How to Dance Properly

Because you need to know.

(via zefrank.)

Book Reviews.

Quickies again. I read more than this since the last time, but the hell if I can remember what they were.

The Keys to the Golden Firebird, by Maureen Johnson. Non-genre teen stuff is normally NOT MY THING. I mean, really NOT MY THING. I must now reconsider. I was too involved with this book to be jealous, even. I laughed, I cried, I'll read more of her stuff. Author's blog now listed under "mojo."

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine; read by Eden Riegel. Audiobook. The way people adapt books to movies always interests me. Good job here, both on the book and the movie, in my opinion (the book is better). Again, will be reading more.

I started re-reading Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures, forgot where I put the book down, and picked up The Fifth Elephant instead. While Terry Pratchett is always Terry Pratchett, there's a world of difference between these two books. In between MP (1990) and TFE (1999), something clicked: characters become engaging rather than purely funny; subplots fling back and forth and end up exactly where they should be (like the kind of folk dance he's always making fun of); the story has a meaning of its own that stands apart from satire. Hm...looking at his bibliography, I'd say the magic happened with the book right after MP, Reaper Man (1991). Hm...

Graphic Novels Are Books Too.

Promethea - Book 5, by Alan Moore et al. I read the rest of this series as the issues came out. It started out great! However, the plot devolved into enlightenment, and I left the series feeling saddened. But that's the way of it. If humanity craved enlightenment over plots, we'd all live in monastaries. Nevertheless, one of those things that needed to be done: a reminder to take a break from all the drama, step back for a moment, and realize life's not as serious as it looks. I think one way of talking about enlightenment is to say that life breaks the fourth wall. As does this series.

Batman: Detective No. 27, by Michael Uslan and Peter Snejbjerg (yes, I checked the spelling). On the one hand, great plot twist. On the other hand, this is supposed to be a mystery, dammit, and in mysteries, you have to play fair. (Life has no such requirements, so the revelation is at least plausible.) Decently done, if you don't like the mystery part of the whole detective thing. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Bigg Time: A Farcical Fable of Fleeting Fame, by Ty Templeton. This book must have had a really great pitch. A homeless guy, high on glue and shocked silly by the third rail in the NYC subway, suddenly sees his guardian angel, who hates him and has been screwing him over for most of his life. But...I hated the character. Granted, I wasn't supposed to like him, but...geh. Plot ending pretty predictable. Pretty fond of the art.

Lovecraft, by Hans Rodionoff, Enrique Breccia, and Keith Griffen. Magnificently ugly, twisted, and quintessentially human. I loved it. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Don't be anti,

Be pro. Warning: Sexy food. The vegetarian commercial Fox didn't want you to see!

Hm...my sister is a vegetarian.

(via Lee)


Collectively Speaking...

It's a(n):

Outback of Aussies
Shrewdness of Apes
Congress of Baboons
Convulsion of Belly Dancers
Bellowing of Bullfinches
Clowder of Cats
Gulp of Cormorants
Quicksand of Credit Cards
Rash of Dermatologists
Mob of Emu
Hoard of Gerbils
Implausibility of Gnu
Skein of Geese
Wealth of Information
Husk of Jackrabbit
Neverthriving of Jugglers
Puddling of Mallards
Set of Mathematicians
Buffoonery of Orangutans
Pandamonium of Parrots
Rhumba of Rattlesnakes
Harem of Seals
Hurtle of Sheep
Blessing of Unicorns

You know you're a technical writer when...

...you type 'Wild Ass Guess' and automatically correct it to 'Wild Ass Guess (WAG)'.


The Dame...

...is done! 10th and final script sent off.

I feel about like this.

Well, not really, but who needs an excuse? "Hey, my little robot guy's head got blown off...is that bad?"

(via Randy)



Ray's in the shower, playing a recorder (I keep hoping it'll help drown her out). I wonder if all parents of children who are just starting to play musical instruments have to treat their kids like burn victims.

Don't worry, honey. It'll get better.

This is what happens...

