Ray can climb on top of the toilet now. And, using a chair, gain the tabletop.


Frutration. I've been frustrated lately, and it's getting to the point where I'm getting cynical. Again. Cynicism is when you lose trust in the whole world, right? I spent a lot of today talking to Joe's mom (out from Davenport, IA, to attend a Broncos game Joe won in a contest at work). It was good. She hasn't written anybody off.

I'm to the point where I'm feeling like I could start writing people off. I hate it.

So I feel better today, but it's still hard. OK, world, when are you going to screw me over again?


Santa Claus. Maybe this is just too much sugar-coated goodwill for you. What are you, some kind of Nazi?

I was six or seven when I found out that Santa Claus wasn't "real." Two bullies a grad older than me spent a day tracking down little kids and mocking them for believing in such a big, fat lie. Of course, I knew that anything that came out of their mouths wasn't to be trusted, but I began to suspect that Father Christmas wasn't quite what my parents told me. Nevertheless, I never bitched about it. Neither did my younger brother--to this day, I don't know for sure whether he believes in Santa Clause, and he's twenty-six. We both faithfully filled out our Christmas lists and unwrapped the presents we received on Christmas morning with glee, until we were "too old for it." It wasn't that we were worried that we wouldn't get as many presents--well, ok. We were kids. We worried a little bit. But it was pretty obvious that Santa Claus used the same wrapping paper as we did, that we never sent our Christmas lists to the North Pole, and that the guy that showed up to pass out candy and gifts at my grandparents' house every year looked a lot like my Uncle Dave. I think we understood, even as little kids, that Santa Claus isn't for children. I mean, you can give exactly the same number of present to your kids whether you tell them they're from Mom and Dad or from some guy in a red suit that hangs out at the mall when he's not at the North Pole. Why for the parents? Santa Claus is every generous thing in a parent's heart. The gifts that Santa brings don't need to be paid back in gratitude. Santa doesn't bring socks and underwear. Santa brings stuff that your parents won't let you have for no good reason (Santa brought me, every year, an extra-large jar of olives. And I could eat 'em until I was sick). And no matter how bad you are, Santa doesn't really leave coal in your stocking, because he knows that all kids are good at heart, no matter how much your parents yelled at you today. My parents got to play pretend one (two, if you count Easter) days a year.

How could I spoil that?
Early Christmas present. I took a look at the pile of presents on the table (ostensibly out of reach) for our daughter, and said, Oh, the hell with it. We unwrapped this toddler's computer game and loaded it up: almost everything is set up so you can make something happen just by banging on the keys.

At first she was hesitant. This is the same keyboard you've been forbidding for the last six months, mama. So we moved the keyboard to a little table near the floor and gave her one of the banana chairs to sit on. Ah! You mean you want me to bang on that keyboard!

It's neat to watch her and neat to play with her.

In other news: Still no go on the crayons, but pencils and pens have been identified as tools with which to make marks on stuff. Par for the course, she correctly identified a pair of scissors as the most dangerous object in the room this morning, grabbed them off the table (with a clever little jump so she could reach), and ran. Aaaack!


Review: The Paths of the Dead, by Stephen Brust.

No spoilers, but...you might want to think twice before proceeding.

The Paths of the Dead is the first volume of the book The Viscount of Adrilankha--i.e., the first third or so of a novel. It is not, in any way, designed to stand on its own. You will be left hanging for...well, I hope not for another four years or so, but there you go. This is the LOTR or The Phantom Menace. The beginning of the book moves slowly, the narrative equivalent of a voice-over narrator summing up What Happened Before Now, and the main section of the book teases more for the future than it pays off in the present--all these interesting characters miss meeting each other by that much. This isn't the book for a reader new to Brust to start on.

Nevertheless, can you wait until the next two come out before you start this one?

Many little hints are revealed, and especially amusing is the acknowledgements for the book, which include the website Cracks and Shards. According to the website, the acknowledgement gives the wrong address; the one above works just fine.


Plotting. When you read a scene in which someone is describing something that happened somewhere else, what you're reading is twice the work of your regular, it's-happening-right-now scene. You have to plot out the events that happened elsewhere, you have to plot out the here-and-now. Both sets of events must happen in your head as if they'd really happened. The characters must live.

It's a pain in the ass, but it saves leading into the other scene and following out of it. Also, it helps conceal information that should not yet be revealed. In addition, the storyteller can lie much more easily than the writer can lay the scene flat-out and still deceive the reader.

One of the things that's making plotting on this damn story bearable is the fact that I have characters who lie.
Gifts? Lee's mom sent us a box of stuff. I guess...I was a little embarrassed. It's not that my family doesn't give gifts, it's just not so enthusiastic.

Ray can climb up on chairs now, so keeping her away from the packages is a little hard.
Ray. Ray's tummy has graduated. She's moved from milk-based with food to food-based with milk now.

Good thing she's not picky.
Car Notes. So after all that with the IA DMV, we're not getting the car we were looking at. Following a couple of suspicious conversations with the seller and the financer, we decided to call it off.

Sales price: changed from 7900 to 8900 to 7995.
Loan amount: changed from 500 to 7500 to 5795.
Trade-in value: changed for 2K for Beretta to 2K for Beretta and Chevy Truck.
Rates: stink, but there's our credit for you.
Mo/Pmt: changed from 200-230 to 320 to 335.
Final conversation with salesman: "You have to understand where I'm coming from here."

No, guy, we don't. Your numbers keep changing, they never match anything you've said on a previous day, and your explanations don't get any better. You could be bending over backward for us, but unless you can convince us to trust you...fuck off.


Simultaneously, Joe's car died, so the guys drove down to the carlot on Saturday night, picked up the truck, and left the guy a note.

There you go.


Kitties! Check out the kittencam at the BBC.


DMV/IA. My experiences with the Iowa DMV, trying to clear an error off Lee's driving record, were, to say the least, unpleasant.

Call one:
Me: The insurance co. would like a letter of clearance...
IA: We haven't sent out letters of clearance for five years.
Me: Is there anything you can do to help me?
IA: If you send us a written request, we can send you a certified copy of Lee's driving record.
Me: Will that give the insurance co. what they need? They specifically want a letter--
IA: We don't do letters of clearance. We haven't sent out letters of clearance for five years.
Me: Yet that's what they say they want. They're located in Iowa--
IA: We don't do letters of clearance. They should be able to check the National Drivers Record.
Me: That's the problem. They have. It says right here that I should be able to contact the Iowa DMV to correct any problems on the records. It says right here that I have the legal right to dispute problems with the people at this office, at this phone number. Is that not true? Can you help me?
IA: No.
[I hang up.]

Call two (different CSrep):
Me: I'm having problems with my husband's driving record.
IA: Well, what seems to be the problem, m'am?
Me: There's some information that needs to be cleared up on my husband's IA driving record, [...] and they want a letter--
IA: [Interrupting] We don't do letters of clearance. We haven't done letters of clearance for fourteen years.
Me: I just got off the phone with the insurance company. They say that they have a number of letters of clearance on their records from Iowa--
IA: [Interrupting, raising voice] We don't do letters of clearance...
Me: [Interrupting] M'am, if you could just listen...
IA: [Interrupting] I don't care what they say, we don't do letters of clearance and we haven't done letters of clearance for--
Me: [Interrupting, raising voice] And yet--
IA: [Interrupting, raising voice] Don't you raise your voice at me, m'am. That's something that we don't tolerate here at this office--
Me: [Interrupting, raising voice] If you would just listen to me--
IA: [Interrupting, raising voice] Don't you f------- yell at me. I don't have to take this.
Me: [Raising voice] I don't have to f------- take this s---.
[I hang up.]

Call three (different CSrep):
Me: I've been having problems with clearing something off my husband's driving record. I've talked to several people at your office, and one of them has been very rude to me.
IA: What seems to be the problem, m'am?
Me: [...] and the insurance co. tells me they want a letter of clear--
IA: [Interrupting, raising voice] We don't do letters of clearance! We haven't done them for fourteen years!
Me: Well, if that's the case, they instructed me to ask to speak to a supervisor.
IA: [Raising voice] We don't do letters of clearance--
Me: [Interrupting, raising voice] JUST TRANSFER ME TO YOUR SUPERVISOR.
IA: [Coninuing, still raising voice] and you're not going to get a letter of clearance, I don't care what the f------- insurance co. says--
Me: [Interrupting, raising voice] JUST TRANSFER ME TO YOUR F------- SUPERVISOR!
IA: [Raising voice] Just f------- hold, I'll f------- transfer you!
[On hold.]
IA: [Static] In ... eep voice ... don't...
Me: I can't understand you. The phone keeps going out.
IA: First of all, we don't tolerate ...
Me: M'am, your customer service rep started yelling at me and interrupting me. If you want to keep things civil on your end, I can certainly keep up with you there.
IA: [Static] What ... on? Wait, let me ... phone.
[On hold.}
IA: What seems to be the problem?
Me: I'm talking to an insurance company that says in order to clear an error off my husband's driving record, they want a letter of clearance.
IA: We don't give out letters of clearance.
Me: The company is Geico, m'am, and it's the office located in Coralville. You think they'd know.
IA: We don't give out letters of clearance. [Raising voice] I don't know who told you...
Me: All I want from you, lady, is your name and your phone number so the insurance co. can speak to you directly. That's all I want.
IA: But I can send Mr. Canyon a certified copy of his driver's record if he submits a written request--
Me: [Interrupting] M'am?
IA: And that contains more information than a letter of clearance anyway. I don't understand why--
Me: [Interrupting] M'am?
IA: They want a letter of clearance when we haven't done letter of clearance for five years now--
Me: [Interrupting, raising voice, speaking very slowly and clearly] M'am? All I need is your name and phone number. I will have the insurance co. call you personally. Can I have your name and a direct line number?
IA: All right. They can call me in the morning. [Gives info.] But I won't give them a letter of clearance.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye.
[I hang up.]

