On the Road.

False alarm: the car's okay, except for a bad O2 something-or-other sensor. I'll be out of town from noonish today to afternoon May 1. I may or may not have access until I get back.



Okay, fate. Last week, you jammed the clip that holds the door to the gas cap. I gave in and took the car to the shop, so I wouldn't be on the road to Santa Fe and unable to pry it open.

Today, the day before I want to leave...you turn the engine light on.

What's going on here? Did I do something to piss you off? Do I have bad karma? Huh?



Yesterday, Lee and I went on an expotition (Roo-style) to Sears. I told Lee I'd buy him a circular saw, and he wanted a Craftsman. Okay...

We get there, amble down past the women's clothes to the tools. Hm. Tools. But further on, I could see...yard pavilions. And grills. And...

Suffice it to say, I now no longer laugh at Lee when he talks about going to Sears and his eyes light up.

I spent a good part of yesterday going over the back yard with a soil rake, trying to pull some of the gravel out of where I'm putting the garden. Recklessly, I moved some flowers out of the way*, including a monster clump of irises and the cutest little grape hyacinths. Not that they had flowers anymore; Ray had been through the backyard already, after all. "It's death or banishment," I said. "Out-of-season transportation! You'll never survive! Muahahahaha!" But I wasn't about to leave them where I may very well plant the basil. Irises. Bah!

I got on a roll and did the rest of the yard. I found a tiny rhubarb plant and three metal posts that had been broken off at ground level. I'm not sure how I'm going to break up the garden soil...I'm afraid to rent a tiller, now.

While I was doing this, Lee, who is hereby awarded Spouse of the Month award, put the new grill together while sick. Afterwards, he conked out.

Ray and I took off to go shopping...and I realized I had no idea whether there was some specific kind of gas canister I needed. By that time, I was done dealing with other people, so I just went home and cooked the brats on the stovetop. New gril + too tired = no grilling. Sigh. But today we're going to do chicken. I think I'm going to brine it first.

Yesterday, I was planning to go to Home Depot and use some gift-card goodage to buy a wheelbarrow. We could put all that extra gravel into the defunct swimming pool, or I could cart it into the front yard and put it under the trees where the needles kill all the grass anyway: my plan is to change the front yard into a moutain, with trees, rocks, flowers, and maybe a path and a pond. We live in Colorado, dammit, and if you can't xeriscape your yard to look like a mountain here, where can you do it?

Anyway, that was the plan yesterday. Today, I'm planning to take some ibuprofen and nurse my blister instead.

*Note to self: have found activity for which Crocs are truly inappropriate, i.e., jumping on shovels.



This Sunday's Sinfest.

Two words...


1. burdensome, oppressive, or troublesome; causing hardship: onerous duties.
2. having or involving obligations or responsibilities, esp. legal ones, that outweigh the advantages: an onerous agreement.

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME <>onerōsus, equiv. to oner- (s. of onus) burden + -ōsus -ous]

–adjective, -ner·i·er, -ner·i·est. Dialect

1. ugly and unpleasant in disposition or temper: No one can get along with my ornery cousin.
2. stubborn: I can't do a thing with that ornery mule.
3. low or vile.
4.inferior or common; ordinary. [Origin: 1790–1800; contr. of ordinary]

Damn. They aren't related.


After dropping off the car to have the little door that covers the gas cap fixed (even jamming the switch to "release" didn't do any good this time; I think the latch is broken, rather than the spring just bent out of place), I went shoe shopping. I don't do this very often. 2007 marks a record year: I have now purchased three pairs of shoes in one year. Two pairs of shoes in one day, in fact.

But the significance of the event doesn't stop there. I bought a pair of shoes that were both girly and comfortable. Not just "You know, after I break these in, I might be able to walk around in them all day, if I spend most of my time sitting down," comfortable, but "Damn! I could do everything from go hiking to dance in these suckers, in a foreign country if I had to!"

I also got a pair of Dr. Scholl's that look like my existing-but-slightly-exploded Sketchers, but I don't feel any need to link to them. They feel heavenly, though, like nursing shoes that look cool.

All three pair are, of course, black. I haven't totally lost my senses.


Yesterday was a day to mark on my personal calendar: someone asked me what I'd published, listened to the very small list (in which I included stuff that has been paid for but not published), and was actually impressed. I blushed, I stammered, I almost peed my pants. But judge for yourself.