...when our secretary runs out of gummi bears.
Where have all the gummi bears gone, and where is all the gum?
Who ate all my jelly beans (except the licorice ones)?
Weren't there some skittles on top of the TV?
Late at night, everything's closed, and I'm craving something sweet...

I need a sugar rush!
Please note I do like black jelly beans.


Women and Guns.

To me, guns are not appealing. They're loud. I can conceive of them going awry much more easily than I can of them doing what they're supposed to. They smell weird. No, in my writerly imagination, people are more often poisoned than they are shot -- it's so easy to carry on everyday behavior in a story if it's murder by poison, easier to hide the murderer and lay down false trails.

But sometimes only a gun will do. What would a female character carry on her? Possibly a 9mm, unless she were about 5' 11" and good arm strength.

"Oh, I Just Couldn't Use a Gun: Pondering Your Means of Self-Protection"
Women & Guns magazine.
Excerpts from Women's First Handgun Purchase
"Pistol Packin' Mama" from Style magazine
"Gun Makers Focus on What Women Want"

Pet Shop Boys

The problem with the Pet Shop Boys is that the lead singer always reminds me of Eric Idle.
Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

Sometimes you're better off dead
There's gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head
You think you're mad, too unstable
Kicking in chairs and knocking down tables
In a restaurant in a West End town
Call the police, there's a madman around
Running down underground to a dive bar
In a West End town
See? For a second you thought they were the same song, didn't you?

Passover Coke.

Coca-Cola makes non-high-fructose-corn-syrup Coke during the Passover season -- it's the kind with yellow caps.


Don't eat the Jello!

Not only do the cops have to watch out for copycat killers, but the editors have to watch out for copycat writers, I bet:
Prosecutors said tests on their bodies showed they were poisoned with ethylene glycol, a sweet but odorless chemical in antifreeze. During Turner's 2004 trial they suggested it could have been placed in foods such as Jell-O.
Dude. That says murder mystery to me right there. Lutheran church potluck...figure out how to poison only one portion of a communal jello dish. Hee!


I Would Like to Dedicate This Song...

...to my brothers.

White and Nerdy, by Weird Al Yankovic (dance moves by Donnie Osmond).

(via Kate.)


Word of the Day

pogonotrophy (po-guh-NAW-truh-fee) noun

The growing of a beard.

[From Greek pogon (beard) + -trophy (nourishment, growth).]

Pogonology is the study of beards and pogonotomy is a fancy word for shaving.

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)


Plot Twists and Transformations.

Okay...I'm writing this out to see whether it makes sense. Spoilers for the Sixth Sense and Pan's Labyrinth.

In a mystery, there are two plots. The first plot is the one the reader sees. The detective hunts the murderer among a number of suspects, eventually discovering the criminal and ensuring he or she comes to justice. The second plot is the one the reader doesn't see, but guesses at -- why did the murderer do it? What does the murderer do to cover up the act -- more murders, concealing or destroying clues, etc. The second plot pokes up from time to time in the form of clues, but it isn't fully revealed until the end of the story.

In a story with a plot twist, again, two plots. Think Sixth Sense: a psychologist tries to help a little kid who thinks he's seeing ghosts. In and of itself -- and this is important -- the story sells itself. The underlying plot is that the psychologist himself is a ghost, but it isn't obvious. Again, the second plot pokes up from time to time, but isn't fully revealed until the end of the story.

Now, let's posit a third type of story.* Any fantasy story in which a person goes from one view of reality into a second is this type of story, but The Prestige fits in this category, too. The essence of this story is that you think you're getting story A, following story-A-type rules, but really, you're getting story B. Pan's Labyrinth. If you walked into the theater knowing nothing about the story, you'd think you were going to watch a movie about the Spanish resistance, a girl, and her mother. But you'd have hints...the girl likes fantasy stories. There's a fantasy-type narrator. The bug. The stone statue.

