Ray cut her hair! Lee was home with her today...she came out of the room, and he said, "What happened to your hair?"

And she said, "I don't know!"

I had to work pretty late tonight; by the time I got home she was asleep. She woke up halfways when I went in to take a look at her. Whack! Good thing we don't have school pictures for six months or so...but, of course, there will have to be Mom & Dad pictures...


A Big Thank You

(from my mother)

As the holidays approach, my heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to send me "forwards" over the past 12 months. Thank you for making me feel safe, secure, blessed, and wealthy.

Extra thanks to whoever sent me the one about rat crap in the glue on envelopes, 'cause I now have to go get a wet towel every time I need to seal an envelope. Also, I scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

Because of your concern I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put "Under God" on their cans.

I no longer use Saran wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.

I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone might drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer receive packages from nor send packages by UPS or FedEx since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore, and Uzbekistan.

I no longer eat KFC because their "chickens" are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.

I no longer have any sneakers -- but that will change once I receive my free replacement pair from Nike.

I no longer have to buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.

I no longer worry about my soul because at last count I have 363,214 angels looking out for me.

Thanks to you, I have learned that God only answers my prayers if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl who is about to die in the hospital (for the 1,387,258th time)

I no longer have any money at all - but that will change once I receive the 15,000 that Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special email program.

Yes, I want to thank you so much for looking out for me that I will now return the favor!

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 2 minutes, a large pigeon with a wicked case of diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 PM (CDT) this afternoon. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next-door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician.

How to Be a Mall Santa...

...go to Santa School.


I came upon a Christmas meme

from that glorious blog of old (that is, ***Dave):

  1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Duh...where's the chocolate?
  2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Hm...how do I say this? Ray believes in Santa, but he doesn't bring specific presents. It's a compromise.
  3. Colored lights or white on tree/house? Colored lights.
  4. Do you hang mistletoe? No; it doesn't deserve it.
  5. When do you put your decorations up? Day after Thanksgiving.
  6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Cranberry relish. Or maybe green olives.
  7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?
    Christmas Eve with the Bouzek Grandparents. Gingerbread, oyster stew, Uncle Dave pretending to be Santa Claus. Christmas was usually a boring occaision with too many adults. For a long time, I liked Thanksgiving better than Christmas, but after I had Ray, that changed.
  8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Not until I had Ray and she was old enough to have to think about it...is there a Santa? Of course there is.
  9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Just one.
  10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Until it's done...but we put it away on January 1st or thereabouts.
  11. Snow, love it or dread it? I used to love it. Now, I love to look at it, but that's about it.
  12. Do you know how to ice skate? Yep. Hockey skates and cow ponds. I miss skating with Howard & Claire's kids. I never did get good at it, though.
  13. Do you remember your favorite gift? An entire jar of olives in my stocking. No, really.
  14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Since Ray was born, I'm just grateful the three of us are together.
  15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Not pie. Pie was always fraught with tension. Who gets what pie? I hate having people fight over food. Food isn't for fighting over...besides, I'm really only all that enthusiastic about pecan pie. My favorite Christmasy dessert is the various and creative types of cookies. I love gingerbread cookies.
  16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Driving around, looking at Christmas lights. I never get over it.
  17. What tops your tree? Nothing, yet. I haven't found anything I like. But we have lots of cute ornaments.
  18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving.
  19. Favorite Christmas Song? The twelve days of Christmas, but there's a particular version I want, and I don't know who sings it! It's the one where the "partridge in a pear treee" ends in a doodle-di-do! and the last verse is double-time.
  20. Favorite flavor of Candy Canes? Er...actually, I'm not much on candy canes. Too messy. But the mint ones are OK to put in cocoa.

Book Review: The Final Solution

A Story of Detection, by Michael Chabon

Another Sherlock Holmes pastiche, but a lot more interesting. Holmes is almost ninety, and England is a war with Nazi Germany. (He's never named; he's just "the old man.") Watson is nowhere on scene, never mentioned; Holmes lives alone and raises bees.*

Okay, that's pretty much as much as I'm going to tell you. Plot gripping, themes of age compelling, a chapter convincingly written from the POV of a parrot, the plots and subplots come directly from the nature of the characters themselves, etc.
"The old man settled himself onto one knee. The left one; the right knee was no good for anything anymore. It took him a damnably long time, and on the way down there was a horrible snapping sound. But he managed it and went about his work with dispatch. He pulled off his right glove and poike his naked finger into the bloody mud where Richard Woolsey Shane's life had seeped away. Then he reached into the old conjuror's pocket sewn into the lining of his cloak and took out his glass. It was brass and tortoise shell, and bore around its bezel and affectionate inscription from the sole great friend of his life."
The rest of this is about Michael Chabon in general.

I like reading Michael Chabon, but I don't ever intend to read anything he's written more than once; I usually come away with the hair on the back of my neck standing straight out. There's usually a story within the story, one that you don't find out until the last few paragraphs. A story about divorce conceals the psychology of a serial killer. Little old half-blind grandmothers of your ex know more than they should, and lie about it. Houses and souls are sold...

Anyway. I really like the guy's books, and I intend to work my way through them, but I can't do it very often. A literary-horror crossover...I don't know. Maybe he's written something that doesn't make me want to run screaming from the darkness underlying everytyhing (a writer who can see Cthulu lurking just under the surface of a suburban housewife's blank gaze), but I haven't come across it yet.

*There's a point to the bees, but I won't tell you what it is; it's important.


Philosophy of Dirt

Here's my philosophy of cleaning:

A clean place to make a new mess.

Book Review: The Italian Secretary

(A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes), by Caleb Carr

The plot is amiss in this book. The mystery is revealed 2/3 of the way through the book! But the characters...Caleb Carr defines Sherlock Holmes in terms of his relationship with his older brother, Mycroft. Very interesting. The book's much more of a psychological study than it is a mystery. Why does Holmes solve mysteries? Why is he such a snot? These questions and more are answered...

But it isn't the book I wanted to read. I wanted to read a book by Susannah Clark about Sherlock Holmes and the Spiritualist movement, which Conan Doyle was involved in, later in his lfe.


De's Pecan Pie

It's my own invention. I was trying to make pecan pie that tasted like these cajun spiced nuts I'd made before. You think it would be spicy, but it's not--the cayenne works to bring out the taste of the butter and honey. The only time I noticed I'd used it was walking up four flights of stairs: Phew, it was too hot all of a sudden.

2 9-inch pie shells
1 1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. honey
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted to a liquid
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. salt
2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prick pie shells in several places with a fork and bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. In a large bowl, combine everything else. Mix well and pour into pie shells. Bake in oven on top of jelly roll pan (there will be overboil) for 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and cover edges of crust with tinfoil. I took the pies out when they had about 2-3 inches of looseness in the center (the edges had set), and they were just about perfect.


White Elephant

Ramble. People who know me should be surprised; I may not be a liberal, but I'm not a conservative.

We had a potluck/white elephant at work today. There's a guy that sits across the cube wall from the Tech Pubs area, a real bastion of conservatism, who's been teasing everyone about being gay and watching Brokeback Mountain. One of my coworkers bought the movie, wrapped it up, and managed to get him to pick it out of the pile. A seemingly-unending stream of teasing, both toward the guy and from him, ensued.

It's hard to say what I'm trying to say here, this paradox I'm trying to grasp. When I first started working at my job, this guy really pissed me off. The more I listen to him (and there isn't much choice), the more I realize how different this unending stream of giving people crap is from the conservatism I grew up with. Even more so the conservatism in Iowa.

His sense of humor is loud; it's annoying; it's repetitive. But it's not vicious or violent or even taken for granted: you can't imagine the guy finding out someone is gay and arranging to have the shit beaten out of him because people don't do that. No, gay people (much like the ACLU, which has received a Christmas card with the baby Jesus from him again this year) are just a target of crap...an increased level of crap, but that's about it. Give him the choice between making fun of a French person and a drag queen, and he'd cheerfully say the two are synonymous and wallow in it...all in all, it's a relief. It's not the barely concealed hate I grew up with, well, not for gay people, but for other groups. Gay people weren't even talked about when I was growing up, because they didn't exist. The elephant in the living room that nobody sees...


Those of you who have played World of Warcraft:

On the way home from school, Ray says, "I have a line and a dot!"

I glance over my shoulder. One hand is raised with one finger pointed up, and the other hand is pointing at the base of her other finger: an exclamation point.

"Momma, I have a job for you! I have a job for you! Click on me!"

Giggling, I poke her in the belly. "Click!"

"I have a job for you, momma."

"What job is it?"

"I have lots of job. Your first job is the cookie job."

"What do I have to do for that?"

"You have to get stuff to make cookies..."