Anyway it was this mom and her daughter. The mother was about forty, if that. She wore a head scarf (but not the Amish/Mennonite thing, just a denim-blue headscarf), a blue calico shirt, and a blue calico dress. The calicos did not match. She was round--not fat, but round.

Her daughter was blonde, skinny, fresh-faced, and altogether clean-looking. Fifteen years old. (I think I remember her mother saying that.) They were in the writing-reference section, both of them sitting on the floor cross-legged, surrounded by a few books that they would shelve and unshelve, flip through, pass to each other, and put carefully aside.

"Do you think this one will explain how to write better characters?"

"Look through the chapters."

"'How to write better characters.'"

"We could try that one..."

And then the statement the parent of every teenager dreads: "I don't know..."

So I recommended a couple. John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. The Write Great Fiction series.

"My daughter wants to be a writer, and being a home-schooling mother, I'll try to indulge her."

Her daughter didn't roll her eyes, which took discipline. They talked to each other about a book that the daughter had been edging toward, picking up and putting back, for a couple of minutes. As if she knew it wasn't going to fly.

"Look, mom. 'Your character is at a party. Would she flirt or stand next to the wall, too shy to talk?'" She giggled. "Flirting."

Her mother stopped, suddenly still. (I'd never really seen anybody actually do that before. People make a lot of noise all the time. You just don't notice until they don't.) "But you wouldn't flirt, would you?"

"Oh, no, mother..." the girl babbled on for a few seconds, then interjected as one of those afterthoughty-things-that-teenage-girls-do, "I might have accidentally flirted."

Warning: If your child expresses interest in any type of creative writing, take this as a red flag that your child enjoys...drama. This may cause issues for cut-and-dried, black-and-white types who enjoy peace and quiet over conflict and change.

"But you didn't flirt, did you?"

"No, not really, I guess."

The girl allowed herself to be derailed from the conversation, but it was there in her eyes: someday, I am going to shock my mother, and it's going to be fun.


Kids in the Hall

There are so many, many things I like about Kids in the Hall. The last one makes me think of Lee, except he's always "sell her to the gypsies."


Word of the Day.

Some of the most interesting, unusual words describe everyday things. Who would have thought that the fleshy, spongy, white thing inside an orange had a word for itself... and that it would share it with astronomers? Or that it would have the same ancestor as the words for an egg part, a photo book, or the smearing of a canvas?

What all these words have in common is whiteness or albus, Latin for white. Albumen is egg white, an album is a book with white pages, and when we daub a sheet of paper, we de-albus it.

albedo (al-BEE-doh) noun

1. The fraction of light reflected from a body or surface.
For example, earth's albedo is around 0.39.

2. The white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind.

[From Latin albedo (whiteness), Latin albus (white).]

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)


Solo's Restaurant.

Yesterday, we ate at Solo's Restaurant in the Springs. It's an aviation museum, with okay-but-not-memorable food; of course we sat inside the airplane and played with all the buttons in the cockpit.

Chocolate Review.

Cote d'Or Lait Intense, nuance de noir, Belgian Milk Chocolate Confection with a Dark Chocolate Filling

Note: This is milk chocolate, which I usually don't go for.

Yummy. I really didn't notice the dark chocolate, though. Very creamy, smooth, soothing...very much a comfort food. Nothing grainy or oversweet about it. However...not dark chocolate. To me, this straddled the line between chocolate and candy, trying to partake of both but not committing to either. Maybe I'm just never going to be a milk chocolate fan...say four out of five stars, with a confusion detractor.

Green & Black's Organic Espresso

Being on the decaf side of the cup, I couldn't eat more than a few bites of this. It's like eating chocolate-covered espresso beans without the unappealing aspect of actually eating a coffee bean covered in waxy, low-quality chocolate. Waaaaaaah! Two bites of the perfect chocolate-espresso mix, and I was up two hours past my bedtime. Five stars out of five, with a tiny tear to the side.



Here's a video of FLCL stuff set to "It's the End of the World as We Know It," which sums it up nicely, I think. And here's one set to "Everlong." Completely different, also as true. It's a like a fruit, you slice it one way, you get apples, you slice it another way, you get tomatoes, you slice it a third way, you get a stapler. Not that you get to slice it.

