Deep thought. Not that this is saying much, but I'm more practical than I used to be. I'm not sucked into things so much. I don't miss it. Except for those few times I'm reminded of mystical things, deeper meanings, symbols. Magic. I don't feel magic the way I used to. I'm not as spiritual.

But, a la Thomas Moore, I think I'm more soulful. It's easier for me to observe the outside world, and to appreciate it. My husband, my daughter. The weather, the cracks in the streets, things like that. People at the grocery store, at work, people crossing the sidewalk.

I laugh more.

Maybe I don't need the other side of myself as much as I used to. Or maybe it's just changed into something earthier.
A creature of habit. Before I forget, here are some of the things Ray's doing:

Banging two rocks together. Or anything.
Making a race for the plug-ins, mouse/keyboard cords, and the kitty's tail. And getting closer every day.
Picking up things and shaking the hell out of them. If she likes them.
Putting everything in her mouth. Note: leaves don't go down well. She choked on one while we were crossing the street. Reevaluated ideas about harmless bushes.
She likes the rugs in the front room. Striped yarn.
If it's not too hard, she'll bang the back of her head against it. For the noise?
Bouncing on the exercise ball. One of her favorite games with papa.
The syllables mama, dada, and nainai. May or may not mean anything. As well as other babbleage.
She hums while she zrbbts.
Feet in the mouth.
Pulling poppa's beard. With all the passion her 7 1/2 month self can muster.
Sitting up in the cart at the grocery store. Safety straps in place.
Likes cheerios, ritz crackers, and a little bit of bagel crust that I gave her the other day.
There is much goodness in juice from a sippy cup. And much spillage. Or should I say backwash?
Nods. And shakes her head. And sits up and shakes her hands until she nearly tips over.
Likes going with mamma to work. Flirts with anybody that makes eye contact. Usually gets hogged by Megan K.
Poops. With solid food comes solid stench.
Sings to herself. And will sit up and dance to what she's singing about.
Doesn't sleep through the night. Not remotely. Probably my fault.
Likes the little girl next door who speaks nothing but Spanish. Her name is Lis. I think. She's threeish.
Interested. Too interested to bother with crying. At least once the shock of tipping herself over backwards onto the carpet is over.
Hot. Always just a little bit warm. Still kicks off the blankets.
Cute. People say she's beautiful. I'm fine with that.
Loves to be sociable. The moment you make eye contact, she's smiling. And if you babble back, or do something to amuse or impress her...neat.
Likes to be held. Likes to be put down. Likes to be picked up and dangled upside-down.
Ticklish on her feet, under her chin, on her sides, between her shoulder blades. Not as ticklish, I think, as she pretends to be...strangers never get the same response.
Cries whenever Joe comes over. But soon thaws. Lee's theory: big guy, loud voice.
Likes to watch papa play video games on the computer. Then likes to attack the mouse.
Shreds magazines. Pulls books off the bottom shelves, but doesn't. Maybe she can't get the covers open and shred at the same time.
Likes music. Headbangs to Carrie Newcomer. Folk, that is.
Hums her anger. Rarely cries with her mouth open unless she's just bonked herself.
Likes to wake up her father by grabbing the edge of the matress, shaking it, and yelling.
Loves animals. Wants to put them in her mouth. I want to get her a puppy so baaaaaad.
Has short bangs because her father cuts them, and her hair's short in the back because she wore it off. So the sides are really long, comparatively.
Her eyes still haven't decided whether they're brown or blue.
Terms of endearment: bebe, bebela, frogbutt. (She has little green onsies, even.)
Doesn't puke much. Much.
Her favorite parent is whoever just walked in the front door. Unless she's hungry.
The coolest thing in the world is to be naked. And loose on the floor.
Cuteness. Lee saw this. I didn't. He has Ray to himself in the mornings when I'm at work. He has a bottle of pumped milk that he adds some iron-fortified cereal to (no spinach for our princess). She can guzzle the stuff on her own now. Well, he heats the milk, adds the cereal, shakes it all about, serves it up, leaves her in a safe room, and wanders off to do some computer fixin'.

She's quiet. Too quiet. He goes into the room to see what she's doing.

She's crawling around on all fours with the nipple clenched in her gums, sucking mightily and getting nowhere with the last half-ounce of milk. But having a grand old time.


