Show tunes.

Somebody had a quote by Miguel de Cervantes today at work. Don Quixote! I broke into song.

I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha dum dum dum de dum da da dum!

And then they told me to shut up, but there you go. Later, blogging, I looked up the lyrics on the internet.

I am I, Don Quixote,
The Lord of LaMancha,
My destiny calls, and I go!
And the wild winds of fortune
Shall carry me onward ... To wither so ever they blow ...
Wither so ever they blow ...
Onward to glory I go!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens on May 6th. This will be Arthur Dent, and this will be Slartibartfast. Other actors look just as obvious for their parts.

I've like Hitchhiker's a lot longer than I've liked Joss Whedon. Also, it's right after my birthday, so whatever, "Serenity."

We made homemade cookies today. Easter cookie cutters, Christmas sprinkles. I hope when she's older she gets used to this kind of thing.


Na na na na Star!

Ray: Na na na na Star! Na na na na Star!
Me: What are you doing?
Ray: I wish a star.
Me: What do you wish for?
Ray: I wish presents Christmas.
Me: Good choice.


Writing stuff.

It's been a while...

I finished the third draft of the story, and I still have a lot of work to do. Some things are going much better, some things are the same, and some things I still can't figure out at all.

Why? Why why why???

The problem with giving your characters independence is that they do stuff. I don't get a lot of it. This would be a great story if I could just figure it out.

For instance, the other day I figured out what the story was about. Two years until it clicked.

There's this brilliant kid, someone who isn't smart, per se, but who's very creative, and he lives in a place where he can't do anything with it. What does he do? It's something I saw over and over again in South Dakota: leave, hide, or burn out. In a way the answer I came up with is sad; the one guy that didn't do the above had to save the world to earn the right to be himself (Dennis). The others leave (Jordan), burn out (Kyle), or hide (Crusher). (Kyle's not from the same place, but he's in the same situation.)

The next draft I'm going to work on something I picked up from reading some of Doyce's stuff, i.e., scene and character details, and try to pry some more insight out of the damn thing.

Right now I'm taking a break -- I don't think it's going to last very long. I moped around the house all day until I sat down to edit, at which point I felt like living again.



Sheesh. (Writing stuff.)

It's been a while...

I finished the third draft of the story, and I still have a lot of work to do. Some things are going much better, some things are the same, and some things I still can't figure out at all.

Why? Why why why???

The problem with giving your characters independence is that they do stuff. I don't get a lot of it. This would be a great story if I could just figure it out.

For instance, the other day I figured out what the story was about. Two years until it clicked.

There's this brilliant kid, someone who isn't smart, per se, but who's very creative, and he lives in a place where he can't do anything with it. What does he do? It's something I saw over and over again in South Dakota: leave, hide, or burn out. In a way the answer I came up with is sad; the one guy that didn't do the above had to save the world to earn the right to be himself (Dennis). The others leave (Jordan), burn out (Kyle), or hide (Crusher). (Kyle's not from the same place, but he's in the same situation.)

The next draft I'm going to work on something I picked up from reading some of Doyce's stuff, i.e., scene and character details, and try to pry some more insight out of the damn thing.

Right now I'm taking a break -- I don't think it's going to last very long. I moped around the house all day until I sat down to edit, at which point I felt like living again.




(Forgive me if I screw this up.)

1 lb = 16 oz. = 1 pint
1 c = 8 oz (2 c = 1 pint, 2 pints = 1 quart, 4 quarts = 1 gallon)
1 gallon = 8 pints = 8 pounds.

So a gallon (of beer) is 8 pounds.

According to my sources, keg sizes are:
1/2 barrel, or 15.5 gallons of beer.
1/4 barrel, or 7.25 gallons of beer (pony keg).

A 1/2 barrel keg is 124 lbs. of beer.
A 1/4 barrel keg (pony keg) is 62 lbs. of beer.

A case of beer is 24 12 oz. cans of beer:
288 total oz. of beer, or 18 pounds of beer, or 2.25 gallons of beer.

A six-pack of beer is 6 12 oz. cans of beer:
72 total oz. of beer, or 4.5 pounds of beer, or just over half a gallon of beer.

So a woman of, say, 150 lbs. is worth about a keg and 1 1/2 cases of beer. The monetary value varies depending on brand, for instance, Miller Lite vs. Amber Bock.

Now, whenever someone asks you for a really annoying favor, like helping paint their house, you can say, "Only if you give me my weight in beer."

(To find your weight in gold:
A gold bar is 1 oz.
16 oz./pound.
Gold at $501/oz.
Your weight in gold per pound: $8016.
That same woman would be worth $1,202,400.)

"So. Do you want to come over tomorrow and paint my house?"
"No," I said.
"No." "No." "I will for beer."
"Got to be a lot of beer," I said. "Tell her you'll do it for your weight in beer."
"You stay out of this; you said no. And it's just one room anyway."

Good way to kill the last ten minutes of work on a Friday, trying to figure out your weight in beer units.



You don't get badges for being a parent, but you should. Like "My Child Survived to Adulthood Only Because I Didn't Kill Him (or Her)." Like "Did the Sex Talk." Like "Made it through Flu Season with a Two-Year Old without a Direct Hit."

Here's the badge I want: The "Fox In Sox Adult Recognition" Badge.

I can read Fox in Sox without a major screwup, and another adult has witnessed and recognized this fact.

I can blab that blibber-blubber. My tongue is too made of rubber.


We have since had the "shit" talk.

Ray: What shit?
Me: Shit is poop when you're really mad.
Ray: Shit!
Me: Are you mad?
Ray: No mad.
Me: Then just say poop.
Ray: Okay. Pooooop pooop pooooooooop!
Me: Good job.


O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!

I talked Lee into helping us put up the tree today. He may have had fun; I'll ask him after he's had time to think about it.

Of course, after three years, putting the actual tree up is pretty much a science, this snaps together with that, this goes here, the branches really do look better if you do this, so I put up the tree tree by myself, put the lights and the garland on. He and Ray put on most of the decorations, though. There were about a dozen little ornaments all on one branch for a while. Very cute.

I wonder how long a string of popcorn would last. Ooh! I could put up a string of real cranberries and watch Ray try to eat one of those. No! Bad mamma!


The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoesvsky

As it turns out, this is a fun book. It has many of the features of an epic fantasy, except, of course, for the fantastic and epic elements. There's the same sense of world-saving importance, the same philosophical digressions on good and evil, the same psychological themes turned into seeming reality, the same ironies, the same page-spanning dialogue...

I liked the book. I've been reading some of the classics lately, to stretch out the brain, and this is one of my favorites. It's the same kind of pleasure as watching Dallas, or seeing a soap opera. There are very few characters you'd want to meet, per se, but you love to watch them nonetheless. Maybe I should write something deeper about the other aspects of the book, but the fact is that sometimes a classic is just a classic because people have enjoyed reading it for a long time, not because the book says something important or the style is innovative. Like Jane Austin. I like her, too.

"They're thirteen. The boogeyman is no longer in the closet or under the bed. The boogeyman is inside you." -- Alfonso Cuaron, probably not an exact quote, from the Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban interviews on the DVD.

He said it in such an offhand, matter-of-fact way, too.



I'm writing this down so I've written it down. Some people have eidetic memories. I have the kind of memory that remembers what I've written, at least the general gist of it. (I don't have to use bookmarks for most books.) The next time I stare at a blank page and try to talk myself into a fit of writer's block, I'll flip open the book in which are written USEFUL THINGS TO KNOW AT TIMES LIKE THESE, and I'll remember:

I'm good at coming up with ideas. The problem is having the sense to know which ones are going to work. It's like there's a computer in my head. You turn it on, feed it the data, set the parameters, and let it run. It kicks out crap--sometimes pretty interesting crap--until it finds what it wants, and then it shuts down. (Unless it just keeps running the problem because it's fun.)

I was trying to come up with an idea for a TV show yesterday, for gaming purposes. I'd have to wait for a pause in the conversation, or just for a moment when it looked like I was going to say something relevant, spit out the idea, and go on with things. So far the one I like is some kind of Shaun of the Dead thing -- an office, something terrible happens. Maybe not zombies, probably not cthulu, but we'll see. Another one that I remember was "something weird happens when you do this one particular thing." Which could be anything from Dream On to a spy with a fugue state that kicks in every time he finds out something he's not supposed to know.