That's a job we'll do this weekend :)


Done is Done

Got in a discussion today. Some people need a physical result or object in order to feel that they've accomplished something. Some people do not. How do the people who do not need a physical result or object get satisfaction from their accomplishments?

I belong to the second class of people: I find satisfaction in my work, but I don't have a physical result or object to depend on. I can print out a copy of a document, but it isn't necessary for me to feel satisfied. There's boundary: once I'm past that boundary, I'm done. I can do more, but I don't need to.

So what makes a thing done? How do you know when a thing is done?

Well, at first, I knew a thing was done when someone else said it was done. People would patiently explain to me what needed to be done, and I did it. There were a few surprises...I would think I was done, and people would say I was done, but I wasn't, and something would come up.

But now I know when a thing is done without being told, and, in fact, when I look at someone else's work, I know whether or not it's done.

What happened in between there? I was exposed to guidelines, rules, etc., and had to methodically (painfully) determine whether a given step had been completed or not. But now, it's a matter of aesthetics. A thing feels right, or it doesn't. A thing feels completed, or it doesn't.

And these feelings can be changed. The process I work with changes constantly, and feelings of "doneness" have become feelings of "not-doneness" as I find out about the changes. Something that had been aesthetically satisfying was, in a moment, suddenly perceived as inadequate.

Does the thing do what it's supposed to do?
Is the thing efficient?
Is the thing consistent?
Does the thing meet outside requirements, outside its stated purpose?
Will the thing meet the aesthetics of other people in the same field/area of expertise?

But the thing that struck me the most was realizing how strong the feeling of it was. A judgement of whether or not a document was done--until a thing is done, it will prey upon my mind. "It's not done. It's still not done. When is it going to be done?"

"Ah, now it's done."


Christmas Parties

Saturday was a tale of two Christmas Parties. I'm going to tell you about the second one first: Lee's Work Christmas Party.

We went with his boss and his wife, left Ray over at their house with a babysitter, Taylor, who is the boss's son's wife's sister's child. I think. Good kid. She and Ray played and played and played and played. Meanwhile...we went to the Skysox Stadium. Good food...but not worth the tickets. Isn't work supposed to pay for the majority of the cost? We had fun talking to Bob and his wife, but...Lee's coworker Ed, who reminds me of Ignatius J Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces, which yours truly is in the middle of reading at work, anyway, Ed went to the party, with his wife, bringing along Rob, another coworker, calling us several times on the way over (we went with Bob), and, after we'd arrived, said he, his wife, and Rob were going out for a smoke break, from which they never returned. I haven't heard the story yet; it may be interesting, but it's probably just "Eh, screw it." We had to sing the twelve days of Christmas: "On the first day of Christmas, [company name here] gave to me [something that fit the tu-u-u-une]." Our table was Day 2. Computer geeks, not so much on the party games. We ate well but not memorably, left early, and hung out at Bob's house for a while, until Ray hit too-tired-to-slow-down mode.

The first party was the kids' party for my company. Crafts, finger food, presents, and a little kid named Hunter, age 2 1/2 or so. Fun. He started in on painting aflowerpot yellow at one point, had just started, when his mother said, "Stop!" The kid froze, and his mother stripped off his shirt. Within minutes, he was warpaint from one wrist to the other. Just as he was about to wipe his hands on his pants--"Stop!"--he froze again. She stripped him down to his diaper, and soon enough it was both legs, too. And how he cried when she dumped him in the sink! Waaaaaaaaaaaah! And he was scared of Santa, too. At one point, his mom had tricked him into sitting next to Mrs. Claus, by putting another little boy he was playing with between the two of them, for a big group photo (Ray, of course, raced up to Santa's lap before anyone else could get there). I forget what she was doing, but Mrs. Claus accidentally bonked Hunter on the head with a toy, and he looked at his mom like, "Did you see that? Did you see that? Evil, I tell you!" I skipped the adult party for work. Ray came home with a flowerpot, a snowflake necklace (which she wrapped up in a paper she'd colored with the babysitter so the babysitter would have a present), a gingerbread man, a placemat, and a frog game. And I had a good time, too.

Dang old adults.

Thought of the Day.

I don't talk to myself. I talk to inanimate objects. There's a better chance somebody's listening.


New Car

Lee bought a '96 Jeep Grand Cherokee yesterday. It needs a little work, but it's what I would have picked out for him, had I been doing the picking...big and boxy, but not huge. It's white, though...white being the color of nursing home scrubs and blizzards, I'd rather any other color. Oh, well. Looks very sharp; he got it from the same place I got the bug. (He tells the salesman, "I know you're not going to screw me over...because you have a wireless network [with the other store in town], and I could do bad things to you." The way he told it, they all got a laugh out of it...I got to drive it because he left the car seat in the other car, which he's going to try to sell to his boss.



I'm going to walk away from a freelance job. I had talked myself into biting my tongue at a rude comment from an editor--it wasn't anything that bad--but a subsequent comment points toward it being consistent behavior.

Do I really want to be a freelancer? Yes. Do I want to work for someone who challenges me? Yes. Do I want to work for someone whose underlying assumption about me seems to be that I'm not worth the time, but go ahead and submit articles on spec because, with his help, I might achieve something better?

Sadly, I do. But no.


I got a rejection letter last night, too, although a very courteous one. I sent the guy back an e-mail thanking him for the opportunity to submit. He sent me an e-mail (very late in the evening) thanking me again for the submission.

Woo Hoo!

Mentos and Diet Coke. Now if only there were a way to incorporate synchronized swimming...

Government Employees

Ah...this brought tears to my eyes.

Of course, they don't show the third person on the escalator, who moves forward confidently. Suddenly, a Monte Pythonesque hand drops out of the sky and crushes her! Hahahahaha!


Alferd Packer, Colorado Cannibal

I need to do more road trips, so I've been looking around for weird stuff to do. I've been meaning to get up to Boulder. When I go, this will have to be done.

A few years ago, Lee and I watched "Cannibal! The Musical," by the South Park creators (AKA "Alferd Packer: The Musical"). It was bad...but it was funny:
James Humphrey: Hey! You're cutting into his butt!
Frank Miller: Well what sort of meat do you want?
James Humphrey: Well, not butt!
But to find out there's a grill dedicated to his name? Oh, we must go there. I'm sure we'll have to check out the other sites of interest, but:

"El Canibal is Boulder's biggest burrito, and the Calypso pork is a student favorite." The slogan is "Have a friend for lunch!"

Okay, in reality, this may not be as amusing as I'm hoping it will be. Nevertheless.

From Wikipedia:

"During the trial, the judge supposedly said:
'Damn you, Alferd Packer! There were seven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County and you ate five of them!'"

Kokopelli's Cave

Bed and Breakfast.

(A B&B...in a cave. There's only one bedroom, and there are warnings all over the site: "You have to want to come to Kokopelli's Cave.")

Hypothetical Question of the Day

Okay, imagine it's possible to have up to five languages encoded in your brain--not programming languages, but speech/writing languages. This can happen instantly, effortlessly--you'll be proficient (although not a master) at the languages you choose.

Which five do you choose, and why?

Note: If you want English, you gotta pick English.



I encourage everyone to pick your favorite children's cause and make a donation this year. (I was both annoyed and grateful to be able to get toys for two kids for the price of one of Ray's presents...and they weren't cheap toys, either.) Tips from having been a broke mom (and a broke kid):

  • If there's a shoe size, do the shoes first. I've only ever found one pair of secondhand shoes that fit Ray. It takes dedication to consistently find useable secondhand kids' shoes.

  • Hats and mittens are expensive. It's easy to find cute shirts (and dresses) at second-hand stores; it's harder to find hats and especially mittens. (And they're always losing them the day before the big storm. Plus, second-hand mittens are usually very dirty and gross.)

  • Polly Pocket dolls are great for 3-5 year olds (cheap, replaceable, lots of outfits for the budget), but get the kind with the magnetized (snap-on) clothes, as the other kind are hard for little fingers.

  • Don't buy shirts or dresses, no matter how cute. Buy pants. For younger kids, especially under school age, go to a discount store and buy cheap, unmarked sweatpants in the appropriate size. Buy 3-4 sets.

  • Socks and underwear. Thick, unmarked white socks (easier to match up if one of the pair is lost, cheap to replace) and fancy, character-themed underwear. Underwear is very important for some reason. Throw this in on the side if you get a clothing size--but don't make this the only gift, even if it's all that's listed on the card! Bleah!

  • If you have the slightest inclination, try to look for the oldest kids you can find. Everybody likes to buy gifts for little kids--but teens and preteens are harder, so they get picked last, if at all.

  • Don't buy Christmas-themed clothes or toys. Not only will they be pretty much unusable the rest of the year, but they'll go massively on sale after Christmas--making them much more affordable, if that's what the family really wants.