I've removed a lot of the repetition. I was on the phone for two and a half hours. The CS Reps from the IA DMV really did initiate yelling and swearing at me. On the other hand, the reps from the insurance co. were consistently polite, prompt, and helpful.

I have never believed in capitalism more than I did yesterday.


So what do you believe in?

Depends on what frame of reference you're using.

What do you call someone who believe that what she believes depends on the frame of reference used? I'm trying to think of a word, but...I can't narrow it down to just one word. I'm a post-modern pluralistic magician (not pagan) pantheistic humanistic solipsistic surrestlistic non-linear agnostic chaotic neutral fool. And then some.

Organization. I had an aha! about organization today. The key to organization for people like me is the necessity to regularly reasses the actual facts against the intended/expected situation. This means, too, you have to think out what the intended situation will be, which is another weak point I have. Of course, this little realization of mine folds right back into my favorite koan. "First, clean your bowl."

Eh. Thinking about it, enlightenment--even just your garden-variety aha!--is different than insight. Enlightenment occurs to you; insight occurs to you so you can share it with someone else.


Joe. I've been cooking a lot lately (I made a post-Thanksgiving Turkey Day dinner, with all the trimmings, I mean, we're talking homemade stuffing, here), so Joe cooked tonight, steak, spicy tatoes, onions, and shrooms, corn on the cob, bread, cheese, cheesecake. It was good.

Fine. Up the ante, mofo.
Story. I have this face. It attracts stories.

I work with a woman who met Maya Angelou.

She was an English major in college, in North Carolina. She wrote a self-described "cheesy" novella about a girl with a fatal illness, a girl who'd been cooped up all her life and never really lived until she ran away, got herself a boyfriend, and stayed up to watch the dawn. She'd written the novella deliberately, in protest of an assignment she disagreed with. One day in class, she's called to the library. The newspapers were there. The TV stations were there. Without her knowledge, her professor had submitted the story to a contest, and it'd won first place.

She still has pictures. She doesn't look happy.

Later, Maya Angelou came to speak at their school. Again, this woman was called out of class--this time to the professor's office. Sitting in one of the chairs was Maya Angelou. "This is the girl I told you about," said the professor. Maya Angelou ("What do you call her?" this woman asked me. "Miz?") looked this woman up and down, literally stared at her starting from her feet, to her head, to her feet again, and said, "I shall call you...Joy."

This woman's name isn't Joy. "But if Maya Angelou decides to call you Joy...." she said.

So "Joy" spent the entire day with Maya Angelou. There was a receiving line at one point, and all the town and college notables filed past Maya Angelou, telling her what a wonderful influence she'd been on their lives, how they admired her...and then they'd pass "Joy." She felt embarrassed and out of place, so she tried to edge her way out the door. Maya Angelou reached out, dropped her hand in "Joy's" lap, and said, "You stay right there." So she stayed.

At the end of the day, while she was about to get in a long, white limosine and be driven away, Maya Angelou said, "I want to see that story. We shall drive you to your room and you will get it for me." "Joy" ran across the quad to her dorm (rather than force the limosine to try to park in the parking lot, which was under repair, grabbed her story, and ran back to the limosine. She delivered the story. Maya Angelou said, "We will return this story post-haste."

This woman stopped to stress that Maya Angelou did, indeed speak like that.

Two months later, this woman was pulled out of her classes again, this time to the Dean's office. "It's here, it's here!" he said. It was a manilla envelope from Maya Angelou, containing the manuscript--which was covered by a sea of red.

On top of the manuscript, also in red ink: "Joy. You need to stop working on this story. You have talent. You shouldn't be wasting your time on this." This woman said that every compromise she'd made, every time she'd let someone else tell her what to write or how to write it, Maya Angelou had pointed out.

But it made this woman stop writing for two years.

She's halfway through her second novel now.

I asked her how she would have felt if Maya Angelou had gushed over her story. "Rotten," she said.


Ray is patiently breaking pine needles (the long kind) into small pieces and lining them up on the chair cushion.
Godfadda. I feel like walking around and talking like the Godfather today. "You eat my tacos and den you decide to inconvenience me and my daughter after I'm in bed. Dis is the respect you give me."
Car. Transportation problems with the pickup truck yet, and the financing hasn't gone through the bank yet. No car yet.


Bebe Notes. This is kinda icky, but there you go.

Her bowels have made some kind of quantum jump in maturity. All of a sudden, she has poops that in no way resemble mustard. Ah, the holidays. My thoughts turn to gift-giving, good food, and TOILET TRAINING.
Grey Hill notes. I'm working on plotting. I outlined the novel; now I'm breaking it into chapters. Seems overly analytical, but it also seems to be working. And I think I'm going to send the first chapter to Banshee studios. It seems like kismet--karma--something. The story's set on Imbolc; I guess you could call it an anti-Valentine's Day story as I plan it. Next issue of Banshee comes out...what a coinkeydink.

Your trivia of the day, on a related note:

From what I understand (and correct me if I have this wrong), Imbolc is the celebration of the turn of the year, with Brigid (poet and blacksmith) the celebrated aspect of the Goddess. Creativity, renewal, conception, blessing of the tools of the year, and reawakening are some of the themes. Catholics may recognize Imbolc as Candlemas--you know, the time that the priest gets everyone to line up and holds a pair of white candles at your throat to bless you.

The part that cracks me up is that besides Valentines Day and Candlemas, the other holiday that Imbolc covers and embraces is...

Groundhog's Day.

I tell you, Bill Murry is part of a conspiracy. I don't know why. It just delights me every time I think about it. I guess it's just that I've been reading these dead-serious rituals for Imbolc for weeks now, and...it's groundhog's day.
Shopping for a used car.

If I were a superhero, one of my secret vulnerabilities would be cars. Specifically, car care professionals and salespeople. The very idea of taking the car in freezes me up. Why? I'm not sure, but what it feels like is that one of the few times I feel like a girl (in a bad way) is when I walk into an automotive repair shop. I feel like the guys are looking at me..."If you were a guy, you could do this yourself." "If you were a guy, you never would have let it get this bad." "If you were a guy, I wouldn't have to talk to you like you were an idiot."

So the car's dying. Transmission's going out, brakes are bad, and I don't like the damn thing. It's a sports car, two doors, and I can't count the number of times the overly-helpful cool weighted doors have crushed the legs of my passengers trying to get out of the suck-your-butt-into-the-road seats. I'm a geek. It's a sports car. Eh.

Thursday Lee and I drive down to Pueblo to look at Kias--the ads are all over the radio, they're cheap, they have a wagon. Sounds good, right? No. Every single one they had was a 5-speed, which Lee can't drive. And more expensive than the ads (natch). We test-drive a hatchback and go home.

Today we cleaned out the Beretta, did the laundry, took a nap (for de bebe), whipped out a blue book, and went car shopping. First place we stopped at, we found something that looks perfect (or as perfect as we can afford, same diff). It almost offends my sensibilities, but I think we're going to get it. The negatives are high mileage and a problem with one of the doors that they're going to fix before we take it. I feel...guilty. This was almost too easy. The salesman was almost too pleasant, in a "just leave them the hell alone" kind of way.

We'll see. We should know for sure how things are on Monday.
Dumb joke. What did the mushroom say after her blind date?

He seemed like a fungi, but I was still pretty spored.
How else is he gonna learn? The plans to install a server onto the home network are, at moment, on hold. Damn learning experiences, anyway.


Illegal Aliens. Check out Jon's (Captain Rooba) interview of Nick Pollata, author of Illegal Aliens. It's quite amusing. And there's other cool stuff, too. At Banshee Studios.
Snake Handlers.

The reason snake handlers handle snakes is Mark 16:17-18. They believe in the inerrancy of the bible--a phrase meaning that they believe that the bible, no matter where it came from, no matter who edited it, etc., is literally true.

17: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18: They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

--More from Perspectives... by Williams. See below for link.
Turkey Day. Due to the overabundance of turkeys, we declared Turkey Day on Sunday. I cooked and got rave reviews. "When I say I liked the brussels sprouts, I mean, I didn't think they totally sucked. For me, saying that about a green vegetable, that's pretty impressive." --Joe.

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah.
Oh, yeah. One of the incidents of Thanksgiving day: Ray walked off with Matt's beer. First I freaked because it was a can--she could cut herself, you know. Then I saw what she had. AAAACK!


Screen Savers. While diddling around with the settings on the computer, I happened upon a desktop theme for jungle that I liked. Heh. Ray watched the screen saver for half an hour.

We also set up the small tree yesterday. A day for all good bebes to stand, transfixed, in wonder.



There are approximately 4 times as many conversions to Mormonism as there are new births, although less than half of those conversions remain with their new religion for over a year.
--Perspectives on American Religion and Culture, Peter W. Williams, 1999.
NaNoWriMo. Please, if you have not done so already, check out Doyce's story. He wrote a 50,000-word novel in November. Waaaaan month. Yeah, he finished it. Woo Hoo!

I've only read three days' worth, but I can tell you already that if you're up for a good beginning, then begin. By the end of the first day's worth of entries, I was hooked.

Um, due to writerly considerations, you'll have to email him a request to see the story via the link above, the writerly concerns being that publishers get antsy about first drafts published on your own personal website, i.e., they don't want to buy the final drafts thereof.

Nevertheless, email him quick.


Happy Thanksgiving!