More Mrs. Kurtz: On Hold, ep. 3

But the voice of Jim T. Biggins continued:

At first, it was just the cleaning staff. We never could keep cleaning staff. A couple of night-watchmen. Support personnel. Forms processors, accountants, mailroom staff, file runners. Finally, even the phone staff--


--and now they want to be promoted! Do you know what these foreign scum want now? Health insurance! There's not a doctor on this planet that knows how to treat these bastard slime molds, and they want an HMO! Pension plans, 401(k)s, dental! Dental? They don't have teeth! They're illegal immegrants! Don't they have any respect for this country?

The voice of Jim T. Biggins sobbed over the phone line.


My God, they've found me--No! Get away from me! What? Give that back! What do you mean, I'm no longer Director of Human Resources? You've renamed the department to Personnel? Director of Personnel? What kind of pansy title is that? What? You feel I'm too bigoted to continue? Well, you can kiss my politically incorrect--


You probably aren't familiar with my name, but it's Jim T. Biggins, and I'm one of the national directors of Omega, The Last Word in--
In the mail again, just can't wait to get in the mail again...

"Customer Service" is in the mail again, this time to Hoot Island.

"As usual, everything was wrong when I arrived at work. Bob hadn't opened the case on that system I told you about on Thursday, let alone replaced the video card. There were six systems on the floor, no documentation; nobody knew anything. Arnold took one look at me, pointed at a system, and said, "This guy'll be back in ten minutes," and disappeared for eight hours without another word. Some guy with manure on his jacket--I kid you not--slams his wife's system on the counter so hard you could hear something bounce inside. When I asked him if he wanted us to back up his data before we looked at it, he said we'd better since the only copy of his farm's books was on it--as soon as he heard how much it cost, he changed his mind..."

"One Cool Million" is still waiting for a print job. It's my system that's down this time.
Haircut update. Lee said it looked perky. Apparently that means he likes it. Heh.


Million. I figures out how to cut a couple hundred words out of "One Cool Million." I thought.

Turns out, what with I've learned since I sent the thing out the first time (December 2001), I was able to cut...uh, 2500 words. Rereading it, I finally admitted to myself that it wasn't as baaaad as I thought it was, not great, not even impressive for what I knew at the time, but not as baaad as I always knew it was.

Now, uh, it's, well, shorter.

What the hell did I cut?

a) Adjectives and adjectival phrases of all sorts.
b) Setups. (I started in the middle of the situation in scenes instead of bothering to explain how everyone got there, if unnecessary).
c) Cut 2 sections of character sketches about a side character (the cuts I originally planned).
d) Cutesies. (Not all of them, for those squirrel afficianados out there; just the ones nonessential to the plot).
e) Cut internal dialogue. Not all of it, just the stuff that was there for Creation Purposes Only, but was redundant now.

What else? I took one of the characters from offstage to the set in the last scene, to make things a little more in-your-face. Other minor changes. And you know what? I think the best thing about this story is the main character. She comes across as being more fully human than I'd realized. And a lot of episodes that I put in there for plot purposes actually contribute something to the ending, as far as character goes (there's a scene where she acknowledges that a teacher of hers in grade school made her feel so stupid that she eventually flunked out...an oversimplification, but one that she believes in--anyway, this scene helps anchor the climactic scene, in which her father rips her to shreds in front of her fiancee).

But the essential information here to note is: those 2500 words were pure excess. Roughly 1/3 of what I wrote. Wow.


Words, to paraphrase, almost mean stuff. Ray can say, "Nie nie nie nie nie" and "dada" and "mama" and "mymymy" and all sorts of squealing zrrbts. She doesn't mean anything by it, though. Yet.

And she'll look up if you say her name a couple of times. Whereas she'll ignore you if you say "bebe."
Hack job. Got a haircut.

It was a walk-in appointment at Costcutters at the mall. I don't know, the last time I established a relationship with a hairdresser it was with my then-aunt, who, as it turns out, isn't mentally stable enough to stay on Prozac and threatens to kill herself every once in a while. And I just can't bear to go to somewhere that calls itself a salon...or somewhere with a bad pun in the title. Normally I try to avoid National chains, but...

The hairdresser is Russian. Or at least sounds Russian and has a last name that ends in -ov for professional reasons. She's got too much...eyes, a painfully upswept 'do, a silver velveteen shirt with black diamond outlines printed on it, matching pantyhose, a miniskirt, and about fifty years under her over-moisturized belt.

"I'd don't know the name of the cut...a bob, I think? Anyway, I want it cut to here."

"You vant it cut off dat much?"

"Oh, I've had it that short before."

"You von't cry?"


So she sprays the hair down and does various hairdresser stuff. This eighteen-year-old wearing red velvet Marilyn Manson pants that lace up the thigh and a very covering smock, with flawless, non-split-end hair down to there walks by.

