So many words, so little time....

Thursday, December 25, 2003

And God Bless us, every one...

Last night was the traditional gymkhana. Nothing was calm, but it was pretty bright. Actually, that might be because I think the kids were trying to signal the mothership out in space with the amount of lights they inflicted on that poor little tree. The boys finally started snoring at 3:30 or so. I did actually get everything done and sat down with a cup of tea around 6am or so. The kids showed up at 8am precisely, and entirely too chipper about the whole thing. I got the fire started with our Yule-log from last year, and the semi-controlled frenzy ensued.

Barney is a dinosaur from our refridgerator... The velociraptor-sized bird the boys picked out is in the oven, and will be for the rest of the day. The girls chose asparagus for the veggie so that's all trimmed and ready. I'm making picture slideshow CDs for all the grandmas and picking tinsel out of my hair yet again (I am NEVER buying that stuff again).

The consoles have been rearranged and the kids are running around with several of their friends who came over to compare loot. Lord love her, but my Mom got each of the kids their own digital camera. I'm going to have to get a MUCH bigger hard drive. I never thought I'd ever pine for the days of those loud popping-noise Fisher Price things. The boys are running a head-to-head comparison between Project Gotham 2 and Tokyo Extreme Racing 3 on the big TV by switching between controllers and flipping the inputs back and forth really fast. My living room looks like a power sub-station now with all the cables and blinking lights. The girls are closeted in their bathroom with two of their little buddies tangling their hair and applying substances and giggling (which in the case of one of their friends is so high-pitched it could bend metal).

It is a Happy Holiday.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Nothing says "Hollidays"... a glowing deer with an extension cord in his backside. ;)

This year it seems like there's been an invasion of lighted deer all over the place. Who comes up with these things?

We saw a bunch of them tonight while out getting our tree. I decided that if I ever have a rock band, I'm going to call them "Electric Venison".

Sunday, December 14, 2003


This is an abridgement of a bunch of material I found on WardsWiki. I'm adding links to these pages in our testing definitions, both as a light-hearted joke but also as a more precise nomenclature for identifying problems that arise.

Bohr Bug
It's broke, but I know how to fix it.
A BohrBug is just your average, straight-forward bug. Simple like the Bohr model of the atom: A small sphere. You push it, it moves. BohrBugs are reproducible, and hence are easily fixed once discovered. Testers pray for these.

Heisen Bug
A HeisenBug is a bug whose presence is affected by act of observing it.
This is a bug who appears and disappears for what appears to be no reason. Sometimes called "intermittent". They play peekaboo through the lines of code. These are most annoying when coupled with the Programmer Proximity Detector (see below) where not only does the tester affect the bug by hunting it, but once they think they've found it and try to show the programmer, the programmer is faced with a program that seems to function perfectly (unlike the tester).

This has been known to make grown testers cry.

Mandel Bug
A bug that has a single simple cause, but which causes the system to exhibit wildly chaotic and unpredictable behaviour.
In multi-tier applications, particularly web applications this is pretty much a given. Something breaks, and since the whole thing is a house of cards you can get errors in what appears to be competely unrelated code.

Schroedin Bug
A defect that exists neither working nor not working until you look at it, and suddenly it collapses into a state, usually 'that could never have worked'.
This occurs frequently while editing other people's code. Since code is often a reflection of the mental workings of the programmer, you are often faced with code that looks like it could have been scrawled on butcher paper with crayons
for all you know. While working with the code you are likely to introduce values and variables that cause other parts of the code that seem to work fine to cease working because they have related return or attibute data that you were unaware of. Or they were just idiots.

Programmer Proximity Detector
This isn't strictly a bug. It more behaves like a feature that is apparently spontaneously evolving in programs. It allows the program to act differently in the presence of its author.

Typically this involves a user who claims that the program has a bug, but after calling the programmer over to the test facility (usually across the compound, requiring exiting the building and crossing a windswept parking lot in the rain, or taking an elevator 26 stories down to the subbasement), the bug does not manifest - the program works perfectly. The user often serves as the proximity detector. Because the user is carefully showing the programmer how he (is supposed to) use the program, the user may use the program more slowly (thus hiding race condition bugs) or exactly the way the programmer told him to use the program (thus hiding bugs due to slightly different inputs or orders of operations).
They're back....