It's about a kid who wants to skip adolescence and go straight to normal adulthood. Things should be ordinary...but they aren't. His dad's a perverted underground journalist, his brother's girlfriend wants hang out with him when she's not setting fires, his teacher is obsessed with chopsticks, and an intergalactic fugitive looking for the power of Atomsk has decided the kid should make a good portal for powers beyond his ken...also the guy chasing down the alien has nori for eyebrows. Really. No, really.

"Who are you, and what do you want?"
"I'm just a wandering housekeeper."
"Tell me the truth."
"I'm an alien."
"Yeah, and this afternoon, you were a nurse."

"Look at this. It's empty. There's no brain. Did you lose it somewhere?"

"Who is this? Your brother?"
"No, no relation. I'm from planet Earth."

"You are a million years under-evolved, primitive monkey!"
"That's discriminatory language used against underdeveloped planets."


Nothing to make you feel stupid than a mind-bending Antiriddle. I'm trying to figure out the "Time Flies" clue. I tried Rome.php and Istanbul.php, but nothing. Hints welcome.

(via Neatorama.)

Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

My name is Yon Yonson
I come from Wisconsin
I work as a lumberjack there
They ask me my name and I say...


Word of the Day.

vomitorium (vom-i-TOR-ee-uhm) noun, plural vomitoria

A passageway to the rows of seats in a theater.

[From Latin vomitorium, from vomere (to discharge).]

Vomitoria in ancient amphitheaters helped the audience to reach their seats quickly and then, at the end of the performance, leave at an equal speed (hence the name). Thousands of seats could be filled in minutes. The suggestion that a vomitorium was the place for the ancient Romans to vomit during a feast has no basis.

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)


"If I had a brain...I wouldn't be stupid!"

We're watching The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. It's great. All three of us are giggling in a most undignified way.

"Hi! My name is DOROTHY."

"Trust no one. It could be a sign."
"Yeah, there's another sign. Danger, high voltage."

"...So I could marry the love of my life. Camilla."
"A chicken. Wierdo."

Gonzo (Tin Man) attaches a cell phone (his nose.)
Prawn (Toto) says, "Is that a cell phone? What are these?"
[Honk, honk!]
"Those are my nipples."

Kermit: "I'm not so smart."
Gonzo: "I'm so empty inside I hurt inside."
Prawn: "And I'm so gosh-darn sexy I could cry."


Death, taxes, and Cadbury cream eggs.

Not being dead, and just having finished the taxes, I need a sugar rush.

Cadbury eggs. Are they smaller than they used to be? Let's find out.


Dance of the Mandlebrot.

Music video of the mandlebrot set, zooming in and out. Zooooom!

Writerly Ramble.

Couple of ideas on how plots work. Just messing around.

1. When you're telling someone about a story you heard -- about someone you know, maybe -- it goes like this:

You know...? Yeah, the one who... well, something happened one day... no, wait, it gets better/worse... but in the end it was all okay/it was too late.

I've used the "no, wait, it gets better" thing in conversation without even thinking about it.

Plot: You know Janet? Yeah, the really boring kid from our class who does nothing but take care of her grandmother now. Well, she was offered a deal one day by the devil--beauty, success, money, attractiveness--only she couldn't eat chocolate any more. No, wait, it gets better. The devil gave her everything she asked for, but he blocked her from getting the things she thought that stuff would get her, like a husband who loved her, or even any real pleasure out of life. And then he tempted her with that one guy from the class above her, the nut who was always threatening to bring a gun to class and kill anybody, who it turned out she had this horrible crush on, and guess what? Yeah, he worked at a chocolate shop.... [Ending cut; suffice it to say it both turned out OK and was too late. I think this is my next large project, which started out as novelette a few years ago. I still come back to the idea.]

2. Mental writing exercise. There's a conflict in the story, but what is it that makes conflict hang together? If you know tarot*, pick a card, and figure out what the meaning of the card and its reverse mean to you.

Say, Strength. The upright meaning is "Courage. Self control. The virtue of Fortitude. The power of love. Control of passion against one's baser instincts. Determination. Generosity. Strength and power under control. Energy. Optimism. Generosity, resolve and reconciliation." The reverse meaning is "Power wrongly used. Defeat. Lack of willpower. Feelings of inadequacy. Pessimism. Surrender to unworthy impulses. Tyranny. Concession. Inability to act."

