22 December 2007

Alarm Clock

My alarm clock is set for 5:30 am on January 2, 2008. It did not go off this morning.

Nevertheless, I woke up promptly at 5:25. And I'm still up. And I see no hope for going back to sleep until bedtime tonight.

It is too early to make coffee, since the sound of the espresso machine will wake everybody up.

It is too early to go last-minute Christmas shopping, since none of the stores I need to go to will open until 7:00.

It is still dark out.

Not fair, I say, not fair at all.

20 December 2007

Shiny Things

Why is it that some abandoned project suddenly looks all sweet and interesting just when the going gets tough on some other project?

Why is that, huh?

13 December 2007

Knowing When To Quit

I am a rabid perfectionist. I either do something well or I don't do it at all.

Sometimes, this a good thing. For example, the medical editing part of my job requires unflagging, single-minded, obsessive attention to detail. Being a rabid perfectionist and doing things well or not at all is practically a pre-requisite for the job.

However, this quest for perfection can also get WAY out of hand and make me crazy about things that just aren't that important. For example:

Yesterday afternoon. In the midst of submitting a paper to a journal, I discovered that we would have to suggest reviewers - that is, give the names and contact information of people we think are knowledgable enough to judge the science of our paper.

After I got over being annoyed that the stupid journal didn't put anything about that in their Instructions to Authors (where it bloody well should have been), I dutifully emailed the Boss Lady to ask who she wanted to suggest. And as usual, I told her just to send me names and what organization the people are at, and I would find everything else (email, phone, etc), because that's my job. I find things and I'm good at finding things because the perfectionist in me never lets me give up. It also means, as you'll see, that I don't know when to quit.

Boss Lady picked three references from the paper and told me which authors she wanted to suggest. One I recognized and knew would be easy to find. I left her for last. The other two I had never heard of - one was at a Korean university and the other one was from a reference that was published seven years ago.

Now I don't read Korean, so there was one potential problem. If the website of the Korean university didn't have an English version, we'd be out of luck on that one. Turned out they did have an English version, but a search of the staff directory brought up nothing as did an in-depth review of the relevant department's site. So I googled. Nothing. I PubMed'd. Nothing.

Ticked by having to admit defeat, I gave up and moved on. To the seven-year-old reference.

Right away I had my doubts, because I now know from experience that most biomedical research papers in our field are written by postdoctoral fellows, and postdoctoral fellows usually only stay put for a year or two. My one ray of hope was that this one was at a US university - so at least I know I'll be able to read the website and have a reasonable chance of a decent staff directory.

However. A search of said directory yielded nothing. Perusal of the department website yielded nothing. I went through my whole arsenal (again): google, PubMed. I can find no trace of this author anywhere.

Unwilling to admit defeat twice, I get creative and find the guy's full name and google that (instead of "Lastname, AB"). Nothing. Now truly irked, I put quotes around the full name and google that.

Finally, I discover that this person (and yes, he's a person to me now, not some faceless 'author') was president of his graduate school association from 1996-1997; is quite good-looking; got married last August; lost his grandmother, who emigrated from Poland at 16 and settled in Canada, last April; has a father who is a psychiatrist and emeritus professor at the same university where this guy wrote the seven-year-old paper; and - this is the kicker - he now lives in Africa, where he apparently has no email or other contact with the outside world.

In other words, I discover - three hours later - that we can't suggest him as a reviewer.

Three. Hours.

See what I mean? I just don't know when to quit. Anyone in their right mind would have given up in 15 minutes and asked the Boss Lady for another name.

But not me. No, not me with my single-minded, obsessive blinders on. No, no, I have to be absolutely certain that I have exhausted every single possibility, that I have not overlooked something obvious, that I really, really did get it right, that I am unequivocally giving the Boss Lady the 'perfect' information about something that isn't really that important because the stupid journal will probably just ignore our suggestions anyway.

Maybe someday I'll learn to see this sort of thing coming and figure out how to head it off before it gets ridiculous. Well, I can hope, can't I?

Slacking Off

I wrote 17 words yesterday. Seventeen. Pathetic.

I got distracted playing with yWriter - free and fabulous software for organizing your novel. Yes, FREE! And, really, I think I like it better than the stuff I paid for...

Unfortunately, 'playing' does not produce words.

Hence, the ungodly early hour of this post.

Must make words, if I want to move my little ladybug along. Go, ladybug, go!

OK, this isn't producing novel words either. I'm off.

08 December 2007

Shopping Cart Cupholders

New category: Things I Wish Someone Would Invent

Not me, 'cuz I haven't got time to invent, patent, etc anything, but I've created this lovely label under which I shall post my ideas for anyone who DOES have the time. Feel free to steal the idea and run with it.

Idea No. 1 - Shopping Cart Cupholders

It would be great if shopping carts just CAME with cupholders, but I'll bet that's expensive and would totally screw up how the carts nest into each other in the cart corrals. So the next best thing would be some sort of attachment that I could purchase (or rent) that would hook on to an existing shopping cart.

Why? Because I haven't got enough arms to juggle the cell phone, the baby's snacks, the baby's drink, my coffee, my purse, the baby's toys, and/or Ms. Five's various items all at the same time without losing my mind and my patience - not to mention somehow getting fruit roll-ups, lunchables and string cheese into the damn cart before everybody has a meltdown.

I'm thinking you could buy them singly - just one for your Starbucks (should you be lucky enough to leave the kids at home). Or in pairs - maybe even some kind of saddle bag arrangement - one for your kid's sippy cup and one for your Starbucks

Maybe they would be available for purchase. Or maybe you could rent them for a quarter when you grab your cart. I don't know. But I want one. Or several!

07 December 2007

FiMo Ticker

Look! Up there! At the top of the posts! It's a ticker!

Cute, eh?

I'm finding is that it's not just the having a goal and a deadline that's keeps me hitting the keyboard, but it's also a lot about the moving of little widget thingys.

Hey, whatever keeps you motivated, right?

04 December 2007

NaNo Lessons - 2007 Edition

Well, this was an interesting NaNo.

I finished later in November than ever. I finished with fewer words than ever. If this trend continues, I won't finish next year at all... But, this year, I finished. And, as usual, I learned a whole lot.

1) Deciding to sit down and write is like deciding to have a baby. No really. As in: there's always a reason not to. With babies, it's: "I have to finish my degree first" or "We have to buy a house first" or "Let's get a dog first". With writing it's: "I'm too tired" or "I should really clean the kitchen first" or "Hey! Let's go scrub bathroom grout!". There's always, always an excuse not to do it.

2) "When" doesn't matter, but "where" does. My vastly prefered writing time is in the early-early before anybody else wakes up. It's quiet. I can focus. There are no distractions, but there is lots of coffee. It's a good time for me.

I didn't get to do it even once this November.

Everyone was too sick or too awake and screamy for too many hours during the night, so the early-early was time for sleepy-sleepy. The only time I had to write was the hour and a half or so between kids going to bed and me collapsing. So that's when I wrote. And to my surprise, found that I could. Who knew?

On the other hand, writing while sitting in bed - which is normal operating procedure for me during normal times - proved to be a spectacularly bad idea. I would literally fall asleep, fingers on keys, and amass all of two or three hundred words. No so good for word count.

So, instead, I made myself sit at my desk until I got done for the night. It was miserably uncomfortable (bad chair), downright chilly (underpowered heat pump), and quite impossible to fall asleep. Much better for word count.

3) I really can stick to an outline as long as I don't actually have one. I mean, not a formal outline, like what they teach you in school. No, those kinds of outlines are doomed from the outset. As soon as my characters see one of those, they grab it by its scrawny neck, wring the tar out of it and hang a sharp left for parts unknown.