However. Until you get to the transformation of the bug, this is not a fantasy movie (except it is). First plot, resistance; second plot, fantasy. Several clues or hints poke through the first plot, but the first plot, on its own, is interesting, and follows the rules of that world. In fact, there's only one point in the entire movie (I think?) where the rules of the first plot are broken at all, when the girl escapes her room via a chalked-in door. Throughout the movie, both the first plot and the second retain their integrity and interest. Here's another important element: in order to resolve the situation in the first plot, the situation in the second plot must also be resolved -- the stakes for both plots are tied together. And, at the end, the second plot is reconnected to the first plot, almost as a plot twist. I'm thinking of this as a "transformative" plot.

I'm working on a mystery script right now, beating my head on the wall, really. Here's the plot. A guy gets salmonella poisoning, ends up in the hospital somewhat delusional, and thinks he sees a vampire suck his roommate's blood. The roommate is dead, but unmarked, in the morning.

First problem. The first plot, the salmonella poisoning, is missing any kind of hook to it; it doesn't stand on its own as a mystery plot. The second plot, the supposed vampire, isn't necessary to be resolved in order to fix the first plot: there's no stakes** in it for the salmonella victim to solve it.

So. The first plot: A guy goes to a romantic restaurant to propose to his girlfriend, only to discover the wedding ring is missing and he has what seems to be food poisoning. Was it the cook, an ex-boyfriend? Was his girlfriend cheating on him? Or was it the girl's brother, who thinks the only guy good enough for his baby sister is...him?

Not a great plot, but I don't have time to write the Great American Novel.

The second plot is going to stay pretty much the same. But the guy hears the victim say, "I hid it in the butter, babe," or something similar that night during the attack. And in the morning, the guy is going to discover the victim is actually the cook. Or the brother. I haven't decided which. So now the guy has to find out a) whether he was poisoned or really did just get food poisoning, b) whether his girlfriend is mixed up in this, and c) just what the hell is going on, anyway.

I still may not be able to pull this off, but at least I don't feel like I'm wasting time.

*There's a fourth, too, that fits the pattern of Alice in Wonderland, in which the switch between plots happens almost immediately. It seems that the first plot doesn't need to be all that interesting, but then, you only spend a couple of pages with the first plot.



Two new games.

Ray and I invented a game today on the way to Jackie's housewarming party. It's "how would character X say, 'I am Mojo Jojo'?"

For example, Bubbles would say, "Hi! My name is Mojo Jojo!!! Do you want to play???"
And Buttercup would say, "Hey! I'm Mojo Jojo. You got a problem with that?"

But some characters will not, under any circumstances, admit to being Mojo Jojo.

Shrek would say, "Shyaa. I'm not Mojo Jojo."
While Cinderalla would say, "Oh [giggle], I'm not Mojo Jojo. I'm just plain old Cinderella."

Dave's Yoda: "Mojo Jojo I am." And he switched the game around so Mojo Jojo played the role of Vader. I forget how he did it, mostly because I was laughing so hard.

The other game is to take any common quote or phrase and replace some of the words with peep.*
  • May the peep be with you.
  • Do you feel lucky today, peep? Huh? Do ya peep?
  • Ours is not to question why, ours is but to peep and die.
Again, I can't remember the hundredth part of those silly things. But it's a great game. The party was great, one of those things you can't really relate but through silly grins.

*There is also peep-jousting, which is sticking toothpicks in two peeps, putting them on a paper plate, and then microwaving them. The peeps expand until one of the peeps pokes the other and deflates it. We didn't get that far, though.

Zippy the Pinhead.

Read one Zippy the Pinhead strip. Eh. Read two. Heh. Read ten. Hee!


Writing Ramble: The Bare Minimum

There's a bare minimum of what a story needs to accomplish: it has to allow the audience to suspend disbelief. A story doesn't even have to be entertaining to accomplish this. Entertaining is good, thought-provoking is good, original is good...but first, the story has to let you believe in it before it can do anything else.

How you do you make a story believeable?
  1. Stuff happens. The stuff may or may not be caused by characters in the story.