Thoughts about TV shows: You need likeable characters and/or characters you like to hate, because people watch TV for the characters rather than the plots. Collary: If you kill off characters without making a BIG STINKING DEAL about it, people won't watch the show, because they know the writers and producers can't be trusted. You have to be able to do the same thing over and over again, with interesting variations. (Murder/monster of the week, con of the week, etc.)



"Author of a highly acclaimed series of mystery novels, world
traveller, former Zen student, and former police officer Janwillem
van de Wetering brings an unusual perspective to the detective
genre. His novels and stories feature a diverse and richly drawn
cast of characters and settings that range from the streets of
Amsterdam to the Caribbean and from rural Maine to Japan, South
America, and New Guinea. A careful eye for the details of police
investigations is joined with a quirky sense of humor and a keen
interest in philosophical and spiritual matters."
-- Henry Wessells

Quote, and Ramble.

Coming up with titles for blog entries makes my sympathize with painters who title their stuff, "Woman with Plastic Frog #1, Woman with Squeaky Duck #2," etc. Jeez, it's hard enough for me, and I like words better than pictures.

Doyce sent me a quote that made me laugh out loud:

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."
-- Kurt Vonnegut

So I sat down and wrote a ramble back to him, remembered I hadn't written a blog post for a while, and decided to post it. Voila!

I've only done that with one book, St. Augustine's Confessions. I was supposed to read it for Western Civ. The prof asked me in class what I'd thought of it, and I stood up and told him. He made me promise him to try to read it in a couple of years or so, to see if my opinion had changed. It hadn't; I'll probably keep trying until I get it read.

I actually screamed at the book and threw it across the room--I must have been menstrual or something--I still can't stand to read that book.

But Vonnegut's right.

I'm reading Ulysses by James Joyce, another one of those lifelong I'll-read-it-if-it-kills-me books. Fun, actually. It's like reading a thousand pages of Zelazny's shadow shifting, if he were any good at writing that stuff, or Spider Robinson's telepathy rambles. Figuring it all out would keep you busy for a career, that's for sure.

--Another thing. I need to find some good, new science fiction that I like. I've read a good fantasy novel lately (Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Suzanna Clarke), but I can't find anything good in science fiction. I don't want "the latest in a series," so don't recommend Something Rotten--I'm saving that for a bad day.

--And yet another thing. How many books did Steven Brust take to reveal that his fantasy world was sort of science fiction, anyway?



Ray has pink "fleece" gloves (the kind that's flat, not the kind that looks like sheep's wool). They're warm, they stay pretty dry inside, and they don't slip off unless they're meant to. All good.

One problem. Yesterday I pelted Ray a good one. She picked up a handful of snow, ran after me, got close enough to throw her handful of snow at me, cocked, aimed, threw -- and the snow stuck in the mitten. It just cracked into pieces and stuck.

Poor girl. She had to run up to me and squish me with the snowball.



Ray's in the bathroom, screaming about being naked, and clutching her chest.


I say to Lee, "I can see where repression would be a logical thing."


"How so?"


"Imagine trying to keep all that bottled up for twenty years."


"I guess so."

I go back in the bathroom with a clean shirt. She's squeezing her nipples at the mirror and yelling, "Bam! Bam! Bam!"

"Are you ready for a shirt?" I ask her.

"Ready!" I slip the shirt over her head and she's on her way to something else.



I'm in a coffee shop, drinking coffee out of an oversized teacup and saucer. Cute teacup; it's all in Russian and there's a big star on the saucer. No hammer and sickle, though -- it's a cultural Russian thing, not a political Soviet thing.

The saucer has a curved edge and a small circle in the center for the bottom of the teacup. I'm looking at it, thinking about all the British novels I've read where the country hick character dumps tea into the saucer to cool it off, then drinks the tea out of the saucer. I never realized how tacky that would be before. I mean, pouring anything out of a teacup is messy at best -- it drips. And that saucer looks like a mechanism for spilling hot liquid in your lap if ever I've seen one.




Here's your rare political post.

Bush won. What an idiot. Daschle's out. I have mixed feelings about that. More GOP seats in Congress. F@#$ me, why don't we try anarchy for another four years instead? It'll be survival of the fittest without the smarminess. Why hasn't Bush been impeached, instead of re-elected? Why, oh, why, did the Democrats have to put up someone who sounds good on paper but makes my skin crawl?

I still agree that war with Iraq was a good idea. Too bad this administration screwed it up -- not enough troops, terrible diplomacy, what I call criminal deceptions.

Three observations: Bush better not get assassinated. We'd have Cheney in office. And at least it isn't Buchanon. And Keyes lost again. What a looney.


Okay, I'm calmer now. As a couple of people have reminded me, it's four years of letting current Republican ideology dig itself its own grave. And as a friend reminded me the first time W. got elected, music will get better. Being pissed off makes good musicians get really good -- they have something besides themselves to sing about.



It's that time of year again. Not the holidays. No, it's that time of year that every amateur writer anticipates and dreads:

National Novel Writing Month.

I'm not going to write a new novel this year. I'm still working on the one I started January 03. But I am going to try to finish the third draft (way behind schedule) by December 1.

Good luck all!

P.S. Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, has a book out about doing NaNoWriMo called, No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.


Flip test: passed!

"There was nobody there. Which meant, of course, that somebody was there." -- Suzanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. (Paraphrase)

That's the random quote that made me buy this book.

This isn't a book whose writing makes me jealous. No! Even better. It's a book whose writing probably makes those writers of whom I am jealous, jealous. I've read about 25 pages so far, and I keep thinking, "Neil Gaiman must be courteously eating his heart out." --He did one of the jacket blubs; I know he's read it.



Vyser si voko!*

How to swear in 165 languages -- the Swearosaurus.

*Literally, "Shit out your eye!" in Czech.



Two days before we were going to start seriously looking for a laptop, a deal we couldn't pass up occurred at Best Buy. I really don't know enough to be impressed (other than as a second-hand affair), but I can assure you that people who know enough to be impressed were a) impressed or b) jealous.

Lee says the vpr Matrix was designed by the same people that do Porche, or something. It's keen. I've been chortling all night -- did you know you can blog from the couch?!?
Story stuff.

I'm still working, just not making as much progress as I thought I would.

I figured out something this morning, if you can call digging up more problems figuring something out. Anyway, the beginning of my story is confusing. You start out with more characters than the brain can keep track of, and it's not clear who the main character is. This, I knew.

Most fantasy stories are about a hero/heroine who saves the day. This isn't, really. There's a hero. He saves the day. But one of the themes of the story is that he makes mistakes, doesn't understand what's going on, has to double back, has to make guesses. Another theme is that the hero isn't alone. Other people's stories matter, their actions matter; they're a community in a way that most fantasy stories aren't. They aren't subplots or tools; they aren't things that happen so the hero can save the day.

If the story is about confusion and community, how else should the story start? It would be misleading to start the story with the hero and maybe a couple of other people off on their own, doing things, then catching up with the rest of the community in order to do more things. Call up any given fantasy epic. There you go.

So how do I pull it off? There is a hero, and he does save the day, after all. Also, it would be nice if people actually enjoyed reading the thing, you know.



Ray's birthday was on Sunday. We took her to Ocean Adventures in Denver, which had many fish. And other stuff, like otters and tigers. Ray and I went over almost the whole thing twice; Lee petered out after the first time through.

Birthday presents. The computer Lee's setting up for Ray isn't ready yet, but there were extenuating circumstances, for one thing motherboard betrayal. I got her a Candyland game (pieces lost already) and a Powerpuff Girls comforter -- which became HER blanket as soon as she'd opened it. Grandma Kenyon (and Dale) made a surprise visit (see below) and brought her a soft pony that pretends to drink from a bottle, and Brenna brought her a Care Bear (complete with video -- sigh). The folks called to make sure she knew they were sending her stuff, too. Does she have too much stuff? Most of the time she goes out of her way to share, so probably not.

I liked the spread-out aspect of it; there wasn't a day when everyone mugged her for pictures and dumped a lot of stuff on her. Overwhelming, eh? So she had time to play with everything and appreciat everything. By the time her actual birthday came around, she was telling everyone else to have a happy birthday, too. Plus she got to have two cakes, which is saying something when you're three.



Brenna's over for an early mini-birthday party. For some reason, they both run into Ray's room, and then Brenna comes out.

"Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of the monsters in your room. Shut the door."

Ray shuts the door.

Brenna runs around the living room pretending to be a pony.

She knocks on the door, Ray opens it, and they both go in.

I think they're singing the ABC song now.



Well, not that anyone else is really going to care, but I'm proud of something I've figured out recently. Took me ten years to do it.

