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!