"She get it cut to here," my Russian says.

"You're kidding," says the neo-goth.

The Russian takes a small hank of my hair from the back, combs it out, snips it off slowly. If slowly you can snip.

"Not kidding," says the Russian.

"Vot your husband tink of dis?" she asks me later.

"I warned him this morning," I said.

Ray likes it. I can shake my head and my hair flies around like cocker spaniel ears. Guess where we went (next door) after the haircut?



Her face is changing. Every day it seems she's a little more aware of her surroundings. She likes to hang out with a three-year old Lantina kid next door that doesn't speak a word of English. And she figured out how to pull down the zipper of my sweater...you don't know how hard that is when you don't have much fine motor control.

Lee just got his MCP computer certification yesterday! AND after Microsoft threw in many questions that their official home-study book didn't cover...ooh...tricky.
The Maltese...Chicken?

I read www.epicurious.com regularly. I get the newsletter.

Included in this week's recipies...The Maltese Chicken.

"At the beach in Malta, the locals eat fried rabbit, rather than burgers, with fries. I've adapted the recipe by using chicken and sweetening the gravy with a touch of honey."--From Bon Appetit Magazine.

Oh, please please please...

It looks like I'm going to be able to take Tai Chi classes once a week.
Yatayatayatayata! Ladies and gents, the world's first tap-dancing tai chi
grand master!

Bad jokes....

One of the people that I work with (over e-mail; she's located in another
state) is leaving to go back to school today. I'm trying to come up
with involved pun jokes to send her. I know some good ones, but I'd rather
make her a couple.

(Her last one: "What do you get when you cross a turtle and a
porcupine?"..."A slow poke!")

Reviews. The Big Sleep, Red Harvest, Ghormenghast, From Hell.

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler.

I'll try to say something other than "Dashiell Hammett is better." (He is.) Here goes...Chandler is better at classical plotting: the ending delivers what the beginning promises. Chandler is better at making vivid characters, sometimes garishly so. I could go on...but it'd be an effort. The Big Sleep is genre writing, very good genre writing, the way Agatha Christie is good genre writing, and Asimov is good genre writing. But. I'm a Dashiell Hammett fan.

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammet.

D.H. is bona fide. He spent umpteen years as a detective for Pinkerton's, and when he wasn't doing that, he was in the Army. The thing about crime fiction is that it likes to sneak philosophy in, more so than any type of mystery or suspense fiction. (Chandler, by the way, does it, too.) Hammett's philosophy is dark and strange: you can't believe anything that anyone tells you. You shouldn't let anyone know everything you know. You can never get at the truth, if there is a truth. And, in the end, no matter how good your intentions, the violence gets to you. If Chandler is about plot twists, Hammett is about surprise, a differnt thing: with Chandler, you have a chance to guess the ending, but you probably won't. With Hammett, it doesn't matter whether or not you guess the ending, because even if you do, there's something....surprising about the way it ends. Hard to describe. Red Harvest, even more so than Maltese Falcon, is my favorite out of all of his stuff that I've read so far, the best written and developed.

I'd recommend Hammet to anybody of a philosophical bent that thinks most philosophers can't write for crap. But I'd recommend both to anybody that likes crime fiction, mysteries, suspense...that sort of thing.

The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake.

This was a real pleasure to read. I've also seen the BBC miniseries of it, and I'd recommend that, too, for a select audience. Please note that neither I nor the BBC bothered with the last book of the trilogy...if you'd seen the end of Ghormenghast, the second novel, you'd understand.

Have you ever heard of these books? No? Have you ever heard of Stephen King? It seems pretty obvious to me that S.K. has heard of Ghormenghast; I'll have to ask him the next time I see him. The series was written after WWII, the same era as 1984 and The Lord of the Rings. It reads like a scathing criticism of European culture pre-WWII set in a fairy-tale kingdom, written with consciously and tastily purple prose and tongue in cheek names (Flay, Swelter, Prunesquallor, Steerpike, Groan, etc.). I believe this is the original story--or at least the archetypal story--about disfunctional families, and disfuntional cultures. I can't say just how much of an understatement that is. The author, Mervyn Peake, is also an illustrator, and the edition that I read had sketches of some of the characters in it. His powers of description were merely amazing until I saw the sketches of the characters: the sketches were exactly what I'd imagined. Yes, the guy described them that well.