  2. When stuff happens, people react to it. It isn't the events. It's the "and then what" that's important. If it were the stuff that was important, stories would be, "Once upon a time, there was an earthquake," and then they would end there. People like stories about people, not stuff.

  3. More stuff will happen later on. When it does, make sure people are expecting it--at least subconsciously. You know, the idead of "don't put the gun on the wall unless you're going to fire it later" should be rephrased to "if you're going to fire a gun, first show it on the wall."

  4. There's the stuff, and then there's what the stuff means. While you can't screw up the stuff, what the stuff means is more important than the stuff. This is just like life, when two people are fighting about who does the dishes. You can't screw up on who does the dishes, but how you treat each other is more important than who does the damn dishes on a particular day.

  5. What the stuff means needs to follow the same rules as the stuff: first, meaning happens; second, people react to what stuff means; third, new stuff will mean something too, and you have to set that up. Again this is just like life. People don't get divorced just out of the blue; they either fight or don't fight about it first. Maybe even about the dishes.

  6. There's stuff, there's what the stuff means, and then there's what the story means. While you can't screw up the stuff, and you can't screw up the meaning, you really can't screw up what the story means, or people will feel cheated when you get to the end and throw your book across the room. Only really skilled writers can make you throw a good book across the room, and if you're reading this, you're probably not that kind of writer.

    Say your story is about how a couple gets divorced and how they come to grips with that. Right there, you've screwed up your story. That's not a story! That's life. Now, say your story is about how a couple gets divorced and starts a restaurant together and hires a kid who actually likes to wash dishes and the ex-wife has an affair with him but so does the ex-husband and eventually the kid runs away to get married to a woman who refuses to do any kind of housework whatsoever, and the exes decide they'll use paper plates from now on and get back together in memory of this kid. Now, that's a silly story, but it's a story, because it's about finding out what makes you happy, and how to make a win-win situation. It means something.

    There are two ways to screw up the meaning of a story. One, don't have one. Two, include stuff and meanings of stuff that have nothing to do with the meaning of the story. Oh, you can vary it: show what happens when people try to act against that meaning or when they do it only half-assed. But the meaning of your story is your story. If your meaning is "love conquers all" then don' t make the ending depend on robots (unless the robots mean love).

    Note: The person telling the story goes with this, too. If the voice of that person doesn't fit in with the story, that's bad. Don't have Kafka tell a love story unless you want a Kafkaesque love story.
Great. Now how the hell do you do that? It's simple (but not easy). Strip the story of all its words and just leave behind the story. Write down what happens, scene by scene. Don't use more than one or two sentences per scene. Or draw pictures. Whatever.

Then write down what each scene means: this brings the lovers closer together, this drives the lovers further apart, this sets things up for a big fight later. Again, maybe a sentence or two. Maybe just one word.

Third, write down what the story means--one or two sentences. (I don't advise doing this first, because as soon as you write it down, you'll want to go through your story and "fix" everything without really knowing whether it's broken or not.) Go through the rest of your notes and find out whether or not they go with that meaning. If not, ditch 'em and put in something that does. Don't change your meaning, unless you're just plain wrong.

Only after you fix the ideas behind your scenes should you come back down and edit words. Words? Words are just the way you tell a story. Just like you use words to deceive your readers, your words can easily deceive you. You may think everything's fine, because you like your words. But no. If your stuff, your meaning, and your story meaning aren't in place, you haven't done the bare minimum of writing a story, even if your words are brave and smart and funny.

Think of the cheesiest, most cliche'd story you know. Soap operas. Their stories are about how life is full of continuing drama. The person who swore eternal love for you is really sleeping with your best friend, who is really your mother, who tried to kill you as a child... Soap operas mean something: Life goes on. And everything that happens in a soap opera illustrates that point. Even though there are sometimes plot holes, the writers still come up with (outlandish) explanations for them, because if they didn't, they'd lose their audience. It was really her twin sister, the gun wasn't loaded, she really wasn't allergic to peanuts. And that's okay, because life goes on. (The meaning of a soap opera has to be very flexible.) Soap operas are not the fine dining of stories. But you can't deny that people like them--they are good at being stories. People forget what they're doing and care about what happens.

