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 2007

The Ghost of Halloween Present

The Ghost of Halloween Present
Originally uploaded by friuduric.

Happy Halloween! Happy Samhain!
I'm still buried under a deadlined* project. So I'm making do with posting a picture of the jack o'lanterns we carved Monday night**. I've been getting lots of traffic on the site lately from folks trying to understand the concept of Beggars Night, and checking out my post from last year. They don't do Beggars Night here in New Hampshire, and I have to say, I kind of miss it (!!!).

*Apt condition for this day, don't you think?
**It's fuzzy because I took it in a dark room, with a flashlight, and a very slow shutter speed. (But look -- I have the spirit of a jack o'lantern taking me over [you may have to click on it at see it bigger on flickr]. OOOOOoooooOOOOO.)

30 October 2007

Quickie Rant

I'm so so very busy, and I planned to write a real post, but instead, I choose only to write a cryptic rant.

Would it be so hard to hope that my 40th birthday (which falls in the middle of a week in the winter) could have been celebrated with a weekend of fun and quality time with my family? Instead, I learn today that the relative (and offspring) I have the least interest in will be arriving that weekend, for a week of winter snow sports.

Woo fricking hoo.

i'll try to post something less self-pitiful later.

25 October 2007

Calling All French Speakers

Growing up in a bilingual household, the most important phrase a kid could use was puis-je. Because without it, one could never ask,

Puis-je avoir cinq dollars pour la foire?*
Puis-je quitter la table?

Or, the most important: Puis-je avoir un autre morceau de gateau?***

This year, living in elite-land, Trixie is learning French as part of the sixth grade curriculum (something the Des Moines school district can’t afford to do). And may I just say, she is doing a fabulous job? I’m amazed at how quickly she’s taken to it, and how much fun she’s having learning those little dialogs for class. She even spells well in French (yes the language of pebblex and owlx)!****

This makes me happy. (Especially since she was the kid who told me that, given the choice, she didn’t want to learn French ever—she wanted to learn Spanish instead [Oooh! Dagger through my heart!])


They are taught, not puis-je, but est-ce que je peux (lit., is it that I can; can I).

In my youth, if we ever said est-ce que je peux, we’d get a look, and silence until we asked correctly. It just wasn’t done!

Sound-wise, too, where pwee-zhe kind of just glides through your lips, ess-uh-kuh-zhe-peuh hangs around a sprays a bit of spittle on the person you are speaking to. Blech. Not pretty.

Am I making this up? Is est-ce que je peux the more correct usage? Could puis-je be a Belgian thing? (Like the crass Belgian usage of saying “seventy-three” rather than the much daintier French “sixty-thirteen”?*****) The Consort, who learned French in this very same school district when he was a kid, tells me he never came across the puis-je form until he met me.

Of course, she’s also being taught the word magaziner, so I should probably just give up.(6*)

*May I have five dollars for the carnival?
**May I be excused from the table?
***May I have another piece of cake?
****I grew up on a steady diet of phonics, and I loved it. Trixie is a pure child of the “whole language” concept (where the teachers encourage writing without learning spelling first, because the kids will just “pick up the spelling as they go” [which is crap, in my opinion; Trixie would read and comprehend way above her age level, but wasn’t very good at spelling those very same words].
*****Oh, those silly Belgians. [Is the thick sarcasm in my tone coming through? ;-)]
6* [I figured you lost count at five asterisks, because I did] That’s the French Canadian word for shopping. It is literally “store-ing”. Does that sound weird or what?

23 October 2007

Message to a Stranger

Photo from the New York Times

Lady, please, get the heck out of there! The fire is right at your doorstep. No house is worth your life.

250,000 urged to Evacuate Southern California

19 October 2007

Food and Blogging (but not food blog)

Earlier this week, Mizmell shared her solutions to feeding unexpected guests. I promised I’d share one of our quick recipes, too. As you can see from the photo, the Consort thinks this particular recipe is perfect for those last-minute guesses ;-)

Note the splatters on the page. We are messy cooks.

What’s great about this recipe is that you probably already have all these ingredients in your cupboard (because everybody keeps pine nuts on hand, right?). I would have made some this week, just so I could take pictures for this post, except we had it when our Boston friends were visiting a few weeks ago, and we had pasta twice already this week (once with the last of the season’s basil – the girls made pesto; and once with vodka sauce—jarred, but all-natural and oh, so good) and I wasn’t sure that the Consort would be happy with pasta three times in one week (he’s all about ‘variety’ and crap like that, the crazy guy).