There's this story by the sci-fi writer Greg Egan called "The Caress" that I read in one of the Year's Best Science Fiction collections edited by Gardner Dozois. I loved it -- I was fascinated by it -- but I didn't get it. I even gave it to a playwriting teacher to read. He said, "What does this mean?" I told him I didn't know. "What's it about?" -- He asked me that after he read it.


The story's set in the future in an immense metropolitan area. A cop, someone who had hormone injections to become a cop since he was eleven, who had to go on drugs every time he went on shift just to do his job, finds a murdered woman and a barely living chimera -- a half-human, half-cougar genetic experiment that looks like a sphinx -- in a house. He saves the chimera three times over the course of the next few days. The cop and the chimera are kidnapped by the son of a famous philanthropist and made to recreate an obscure surrealist painting called "The Caress." After they recreate the painting, the son of the philanthopist lets the cop go. The cop tries to figure out what's going on, and doesn't really. The end.

Selected details:
The police use something like a lie-detector machine hooked up to the phones to track incoming calls about publicized crimes. The machine assigns each call a validity score and averages out the calls to come up with the most valid scenarios -- accusations, confessions, trivial information, etc.

The son of the philanthropist is actually the philanthropist; the philanthropist had himself cloned and has had all of his brain tissue injected into the kid. The kid believes himself to be the philanthropist as well.

The chimera rescued by the cop wasn't the only one. A number of chimerae, engineered by different scientists at the behest of the philanthropist, were put in the same situation as that of the one the cop found. The others weren't viable in the first place, died before the other cops found them, or didn't have the same kind of relationship after being found and so were killed off by the philanthropist.

The philanthropist had the cop surgically altered to resemble the man in the painting.

Ten years. Closer to twelve. What the hell is the damn story about?

After Greg Egan wrote "The Caress," he wrote a lot of other stuff. I finished Schild's Ladder last week (I'd read others of his books years ago).

Greg Egan has some ideas that run through most of his work:

Every time something either does or does not happen, it both does and does not happen.

Wouldn't it be nice if people's brains were replaced with a crystal matrix? Or computer chips? So they could a) be immortal, and b) back up their selves in case of accident and really be immortal. On the other hand, once people aren't connected to hormones and neurons and things, it's possible for them to become whatever and whoever they want to be -- even if it isn't anything related to who they are now, and possibly no way to ensure that the old you would like the new you or be able to force the new you to change back.

The philanthropist believes in personal immortality and tried to give it to himself with biology, like a precursor to the crystal matrices. Side note: in another of his books, after the main character succeeds in uploading his personality to a computer, he kills himself -- his mortal body is extraneous.

The police phone system, the multiple chimerae that were engineered -- these are precursors to the tricks that the charaters in later books can do with alternate universes. In Schild's Ladder, some of the characters use it to come up with a solution to the apocolypse. It only half-works, but there you go. It didn't matter that in innumerable alternates they failed; becuase of the setup, because one of the alternates succeeded, they all did. There's more explanation in the story I won't go into, and hell if maybe I didn't understand what was going on in the first place.

The cop's use of drugs and hormone therapy, the genetic engineering of the chimera, and other details in the story point toward escaping the natural self in order to accomplish some purpose. The cop has chosen to become a cop; he can't stop now, or he'll die from withdrawal, and he's not physically suited to anything else.

So that all made sense now -- it's like the story is the hint of what Greg Egan's going to be working on for at least the next decade or so.

The recreation of a surrealist painting, the emotions and the physical reality of it, makes the universe different than it was without that recreation. What's the point? Well, without the other stuff in the way to confuse me, it was easy: it's art. What does art do? What does art ever do? Is art able to do what it does whether or not you understand it? I think the philanthropist was trying to make the world into the place that, in the later books, it would become. In another of his books, Quarantine, aliens have shut off the solar system from the rest of the universe, because the observations that humans were making were destroying entire cultures that depended on existing on all possible states (that second idea I gave above) at once, instead of the either/or that humans perceive. By recreatoing the painting using the techniques he did, the philanthropist was found out. The idea was found out. People said, "Can't I live forever, too?" And other things.

Anyway, it all makes sense to me now. And having picked apart what went into the story finally, I can still say I like it.

--About Greg Egan, I guess I'd say he's the heir of Arthur C. Clark more than anybody else.

Ten years. Maybe twelve. Watch me in another decade, I'll have world peace going on. Yah.



During the last hour or so of actually moving everything back into the house, I ran out of juice. What do you have when you're out of juice? Spit -- meanness, stubbornness, pride, anger, that kind of thing.

A couple of days ago, I figured out I was still running on pure spit. Very grumpy for the last week. Well, that same day, Lee's mom and brother Dale showed up on the doorstep while I was out.

I don't know why it helped, but it did. I sat around and talked, and as I BS'd, I let go of being pissed off and grumpy. I feel much better -- recovered from moving, anyway.


Ray's birthday is coming up on Sunday. Good thing I got over the crappy mood first.

By the way, I think I'm going to love my job. Not as much as I love writing, but there you go. For the first time in my life, I work with smart people. Not an idiot in the bunch. People I disagree with, sure, but no dipshits.




We have moved. Everything that was going to make it made it.

Still tired.



We're moving today. The phone number should remain the same, but you won't be able to reach us until some time tomorrow. I won't be able to access e-mail from home until we get set up in a couple of weeks, so I won't be online until Monday.

Later :)


Hot chocolate.

Now this, I have to try:

Mayan Hot Chocolate

2 cups boiling water
1 chile pepper, cut in half, seeds removed (with gloves)
5 cups light cream or whole or nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4"pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey, or to taste
l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.

Site includes information about the history of chocolate.
Question of the Day.


The question of this morning was, "Where's the best place to get new men's size eight, low-top Chuck Taylor converse shoes in black (but with the regular soles)?"

With shipping and including Ebay, the answer still seems to be at any local Famous Footwear outlet, for thirty bucks. Everyone that wants to sell them more cheaply also wants to charge you more than it could possibly cost to ship a pair of shoes, unless it's by private courier or overnight airmail, which they weren't.

I don't want to collect them! I just can't get the same type of soles anywhere else!

Dang it. The internet gods wiped this out last night.*


I had so much fun messing with the Chinese Dictionary question that I decided to write down a dozen or so other no-so-personally-pressing questions and see what I could find on the net.

Yesterday's question: What's Yom Kippur?

It's the Jewish Day of Atonement. Basically, everyone gets together and apologizes for their sins over the past year before they're written down in the books of judgement forever. (If it isn't covered by sunset of Yom Kippur, too bad.) Not only do individuals apologize for their individual acts, but their acts as a community and as Jewish people all together.

Other items I had no clue about:

You can convert to Judism; Sammy Davis Jr. did.

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat.

Jews have a greater sense of community than most cultures:

"When a Jew does something illegal, immoral or shameful, we all feel the shame, and we all feel that it reflects on us. As Jews, many of us were embarrassed by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, because Lewinsky is a Jew. We were shocked when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was killed by a Jew, unable to believe that one Jew would ever kill another.

"And when a Jew accomplishes something significant, we all feel proud. A perfect example of Jews (even completely secular ones) delighting in the accomplishments of our fellow Jews is the perennial popularity of Adam Sandler's Chanukkah songs, listing famous people who are Jewish. We all take pride in scientists like Albert Einstein or political leaders like Joe Lieberman (we don't all agree with his politics or his religious views, but we were all proud to see him on a national ticket). And is there a Jew who doesn't know (or at least feel pride upon learning) that Sandy Koufax declined to pitch in a World Series game that fell on Yom Kippur?"
--Tracey R Rich


How does a Chinese dictionary work?

You know, I've wondered about this for years. I still don't know. But here are some notes from my online meandering in search of the answer:

On-line Chinese Tools contains a number of interesting links, including "Get a Chinese Name."

Ray's is Kong Rui su, "Sharp Revive."
Lee's is Kuang Ling en, "Soul Charity."
Mine is Kong Dao ning, "Way Peaceful."

More later...


The characters are organized by brush strokes. See here for a Chinese character dictionary.



I got the QC job. The boss was surprised that I was on pins an needles. "We knew for a couple of weeks," he said. "We're just waiting for HR to catch up."

And the apartment is a go.

And the procedures are done. The chica in charge of them called me to thank me for having them done on time, ready to go, and well done. They still need to be reviewed by the work directors, but my first 350-page opus is going to be used, picked apart, and read. And you know what? I'm proud of the length, because it wasn't 150 pages longer. I've learned a lot from her so far, very cool stuff. None of the sadness of finishing a work of fiction, that's for sure.