We went to Matt & Stacey's house. I had a good time; Lee had a good time; I think Joe had a good time; Ray had a "The hills are aliiiiiiiiive with the Sound of Muuuuusiiiiic" time. M&S's beagle, Sable, proved to be the life of the party from a one-year-old's perspective. We played but did not finish a very close game of boys-vs-girls trivial pursuit, with Matt dangling clues from the sidelines, having come back from the base in the middle of the game.

The big news is that Matt & Stace are not moving to Tupelo, but if you want more details you'll have to ask Matt.


Cheap Thrills.

Anybody that knows the David Allen Coe song...well, they just don't know unless they know.

My brother-in-law Mike sent us a CD of David Allen Coe songs that you'll never hear on the radio. Never. And now I know more about David Allen Coe than I need to know. You know, I didn't think of myself as easily offended until I heard that CD. Guess what?

I knew I'd have problems when I saw the song title Nigger F@#$%^&, but I didn't really know I'd have problems until I heard the song. Or the one about...screw it. Nevermind.

If you want the sticky details, talk to Mike.

P.S. I talked to someone at work who'd never heard of "You never call me by my name." Never even heard of it. Weird. Bet she hasn't heard of the "Going to hire a wino" song either. Mac Davis, I think.
Back Online.

Well, we've been through our periodic screwed-up-the-internet party again, but we're back now. I can't say it was too terrible a thing, since now a) I get to read everything all at once, b) I did some good writing (let me remind myself that I don't know how to write novels, it's all right to trash everything and start over, newly inspired. 'Kay.), and c) a break in the addiction is always a good thing.


Ray's still cute. She had a good birthday. I bought an angelfood cake, going against all those years of state-fair angelfood cakes I made for 4-H because I don't have a stationary mixer and, dang it, the thought of making an angelfood cake by hand gave me the willies. I decorated it by hand, though, as Clifford the Dog. I am so Cool. We let Ray, according to Knippling family tradition, have a clear shot at the cake before serving it to the rest of the family. She drew little pictures in the frosting for about three seconds but was not otherwise tempted to eat the stuff. One of her presents was a box of washable crayons. Ha. Wash nothing. Read: edible...and poopable. Man, that was gross.

The big news, though, is that in the last two weeks or so she's decided to start talking. She knows "Daddy," "Kitty," Mamma," "Joe" (DOE!), and "Diaper" (Di-duh), and she learned them roughly in that order.

Four teeth on top, two teeth on bottom. She can run. She thinks naked is better than clothes, showers and baths both have their points, bacon is gooooooood, dogs bark, lions and bears roar, monkeys hoot.

More later


Hoo hoo! Tomorrow I work. After that I play for twelve days. It's good to have PTO.
Calm, Happy Thoughts. So my spouse kindly swaps out the video card in the system upstairs, thinking that it would help the monitor problems. And does something else, something mysterious, "to keep the system from overheating."

Well, gosh darned if I didn't get a good half hour of work in before I tried to save it. And gosh darned if the f^#*@^% thing didn't lock up. And double gosh darned if it wasn't locked up when I sat down. And triple gosh darned if my kindly spouse didn't mention a word of it on his way out the door this afternoon. Well, gosh darn me for not trying to back up right away then, eh?


The Count of Down. M'lord.

De's vacation starts on Wednesday. De went to the new worksite today and checked out the digs. Tiny. Poorly organized. Snazzy, in a beige kind of way, and no duct tape on the carpet. Vacation = going to stay home and write. Got to get up in the morning. Unk.



se·man·tics n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
1. Linguistics. The study or science of meaning in language.
2. Linguistics. The study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent. Also called semasiology.
3. The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form: We're basically agreed; let's not quibble over semantics.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

"Semantics" does not mean "meaningless distinction, a quibble over two words that mean the same thing." Using the phrase "just a matter of semantics" or "mere semantics" in an arguement with me is like saying, "I have a problem with winning arguements...please whip me like the dog I am. Please? Please?" You could almost get off easier by saying, "But that's women's work."
On an unrelated note, (cough) the Testerman Band (Guitarzan! Guitarzan! He's the leader of a jungle band!) and the mysterious couple that "likes Arcanis; Jack says they're funny" should arrive here at an unidentified time for some living Arcanis. And barbecued chicken. Mmmm. Chicken. I should be working on the newsletter (they're letting me take it home now. Whee!), but my brain's doing the "we're having people over, woo hoo, woo hoo" dance, and if I get anything done today it'll be a miracle. Ray would like to add that naugahyde chair cusions are a taste treat and that her day has gone ever so much better since she pooped. She advises both. Make of such advice what you will.
Sanity. I noted to my husband yesterday that I had yet to meet a man who was entirely sane. His response was, "Yes, but you like freaks." So I do. Nevermind.


Rayup. Her growth curve appears to be slowing down a little. 30 inches, 20 lbs 13 oz. I asked the Dr. about Ray grinding her teeth, and the Dr. said not to worry about it. All appears to be well with the bebe!


Ramble. I don't know how to say what I want to say...here goes:

Writing isn't just scratching the cat until it purrs, but it seems like so many people have forgotten to scratch the cat at all that fewer people like to read than like to watch TV. Go to any bookstore that sells magazines. I'll bet you a dollar that there are more "writer's" magazines than there are reader's magazines, story magazines, and I'll bet you another dollar that both types are shelved together, and that the number of both types of titles together don't remotely compare to "popular entertainment" magazines. Isn't it a dead giveaway when magazines containing stories aren't popular entertainment?

On the other hand, I'm just not a purely cat-scratching writer. I just haven't got it in me to write the type of thing that people watch on TV. Not even the good stuff that people watch on TV. Well, unless you wanted to start up another "Twilight Zone"-type show, or an episode or two some something similarly odd, but I generally don't write popular entertainment.

Is that what fiction writing (short stories, especially?) is for right now? All the leftover ideas that are too good to waste but inappropriate for mass media a.k.a. popular entertainment? Damn it, what I need is for someone big in entertainment to start sponsoring a magazine. I don't mean Zoetrope, I mean something cheap, sleazy, and wonderful. I bet (from what I gather from people I know) if we could get Joss Whedon to stick his name on (editor-in-chief?) a reincarnated Amazing Tales, a genre could be revitalized, drift back over to "popular entertainment" once again.


Denver. Despite being a very good girl for a teething, sniffling bebe, Ray drove me up the wall yesterday.

She was great over at the Testerman's. Two (big) dogs romped all over with her, she opened (after a few belly-flops onto the package) her birthday present (including a shirt with a fuzzy bear that she petted and talked to), she didn't fall down any stairs, etc. But by the time we went over to the Hill-Kleerups, it was naptime, and she had no intentions of taking one. She did eventually sleep for about half an hour, but this was after I was nearly in tears.

Lesson du jour. Bebes who are good at taking naps at home may not be very good at taking naps anywhere else. Time to adjust the home routine if I want to go out more...

Anyway, Lee and I had a good time. I usually have a hard time meeting people I don't know (ask anyone who's had to wait a week or two to get a word out of me), but Dave, Margie, and Katherine were very good about making everyone feel welcome. We played a "living campaign" type module* of Pulp Adventures** -- if you want to check out the game, it's at www.pulp-adventures.com. Writeup to follow, if it so pleases the muse.

And many thanks to Justin, who good-naturedly weathered all children, dogs, and toy tragedies.

*I'm not too familiar with the exact details, but from what I gather, a living campaign is a campaign shared across a large number/area of gamers. The campaigns you can run are standard; all the characters live in the same world and on the same timeline. The eeps and stash you gain in one gm's campaign can be brought over to another's. Doyce makes it sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Pro: interchangeability, common experiences. Con: it's still a pre-made campaign. I prefer gms on the fly.

**Think "The Shadow." Any flick with a mad scientist. The Maltese Falcon. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. The Tick, set in the thirties. Lee was a mad scientist; I was a Heinlein uber-chick in training; Margie was a girl reporter; Jackie was a wealthy society dame who likes to stick her nose where it doesn't belong; Dave was an American martial artist. Doyce was nuts.
Ray. The two upper teeth are officially both in now. Ten days to birthday and counting.
Suckage. Eesh. The folks I work for have introduced a new product...something that was supposedly going to change our workload from 300 apps a day to a thousand. We laughed. Shouldn't have. We're up to 600-750 apps. a day. Workload capacity before product: 400 apps. Walkouts since product introduced: 2 people, or approximately 60 files. I've started dreaming about apps again.


Ins and outs, ups and downs. Out: Name of the Feather, by yours truly, to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. In: Things You Don't Want... from Wierd Tales, with a subtle put-down "so what's the point" letter. Since Lee passed Things You Don't Want as wierd-but-good, I'll take the rejection as being a) too literary or something, b) once again, too wierd for Wierd Tales, c) read by people who've never been dragged through that particular type of shitpile; bully for them. Down in the rejection dumps. Up to Denver tomorrow for gaming purposes. Woo Hoo!
Btw The joke last week, as donated by a co-worker, was:

"Why was the ink blot crying?"

"Because his mom was in the pen and he didn't know how long the sentence was."


The Horns of a Dilemma, or, Chew through the Damn Rope and Break into the Hay Barn So Ray's walking around in the kitchen, spots a loose goldfish cracker, and shoves it in her mouth, not noticing that I'm offering her a piece of yogurt bar at the same time. She looks up.

Puh! Out comes the cracker, into the hand. She looks at the hand, looks at the cracker. Back and forth for a second she goes.

Then she shoves the cracker back in her mouth, grabs the yogurt bar, and runs.