This time, I was sneaky and tricked them and used Storylines, which is sort of like outlining and sort of like messing around with color-coded index cards (mmmm, color coding....). This seemed to keep my characters somewhat more in line...

Well, OK, there were still sharp left turns and a couple of loop-de-loops, HOWEVER, every little color-coded index card is checked off because it got written. With a normal outline, I would have gotten half way down page 1 checking things off and then the other eight pages would be sitting there forlornly wondering what the hell happened.

4) Never underestimate the power of a good widget. Seriously. Updating my word count every 25 words so that I can see my widget change may be neurotic. But if it helps me to move the story along, so be it.

Anyway. As usual, there is still much more to write, so it's on to NaNoFiMo for me.

19 November 2007

Well, would ya look at that...

You know that 8,000 words I wanted to crank out between Friday and Sunday - I actually did it!

How? I have no idea - other than sheer bloody mindedness.

I mean, there were distractions galore. Everyone is still sick. The Husband was gone part of Saturday and Sunday. The Mt. Everest of Laundry took over most of the house. Our TV died and we had to buy a new one (according to the TV watchers, anyway - I'd have been fine without it).

So I had every excuse to give up on my lofty goal and settle for the minimum 1,667 each day.

But I didn't, and now I'm back where I'm more used to being during NaNo - a couple days ahead. Not that I won't squander that over Thanksgiving, but hey, that's what a cushion is for, right?

17 November 2007

Ready? Set? Write... Ooooo, wait! Coffee!!

I have yet to write a single word today, which bodes un-well for my previously advertised word count goal for the weekend.

However, I have large piles of laundry and live with a bunch of people who think they need clean underwear every day (I know, I know, WTF??!?).

But laundry is underway and I'm about to be myself --- armed with this:




Yeah. That's, like, an inch of froth standing up over the edge of the cup.




Clever, aren't I? Er, yeah, whatever.

The trick is to let the froth set for a good five minutes before you dump the espresso in.

Yum, yum!

16 November 2007

Word Count Goal

My word count goal between now and Sunday night: 8,000 words.

Chances of me actually achieving said goal: slim to none-ish.

I mean, I have work-work to do. I have house-work to do. I have two sick kids. I have a sick husband. I have a sick self. I have email to catch up on. I have phone calls to make to family and friends.

In other words, I am almost certainly setting myself up for failure.

But what the hell. It's NaNo. Anything can happen.

So, here we go. Word count as of this morning: 25,677.

Ready? Set? GO.

09 November 2007

I should have come up with this...

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with chocolate!


I didn't. Somebody at NaNo has it as their sig line.

And even though I've labeled it as such, it's not technically a Bumpah Stickah either.

But it should be.

Widgets!!

I love widgets.

Can you tell?

----------->


EDIT: Curses! They don't update! @%*&#!!

EDIT #2: OK, OK, they do update. Just not very consistently. Whatever. They are cute and I love them.

06 November 2007

Character Question: What Do You Want?

So the dude who started this whole NaNoWriMo thing asked his characters this question. And told everyone else. So now EVERYONE is doing it. Including me.

And since I can't seem to post my stupid comment on the NaNo forums, I decided to post it here instead (or, eventually, in addition to).

So. Here's how my characters answered the question:

Luci: I want to find out who murdered my best friend 11 years ago.

Wen-Shu: I want to go back in time and undo the mistakes that cost my father his throne; that way I get to be Empress of the World. Woo-hoo!

Kesera: I want to get the hell out of this stinkin' Keep. Then I want everybody to shut the hell up and stop telling me what to do.

Fenn: I want my dead wife and son back. Barring that, I'll stay high all the time, so I can forget about them.

Lars: I want Fenn to stop getting high all the time, take his responsibilites seriously and go back to good ol' days before he met that crazy bitch. And Luci, I want Luci.

Maida: I want revenge and power and more revenge. Did I mention revenge?

Reygin: I want my birthright back, the one Fenn stole by being born.

On The Rag Again... (doo-bee-doo-waaaah)

Yes, that rag.

Why the public service announcement about it?

Well, only because it's been almost exactly TWO YEARS since the last time.

Yeah. Breastfeeding rocks.

05 November 2007

Still On Course

Up to 8,375 words on the NaNo, which means I'm still keeping up with the daily word count goals. Still amazed by this very fact.

It shouldn't be happening.

Not with the way Ms. Baby sleeps. Not with the way everyone's been sick. Not with work being, well, there.

Wish they had the widgets available, so I could stick my running word count on the side bar.

Which reminds me -- that side bar is a friggin' MESS. Needs cleaning. Like my kitchen.

And like my kitchen, it will likely have to wait until December...

Except for the widgets.

01 November 2007

And they're off!

So it's started. And - in spite of both kids being sick and work going bonkers - I've managed to get through the first day and make word count.

Amazing.

And it's actually going well. If you don't count Luci hijacking the plot. On page 5.

Honestly, I'm amazed and happy-fied to have got this far. Especially considering that if you'd told me a month ago that I was going to do NaNo again, I would have said you were crazy.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

12 October 2007

This is REALLY weird

So here I am -- out of town at a professional training conference and I HAVE THE HOTEL ROOM TO MYSELF.

No requests for snacks every 5 minutes from Ms. Five. No constant demands for attention from Ms. Baby. No grousing from The Husband about how much everything costs here in the middle of the Big City.

In other words, it's QUIET.

Like I said: REALLY weird.

03 October 2007

NaNo, NO! ...well, maybe...

Still debating doing NaNo.

I think doing random chapters related to other novels would be a bad idea, though. Well, not bad in and of itself, but certainly doomed to failure as a NaNo project. The key to succeeding at NaNo is momentum and casually drifting from one project to another ain't gonna cut it.

So to hell with that idea. And maybe to hell with NaNo.

Right. And this would be the '...well, maybe...' part.

See, I have this couple of characters from Novel #1. And I'd really like to know what they think they're doing there. They're interesting characters ('cuz they're women and they kick ass) - all the more so because one of them won't let me in her head, but she keeps doing these random things that I KNOW are important but I haven't had the time to figure out what her story is, what exactly she's really after or whose side she's actually on.

And isn't NaNo the perfect vehicle for finding out shit like that? Of course it is.

Of course, 'what do you think you're doing here, you mysterious character, you' is not exactly what you'd call a plot.

24 September 2007

Christian = Cannibal?

Posted on the announcement board at the local Church o' Christ:

O taste and see that the Lord is good

Posted on the announcement board at the local 7th Day Adventist's church:

Vegetarian tasting September 29th

I know, I know, I'm reading it all wrong. But it makes ya wonder, yanno...

17 September 2007

NaNo? No, no.

I'm debating about Nano this year. It's fun and all, and having done it 3 times already, I have no doubt I can write 50,000 words in a month.

Which is pretty much the point. Or the problem. Or whatever.

I mean, do I really need another half-assed novel sitting around begging me to work on it? I don't have time to work on the others and they make me feel guilty and inadequate enough. Do I really need to add another guilt trip to my life?

No. Hell, no.

So instead, I'm thinking about "cheating".

Technically, as I understand it, it's against the rules to work on an existing project. You're supposed to create 50,000 words-o-crap on some brandy, spankin' new project.

That seems sorta silly.

So - if I do NaNo at all - it may just be random chapters that I've been meaning to write on the other three novels. Or I may work on a(nother) storyline to tack onto the already-gigantic Novel #1. ('cuz it needs more characters and plot. Really.)

Or maybe I'll just blow the whole thing off and watch from the sidelines.