And, really, that's enough. The rest is gravy.


Mojo Nixon.

Another one of those "everybody knows who X is" moments when nobody knows what you're talking about. Sheesh.

Mojo Nixon tells it like it is, baby.

And the lyrics.


Survival of the Fittest.

For Guinea pigs, being as inconvenient to eat as possible is a viable survival strategy. This is why our peeg will immediately climb under the nearest piece of furniture available -- not because he hates Lee.


Tech Editor!

You know you're a tech editor when you say, "Oh, it's normal. That's why it's so screwed up.*"

*MS style format.


So the murder's name is Dave, who will be, in this story, the smiling boss's boss. I've just started typing the first scene when this techno song comes on, and the sample chants, "I don't think this is a good idea, Dave."

And, "I'm really much better now."


On average, I have one hiccup per day, which occurs in mid-afternoon. I know this, because the woman who sits next to me says, "Pass me the alcohol" every time I do it.



Ah, beautiful day. We should go out for a walk. Ray? Wanna go out for a walk? Yes! Let's go! Out the door and down the block, and then I notice she's got this huge hole in her pants. That she cut in her pants. With the scissors she supposedly couldn't find. March march march back to the house. I threw the scissors away and told her it would be a long time before she could have any more. The impulse control when it comes to scissors seems to be non-existant.

Ray's in trouble. How come I have to be in trouble, too? Waaah, I wanted to take a walk with Ray! I've been looking forward to this all winter, all sunshiny and stuff. Waaah!

It's alll in the details.

This is definitely a ramble...

As usual, I have an ongoing project to try to improve my writing. More or less currently, I'm reading the Write Great Fiction series:
  • Plot & Structure: (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers From Start to finish), by James Scott Bell
  • Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint : (Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints), by Nancy Kress
  • Description & Setting: Techniques and exercises for crafting a believable world of people, places, and events, by Ron Rozell
There's another one, Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue, by Gloria Kempton. Haven't read that one yet.

The first two books are good, no quibbles there. The Plot & Structure book was a revelation in many ways. Useful stuff, and fills in the gaps of my oh-so-wonderful creative writing education during the "workshop" writing phase/fad.*

Anyway, I hate descriptions. Blah, blah, blah. And I love dialogue. Snap! As might be guessed (disregarding plot and character for the moment), dialogue is one of my strong points, and description one of my weak ones. So I'm working through Description & Setting, yes, yes, I see your point here, etc., when I come across one too many examples of "great" description:
No use of a growl, a whoop, a roar, in the presence of that beast! Vast, red-golden, huge tail coiled, limbs sprawled over his treasure-hoard, eyes not fiery but cold as the memory of family deaths. Vanishing away across invisible floors, there were things of gold, gems, jewels, silver vessels the color of blood in the undulant, dragon-red light...
This is James Gardner in Grendel. Great writer. I love the book. But this is one of the sections that I skimmed through. I have a remarkable reading speed when it comes to books with lots of this type of description: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! The paragraph above goes on for another ten or fifteen lines. More stuff about dragons. I GET THE POINT!!!

So, with annoyance, I dropped the book over the side of the bathtub, to continue another day. Instead, I picked up Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones:
In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league books and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
Now, was that showing or telling? I bet her college-level writer's workshop had a hissy fit over the beginning of the book. You don't get a solid paragraph of description until page 3, with the castle itself:
So when, a few months after that, a tall black castle suddenly appeared on the hills above Market Chipping, blowing clouds of black smoke from its four tall, thin turrets, everybody was fairly sure that the Witch had moved out of the Waste again and was about the terrorize the country the way she used to fifty years ago. People got very scared indeed. Nobody went out alone, particularly at night. What made it all the scarier was that the castle did not stay in the same place. Sometimes it was a tall black smudge on the moors to the northwest...
That's right. Howl's fantastic, incredible, wonderful castle is...tall and black. In case we miss it the first time, she repeats it. Tall. And black. Oh, yes, and the castle moves. But I didn't skip any of the description, because it was interesting. DWJ breaks the fundamental rool of writing skool: she breaks it just like almost everybody does until the invention of the modern novel.