Project. Why? I don't know. It's just one of those things, you wake up and you know. I had a dream that I was cross-stitching a nudie picture. I haven't cross-stitched in over a decade, I guess. Nevertheless. The's an ant crawling over my pen box. Why is there an ant crawling over my pen box? Now it's on the monitor. So after some fruitful webcrawling, I have a trial version of PC stitch, which will allow you to design your own cross-stitch patters, including importing graphics and converting them to a pattern -- ready-made, convertible to whatever floss system you use, you set the number of colors, the stitches per inch, etc. At 24 inches across and a proportionate number of inches high, I'm starting on the Maxfield Parrish painting that is the two kids (I know, not a nudie picture, but the same sensuality of delight is there -- the lighting is sexy, if you will), the two pillars, the trees, and a lake with moutains...and mostly sky.

Only a cross-stitcher would know how nuts this project is. And no, I'm not going to put "Home Sweet Home" right in the middle, with pastel curlicue letters and backstitching. And definitely no cute little kitties wearing Santa hats. And If I Ever Finish It, Lee Will Get It Professionally Framed For Me. He said.

I bought the canvas and some of the thread today (DMC. Fifty colors. JoAnne's Fabrics was out of white. White. White? How can you be out of WHITE?). And a roller frame, so I don't have to try to work my way around all that fabric. I have high hopes for the roller frame.

If I ever do this again, I'm going to get the full version of the software. You can't save on the trial version. Damn bastards, making me take all those screen shots. Just as well. I have pictures of the rulers on each page, so if I lost my place, I only have 12 square inches to search. Trivial.
Anniversary redux. Familiarity breeds. Content.

(No, I'm still on depo.)


Review. Anthem, Ayn Rand.

Given a choice between Anthem and Atlas Shrugged, which would you pick? I know, I know, I make the same choices when it comes to Bartleby the Scrivner and Moby Dick, and Finnegan's Wake and Ulysses. I read the slim volume that isn't the masterpiece. And in some cases I'm probably the better woman for it.

Anthem was worth the time it took to read, but I don't think Atlas Shrugged would have been. I don't buy the philosophy behind Ayn Rand's work, apparently. I accept that collectivism tends to go bad. Check out the remains of the Soviet Union; ask students in China. Nevertheless, the opposite of something bad is not something good. Good and evil, as strange as it may seem, are not the opposite ends of the spectrum. Extremes tend to cause suffering, pain -- for example, alcoholism is hell. Contrariwise, puritanical teetotalling is its own hell. Both can be satisfying traps -- nevertheless.

The opposite of collectivism is pure selfishness. Pure selfishness, fully considered, can be paradoxically generous -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Pure selfishness, driven to its extreme, is just as bad as collectivism. Imagine capitalism unsullied by democracy, and you have it. Even the selfish (individual, non-collective) love sketched out in Anthem is petty: the main character, eventually calling himself "Prometheus," gets jealous and possessive, and chooses the her name for her ("Gaea")rather than allowing her to choose her name for herself. Hypocrite.

The reason I say that reading Anthem wasn't a waste of time was contextual. While Anthem strikes me as extremist, bigoted, sparsely written, and inferior to We and 1984, it's like a philosophical juggernaut unsullied by the things that make fiction worth reading -- it's more like well-written political propoganda than anything else. Which makes sense, given the title.

But give me The Unbearable Lightness of Being any day, if you want to protest communism.

New toofer. Ray's working on a new tooth. It must hurt worse than the other ones did -- what a grouch! (I catch myself thinking that from time to time and have to laugh. Grouch? Ray? At her worst all you need to do is pick her up and snuggle. Or dance a little. Or bang things together. Just pay attention. What a wonderful child.)
Feel good. I've been meaning to send a copy of "Lanes of the Living Dead" to the tabloid the Sun, which publishes short, pulp-type stories. Submit and go forth! I got the address from a friend of mine at work, but it was the address to a similarly-titled magazine. Luckily I checked out the website and decided that the Sun Publications Co., Inc., was not the place to submit "Lanes." Too much class, or something.

I had a couple of extra copies of the story sitting around, though, so I took them in to work. And made a couple of people laugh.

I feel good.
Joke of the Week.

Every week, I put a joke in the dept. newsletter. They have been bad and worse. I feel no shame in stealing Lee's jokes, either.

Last Monday's:

What do you call a big group of short elves with a terrible disease?
...A Leper-con.

So, yesterday Lee looks me deeply in the eyes (OUCH!) and says, "Uh, did we pass our anniversary?"

I said, "You know what, I think it's tomorrow."

"How long has it been, three years?"

"There's that thing on the wall that says '98. Four years."

"Four years? That's kind of scary."

"Well, we've been dating for six."


Time flies when you're...uh...what the heck have we been doing?

All self-depreciation aside, woo hoo! Here's to exchanging every year with someone I love for the rest of my life -- a sufficient gift of itself. Thank you, Lee.



Last Saturday, some kind of miraculous day off that we both had off (!), Lee gave me a surprise. First, he disappeared for a few hours with the bebe. Then, he reappeared (with the bebe), and disappeared for several hours downstairs. Finally, he reappeared again. With a pinata.

Very cute, purple dinosaur (not that purple dinosaur) pinata. We still haven't busted it open. Not to say that we didn't try. I whacked the dang thing, Lee whacked the dang thing; eventually he stabbed it a couple of times with his sword. Aiieee, take that, ROUS!

Ray got scared, I got sick of whacking it, I eventually just begged Lee to let us pull stuff out of it. Pinatas, as it turns out, are not made of any kind of wussy paper mache. No, it's layered cardboard. Cultures that partake in pinata customs must turn out children who are well placed to step into the world of professional wrestling. Or something.

It was filled with chocolate and goodies. The goodies were small, plastic toys that you get out of vending machines. God! There must have been upwards of twenty-five of the little buggers. My favorite...hm...probably the little decks of cards with Halloween backs. Grossest: you know the material you make fake boogers out of, the stuff that kids fling at the walls? It sticks to stuff, feels disgusting, doesn't really leave behind any residue? Yeah. Anyway, taking the prize was a convincingly narsty eyeball. Glow in the dark, by the way, so you can stick it on someone's face after midnight and scare the piss out of 'em.

And inside each one was another gift, a piece of paper with a "freebie," many of them...sexual.

Very nice. Mixing both my favorite kinds of sheer delight.

Thank you, Love.
Review. Kung Pow.

Hee hee hee hee hee hee!

I haven't laughed this hard since Spaceballs.
Feet don't fail me now.

Quick! Before Ray hits the power button...again!



Grey Hill notes. The title is "The Things You Do Are Magic," but that's just too damn long to write out all the time in your brain, let alone paper.

Ramble, ramble, ramble.

A little sketchy history:
South Dakota used to have lots of country schools. The government (I'm not sure what branch or branches) built schoolhouses and hired teachers for dozens of tiny school districts all over the state. My grandfather's farm was the entirety of such a school district, called Grey Hill school district. Including the kids of farm hands, they were able to keep seven or eight kids in school there at any given time, grades K-8.

I don't know how long the school lasted. By the time my father brought us back from the Air Force and Cheyenne, Wyoming, the school was empty. In fact, we used the teacher's old house to "anchor" our trailer house. I loved going in to the old schoolhouse. Mom and Dad set up their woodworking shop out there, so it smelled wonderful. I practiced piano on an old player piano with the player mechanism broken and torn out -- I played it with the window open so I could see the keys dance. Books, half-rotted toys, a collection of buttons, including pearl buttons and buttons from all sorts of military uniforms. A magic place with its own outhouse (boarded over).

I always loved the name, too. Grey Hill. Otherwise our farm was just known as Lambert's place or the Hat Ranch (the name of our cattle brand).

When I got to college, I became annoyed that the only people writing fiction about South Dakota were straight fiction writers. No fantasy, no sci fi, nothing really fun that I could find. Some good writers, a couple of really good poets, but nobody...genre.

I decided to take on the role.

Whenever I get a chance, I set my stories in South Dakota. And I occaisionally attempt to write parts of the Grey Hill saga, an ongoing story that's been in my head since I was twelve. The first story, "Beloved," was about a girl who loses her parents -- literally loses them. The farmland, acres and acres of wheat drying in the sun, just takes them, tractor and all. The next story, "Things...Magic," is about an older woman, a sorceress, who leads a young warrior across a transformed landscape on a mission to wipe out resistance to the new, pagan order. "Beauty" is about a sealed religious community that becomes infected with a virus that destroys their humanity. And there are five more stories I haven't even started yet, novel-length, about the interaction between the different cultures that exist after all the upheaval and transformation, one about science, one about magic, one about environmentalist/religous zealots, one about normal people, and one about a group of monks trying to live in the balance. No names for them, I just think of them as the Five stories, since there are five main characters and they all play different roles in each story, the main character in one, the villain in the next, etc.

I've never tried to really finish any of the stories, and I've certainly never tried to get any of them published. I haven't felt that I'm good enough to handle the stories the way they need to be handled in order to be entertaining (instead of just a private project).

Well, like I mentioned, I'm working on "Things...Magic." It looks to turn into a novel.

All the things I've been learning lately about writing stories don't fit with this one. The first sentence doesn't really grab. The action hasn't started within the first three paragraphs. Conflict doesn't drive the pace of the story: conflict exists, but the narrator is an old fart that likes to ramble.

Nevertheless, I've rarely been so pleased with a first draft as a read back on the prior day's work. In fact, I don't even think, "I'm pleased." I just start reading and continue on until I realize I've come to the end and need to start making up some more if I want to find out what happens next.


Reviews. I'm behind the times. Sue me.

Monsters, Inc., Brotherhood III, The Wrath of Khan, and just to be insightfully perverse, a rambly pambly about Steven R. Donaldson.

Monsters, Inc.
I was so ready not to like this movie. I don't know why. And I haven't been in a mood to watch movies lately. But God, what a good movie. Not a great movie -- it doesn't transcend itself or anything -- but a well-made, well-written, well-acted (you know) movie. Quality. Boo makes me think of what Ray might look like in a year or so -- thanks to Lee for pointing that out, and thanks also to him for actually putting the DVD in the player, turning it on, and leaving for work. I cried at the end, when Sully's face lights up: if there is a heaven, that's it in a nutshell.