11 September 2007

Money, It's A Game

So Ms. Five is in kindergarten. This is very exciting for everyone, of course. A lot of changes - new schedule, new friends, going to school EVERY day (not just 2 days a week), etc. - but we're getting used to it.

Harder to get used to is all the MONEY we're shelling out for various fees and fundraisers, all to benefit this public school, which, um, aren't I alreading funding by paying my taxes?

Yes, yes, I know - if anything in this world is underfunded it's public schools. But I mean, really, c'mon. We have, thus far:

  • paid a $45 kindergarten supply fee
  • received a Wish List from the kindergarten teacher of things she still needs
  • paid a $50 computer lab fee (OK, haven't actually paid that yet...)
  • received a request to collect Box Tops for Education
  • purchased $34-worth of items from the catalog fundraiser for myself
  • purchased $57-worth of items from the catalog fundraiser for my mother, grandmother and sisters
  • foisted the catalog fundraiser on all other relatives within reach
  • received a request for bake sale items
  • received a request that we volunteer to staff game booths at the Fall Festival
  • received a request that we order books, because the teacher gets credit towards books for the classroom if we do
  • received a request for items to include in a gift basket to be auctioned off at the Fall Festival
And I think I've even forgotten a few things.

It's the 3rd week of school! Do they think we're made of time and money? With a demanding full time job, I have neither the time nor the energy for volunteering (let alone the patience, but that's another matter). And I am still paying off my GODDAMN student loans, I do not have a whole bunch of extra cash. (Come to think of it, I don't have ANY extra cash.)

I'm sure I'll get lectured for complaining (enter the former PTA president??), but I am feeling seriously bombarded right now.

The bigger question, of course, is: WHY are our public schools in such dire straits that they have to raise tens of thousands of dollars from their students' families? Where is all this money going?? (They haven't really mentioned what the fundraiser money is for.) The scariest thing, though, is that we're in a ritzy, white, upper-middle class community -- what the hell must it be like in the inner city of Itty-Bitty City (or any city)? Frightening to think on...

29 August 2007

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away

It's raining. Actually raining. As in, wet stuff falling from the sky. It's the craziest thing.

I mean, not counting a couple of 5-minute cloudbursts, it hasn't rained here in Hell in months (er, not that you'd expect it to, I suppose). It's been so hot and so dry for so long, it was starting to feel like it was never going to rain again.

Now that it has, everyone is quite confused and nobody really knows what to do with it.

It started this morning. It was only sprinkling when I left for work at 6AM, but I stood there, looking up at the sky, amazed and reveling in the feel of it on my face. All of a sudden, from directly behind me, came this massive rustling sound and this huge flock of birds - silent, except for their frantic wingbeats - went rushing past me about 30 feet overhead. I couldn't help thinking they were young birds fleeing from something totally unknown to them.

I opened the door just now so I could listen to it falling and it sounds weird. It took me a minute, but I figured out why: it's the rain hissing on the dead grass and all the dead leaves that have dried up and fallen off the trees. I wonder if this rain is too little, too late for the trees. Have to wait and see, I guess.

16 August 2007

A Tree in Hand is Worth...

Holly Lisle has a really interesting post about trees (well, the 'really interesting' part is in the comments, actually) that got me thinking about trees and forests and how important they've always been to me.

First, there was the Norway maple in the yard of the house I grew up in. Huge thing, taller than the house by 20 feet or more. I loved the thing. The whole neighborhood climbed it. It was home base for countless games of hide-and-seek. My best friend and I once vowed to spend a whole day in it (and we would have, had we not been stimied by the logistics of emptying our bladders - sucks, being a girl sometimes).

Then there were the colossal oak trees in the park down the street. I think there were probably 20 or 30 of them. You could feel something in them just walking by. When I left New England to move Way Out West, I made a special trip to say good bye to those trees. I picked up an acorn from one of them, hoping to take some of their strength with me. I still have it somewhere.

Finally, the exact opposite of the massive oaks, were the krummholz forests in the mountains. I'm not even sure you could call them forests. They look more like a twisted, tortured mat of tiny, pine trees. They're ancient, 100 years old or more, though they're no taller than me (and I ain't tall). They survive somehow at 5,000 feet above sea level on the piles of granite they call mountains, because they're tough enough to deal with snow and ice every month of the year. I always wanted to be that tough.

Wonder if ever I will be.

07 August 2007

Deja Eew and Alternative Medicine

So it turns out Sickness #2 was ANOTHER strep infection. Couldn't fucking believe it. But I've just finished my SECOND round of antibiotics in less than a month (slightly different drug, fewer side effects, hallelujah).

Here's hoping it doesn't come back.

Now that antibiotics are over and done with, Boss Lady is pushing the ginseng ("White ginseng, not red. Red too strong for you."). It's supposed to boost your immune system and thus keep the nasty-wasty strep bugs at bay. I'm supposed to take it only for a few weeks, just until my energy levels get back to normal. She even gave me a couple of tea bags to get started and promised me a website where I can buy it online ("Little more expensive, but high quality.").

So I'm all excited - real Chinese medicine! From a real Chinese doctor!

I tried a cup today. It tastes like crap.

Well, not crap, exactly. I'm exaggerating. But it's really... woody. Yanno, like you just went out in your yard, grabbed a random stick and poured hot water over it. Not terribly appetizing.

And, I discovered, if it sits too long, it gets really bitter. Mmmm, bitter sticks....

Oddly though, it also has this weird sweetness that sticks to your lips when you sip it. You don't notice it until the bitter stick flavor starts to fade, then you start thinking about how you're going to have to choke down another swig. You lick your lips in preparation - and there it is! This weird and unexpected reward for sipping sticks in the form of an elusive and quite uncanny sugariness that you can't quite put your finger on.

And then it's gone and it's back to the sticks.

I have to admit, however, that it might actually be doing something. I mean, I'm HERE. And I haven't been here in ages, really.

Wish us luck, y'all. Something's got to work, right?

27 July 2007

On Speaking Too Soon...

Naturally, right when I thought it was over, The Sickness has come back. Not as big and bad as before (yet), but nonetheless, I am back to popping pain pills every few hours for my throat and running for the toilet every few minutes for what comes out the other end.

It's just fucking joyous, lemmetellya.

24 July 2007

On Sickness

I've been sick for weeks now. First, it was food poisoning. Then, a really bad strep infection. After that, side effects of the antibiotics. It's finally clearing up - an entire month later.

It's the side effects that got to me worst, making me feel like I'll never be well again, never be healthy. Acute illness is easier to deal with. It's there. It's immediate. Then it's over with.

Side effects are insidious. There, but not to be complained about because they are all part of "getting better", so you pop that pill KNOWING what it's going to do to you, knowing that's going to tear your insides out, make your guts gurgle, your stomach grind, your intestines writhe. You know you're going to be nauseated. You know your appetite is going to disappear. You know you're going to be pissing out your asshole.

But you pop the pill anyway, because hey, when your tonsils are so swollen you can't swallow your own spit, what the hell else are you gonna do?

16 July 2007

Perspectives

Because I am stumped on other current projects, I began a read-through of the 2006 NaNo. I'm about half-way through and I am finding it little more than a detailed outline of the story.

The characters are paper-doll-ish. The plot resembles an ill-fitting, moth-eaten jacket. The world building is barely there.

Exactly as expected, in other words.

Which doesn't disappoint me really. It's something to work with and that's about all you can realistically expect from NaNo.

With any luck, I'll get through it in the next couple of days, make some notes and let it sit another few months before I do any serious work on it.

Perspective, that's the thing when editing...