Here you go: Tomato Pesto Pasta Sauce, from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. You’re done. Ta-daaaaa! Now go socialize with your last-minutes guests.

Actually, I often mix in 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce to thin it a bit. And don’t forget this sauce goes on top of one pound of pasta, so you’ll have to cook that up, too. The cookbook says capellini, but we’ve made this on everything from thin spaghetti to penne, and it always tastes great.

Oh, and lest I forget: MizMell also urged me to join National Blog Posting Month (or, NaBloPoMo). I figured, since I failed so miserably at NaNoWriMo last year, that I probably should have started smaller, and posting on my blog daily (including weekends!) probably has a better chance of success than writing 50,000 words of a novel (Note: you’re just promising to post daily, not lengthily). If anyone else would like to join, let me know and I can send you an invite (you can do it yourself, but this way you’d be automatically added to my friends list, which currently numbers one friend: MizMell). This would be a wonderful way for people who have not blogged in a year (or two) to get back into it. *hint, hint*

18 October 2007

Deviations from the Mean

Earlier this week, I came across the Carbon Conscious Consumer site, and, without really thinking about it, signed their Monthly Action Pledge.

It sounds like a great idea. Each month, you pledge to make one small change in your life (because “BIG changes start with small steps,” as their tagline says). You can also win prizes depending on how many people you get to sign up (so totally not my thing, but hey, whatever works to rope in the most people, right?).

Then I took a look at what I was pledging to do, as well as the list of previous monthly pledges, and it seems that I’m not pledging to do anything more than I already do (sort of like me signing a pledge to not eat beef for a month).

I think I have a disconnect with what constitutes normal behavior. I know I always get into trouble when I specifically request input from my readers (you all will comment away happily, until I ask you to, and then the comments dry up, like *that!*). If you were so inclined, could you tell me which of these actions you already do on a regular basis, which you wouldn’t do, and which you might do (but it would be a sacrifice, no doubt about it). I’m not trying to shame anyone, but I’m just curious how far from normal the Consort and I really are.

I’ll go first.
The C3 Challenge Actions:

1. In July we asked you to Eat Locally - Buy one pound of local food a week.

During farmers market season, we buy practically all our produce from the vendors. On a regular week we might bring home: a bunch of broccoli, a bunch of chard, brussels sprouts, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, celery, a melon (pee-yew!), some blueberries, cheese, and salad mix.

2. In August we asked you to Downshift your Driving - Carve out one car-free day a week.

The girls walk to school, the Consort bikes to work, I work from home. When we take the car, we try to combine errands into a single trip. We shop for dry goods once a week, rather than pop in at the store every couple of days.

3. In September we asked you to: Junk Your Junk Mail - Use online forms to eliminate most of your unwanted ad mail.

We did this years ago. We don’t sign up for catalogs, and cancel them when some slip through.

4. In October we'll: Break the Bottled Water Habit - use a non-toxic reusable bottle for water on the go! And a high-quality filter in your home.

We rarely buy bottled water. We each have a Nalgene water bottle that we use for hikes (and the girls use theirs to bring water for lunch at school; they pack a lunch every day, BTW). The Consort doesn’t use disposable cups at the office, and I try to remember to bring a travel mug when I buy a cup of coffee at the library (where I hang out on fencing nights, so I don’t have to make two round trips to drop the girls off and then pick them up again two hours later).

We drink tap water in Des Moines, and I started using a Brita filter this summer when I was not too sure of the quality of the water coming out of the pipes here in NH.

5. In November we'll: Clean Green – Cold wash your clothes and choose the no-heat dry cycle on your dishwasher.

OK, I do one hot and cold load per week. But I only do laundry once a week, so the loads are always full. The girls do their own laundry, and when they actually get around to doing their wash, the amount of clothes they let pile up has gotten to the full size, as well.

We have always used the no-heat dry on our dishwasher. I usually open the door when the dry cycle starts, and let things air dry. Since July, we’ve done all our dishes by hand. (The girls are hoping we find a used portable dishwasher soon. But they aren’t complaining.)

6. In December we'll: Bring Your Own Bag – Neither paper nor plastic when you take part in “The New BYOB.”

We bring our own bags to the farmers market. When we aren’t purchasing more than will fit in our arms (book shopping, for example), we’ll say, “No sack, please.” (Yep, I really say “sack.” It’s one midwestern thing I’ve adopted quite happily into my speech.)

