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 2008

A Short Story of Last Night

I just wasted too much time trying to find something online for you all, and so I’ve lost whatever joie de blogger I started the day with. Instead, I will whip up this less-than-stirring bullet post.

  • Family outings are worth late nights. We went to see Natalie MacMaster in concert last night, and boy, is she an amazing fiddler! She’s also a pretty good step-dancer, too. The girls didn't get to bed until 11 pm. On a school night. But who cares!

  • Youtube is a wonderful resource. Except when it isn’t. The life-draining search this morning was trying to find a good youtube video of Natalie playing, so you all could get a sense of the energy and fun on stage at one of her shows. Nothing. There are plenty of bootleg videos, but the sound quality is low, the pieces they record are not so hot, and there’s always some-damn-one having to go to the bathroom who is crossing the camera at just the wrong time. This might be OK, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

  • Natalie is not a liar. You know how every live musician says that their backup band is “fabulous” and “wonderful”? But you think to yourself, “Yeah, yeah, what else would she say? She wants these guys to keep playing night after night, right?” Well, her band members were, each and every one (OK, maybe not the bassist – but really, what future is there as a solo bassist, I ask you?) a fabulous and wonderful musician in his own right. Including the cellist. Take a look at this video. The quality of the sound isn’t good, remember. It was much better in real life. Oh, and that cellist? Fourteen years old. Yep. (I’m not a liar, either.)

    The End.

  • 26 February 2008

    Falling Apart? I Should Hope Not!

    I was able to see the chiropractor yesterday, but I'm still not very comfortable typing for too long. I don't know if I like this chiro so much. He's one of those crack-your-bones chiros, and it just doesn't feel as nice as my Iowa chiropractor and her spinal adjuster (see the Web MD video) (plus electro-stim therapy and massage therapy!). After 5 minutes of twist and (don't) shout, this one is done with me and on to the next patient. I have to stick with him for a while, though, because I'd been paying the out-of-area copay of $30 (since our insurance is based out in IA). I recently noticed on the insurance sheets that they've been reimbursing him at the local rate (which has a $15 copay). Instead of cutting me a check, the chiro would like to just have us (Trixie and I, the two chiropractic patients of the family) come in for as many more visits as we had accumulated until this point, without paying anything additional. He's also just down the street, so we walk there. A nice savings of time and fossil-fuel use.

    I've also noticed that my left eye is rather red. I was going to insert the picture into the post, but then decided it might not be pleasant for anyone to see it unawares, so you can just follow the link if you're interested.

    This happened for a few days about a month ago (right at my birthday, in fact). It went away on its own. I don't think it's conjunctivitis because there is no discharge, no itchiness, no dry eye. It's just ... red. Two days ago, I began using my nice (i.e., expensive) shampoo again, after about a one-month hiatus (I had put it in my pool bag, and forgot it was there*).

    Hmmmm. Could this be related to the shampoo? I'm not sure, because this was my daily shampoo for about a year (until I forgot about it in my bag). But in any event, I think I'm going to start using un-shampoo again.** Because at least it will give me the feeling that I am doing something about the redness, even if it is just a placebo.

    Oh, and the post title? I'm starting to worry that now that I've passed the big Four-Oh, all I'm talking about here is my body's shortcomings (falling on the ice -- that's an 80-year-old's thing, not mine! -- and this mysterious red eye). 40.1 is not old. It just isn't. (Right?)

    I am not falling apart, I am not falling apart, I am not falling apart [lather, rinse, repeat]

    *The astute among you may wonder why I forgot about the shampoo in my pool bag, if I've been going swimming 3 times a week as I had planned. Yeah, well -- let's not go there. The spirit is willing but the project deadlines make me weak, alright?

    **I did the unshampoo thing (baking soda and apple cider vinegar) for about 6 weeks last summer before the move to NH. It worked just fine (no oily hair, no tangles either), but it just made my hair feel ... heavy. I always meant to document this failure here on the blog, but I forgot. Perhaps I should keep you all informed as I do it again now.

    21 February 2008

    The Vagaries of Bone and Tissue

    I had all sorts of plans for the past week. I would knit more on my very exciting changed project (I don't want to post a picture until it looks really cool. I don't want you to have to squint to see the neat pattern. You'll see. Soon!). I was going to continue to practice guitar chords (been back at it for a few weeks now), I was going to write good blog posts.

    But none of that was to be. With all the temperature fluctuations up here, we still have huge mountains of snowbanks, but some of it has melted and refrozen into glassy sheets of ice (the snow melts, pools onto sidewalks and driveways, is blocked by those self-same mountains of snowbanks, and overnight those lakes of water freeze smooth). Last Thursday, I slipped and fell onto my right shoulder. My arm ached for a few days, but at this point the bicep pain is mostly gone. The deeper muscle and bone pain, however, is not.