You don't show a story. You tell it. This excessive description stuff is a fad, I tell you, a fad!

*Workshops are the Tyrannasaurus Rex of education. Big, powerful legs and jaws (editing and critiquing) and puny arms (fundamentals of writing). A workshop-based creative writing class is preparing a roomful of critics, no matter how many awkward stories "that really happened, sorta" they produced.

I am OZ the Great and TERRIBLE!

Something important to keep in mind as a parent (or any other kind of authority figger): nobody trusts the Wizard of Oz until after he admits he's a humbug.


Chocolate Review.

Hachez Cocoa d'Arriba, Strawberry & Pepper, 77% cocoa, "Suprerior Mild Dark Chocolate."

The other chocolate I had with pepper in it, I forget which brand, was somewhat of a joke. There were little bits of lemon rock candy in it, fer gosh sake, and I never did run across anything remotely peppery.

On the other hand, this stuff is good. Maybe not the 100-year-old red wine your great-grandfather kindly put away for you in the dungeon next to the dead bodies, but good. Strawberries, pepper, and dark chocolate. Who knew? Not quite up to the level of the Maya Gold, but pretty darn close. It probably actually is a little bit better, objectively speaking, but my tastes are prejudiced toward oranges and hints of creaminess.

Note: This is not gonna be everybody's thing. Don't eat this if you're looking for candy.


BLTs with guacamole. Now, doesn't that sound yummy?


The weather we didn't have today.

Here's the weather we didn't have today:
  • overcast (cast over, like a bucket of cold water onto a cat)
  • a hand raised to the face, to shade the eyes from the wind
  • a deep ache in the ears (this is a part of the weather)
  • walking V8 a-kilter from leaning into the wind
Instead, a patchy sky with cotton candy tufts of rain in the distance,
suitable for rainbows.

Quote of the Day.

"We're hourly until we reach eight hours. After that, we're salaried."

--At work.

Government hallway.


Authorized Personnel Only


There's a guy at work who drives a red-gold sports car, a two-seater, low to the ground, with brutal, yet sensually rounded (voluptuous) edges. I want to say it looked like a Mayan seductress. The sun-blinds in the window read, "Rocket Science is SEXY!"


Observation of the Day.

White stretch limousine on a flatbed truck, the rear end dangling almost to the road surface. Thought of a daschund being carried by a three-year-old.


Short mystery scripts on a tight deadline.

I'm working on a kickass project, but it's draining, much the way opening up a wrist and attaching it to a pump is draining. The guidelines are to write ten 20-minute radio-style mystery scripts with 6-9 characters. One per week.

Here's what I've learned so far:

First, write down a one- or two-sentence description of your story--the mystery rather than the solution--as if you were writing the hook for a book-of-the-month club. Come up with a catchy title.

Then write down the names of the characters, drawing lines between the characters indicating their relationships. Each character has to have connections to at least two other characters. Come up with 6-9 characters. You don't have to use them all, but stretching the number of characters will help you stretch the possible relationships.

Decide what the solution to the mystery is. Because the characters are so intertwined, it should be easy to drum up a few red herrings.

Write a 1- to 2-sentence description of each character. Focus on relationships and conflicts, but include at least one trait: gentle, boisterous, mutters.

Give yourself 10 scenes. The first three scenes are the beginning; the situation must become much more serious by the end of the third scene. The next six scenes are the middle; the characters try to find out what's going on (or try to prevent each other from finding out). The last scene is the resolution. You will often find there are two mysteries. The first mystery is the who-dunnit, that is, who killed the victim, who stole the jewels, etc.

The second mystery is one that matters, and it's usually the reason behind the first. X killed Y because Y stole his fiancee fifty years ago. But why now? Because Y's wife, the former fiancee of X, told X that Y has been beating her for years. Both mysteries must be addressed in the last scene. The solution to the first mystery must be known to at least some of the characters: the truth brought to light, or hidden by choice. The solution to the second mystery should, if possible, retain a sense of mystery. What made X kill Y? Revenge? Love of the finacee? A sense of justice?