We do get at least one paper bag per week and use it to collect our newsprint, etc., for recycling. We use the plastic bags from the grocery store to line our trash cans. We don’t buy special boxes of “trash bags” for that.

There you have it. Anyone else want to share? (And go take the C3 pledge, if you like, too.)

17 October 2007

Multimedia argument

Consider a man, who, during those halcyon pillowtalk days of yore, is told, “You have the largest, brownest eyes I have ever seen. *Sigh* They are so beautiful. Like a big, loveable, puppy dog’s eyes.”

And who responds to his beloved with:

Your eyes remind me of a turtle!

Consider a man, who, upon first hearing this song:


Eeeeesh. She sounds like she was high when she wrote this!

Consider a man, who, when played this capture (from this Slate.com article) of someone breathing heavy (“light” snoring),

when told this is what he does from time to time, and is asked if this is a good representation of what his beloved does from time to time, replies:

Ummmm. What you do is more what one generally thinks of when one hears the term “snooooorrrrring”.

I ask you, can this man’s judgment be trusted?

Clearly, no.

Right? I mean, gosh—I hate the fact that I have no control over what I sound like when I’m asleep. I hate not being in control, period. But. For full disclosure purposes, when I wailed that now I would never feel comfortable sharing a room with anyone ever again, this selfsame man reassured me that (a) he hadn’t noticed an occurrence of this snoooorrrring in the past year, and (b) it didn’t really matter because he was planning to be the one to share a bed with me for many more decades to come. (Awwwwww. [But I’m still never going to forget the turtle comment!])

Ooooo! And isn't this embedded playlist thing cool? I think I may have to start using this.

15 October 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day: The Environment.* So, I will do my part by sharing the following information with my loyal readers:

Economics Can Be Sexy

I love Paul Krugman**, and I think everybody should read his NYT columns. What’s not to like about a Princeton economist who actually cares about the poor and the environment, and who finds a way for economics to work with social issues, rather than against them? I missed him when NYT was behind a pay-per-view wall, but now that everyone can read his thoughts for free, you should go check him out (if you haven't already). Today his piece was on Al Gore, climate change, and the rabid reactionary right***. See? Even Paul Krugman honored Blog Action Day!

Sometimes, Sexy Isn’t Best****

Some of the current environmental sexy hunks are: the Toyota Prius, solar panels, and organic foods.

But really, things that would make a much bigger impact on the environment are: ensuring sure your current car is tuned up (nobody ever thinks about the replacement costs of all that metal, plastic, etc., that make up a car, and that in large part is wasted when one trades an “old” car for a new car), geothermal energy (it’s underground, where you can’t see it, unlike solar panels, which are on your roof for everyone to see), and local foods (organic foods that travel the traditional 1,500 miles per item [i.e., most of those items sold by Whole Foods and even your local grocery store in the Organic Foods aisle] aren’t particularly earth-friendly).

We really need to start thinking about the choices we make, on a deeper level than the reasons marketers shove in our faces.

And now, if you care for more Imperatrix pontification, you can check out my opinion on "fast" food and why making your own yogurt makes sense.

I also put up a set from our Sunday hike up Mt. Cube. (And I actually titled these photos, rather than keeping the DSC98475 numbering they get in the camera!)

*Maybe it’s Blog Action Day just in the craft-blog miniverse. One thing I’ve noticed about craft bloggers is that there does seem to be a strong tendency towards group blog action. (Think about all those swaps, knit-alongs, and gift exchanges crafters are constantly joining.) Last year, it was the search for the Kim family. It became impossible to visit a crafter’s blog without reading about the blogger’s heartache over the missing family; you didn’t even have to visit news sites because bloggers were continuously updating the latest information about the search and rescue operation. Not that this groupthink is bad, just a little surprising.

**I love him so much I am seriously considering temporarily putting aside my desire for a bread baking book and buying his new book Conscience of a Liberal first.

***What, me, biased? Nah.

****This is based on thoughts the Consort shared with me last week. I probably haven't remembered it quite right, so, any good parts about this is his, and incorrect parts are mine (except for the food vs. food thing; that's all mine).

11 October 2007

Portrait of the Artist as an Unfocused Woman

“Wow! Our living room is so bare in our itty bitty sabbatical house. And the walls! They exude such … beigeness.”

“But hark! What do I notice to the side there? Could it be? Yes! It is! It is a framed loon triptych*!