The gang is back from Snow Camp. They had way too much fun in the snow and now we are cleaning up the damp bags of clothes and they are ALL hitting the shower. The hope is for a quiet and early evening as they have school tomorrow.

As for me, I had a night to myself. I met a friend I had known online for a long time and we went to see Master and Commander (way cool flick - Gamerdad's going to have my review of it). It was nice to get out and talk to someone who speaks the entire English language, who uses consonants in all the words that are supposed to have them, and who thinks "hella" is someplace in Greece. He was a good conversationalist and had some great stories to share. That and it was so good to be able to put a face with a screen name. We're looking at trying to do ROTK next weekend or the weekend after.

It's always a challenge to pick the baggage up again when it's been off. Just as you start to decompress it gets dumped on you again, and you stagger under the load. I have been careful this time to plan ahead for that and to be mindful of the phenomenon so that I don't get frustrated and angry about it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

It's the WHAT of December!?

Okay, who decided to compress the space/time continuum or something and cut at least two weeks out of the month of December this year?!

I'm not ready. Well, I'm never ready, but this year I'm really, really not ready. I wonder how people do this.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

It couldn't have happened to a nicer geek....

Wil Wheaton, child-star turned geek and author, has inked a deal with O'Reilly Publishing to carry his currently published book Dancing Barefoot, his in-progress Just a Geek, and a third book not yet announced. They are so amped about Dancing Barefoot they are preparing a printing that will be available before Christmas (see their site here to order).

Last year I found his blog, and was delighted to follow his doings as a grown-up, family man, and nascent geek trying to figure out what to do with his life.

w00t for you, Wil!

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Adventuring Home
When did we turn even our dreams inside?

We all look back with a certain nostalgia at the summer afternoons of our childhood, biking off into the woods or off to the park with our buddies to play until Mom's call drifted across the way to bring us home for dinner. In today's protective times, we can't do that. Our children are not allowed even a tiny fraction of the freedoms we enjoyed. Families are fragmented, with extended families spread all across the continent and parents working and divorcing. In ever-larger numbers, our children are caged tightly by limits, but floating in a sea of uncertainties and ever-growing responsibility with fewer and fewer guides to show them the way as they grow.

It shows up in many areas, but perhaps nowhere so telling as our literature. Our stories are no longer about going off to find adventure in the great beyond and the next great discovery, but finding out how to fix our problems and somehow come to a place that feels like they belong.

Disney's film "Treasure Planet" is a great example of what I'm talking about, particularly because it straddles both sorts of stories. It's original text by Robert Louis Stephenson is a coming-of-age story with a young man going out in the world to make his fortune and forge his own path. He's just trying to grow up by the lights of the time. The new version is a troubled young man who goes off trying to find a solution to his problems so he can find a path for his life and a way to get home.

The main character, Jim, could have been filmed at my house. Both my sons (but particularly my younger) have that awkward set to their limbs and those questioning eyes that seem to personify a young man trying to figure out how to be a grown man in this day and age. I have seen that eyes-closed look of bliss and heard that yell of triumph as they land some insane thing on a skateboard, and that bright-eyed grin covered in dirty grease coming out from under the hood of a car. I also see those sullen, shadowed eyes and hang-dog shoulders when they've done wrong and know it or when they're forced to do something. Particularly when the younger has decided for whatever reason that he's not good enough and gives up.

This isn't the only film, though. Look back at the recent history of family cinema. "Holes", "Secondhand Lions", "Finding Nemo", and even "Lilo and Stitch" are all stories of young men (or young blue aliens) trying to find ways to straighten things out and fit in. Even the X-men and other comics contain a strong subtext of trying to fit in, and youth-oriented books are the same. Mr. Potter is only a broom-length in front of Artemis Fowl and Lemony Snicket.

The kids feel the lack, too. We saw Treasure Planet in the theater. As we were walking back out the car, my eldest turned to me and said, "Well Mom, I guess all you need now is a couple old cyborgs with boats." We laughed, but the truth of it really has stuck with me in the year or more since then. The fashion of sending boys off to learn a trade has been replaced with macrameing them to the couch in the house alone or placing them behind a counter in a paper hat. Then they turn 18 and they are supposed to magically know what to do with themselves and like it.