Brotherhood III
I didn't watch all of this, but I wanted to pass on the word to all you gamers out there: this is a bad movie about gamers, so bad that Lee, lover of bad horror movies and a pest about the "So did you ever watch that movie with Tom Hanks in it about DnD?" question, hated it. You know how bad movies rely on pointless action sequences? Brotherhood III relies on...pointless non-action sequences. Heavy music, fog rolls around, people walk around the halls of their high school, someone appears and disappears out of the corners of their eyes...no, I can't put it across. Maybe you should watch this movie, just so you can have a basis of comparison when someone pulls out some piece of crap. You could say, "Ah, but it wasn't Brotherhood III." The only campy part that I dug was the thing where the bad guy, dressed in pseudo medieval armor or something, corners the young students, puts his enormous hand on the tops of their heads, and shoves them down past the screen. Looks like the guy got a lot of blow jobs.

Hm...for me, the worst movie of all time is The Reflecting Skin. Good filmwork, catchy, very catchy, but such a...corrupt movie that it's the standard by which I judge bad ones. I felt ill at heart.

The Wrath of Khan
Lee had this on the other day, so I sat and watched it with him. It isn't my favorite Star Trek movie -- the first one is mine -- but it's the fave of many people I know. And...I hate to tell you, but it's a piece of crap. Check out the acting, the filming, the script, everything. Just bad. Kirstie Alley as a Vulcan, for fuck's sake. But I understand: this is a mythic movie. It's not the movie itself that you remember, it's the things that happened, the unbelievably superreal things.

Stephen R. Donaldson.
Which leads into this ramble...

Stephen R. Donaldson sucks as a writer. You can't count the number of adverbs on a two-page spread with both hands and both feet. He's bombastic, perverse about witholding information, makes his characters so much larger than life that even their names are obvious fakeouts (King Joyse, Lord Foul, Reeve the Just), is obviously out of whack, etc. Neverless he's one of my favorite writers. It's that mythic thing again. Oh, yeah, did I mention he has no sense of humor in his writing?

Something I noted a long time ago but I thought I'd share here, one of the things that makes the Thomas Covenant series so powerful for me (yes, I know, the one where the main character rapes someone in the first couple of chapters -- the first time I read it, I literally threw it across the room (at a library) and didn't pick it up again for nearly a decade) was finding out that Donaldson was a peacenik. He went to Vietnam as a conscientious objector and got his degree at Kent state a year after the riot/massacre when he got back. His debates all over the Covenant series the first about the uses of power and the effects of despair made so much more sense when I figured that out.

I haven't read that new, non-fiction thing he wrote, and frankly I don't care to. It's not going to be mythic, it's going to be just the crap. That's my expectation.


Ha! On the one hand, this is a no-brainer; on the other it's very cool. I sent one of my younger sisters home with A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L'Engle, over the fourth of July weekend. This is the sister that says little and Never Ever writes email.

She wrote me an email saying she wanted me to find her more books like that.

Yeeee-esss! Reached a twelve-year-old.


Raynews. Cute bebe news is always apprectiated, right?

She's sleeping through the night. In her own bed.

Ahhhhhhh. I'm catching up on 10 1/2 months of sleep loss. Uninterrupted sleep. Wow.

She's getting steaily more steady. She can walk on her own and hold your finger for a little support, and she can walk all the way down the hall and into the kitchen on her own.

She's starting to crave solid food more often. She will eat anything. I fed her about an ounce, ounce and half of Kung Pao chicken meat a few days ago. Her poop has become indescribably no longer bebe poop. Considering the smell, I'm a little sentimental about the old bebe poop.

I got her first pair of shoes. She's not too thrilled yet, but when she gets steady enough with them to tear around outside...she'll come around. Size 4.



I won't celebrate Patriot Day tomorrow. I won't dress up in red, white, and blue. I won't light candles, I won't pass on any chain letters. People died; I'll be mourning.

I can't say I haven't been a bigot about Islam and Islamic countries in the last year. I can't say I don't think we shouldn't use terrorist tactics against terrorists and the countries that support them. I can't even say that I oppose the loss of some of our freedoms -- but I can't say I'm proud of these things. I lost innocence; I'll be morning.

I spent a decade without the daily fear of worldwide holocaust. More people will die; more people will lose their freedom; more people will turn to fundamentalism and bigotry; more injustice and suffering will eat away at our hearts until we just want them all dead. Whoever they are. There will be no healing; I'll be mourning.

The day after that I'll have hope.


Weaseling around the edges.

I've mentioned that I've been transitioned to a new position at work -- to QC, actually. So far, everything's fine with the people on the floor. My partner and I have been working our butts off to give feedback, do research on questions, even putting out a cute little newsletter so everyone, God Help Me, is on the same page.


The only problem is a couple of the supes. I won't say everything I want to say here, because people at work may be reading this, but cripes already. If you have a problem with the process, don't mess with the grunts. I don't get to make the decisions -- I only get to make recommendations. Everything I initiate goes through umpteen different people before it hits the floor. And I won't sneak anybody in behind the lines.

Guess what? I have some integrity when it comes to the job. I hate the situations I get in when I don't stick to it, so I stick to it. I've already had three different people try to push my limits on it. I do my job. I don't lie, I don't try to paint thing as better than they are (altough I'm melodramatic enough to try the reverse from time to time, alas), and I don't tinker with the numbers to get something that looks good. I try to err on the side of kindness, but I'd rather be fair.

Get it?

Do you get it yet?

How about now?

I still haven't changed my mind. Did you notice?

Dream, 09/04/02. Not in any way true. Disturbing.

My brother (just your basic brother, neither one of my real brothers) tells me, "Dad's been beating Mom." I go to my parent's house, not their real house, and go into their bedroom. Mom's moving out, but nobody's told me about it. Everything of hers is in boxes, and there are a couple of packages (wrapped in plastic bags) with tags labeled with my father's name. "Look," says my brother. I open the bags. There are a couple of heavy leather belts, one black, one red with cartoon kittens. A kid's play outfit, red and yellow, adult sized. I leave. I walk downtown and stop at a store (a jewelry store?) where my mother's working now. I hug her. We walk outside and I ask her how long this has been going on. "Not long -- a couple of months," she says. "He said he wanted to try somehtin gnew, so I went along with it. But he lost control. There was something inside him, and it just came out." I tried to picure my father -- I thought I knew the day it'd started. I'd come over for dinner, and they'd given each other a funny look and went away in the van for a couple of hours. I stepped away from my mother and thew up on the street. I left.

As I walked down the sidewalk, I saw someone I know. She was crying: her grandmother, who was staying with her, had tried to feed a baby kitten its milk using an eyedropper. The kitten wouldn't drink, so she'd taken the eyedropper and forced the milk up the kitten's back paw. Somehow. The kitten was hurt and would probably die. I hugged the girl and walked on.

Lost, hopeless.
Editing(Warning: Language) (Warning: this is an ongoing draft of something it'll probably take the rest of my life or a book contract to complete.)

(For Joe)

So you just finished descing your new character, typing your resume, or hammering out your latest essay for that #$@# required English class. You're convinced it's crap, but there's something about it that keeps you from deleting it....hm...maybe it's art, maybe it's craft, maybe it's...a deadline. What now?

You edit.


2. Take a break. Your love/hate obsession with this thing needs a rest, drama boy.

3. Grab your tools. OK, now grab your other tools. Dictionary, thesaurus, pencil, paper, English major...

4. Read it all the way through. Make no marks. Make no judgements. You need to see what's really there, and not what you fantisize is really there.

5. Considering your audience, are you making a damn bit of sense? Go through and just try to make sense. Fuck grammar, fuck spelling. Pretend you're an idiot and read what you've written. Pretend you're an asshole and read what you've written. Make changes, save a new version of your stuff, and print out a new hardcopy.

6. Are you saying what you actually want to say? Explain out loud what you're trying to say and then write it down. Break everything into sections according to what you're trying to say, like, "First I'm going to say this, but then I'm going to say this." Move anything that doesn't match its section into the right section, make a new section for it (if you can make the new section fit in with the big picture you just wrote down), or delete it. Check to make sure you're still making sense. Save a new version and print out a new copy.

7. Read your stuff without making marks or judgements again. After a minute, ask yourself if you noticed anything new and improved. The best part about editing is finding neat stuff that you didn't realize was there. If you can, without sacrificing meaning or inviting confusion, stick more of the same in your stuff. (This is mostly for creative work. You probably won't find any miracles writing your resume.) Save a new version and print.

8. Check your style. Is it appropriate for the people you're giving this to? Are you too informal with something intended for professional use? (This doesn't mean you can use "utilize" twelve times to a page, and I'll slit your throat if you write, "I just want to make sure we're all on the same page here.") Are you too formal with something intended for people who hate formal English? Save and print, buddy.

9. Read your piece out loud. You can get help for this. If it sounds terrible, then it doesn't look good, either -- if it sounds bad, then you probably have a grammar problem. The only exception to this is commas. Commas do not mean the same thing as pauses in your sentences. Commas connect ideas. Use them to hook sentences together and make lists. There are a few other purposes, but I'm not going to give you a freakin' book here. Look it up yourself. And the it's thing? IT IS = IT'S. Anything else is just an its. Check your manual of style or your English major. Save and print.

10. Finally, the proofreading. Spelling and stupid spellcheck errors (lingo for longing, etc.), capitalization, spacing, punctuation, and...FORMATTING. Formatting is very important, even for the most informal work. Especially if you put it on-line. Formatting includes HTML. I suggest you take another break before you mess with this stuff. If you need help, this might be the area where you should most desperately try to get it, because it's the most objective area. Many things can be passed off as author's perogative, but sloppiness ain't one of them.