*think* *think* *think*

“I bet I could make a wall hanging to fill that space! Yes, indeed. In fact, I found this cool method for making wavy seams. I could totally make something for that space. Totally. In fact, all I’d need to get started is twelve fabrics!”

“Okay! Let’s get started. Wait—it’s too difficult to wavy-cut 42-inch lengths of fabric. I know, I’ll have 20-inch strips, but I’ll stack them, so I’ll still get 40-inch height.”

*cut, match, sew, iron* *cut, match, sew, iron* *cut, match, sew, iron*

“Grrrrrr. This is taking a looooong time:”

“Gosh, I’m only two thirds of the way done. Hmmm. I know! I’ll just do the last third with the strips going horizontally:”

*cut, match, sew, iron* *cut, match, sew, iron* *cut, match, sew, iron*

“Bored now. What can I do? … Dang! I’ve forgotten to use one of the fabrics! Oooh! I think I have a solution. Tadaaa!”

(And a curse on anyone who even thinks that this looks like an upside-down flag.**)

“Hmmm. This doesn't look anything like how I envisoined it.

"Urgh. I need a beer. And maybe a multi-day break from this project."

*No, actually, it isn’t.
**And a pox on anyone who reminds me that originally, this was going to be two strips high. I’m just going to make a wider border than I planned, is all.

09 October 2007


In honor of Canadian Thanksgiving, which was this past weekend, I just wanted to say that I am thankful that none of my regular readers is a bitter old crone who spends her time knocking other people's comments.

Every. single. time.

(What, me bitter? Nah. I'm just trying to keep up with all the multipost days you all have been having.)

Rambling Catch-Up Post

Oh, my goodness, people! I stay offline for four days (two of which were weekend days), and I come back to 67 new posts! Some of you posted 6 or 7 times in that short span. How on earth am I going to catch up? And what on earth are you all doing posting multiple times over a single day?

[N.B.: This has turned out to be quite a long post. I’ve helpfully highlighted the important asides with italics, so if you’re in a hurry, just skip the blah-blah and read the meat of the story.]

First, about my previous post. Some of you wanted to know what blogs I was referencing. Well, I can tell you about them, but I won’t post links. These are just regular folks with blogs and it wouldn’t be fair to give them traffic just from people checking out how poor their life skills are (plus, I wouldn’t want them to come back at me and kick my pixelated* ass, you know?). One of them is the blog of a woman who just doesn’t seem to be able to look past herself in larger issues, and who has a bit of a problem making mountains into molehills with people she disagrees with. She also is a typical American in that while living in a foreign country, she practically alienated an entire university department by attempting to bully her advisor and other mentors into letting her do things the way *she* wanted to do them for her doctorate, rather than following the method of her adopted country. (Not everyone does things like Americans, you see?) The other blog I have a macabre fascination with is a woman who is clearly working through some issues (healthy), but is in a relationship where they seem to drink a lot (not healthy). She has become used to a child-free life these past two years, which is a fine choice to make, but really wants her kids (currently living with their dad) to come live with her. I don’t think it will work.

Why do I keep checking these blogs out? Probably, I’ve decided, because I am a snoop at heart who is working very hard to break the generational snooping behavior she was exposed to as a child. I’m not doing it to my children, so I’ve redirected my proclivities towards total strangers. I don’t know if this is a good solution, but the Internet makes it so easy!

Some of you thought I was talking about political blogs, but no. I just cannot imagine keeping sane if I were to regularly read conservative backwash. Ugh.

Aside #1: I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction lately, but my choices aren’t inspiring me. Mostly because I know it wouldn’t be healthy for me or my family if I were to read right-wing ulcer-inducing baloney, but the things I am reading aren’t keeping my interest. Examples: I finally read Nickel and Dimed this summer, and I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle right now. I think everyone should read both of these books, and I bet many people would learn a thing or two (in fact, I think Barbara Kingsolver’s book would be a great gift to give out to people [if I ever give in and become a preachy gift-giver]). Problem is, I already know more than the average person about these issues, so I’m not surprised or invigorated to make changes in my life (we already eat local, seasonal, and chemical-free, for example). I also picked up that Mayflower book from the library’s New Books shelf, and after 15 pages I—well, I was bored. Any suggestions?