30 June 2007

Cinderella Story

So I realized a couple of days ago that the plot of Novel #1, that reeking pile of unpublishable tripe, is basically the plot of Cinderella.

OK, so my Cinderella has mean step-brothers, instead of step-sisters, and my Prince Charming is a drug-addict. I've still got the absentee father and the evil step-mother who makes Cinderella's life miserable. I've even got a grand ball and a sorta fairy-godmother (well, she really Cinderella's martial arts master, but same difference).

The only thing I'm missing is the goddamned glass slipper.

I'm not sure whether to be horrified or amused by this.

28 June 2007

Bumpah Stickah

An oldy, but goody:

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot.

Yeah. 'Bout says it all.

25 June 2007

Nothing to Say, Really

But I feel like posting, so here I am.

Grant Hell is winding down for this season. Ms Five is off at her grandma's house. Ms Baby is asleep. The Husband is parked in front of the TV.

And I'm still chained to my desk, because my bloody wireless LAN is still messed up from when my dad was here is frikkin' April. (Or was it March?) Haven't had time to fix it (been a-granting, doncha know).

Oh, I re-upped with Critters finally! Been meaning to for weeks now. I learn a lot from critting that I find useful - believe it or not - in my job. Shouldn't make any sense, I suppose, but clear writing is clear writing, and it doesn't matter whether it's about giants and dragons or genetic variants and diet, the rules are pretty much the same. Use active voice and active verbs. Don't spray and pray with your adverbs. Learn where the commas go dammit.

Yeah, that said, I'll be off to my first crit in about a year. Woo-hoo!

22 June 2007

I Love the Muppets

Not a bumpah stickah. But it should be. My google quote of the day today:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.

-Miss Piggy


I love the Muppets. My whole family watched the TV show religiously when I was a kid (yeah, yeah, I'm dating myself. Shut up.). It was great - Fozzie Bear, Pigs in Space, Gonzo and Camilla, Statler and Waldorf, and especially, Miss Piggy.

For some strange reason it reminds me of where I work.

Seriously, there are all these Very Original People from all sorts of different cultures and backgrounds all thrown together and trying to do Really Important Stuff, usually under a deadline (10 minutes to curtain!). And naturally, there's a lot of conflict and a lot of people in need of black eyes.

Especially during this past episode of Grant Hell, when we could have used Miss Piggy and her, erm, special brand of tact.

'Cuz getting shit done in life comes down to your attitude and whether or not you're going to take "No" for an answer this time or take things into your own hands.

Yep. Those are the days that life just screams out for Miss Piggy. Hiiii-YAAAH!

18 June 2007

Love What You Do

I found out a couple of days ago, that one of the little girls in Ms Five's pre-school class lost her mother to breast cancer last month.

It breaks my heart in so many ways. First, of course, is this sweet little girl and her sisters who now have no mama. Then I wonder what must it have been like to be that mama and know that you are leaving, that won't see your little girls grow up. I'm not sure which is worse.

She was only 37, this little girl's mama, and that hits close to home. Too close. That's how old I'll be next month. 37 years doesn't seem like nearly so long a time on Earth as it did a week ago.

Finally, it isn't helping matters to know, thanks to the job I love so much, that this woman's death places a kind of curse on her daughters. To die so young from breast cancer means that very likely she carried a genetic susceptibility to the disease. Her daughters may carry it too, increasing the chances that they will get breast cancer themselves. That seems terribly unfair.

However - oddly and unexpectedly - the death of this woman has made me appreciate how important my job is. No, I will not personally find the cure for cancer. But dammit, if I can help the people I work for to write a better grant or explain their results more clearly and if that ultimately leads to something that changes the odds for those little girls, then I'll have done something with my life.

It's weird that it feels so personal now.

Or maybe it isn't.

It's not just data anymore. It's not just numbers of cases and controls. It's not just a line in a table that says 'first degree relative with cancer'. It's not just a bunch of random gene names and odds ratios and confidence intervals.

It's one little girl, and her sisters and their mama. That's what it's about now.

29 May 2007

Grant Hell Goes Greek

Right, so a few months back, you'll recall that Grant Hell went digital, which didn't really help much and quite possibly made things much worse (at least, for me).

Naturally, I should have been really happy with that, because you know what happens when you wish for stuff and you're not careful? Yeah. You end up with Coeus.

What the bloody, freaking hell is Coeus? Well, well, well, funny you should ask. Do let me explain.

Coeus, in Greek mythology, was the Titan of Intelligence. Some witty individual (at MIT, which might explain a few things) thought it would be a cute name for a database. No joke. Consequently, Coeus, in grant-hell-ology, is the Titan of database-based grant submissions.

Now, I love databases. I do. I really, really do. But not when they're smarter than I am and not when they're so complicated that 3 days of training barely gets you off the ground.

I mean, it's really great, it is, and it's going to be really, really cool in about 6 months when all the people in my department (including me) finally figure out what the FUCK we're supposed to be doing with it to get a grant submitted in one piece.

Until then, I shall complain, and loudly.

28 May 2007

BRANDED!

OK, honest to god, I am not trying to be sexy (I'm way past that, and I know it), but I can't even believe I did this.

You see the red spot on my leg? The perfectly round one with the strangely familiar lines in the middle?




Yeah, that one. Believe it or not, that was caused by a penny left on the seat of my car. My car that was sitting in the sun on a very hot-ass day almost a week ago.

I actually saw the penny on the car seat just before I sat down, but the pain was so sudden and so acute that I thought I had been stung by a bee. It just didn't register what was causing the pain because, seriously -- who expects pain from a penny?

Un. Real. I mean, if you look closely enough, you can actually make out the fucking Lincoln memorial and the words "ONE CENT" below it.

And you thought this kind of body art was just for 20-somethings. Actually, so did I. I mean, sure, I could claim to have done it on purpose, but really, can you think of a single cool reason to brand yourself with the backside of a penny?

And now I'm wondering if it's going to be a permanent thing...

27 May 2007

Cardamom Kebabs

So. You'll recall the Roadkill Turkey Breast. (How could you forget, right?)

Well, that night we only ate half the meat from the Unfortunate Beastie. Tonight, we ate the rest. On sticks. With cardamom!

No, really, it was great. So great, I must share the recipe (and record it for next time -- next time I have turkey, sheesh...).

Here 'tiz:

INGREDIENTS

  • a bunch of cardamom seeds (how many is up to you - how many do you feel like unpeeling? yes, you have to use the real stuff that comes in a pod. that pre-ground junk is worse than useless)
  • a sprinkling of fenugreek (i'm not really sure if these are seeds or what)
  • a smaller sprinkling of mustard seeds
  • a couple of bay leaves, crumpled
  • a few good splooshes of olive oil
  • a splash or three of some kind of vinegar
  • a wee bit o' soy sauce
  • Meat, tofu or other marinade-friendly munchie (no, it doesn't have to be roadkill)


WHAT TO DO WITH THE INGREDIENTS
  • Take the first three ingredients and grind them into powder with a mortar and pestle. Yes, really. OK, OK, use a spice grinder if are so lucky as to own one (and you're, um, kinda lazy).
  • Put the powder into a medium-sized bowl, add the crumpled bay leaves (yes, you have to crumple them yourself, they don't come this way).
  • Dump in everything else and give it a good stir.
  • Chop up the meat, tofu or other into kebab-able chunks, toss chunks into the bowl with the other stuff and, um, toss (heh... OK, stir well, mix until covered, something like that - you get the picture).
  • Let sit for however long you've got - several hours, a day, at least 20 minutes, I would say.
  • Skewer the chunks o' whatever (preferably without skewering yourself like I did - it bled and everything, quite traumatic), alternating with chunks of your favorite veg (I used zucchini, onions and roma tomatoes).
  • Give the skewered chunks to the grill person in your household (I'm not allowed near the grill in our household as things tend to ignite rather frequently when I'm in charge) and sweetly request that the grill person grill the skewers.
  • Set the table, pour the wine and enjoy!