  • If you can, buy something nice. (Other than as noted above.) Brand names really don't matter, but they can be the one "status" item the kid has, can brag about, and can pretend their parents got them. This goes for all kids 4 and up. If the card says Cabbage Patch Doll, don't get an off-brand doll, even if it means you can get a stroller and a pony with it. Get the Cabbage Patch Doll.

  • Backpacks rock. School supplies make the angels sing. Craft supplies and kits will make the dead get up and dance.

  • It can't hurt to add a book.

Bill Gates For President

I don't know if it's a good idea or not, but it made me snort out loud.

"I’ve always felt that you should pick a president the same way you’d pick an attorney to help you out of a dangerous legal problem. Do you want the attorney who dresses nicely and belongs to your church? Or do you want the attorney who can rip out your opponent’s heart and put it on the hibachi before he dies? Maybe it’s just me, but I want an attorney who is part demon." -- Scott Adams

The Wallet Test

100 wallets were dropped in front of hidden cameras to see
who would return the wallets and who would steal them...

From the FAQ:

Q: Aren't you invading people's privacy?
A: No. All filming was done in public places. If people don't want to be filmed doing dishonest or stupid things, then they should not do dishonest or stupid things in public.

(via Growabrain.)


The butt end of bread will sit around forever and go bad, but croutons, designed to sit around forever, will be gone in mere moments. Yes, I'm on a crouton kick.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cube the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and spread onto cookie sheets. The cubes of bread may touch but should not pile up on the pan. Artisan (i.e., homemade) bread is best, but even processed bread will work.

Melt butter. Do not use margarine. You can use olive oil instead of the butter. A mix of about 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil is nice (just mix in the olive oil after melting the butter). I use about 1/4 c. butter or olive oil per 2c. bread, but then, I believe a diet is about eating less rather than eating diet food. Pour butter/oil over bread and stir until it's soaked up.

Sprinkle the bread with salt and ground pepper. Stir.

If you like, about 1/4c. shredded hard cheese (parmesan or even sharp cheddar) can be added. Stir. Reduce the amount of butter by about 1/3 if you're using an oily cheese. (Or not, if you don't mind the croutons being more chewy than crunchy.)

Put in the oven. Take out every few minutes to stir around. The croutons are done when a) they're crunchy and b) smell toasty. Cheese should be browned but not burnt.

More butter/oil/cheese = chewier croutons. Less = crunchier, drier croutons.

Last time, I made rye croutons with 1/2 butter, 1/2 Tunesian olive oil (thanks, Margie!), salt and pepper. Yummy. Oh, and it makes an excellent opportunity to roast garlic cloves, too, which will scent the croutons without making them overpoweringly garlicky.



Two hour snow delay!


And maybe Newt Gingrich will die before 2008, which would also be good news.

(Via BoingBoing.)



The Magic Thread was written almost entirely to the tunes of Massive Attack. One Saturday, in fact, almost six hours of catching up was completed to the song "Karmacoma."

"You're sure you want to be with me I've got nothing to give..."

Book Review: The Tale of Genji

By Yoshitaka Amano.

This is a little, illustrated book inspired by the original The Tale of Genji, by Lady Murasaki. The artist is the same person who illustrated Neil Gaiman's The Dream Hunters.

I had high hopes for this book; I loved the art in The Dream Hunters. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. Maybe it's because I haven't finished the original Tale of Genji, but it seems pointless, meaningless. Naked, gracefully drawn people, their genitalia covered by luxurious robes, lounge around and look pitiful.

Yep. That's the whole book. Unless you have a serious nipple-and-robe fetish, this will be almost entirely meaningless. Maybe, if writer had focused on only one of the stories, and let the artist draw scenes with some kind of meaningful conflict/action to them, it would be worthwhile, but this is...well, I'm wasting your time, too, here. Later!

Book Reivew: The Book of Lost Things

By John Connolly.

I enjoyed this book, but it saddened me a little. I'll explain that later.

First (or second) off, let me say that if you didn't like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell you probably won't like this book. It's intended for, say, kids 11 and older, but it has the same sense of words that Strange does.

(Spoilers follow.)

The book is about a boy living in WWII Britain whose mother dies. After her death, everyone else moves on, and, eventually, the boy ends up with a stepbrother out in the country, trapped with his (believably human) stepmother in a big house with nothing for them to do but pick on each other while his father works long hours for the government. The boy, depressed, starts to hear his books talking, to him and with each other. He has fits and starts seeing things, including a disturbing crooked man. Eventually, he finds his way into another world, a fairytale land where the stories aren't quite the ones that we know, but are very believable. For example, one of the characters tells the boy the true story about Little Red Riding Hood: Little Red disdained all the local boys. One day, taking treats to her bedridden grandmother, she saw a wolf in the woods, a wolf with enchanting eyes. She pursued the wolf relentlessly until he agreed to become her lover...and a race of werewolves was born.

And so on. The language is what you have to call poetic, although it's really hypnotic. Rhythmic, soothing. "This is the way it is because this is the way it must always be" kind of thing. I loved the alternate (and more true-sounding) versions of fairy tales. The plot isn't bad, the characters are okay...I'm damning with faint praise here.

Some books go like this: something terrible happens, and, against all odds, the protagonist manages to come up with a solution, and everyone lives happily ever after. But...the reader, no matter how convincing the solution is, feels this aching hollowness: the real story is that something terrible happened, and that was it. The end. No solution. That's the feeling that I get with this book. The "happily ever after" is an illusion, and it seems like it was meant to be. Some people will probably like the book more because of it, but I feel...a little depressed. Happily ever after is an illusion, but it isn't a cruel illusion. Happily ever after is a kind of gateless gate, the impenetrable barrier of adulthood. Only adults can see the true story of what happened afterwards; it's sometimes happy, sometimes tragically sad, but it isn't the nothingness that the phrase can summon up. I don't really know how to explain it. But if you look at the story of Snow White from the vision of this story, Snow White died from the apple bite, and everything afterwards was a dream. The kind of happily ever after I understand is that she really did come back to life and marry the prince...and, years later, they got divorced, because they had other things they'd rather be doing. There's a difference; I just don't know how to define it very well. The meaning behind the story here isn't something I can stand behind--I believe too much in life to do that--nevertheless, a good book.


Amy Irving (the actress) did the singing voice for Jessica Rabbit.

Sinead O'Connor now sings reggae.


I am awesome. The first draft of The Magic Thread is finished!

That's the good news...the bad news is that it's only about 44K. I'm going to throw in my Storyball stories and do some brainstorming for a future novel rather than try to up the wordcount for Thread, because I'm burnt out on it right now...


Man. I put so many ellipses in the frickin' first draft that it'll be years before I break myself of that habit, I'll wager.

Anyway, here's my first shot at the premise of the book:

Sachi's family has always possessed a magic thread that can ensure nothing is ever truly lost, but when the Snow Queen, Yukionna, steals Sachi's mother, the shy and awkward Sachi isn't sure even the thread can help her. Sachi and her childhood friend, Kano, make a deal with the fire demigod Kagu Tsuchi--the two 13-year olds will help him find and assemble his body parts (his father chopped him into pieces after Kagu burnt his mother to death), if Kagu will help them save Hoshiko. The Magic Thread is a story about the ties of family, love, and hate.

I was thinking about Shojo (girly) manga/anime while I was writing this. My goal will be to (eventually, after editing) make my sisters weep. Waaaahhh!!! Actually, I want to see this as an anime. If nothing else, I think the magic thread sequences could be awesome...like the (damn elipses) green-smoke sequences from The City of Lost Children.

Anyway, time to go screw around for a while. Woot!


Crunch Time

Apologies, all. I won't be posting much until the beginning of December, as I'm trying to finish my NaNoWriMo novel, and everything else is getting pushed aside. Especial apologies to the Storyball cohorts...I will get caught up, but it may not be until after the first. With heroic effort, I should be able to finish. Without heroic effort...thbbbbt. And my left wrist hurts. I've been writing this out longhand (it seems to be the only thing that's working) and retyping it as I go along. Every time I get to an exciting part, I tense up. Writer's cramp! I keep thinking of that Monte Python skit.

"It's not all gala lunches!"

Hopefully, my daughter will eventually have the chance to rebel against my creative lifestyle and become a miner. Although maybe not a miner: too dangerous.



I received the following e-mail from NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty:

Dear Author,

You remember those overachieving participants I talked about in last week's email? The ones speeding past us with word counts in the 20,000s, and "kick me" signs fluttering from their backs?

Most of them will be cruising into the 50,000-word winners' circle this week.


But you know what? I've been doing a little research. And I've discovered that thousands of participants haven't written word *one* of their books. Which makes those of us with more than 10,000 words to our name look pretty darn good by comparison. Not as far ahead as we'd like to be, maybe. But nowhere near out of contention.

And this is where I need to talk a little bit about 35K.