Fine. What's on the page still doesn't match the glory of the idea when you first had it in your head (never does), but you're impressed. Better yet, other people are impressed. Best of all, other people are impressed, but they can't tell you why. When someone says, "This is great!" and you say, "What did you like about it?" and he says, "Well, the whole thing," it's the best feeling in the world. Unless you get a critic, an editor, or another person that writes looking at it, what you do should be a lot of hard work that comes off like 20 year-old Johnny Walker.

Chick List

Call for help: if you happen to think of it, please send me an email at dust@bears-cave.com or leave me a comment.

I'm looking for writers to recommend to chicks. They can be male or female, of any genre, of any particular quality, but must have good female characters that chicks can relate to. Good female villains a bonus.

I want to start a list of such writers, specific works if necessary, and sorted by genre (sci fi/fantasy, mystery/crime, horror, literature, and fiction, fiction being the catchall). Why? Um, lots of the women I know read books. And they're always on the lookout for recommendations. And they're always more hyped when I give them books with good female characters than when I recommend somebody like Greg Egan.
Dream, 09/02/02

I met some people somewhere, three women and a man I thought very attractive. His hair was silk-soft. I sat next to him and played with it. It was a shopping center? A business complex? On waking, the closest thing I can compare it to is some of the indoor areas in Minneapolis, all glass, brass railings, and escalators. Good restaurants a few steps from an investment banker, human-sized angels dangling from the ceiling, jumping fountains with lazer lights, tourists, suits, and wild kids walking around with rollerblades dangling from their shoulders all mixed together, wandering the Skyway and collecting in places like these. If you know Minneapolis, the place I'm thinking of is the center with the Au Bon Pain in it, or used to be in it.

One of the women with us (she had strawberry blond hair, freckles, was about 6' 4" and built like a basketball player...in fact, I remember now who she reminded me of, a girl a couple of years younger than me in high school, in fact a big basketball nut, with the kind of character that makes you doubt she ever had a bad day off-court. Big smile, always genuine). She started crying and ran off. I got up and followed her.

"What's the problem?" someone asked, and I knew this girl was going to try to kill herself. Part of me asked myself why I should care, as she wasn't a friend of mine, and I wanted to snuggle up with this guy, but that part of me wasn't in charge of the legs.

The building, as I chased the girl (and after a few seconds, everyone else at the table got up and followed), was coming apart. Not in bad condition, but literally coming apart. Drifting. Stairways, escalators, chunks of things would snap, float away, or bounce around, crushing metal and shattering glass.

I chased and chased after this girl, calling her name (I can't remember the name I called her now). When I finally did catch up with her, she'd put her head under one of the loose escalators. She was waiting for it to come back down and crush her head.

I yanked her out of the way and screamed at her, "You could have been hurt!" Not the brightest thing to say to a potential suicide, but I was pissed.

She just sobbed. I led her away from the worst of the mess. The guy said something, but I ignored him.


Projects. Notes to myself for the coming week: Chick list, Editing, and another damn dream.


Yeah. Before you ask, yes, I'm bothered by a recurring self-doubt and a sense that I haven't accomplished what I could have.
Dream, 09/01/02

I had to get a couple of people out of this house. The first one had made it to some kind of armored vehicle, and I was trying to trick the second one into joining him. The second guy didn't want to go, not because he wanted to stay, but because he thought he was being heroic and didn't know what he was getting into. Come to think of it, I didn't really know, either; I just wanted to get them the fuck out of the house.

The outside of the house wasn't in the same world as the inside -- you could go from the inside to the outside, but not the reverse. I looked out through the curtains. It was a busy city downtown corner, stoplight and all, a guy was going to cross the street when a huge lizard streaked down the street and ate him. Huge lizard.

I led the second guy down a tunnel, we were going to come up underneath the armored vehicle and I'd lock him in it before he knew what it was, because there was a secret entrance into the thing from below.

I crawled into the vehicle, but the guy didn't follow me, either because he wouldn't or because it was too late.

The next thing I knew, the first guy and I were driving a desert highway in the armored vehicle at a good clip, but not speeding. Ahead was an aircraft, and for some reason I knew it was the goverment, and I was reassured.

It was our world, mostly, the way the worlds of the house and the street weren't.

The aircraft left a barrier across the road and flew on. We drove around the barrier. More barriers, and suddenly the ship noticed us and started to chase us -- what for, I have no idea. I was shocked at the time.

The guy drove. He kept talking about how he had to get out of the desert -- had to reach the edge. Maybe that's something that just happens in chase dreams. There's a goal, a place you can reach where you'll be safe and everything will be all right. You never make it, but there you go. Up ahead was a town. For some reason, I knew that if I could get the guy to the town, to a specific bar in town, he'd be safe -- he didn't agree, he wanted to go to the edge of the desert.

I insisted, we dashed into the bar, he touched the back wall, screamed "ollie ollie oxen free" and laughed hysterically. I saw an old woman -- she owned the bar -- that I'd been looking for, but she only shook her head. We had to keep going. I told the guy to run, I'd hold the government off. He started running, but he ran like people run in chase dreams, as if the whole world is anchored to them. He couldn't run fast enough. He ran in place, slowly.

And I couldn't keep the government back. They streamed around me, soldiers with guns.

I woke up.

Ditched. What follows was going to be the new opening for "Abominable," which I just sent to a contest at New Genre (see below). I wrote it because Lee said, when he first read it, that he had problems reconciling the last half of the story with the first half, because it's so -- out of the blue. Unexpected.

When I reread the copy of the story, the sixth or something edit, I decided that I liked it as it was, put a couple of stylistic corrections and continuity patches on it, redirected the ending (which may fix the problems with the reconciling the two halves, somehow), and sent it off. Leaving -- this. An entirely different character seems Jack now.

But since I liked it, I'm not going to just let it die.

You're not a bad guy; it's just that sometimes you're a cold-hearted bastard. Or practical. You like to think of yourself as practical.

Like the time you and your sister ran over that golden lab in Eden Prairie. She was driving. Too fast, the roads were icy, the damn dog shouldn't have been loose -- probably would have frozen to death in the blizzard that night, anyway.

The dog was the only splash of color on the dark grey, storm-warned street.

The brakes locked on the old Chevette and you spun and spun, unsure whther you'd hit the dog, the curb, or both. You jumped out of the car -- the dog was hit. Theresa screamed, covered her face. Blamed you.

"You should have told me there was a dog. You should have told me I was driving too fast. Why didn't you say anything about the ice? Jesus, Jack, you asshole!"

"Shut up, you tit," you said. The dog's belly and spine were crushed.

"What am I going to do?" Theresa wailed.

"Nothing," you said.

You dragged the dog back to the car, placed its neck in front of the tire, took the keys away from your hysterical sister, and drove over the dog again.

It wasn't wearing a collar, so you wrapped it up in your coat and thew it in a dumpster a couple of miles away. A year later, your sister ran away and you've never heard from her again. But it wasn't you, they said.

You were twelve.

Dream, 08/29/02.

Lee and I are looking at a place where we can build our dream home, but the it turns out the place wasn't what we wanted. It was more like an upper-middle class religious compound than a place for a home, no matter how much we liked our potential neighbors.

All of a sudden, we heard word there'd been an accident on the highway. My brother was in it. He'd been driving a semi -- or he was just there -- and the semi had hit a car. The two people in the car were fine somehow. The car was upside down in a ditch. My brother had been crushed by the trailer of the semi. His body looked untouched -- I lifted the trailer off him -- but it had frozen solid and shrunk to the size of my hand. He was dressed in red tights. Turned out that he'd been some kind of superhero. The people around us started lauging. "Crushed by a semi trailer. Some superhero." I held his body in my hands, convinced that if he thawed out he'd be all right. No so. He was dead.

It wasn't until I awoke that I realized I'd lifted the trailer off his body with my own hands.


And yet more bragging. And I made dim sum and hotnsour soup. Neener neener. Both good, but somehow the sauce for the dim sum conflicts with the hot and sour soup, so not as pleasing as I'd hoped. Individually very good.
And submission: Doyce kindly directed me toward a contest at New Genre. Squeaking in just under the wire, I've sent in "Abominable," a horror story whose plot I shan't reveal. It makes me shiver every time I read through it. Mostly because some of the scenes are set in the Great Plains during the winter. And I retyped it while sitting in the basement. Brrr.

Thanks, Doyce!

See "Games" at Toasted Cheese. It wasn't supposed to be up until tomorrow, but I checked. It's there, there, thaaaaay-re!


Clean. Yesterday I cleaned the apartment. The good news is that the apartment is now clean. The bad news is that Lee couldn't find the set of keys with the housekeys on it, so I had to pop out a screen, get snagged on something, and shatter the glass as I tried to get unstuck. Thin glass. No injuries. I lie. I spent five hours cleaning, including chipping ice out of a freezer that wasn't defrosting fast enough for my taste. I woke up last night in more pain than I've ever felt since I went through labor, my hands swollen and sore enough to make me nearly vomit. Weird. I got up, nursed the baby, woke up Lee somehow, accepted pain meds from him, and went back to bed. It's hard to hold a pen today, but fine to type.

Turns out when you have a cruisin' bebe, you have little hanny prints from the base of the wall to waist height. So you end up washing some walls while you're waiting for the damn freezer.

I had to do it. I'm still pissed off about the way the former roomie chick left the place, still pissed about the glass. Ray found (and nearly ate) a BB yesterday (Lee caught her).

I went to drop off the key today, got all the way down there, checked for any leftover mail, and realized that we still hadn't found the key. This is De before nap.