    My right side has been trouble for several years now, and although part of me fears that things like swimming, knitting, and typing aren't good for me, there is no way I will willingly give those up. I just go to the chiropractor, get worked on for a few weeks, and the shoulder/wrist popping goes away. For six months. Until it returns.

    I waited until yesterday, then decided I really ought to get back to the chiro. I call, and they are on vacation this week. (The nerve!)

    So, no knitting, reduced blogging, no swimming, and no guitar chords. What a wasted week.

    18 February 2008

    Busy, Busy, Busy

    The girls are on Winter Break this week, and this weekend was busier than we anticipated, mostly because my mother-in-law is in the hospital. She went in on Friday, was expecting to get out today, but because of the reduced staff (for President's Day, believe it or not), will be staying at least until tomorrow. I have no energy to post things in two places, so for a brief overview of our weekend, as well as a link to a new set of puppy pictures, just visit my Daily Photo Diary.

    15 February 2008


    Two things in my refrigerator are making me curiously happy these days: Fresh homemade yogurt and bubbling sourdough starter.

    What pleasure to know that I can make food from hungry burpy things. My yogurt is fresh and not too tangy, and my sourdough tastes mildly mustardy, especially toasted with a slice of cheese.

    Unfortunately, not all fungi are so benign. It seems there is a die-off of bats in New York and Vermont. The only clue they have is the ring of white fungus around the poor creatures' noses. They think whatever this virus is may have been brought by a caver with exotic mud on their boots.

    When the immigration forms we fill out upon a return to the US asks if we have visited a farm or otherwise are bringing back soil or plants from abroad? Don't lie. It's just an inconvenience for the traveler. But it can mean the destruction of a species or an ecosystem.

    13 February 2008

    Age and Experience

    In yesterday’s comments, I saw a concern I have heard from many people about Barack Obama: “He’s so young.” I was going to reply in the comments, but I’m frugal (reduce, reuse, recycle), so why use as a Haloscan comment what can be used as an entire blog post?

    Barack Obama is currently 46 years old. If he were elected, he would be 47 at his inauguration.

    John F. Kennedy was 43 when he took office.

    Bill Clinton was 46 at his inauguration.

    Barack Obama is not that young for a president.

    Now, in my very unscientific survey of the people who have voiced the youth concern to (or around) me, I’ve come to the conclusion that often what is actually being voiced is, “Barack Obama is not one of us—that is, he is not a Baby Boomer.”

    It freaks me out when I say things like, “Remember twenty years ago when…” and I am remembering something that happened when I was an adult. It freaks me out when, in order to remember something solidly ensconced in my childhood, I have to remember thirty years back. So I understand why there could be discomfort with someone not of Bill Clinton’s or George W. Bush’s generation running the country. But we’ve had Boomers in the office of the president for the past 16 years (I remember when Clinton was elected, and I was a young newlywed -- eeeek!).

    Often (but not always), wrapped up with Obama’s age is the concern that he doesn’t have much experience. In all honesty, I think what is more important for a president is the type of team he selects. Most of Bush’s team (Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz) were so rigid in their ideology that they blocked out any dissenting voices and plowed ahead with their aggressions despite reasonable arguments against their plans. If this country can survive (albeit barely) such blatant mismanagement, then I don’t see how someone wise in the choice of advisors, with a vision for consensus-building (and without the fractionating baggage of distrust by such a large proportion of the population), couldn’t be trusted with getting the United States out of the muck.


    School was indeed canceled today, so we’re going to have to play musical laptops, and I will need to carve out a quiet space for doing some work and not be distracted by shenanigans tempting me to do some knitting instead (I’ve switched knitting projects right now and boy, am I excited about what I’m doing!). What I’m trying to say is, forgive the treacly end to that last paragraph, I just wanted to get this posted before the day completely got away from me!

    12 February 2008

    When Wishes and Desires Clash

    The girls were told (by a kid source) this weekend that school cannot run past June 23. Currently, the last day of school, after all the snow days we've had (including two last week, remember) is June 20. So the word on kid street is that they should all pray for as many more snow days as possible.

    Here's the current forecast:

    Here's the rub:

    The eighth graders have a three-day Renaissance Festival, complete with feasting, fun activities, and off-campus learning experiences, scheduled for Wednesday through Friday. Wednesday being tomorrow.

    To pray or not to pray? That, my friends, is the question.

    11 February 2008

    will.i.am, meet john.he.is

    OK. I'm sure by now most of you have already see the will.i.am "Obama -- Yes We Can" video. If you haven't, it's on youtube.