To me, there are two milestones in NaNoWriMo. The obvious one is 50k, when the champagne flows and the confetti falls, and your friends hoist you up on their shoulders and sing songs about your heroic novel-writing feat.

My favorite moment of the whole endeavor, though, comes at 35K. There's less singing, mind you, but when you hit 35k, you won't need a word-count tool to tell you you're there. If Week Two had a wall of fatigue at its core; Week Three is built around this glorious, chocolate-covered door called 35K. That portal opens into a wonderland of renewed energy, revived bookish enthusiasm, and serious happy-dances at the computer keyboard.

Because when you pass 35k, the gravity of the whole event changes. Writing is easier. Plotting is easier. And at 35K, you will see something in the distance that is both wonderful and bittersweet.

You'll see the end of this crazy noveling adventure.

We'll talk more about that next week. For now, the only important thing is getting to 35K. For those of us in the lower rungs of the word-coun t bracket, that may seem an impossible feat. But as NaNoWriMo participants, we eat the impossible for breakfast.

And just to make sure you have everything you need for this week's intense writing sessions, I've asked our technical overseer Russ to pack a little something extra into this email.

You see, eight years ago, while trekking across Tibet, I met an old yak farmer who lived alone in a small yurt filled with paperbacks. The older volumes were self-help guides to better living through topical applications of yak butter. But the more recent books included an array of detective fiction set in London, sci-fi tales about interplanetary wars between asparagus creatures, and a sassy series about a young woman just starting to make a name for herself in the publishing industry.

The farmer, it turns out, had written all of them.

When I asked him how he managed it, he explained that he'd found a secret totem on the s teppe that endowed its possessor with superheroic noveling powers.

I excitedly told him about my idea for founding a project where everyone in the world would write a 50,000-word novel from scratch. He wept. Then he went and dug out the brown, wooden totem, and placed it in my hand. "Share it with your people," he said. "I don't need it anymore. Book contracts have ceased to have any meaning for me since Bertelsmann AG bought Random House."

He then lowered his sad eyes, and disappeared, leaving me with the curious object and keys to his yurt.

Thanks to that totem, I've managed to write a 50,000-word novel every year, overcoming dastardly word-count deficits and my own diabolical procrastinatory tendencies.

But now I think it's time to pass the torch. This morning, I ground up the totem, and asked Russ to carefully imbed a tiny portion of it into every Week Three pep talk email. You have it no w, and its magical writerly effects will last at least through the end of the month, and probably much longer.

All I ask in return is that you honor the last request the old man made to me before riding off into the yak-filled sunset.

"Please be at 35,000 words by the end of Week Three," he said. I nodded. I had no idea what he was talking about.

But I know now. As do you.

The challenge is mighty, but you are mightier still.

See you at 35K, writer!

18,400 words, 4 yaks, and 1 jumbo latte

I'm ahead of Chris Baty!


New Tom Waits!

Orphans is coming out in a week or so.


Outcast Genius

100 % Nerd, 56% Geek, 52% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.

Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.


Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

(Duh. I could have told them I was 100% nerd...)

(via ***Dave)


This is petty. I realize this.

I went to Panera Bread yesterday to do some writing (out of work early), and this really annoying guy was working at the bakery counter. Luckily, he didn't take my order.

For example, this older gent walks up to the counter with an older lady, pretty obviously his wife. His wife starts talking to the other girl at the counter, ordering food. This guy yells, "Are you looking at anything in particular?!?" because all older people are mostly deaf (in case you didn't know that). The older gent says, "Just wishing." The guy yells--yells--"Wishes can become reality!!!"* The older guy shrugs, and says something about being on a special diet. Without pause, the guy turns to the next people in line, who are actually just coming through the door, "Can I help you?!?"

A parody of great customer service.

I've seen this guy before, I swear I have. When I worked at Wells Fargo, there was a guy at the north Panera Bread store that was always there in the mornings. He had this bright, annoying voice, a romanesque haircut, a tic with his hands, and it was pretty obvious the other employees hated him.

When I first heard this guy at the Powers Panera open his mouth, I knew it was the same guy. Same voice, same attitude, same tic with his hands. But his HAIR was different! It looked like a wig--imagine an Elvis hairdo, levitated by additional, teased hair, to a full inch over skull height! It wasn't extra highs and swoops--no, the whole thing was an inch straight up. The sides were flat against his skull, too.

I couldn't help it. I had to laugh. I'm sure it wasn't the case, but I kept thinking it: Shhhh...he's in disguise!

* Some people speak in multiple punctuation marks. Really.


Variable Star

By Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson.

It's hard to judge a book like this--a plot written by the late Heinlein (it's definitely a Heinlein plot...oh, it's a Heinlein plot), but the story was actually written by Spider Robinson, a man who much admired Heinlein, but who has entirely different sensibilities. He wasn't instructed to write a Heinlein book, either--just to write the best Spider Robinson novel he could, using the Heinlein plot as a skeleton.

It's like watching a medium really channel a ghost. Fake mediums convince us with the absolute unquestionability of the verisimilitude of the spirit whose messages they carry back to the world of the living. A real medium would act, I imagine, more like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, speaking in his or her own voice, telling the ghost to shutupshutupshutup all right already, what he wants you to know is that... Kind of spooky in places, actually, when you can tell that Spider would rather be doing anything with the plot but what Heinlein's spirit is forcing him to do...

I enjoyed it, but it's hard to give unequivocal praise to a book that doesn't wholly live its own life, but lurches around possessed at times. If you don't like Heinlein or Spider, don't read this book; if you don't like both Heinlein and Spider, don't read this book. If you aren't prepared for a few ectoplasmic floops here and there, don't read this book. If you're in a mood to drink up the essence of a dead guy, celebrated by someone who doesn't always agree with him, please do. I kept thinking of Spider, boiling up the ashes of Heinlein, knocking him back: "Needs salt."



Ray's totally into Scooby Doo right now. We watched Scooby Doo: Where's My Mummy? tonight. There's a part where Fred is trying to put himself in Scooby and Shaggy's places in order to figure out where they might be, and mimics their voices.

So imagine my amusement when I was watching the credits, and the same actor, Frank Welker, was listed as both "Fred" and "Scooby Doo."

Jeez. This guy's as versatile as Mel Blanc:

Dinky Dog
Dynomutt the Dog Wonder
Hefty Smurf
Iceman (from the Spiderman cartoon)
Uni and Tiamat (from Dungeons and Dragons)
Scooter (from Go-Bots)
Pretty much the majority of the characters on Transformers
The Gremlins
Slimer (from the Ghostbusters cartoon)
Abu (Aladdin)
Curious George...

I got tired of typing, so I end with a quote:

"The best letter I ever got (and I have had lots of mail) was from a little girl back east who invited me (AKA "Hefty Smurf") along with Papa Smurf and Smurfette, to have tea with her in the forest."



You know the part of the novel when you're done with the beginning and just beginning the middle? I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I have finally passed it, and I only have another six thousand words to do tomorrow before I'm caught up again. For now.


Veteran's Day

Ray and I went to the Veteran's Day parade this morning...

Last night, we went to a Chinese buffet. Lee was working late, and I figured I could get some writing done at the mall while Ray played at the playground, so I offered up mall plus supper at anywhere Ray wanted to go. (I was expecting McDonalds, which I would otherwise boycott, but she decided she'd wait until she was going out somewhere with Dad. My angel.) While we were there, we sat next to a family with a girl named "Katie" and a mom named "Betsy" (my two sisters' names), and with Ray leading the conversation, I found out about the parade. Katie announced that if we were going to the parade, we had to stand outside of Starbucks, because they have coffee. Katie's in seventh grade.

So, when Ray woke up just before eight thirty this morning, and I remembered about the parade, we rushed off downtown and made it just in time. We walked up the street toward the headwaters, stopping, incidentally, about half a block away from the judges (and cannon), in front of Starbucks.

Cannon...a family next to us (Mom, Dad, Grandma, little girl with a big red bow, no hat or gloves, and a miniature folding lawn chair) whipped out their earplugs. "They're going to fire it! Here comes the marshall! Put your ear plugs in! Hurry!" But it wasn't that loud, and resonated in the lungs more than the eardrums, due to the fact that it wasn't facing us directly and had to echo off the windows across the street before it hit us. Those windows shook.

The guys in the front on horses managed to control the horses when the cannon went off, but it was close. We saw all kinds of vets, representatives from the different divisions in town (AF, Army), ROTC and JROTC groups, high school marching bands, and more Girl/Boy scouts than you can shake a stick at. Many old cars, including one with an aaaaoooooogaaaaaah horn. Someone gave us a flag; we lost it; someone else gave us another one.

Eventually, we went into the Starbucks for hot chocolate. Ray's nose was an icicle, so we grabbed a table at the window (why there was nobody else there, I'll never know) and watch another fifteen minutes or so. After deciding we were ready to brave the cold again, we went outside, changed our minds, and followed the parade route back to the car. Brrrrrrr.....