I don't plan to coast though my last few weeks in my department -- too much to do. But I do plan to relax about it. Ahhhhhhh.....

P.S. Plus, my horoscope said tonight would be a good night for a romantic interlude.


Story updates.

I haven't accomplished much on the story in the last two months, but the last couple of weeks have been interesting.

I'm going through each character and working out more of the details, more of the plot on an individual basis. First, I go through the story and write down everything I run into for that character. Second, I write an informal bio sheet for the character. It delights me to discover so much about the characters, just from the things I wrote about them. "Aha! This person knew what was about to happen!" "Aha! This person didn't!"

So far, one of my bad guys has been motivated by a sense of order, another by sheer loneliness, and a third by self-centered immaturity. Loneliness is a terrible thing. I think the main bad girly has the same problem, that.



The same people who didn't hire me for either a tech writing or a newsletter/communications position volunteered me to work on a departmental newsletter. "Can't think of anybody else who could do it," they said.

Still waiting on the new QC job.



This is an article who was unable, for a week, to get a D&E abortion (dialation and extraction). She was bleeding. The baby was nineteen weeks old. And dead.

via ***Dave.

I'm proud to have had my daughter in a country where abortion is legal. On those days when I hate being a parent, I can never say, "I wish you had never happened." She will never be something that happened to me, because I looked at her and said yes.
Word of the Day.


"People who live on the opposite side of the globe and, of course, whose
feet are directly opposite to ours." --Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon...of every word usually employed in
science, literature, and art, c 1850

--From Jeffrey Kacirk, Forgotten English Daily Calendar 2004.

The coffee shop was frikken deserted on Sunday night. Deserted. Lots of other places for these to bobos to sit than six feet away from me.

Girl: About twenty two, works at a pet store, long brown hair.
Boy: Just turned thirty, still going to school, looks and sounds like a younger, taller version of Wallace Shawn.

Girl: I watched the Spielberg biography last night.

Boy: Me too! You know, I haven't been able to watch ET since I saw it the first time.

Girl: When was that?

Boy: I was about seven or eight.

Girl: I know what you mean. That movie was so scary! You just felt trapped.

Boy: I had nightmares for years.

Girl: I've never been able to watch some of his movies. I've seen scenes from some of them, and I just can't do it.

Boy: Like Schindler's List.

Girl: What's that other one called? Amistad?

Boy: Me either.

Girl: That Spielberg, he makes some powerful films.

Ray's sitting on my lap. One cookie says to the other cookie (both of which have a big, semi-circular bite of them):

Cookie 1: What happened to your head?

Cookie 2: That one eat me.

Cookie 1: Spiders!

Cookie 2: Aaugh!


Just let yourself fit in.

This is one of those more introspective posts.

I've been reading The French Lieutenant's Woman. The setting is Victorian England. Anyway, there's a scene where Sarah, the epononymous character, reveals that she slept with the French Lieutenant and why:

She was a governess for two children whose mother was her own age. She liked the woman, liked the children, but every day she was reminded that she would never be able to have what that woman had--a home, a husband, children, respectability. She was too poor to marry someone with money, and too educated to marry someone who was poor.

The French Lieutenant flirted with her while he was recuperating from a wound, and invited her to meet him in another town. He hinted that he'd marry her. When she found him, she realized in a flash that 1) he'd never marry her, and 2) good thing, too. She slept with him anyway.

Why? She knew she'd always be an outcast no matter what she did, but she'd have to live by the rules if she didn't want other people to think she was an outcast. She slept with the French Lieutenant in order to take away the illusion. It didn't really work, but that's another part of the story.

When I read it, it was like a piece of the puzzle clicked. In school I was the ugly duckling. In Chamberlain, my parents were farmers and we were poor. I was shy and smart and lonely most of the time. In Flandreau, my parents were newcomers in a small town that respected tradition over pretty much everything else. I was still shy and smart and lonely most of the time.

Then I got contacts and had my senior pictures taken. All of a sudden, I had a boyfriend; people I'd had crushes on followed me around. People literally opened doors for me. Aha! There's something beautiful to be had and seen. But I was still shy and smart and lonely most of the time, only it was worse, becuase I had to pretend that I wasn't any of those things.

I went to college. I quit wearing contacts most of the time. I stomped around whenever people offered to hold doors for me. I wore whatever I wanted -- I had a bright striped gauze skirt that would spin up to my waist. I hung up on a guy who just wanted a date. I was still shy and smart and lonely most of the time, but it didn't hurt. And the people I knew were people I wanted to know, people who wanted to know me not just because I was another outcast.

Ay, one day a 'friend' of mine asked me why I didn't let myself be beautiful. I couldn't explain it, but I hated her for asking. It makes more sense now. I didn't want to lie anymore. It didn't end up being a final solution, but that's another part of the story.


Oh Raaaaaaaaaandyyyyyyyyyy...

Arch-swindler Moist Van Lipwig never believed his confidence crimes were hanging offenses -- until he found himself with a noose tightly around his neck, dropping through a trapdoor, and falling into . . . a government job?

By all rights, Moist should have met his maker. Instead, it's Lord Vetinari, supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork, who promptly offers him a job as Postmaster.
-- Going Postal: A Novel of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett.

Out October 5th.
Dang it.

As Lee left for work, I told him I was going to do some calling around about places to live.

"Don't sign anything without letting me see it first," he said.

Damn it. The first one I looked at is just what I want.
The difference between poetry and prose.

I've been trying to figure this one out for years. One of my playwriting profs asked me this one, since I was trying to write both.

The tentative answer of the day:

Prose is clear, communicative writing.
Poetry is clear, communicative writing under extreme conditions.

--I never really liked rhymed poetry, but the conditions I put on my free verse were just as harsh, even though most of the time I wasn't lucky enough to figure out exactly what those conventions were afterwards.

Our 8-year anniversary of dating was July 15th. Our six-year wedding anniversary is Sept. 26. Here's the best love poem I've ever written, just after I started dating Lee:

#when you jump you fall#

when you jump you fall. that all i
know. you fall as far you you're high
off the ground, and then it's over. i
kept my eyes open the whole time.

every time. i tense up when i see
the bottom. everything shatters. i
know how to pick up the pieces. right
from the first i've always known.

when you jump you fall. you always
grow from the things that hurt you.
nothing else works. nothing else gets
through the skin. that's why you

jump. nothing else makes you look
and see what you've become. nothing
else makes going on important at all.
when you're falling you're in heaven.

i'm not afraid. i climbed so high i could
see sunrise and sunset overlap under me.
you look startled. the distance. it's too
far to clear it both ways. i'm ready, i

say, only i've already let go.

when you jump you fall. that's all i
know. why doesn't it hurt yet, you
say. i don't know. these mysteries.
the wind is so thick when i'm with

you. so hard to keep from catching sky
between my fingers. i just don't know.
so hard to keep flinching from the blows
that never come. i just don't know.
Email update.

I took a Gmail invite from Doyce recently, and have changed my email address. Worry not! Thanks to Doyce's savoir faire, the old address is forwarding to the new address. If you'd like the new address, email me at the old address or leave a comment here, and I'll send you the new address.

Re: Gmail:
1 spam. 1 week. Any questions?


In other birthday news,

Ray and I went to a birthday party for a little girl that Ray plays with. Now here I have to figure out what I want to say. Every time Ray runs around with this kid, I pity her and feel proud of the way we're raising Ray.

After all the presents were unwrapped and the balloons were popped, the ice cream cake had been eaten and the relatives had wandered off, the little girl stopped screaming "mine!" every time Ray touched something and sat down with her to play. They colored and tried to blow bubbles. I took them out to the park. We had time to go down the slide a couple of times, and then we had to walk back.

On the way back, the little girl said, "We went down the slide five times."
I said, "We have to remember that we need to go down all the slides next time. And push each other on the swings."
She said, "Okay."

On the slide, Ray tried to push her way past this girl on the stairs. I told her to say she was sorry, and she did. The other girl said, "That's okay," and they went up the stairs together.

People shouldn't read the horoscope for the month they were born, but the month they were conceived. This would make Lee, birthday Sept 1, a Capricorn:

Between North and South Korea is a long, narrow strip of land called the DMZ. Designed to be a buffer zone where all human activity is prohibited, it has accidentally become a nature preserve beloved by white-naped cranes. The area is a paradise for the birds because it has an abundance of undisturbed marshland and is free of predators. Luckily, the cranes are so lightweight that they're in no danger of detonating the many land mines buried throughout the 370-square-mile area. Everything I just described is an apt metaphor for a situation or state of mind that's now available for your use, Capricorn.