The only warnings I can give you is that the wrong people die, and the books are much more over the top than the miniseires. (For example, in the BBC series, one of the characters, a man of the education field, dies by falling out of a wheelchair onto a flagstone court two stories below. In the book, he flies straight up out of the wheelchair, turns 180 in the air, and lands head-first on the floor, crushing his skull so that his body stands up--er--downright. His assistant throws himself out the window into the midst of a poetry reading below.) This is one of those library books that I considered "losing" -- except that I do NOT want to piss off the books gods. Put it on my Christmas list, I guess.

From Hell.

I haven't read the comic/graphic novel.

I recommend this movie as a thriller-mystery. As horror, don't bother. I could tell what the writers--at least of the movie script--intended for me to feel this or that emotion (pathos, horror, etc), but it never came. On the other hand, at one point in the movie, Lee stopped the tape, we turned to each other, simultaneously said, "So..." and proceeded to guess the plot. Precisely upon pressing play, one of the characters shot our theory all to hell. What timing!

The weirdness of the movie was increased by the poor quality of the tape we got; the soundrack warbled constantly after the first fifteen minutes, sparing us for what was probably an unbearably cheesy soundtrack. My nerves were shot by the end of the movie, and I think anybody making horror movies should seriously consider laying down a constant level of near-subliminal distortion to the soundtrack.

And Ian Holm (I think that's his last name, anyway, the guy that played Bilbo in Fellowship) was in it; I've liked him ever since I saw him in The Fifth Element.*

*Quintessence means, literally, "the fifth element." Cool.

The Uncanny Adventures of Mrs. Kurtz, Part One (Continued, ep. 2)

Actually, it wasn't that long; the message cycled after three minutes.

The voice was male and pitched very softly, almost in a whisper or moan:

You probably aren't familiar with my name, but it's Jim T. Biggins, and I'm one of the national directors of Omega, The Last Word in Cable. I supervise human resources, and I'm responsible for--I know there's nothing I can say to make you believe me, but Omega Cable isn't what you think it is anymore.


It's being overrun by aliens. From outer space. I thought...I thought I was doing the right thing. Our stock was going down because we couldn't hire staff quickly enough to keep up with the demands of good customer service.


"Did you tell them our Internet was broke like I told you?" Marcus yelled from the back door, where he was up to his elbows in dirty motor oil and spilt beer.

"Shaddap!" Mrs. Kurtz yelled. "This is getting weirder than the public access channel at two a.m."


Blame this one on Dale, who complains that we haven't sent out enough jokes lately.

(Also from my brother Matt)

A man walks into a psychiatrist's office wearing only underwear made of Saran Wrap.

The psychiatrist says, "Well... I can clearly see your nuts."


Clean Sheets doesn't want my porn. I'm offering it to them for free, and they still don't want it. Dang. That makes two stories back home that need to go out again. Too many.
Bad Joke, my Brother. Stop me if you've heard this one. Just try.

There are many stories related to the sinking of the "Titanic".

Some have just come to light due to the success of the recent movie.

For example, most people don't know that back in 1912, Hellman's mayonnaise was manufactured in England.

The "Titanic" was carrying 12,000 jars of the condiment scheduled for delivery in Vera Cruz, Mexico which was to be the next port of call for the great ship after New
York City.

The people of Mexico were eagerly awaiting delivery and were disconsolate at the loss. So much so that they declared a national day of mourning which they still observe today.

It is known, of course, as "Sinko de Mayo"

Oh, well.

I got stuck on Beauregard again. I think he's going to turn one of my murder victims into a love interest. Stupid git. So I'm abandoning him for a week or two. Here's the first part of the new story, mainly written as black-humor escapism from the Really Black Humor of Beauregard:

The Uncanny Adventures of Mrs. Kurtz, part one: On Hold.

Mrs. Kurtz kicked aside piles of dirty laundry, copies of Cosmopolitan, half-empty cans of Diet Coke (sticky and as infested with flies as week-old corpses), and couple of cats to find the phone. The phone! When was the last time she used the damn phone?

She had internet.

She had cable modem.

She had.

She dialed the 1-800 customer service number with rock-steady fingers. It was taped to the monitor; in the early days she'd dialed it daily.

"Your call may be monitored for quality purposes...Your expected wait time is twenty minutes. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. Please do not hang up and dial again; this will only lengthen your wait time. Your call is very valuable to us; please stay on line."

What followed were 18 minutes of terror.

....and this story, you might say, contains some non-fictional elements.
Writing notes, and an epitaph.

I'm still working on Beauregard. I had to stop doing the first draft on the computer and move to longhand, because Ray won't play by herself long enough to make it worthwhile.