18 May 2007

Spotted

On the back of a tow truck:

Hooked on Harry


Not a bumpah stickah, really, but amusing enough to share.

07 May 2007

Library Thang, Explained

OK, I've been wanting to catalog my books for a while. And I did something on the old blog like what you'll see on the right side of the screen if you scroll down - a book, an author and some comments about the book (no fancy pictures, though).

So the other day I was happily surfing along, dropped by 101 Reasons to Stop Writing (to see if there were any more reasons - there weren't), and BOOM! There it was: a link to Library Thing.

"Interesting," thought I, and surfed along to check it out.

Turned out to be interesting enough that I actually signed up even though I was pretty sure that I didn't need one more thing to do and would probably NEVER have time to actually put any books in.

'Course, me being me, I immediately grabbed a stack of books because I had to put SOMETHING in (can't have a naked library, how embarassing) and started firing off ISBN numbers. Next thing I knew - and it wasn't but 30 minutes later or so - I had over 80 books added. It was that easy!

OK, I may not add another stinkin' thing for a year, but whatever. It's easy, it's cool - no, it's WICKED cool - and it's free! Check it out.

06 May 2007

Library Thang

No time to explain how I got here, but this is just.... well, totally, wicked cool.

My Library

05 May 2007

Brilliance Lost

So I sat down at ye ol' keyboard last night to write a brilliant blog post that had something to do with the safety of the food supply.

This isn't it.

No, that post has gone the way of so many others in this sleep-deprived state I call my life. Here's what happened:

It was a wonderful, thundery evening. Just the occasional flash, the occasional far-off rumble, and a soft, relaxing rain.

Perfect! thought I, I shall write!

After we put the kids to bed.

Ms. Baby was tired. Too tired. When Ms. Baby is too tired, she refuses to sleep. I don't know why but she just fights it and fights it and wants to sit in my lap in the rocking chair and look out the window, occasionally looking back up over her shoulder to make sure I'm still there (which, of course, I am, because where the hell else am I going to go).

And before anyone starts in with the sleep advice, don't bother. We've tried everything, nothing works, and that isn't the point of this post anyway.

No, the point of the post is this: The Husband put Ms. Four-soon-to-be-Five to bed and came in to relieve me of Ms. Baby.

So far, so good.

Finally free of the baby appendage, I sat down at ye ol' keyboard. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and relaxed to the gentle pattering of rain, the less-far-off rumbling of thunder and the occasional brilliant flash-behind-the-blinds. Lovely.

Not five minutes later, I heard a voice.

No, it was not it my head. How I wish it had been.

No, no, it was Ms. Four-soon-to-be-Five calling, softly at first. "Mama... Mama..." then louder and louder, not in rising panic, but so she could be heard above a not-far-off-at-all bang of thunder, "MAMA...MAMA!!!"

I rushed down the hallway, dove into her bed and we snuggled and talked for 10 minutes or so about how thunder is just clumsy clouds bumping into each other. She relaxed and asked if I would stay for a while so she would feel safe. I said I would.

Then she started to ramble on about something else, in order to keep herself awake, so I used my Serious Voice, "It's not time for talking right now, it's time for sleeping."

I decided to demonstrate.

Eyes closed, slow breathing, relax the body.... I woke up 2 hours later.

And that's where the brilliant blog post about the safety of the food supply went. Perhaps it will come back sometime later today... or perhaps not...

01 May 2007

You might be a redneck if...

...you ate roadkill for dinner. And I just did.

Go ahead, make gross retching sounds.

OK, gat that outta yer system? Good job. Now you wanna hear the story? 'Course you do.

First, wipe your brain clean of the images of possums and raccoons and whatever-the-fuck-that-was's that you automatically assumed I ate (you know you did, admit it). T'weren't no possums nor raccoons on my table. Nosirree, sir - we're talkin' turkey.

No, really, it was turkey. Turkey as in wild turkey. Turkey as in big, frikkin' bird native to North American woodlands. Turkey as in what The Husband was out hunting last weekend and didn't get.

No, no, instead, he found one flapping helplessly and in obvious distress on the side of some road (he claims he didn't actually hit it himself). Broken leg, broken wing - obvious coyote fodder. Unable to watch it suffer he and his buddies - and I quote - "put it out of its misery". Then they "dressed" it and brought the meat home.

And we ate it.

And damn, if it weren't tasty.

28 April 2007

Recently Overheard

In my backyard,
Ms. Four, standing on the top of her slide and singing at the top of her voice:

It's a grand old flag,
It's a high-five-ing flag....

In my head,
the title of my next NaNo:

The Adventures of SUPER-boob and her ever-present sidekick, Lop-side

(what? it was 4AM, i'd been up for 2 or 3 hours with Ms. Baby and her approaching teeth...)

06 April 2007

I Am Old

So. Had a bit of a shock the other day when Ms. Four drew a picture on her Magna-Doodle (see below).

Totally without thinking, I said, "Oh! Neat phones!"



I got A Look, the disparaging sort of Look only a four-going-on-fourteen-year-old can administer.

"They're not phones," she said, disgusted. "They're people in houses."

Upon closer inspection, I realized that, indeed, the "phones" had arms, legs and eyes.

"Well, yes, of course!" I said, trying to save my dignity. "I see! People in houses! Of course! How could I have missed it."

More Look.

It was clear Ms. Four was NOT seeing how I made this bizarre mental leap. I decided an explanation was in order. "It's just that from over there," I said gesturing vaguely towards the other end of the room, "they looked like phones."

Yanno, like this:



Ms. Four glanced at the cordless, push-button phone standing upright in its charger. More Look.

"Old-fashioned phones," I added hastily. "You know, the kind they had way back when..."

At this point The Look became positively withering, which didn't matter a bit because what I had just said was now sinknig in to the poor, beleagured brain.

Old-fashioned. Old. Fashioned. Yeah. The "phones" aren't so much "old-fashioned" as they are what they had when I was a kid.

To make matters worse, they now sell these things as "antiques" on eBay. Sheesh. I'm ancient.

28 March 2007

Vampire Pie: Progress Report

So here we are a week (or so) later, as promised, to report on what I accomplished with this editing/re-writing thing on the 2005 NaNo. Here's what I've got:

-The timing of a couple of key events in the beginning were a little sloppy, so I fixed that and tightened things up.

-And promptly discovered that I had fucked up the nether end of a plotline later on. Go me.

-I took a look at the other parts of the story, i.e., The Middle and The End. Both were a stinking mess. I decided to work on fixing The End because a) it was a slightly smaller mess (due to the fact that it is infested with plot holes the size of Texas) and b) I figured it would be easier to fix The Middle if I knew where the bloody hell the story was headed.

-I discovered that I have no idea what to do with The Middle. The plot lines are not so much tangled as ... well, frayed. Badly.

-I discovered that a good way to keep myself from line editing, which the story is decidedly not ready for at this point, is to print out a hard copy with 6 sheets per page. It looks like this:



Yeah, that's one regular sized piece of paper with 6 pages printed on it in, like, 3 pt font size. I almost can't read it. Which, actually is the point. I don't want to get bogged down in fixing the writing (yet), when the immediate problems are structural. It's actually working quite well.

-I had an epiphany about one of the plot holes in The End and filled it! In English, that means I fixed a major WTF? plot problem. Go me. Now, if only the other plot holes would be so cooperative.