Then decide whether you want a character who starts out more as the "upright" version and fights external, "reverse" issues, or who starts out as the "reverse" version and resolves internal conflicts, inspired to become the "upright" version. (Or both, if you're feeling particularly snappy -- starts out as "reverse" and fights "reverse"-type issues, only resolving them when the internal change to "upright" comes about, e.g., Schindler's List.)

Make characters to fit that pattern. The main character is "upright": A woman with energy and optimism. (How do we prove she has energy and optimism? Let's say...she has ten foster kids, whom she raises well, and she's in the process of adopting three of them.)

However, she is beset by the "reverse": the real father of those three kids comes back into their lives. He's a real scumbag, a guy with a lot of power who always gets what he wants, and he wants to get these three kids back. (Why does he want to get the kids back? Because the media has found out that he abandoned the kids years ago, and they've exposed him as a heartless bastard, unable to behave responsibly toward the people he should love...make him a politician, maybe? Or a corporate exec, which tends to come to the same thing these days.)

Then you throw the two together. In order to prevent the adoption from going through--ever--and because he hates this woman, he makes it seem like the woman can't control herself: she's having an affair with an abusive alcoholic, and the kids have been taking care of each other while she's with him. (We could throw in a fire, I guess.)

Finally, decide how to resolve the issues between the two aspects of the card -- the "upright" version survives everything the "reverse" can throw at her; the "reverse" has a change of heart; the "upright" version falls to pieces (with or without a change of heart by the "reverse"); you could even move the characters to the next card in the series -- in this case, the Hermit.

The woman loses the three kids (being an incurable romantic, I say because the man decided to become a better father; he also fell in love with the woman), but comes through the situation wiser, calmer, less likely to give too much of herself, less likely to fall in love. A sadder-but-wiser ending.

Not a great idea, but a workable idea. For me, the main thing is that the conflict revolve around something -- that the characters be tied irrevocably to the conflict -- that the characters and the conflict come out of the same breath. I read something yesterday about how The Fugitive is about justice: Dr. Kimble is justice; Officer Gerard is blind justice; the villains are injustice. The writer wasn't talking about the tarot deck, but it made me think about it.

*Yeah, the brief Mortal Coil game with the tarot cards put me in mind of this, too.


More Music

More songs that have been stuck in my head the last few days. Again, keep in mind that I really don't figure out what the lyrics are until I look them up. Aren't the internets wonderful?

Wailin' Jennys "Devil's Paintbrush Road" and "Beautiful Dawn"
Live and die and gone
Live and die and gone
The devil paints a double life
Live and die and gone
Which has a nice harmonicai.
Teach me how to see when I close my eyes
Teach me to forgive and to apologize
Show me how to love in the darkest dark
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Foo Fighters "Skin and Bones." Dave Grohl headbangs, acoustic-style.
All worn out and nothing fits
Brennivin and cigarettes
The more I give the less I get
But I'm all set
I'm all set

Skin and bones
Skin and bones
Skin and bones don't you know?

I'm just skin and bones
And Portishead.
After time the bitter taste,
Of innocence decent or race,
Scattered seed, buried lives,
Mysteries of our disguise revolve,
Circumstance will decide.

‘Cause nobody loves me,
It's true,
Not like you do

Cute with Chris

Wrong. So wrong. Ray and I giggled our butts off. Ew...

(via Lee)


Collective Noun, Part II

A cubicle of turkeys.

Into the Ocean

by Blue October.

I thought this was at least a somewhat happy song...and then I read the lyrics.
I want to swim away but don't know how
Sometimes it feels just like I'm falling in the ocean
Let the waves up take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion... yeah
Let the rain of what I feel right now...come down
Let the rain come down
I swear, I must be deaf to human voices when there's a good rhythm going on.

Quotes from Work.

--I wouldn't run that far for free cheese.
--What about government cheese?
--I ain't runnin' nowhere for government cheese.

--Why do I gotta be stupid?
--You are stupid.
--Yeah, but I'm funny.


Word of the Day.

zanjero (zahn-HAY-ro) noun

One who is in charge of water distribution.

[From Spanish zanja (ditch, irrigation canal).]

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)