--He's also quitting smoking. Via Free Will Astrology.


Experienced Orangutan Wanted.

Terry Pratchett at the Hugos.

via BoingBoing.


Holy crap.

A picture of Hurricane Frances approaching Florida.


Harry Potter.

Ray sat on my lap through all but the last five minutes of the Prisoner of Azkaban. And this is not a girl with a low restlessness quotient.

Cheap theater good.


Acid Purple or Invisible.

I woke up this morning and had ideas. Now I can't remember what they were. I took a shower and had ideas. I can't remember them, either. I had ideas at work, and they're gone, too. On the way home I realized that I'd slipped into the state of mind where some idea or insight I'd had was causing a domino effect. I almost forgot that one, but I'd taken a moment to remind myself not to fotget at the time. Now I'm restless. The tiger at the zoo paces all the time. The lions sleep but the tiger paces--my Chinese zodiac sign is the tiger. I should be dreaming of flying, of falling off the top of a skyscraper and never hitting the ground. I feel like I won't be the same person when I wake up, the difference of a single hair that's turned acid purple or invisible.
It makes sense once you see it.

Headbanging belly dancers at Metal Goddess.


Yo mama.

Yo mama so fat when she pull her pants down, people start turning into werewolves, 'cause it's a full moon. --Tshirt.



"If the dorks and the non-dorks ever got in a war, I wouldn't make it as a double agent." --Anon.


Their eyes were watching GOD.

So Ray and I went to the zoo today. As usual, after three hours of spazzing out, she fell asleep on the way home. She'd only been asleep for half an hour when I pulled up to the house, and I had a good book. I parked in the shade of a tree along the street and read.

About fifteen minutes later, a car pulls up in front of me and two men get out. They're both wearing suits, and one of them is carrying a bible. They walk past my car, up the steps, and ring the bell at our house for a couple of minutes. Then they walk down the steps, get back in their car, and drive away.

A few minutes after they left, the guy next door started running his power saw again. One of those constant noises you don't notice has stopped until it starts up again.



Work was work again today.


Six Sigma.

I went to a Six Sigma simulation class today. It was the most fun I've ever had at work, ever. We took a ten-minute process and reduced it to ten seconds.

I got to bounce around and shout out ideas. I could do that for a living.



It used to be that all you could get were crappy donuts, at least where I lived. They were all cake donuts, and they all tasted slightly stale. Then I had my first Krispy Kreme.

"Ah!" I said. "There's nothing wrong with this donut! What a relief!"

I was on vacation. When I went home (in Iowa at the time), I had to go back to the crappy donuts.

Colorado Springs has been inundated with Krispy Kreme donuts recently. From what I understand, they make them in Denver, because the actual Krispy Kreme stores in town don't have the capacity to make that many donuts.

At first I couldn't get enough, but I've finally realized that Krispy Kreme donuts are too @#$%*^& sweet. Once in a while, that's all you really want, a sweet donut with nothing really wrong with it. I usually get Albertson's donuts now. They sell Krispy Kreme donuts, too, but I get the other kind instead.


Family resemblance.

Walking along with my mother while she was in town. Sign.


I said, "But I don't want healthy Japanese food."

Mom said, "I thought you liked Japanese."

"When it's dead! Not when it's healthy!"

She said, "I wished you'd been around more when Andy was growing up. The girls have the same kind of mindset, and Matt can fit into that when he's around. Andy's different. He's been off in his own little world for a long time. You know when he saw that sign he said the same thing."

When we caught up to him, I asked him if he'd seen the sign. He hadn't. I started to tell the story, and he laughed as soon as I told him what the sign said.


My folks came out to visit. They were supposed to be here on Wednesday, but arrived on Sunday afternoon, having forgotten to call before they left. At the time, I thought it was strange--they were always so fanatical about calling before they left, in case "something happened."

Cell phones. Social changes. They had three of the things with them.

We did a lot of hanging out; they did a lot of shopping (pre-HS for two daughters and a college freshman son who'd just as soon wear highwater pants, I take it). Thursday we went to the USOTC (US Olympic Training Center) in CS. I'd never been before. "Cinderblock" and "the best training facility in the country" aren't two phrases I'd use together, but there you go. Those things the sponsors pay for are at least adequate to luxurious; those things the sponsors don't pay for aren't. I mean, "be" verb not. We heard lots of stories about the atheletes; the thing that stuck with me the most was that the athletes really are meant to be goodwill ambassadors. After training 10hrs a day, 4 hrs workout, part-time job or school, they still have to do community service. The meeting rooms are open for non-profit organizations to use. Most of the training areas are open to public view, and every half-hour, a guided tour comes through.

Friday we went up to Denver. Started with the zoo. New exhibits. Old favorites. No sunscreen. Three teens. Went well. To sixteenth street mall. Three teenages. Rode up and down on the buses while others shopped. Again, went well, considering got lost and three teenagers. Then Casa Bonita. It was like a continuation of the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, only instead of paying entrance fees you pay for food.

So. All of the kids have now moved past the really-annoying-teen-phase now. I love my family, but this is the first time I've seen them in a long time that hasn't had this undercurrent of whiny viciousness running underneath it. I had a lot of fun.

Julia Child.

Julia Child died on Friday.

What a good lady.


I usually limit myself to four-letter words.

English: May the malevolent hedgehogs soil your cornflakes.
Irish: Go salaí na gráinneoga cealgrúnacha do chuid calóga arbhair.

Phonetic: guh SAH-lee nuh GRAWN-yoh-guh KYA-luhg-roo-nuh-khuh duh khwihj KAH-lo-guh AH-ruh-wir.

An tInneal Mallachtaí

via Randy.



[Insert casual insult here.]

What the hell did you say that for?

God told me to.

God sure tells you to do a say a lot of petty, stupid stuff to me.


I mean, he could be telling you to do something important, like take over the world or kill people.

He did tell me something important once.

What was that?

How to win the lottery.


Kind of useless. 'Buy all the tickets, dumbass,' he said.

[Loses it.] Dang ol' God.
Even more easily amused.

Found a place with the FLCL collection for ten bucks. Ordered it.
Maybe nobody else is this easily amused.

Forget the headline on this article. Read down a bit.

"Other new cast members include Miranda Richardson as a newspaper gossip columnist..."

Coooooool. She was in a lot of the Hallmark specials that covered classic fantasy and heroic novels. The one I'm thinking of is Alice in Wonderland. She was the Queen of Hearts.

"Off with his head! Off with her head! Aaaaaaauf weeeeth oll thayh heeey-eads!"

I can't think of anyone more skillfully annoying to play Rita Skeeter. I can't.


Writerly thoughts.

I'm reading another John R Gardner book on writing, On Becoming a Novelist. The other book, I forget the name off-hand, but the one culled from his writing class notes, is much more tolerant and understanding. This one, he's right, you know he's right, but he's a cantankerous old writing teacher that's had it with some particular types of crap.

For example, he goes off about genre fiction, especially sci-fi. (He doesn't call it science fiction; he calls it sci-fi.) As an example of how crappy sci-fi is, he uses...Harlan Ellison.

I've read some Harlan Ellison, that looking back, I know completely abrogates (is that the word?) Gardner's point. But the example Gardner used, from "Over the Edge" (the second Jack the Ripper story), he's right on:

Ellison writes:
"It's not often that people will tell you how they really feel about gut-level things. [...] A psycopath, a butcher, a lecher, a hypocrite, a clown. 'You did this to me! Why did you do this?' Frenzy cloaked his words."

Gardner comments:
"This is not the Pollyanna style favored by hack writers of the twenties and thirties but the hack-writer style that superseded it, disPollyanna. Sunny optimism, with its fondness for italics, gives way to an ill-founded cynicism, also supported by italics [...]. One is annoyed because the whole thing is phony, an imitation of things too often imitated before. The problem with such writers, it ought to be mentioned, is not that they are worse people than those who wrote in Pollyanna. They are almost exactly the same people: idealists, people who simple-mindedly long for goodness, justice, and sanity; the difference is one of style."


I've read two Gardner books, aside from his stuff on writing, Grendel and The Wreckage of Agathon. Grendel, is inspired in places. Agathon is genuinely moving in places. Maybe that's all he was going for. They aren't immortal books, the way Dumas or Robert Louis Stevenson or Tolkein books are immortal. Gardner, as good as he is (and he's saying things I need to hear), isn't everything.