What do we tell them? How do we help them find their way? So many of us are still trying to find a way home ourselves. I don't know. All I know is I'm running out of time.
Thanksgiving Notes....

We've finished eating and in the tryptophan-induced holliday stupor the kids are quietly arguing about a game and I'm writing rather than deal with the mess. On the table, the bird is tattered strips hanging off bones and the bowls and serving utensils have got one good snack-worth left in each. It's going to take me an hour or so to get things back into shape around here, but all in all it didn't turn out too badly. I seem to have gauged the scale of festivities that fit us this year fairly well.

I've been asked several times on several forums what I'm grateful for, and this has turned out to be the best list I have come up with so far:
I'm grateful that we're all here, and I'm grateful for those who were here and had to go, but left us these ephemeral notes to remember them by.

I am grateful for my children, and for the fact that I have managed to keep us all together and taken care of for one more year.

I am grateful for my friends, both meat and electron, who have been a rock for me in these times.

I'm grateful for my best friend's truly bitchy cat, who keeps reminding me what really bad behavior looks like and helps me keep perspective (and also helps me keep in contact with the friend - I'm the only person she'll let take care of her but him).

You have a great Thanksgiving and see you in the Holiday Rush! ;)

Monday, November 24, 2003

Livin' La Vida Dorka....

I'm trying to bury myself in geek-dom for a bit here. I look at my life and the things going on in it and I just can't deal with this tonight.

Less than a month 'til Return of the King - even Newsweek is getting on the bandwagon. They ran a huge lovely spread. Heard a bunch of cyber-vapor about the battle at Pellenor but nothing I'm willing to quote.

Berkley Breathed has taken up his pen again to give us Opus, a Sunday-only cartoon starring everyone's favorite flightless waterfowl. The Seattle Times is going to have it - check their online comics pages to see it Sunday (I hope!).

Tomorrow X-2 hits DVD. Guess what's going to be playing in my house tomorrow night? I knew that you could. ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Mint Flavored Sneakers in full effect tonight...

I'm going to keep this short. For some reason nothing I say seems to be taken correctly today. I might as well be speaking Sanskrit or something. I'm going to cut my losses and just do some work and then hit the hay, I think.

Do you ever have days like that, where nothing you do or say seems to be understood or make sense to anyone else?

Monday, November 17, 2003

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

My brain is running in tiny little pattering circles like a mouse in a Mason jar. This is the two-edged sword of being kept awake even beyond my very high threshold of no-sleep.

bookZilla's leg is doing very well - thanks everyone for asking. The surgery went fabulously, and the doctor thinks there won't be any problems at all now. She has her very cool black moon boot and she's ready for school tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, am a wreck. Kind of funny how that all works out.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

From the book of MsZilla....

I am seriously considering changing my screen-name to "Job". The book-in-the-Bible Job. I'm feeling a bit beleagered.

My house sounds like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dirty Laundry - I've got the washer and dryer going in one ear, and Crimson Skies going in the other. Three of the kids are home from school today and so I'm working from home.

bookZilla fell last night and broke her leg. Did it right, too - we were at the ER until almost five this morning. She has to have surgery tomorrow morning so they have her tranked to the gills and I basically have a very surly, needy piece of furniture that has to be re-arranged frequently. grrlZilla has what is either the Sympathy Flu, or the real thing. skateZilla is at home due to his problems at school. ZillaJr had his 16th birthday yesterday in the midst of all this, and his first drama production has Opening Night tonight. He'll be home any second. And I'm here trying to work with my internet connection going up and down like a basketball at a Sonics game.

Arrgggh! I won't change it, actually. I consider it from time to time, but people probably won't read it correctly, and then I'll have to explain it, and well, it gets ugly from there..... ;P

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Educational day all around

The pagan horde and I have had an educational day today. First thing was a trip down to the good theater in town to see "The Matrix: Revolutions". It was just me and the guys, with me sitting between them with two coats I could throw over them if I felt the need. I didn't have to, not once. Well, I probably should have in the S&M bar, just because I had to explain what the heck that place was on the way out the car. That was embarassing, but not in the way you think. They had kind of figured it out, but they were kind of wigged out that I knew what it was. Ah, youth.