One of the last floats we saw before we left was the MDA float, a trailer with a curve of the earth and a few space-thingies floating over top. "That's where I work," I said. "Oooohhhhh..." Ray said. She walked down the street and told the next few people she saw that her mom worked at that place (point).


I forgot. There was a bagpipe marching band. Kilts. Nice.

Morals and Ethics

Sorry. Philsophical day.

I am vehemently against adult human beings following a moral system over an ethical one. The reason the 10 Athetistic Commandments bother me so much is that they outline yet another moral system, in place of an ethical one, with the very people you'd hope would reject morals. You could take them as a parody...but they don't come across as a joke.

Most people accept "morals" and "ethics" as being the same thing. They're not. I'm going to use biblical examples here, but that's what I'm familiar with.

Morality is a system of right and wrong, in which one follows given rules. The result of following a given rule is reward; the result of not following a given rule is punishment. The 10 Commandments and the Old Testament outline a moral system. "Thou Shalt." If someone doesn't follow the instructions contained in the Old Testament, various punishments are outlined; also, the stories illustrate what happens when someone doesn't do what God wants, and the result is never good.

Ethics is a system of good and bad (like Ray's preschool--good choice, bad choice), in which one espouses principals. The result of following a principal is the same as the result of not following a principal--whatever happens, happens. The Golden Rule and the New Testament outline an ethical system. "Treat everyone as you want to be treated." If someone doesn't follow the instructions, Christ points out that they'll never know God. Hell isn't mentioned, and Heaven isn't a place of reward--it's just "knowing God." They do throw in "life everlasting," but I hope you see the point.

The difference between the two systems is that with Morality, one's responsibility is limited to following rules. Whether or not the rules accomplish what needs to be accomplished is not under question, and, in fact, must never come under question. With Ethics, one is responsible for the consequences of one's actions, regardless of intent or even the supposed worthiness of the principal you follow. Suppose you come across someone who does not want to be treated the way you would want to be treated: you still have to live with the consequences. Maybe next time, you'll ask first.

This is not to say people who follow the 10 Commandments (either in the Book religions or the Atheistic version) do not take responsibility for their actions or that people who practice the Golden Rule always do; only that the systems themselves push for certain types of behavior and contain different assumptions. Morality assumes you follow instructions; Ethics assumes you're guided by a principal. Children follow instructions; adults should learn to make up their own minds and accept the consequences of their actions, all the way through. Mistakes will be made. "We are all sinners." This is something you live with--unless you truly follow a moral system, in which case you find a way to punish yourself or make yourself outcast from your group (or find a Judas goat).


Fishing for Children

Find a good spot in the mezzanine area over the play place at the mall. Bring one laser pointer.

"We have to catch the ruby spot! There it is! Go get it! Go get it!"

KELO blooper...

From So. Dak.'s own KELO TV!

"Angela Kennecke talks about President Bush (1st one) and how his mother died. All to the clip of someone throwing a dead coyote in a pickup."

(via Mike.)


Election Results

I have too much to say about the election results, so instead I will relate the following story:

I was talking to someone at work today about the election. She said her husband was almost in a froth because she hadn't voted to support the Colorado ballot measure that would have allowed the state to start/participate in a lawsuit against the federal government to force them to enforce immegration laws. She also said they'd gotten in a shouting match because she'd voted to raise the minimum wage to $6.85 cents (and tied to inflation).

Nevermind that keeping minimum wages low (so low that only an immigrant can afford to take the job, because it isn't a living wage) only contributes to the influx of them damn aliens...



First thing this morning. Electronic voting machine (solo), down.

It took me five years to trust electronic deposits. It'll take a lot longer to trust these jokers.

Ten Atheistic Commandments

I've seen this around a number of places now. My immediate reaction upon reading these the other day was...bleah.

1. Thou SHALT NOT believe all thou art told.

Then don't believe this list, either...because there's a friggin' agenda.

2. Thou SHALT seek knowledge and truth constantly.

Which means that anything that doesn't fit in the currently accepted definition of "truth" is irrational and a falsehood. Why did the pendulum swing so far away from science? Was it not pushed by decades of this that and the other scientific toy? The belief that science was the only rational tool for improving people's lives?

3. Thou SHALT educate thy fellow man in the Laws of Science.

Thou SHALT force your beliefs down someone else's throat. Science doesn't understand what's going on any better than religion does--people need both spirituality and rationality. The world works the way it works regardless of whether physics groks it or not. Science makes for a good description of the world in certain, limited areas...but so does religion. Science can tell you it's OK to hurt people who aren't genetically ideal...science can tell you it's OK to come up with biological weapons (as long as they aren't really intended to be used, of course!) Science can justify dehumanizing "stupid" people.

4. Thou SHALT NOT forget the atrocities committed in the name of god.

And will you forgive them or not? Religion is a tool that people use. Mistakes have been made. Science is a tool that people use. Mistakes have been made. Shall we not forget the atrocities committed in the name of rationality? Hiroshima? Holocaust, anyone?

5. Thou SHALT leave valuable contributions for future generations.

Because they're damned well going to grow up to appreciate it, whether they like it or not. Was it religion that invented the internal combustion engine?

6. Thou SHALT live in peace with thy fellow man.

Even if that peace is oppression. Even if your leaders are actively destroying the things you hold dear. Pacifism has flaws, too. Is this really something you want people to believe in?

7. Thou SHALT live this one life thou hast to its fullest.

Even if it means doing so at someone else's expense. I don't see anything in here about compassion...kindness...appreciation...just peace and contributions.

8. Thou SHALT follow a Personal Code of Ethics.

And what does that mean, exactly?

9. Thou SHALT maintain a strict separation between Church and State.

Because it's a great rallying point between "Us" and "Them."

10. Thou SHALT support those who follow these commandments.

And nobody else?

I don't care for the Old Testament's 10 commandments, either, but these are just instructions for turning the atheism/religion spectrum into a self-sustaining Middle Eastern conflict. Path to unendingly unpleasant place, good intentions, I'm sure.

Excuse of the Day

Ray said her teacher had to go home today because of hiccups. Hm...


The Lessons of Scooby Doo

Evil wears many faces...fear wears but two.

Live life to the fullest...braaaaaap!

Luck goes to those who already survived the banana peel to the sole of the foot, the flying water hose to the pants, and the door to the face.

Nothing is what it seems...except a flat-out bribe.

The biggest challenge you will ever face is your own incompetence.


The Scooby Snacks box looks like the box for goldfish crackers. Intentional?


An O. Henry Love Story.


Lee took Ray out to give me some writing time (and to give Ray out-of-the-house time) and picked up Variable Star, by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson, and some good chocolate for me.

I finished up writing, decided I needed COFFEE, and picked up World War Z, by Max Brooks (also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide) while I was at Borders. Darling, I love you. Have some zombies. Sucked me in for a good forty minutes at the bookstore, anyway. Lee says, "Interesting."

What D. Saw...

I saw the moon rise. It was p-i-n-k. And the size of a golf ball.

Luke...I am your father...

Report to room 100A for your allowance...

My brother Matt's wife, Erica, has the coolest meeting rooms at work.

35 of 100

In 2005, Time magazine picked the 100 best English-language novels (1923-present). Mark the selections you have read in bold. If you liked it, add a star (*) in front of the title, if you didn’t, give it a minus (-). [I’ve added, if you feel totally indifferent or just can’t remember, mark it with a question mark (?).] Then, put the total number of books you’ve read in the subject line.

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
All the King’s Men - Robert Penn Warren
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser
* Animal Farm - George Orwell
Appointment in Samarra - John O’Hara
? Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
The Assistant - Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O’Brien
Atonement - Ian McEwan
- Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood
* The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
- Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
Call It Sleep - Henry Roth
* Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
* The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
* A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
? The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
A Death in the Family - James Agee
The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance - James Dickey
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone
Falconer - John Cheever
* The French Lieutenant’s Woman - John Fowles
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
* The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Gravity’s Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
* The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene
Herzog - Saul Bellow
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
* I, Claudius - Robert Graves
? Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Light in August - William Faulkner
* The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
* Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
* Lord of the Flies - William Golding
* The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Loving - Henry Green
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
Money - Martin Amis
The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
? Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
?!? Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
* Neuromancer - William Gibson
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
* 1984 - George Orwell
? On the Road - Jack Kerouac
* One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - Ken Kesey
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion
Portnoy’s Complaint - Philip Roth
* Possession - A.S. Byatt
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
- Rabbit, Run - John Updike
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
The Recognitions - William Gaddis
* Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
* Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
* Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Sot-Weed Factor - John Barth
* The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John le Carré
? The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
? Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
* To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
* Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
* Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
White Noise - Don DeLillo
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

(Via ***Dave)


Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Loses Baby Gorilla Umande

From the CMZ newsletter:

Umande Finally Meets Mom

Umande now has a gorilla mom to call his very own! Lulu, a 41-year-old female, and Umande have been getting to know each other since his arrival at the Columbus Zoo in early October. They seemed to form a bond early on. He would vocalize when he saw the other gorillas, but his vocalization was different and longer towards Lulu, and she would vocalize back. On the first day he was allowed to touch the gorillas through the mesh, he spent the entire day near Lulu. They touched their tongues and noses together and built nests next to each other on opposite sides of the mesh. At one point when Lulu leaned against the mesh, Umande grabbed on to her like he was ready to go for a ride on her back.