Don't get me wrong.

The guys moved stuff today. I went to work.

"Are you sure? I can get the day off. I can watch Ray. I promise I won't get in the way..."


I get home. They want me to go take a nap with Ray while they unload all the stuff. Can I help?


Don't get me wrong. I have no love of moving stuff, and there's still a ton of work to do.

I get to do the, um, girly things. And since Joe's on a diet, he and Lee don't want to eat the same things.

Hamburgers for Lee; baked pork chop with sauteed onions and mushrooms (nonfat skillet spray. That's how), smoke seasoning (just a little, in place of a bacon wrap), and worchestshire sauce.

Joe says, "I don't want salad."

'Kay. I'm just wondering whether I should brine the chop first. Off to the store as soon as I get Ray cleaned up. They corralled her in a bedroom with a teething cracker. This could be ugly; I'm doing the "I used to clean houses for a living" move-out clean tomorrow.
Raspberry Milanos.

Some things are just too damn good for this world. American commercially shipped chocolate usually isn't one of them.

Oh, when Milanos go on sale...


Sorry. Hee hee!
Bluebroad (Snippet)

Attachments can be so difficult to sever -- unless one has, ah ha, a knife sharp enough to cut to the point. A heart-shaped scalpel. A straight razor to the affections.

Ah ha.

Brian had gone all to pieces when I'd confronted him about his behavior. No more cheating, no more lies, no more excuses. (What a relief -- I'd been running out of clever ones.) He denied, despite the overwhelming evidence, ever having opened the forbidden door downstairs. He made all sorts of unfounded accusations (perhaps not inaccurate, but that's not the point), blamed me for all the problems in our relationship (I kept too much hidden, he said. One room, I ask. Is a little privacy too much to ask?), and refused to listen to a word I said. He'd been hysterical. He'd said my laughter would drive him mad!

Ah ha.

He'd always been too curious about the locked room in the basement. He'd resorted to all sorts of tricks to get me to open the door. He'd threatened to leave me. He'd threatened to stay. He'd tried forcing me to open the door. He'd tried -- not forcing? -- withholding himself sexually to get me to open the door. He tried to pick the lock; he tried to batter the door itself down. He'd had to hire a locksmith, finally.

The room itself hadn't contained anything mysterious or of any particular horror except some old pop albums from the late seventies and early eighties and a dead Chia pet. There was a comfortable chair, a shelf of romance novels, a secret package of cigarettes and some air freshener, shelves full of junk and old craft projects, a velvet Elvis, and a box full of winter coats.

The painting was slashed off its backing, the albums smashed, the chair cushions shredded and the stuffing scattered, the old coats ripped open at the seams, the romance novels...well, let's just say that all the romance was gone.

"The money! Where is the money?" He'd grabbed me by the shoulders and shaken me; he'd hit me.

Fortunately the money, as with my other toys, was elsewhere.

Ah ha.

Finding nothing, his passions ebbing, he slapped me a final time, accused me of being the most banal and boring person on the face of the planet, and left. Then he came back. Then he left again. And back again. He waffled for weeks. I realized he'd never have the courage to leave me, so I helped him. It was my house, after all.

"I hope you don't need any more closure than this," I said. Then I threw his heart on the floor and walked all over it.

Ah ha.


Other, scarier types of fools, a Rumor.

Got this today from a chica at work:

hello my favorite people. take this for what you will.
a friend of a friend of mine was in a minimart up in washington during the weekend and was standing in line behind a man of middle eastern origin. he was $3 short for his purchase, so this lady passed him the money and went on about her business. he was waiting for her outside the store and told her "since you were so nice to me let me return the favor. Don't drink any pepsi products after the 25th." truth or hoax i don't know, but the police have been talking to her non stop.

Brr. I don't know what's up. Hopefully just a hoax.
Fools, a ramble.


As I grew up, I often only realized that my illusions had been shattered (melted? eroded? robbed blind?) by noticing that other people still have the same illusions. Pop music is good...Alternative music is good...franchise sequels are good...fast food is good...fashion is important...makeup will make you more attractive...pretending to be cool can actually make you cool...being smart is stupid...I'm the center of the universe...you know, little illusions like that.

Another illusion is gone: A fool is something special, something unique, something outrageous.

Hee hee hee hee hee...

Fools are funny. I've often played the fool, and I've often been laughed at. But taking foolishness seriously invests a fool with power, whereas laughing at a fool provides nothing but a good giggle.

Sarcasm isn't the same thing, and neither is cynicism: both sarcasm and cynicism contain too much seriousness. Mockery is a kind of obsession with foolishness, and it creeps into you and makes you a little bit like the thing you mock.

Sometimes laughter isn't enough. Some kinds of foolishness require seriousness -- the kinds of foolishness that cause pain and suffering. (You'd punish a child for hitting her playmate; you wouldn't put her down, mock her, or tell her that she'd never be anything but a bully.) Even then...a little laughter couldn't hurt.

I will suffer fools lightly.

The first time I laughed at a fool with an open heart...Thinking back...yes. When we drove past that anti-abortion march in front of Planned Parenthood and I burst out laughing. Had the window rolled down...what fools, packed in double rows on that busted-up sidewalk, so careful to stay off the grass, and so quiet that I'm sure they could hear me a block away. That was...a month ago?

It wasn't until today that I realized that that illusion was gone. I was reading the news and some commentary thereon. The fool of the day...was a fool! Who could believe it! What a fool! (On the other hand, most of the national-level republican party in the news deserves a good spanking. See pain and suffering reference.)

If I were a tarot card, I'd be a fool, and I'd just like to say that all these fools touting these minor asses as fools, well! Dress me in robes and a pointy hat and call me the pope. Some people have too much fun exaggerating on a slow news day and clearly should burn in hell.
Hm... So far, there have been two door-to-door kids selling things. No Mormons. Those cowards! Come to our door and get politely turned away just like everyone else!

Speaking of cowards, using school-age kids as fundraisers is inhumane. Ends, means. Means, ends. What a beautiful friendship.
Our cat has moved in. He sniffs, he circles, I just know he's going to be pooping somewhere.

He was a good kitty on the ride over, a bit freaked out, but there you go.


Closure. Damn it. I can't find that study about the different ways men and women deal with breakups. If you happen to know, pass it on, eh? The results, as I remember them, were that men rate breakups differently depending on who they did the leaving, and women found both kinds of breakups equally painful. Also, men were more likely than women to feel that there wasn't any closure if the woman did the leaving.

Anyway. Closure. We've moved into Joe's place, and the ex-roommate has moved to Denver. Technically, that means that the woman has done the leaving, I guess, because Joe's complaining about closure. She left some stuff -- a microwave and a few other things. I suggested he email her and tell her what she left behind and note that if she doesn't let him know what to do with it by a certain date, he'll do with it whatever he likes. But it started me thinking.

I have no problems with closure. When a relationship is done, I'd just as soon be the fuck away from it as soon as possible. Whatever I leave behind -- is gone. Books that I've loaned out, clothes, letters, gifts -- you can keep 'em. This doesn't mean that I've dealt with all the issues raised in the relationship. Oh, no. I drag them on and on. Self-doubt and other emotional scars are carried around for a long, long time. But -- I don't obsess over whether the relationship is truly over or not. I know. There's a moment -- sometimes almost a literal second of time -- that I can usually identify as being the point where I never want to see the other person again.

There have been exceptions. My first boyfriend is an incredibly sweet guy that got married to a friend of a friend, and I was happy to see him again -- I left because I knew I wasn't the kind of person that could be happy with incredible, untainted sweetness. And in the other direction, I had to see an ex-boyfriend for a long time after I'd (to put it bluntly) dumped him, because we were both living in the same group house, and that was a situation made of several moments, going from "don't want to date any more" to "it wasn't really me, was it? it was you" to "if I hate anyone, it's this guy."

The people I don't have closure with are the old crushes that didn't get a chance to get going in the first place. Now, they are the people that are going to hang around in the back of my mind for the rest of my life; they have a kind of mythical status up there with a couple of movie stars. The not-quite-real sex idols. Don't get me wrong. There isn't anybody that can't yank on my gonads like Lee when he has a twinkle in his eye. With half-real sex idols, it's all about what the mind imagines. With the love(r) of your life, it's what the mind imagines, what the heart delights in, and what the body just plain knows.
Note: The thing about the priests doesn't have to be real.


On the subject of snippits. I'm going to try to write more snippets again and stop worrying about the limitations I have when submitting them. Screw it. I was having too much fun with them to sell my soul over it.

Unfortunately, I've been sitting here for the last half-hour with a dozen ideas in my head, ones that aren't clicking...

"The best priests are the ones that don't want to leave the monastary, the ones that wander from parish to parish, town to town, never returning home until their fruitfulness is done: the cemetary in the grove of oak trees to the northwest, next to the field of sweet corn and east of the bees, had been the only idea of home some of them still held."

The quest for the Jewel of Delight, which, when found, brings nothing...

A retelling of Snow White in which the evil stepmother is just the evil mother...

"Adulthood is when you feel regret without intent. Adulthood comes early to some people. Lise's older sister grew up fast. You'd hear her every night, her mother calling her in Spanish to come in, or her abuelita telling her not to pick on Lise so much. "I'm sorry! Lo siento!" And she'd run off into the night, or leave little Lise crying and bruised on the ground."


Recent Events. We're moving.

Doyce was in town, and graciously helped us move books. Booooks. Booooooks. The shelves we have are already full, and God help me, I think there's a used book store across the street.

The house is big, an interesting backyard (terraced, begging for sod but going to get something more...interesting), needs paint inside and out. A room for a library, with a fireplace and a a patio door.