BTW, the film was actually quite good. And more importantly, it seriously improved the second film. You can see my spoiler-free version of my review on movZilla (and on Slate's Fray later tonight). I decided to post it on the Fray so we can discuss it. That's one thing that I miss with this blog is the interactions. I get response here, but not the conversational give-and-take I get there. Once they start answering there, then we get into the heavy spoilers.

Once I got that done, ZillaJr had to go to rehearsal for his drama production, and then I took the girls to see Brother Bear. I didn't go in with them - I was dealing with skateZilla. They loved it, though. Gave it two thumbs WAY WAY up. Except for the part with the bear riding the mammoth. They really didn't think that could ever have happened. Had great conversation on way home about real bears (like the fact that male bears eat cubs rather than take them on long trips).

Once got everyone home, it was chore time. When they were done, we drove over to Schlockbuster to return our videos and looked up in the sky and had a serious, "Oh WOW!" moment when I saw it. The eclipse! I had read it's time online but the guy had stated that we probably wouldn't be able to see it. Well, he was dead dead wrong. Gorgeous view. We drove home in a flash and sat out in the parking lot of our complex and drank hot chocolate and watched it and had a great talk about what was going on and why it looked like it did.

Now in for chili. It was skateZilla's turn tonight, and he cooked one of my favorite kid-friendly recipes. Simple, easy, and they love it. We call it "can chili", because it was created when a friend of mine who is a Mormon had to move out of state and left me her entire year's supply thing. Looks like this:
Can Chili
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup diced onion
2 cups frozen corn (or a can of nibblets corn)
1 large can or two small cans of commercial chili (Stagg is best)
2 cans diced, peeled tomatoes (stewed also works if you slice them up when adding them)
4 small or two large cans of various beans (two dark red beans and two pintos is good mix)

Brown ground beef and onions with your favorite spices (we use really offensive amounts of garlic, pepper, parsley, celery seed, and a touch of seasoned salt). Add chili and stir. Add rest of canned ingredients and stir. Add frozen corn and stir. Heat on medium until just simmering. Taste and if bland add some chili powder to taste.

Serve in large bowls with grated cheese and onions on top and bagel chips or cornbread on the side (or skateZilla adds what seems like a cup of frickin' Tobasco).

Once everyone had their bowl, we watched what we picked up at the video store, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I've been impressed. These films have really stood the test of time. The transfers on the DVD's are amazing - they must have found an unviewed print or the transfer company sacrificed something very large to someone at exactly the right phase of the moon to get twenty-year-old film this clean.

Let's see. Today we've covered several sorts of solipsistic philosophy, a little naturalism, lunar and solar astronomy, home ec and now cinematic history. We've had a full day. Time to relax with a little aeronautics and ballistics (Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge). The boys have been bragging again and it's time to peel some bark off them. My work is never done, I guess.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I was having lunch with the gang at work, and the movie “Anna and the King” came up in the conversation. This one gal has a fairly huge thing for Chow Yun Fat (one of the few things we agree on that way), and made a comment that she would give a lot to have someone look at her like that. I just nodded, flabbergasted that she had gotten this far in her life and she never had. She has been married twice, once for twelve years. She has a child. I can’t imagine having never having stood there, looking at a man looking back at you with his heart in his eyes. I can’t imagine never having known deep in your soul someone felt like that about you just once in your whole life.

I watched the movie again tonight, and I was watching Jodie Foster’s character struggle with the consequences of her own feelings about being held by a man other than her dead husband, and I realized I am in sort of the same boat. In many ways, my ex is dead. The person I knew and loved is gone, buried somewhere back along the years we were together. I don’t know when he died. I wish I did know. When that person died, the other parts of him were left to try and make sense out of the life they are left with. A lot of what happened was because the parts of him that were left were stuck trying to live that life, which in many ways was foreign to them. No wonder things fell apart.