That's about it. I thought, actually, that I would be able to do more, having been on vacation all last week, but no. Ms Baby had no interest in sleeping most nights last week, so the creative part of my brain also went on vacation (to, like, Mars or something). Anyways, it's a start.

More in a week. Perhaps. If I feel like it. And have actually done a damn thing.

26 March 2007

Yer Kiddin', Right?

So no joke, the word verification for a yahoo email I just sent was:

peeAT

??!???!!

21 March 2007

Words o' Wisdom

This was my Google Quote of the Day:

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
- Mark Twain

I'm going to post it on the wall of my new cube at work. In very large type.

20 March 2007

Vampire Pie

So after a very long hiatus of about a year, I've decided it's time to pick up the 2005 NaNo project and edit the sucker (yes, it's a vampire novel and yes, pun intended - ok, you can go retch now).

I've gotten as far as I did the last time - outlining the plot with notecards (although this time I'm using my StoryLines software, not that it will help or anything, but it sure is fun to play with) - and I'm stumped again as to how to proceed. (Which is pretty ironic considering what I do for a living, yanno?)

The problem is that it's Just Damn Hard to see what the story needs, even after letting it sit for a year. I mean, I have whole characters that I'm just not sure should even be there, but I'd hate to cut them, re-write the Whole Damn Book and then discover that they do, indeed, belong in the story and then have re-re-write the Whole Damn Book all over again. That would suck (yeah, vampire, pun, blah-blah-blah).

What, oh, what is Writer Lady to do?

Plunge in, I guess. I think step number one will be to go through the latest version of the manuscript and Cut Ruthlessly. Anything that sucks (pun... oh nevermind) gets the axe. I will also Rearrange With Abandon. I KNOW there are bits and pieces of whole chapters that are just sort of NaNo'd in the middle of other chapters and need to be moved elsewhere.

Then I guess I'll give it a read-through and try to determine what else is missing and go from there. I'll set a reminder and update here in a week.

Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

You Know You Have Little Girls When...

  • You can do an extra large load of laundry that consists entirely of Things That Are Pink.
  • You trip over Barbie dolls, Polly Pockets, tea sets and 700 Things That Are Pink before breakfast.
  • You’re pretty sure they make colors other than pink, but you can’t remember what they’re called.
  • You know how many Disney princesses there are and can identify each one on sight by her name, the movie she stars in, the name of her prince, and the color of her dress, hair and shoes.
  • The smaller people in your house have more makeup and high heels than you do.

Grant Hell: Version 1.0 REBOOTED

And you thought we were done with this.

Well, so did I.

In fact, I thought we were done with this until last Thursday when I went into the office to help Boss Lady pack for the Big Move and Accounting Lady dropped by to say: "Oh, um, they can't fix that weird date problem, so you'll have to Totally Redo the submission package".

Totally Redo. As in Start From Scratch. As in Start Over. As in The Dreaded Blue Screen. As in Pardon Me, I Need To Step Outside and Start Screaming.

I shall spare everyone the gory details, but GOOD GRIEF. My vacation, which was supposed to start Saturday, starts today, because the Unpacking from the Big Move and Redoing of the blasted submission package took most of Sunday and Monday (Boss Lady being gone on a cruise and all).

And now I have to keep checking my email for a couple of days to make sure nothing else goes wrong.

Pardon Me, I Need To Step Outside and Start Screaming...

12 March 2007

Grant Hell: Version 1.0 - Reloaded

It is finally fucking over.

My life has been one, long, apparently-fucking-endless nightmare of Grant Hell for the last ... what, six weeks? eight weeks? Pitiful. I don't even fucking know.

Anyways.

It's over. Boss Lady's 5-year renewal has been delivered to Fabulous Private University's research office and will presumably be on its way to to the feds very soon. Halle-freakin-lujah.

I think I did more work on this one than I have done on any other grant proposal in my life. I did budget stuff. I did subcontact budget stuff. I did biosketches. I did figures. I did tables. I did the bloody references. I edited the science. I edited the abstract. I edited the budget justifications. I re-edited the science. I re-did the bloody references. I did electronic submission package stuff. I re-re-did the bloody references.

It was endless. I am exhausted. I am going to go collapse now.

26 February 2007

Grant Hell: Version 1.0

Grant hell took on a new form today: electronic submission.

You'd think that would be a good thing, right? Save a few trees, at least.

Well, yeah, sure, it saves a few trees. I'm all for that. Except that it's costing me brain cells.

I mean, my synapses are Burnt Out. Something I was familiar with is suddenly total foreign. Something I knew how to gauge is suddenly unfathomable.

OK, I'm exaggerating.

But this is the very first time in my personal grant submission history that we've MISSED THE DEADLINE. And not with just one. I'm not sure yet, but I think we missed it with 2 out of 4.

Part of it was just bad luck. One of our PIs had a bunch of Appendices and they were scanned PDFs, and as anyone knows, scanned PDFs are HUGE. So when they attached the scanned PDFs to the "submission package" the package promptly went cross-eyed and crashed all over the computer screen with a resounding SPLAT.

OK, I'm exaggerating.

But the reconstruction of the Crashed Package took a long time. Too long and the Magical Witching Hour of 5PM (otherwise known as The Deadline) came and went.

Like the first domino in a line, the Crashed Package thwacked the package I was working on and - I think - knocked it right out of contention.

I had my package done in time. Well, barely. I sent it on to the Lady in Charge (LiC) at 4:56, which was really a minor miracle, since I got the science (which had to be converted to non-HUGE PDFs) less that half an hour before. And I even left the LiC, 4 minutes to attach the other required items to her email and send it on to the Research office. Barely, barely, barely enough time, but she could have done it.

But, naturally, she couldn't do it before the Magical Witching Hour because the Crashed Package was in the process of being Uncrashed.

Lessons learned:

1) PIs will send the science to be attached to the package before 4 PM or be laughed out of the building and soundly beaten with chopsticks.

2) Appendices will not be allowed under any circumstances. I don't care how wonderful you think they are, they aren't nearly wonderful enough. Get over it.

More lessons will follow, I'm sure.

14 February 2007

Is it over yet?

It was one of "those" days. You know the kind. The days when everything you do turns instantly to shit as soon as you touch it? Yeah. Those days.

I got up at 6AM to do some work-work. I suppose that was my first mistake. And then I had a decaf coffee. Mistake No. 2.

From there, things just sort of disintegrated. I dropped stuff (not Ms. Baby, lucky her). I broke stuff. I couldn't seem to talk straight. Work got weird.

And then I tried to make lunch. And I burned pasta. Burned. Pasta. I didn't actually know that was even possible.

And had I been paying attention, I would have taken that as a sign and NOT tried to go to the store to get milk (which we were - and still are - out of). It was a disaster and we never even left the driveway.

Picture this: Kids in car. Kid paraphenalia in car. Mommy in car. Keys in house. House locked.

House locked. Keys in house.

And I mean ALL the keys - house keys, car keys, work keys, what-the-fuck-does-this-go-to keys - all of 'em.

It was 20 degrees outside and snowing and I'm sitting there in the car - keyless - and all I could say was "Oh no, oh no, oh no". By some miracle the car was warm-ish inside, so I left Ms. Four and Ms. Baby in there and walked around the house, repeatedly, trying every door and checking every window. No luck.

I tried to pick the lock with a diaper pin. No luck.

I tried to pry open the garage doors. No luck.

I tried The Force. No luck.

I considered the cat door. No way.

