Servants of Naamah, the most elite cadre of religious prostitutes in Terre d'Ange—early on through our introduction to the main character, Phedre (an adept in one of those Houses). I found it amazing to consider a world where sexuality is openly accepted as a part of who we are as human beings—imagine a world where people aren’t exploited for sex, and where sexual needs aren’t considered a necessary but dirty part of humanity (admit it, for all the talk, people in general aren’t comfortable with open discussion of their own or others’ sexuality, and any public discussion of sex risks turning into titillating [heh] gossip). Carey explores the boundaries between pleasure and pain, the erotic and the aggressive, in this novel.

    Do you see my problem? I can’t talk about the novel without mentioning the central place that sexuality has in the story, but it isn’t porn. Oh no. It is a gripping spy story (who is behind the attempted coup and destruction of the reigning House Courcel? How tangled is the web of treason?); it’s also a fascinating adventure story. It was one of those novels that when the story was finished, I wished it weren’t. This is absolutely a book I would recommend everyone at least try. Not everyone will like it, that’s certain. But just read the first chapter, and see where it takes you.

    I don't want to say too much about the plot becuase Carey does such a good job of keeping the pace going and adding just enough new material that you get a sense of the scope of this world and the machinations of those in power.

    Carey has since then written three other novels continuing the adventures of the same group of characters. They aren’t as good (well, maybe the fourth one is better than the others), but that’s no surprise. As for me, any excuse to get back to Terre D’Ange is worth a try.

    If anyone read it other than Three of Four (I've already got her hooked on it), let us know. If you give it a shot after reading this paltry review, let us know, too!

    09 February 2007

    I Didn't Want Randomness, But...

    I want to write a book review. But I've made it such a big deal in my mind, I can't get it right. Aaargh! So I've decided to get a few random things out for you that I've been holding on to for a bit.

  • If you pay taxes in the U.S., then you'll want to know about the one-time federal excise tax credit that rebates tax overpayment on phone bills. You can claim it only this year. You can either get the lump-sum rbate, or, if you're willing to go through your phone bills and send along a copy of all of them, you can get an exact repayment. (Is it worth billable time to do this? Hmm.)

  • The Phrontistery looks like a place I could waste hours upon hours of my time. (Maybe I should be a zetetic instead of going through old phone bills. Hmmmm.)

  • You can hear NPR Live concerts in the privacy of your own home. Any time you like. (Three of Four: they have OK Go!)

  • Some of the puppets at Folkmanis make me wish I had a puppet theater!

  • This one I just found this morning: Midwives in the UK are using knitted breasts to help in their breast-feeding demostrations for new mothers

    And if that selection isn't random, I don't know what is.

  • 07 February 2007

    Word Wednesday: An Un-Effective Cop-out

    I've complained before about using the word impact as a verb. Last night, the Consort mentioned a conversation he had had yesterday with a student. It seems that some people use impact as a verb because they can't figure out whether to use affect or effect, so they bypass the whole conundrum and use the icky, verbed impact, instead.

    My response? No excuse. All that's required is a Web search (you know, the thing some college students do to find paragraphs to lift to "jazz up" their papers). You get a bucketful of results, many of them from university writing labs. Yes, some can be on the dull side (scroll down a bit to find it), but others are highly entertaining (or is that just me?).

    Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. At least, not until all the people like me are dead. (Even then, I will probably haunt the dreams of sloppy writers [considering there's no way I will have been good enough to get into anyone's heaven*].)

    *Case in point: The three previous posts all use the word damn. Now, that's excessive, if you ask me.

    I Knew It Would Happen; I Told You So

    Remember when I told you my student loan supplier had implemented new security measures?

    Well, today when I went online to schedule my February payment, they asked me what my hobby was, and damned if I couldn't remember which one I had given them. (I have more than one hobby, you know, BigBank.)

    Golddarn it.

    06 February 2007

    Officially Over the Hill

    Right before Christmas, Impera mentioned that our not having a game system was Not Good. I could draw this story out, but I want to talk about ME, so I'll just say that, thanks to some very cool friends, they loaned the girls their Xbox system (they had recently gotten an Xbox 360). They gave us a few games to play: Halo (a futuristic military game), Morrowind (a D&D adventure game), a car racing game, and Dance Dance Revoution (henceforth DDR, because we're cool like that).

    Aha! I thought. I can use DDR to do some aerobic exercise.

    But I never got around to trying it out.

    Yesterday, I decided it would be stupid to go to the gym in such bitter cold, so I changed into gym clothes, plugged in the DDR, and shut the drapes (so as not to reflect light on the TV screen, not, as some of you may think, to make sure neighbors couldn't see me dancing to DDR. Ahem.)

    After 10 minutes of attempting to complete the training session. I gave up.

    People, I just cannot figure that thing out. How the heck can they call something "training" if it's zipping along at mega-disco speed, and the arrows are flying up the screen so fast you can barely keep track? DDR kept telling me "Boo" and "Danger!"even though I swear -- I swear! -- that when the arrow pointed right I stepped right. And I was on the stupid mat the whole time ... I checked that, too (although looking down at the mat may be why I missed some of the arrows).

    DDR sux. I was so frustrated with the whole experience I went to the kitchen and made myself an unhealthy snack. So there, DDR!

    Damn. I guess I'll have to keep taking my chances with the sub-freezing weather and the perky co-eds at the gym. Bother.

    05 February 2007

    A: 57 minutes; 22 expletives; 8 finger cramps; too damn

    Q: If you don't have a ball winder, how long does it take to turn this:

    into this:

    About last night: Wasn't the game the least compelling Superbowl you've seen in a while? Sheesh. And Prince? He wasn't even trying to make it look like he was actually playing. And the commercials? Practically nonexistent. Good thing there were friends, tasty snacks, and beer to make the evening hours worthwhile.

    02 February 2007

    The Truth Hurts

    Imperatrix is singing in the kitchen...

    "Na na na na,
    Na na na na,
    Hey, hey, hey,
    Good vibes."

    She stops and speaks...

    "You know, I don't care that everybody says it's "goodbye", I say it's "good vibes".

    The Consort answers from the dining room...

    "So, you're George Bush, are you?"