There was a time, glacial ages ago it feels sometimes, when he looked at me that way and I looked back at him, serene in the knowledge that we belonged together. I was never happier but when we were together, even just sitting on the couch watching TV or something.

Even after the divorce, there were times I would see it again. When he dropped off or picked up the children he would look at me and I see the tracks the feelings had left behind in his eyes. Like somewhere down the line, he felt that the same thing happened to me – that the woman he loved and wed and lived with died too – and he was looking for her in the tattered remains of me.

I never did figure out how to deal with that. We always just found some trite way to end the conversation and escape. I will always be grateful to her for this insight, I guess. I never had to lack for it. Before I even realized what it was, I had it. And through whatever agency brought the twists and turns of our life about, I lost it. I had been afraid that something horrible was going on in my life because I didn’t have that any more. She seems to have gotten on just fine without it, and she is almost twice my age. If she can make it for that long without it, I can certainly find a way to finish out my life without it.

Even after this last year and it’s revelations, something in me still answers that searching. It would have been so easy to fall right back into that dance. He has said my name in a way that no one else has ever said it. He has held my hand and walked with me in a way that no other ever will. Will I listen for that sound and feel for that hand for the rest of my life? Even if I do ever find someone else, he will say those things and do those things his own way. And as wonderful as those ways may be, it won’t be the same. I wonder if I will ever not miss it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Zen and the Art of Spellchecking...

Jim Lileks has this note on the bottom of his blog tonight here.
(Note: spellcheck wanted to replace “Tholian” with “Taliban.” I hit the LEARN button for Tholian, which means that some day I will spellcheck a column while tired and submit an essay that castigates the Kabul bombing and the Tholian remnants who claimed responsibility.)

Anyone who writes fiction has similar problems. I wrote a piece of Tolkien fan-fiction with my daughters and I just couldn't stand those damned red squigglies anymore and I have a whole legion of Elven names and words in my spellchecking dictionary that I'm just waiting to have show up. Have "melior" show up as an alternative for "mellon" for example.

What words have you added to your spell-check that you are afraid are going to bite you in the arse one day?
Ode to Aging by the Pagan Horde....

The girls and several of their friends wrote me a song for my birthday, and performed it for me with their youth group tonight and they said I could share it with you:

Sung to the tune of 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile' from the musical 'Annie'

No sanity, big calamity
The biggest number yet,
But, Mother, you're never fully dressed
without a life......

You're turning older yet
We've got to remember
Mommy, you're never fully dressed
without a life....

Who cares what you look like
You're still a geek to us
All your grays and lumpy bumps,
And those wrinkles by your eyes
are all part of you

No sanity, big calamity
You've got to remember
That you're turning older yet
The biggest number yet,
Oh yes you're never fully dressed
without a life......

You're never fully dressed
Though you may wear your best
You're never fully dressed!!!

I'll leave you to imagine the big finish...

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Letter of Intent (ironic joke)

To: A Certain Corporation
Attn: Legal Department
From: Azathoth, Nyarlathotep and Hastur, Elder Attorneys.


Our agents among the mortal herd have brought to Our attention your recent product entitled Visual Studio .NET 2003. Therefore, We now give you statutory notice of intent of proceedings to be taken against your company by the Many-Angled Ones.

With this suit We will show that Visual Studio, and to a lesser extent all of your range of products, infringe upon the recognised "look-and-feel" of the Elder Gods, for the following reasons:

o Visual Studio is a crawling abomination from the darkest pits of Hell;

o No one can be in it's presence for too long without being driven into gibbering insanity;

o A cult who worship it exist in secret amongst the mortal herd;

o Those who associate with it for too long develop common physical characteristics, to wit: pale, clammy skin, bulging eyes, generally unkempt physical appearance, tendency towards nocturnal living, change in diet to that which normal men do not eat (in your case tacos, burgers and Jolt Cola; in Ours, human flesh, Fungi of Yuggoth and the blood of Alien Gods);

o Mysterious tomes that purport to explain this phenomenon are reputed to exist; they are bound in an unnatural substance and only available at a terrible cost to the user.

o Visual Studio seeks to utterly dominate the development environment, and force all who dwell there to live in eternal damnation.