Then start over...

I'm going to write these down, because I need the motivation to keep going, and nothing motivates a writer like bragging. Titles so far:


Working on MEMORIAL DAY.

Up soon:



Chocolate Review.

My favorite chocolate right now is Green & Black's Organic Maya Gold: Bittersweet Chocolate with Orange and Spices. Creamy without being molten. The bittersweetness that lingers on the first kiss before the love affair goes south. The solidity: not too airy, not too chalky, not too smoky, not too earthy...mmmm.


Alice in Wonderland dinnerware.


Some guy at work was telling me about some of the differences in Japanese business culture. How you never really knew whether someone liked you or not. How people were so polite...but quick to stab you in the back. How you had to be paranoid about saying something the might possibly maybe be considered even slightly indicative of making your team look bad. How criticism had to be almost invisible.

Hey, I said. That's like working in a big group of women.

While I work with women now, it's nothing like it was at Wells Fargo, where it was mostly women. Yah, I like mixed groups best. Less backstabbing and fewer fart jokes.

Tortellini Soup

If you happen to have homeade chicken broth, so much the better. I didn't have any croutons, though, and they would have been yummy.

1 qt. chicken broth
2-3 c. dried cheese tortellini (woo hoo!)
1 10-oz. can of diced tomatoes (good ones)
1/2 bunch spinach, chopped
1 10-oz. can of white kidney (cannawhatsit) beans
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed or smashed through a garlic press
parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Bring the chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, and kidney beans to a low boil, adding salt, if necessary. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook until the noodles are floating and cooked through. Turn off the heat and adjust the salt to taste. Stir in the garlic and ladle into bowls. Grate parmesan and pepper over the top.


Quote of the Day

There are many kinds of monkeys, but they all smell the same. Bad.


(From the character commentaries on the PPG Movie.)

(Ray's going through the extra features, runs across the Bubbles commentary, yadda yadda yadda: "She talks a lot!" Lee and I crack up.)

Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Went to Pan's Labyrinth last night. What other people have been saying is true: this is an adults-only movie. That being said, I would disagree this is a fantasy; I see it being more of a horror movie. Remember Vincent Price? Those were horror movies. Pan's Labyrinth is a horror movie. The stuff we call horror movies now are mostly terror movies.

I had same the reaction I had after Schindler's List. This was a great movie...but not one I necessarily want to see again.


Red Fish, Blue Fish

Old Fish, New Fish.

Lee got a new fish today, a black goldfish with a tail like a kite and disgustingly bulging eyes. He let me name it Alucard.

Update: Lee says it's a black moor.

Book Reviews.

More book reviews...

The Grand Tour, Patricia C. Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer. Not as good as The Enchanted Chocolate Pot. For some reason, the authors chose to have the characters travel together and write diaries instead of travelling apart and writing letters...so, there's a lot of "my version of events" "your version of events." And the action occurs behind the scenes, too, so...not as good. Good characters, above-average writing...

Eight Days of Luke, by Diana Wynne Jones. A so-so Diana Wynne Jones book is better than an excellent book by pretty much anybody else. Loki is accidentally freed from prison by a kid...reminds me of a kid's version of Roger Zelazny. As always, Jones shines at cutting through the crap.

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov. Every few years I try to reread Asimov. I want to read about what he's writing, but his writing style puts my hackles up. I was finally able to finish this without wanting to strangle him: I attribute this to working for the government. (My ability to restrain myself from strangling someone has been greatly increased). Writing typical of the era. Characters typical of the era. Dialogue and pacing typ--you get the point. But the ideas!

In other reading...trying to catch up on Cardcaptor Sakura and Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicle. The library had a copy of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles MacKay, but everything not directly related to economics was removed! Aaaagh!



Tim Burton directs...Vincent Price narrates. Short film from 1982.