    Today, I came across the John McCain version. Watch until the very end; don't miss the take-home message.

    08 February 2008

    A Working Example of: Size Does Matter

    We had back to back snow days here on Wednesday and Thursday, and there is nothing that cramps my style more than snow days. Case in point: When Impera was in kindergarten, and North Carolina had record snowfall (22 inches overnight), meaning that schools were cancelled for a week, I called on the third day and offered to drive her in even if buses weren't running.

    So today, instead of doing work/catching up on things, I took some pictures for you. (Because once I'm in the time-wasting groove, it takes more than a small concern at the back of my mind to get me back to work. Especially on a Friday!)

    I've been swatching that Kureyon sock yarn I bought for Christmas. I don't know why I'm obsessing over size with this particular yarn (I rarely do more than half of a recommended swatch just to get a general idea of which size I should follow the directions for). If they don't fit me, they'll fit someone else, so it isn't a wastefulness issue. It's not that I adore this colorway so much that I wouldn't want to share, either.

    Katie J asked me to share my opinion about this yarn as I knit with it. And there are a few things I can already say. First, this is Kureyon, so their definition of "spun" is pretty loose -- some of the sections seem just like tufts of wool to me -- and despite this being billed as sock yarn, the thickness of the yarn is uneven, which makes for a great Clapotis shawl (which I knit out of the regular Kureyon a couple of years ago), but I'm not so sure about socks. I'm willing to make "artsy" socks, though, so once these are completed I'll revisit the unevenness issue.

    Second, the yarn feels very waxy/sticky as I knit with it -- this may be to protect the unspunness of it from unraveling too much during the knitting process. I washed the swatches and that seems to have removed the waxiness. (I have never washed swatches, either; usually I undo the swatch and incorporate it into the project, but I wanted to know if the waxiness remained.)

    Third, I'm a bit worried that the variegation is done on too large a repeat for socks. Heck, in making two swatches, I mostly had only one color (teal) show up. We'll see once a first sock is complete, I suppose.

    I first made the swatch with size 1 needles, which is the size suggested in the pattern I'm using. I didn't get a 2" x 4" swatch, even when washed, blocked, and stretched a bit (1.5 x 3.25). I then tried size 2 needles, and that was more in the ballpark (1.75 x 3.75). (And for those few who would know to wonder: yes, the Kureyon gives the same yardage per weight as the Garnstudio yarn.) So I suppose I should go with the size 2's, even though I really like the fabric knit from the size 1's better.

    Of course, the sock is just a (k2 p2) ribbing down the entire length, so I *could* use the 1's and just increase the number of stitches I cast on. But after my overzealous sizing for the Consort's winter hat (it really is too big -- he wears a baseball cap over it to keep it on his head), I don't trust myself.

    We'll see.

    And a last picture to give you non-knitters an idea about the thickness of the needles I'm talking about (yep, fishing for amazement and awe here):

    05 February 2008

    I'll Trade a Recipe for Some Sympathy!

    Yesterday was quite the day.

    I know the one who really deserves sympathy is the Consort, who spent from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. awake and in airports waiting for flights that were delayed, and delayed, then delayed some more; boarding planes when the weather cleared; deboarding those same planes when the word came in that their destination airport (Chicago) was closed due to weather; reboarding planes and waiting in line to get de-iced; knowing you won't make your 6:40 p.m. connection because the flight that was supposed to arrive at 2:30 p.m. was now landing at 7 p.m.; being pleasantly surprised that the 6:40 p.m. flight was also delayed, so you actually could make your flight; but with the downside that having that last flight delayed meant that instead of arriving in Manchester at 9:51 p.m., you actually arrived at 12:20 a.m.; and having a 1.5-hour ride back from the airport (which ended up taking over 2 hours because of the blinding snow that was falling).

    So, yeah -- big hugs and sympathy to the Consort. Blah, blah, blah.

    But, people, I was the one who stayed up until 3 a.m. alongside him. I drove both directions on snowy highways through the mountains of New England, in the middle of the night when typically quiet highways are completely abandoned, deciding to keep my cell phone in my pants pocket rather than on the empty passenger seat beside me because, if I crashed, I wanted to be able to reach the phone to call for help rather than have it tossed somewhere inaccessible as I was pinned in the upside-down crashed car (didn't happen, but you have to be prepared!), with the snow making visibility pretty bad (yes, the Consort had told me he could sleep in the airport and I could pick him up in the morning, but the snow and the roads didn't seem bad until I was about 30 minutes into a 90-minute drive, and by then I figured it was better to soldier on). (And really, the Consort said the conditions were fine. Until maybe the last 20 miles. And I sure wished he hadn't told me that while I was driving those last 20 miles).

    So: poor, stressed, tired Imperatrix.