Desperate, despondent and finally realizing that the brain was clearly on strike today, I called the mothers-in-law. Both of them. They both said don't break a window and both offered to come pick us up. Having no choice, since The Husband had jury duty and was in the middle of some trial (no, actually, I'm not making that up), I agreed to be rescued. Just as we arrived at mother-in-law's house, The Husband called. The Situation was explained and arrangements to retrieve his keys were made and carried out. Three hours later, we were reunited with the keys and back inside the house.

And that should have been the end of the story, because isn't that enough already?

But wait. There's more.

The Husband finally got excused for the day and came home with roses for me and Ms. Four, (it was Valentine's Day, after all). All smiles, I took the roses to the kitchen sink to put them in water. Nice, cold, fresh water. I had to use the sprayer, because the damn sink was so full of dishes (stupid sink), and somehow - don't ask me how - I managed to squirt myself in the face with the nice, cold, fresh water.

Fitting end to the day, non?

04 February 2007

My Writing Life

I love all these books and blogs about "The Writing Life" where the authors, who are usually members of the Lucky Few Full-Time Writer's Club, describe how they get up at 5AM or 11AM and proceed to write for 6 or 8 hours. Then they do some editing or blogging or correspondence or chit-chat with their agent or some-such. Then they read some Great Author before retiring for the evening.

Sounds great, don't it? If only the rest of us were so lucky. Here's what my "writing life" is like:

************************
************************

First of all, I have been unable to write anything at all due to sickness and interference from work-work for so many days I've lost count of how many exactly.

Today, however, The Husband is gone for the day. Ms. Four, at her cousin's house for an overnight, is still gone for a few more hours. And Ms. Baby is down for her nap.

Now is the time to write.

*pause*

I should really be working on the taxes. I should really be figuring out if I can take that home office deduction because I work from home much of the time these days. I should...

Ah, but this is such a rare thing -- alone in a quiet house. How can I NOT write.

The usual question looms: write WHAT? Which project? Should I be working to finish the 2006 NaNo? Should I do some editing on the March Novel storyline? Should I just journal and call it good? Should I blog? Should I comment on other people's blogs?

What to do?! What to do?! I could waste the whole of Ms. Baby's nap trying to decide. Gah!

OK, OK. Deep breath. I'll use the timer method. Yes, that'll work. I'll set the timer for 20 minutes and keep my fingers moving for that entire time on the 2006 NaNo (provided Ms. Baby's nap lasts that long...).

That, at least, will get SOMETHING done. Well, some writing anyway. Laundry, dishes and vaccuuming can, of course, get stuffed.

***********************************

I set the timer for 20 minutes. I type - uninterrupted, amazingly - for the whole time. I manage 649 words! I decide to continue until I finally get to SEE HOLGER (a character in the novel we've heard much about but have yet to actually meet)!!

***********************************

10 minutes later: The phone rings. Ms. Four is on her way home. I hang up the phone. Ms. Baby wakes up.

*sigh* So much for writing today, thinks I.

I fetch Herself and find her still sleepy. And Ms. Four isn't here yet.

I keep writing and, in spite of circumstances - or perhaps, because of them - I manage another 394 words AND finally get to meet Holger!

Yea, me!

************************
************************

Y'see how it is? And this is a good day, one when I actually get to write at all. Most days, my word count remains at zero. It'll be a miracle, of sorts, if I ever get anything even close to publishable, let alone in print.

But others have done it, I'm sure. At least, I think so. Well, I hope so. Maybe I'll be the first??

30 January 2007

I Love My Subaru

30 January 2007, 9:01 AM:



30 January 2007, 9:04 AM:



And she still runs like a top!

29 January 2007

A Cold Day in Hell

I could see my breath in the air.

The minivan didn't want to start (I had to move it) and even the trusty Subaru expressed reluctance.

Itty-Bitty City glowed orange-gold in the early-early against the white-blue chill of the sky.

On the walk from the shuttle lot my legs - bare under the skirt - froze bright red and tingly and the tips of my ears started to hurt. I even had to stick my hands in my pockets (alternately, the other being occupied with holding the coffee).

It was 15 degrees. It was glorious.

28 January 2007

The Incredible Pizza-Eating Baby

All the research, these days, says that babies should not start on solid foods of any kind until they're 6 months old. Just breastmilk (or formula) until then. So far as I know, babies are definitely not supposed to eat anything even remotely pizza-ish.

You just try and tell Ms. Baby that. I dare ya.

No kidding. We went out to a pizza place Friday night. Ms. Baby could not be calmed. Her cereal did not appease her. Toys were no use. She fussed and fussed and fussed - and watched intently absolutely everything that went into my mouth, tried to grab most of it and kept on fussing until - in a desperate attempt to eat in peace - I finally gave her a pizza crust of her own.

She was instantly content.

She waved her crust around and tried to get it into her mouth (we made sure The Sucky Thing was firmly in place to prevent this) and was quite happy. Until she dropped it. On the floor. Then she commenced fussing again and we had to gave her another one.

Now when Ms. Four was a baby, the word was: start cereal at 4 months, veggies at 6 months. And that's what we did and she seemed fine with it. With Ms. Baby we split the difference and started cereal at around 5 months. So maybe she's mad that she missed out on that extra month of solid food?

I don't know but I don't remember Ms. Four being anywhere near as interested in real food as Ms. Baby is. She's pretty much just pissed if we're all eating and she's not. Like this evening at supper she gobbled up her cereal and fussed and fussed and fussed until we found something else (winter squash, so what if she's not quite 6 months old yet, we were desperate). It's like she knows she's missing out on something.

And I guess that's fine, if it means she'll be a good eater. Still, I think she'll have to wait a bit on the pizza...

By Request

OK, Sistergirl #2, a.k.a. the Queen, has a really cool post on recent craft endeavors and in the comments I mentioned a quilt block I made a while back. She requested that I post it, so here we are and here is my lovely quilt block:



Tres beautiful, non? I'm very proud. I'm also never making another one.

The block is called True Lover's Knot and I used the instructions from the Quilts from The Quiltmaker's Gift* book. The fabrics are leftovers from our wedding outfits with a green that reminds me of the sagebrush that grows all over the place Way Out West, including the spot where we got hitched.

Sadly, as I said, I will never, ever, ever make this block again - at least, not with these particular fabrics.

Why? Well, see the little light-colored squares in the middle of the "knots"? That's the fabric from the bodice of my wedding dress. The very expensive, beaded fabric from the bodice of my wedding dress. Which, it turns out, is just a flat-out pain in the ass to work with. Either the sewing machine needle would break when it hit a metal bead or the needle would hit a glass bead and the glass bead would shatter all over the place or the metallic thread that was part of the fabric would start to unravel and become hopelessly tangled in the sewing machine.

In short, it was a nightmare of epic proportions and the only way to avoid all these issues was to take out by hand all the beads and wayward threads along the edge of the piece before stitching it. And if you look closely at that picture, you'll see that each little "square" is really made of four little triangles and people, lemmetellya, THAT is a lot of seams. Way, way, way more seams to de-bead and de-thread than my infamous lack of patience can handle ever, ever again.

So. Despite the fact that I have a ton of the very expensive bodice fabric left and it's a nifty idea to make a quilt with it, I will not be doing so. And I really have no idea what I'll do with the quilt block come to think of it. I had thoughts of turning it into a pillow. Or maybe I'll put a border around it and staple it to a frame and display it someplace. Suggestions?

H'boy. All I was gonna do is post a picture and good grief! I've ended up with a tirade. Who knew?!?

(*The Quiltmaker's Gift is a truely wonderful book. If you don't own it, you should. Even if you're not a kid.)

24 January 2007

Sleep: An Addendum to the Addendum

Guess what I found today...

