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.