I keep thinking of an old creative writing teacher I had in college. It's like he took the cantankerousness out of this book and skipped the inspiration, and that's what he taught.* I rejected everything he said, because he made it into an insult toward pure dreaming, and how to catch that on paper. Going back and reading Gardner now, I can have respect for it.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Wander, wander, wander.

Lee and I went dropped off the bebe and went wandering today. At one point, we wandered through a natural foods market ("I miss going to grocery stores where you dance in the aisles," he said. "They have pretty good music here," I said. I didn't notice I was bouncing around until he said that) and found bath salts.

One: Tired Old Ass Soak.
Two: Chocolat

My parents and siblings are coming to CS in a weekish. I think I might have to get them one of each.



Astronomy pictures, via Randy.


Eternal as hell.

Yes, there are many stages in life. Questionable Content.
More Words.

A compiler or solver of crossword puzzles.
If you encounter the clue “crossword puzzle fan (14 letters)”, this is the answer. It seems to have appeared in English about 1980 (the first reference I can find is to the Compleat Cruciverbalist of 1981 by Stan Kurzban and Mel Rosen, subtitled “how to solve, compose and sell crossword puzzles for fun and profit”). However, Stan Kurzban tells me that Mel Rosen had encountered the word some years earlier in the title of a directory of crossword puzzle notables that was not widely circulated. Whatever its origin, cruciverbalist has spread into the wider language as a result of their efforts to the extent that it now appears in some larger recent US dictionaries. The word is a modern mock-Latin invention, being a translation back into Latin of the English crossword (using Latin crucis, cross, as in words like cruciform, plus verbum, word, as in verbose or verbatim). There is also cruciverbalism, for the art of crossword compilation or crossword fandom generally, but that is much rarer.
World Wide Words.


Words, via Mike.

World Wide Words.

The Word Detective (has an interesting book for sale called Making Whoopee: Words of Love for Lovers of Words).

Miskatonic University Press (a complete section on Hardboiled Slang, and the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot ).



I took Ray to her first carnival last night.

  • She rode the elephant ride all by herself, and she was twenty feet off the ground.
  • Of course we rode the carosel.
  • She ran full-tilt into one of the mirrors in the funhouse maze.
  • We rode on the Ferris Wheel. I think this is the only one she didn't care for all that much. She was really quiet, and when we were done, she said, "Get off now, mamma."
  • We rode on the little roller coaster together. The entire time, she switched between "Hold on!" and "Whee!"

Lee has ear problems. He won't ride on rides with me.

Ray, on the other hand, will probably want to drag me on all the rides that scare the crap out of me.



Neat! A contest at Worth1000.com to create fantastical creatures. Photoshoppy Goodness.

Bumper sticker commentary.


Via the mighty Lee.

I give you...bubble wrap.
Received at work.

(It might just be worth being a high school English teacher if you get this stuff from time to time.)

Excerpts from some high school essays:

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a 6-foot-3 inch tree.

The man fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55
mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap: one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are known to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

and finally, the favorite:

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.


I don't have a good illustrative example handy; one of the usual a**holes said this today and it struck me enough to write it down.

"Did you like that? Did you like that? Huh?"

I hate it when people stand over you and feed off your reaction. It's like they get a sexual thrill out of being able to control your response for just a moment. You can always tell these people by the way they raise their voices and lean in toward you when they ask you the question. The way they repeat themselves until they get what they want or you tell them to back off.



Deep and meaningful.

I haven't written anything deep and meaningful lately.


One of the nurses at the nursing home I used to work at in SD had anorexia. That is, she had had anorexia, and she still had it, but she had it under control.

Except she'd get upset if you said she was too skinny, or told her to eat, or asked her one too many times if she wanted cake. (We all knew this; sometimes the visitors didn't.)

One night (this was when I worked nights), she was eating popcorn. Just quietly eating it: it was the first time I'd actually seen her eat. She saw me look at her, and told me that it was okay to eat, as long as she could eat what she wanted, when she wanted, and didn't have to finish it if she didn't feel like it.

I'm shy. I feel the same way about being around people as she did about food. I don't mind being around people as long as I can be around whom I want, as long as I want, when I want, and I can leave if I don't feel like staying.


Fourth of July.

I took Ray to a barbecue Saturday night in Falcon. Some people at work were throwing a party (very nice people, polite, congenial, the kind of people that actually make you feel at home after they stop telling you to make yourself at home) and invited us to come--I don't normally go to that kind of thing, but they bribed me with fireworks. It went well, except for the part where all the roads listed on the directions were blocked off for the fireworks (the HOAs didn't want people crawling around all over in their turfs, I guess), so I had to stop for alternate directions.

Last night we didn't have any plans, so I took Ray out to the top of a nearby hill (the YMCA park) and we watched some more fireworks. This was different. Everything looked further away but sounded closer. You'd see a flash of light and start searching around for--and then you'd see another one. By the time you'd figured out what direction an explosion was coming from, all you'd see were trails of dying sparks. Echoes. Chaos. Hey. The subtext last night was "just be grateful this isn't real, here, now." I pushed Ray on a swing. I had to carry her all the way out and all the way back; she wouldn't walk because she was too busy looking.
Excuse me while I complain.

I slept with Ray last night. Normally, she sleeps until 7:30 or so. Nope. After a night of tossing and turning, she was ready for daylight at a quarter to six.

I keep telling myself, "You, by the weirdness that is the business world, have an extra day off. It is going to suck, just because your daughter, whom you love, got up early? Are you going to resent her for the rest of the day because, after waking you up, is delighted to see you and wants to play, play, and play? Please say no. Please. Say. No."

Grumble grumble grumble.


Woo Ha!

I'm done with the second draft of my novel. Went from 483 pages to 400 pages.

Still a looong way to go.



We went to the Garden of the Gods this morning and walked along the horse trails. This is so we could see the horses. Ray can talk now; her conversation went like this.

"Wook, mamma! Poop! Lotsa poop! Horse poop!"

We did see two groups of horses. The second group stopped so the guide could point out a tree that had been hit by lightning three times last summer (it looked like it had melted). The horse behind his pooped.

"Wook, mamma! Dat horse poop!"

We took a picture.


The last horse in the second group had a Knippling brand on the butt, a plain hat with no tilt to it. I think it's my uncle Johnny's.


We went to the Garden of the Gods this morning and walked along the horse trails. This is so we could see the horses. Ray can talk now; her conversation went like this.

"Wook, mamma! Poop! Lotsa poop! Horse poop!"

We did see two groups of horses. The second group stopped so the guide could point out a tree that had been hit by lightning three times last summer (it looked like it had melted). The horse behind his pooped.

"Wook, mamma! Dat horse poop!"

We took a picture.


The last horse in the second group had a Knippling brand on the butt, a plain hat with no tilt to it. I think it's my uncle Johnny's.


New thing. There was an orgy of coloring at our house yesterday. Ray will now color stuff instead of just making color waves on the page. I taped it all to the walls at her eye level.

The search term is "printables."


More outside.

@#$& pool.

"Looks like the worlds biggest diaphragm," Lee said.

I got another one. It, too, has a leak in the wall somewhere.

@#$& pools.

I went through the closet with all the camping stuff, said to myself, hey, when are we going to go camping again? and pitched the tent in the back yard. We all slept in it Friday night.

Vroom! Vroom!

One obvious reason people go out in the middle of nowhere to camp is that it's noisy in town, especially when you don't have walls around you. And bright. The top of the tent glowed orange all night.

@#$& town.

Ray was thrilled out of her mind, though. So it was worth it.



I've been blogging a little over two years now. (This is not a "going to put the blog on hold" message. By the time I got my lazy butt worked up to do it, I'd have chaned my mind.) Over the last two years, I've learned that my ability to be distracted with bright, shiny objects is greater than my ability to stay focused on the blog.


In this case one of the bright, shiny objects of the last couple of weeks is the outdoors. I've mowed the lawn as much as I'm going to (there's an area out back where I just trimmed around the stepping stones--the grass and wildflowers are just too pretty, especially when Ray chases the cat through them). I've been on walks.

Today, though. Today was the big day.

I dug out the inflatable pool and inflated it.

After it was all done, I sat outside and read cooking magazines for a couple of hours (like you wouldn't), decided I needed to learn how to grill, and ate dried banana chips with my shivering, wet daughter. She'd sit on my lap long enough to soak through my pants, then run back to the pool and start dancing around in it.