TOOTH NUMBER TWO!!!

Yep. That's me girls. 400% or nuthin' at all.

23 January 2007

Sleep: An Addendum

We may have a reasonable explanation for all this flailing and wailing we've had to endure lately:

Ms. Baby has sprung a tooth!

I'm thinking this may have something to do with the sleep thing...

*headsmack*

22 January 2007

Lazy

You know you're lazy when instead of going out to the car to retrieve the CD you want, you download it from Napster. Just so you don't have to get up.

Sad. Very sad. Bordering-on-pathetic sad. OK, OK. Just pathetic.

Sleep

You take it for granted when you get six or eight (or *gasp* more) hours of sleep on a somewhat regular basis. You know you do. And it's not until it's taken away from you for extended periods of time that you realize how important - indeed, how very vital - it is to your health and sanity.

The Husband had a buddy when we lived Way Out West who joined the Navy and was attempting to become a Navy Seal. Part of the testing (trial?) process was sleep deprivation. They made them do all these tasks and didn't feed them or let them sleep more than a couple of hours at a time for, like, a whole week or something. At the time, I thought, wow, that's pretty tough.

Now I know better.

A week without sleep is for pussies. Sorry boys, but it's true. You go six frikkin' months without sleep and we'll talk about respect for that.

So, yeah, Ms. Baby doesn't sleep worth a crap. Why do you ask?

Seriously, I don't know how she does it. The handout we got from her pediatrician at her four-month check-up said that 'most babies will sleep through the night at four months of age'. I laughed out loud. Even if you define 'through the night' as six hours in a row, we're nowhere close to that. At most - at most - she'll go three hours at a time at night. And this is after having three, maybe on a good day four, hours worth of 20-minute-at-a-time naps (the handout says 'four to six hours of naps'. Right. Please.). And very often - like every night for the last week - she's woken up at 1 or 2 or 3AM like it's time to be up for the day -- eyes wide open, cooing and playing with her feet. When she realizes that no one else feels like playing, she proceeds to scream about it for an hour before finally, fitfully, falling back asleep.

She should have big, black circles under her eyes. She should be cranky and yawning all day long.

Oh no, wait. That's us, her woeful parents.

And before anyone starts with the 'maybe-you-should-try': It makes no difference whether or not I have caffiene (breastfeeding, remember?). It makes no difference whether or not we give her Tylenol or ibuprofen or Hyland's Teething Tablets or a bath at bedtime or anything else we can think of. And trust me, we've tried everything.

My guess? She just thinks sleep is for pussies.

15 January 2007

Darwin Award Nominee?

What was this guy thinking?


I mean, really. I understand that moles can be annoying -- a marauding band of them once ate $50 worth of tulip bulbs on me. But it's waaay more fun to try and drown them.

And, apparently, waaay safer.

13 January 2007

Annotations

I'm so very happy. I finally figured out how to outsmart blogger and annotate my links. Hah!

Miss Snark: A Literary Goddess in Stilettos. I have learned more about writing from the last Crap-o-meter, than from all the frikkin' writing books I own, combined.

Dirt City Paranoia: In-yer-face, go-fuck-yerself political satire. Makes me homesick as all hell. I love it.

Bitch Ph.D.: I aspire to this kind of honesty. 'Nuff said.

101 Reasons to Stop Writing: I like this one because the author is so cynically honest. Or brutally honest. Or just mean. Whatever. It's a welcome dose of reality in amongst all the warm, fuzzy, 'you-can-do-it', 'don't-ever-give-up-on-your-dreams' writing advice out there.

Street Anatomy: Stumbled across this from a post on the AMWA Editing/Writing listserve and it is COOL. 'Nuff said, people. Check it out.

04 January 2007

Historic Events

Event #1: Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. I just about cried listening to the story on NPR on the way home from work today. It's that fantabulous. And it's about fucking time.

Event #2: The first Buddhist and Muslim Congressfolk were also sworn in today. Halle-freakin-lujah. Also about fucking time.

(Sidenote to Event #2: Dirt City Paranoia has an especially excellent post related to this Event that I highly recommend.)

It's a good day for the revolution...

Resolutions

Everyone seems to have them. Everyone but me.

I'm just too damn tired for resolutions this year. And it isn't helping to be staggering under mountains of medical debt either.

Yeah. Helmet appointment earlier this week:

7:30 AM - Dr. Craniofacial-Specialist examines Ms. Baby's head for a grand total of 45 seconds and scribbles with a magic marker on the outside of Monsieur Helmet. That'll be $280, please.

8:30 AM - Helmet-fabrication-people spend a grand total of 10 minutes following the magic-marker directions and sanding off some of Monsieur Helmet's foam liner. That'll be $100, please.

Fuckin'. A.

I know, I know. It could be worse. It could be way worse. And it fact, things looked up shortly after we arrived home:

9:30 AM - I check my paystub online. My last paycheck included a $400 Christmas/End-of-Year bonus from Fabulous Private University. Which is great, since it covers the medical bills for this week. And leaves me 20 bucks for expensive coffees. Woo-hoo.

But I hate debt. I really, really, really hate it. And those payments? Well, the one to the Helmet-fab-folk was one of 4 or 5 more. And the one to Doc Cranio was just a drop in the frikkin' bucket.

Guess 'get out of debt' won't be on my list of resolutions....

And neither will much else.

Certainly, no writing goals. The brain only erratically accesses its creativity centers when it operates on Virtually No Sleep for months at a time. There is no foreseeable end in sight for that situation, so writing can just kiss off for a while.

I'd love to spend more time with The Husband - yanno, just the two-of-us-and-no-kids? - but again, that's unlikely to be possible for many moons.

I'd also love to read a couple of books I've been meaning to well, start. But by the time both kids are in bed, all I want to do is crash myself. No end in sight there either.

Yeah. I guess all I really want to achieve in the coming year is a good night's sleep. Hah! Wish me luck.

Strange Dreams

The Dream:

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Ms. Baby is older - maybe 1-ish - and she has hair and can crawl and sit up by herself. She can't walk yet, so I'm carrying her. We're taking a test. It's an entrance exam for pre-school or something. An odd pre-school.

Sample question posted above a bin of yellow squash and zucchini that we have to climb over if we answer the question correctly: The zucchini are £2,08 (why it's in £s, I have no idea) per pound. If the yellow squash are 1/3 that price per pound, how much is 4 pounds of yellow squash.

Ms. Baby apparently answers correctly (not that she can speak, mind you, but somehow she does), because we clamber over the crate of yellow squash and zucchini and into a dimly lit stone room. We climb over other crates of other stuff, somehow answering equally impossible-for-a-1-year-old questions.

We come to a small, square stone door on the opposite side of the room. It slides open.

Ms. Baby goes to crawl through it. I grab her and pull her back.

There's a spider the size of a bullfrog perched on a web on the other side of the door. I know it's the size of a bullfrog because there's one caught in the web, one rear leg entangled and the other three pathetically trying to hop away.

We have to go through the door.

I'm studying the door, trying to figure out how we're going to do this without being ensnared ourselves. That's when I notice the other spider. Same species, same size, but this one is on OUR side of the door.

Just as I'm about to panic and retreat, I wake up to the sounds of the real Ms. Baby requesting breakfast as politely as she knows how.

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I'm not sure where all of this came from. Some of it has to do with upcoming events (Ms. Four will have to take a test to get into the local magnet school), but the spiders.... ?? Haven't seen any spiders in months, so I dunno.

The dream spiders looked like one that was in our backyard at our old house. You could hardly see them in real life.

Days later, I'm still shuddering at the size of them dream-spiders. Eep. Double eep.