    Oh, and the 1-2 inches of sleet they predicted for accumulation over night? We didn't get it. Instead we got 5 inches of snow. And the girls got the 45th snow day of the season. Sheesh! I told they they won't be dancing around in such joy when it is July 29th and they are still in school. (They ignored me. They prefer to live in the moment, those bohemians.)

    One perk of snow days is that Impera then offers to make something for breakfast (she's not a big cereal fan). It probably would have been eggs ... except that I made eggs for supper last night (seeing as I first had to run them to fencing practice, then drive down to pick up the Consort, and we often take advantage of the Consort's absence to have breakfast for supper [since he isn't a big fan]).

    She found a recipe for Maple-Sour Cream muffins. We had no sour cream, but I had just made up a batch of yogurt, so we made Maple-Yogurt muffins with pecans. These things are delicious! They taste like portable pancakes -YUM! They don't rise very high, but that's OK. Really. Go make up a batch. Eat them all.

    Maple-Yogurt Muffins

    1+3/4 cups flour (I don't know how to make stacked fractions in html)
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    3/4 cup maple syrup
    1 cup yogurt
    1 egg
    1/2 cup chopped pecans

    1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

    2) Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

    3) Beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add maple syrup, beating constantly. Beat in the yogurt and the egg.

    4) Stir in the pecans.

    5) Add the dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

    6) Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake until toothpick in center comes out clean, 15-18 minutes. Cool in tins 5 minutes, then remove.

    Makes 16 standard muffins.

    04 February 2008

    Eye Candy

    Monday, and I am not inspired. I am going to distract you by posting a mosaic of my 36 most recent favorite photos on flickr. Two of them didn't show up. I'm guessing that's because of copyright, but if you click on the accompanying link, you can see them.


    1. My way, 2. mothersPorch, 3. room with a view, 4. communique, 5. Crimson Sunbird @ Asoka Tree...my fave pic of the lot :), 6. Yellow window and blue house, 7. Spines, 8. bottles, 9. lazy river, 10. silhouetted fiddling, 11. Fell, 12. Red 2008, 13. redwoods?, 14. Untitled, 15. Untitled, 16. lightleak, 17. Rain Approaching, 18. Guarda - Rios, 19. Single snowflake, 20. Untitled, 21. ~ Under my Umbrella ~, 22. Peas in a Pod, 23. Untitled, 24. a velvia morning, 25. Leaf Lines, 26. Come on baby light my fire!, 27. allan's mittens, 28. Blocked & ready to rock, 29. Lanterns, 30. Punched out and now heading Kennedy outbound :-), 31. Chive Talking, 32. Untitled, 33. Vandaag niet veel zon gezien, 34. Bali Sonata I, 35. Ice Spiral, 36. the dancing scenes that life reveals

    Created with fd's Flickr Toys.

    01 February 2008


    That's the way you spell sourdough!

    Picture I promised to post for Cowgirl.

    I know, I know -- I just posted about my Christmas loot, but you see, for my birthday, my mother-in-law gave me a card with a generous gift (aka, the notorious "cold, hard, cash"). I've been intrigued by sourdough bread for a while, which is why I got the brotform with Christmas money.

    But when I read recipes for sourdough in my King Arthur Flour Baking book, they all called for a baking stone (which works better when paired with a pizza peel) as well. I used my birthday money for that equipment, as well as some sourdough starter from King Arthur (I had started to make some starter myself, but our house is much colder than the 70 degrees [59 during the day and 55 at night] they use as "room temperature", so I wasn't sure the wild yeast was growing right).

    For two days I fed and rested the starter (in a small cooler, with two jars of hot water and the starter wrapped in a towel to keep the heat up to 70 degrees), and yesterday I used some for my first sourdough. As you can see, they came out beautifully. Both loaves (the one proofed in the brotform, and the second one proofed on a cookie sheet) were pretty small when I popped them in the oven, but the initial steam douse (1/2 cup boiling water poured into a preheated cast-iron pan under the baking stone), helped some, and the second steam douse 5 minutes after they started baking (I didn't have a spritzer, so I just took 1/2 cup hot water and threw it onto the side walls of the oven -- it worked!) made those loaves rise up nice and high (I had no idea how successful steam would be. I am now a steam convert!)

    Now fresh starter is sitting in my fridge. To keep starter working well, you need to use it and refresh it at least once a week. Sourdough only takes some starter, flour, salt, and water (i.e., it's extremely cheap to make once you have the equipment), so I figure I'll be baking some every week. I don't think we can eat sourdough every week, but I've got lots of neighbors I can share with. Goodwill is always important, especially as we move towards Spring when our bird-loving neighbors are going to stress about Loki's presence all over again!