As you can see, Our case is very strong, especially when you consider that most judges prefer not to have chittering things with tentacles for faces scoop out their brains and eat them.

We hope that you will consider these points carefully and settle out of court, since it is not Our intention to have your senior partners spend the rest of their mercifully short lives under heavy sedation in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. After all, it was the Lords of the Outer Planes who gave humanity lawyers in the first place.

Respectfully yours,

pp. J. Arthur Hastur, LL.B., B.C.L, B.D

My compiler isn't cooperating again. Can you tell? ;)

Monday, October 13, 2003

Walking on Broken Glass

It's hard for me to take a stand on the Rush Limbaugh/drug thing. For one thing, it's hard for me to stand in general. (pause for collective groan at bad joke)

I live with a chronic pain condition. For me, all it takes is a movement or even just to wait a minute and I get small jabbed reminders of just what he's been talking about. Larger efforts bring even more pain. On a good day, I feel like I've run 10 miles and worked out for four hours the day before. On a bad day, well, let's just say it gets worse.

I can understand the urge to get relief no matter what. I've been lucky, if you can call it that, that my physicians don't believe that those drugs are appropriate or helpful for my condition. As a result, I don't get them prescribed to me and so I don't have to fight them off when the prescription runs out. I fight mine with a series of folk remedies, OTC anti-inflammatories, symptom relief techniques and just plain sucking it up. I get through; some days are easier than others.

And there are days when I fall down. One of the most effective pain relievers I have access to easily is alcahol, and there are times when it is very very hard to stay away from it. Again, luckily, the kids are all graduates of the local D.A.R.E. program and if I even walk down that aisle in the store I get them channelling Nancy Reagan's preaching in four-part harmony. If you don't think that's a deterrent, you haven't met the Pagan Horde.

This life is the only one I get, and the coin it is measured in is time. My children are only this age for a short time. I have things that I want to get accomplished in my life, and duties as a mother that can't be shirked. I made a choice long ago that I wouldn't just lay down and hand over any part of my time, my life to this. If this gets any, it is going to have to take it. I get up each morning, and I go to work and chase kids and do what is necessary. That means that sometimes I have to do things that hurt. That means I pay the price the next days or weeks in increased pain and debility. I consider it an investment, in my kids and their lives and in mine. It hurts me to tie my own shoes and, yes, it hurts me like crap to rollerblade. But I do both anyways.

I think both sides need to take a knee for a second. Those who are trying to excuse Rush need to realize that there are quite a few people in this country who are fighting these conditions who don't resort to illegal use of prescription medication to combat it. He made his choice just like everyone else and he needs to face the consequences of that act. And those who just blithely strode into the room and started spouting how his pain couldn't be THAT bad and cut-and-pasted that article about playing golf obviously have no idea what price he probably paid the next day for doing that, or why he would do it. To truly understand, you would need to walk a day with someone whose shoes are full of broken glass, and there's no end to the road in sight.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Stop-and-Go Walden Pond

Each morning, I get the children out the door and trudge out to my car. Seatbelt, ignition, hook hands-free to cell phone. The hands return to the steering wheel by habit, almost without my thinking about it. Turn, look twice, and then do my little back-and-fill tango because someone with a really compensatorially large pickup moved in and their parking space is right behind mine. I wait at our entrance for the upstream traffic light to make a gap for me, and then I join the flow of steel creeping down my street.

Cars and trucks and everything of all shapes and sizes creeping along their daily pilgrimage to wherever. The lady next to me has a very nice Jag, I notice. She's on the phone. The guy in front of me is in a Lexus that looks like a shuttle on the old Star Trek and has a license plate surround that says something about the Microsoft Exchange team being feared, so I know where he's probably headed. He's in the wrong lane for that exit, so that will be fun later on. The other lane is moving faster (of course) so by the time I look back the Jag has been replaced by a beat up white pickup with a bed mounded wth filled leaf-bags.