One of the things that I'm doing in the story is laying down little false leads. Beauregard does the right thing for four or five paragraphs. Happily ever after. Oops! That's not what really happened...

Anyway, every time I sit down to write, the plot changes. I've been planning to murder someone since page one...nope. Not dead yet. Hm...I can't really explain how many changes I've made to the plot without wrecking it for the people who'll read it.

If I haven't changed it by then.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ARE Dead.

Crap. Everyone at work knows the question game. None knows the movie. Damn "Who's Line is it Anyway."

So I brought in the script to R/G and made people read about the game of questions. People who are my age and older, for Christ's sake. I told them it was like hearing someone say the base line from "Ice Ice Baby" was original.

snippet: Portrait of a Player

My guess is that he went along as a boy. He lacks the natural ease with which a true philanderer sports the appearance of a gentleman. The true philanderer may be a gentleman, a lover of women, skin, sweat, sex, variety.

He doesn't. He isn't. He isn't a lover; he's an accountant. Or is that fair? He seems, in spite of his calculated haircut, wardrobe, and heavy steel jewelry, nice enough, just a boy who went along with the role of the ladies' man, because he had a talent for it, the way some boys go along with the role of Byronic poet, banker, fire chief, or father.

Confetti and glitter. Certificates and celebration. This is the poetry of Pavlovian job gratification. Bells and whistles, hurrah, hurrah, production! The lion, in a capitolistic response to socialist theories, lies down, humpeta dumpeta, with the lamb. Corruption is a sad thing, when you sell your soul for mere perks.
In the mail:

"The Name of the Feather" went to Ellery Queen on Tuesday the seventh. Am I happy with it? Hmmm...more happy than I was when I finished the first draft. But it's
the trickiest thing I've written so far--and perhaps the best--I'm worried. And I'm not sure if Ellery Queen is the right market any more. I used to read it regularly years ago, and they'd stick in the occaisional story like this. I remember one in particular about a maze consisting of a series of seven rooms, one right after another -- wonderful stuff.

Reading the current isssue, I wonder what happened. Straight mysteries, it looks like. Hmm. I wonder if they'll ream me a new one, or just politely fluff me off: "We're a mystery magazine, madame; we don't play your little games here."


"One Cool Million" is still sitting on my desk. I need to decide whether I want to send it off again or revise it. I was going to revise it...but I'm working on Beauregard now, and I have about as much interest in revising OCM as I do learning how to play the bagpipes. Wouldn't it be nice to learn how to play the bagpipes? Sure, babe. Sure.

I wonder what's going to happen to that damn story.

Beauregard is going...uh, well. I never get too much of it done at any one sitting, and half the time I unweave all the lies I told the last time I wrote and rewrite it again. Beauregard isn't in a hurry, apparently. The writing of the story itself matches the personality of the main character, slow and terse. And yet the page count rises. Well, second draft is the time for rational thought, eh?
Ray. Oh, yeah. And she can sit up by herself now. It took us a long time to actually catch her in the process: you look over at her, she's on her tummy, you look back, she's sitting up. Telepathy?

snippet: Mysterioso, or, Well, I Ran That into The Ground.

Shadows of sharp edges surround me, but my shadow is soft and wavery. Like my mind, it insinuates itself into the odd and random corner without seeming to. I am...Mysterioso.

Actually, I'm wondering why I'm writing this. This morning on the way to work, I noticed that my shadow wasn't as crisp as the other shadows. A trick of the light. Then, walking up the stairs at work, I found myself repeating the word "Mysterioso."

So I wrote the paragraph above. And I couldn't think of anywhere I wanted to go with it.
Some old news.

I gave away some books a while ago. "Strangely affected." I didn't want them any more...but I was sad as people went through them...passing some by...where
will my books go? Finally, one generous soul offered to take the rest of a bag home with her to let her friends, all readers, go through them. Whew.

Forth... Fifth...Sixth...Heh.

The big news is that Ray has started crawling. Neck and neck with babyproofing. All sharp objects and poisonous substances are above floor level and locked up. Baby gate protects the furnace room. Outlet covers taped over the cat's claws, subversive literature (Curious George) prominently displayed, plexiglass covering the computer cordage.

She's not very fast.

Doesn't matter, just as long as she can crawl faster than the cat can sleep.

This is going to be ugly.

Life sucks when you don't have the internet. But Lee and Ray and I are back. Ahhhh.... Everybody is OK. Call it a series of happy events. It's been too busy at work even to sneak peeks...