The reason I was offline was that this was a busy holiday weekend for us. (After 7 years in the midwest, where we never got Columbus Day off [they’d give the kids a 3-day weekend the following week, so it was clear we weren’t celebrating the Beginning of the End of Native North American Independence], it was weird to be getting such an out-of-favor holiday. New Englanders are so … quaint.) We went camping in the White Mountains on Friday (The girls had off on Friday as well as Monday). We learned that Dramamine will not help Impera all that much during a long windy-road drive, and will make her extremely tired for the rest of the day; so any hike we have planned will be difficult for her, especially a super steep hike the likes of which we had never attempted before. But, being a trooper, she will complete the hike (although she’ll make it clear that “views” are not worth doing a hike for). The hike on Saturday was much less steep, Impera wasn’t drugged out, and the Consort and Trixie were able to swim in the pond at the end of the hike. We also enjoyed the smoothed out modernistic rocks of Franconia Falls (I’ll get the pictures up on flickr later this afternoon).

Aside #2: One unpleasant thing about camping is the midnight trek to the lavatory (in this case, a pit toilet in the National Park no-frills campground [no showers, water only at a communal well, and no electricity] where we stayed). I know some of you jumbo-sized bladder people have yet to need a midnight visit, but I’ve been partaking in that particular ritual for years now (the Consort, too, which is why I think it’s you other people who are bizarre, not me). I learned on this trip that, if you stop drinking at 4 pm, you can make it through the night without getting out of your sleeping bag. I made note of this and will definitely be taking advantage of this information at future campouts. What will keep me awake, however, is the Consort mentioning just as we are getting into our sleeping bags that the gorp left over from the day’s hike is still in his small pack, WHICH IS WITH US IN THE TENT. This did not bode well, considering that there are signs everywhere (including RIGHT ON THE CAMPSITE TABLE) that all food should be returned to campers’ cars at night, because of the bears. (The Consort’s response to me that, “The bears here in New England are baby bears,” just didn’t seem to soothe me as much as he thought it would.)

On Sunday, we spent the day with some friends from Boston. We went apple picking, made applesauce and apple crisp, played a great game called Robo-Rally, and had a yummy supper of tomato pesto pasta (with garlic bread).

Yesterday (the notorious Columbus Day), we had planned to do work, veg out, and take it easy, but it was raining in the morning, so we contacted our friends and told them that if they didn’t feel like doing the Fall Foliage thing in the rain, they could come spend some time with us, and there could maybe even be a group adventure completed using our wifi router (they both play World of Warcraft, too). And that’s what the Consort, the girls, and our friends did. For four and a half hours. I made chocolate chip muffins, and knit. Everybody was happy. And we even had time to do the necessary work and homework in the afternoon before supper.

Aside #3: We realized soon after we got to New Hampshire that we had forgotten to pack our winter hats, mittens, and scarves. How stupid was that? So I’m planning to make at least hats for everyone. We’ll see if I get them done in time. The girls want to go camping again this coming weekend (mostly because we said they were old enough to start the fire in the morning if the Consort and I aren’t up yet [we are happy to report that the pyromania that both the Consort and I have was passed down in spades to the girls. You should have seen them scouring the campground for bits of wood and leaves they could burn in the fire]), and it was getting to the point that sleeping with a hat on might be a good idea. Oh, the joys of autumn camping!

Now that I’ve caught up here, I will spend too much time visiting all my regular online haunts, trying to catch up with all of you. Because I take my blogging responsibilities seriously.

*Or should that be pixilated? I leave you** to decide.

**But who has an impish ass to kick, I ask you? Certainly not me.

04 October 2007

Questions for Me

Why am I tempted to follow the blogs of people I don't respect?

How long will I be able to keep from commenting to said people about their delusions?

Do I realize that anything I say to them will not be taken in good spirit? (Come on, would *I* like to receive emails from random people telling me I'm making major mistakes?)

Should I create a blog category called "Private Messages for People Who Don't Know Me"?

(Would anyone read these posts?)

Don't I realize that just because I've finished one project doesn't mean I should forget about the other project I should be working on?

Why do I assume I deserve a break?

Why am I not working right now?

02 October 2007

Pay Attention, Goddammit!

Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts

[T]he floating ice dwindled to an extent unparalleled in a century or more, by several estimates...

Is this so abstract that people just don't care? A century or more. Wake up, world!

Oh wait -- I think people in power know about this. I think they've got reasons for not acting:

While open Arctic waters could be a boon for shipping, fishing and oil exploration, ...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: sometimes I wish I believed in god, so I could damn people to hell.

But that's OK, they're damning us all to life in the New Hell: planet earth.

At least take a look at the multimedia graphic, Sea Ice in Retreat.