As for going back in the house, the cat had deposited a nearly headless lizard on he kitchen floor, so you can see that I have no excuse to go back inside.

Tonight I'm going to grill hotdogs and what I've come to think of as Jackie corn: corn on the cob, covered in butter, dabbed with spices, wrapped in foil. Which reminds me. I've been looking for the next thing to cook for my folks when they come out here next (Mom and I sit around and cook, and the kids and my Dad eat something new, which can be an accomplishment). I made dim sum last time...



Recipe for a god:

*1 or more locus or domain (god of the west river, god of dreams)
*1 or more miracle or power
*1 or more omen or portents (omens inform your followers that you're going to do something, portents inform your followers that you want something)
*1 or more sacrifices or sacred items (you like burnt offerings; little bunnies are sacred to you)

Optional: worshippers

Just in case you were looking for it...
Rule 2.

Rule #2 of Storytelling (still in pondering status):

The main character is the theme of the show.

(Captain/Title character/Chosen One/Barkeeper etc.)


(Keep in mind that I don't watch a lot of TV anymore; it's mostly limited to Joss Whedon and the Cartoon Network to be truthful)

Mal Reynolds is the captain; everything that happens to him relates to living according to his own code; the theme of the show is what happens when you live according to your own code.

Picard is the captain; everything that happens to him is about the fine differences between what is right and what is the rule/law; the theme of the show is what happens when you make those choices.

Buffy is the chosen one; everything that happens to her relates to "growing up"; the theme of the show is "growing up."

Samurai Jack is the hero; everything that happens to him relates to the things he honors; the theme of the show is honor.


Multiple main characters:
Powerpuff Girls: How to be a girl (some satire and other jazz)

Dual main characters:
Star Trek TOS: Kirk and Spoc: Impulse vs. Logic
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: Simplicity vs. Sophistication (satire and farce)


Who's the main character of Friends? The theme of the show is friendship and relationships. Who does everyone else in the show
relate to (except Phoebe, mostly)? Ross. Ross is the main
character of Friends.

Anyway, just playing around.

(Rule #1: If you reveal the plan, something will go wrong. Only when you skip past the plan in the story does the plan go according to plan.)



We saw Hellboy last week.

I liked it. There were plot flaws, but nothing so big that I was cheesed off.

I was first delighted when I heard them start playing Tom Waits. I forget which song it was...something off Heart Attack and Vine? But then I laughed with glee:

You're one microscopic cog
in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
his red right hand

Nick Cave!



Book Review.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

I haven't seen the movie.

This is a "well-written" book. The language is poetic. The characters develop as characters. There are flashbacks. The ending is sad and poetic.

The emotional intensity I should have felt--lovers leave each other, some of them die, bombs blow up Hiroshima--I didn't.

Woo hoo for "well-written" books.


Last week. Sucked. Don't ask.


Tooth news.

Lee went to the dentist yesterday; he did have to get the tooth extracted. He went to the oral surgeon (Maxiliofacial Associates, near Colorado College--he recommends them highly), and everything went well.

Much less pain now, and all our shoulders relax just a little.

Slow-dancing to a not-so-slow dancing song while your daughter runs around in a circle, screeching.



Today was Ray's first big apology.

She smashed a dozen eggs into the carpet of her bedroom. For not the first time. She and I picked up eggshells (by hand, becuause she can't vaccuum) and sopped up the goo.

Then she apologized to Daddy, because it was driving him nuts.

"Sorry eggs. Broken eggs. Sorry."

And then she gave him a hug.

--Okay, it took some prompting, but everything was all better after that. I'm very proud.

Ever wonder if the Beatitudes of the Bible are kind of like Chinese curses?

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Be careful what you wish for...
something good
can happen
something lucky
'cause i'm ready
for something unexpected
i keep waiting
for the other shoe to drop
but i'm ready for
something good instead
i'm ready to be delighted
Hitherby Dragons.

"I have brought you gifts, too," Sabin says. "Fine foods. Silks. A woman for your harem."

"No sexual services," Parmys clarifies. She studies the creature, and then nods firmly. "I am strictly a prestige odalisque."



Mom, if you're reading this, click:

Pecan Pie.

No job.

PS. It went to an internal candidate. Also, the guy confirms: It wasn't the writing or the professionalism. The other candidate had more internal departmental experience.



Strange Moose. We watched Brother Bear today.

That is Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.

Doug McKenzie: I am your father, Luke. Give in to the dark side of the force, you knob.
Bob McKenzie: He saw Jedi 17 times, eh.


We did the plastic egg/sticker version of decorating Easter eggs. Why? Less mess. Ironically, Ray got ahold of a permanent marker I'd been using and colored on the floor. On the other hand, there are still no worries about missing eggs going bad.

I think I'm going to make devilied eggs, anyway.

Lee helped me fill eggs and hide them last night--we had a blast. Most of the eggs were easily found (and less easily opened). Much chocolate was eaten, although less than I would have expected. The bunny has not yet been devoured. The Mardi Gras beads were presented to all, including the cat.
Daddy has a tail.



Sethra Lavode is out.

And I don't have it.



The QC position did not pan out.

The tech writer position is still up in the air.


Update 04/08/04

And I mean STILL.

Ever have one of those moments when you have one last piece of chocolate on your desk that you've been saving? You walk away for a moment and come back: and it's gone. You lick your lips and taste chocolate, so you know it was you that ate it, but you don't remember having eaten it.




One of my favorite poems is "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" by TS Eliot. It's about getting older and despair, but it's done in such a witty way that you have problems believing that it could be all that bad.

I feel like I'm starting to sound like Prufrock, not in detail but in essence. "Hm...let's see how much cleverness I can put into this bitch session..."

De, it's not that bad.

P.S. Final job updates by Tuesday. They promised.

Okay. After putting it off for a few years, I've finally started reading Dorothy Sayers. Maybe true bibliophiles will scoff at this, but reading her stuff gives me the pleasure of reading Sherlock Holmes combined with Jane Austin.

Funny. Sayer's biography sounds similar to Doyle's in a few spots. Wrote things, didn't become famous until she'd come up with a detective character. Wrote him until she couldn't stand to do it anymore, quit and did religious things. Lots of dissimilarities, but there you go.

Finishing Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind. I still have to be in a mood to read him, and his style still bugs me, but there's something weird and unpredictable about him, so when I am in that mood, he's very, very good. And Jordan he is not.


I went to Scooby Doo 2. I laughed 'till I cried. Yeah, I can pick it apart; I can pick anything apart. I still laughed 'till I cried.

Note on SMG:

Yes, she's a bitch. I like her. She's a bitch.



petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun

The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

--via AWAD.


Good news, bad news.

So the bad news is about $500 bucks plus a rental car for a number of days.

And the good news is that it isn't as bad as it could have been, or would have been a few days from now. We still have tranny.

In other news, the bad news is no news on any job offers.

The good news is that there's no news on any job offers.

In other other news, the bad news is that I have to work a ****load of overtime.

The good news is that it's takehome stuff for the most part, and writing procedures at that. While most people wouldn't care for it, I like it just fine.

So I have an ulcer (not really), but the money should balance itself out.

And that's my karma, folks.


I can hear a woodpecker outside the house.

It sounds like someone snoring.


Novel update.

It's going. I'm still working on the "clear-up-confusion" draft. My goal is to get that done by June. I haven't covered much; the going seems even slower because I'm cutting so much crap out of the beginning that I'm on page twenty--but I've cut eight pages off the total.

Other updates:

Ray peed in the potty today--she's wearing big-girl pants so it's important whether you make it on time or not.

Still no news on the job situation, other than "Yes, as we said before, it'll indeed be the end of the month before you find out anything."

I realized the other day, though, that it's important that I move along, one way or another. Everything that made doing this particular job pleasant has been moved out of the department, and it's never coming back. I hear some people bitch about their jobs, and rightly so: but the fact is that I used to like mine. I'd come home happy to have been running around doing it. Now it's the kind of grinding drudgery that makes chiropractors tut-tut.

"You're wearing down the edges of your bones," they'd say. "Someday you'll be nothing but a collection of bone spikes that hurt you more than they do anyone else."

If there is an powerful, secret underground Illuminati movement to a) take over the world, b) encourage people to take over the world, c ) encourage yet other people to take over the people who were going to take over the world, or d) all of the above, as is usual with those dang Illuminati,

Suze Orman is on my list.


She has hypnotic eyes; also, on the cover of one book she's wearing a pendant of a sun with a reversed pyramid with a stone of some kind in the center.