Two days ago, Ray started walking. Three steps, down, up, three steps, walking like a drunk for the rest of the day. Yesterday, seven steps. She doesn't do it when we're holding our hands out to her. A trip over to momma and poppa (that was an interesting typo a second ago...nevermind) requires more speed than she can achieve walking. No, it's that moment when you almost aren't looking that she does it.


And something from work. A few days ago, I arrived at work a little before 6:30 a.m. to find a red carpet rolled out, a row of management staff with party favors, and a mysterious cheering noise...Eh? In the lobby were doughnuts and coffee (Starbucks...I had a twinge of guilt, but I had two cups anyway. I try to stick with the local coffee places. A) Better. B) More character. C) Not Starbucks)(and good doughnuts, too. I have to find out where they were from: better than Krispy Kreme. My worship of Krispy Kreme is over...but I shan't dis them, because they once were a true love of mine). And posters. Posters. All over. I noticed it right away, because I remember giggling the first time I saw them, but I wasn't really conscious of it at first. Yesterday I suspected, but today I'm sure. The "Appreciation Day" posters all carry the logo of a shooting star. Cartoon star, pale yellow halo following it, darker golden halo surrounding/following that, brown halo the same, and finally, around and trailing the whole business, a blue halo. Yellow sparklies surrounding.

Dang things look like jelly dildos.

The perspectively correct base that makes it look something like a wobbly tube doesn't help.

...Ahhhh haaaaaaahhh. They really appreciate us, don't they?



Doyce posts at his website today that it's time to start submitting his writing.

All sorts of cliches apply. Putting your money where your mouth is. Separating the men from the boys. That thing about the eagles and the turkeys. Bake at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Here's to Doyce (I raise my virtual glass of Bushmill's), who'll open up his writing to the world at large, change from "someone who writes" to a writer (no matter how rejected, although my envy fears it won't be enough rejected to soothe my ego), and start thinking of what he does not only as a creator and editor, but also as a businessman.

Chocolate is bittersweet, too.

I'm proud of him, and I'm going to be after him about it if he just lets it drop.

Call it a warning.

Gone, gone, gone.

My brothers went back to South Dakota on Sunday.

We went to the Will Rogers Shrine to the Sun while they were here. Interesting. Very veritical. Very much way up the mountain.

The shrine is fronted by a pair of white marble Chinese temple dogs, each about four feet high, on granite pedestals. The shrine itself is built like a castle tower, square, slits for windows, multiple balconies. There's a chapel at the base of the shrine with the remains of the Penroses, one of the city's "founding couples" and the builders of the Broadmoor hotel and a lot of railroad track. Funders. Backers. World-travelers. Philanthropists. That sort of folk.

You know the type.

The interior of the shrine is partly covered with a mural depicting scenes from the life of Will Rogers, or so saith the information at the tourist stop at the bottom of the shrine. There were lots of railroads and, uh, g-strung Native Americans.

I spent a lot of time hanging onto Ray as if her life depended on it (huh) and daydreaming about windswept castles watching over valleys below...

I just figured out something today. The old apartment complex manager was fired recently for embezzling, right? Well, yesterday the new apartment manager (who goes by the nom de guerre "Bunny") dropped off a friendly little packet of papers, one from a single stack of papers that she carried and left at every single door.

One. They're shutting the water off on Thursday morning. No reason given, but I happen to know the city water inspectors are making the rounds. Two. They're doing bug inspections -- and they want everything out of all cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom. Kay. Whatever. Three. They want a copy of my door key, because they don't have one.

What the fuck?

Are all the door keys missing? Did the old apartment manager take off with them? If so, you better be replacing the locks, you dipshits. No? You're not replacing the locks?

Christ. The owners of the apartment complex are supposedly not pursuing legal action against the old apartment manager. I'm starting to think that it's because they're more afraid of exposing themselves in court than they are of getting sued.

Out of here.


Published! Word came in today that I'm going to be published in the September issue of Toasted Cheese. I will, of course, remind y'all on THE DAY. The story is the flash fiction piece, "Games."

The other good news is that my brothers are in town.

Ray took one look at the older (and now, shorter!) of the two, Matt, who'd buzzed his head a couple of days ago, and bawled. And bawled and bawled and bawled. And bawled. While her mother held her tightly and laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed. And laughed. Eventually Matt charmed her out of it.

Andy, sixteen, on the other hand was accepted immediately. He is Shaggy. No, I mean, he's Shaggy. I got used to the idea of the youngest son of my clean-cut father...well, being Shaggy after about half an hour.

They left here a little after ten, saying that they'd call when they got back from Mountain Biking, there being Mountains available in the area.

No news yet.


Ramble of the day.

I've been thinking about quests lately. I haven't read enough of Joseph Campbell's stuff, so let me know if I'm reinventing the wheel here. Two traits of a quest: motive for quest and object of quest, i.e., "to save the world" and "magic sword."

I'm trying to work out some realistic, modern quest motives and objects. I'm trying to stay out of the realms of fantasy, myth, or symbolism. I'm trying to think of real-world quests for real-world people. I ended up with a couple of pages of side tangent about modern day rites of passage that I'll type out later, but this is what started me off originally.

It's very hard to do. I can make up realistic-looking quests, with realistic-looking motives and objects (for example: You're trapped in the desert. You have a quest. Motive: survival (possibly even rescue of another, even more helpless party). Object: oasis, water bottle, cel phone (or whatever). The stuff of many a great adventure film, the realistic-looking quest.

But a realistic-looking quest isn't the same thing as a true quest that can happen in a real setting.

A couple of other traits about quests. The person that finishes the quest isn't the same person that started the quest. The motive of the quest represents the greatest need of the culture that the questor belongs to (if the questor rebels against his or her culture, it shows that the culture is repressive, unjust, etc., and needs a good ass-kicking to make it healthy). The object of the quest represents the set of values or traits that will best fulfil the need of the culture. Examples: In the Talisman, the questor's motive is to heal his mother. The quest object is the talisman, a representation of a planet. The greatest need of the culture, human sickness (of the soul?) can best be healed by paying more attention to the world in which we live. In The Lord of the Rings, the questor's motive is to prevent his culture's greatest enemy from destroying everything he loves from within. The quest object is the ring, which, as a reversal, the questor takes with him -- in order to destroy it. The greatest need of the culture is to get rid of a power it never should have adopted.

A realistic-looking quest doesn't do this. The person trapped out in the desert doesn't symbolize anything but people trapped out in the desert, and the oasis (etc.), doesn't symbolize anything but water. Oh, there are adventure stories that try very hard to do the same thing that quest stories do (Black Hawk Down -- quest motive becomes the protection of the wounded members of the party while getting the hell out of the city; the quest object is the downed helicopters. But what does it mean? The highest need of our society is to protect our own, and we can't do it? Behind Enemy Lines -- quest motive is to reach safety in the possession of the quest object, information about genocide. Does it mean that the biggest need of our society is justice in the face of opposing law and treaty?)

I want to find out if a real person, in Western society, can go on a true quest. Native Americans can--or could--go on quests--their quests could also be considered rites of passage. Western people in the middle ages could go on pilgrimages (a pilgrimage is a quest. The greatest need of their society was to honor and uphold their religious society, and they did so by overcoming great obstacles (the chaos of the roads, disease, poverty) in order to reach orthodox places and objects of worship). Practicioners of Buddhism have a built-in quest: reaching enlightenment or Nirvana. Islamic people can go on Jihad (with ugly results--and don't think I don't ask myself what that doesn't represent for their society).

The best quest-story I can come up with off the top of my head is "The Joy Luck Club." (The main character travels to her ancestral homeland in order to meet her family.) The greatest need for Western society -- or at least members descended from other societies that live in a Western society -- is to honor their cultural heritage. (There are other types of stories that identify society's needs and the means by which we should satisfy them, but I'm looking particularly for quest stories.)

So my idea right now is that there really aren't any good, standard quests for members of society in general. OK, everybody in America could stand to pay more attention to to their ethnic heritage, but for me that doesn't say anything about what I see as our society's greatest needs, or what society seems to see as its greatest needs. What I see as our society's greatest need is a sense of balance (or wisdom or maturity). It seems like everything's a conflict: people are idealistic or self-serving; they're liberal or conservative; they're capitalistic or socialistic; they're zealots or they're apathetic. Wisdom itself isn't valued; having an opinion is valued. I can come up with symbolic quests for this issue, but I have trouble coming up with realistic quests. I can come up with realistic stories for this issue, but I can't come up with quest stories.

And as for what society itself seems to value, it seems like my best idea so far is The Quest for the Golden Cel Phone, representative of money, connectivity, and technology.

What a hollow piece of crap. Well, it might make for good satire.



My brothers are driving out from South Dakota to come visit us. Upon hearing that we were moving, the older of the two said, "Great. This is just a plot to get us to help them move." When I told my mother, her reaction was, "Do you need stuff? The guys are driving out in the Explorer; they'll have room."


Well, they're big, strong, strapping (if somewhat whiny) young men, and no pianos are involved.

(I spent a couple of hours today packing and sorting. The hall closet (stuff it an' leave it) is done.)

Dale, my brother-in-law, called a couple of days ago. I don't know if everybody knows, because it's a shameful secret, but he's currenly working for AOL. He has two different possibilities lined up right now, one with a college and I forget what the other one is. He's had a girlfriend for the last month and a half. He intends to maybe come out to Colorado over Thanksgiving (he hasn't seen Ray yet). He's threatening to get in a menage-a-trois with his girlfriend and her best friend, and then send pictures for proof. (As the immortal Doyce said, "I'll believe it if the story ends, '...and then I fell off a balcony.'" Yep. That would be a Dale.)

We haven't heard anything from Mike in a while. Mike? Mike?

It's a brotherly time of year, you know.