I wonder how his keeper's doing. Every time we went up to the zoo, the same woman was taking care of the baby.


Field Day?

Ted Haggard, the leader of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs (a very popular, massive church on the north side of town, and a big supplier of Focus on the Family shock troops), resigned yesterday after being accused of having sex with a gay prostitute.

Why does it have to be like this? Why is sex immediately equivalent to dirty laundry? Nobody was hurt here. And who knows what to believe...I mean, the timing is so bad, it's hard to believe it.


Way Back When

Jack Black is the leader of the pseudo-punk Nasties in Neverending Story III (1994). The same facial expressions, the same gestures as in King Kong. Hm...he was in Waterworld, too.

Prince of Egypt

Watching Prince of Egypt with Ray. What a cruel story...the only solution to conflict being death, death, death in the name of a miracle. Death is justified if your people are oppressed. (Justified...as if it were an act without a price.)

Thousands of years later, the Moses story is still being carried out in the Mideast. Because it's OK to assume violence is a good answer...if you're being oppressed.


Kagu Tsuchi, Japanese Fire God

When the Japanese Fire God, Kagu Tsuchi, was born, he burnt his mother, Izanami-no-Mikoto, to death. His father, Izanagi-no-Mikoto, killed Kagu Tsuchi, chopped him into eight pieces which turned into eight mountain gods. (My guess is these were volcanoes?)

Izanagi-no-Mikoto followed his sister-wife to the land of the dead, but she'd already eaten of the food there and couldn't return. She told him to wait for her in a cave, but he became impatient and tried to find her: she was rotted and eaten by worms. She was angry at him for seeing her like that, and sent demons after him to kill him. "You have seen my nakedness; now I will see thine!" He escaped, but her undead zombie corpse tried to follow him. He started speaking the words of divorce. She threatened to kill 1000 people a day if he did, and he replied that he'd cause 1500 people to be born every day, at which point another god intervened, and she disappeared...



Went to the Mall again this year. Ray was a baby kitty, and I was the momma kitty.

The best costume this year was mother wearing shepherdess costume (with crook), and toddler wearing sheep outfit. Little Bo Peep!


A friend of ours we haven't seen in a while (but who emails Lee) called and left a message: "Come over, we're moving to Iowa tomorrow." Oh, and didn't leave his PHONE NUMBER! And the old one is dead, and despite repeated requests through Lee hasn't given us his new one, and only the old one is listed online, and his daughter is Ray's first friend ever, and WAAAAAAH!


Manga du Jour

Check out Monster, by Naoki Urasawa.*

What can I say without giving away the plot? It's, uh, about a serial killer. And a doctor, accused of murder, who dedicates himself to tracking down the real murderer and killing the killer himself. About two mysterious kids. Neo-Nazis. Hospital politcs. Psychology. It goes on.

For those who aren't into manga, this really doesn't come across as manga. For one thing, the art reminds me more of Terry Moore, the creator of Strangers in Paradise, than anything else. The doctor's ex, it's like looking at a ghost. For another thing, there aren't seven million references you won't get, since the story's set in Germany rather than Japan. There are even a couple of western references that crack me up: the head of the investigation looks remarkably like a twisted version of Sherlock Holmes.

What makes it stand out? Great plot, very nearly four-dimensional characters, lots of tension. And moral quandries. Lots of moral quandires.

*(This means Dave.)

Smut & Politics

Hm...be upset about the fiction of James Webb, the Democratic challenger to Virginia Republican Senator George Allen's seat, which supposedly demeans women, or be upset that Webb's fiction is being taken for his personal treatment of women? Wait! Wait! I need to know whether Webb's books support gay marriage before I can decide!

Here's my overgeneralization of the politics of the moment:

Republican: Lots of conviction. Unable to grasp the principal that the ends don't justify the means. Unable to cope with the fact that a lot of the problems we're dealing with now come from the bed Regan made. How is it that trickle-down economics isn't supposed to lead to immegration problems, overseas outsourcing of US jobs, and corporate corruption now?

Democrats: No conviction. All self-righteousness and no chutzpa to back it up. Impeach the bastard for or I won't vote for you guys either. Get it? The Republicans tried to get Clinton out for lying about S-E-X. You can't get your act together to even try to push Bush out of office for all the crap he's pulled. Or even to stop a torture bill. O woe is me my butt!

Or maybe I'll just quote John Grisham:

"This is a clear sign of a desperate campaign. ... I seriously doubt George Allen is much of a reader, but if he would read more, maybe he would understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction."


Battlestar Galactica

I watched a little bit of the first season with Lee the other day. I don't think I can watch too much more of it...good stuff, but too dang painful. I just wondered, does this remind anybody else of the Phil K. Dick story, "The Second Variety"?

More Snow Day...?

The base was still closed until 10 a.m. and remains closed to non-Mission-Essential personnel. My boss is still trying to determine whether we're essential or not. You hate me now, don't you?

The utility co. reports about 15,000-20,000 customers in Colorado Springs were without power yesterday.





Coincedence. This arrived in my mailbox this morning:

Word of the day:...........'nevar' [neh-BAR]
English translation:.......to snow

Other meanings: 'poner blanca una cosa' - to whiten


Las nubes cubren el cielo y empieza a nevar.
The clouds cover the sky and it begins to snow.

(via Spanish Word-A-Day.)


Lee took pity on me and finished Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith this morning. I swear I read more books in a month than he does in an entire year...

Wintersmith is part of the Tiffany Aching JV series. Tiffany is a young witch, living on the Chalk Hills (nowhere near Lancre). The first book, Hat Full of Sky, shows Tiffany at age 9; Wee Free Men shows her at 11. She's 13 now...not a lucky number. She inadvertantly got herself mixed up with the Wintersmith, the spirit of winter, who thinks she's an avatar of the Lady of Summer that he can finally get his elemental hands on, well, once he figures out how to make hands.

The book is great up to the ending, which doesn't have the same power as Pratchett's best books (the end of Thud!* was awesome). It isn't a big failing, just not up to what I'd been hoping for. It's almost like he ran out of wordcount...not badly plotted, just...rushed.

The thing that gets to me, though, is that this series (as with Pratchett's other JV series) is a kind of anti-stupid instruction manual for kids. That is, anti-stupid up to the point where sometimes things flip around and you have to do something stupid, because that's what has to be done. In this book, Tiffany is watching the Other Morris Dance (the one that welcomes in the winter), when her feet get the best of her and drag her into the dance...after she's been told not to do it. Tiffany says she didn't mean it, but the other witches laugh at her for not taking responsibility for herself. The rest of the book is Tiffany learning how to take responsibility for what happens, even if "it isn't her fault" or "it isn't her job." And how to say no to unwanted advances, also a useful thing to know.

Entertainment for girls has changed from "support other people" to "take leadership; be powerful." Wintersmith's message is "be yourself, but take responsibility for yourself, too." Much more useful, I think.

* How Not to Be Stupid about War for Adults

Power Innage!

The power went out...nine-ish, came back on about...three-ish? We watched tree branches fall down at the house across the backyard. Crunch! I lay down in front of the fireplace for a nap, woke up with the sunshine in my face...woke up again when the fishtank started splashing...

A day off just isn't the same when your spouse can't play World of Warcraft. (Ray went outside and pelted us with snowballs.) One of our neighbors spend a while this morning knocking snow off his birdhouses and the lower branches of his trees...I think his wife chased him outside. On the plus side, Lee shoveled the sidewalk, and you know that wouldn't have happened without a remote-control robot otherwise.


New Jersey court recognizes right to same-sex unions

Fair's fair.

Holiday for interracial couples--"Loving Day" Interracial marriages were made legal across the U.S. in 1967. I remember arguing with a guy during college about it, though. He said it was wrong to have interracial kids, because they'd be treated like freaks. I got treated like a freak at times, growing up white next to a reservation. I got treated like a freak for being smart! What, were my parent supposed to break up and date stupid people to balance each other out? Was I supposed to grow up somewhere else, so I'd never get a taste of what it was like to be pushed around because of my race?