My brother Matt sends this:

So maybe all those hours spent watching scifi movies has paid off. For our
eletronic media class we had to come up with a new technology. So here was

An new technology that could be beneficial to develop would be a world wide
wireless network. Only this technology would employ the use of transmitters
that would be attached to certain types of insects. This way there would be
no need to, or the problem of running cables, putting up towers. There would
be one central broadcast station and since there are millions of insects
around the world then each signal would jump from bug to bug. There wouldn't
be as much lost signal when you travel down a valley or through a dead area.
The process of attaching the transmitters could be done with just a simple
crop duster and the adhesive that would be used could be made to only attach
to the DNA of insects. The transmitters could also be made to have a half
life so they eventually break down leaving no trace even after the insect
has died. But still be resistant enough to with stand elements and an
occasional digestion.

And here was the instructors response...

Brilliant!! You win the prize for the most innovative advance idea in
technology submitted. Your idea blew me away! If you return to the site, you
can browse the other students' ideas, but really, none of them are new. You
"stepped up to the plate" with this one.
I believe that you should earn extra points for this idea, so I have added
10 points to the GOLDEN GLOBES assignment. (its easier than creating a new
place for these points).


More thumb-twiddling.

I had my first interview for the other job today--the QC one. Again, no news.

Funny. Way too many people applied for this job (versus the other one), so the guy weeded out people with questionnaires. One of the instructions on one of the questionnaires was to use a specific font, color, and size.

People missed that.

Oh yes, he said. It was a test to see if people can follow directions.

There you go.



We're back.

No zoo. It snowed--and four hours later we were in shirtsleeves weather.

We did go to the Butterfly House in Sioux Falls. More on that later, I think. Also, since we didn't go to the zoo, we splurged on a motel with a swimming pool.

Ray finally let me take her back to the room. Her lips were blue.



Ray just packed herself in the suitcase.
Trip. We're leaving Thursday night for SD. We should be back in town on Wednesday.

With luck, we'll get to stop at the Omaha Zoo on the way back.

So? You say.

Omaha. "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." Omaha.

They have a great zoo.


Interview. First interview today.

No further information until the last week of March.


I think it went well; I'm hyped. The general idea is to get someone to research procedures, write them up, and get best practices from the three sites that do the same work. What has been my big bitch at work lately? We're spending about twice as long on an application as the other sites are, due to workarounds we have in place for other departments--even ones we know don't save anyone any time. We can't get approval. We have no contacts. I'd be able to do something about the things I bitch about. Cool.
Beware. Depo shot yesterday. Kicking in today.

Please disregard anything insightful I say today: it's a lie, I tell you, a lie.

Three months of hormones are coursing through my body.

Lee said, "You look like you need a hug all the time."


Mabye I should go find some chocolate and kill it.




I'm still waiting for the first gorram interview for the tech position, by the way. Things crawl. Also posted for a QC position.

My supervisor is a...not a saint, but you can see why there are such things as saints when you understand her situation here. She's not a patient woman. She's freaking out. She's losing staff left and right, because juicy positions are opening up all over the place, nobody will give her anybody else to fill the empty spots, and she just keeps encouraging us to try for the next thing. A good woman--not "saintly," but human and forcing herself to be good for the rest of us.


Lee and I "switched." He was doing full-time and I was working part-time at opposite hours--so we could keep Ray at home. He's now doing fewer hours and I'm working full-time.

I like it. I feel like I can get a day's work done. Satisfying, when you've been fighting for a year to get a day's work done but failing. Daily.

I farted around tonight, had some sushi (which may have come to symbolize both spring and non-motherhood for me), read a book, drank a decaf mocha--in short, luxuriated. When I came home, Lee had cleaned the house, made supper for himself and Ray, and run herd all day.

He looked like I must have looked when he would fall all over himself trying to make me feel less motherly. I asked if I could do anything--he looked so frustrated.

I think we'll be okay, but there are just days that go on far, far, far too long when you have a toddler, no matter how well they go. Maybe that's something you can only realize when you see it on someone else's face.


Swan Palace.

From the menu of my favorite Chinese place in town:

Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp: Shimp in a light batter in snow-white sarcastic lemon, in comination with mayonnaise, surrounding with honey glazed roasted walnut and topped wtih sesame seeds. What a tantalizing combination!

--I haven't been brave enough to try it yet.

Canton Steamed Whole Fish: Steamed and topped with ginger and scallions with our special light soy sauce. Healthy and nutritional. Dietician's lover! (Please allow approzimately 30 minutes for preparation.)

--No comment.
Thoughts on Writing.

Talking to Lee last night, here are some things that I know:
  • When you sit down to write a story, you should ask yourself "Why?"
  • If all you're trying to do is entertain someone, that's good but probably not honest.
  • If you're trying to "make people think" by telling them your opinion, that's not a story.
  • Everybody hates the story that's about rape or abortion or God or whatever--about one thing in particular.
  • Unless...it's a good story.
  • What makes a good story is that there's something at risk.
  • Including your own opinion.
  • If it's a story that's just your opinion, and you never make your opinion at risk, you're just preaching.
  • Even if you're preaching that preaching is bad.
  • Nobody wants to read a story about "God is good."
  • But people might read a story about "God is good. God is all-powerful. Evil exists."
  • There's this Esther Friesner story, whose title I can't remember, about abortion.
  • She's said about it, "People tell me they're not sure after reading the story whether I'm for or against abortion. That's what I was trying for."
  • So if your story is good versus evil, you have to make both sides strong enough to win.
  • Or whatever.
  • Because if it was a foregone conclusion, you shouldn't have written it in the first place.

Right. You know you're doing something right when you dream about Jimmy Stewart.


Another cute kid moment.

In the grocery store. For some reasons, bananas are still pronounced "mnans," even though Rachael can say "beautiful" clearly.

"Mnans! Mnans!"

Since bananas are her favorite fruit in the world, I give her a couple. Mind you, she still thinks tomatoes are apples, but she's a good kid nonetheless.

She clutches the bananas to her chest.

"I monkey," she announces.

When I tell Lee, he says, "She's right."

He seems proud.
Poor, Poor Marilyn Manson.

It's pretty bad, poor guy.

I'm drivin' along, listening to a rock station, when the MM version of "Sweet Dreams" comes on.

Ray's with me.

She starts howling. Then she growls. Then she howls some more.

We both crack up.



I'm putting in for a tech writer position at work.

Wish me luck.
cube meditation #1

make gaps to be filled in later;
inconsequentialize incessancies.

calgon: where were you when i needed you the most?
japanese flute music & little old men w/ brooms: hiding behind the inbox
count your blessings, count to ten: you must be joking!
take a deep breath: here? with this air?

the cry of an eagle in a beer commercial
memory of driving on window roads, rainy, in the woods,
by the lake, and the smells thereof
restless sleep
Rough Month

I took a shower yesterday, and I knew that the last couple of months were over when it felt like a crust of scabs just fell off my entire body.


My daughter is becoming a pre-schooler, and my husband is having an early mid-life crisis. But it's mostly okay now.


Chain Letter: Warning, read at your own risk. Via my brother Matt.

Hello, my name is Amber and I suffer from the guilt of not forwarding 50 billion chain letters sent to me by people who actually believe that if you send them on, a poor 6-year-old girl in Arkansas with a breast on her forehead will be able to raise enough money to have it removed before her redneck parents sell her to a traveling freak show.

Do you honestly believe that Bill Gates is going to give you, and everyone to whom you send "his" email, $1000?

"Ooooh, looky here! If I scroll down this page and make a wish, I'll get laid by a model I just happen to run into the next day!"

What a bunch of bull.

Maybe the evil chain letter leprechauns will come into my house and kill me in my sleep for not continuing a chain letter that was started by Peter in 5 AD and brought to this country by midget pilgrims on the Mayflower.

If you're going to forward something, at least send me something mildly amusing. I've seen all the "send this to 10 of your closest friends,and this poor, wretched excuse for a human being will somehow receive a nickel from some omniscient being" forwards about 90 times. Think about what you're actually contributing to by sending out these forwards. Chances are, it's our own unpopularity.

The point being? If you get some chain letter that's threatening to leave you shagless or luckless for the rest of your life, delete it. If it's funny, send it on. Don't make people feel guilty about a leper in Botswana with no teeth who has been tied to the ass of a dead elephant for 27 years and whose only salvation is the 5 cents per letter
he'll receive if you forward this email.

Now forward this to everyone you know. Otherwise, tomorrow morning your underwear will turn carnivorous and will consume your genitals.