Kids that come from same-sex marriages will be treated badly. They already are. But, like the rest of us who have survived freakdom, they'll be all the more interesting for it.


If death holds no fear for the true Buddhist, why be vegetarian?

(Be vegetarian if you like: I often eat that way myself. It's lighter on resources, cheaper, healthier if managed well, and delicious. But eating vegetarian doesn't guarantee that you're not harming animals (encroached habitat, pesticides) or saving the environment (pollution caused by shipping, processing, packaging). Not eating meat is not equivalent to righteousness.)

Snow day! Snow day!

The base is closed! The base is closed!



Taking a Borders survey in exchange for a $10 gift card. How much do you spend on new books yearly? How am I supposed to figure that out?!? I ask Lee.

He says, "Just pick the highest amount."





Cold Medicine

Check your cabinets. The request to remove Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) went out in 2000, and I still found the stuff in my medicine cabinet. Kids cold medicine. Yeesh.


Think of the Day.

Why write? To entertain, to educate...vague things. For me, writing is about answering "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Why not just wit yourself to death?

Politically Correct

I liked it better when being politically correct meant you were polite to people you used to get to be rude to, rather than refraining from despising people who support torture.


Van Von Hunter

Sad to say, this is right on my level...

"You and your accomplice have been found guilty of the murder of the Evil Count Disdain."

"Murder? But he was already dead!"

"Technically, he was undead."

"Well, I just made him 're-dead.'"

Remember, remember...

The first of November.

NaNoWriMo is on the way!



Why do people have theme rooms? What do they mean?

Someone at work rose the idea that women have a favorite animal that is used for decor. For example, this guy's wife collects chickens. (Couldn't help giggling.) I don't have such an animal, but I'm usually off the norm on girly things, so I asked around. The people I talked to didn't have animals, either, but they brightened when the idea was broadened to "theme rooms." Lots of women decorate with foreign locations--either places they'd been, would like to go, or had some kind of genetic significance. I, myself, want to do the kitchen with a cross between Hispanic and Greek influences (pine and teal, pine and teal). I'm not sure whether it's a good idea yet...


Quick Updates

Friday: See below.
Saturday: Lee had to work OT. Ray's new bunkbed-futon-couch thingy arrived. The workmen set it all up in under an hour--definitely the way to go.
Sunday: Went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with Randy and Ray for a Ray birthdayish outing. Ray grinned from ear to ear practically the whole time. Checked out the new Tattered Cover nearby; ate good gyros.
Monday: ACK! People out at work, ended up getting home at 8 p.m. MUST BAKE CAKE to take to day care tomorrow...
Tuesday: Ray's 5th BIRTHDAY!


An Abbatoir

Randy was telling me about Dr. Henry Holmes (Herman Webster Mudgett) today, and I had to look him up. Reminds me of that Monty Python sketch...Masons!


Ponder Me THIS!

The Japanese have a festival just to watch cherry blossoms. So tell me...where the hell are the Japanese recipes for cherries?

Black Cat Books

Lee and I took the day off yesterday and messed around. We found a house with two sphinxes in front and a gigantic iron birdbath...we found a German deli with Happy Hippopotomus candy...we found Black Cat Books.

Black Cat Books is a hole-in-the-wall bookstore up in Manitou Springs. The part of the place that's upstairs holds kids books, a wine bar, and a couple of coffee pots (donations, please). Most of the books are downstairs.

There's not really any rhyme or reason to the books. A copy of Asimov's Foundation omnibus sat next to The Secret Life of Bees. Couches, overstuffed chairs, a dining-room table, and a window nook padded with pillows provided almost as many places to sit as there were racks of books. A den of books.

Next door--only to be accessed through the bookstore--is a metaphysical shop. Native American, Buddhist, and Christian influences sit side-by-side. I found a teal-and-pine spice rack decorated with turtles that I'd like at some point. A spiritual-healing room dedicated to the Archangel Michael. A painted meditation maze on the floor.

Altogether, an odd but enjoyable place. We picked up a used Agatha Christie paperback, Amy Tan's Saving Fish from Drowning, and Tom Robbins's Jitterbug Perfume. Very Manitou Springs.


Something I've wondered over the last year or so: do serial killers have a function? Or are they an unfortunate concentration of traits that add up to monstrosity? Or did serial killers once have a function, which they now no longer serve?

It's another way of restating free will vs. predestination, I guess. Because if people who become serial killers have or once had a function that somehow benefitted the species (or a group within the species) as a whole, then they are somehow predestined to do the things they do (as are we all).

What personality tests do is say, "This is who you are. This is what you should be doing with your life. This is your function."

But it's one thing to try to assign everyone a blanket purpose in their lives, and it's another to try to find a purpose for child molesters, rapists, murderers...


Life Path.

Where do the little piggly-wigglies of my soul lead me?

Your Life Path Number is 9

Your purpose in life is to make the world better.

You are very socially conscious and a total idealist.
You think there are many things wrong with the world, and you want to fix them.
You have a big idea of how to world could be, and you'll sacrifice almost anything to work towards this dream.

In love, you can easily see the beauty in someone else. And you never cling too tightly.

You are capable of great love, but it's hard for you to focus your love on one person or relationship.
You have a lot of outward focus, and you tend to blame the world for your failures.
You are often disappointed by the realities of life - it's hard for you to accept the shortcomings of the world.
Okay, this would be uplifting and all, but I looked up John Wayne Gacy, and he had life-path number nine as well.

(via BD)

Agatha Christie of the Day

I got another one! Nemesis is mine! Muahahahaha!


Slang of the Day.

Boy Howdy

Southern slang. An interjection. Often used as an expression of surprise for large quantities of something, or severity of something. See yessum."Boy howdy! Them pumpkins sure are big! How're we gonna carry 'em all, Ms. McGregor?"

"Boy Howdy" was the favorite expression of Lee Majors as Heath on "Big Valley."

(via Urban Dictionary.)


Oh, Deanna!

(First link not so safe for work; second link to the rest of the lyrics. Apparently, my namesake is part of a serial killer team.)

O Deanna!
Sweet Deanna!
You know you are my friend, yeah
And I ain't down here for your money
I ain't down here for your love
I ain't down here for your love or money
I'm down here for your soul

Cultural ???

I discovered that most of the people in my office have no idea who Arlo Guthrie is, and when I sang the chorus of Alice's Restaurant, looked blank.

I'm not a huge Arlo Guthrie fan or anything, but dang. Woodie Guthrie? Don't make me laugh...now is not the time to be singing This land is your land...


Legends of St. Nick

Can't use it in an article? Put it in your blog!

From Wikipedia:

Another legend tells how a terrible famine struck the island and a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, only to kill and slaughter them and put their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also managed to resurrect the three boys from the barrel. Another version of this story, possibly formed around the eleventh century, claims that they were instead three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The Saint saw through this and brought the men back to life. This alternate version is thought to be the origin of the English horror legend, Sweeney Todd.

More Jewish Trivia

Maccabee means "The Hammer."

Eight represents infinity because there were, traditionally, seven days of creation (of everything that exists, that is), and eight is beyond seven.


HOLOCAUST (Heb., sho'ah). The word "holocaust" is derived from the Greek holokauston, which originally meant a sacrifice totally burned by fire; it was used in the translation of I Samuel 7:9, "a burnt offering to God."

Road Trip

Anybody in the near vicinity interested in going to the of Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Sunday, October 15th, please let me know (except Randy, who already has, and suggested the trip in the first place). Ray's B-Day is on the 17th, as if we needed an excuse. No time has been set, so let me know if there are constraints.

On a further note, Ray and I picked up a junked-out telephone this weekend, and we've been working on taking it apart. The speaker is in what looks like a solid plastic housing--epoxy holding it together, I think. We may need to take it outside and bust the thing up with a rock, because there is no way we're not going to see what's in there. Any other suggestions?

I find myself wishing I were a different kind of nerd. Ray likes books, but she only likes books. She's much more interested in movies, for example. What she really loves to do is figure things out, and I just don't love doing that as much as, say, my brother Matt did when he was a kid. That's why we picked up the phone; I remember him taking apart a phone and laying it out in the attic space of an old shed when we were kids. I was making up stories; he was finding out what's in there. Not how it worked, per se, just what was there. So I'm struggling, because I just don't have the gut instincts for it.

As Ray gets older (and as she spends more time at the preschool), I find her exhibiting a tendency to whine and ask for help with things. "I can't do it; you do it for me." "I can't figure it out unless you give me directions." That kind of thing. When, really, she's the kind of person who has more fun figuring it out by herself. I think that either Lee and I or the school have managed to make her afraid of breaking things, and we need to encourage her to take more (considered) risks. Thus, the telephone. And, the museum. Thanks to Randy for the suggestion.

Agatha Christie

“I usually have about half a dozen (notebooks) on hand and I used to make notes in them of ideas that struck me, or about some poison or drug, or a clever little bit of swindling that I had read about in the paper” --Agatha Christie

Here's something interesting: In 1926, Archie Christie, Agatha's first husband, asked her for a divorce, as he was in love with someone else. She disappeared. For three weeks. "The missing mystery writer." I'm sure people were starting to think she'd been murdered. She was found at a small hotel and told the police that she was missing the memory of those last three weeks. There's a movie, Agatha (1979), about it.

The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes.

I don't think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness - to save oneself trouble.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

There is nothing more thrilling in this world, I think, than having a child that is yours, and yet is mysteriously a stranger.


For the Record...

I have just sent my story "Things You Don't Want" to its seventh adressee, which is, for me, a record. I'd give up, but it would be pointless. After a certain amount of time, I become twitchy if I'm not working on some kind of fiction. And this one was one of those stories that comes up on your like one of Cassandra's prophecies...nobody wants to hear it, but it's true, and it won't not be said. Nevertheless, not a happy, skippy day at the House of the D.

Changing Clothes

Maybe I've been missing out on the fashion world, but this was unusual. (NSFW)

What is pain, in the context of fashion?
What is fashion, in the context of world history?

Tall, elegant women parade around in gauzy clothing. Their faces are drawn and vicious-looking, as if they were outraged at what has been done to them--not the clothing, but something else. Some of them glide. Some of them, because of the weight of their shoes, clump. There's no happiness, no joy in what they do.

In the background, a rhythmic soundtrack throws in references to riots, wars, Hitler. A clock turns in the background.

Toward the end of the clip, the clothes begin to transform as the models stand in the spotlight. "This is how fashion has changed. This is how little fashion has changed."

Did the designer, Hussein Chayalan, celebrate fashion or denounce it? The end of the show features a woman in an illuminated hat and a few pieces of guaze. The guaze retreats into the hat, revealing--a nude woman. Perfect. Unappealing. As "naked" as a mannikin.

If clothing didn't exist, would we all be like that?


Bad Week.

Work has been bad this week; my normal effusive self am not I.


Rachael Update.

The bedtime ritual has now come to include a big, noisy tickle session just before she goes to sleep. It seems she needs to store up enough wiggles to make it through the night...


Well, That Explains It.

Stan posted a link to the Sesame Street Personality Test.

Playful and childlike, you are everyone's favorite friend - even if your goofy antics get annoying at times. You are usually feeling: Amused - you are very easily entertained. You are famous for: Always making people smile. From your silly songs to your wild pranks, you keep things fun. How you life your life: With ease. Life is only difficult when your friends won't play with you!

Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you loveable - even if you don't love them! You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you. You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil. How you life your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others.

I got Ernie. Lee got Bert.




Lee's brother Dale made it up to the Springs Friday night after a bit of on-again, off-again scheduling issues. We dragged him to the zoo on Saturday, had supper and cake for Lee's UnBirthday (since there was no cake on his actual birthday due to moving), and sent him off to Pierre, SD, to Mike's (Lee's other brother's) house.

A week from now (approximately), Dale's starting a job contracting for Lockheed Martin in the Marshall Islands. He'll be there for two years doing IT stuff. Two years, island in the Pacific. The military base supports the rest of the islands; the sanitation is so bad the government has to fly in drinkable water. Everyone showers in sea water. According to Dale, the native islanders have rampant problems with typhoid...there used to be lepers...

But I'm sure he'll be okay. It'll be nothing like Lost. Nothing at all.


A Vote for Your Republican Congressperson is a Vote for Torture!

The Senate passed Bush's torture bill. The House of Representatives will probably follow suit.

I went to a retirement ceremony today at work for a colonel. They played the National Anthem, prayed, thanked the guy for helping create the most feared military on the face of the planet today, and gave his wife an award for staying with him throughout the whole thing.

If he'd been captured by the Iraqis, would anybody want him treated the way our "detainees" are going to be treated?

If the world's "most feared military" can't play fair--why should anybody else?


Think of the Day.

I wonder whether there's a reason genetics seems to skip a generation. Like, for the longest time, the average life expectancy was 40 years or so. If a trait skipped one generation, then you'd be, statistically, sure to get necessary traits all the time, without doubling up. A shoemaker begets a poet, who begets a shoemaker, who begets a poet--that way, you always have a poet and a shoemaker available, without redundant shoemakers or poets.


Strange Bedfellows

Warning: Puns.

If Sondra Locke married Elliott Ness, then divorced him to marry Herman Munster, she'd become Sondra Locke Ness Monster.

If Shirley Jones married Tom Ewell, then Johnny Rotten, then Nathan Hale, she'd be Shirley Ewell Rotten Hale.

(via Grow-a-Brain.)

President Clinton Eats Fox News's Chris Wallace Alive, Spits Out The Bones

Warning: Cusswords.

I'd never heard of Uncyclopedia before. Pity.

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on "Fox News Sunday," I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. We all agreed that you are a dirty scumbag, but let's be reasonable about this. Most of the veiwers wanted me to ask you: Did you have sexual relations with Osama bin Laden, and if so, why didn't you do more to put him out of business? Also, what sexual positions was Osama fond of?

"We're thinking of inviting him onto the O'Reilly Factor, just to see what would happen," commented the stage director. "O'Reilly would be much more popular if he were eaten by a Democrat."


Word of the Day.

Home with Ray, who's down with a sinus infection. She took two naps yesterday. Dude.

Anyway, the word of the day:

prelapsarian (pree-lap-SAYR-ee-uhn) adjective

Relating to any innocent or carefree period in the past.

[From Latin pre- (before) + lapsus (fall). The term refers to the period
in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve lost their innocence.]

(via A.W.A.D.)

Brian Jaques in Colorado Springs

Brian Jaques (rhymes with rakes) signed copies of Voyage of Slaves at the south Borders in Colorado Springs yesterday, and I happened to be there.

First of all, let me give the disclaimer: I haven't read any of his books. I picked up Redwall yesterday and read a few chapters, but I haven't made any judgments on it yet.

I wandered into the Borders, intending to find a chai and a chair and do some drafting. Hm...lots of people wandering around...someone said something about Jakes doing a reading today, so I blew it off. Lots of kids sitting on the floor over by the cafe, bit noisy...I wandered off to look for books, because I was going to have to find somewhere else to work, but a pleasant hour spent wandering around looking at books really hasn't been wasted.

The MC starts talking, and tries to explain how Mr. Jakes has changed his life (in a watered-down kind of way, saying that he was well down the path of making some "bad choices" when one of his teachers handed him Redwall. I got a glimpse of the writer and wandered over: he looked interesting. Shortish, round, bald, deep creases (you can't call them wrinkles if there's muscle behind them). Then he started talking.

What language is that? I wondered. After ten seconds or so, my brain started to sort it out. English...that's English. Then he started making jokes about how he likes to come over to America, because he ends up with a different name. Mr. Ja-quez. Or, if he's around Spanish-speaking people, Senior Ha-quayz. Oh, I think, it's Brian Jaques. Not Zhaks, but Jakes. And the accent isn't British--I can grasp TV British on first go, thank you very much--so much as it's from Liverpool.

He's supposed to be reading from his book Voyage of Slaves, but he never gets around to it. "Rather be a stand-up comic," he says. He does a good job of it, performing for the kids.

"When I am in America, someone always asks me, 'Mr. Ja-quez, when did you decide to be an author?' (Imagine the question in Pepperpot.)

"Well, it doesn't work like that. There wasn't a morning when I woke up--Bing!--and said, [Effete swashbuckler voice] 'Ho-ho! To-day, I shall be...an au-thah!'

"But I was always good at words. Good at words and terrible at maths."

He tells a story about the schools in Liverpool, how they had playgrounds on the rooftops and how they'd lose a couple of first-years to despair, and how he sat next to a boy with thick glasses (he uses his own as a prop) who was good at maths, and how he got caught by his teacher because the boy wrote, "I don't know the answer" to question 8, and Brian Jaques wrote, "And I don't, either." So kids, don't cheat. Why? Because you'll get caught!

He talked about spooky stories, and how, for him, they all go back to one verse of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I forget what the verse was, but it was something about being afraid to look back over your shoulder, because a specter walked close behind. He used to be a bobby (and explained that that meant policeman) who would patrol the docks, long, windowless, misty streets...it always sounded like footsteps were following him, because of the hoist chains knocking against the sides of the warehouses.

He explained that any book (especially his own) about pirates must be referred to like this: with one eye closed, one side of your mouth pulled back in a sneer, and...."Yaaaarrr!"

I can't remember everything he said, but you could tell he loved to entertain kids. The kind of grandfatherly type that would have the parents saying, "Oh, Dad. Do you really think you should tell the one about the..."

Very fun. I didn't get the book signed--hours of standing in line? No, thank you. But he's quite the character...