The crawl stops. My eyes stray out of their usual straight forward to rear-view mirror and back flicker. The fields off to my left are being harvested, and the pumpkins that have been hidden by the vines are being herded by workers into bright orange groups at the edges of the field before being picked up and carted off to their final destinations. The wild apple tree on the right has started dropping fruit, so there is a section of street where the bike lane and the whole curb is covered in green apples in various states of smashed. A bicyclist goes up on the sidewalk to avoid them. I wonder if anyone thinks about that - someone probably threw an apple core out the window here, or a truck lost one twenty years ago, and now there is a tree here. That still feels strange to me. Back home, fruit is a product of careful gardening and hard work. Here, it's a weed. The kids walking by on their way to the mall keep this one's fruit pretty well picked, but they don't ever touch the ones that have fallen. The ruby eyes in front of me blink dim or wink out, and we move forward a few feet.

We get to the freeway, and the kindness of a little electric blue rice-rocket with a hatchback full of black speakers on the right lets the Lexus get into the right place. With a quick wave he powers off to his life. In my mind I see mauve halls and bright orange styrofoam coffee cups and have a little reminiscent moment. Some of my favorite ideas have been scrawled on the back of unbleached brown napkins from those breakrooms. I smile a bit to myself. This happens almost every morning; not necessarily caused by this Lexus but there are quite a few of it's brethren running around with those tags dangling by the mirror to remind me. It's been almost five years, and I still think back.

The freeway isn't much better than the arterial, but the construction makes it a bit more interesting. We pass by lines of those blinking yellow lights mounted on plastic barrels I call road aliens. The kids and I once had a great conversation where we speculated how they were trying to get home and they all needed to work together to signal the mothership. We had a taxonomy worked out, and everything. You have your barrell-bellied road aliens, and your spindly-legged road aliens, and your stone-toed road aliens (those are the ones mounted directly on concrete barriers). At the end we decided they needed to get more of them in one place to do it. Looks like they haven't managed it yet, but they try around here. A lot.

I finally get to my exit, and we dive back into another flock of aliens. There is usually a hawk that sits on top of a power pole and glares at us on our way, but he must be off on other pursuits today. It's most definately fall, and the gray lowering brows over the hills make me want to go home and curl up with a comforter and a good book. A tandem bike passes me in the bike-lane. Matching rain-gear, too. Maybe I'm too independent - I don't understand why you would pay $2,000 dollars for the priveledge of not being able to ride the bike by yourself. Of course, they probably have separate bikes, too. But I still wonder.

Up the hill, and then down on the other side. The clouds mask the views of Bellevue and downtown Seattle today. I turn into the parking lot, and reverse my getting in the car ritual. Double check - wallet, phone, keys... Grab laptop case, lock doors and trudge up the stairs to the office.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Coming Home...

He came home today. In a lot of ways for me it feels like introducing a new pet into the household. You watch them like a hawk, watching to make sure they don't hurt themselves or get into any kerfubbles with the current residents. I worked from home the rest of the day while he was on the phone calling everyone in our area code, I think. The rest of the kids got home an hour or so later, and so far things have gone calmly this evening.

The worrying has already begun again. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. The listening to the slightest sound and having to classify it as benign or "what the heck is going on now?". I can feel it falling down around my shoulders like a musty old wool greatcoat scented with stress and faux Old Spice. Actually the Old Spice is wafting out of the bathroom. One of the girls squirted ZillaJr's shaving cream all through the laundry basket; I don't know why and I've decided this is a battle I'm not going to pick today. I did the laundry that was in there to try to kill it but we still get drifts of it wafting through the house every time someone opens the bathroom door. Besides, the constant beeping of the phone keys and Caller ID as he tried to returned his calls was driving me straight up the wall and the washer and dryer helped mask that.

He's trying to deal. He didn't like being cooped up, but things were easier there, and he's way too smart not to have noticed that pretty quick. As good as it feels to be out, there's also a lot of things that he didn't have to deal with for a while that he has to think about now. He has the rest of the week home from school to stretch those real-life muscles again. He said it feels like he's had to go to work. In some ways, that's exactly right. His work is growing up. I just wish it was easier.

We had the meetings and what have you and came home with a stack of prescriptions and phone numbers and appointment cards. I guess that "outpatient" means that instead of having everything in one place you have to go all over heck all the time. There are so many it feels like I've taken a second job. Maybe I should; at this rate, even just the out-of-pocket costs are going to be interesting to deal with. Mental health insurance parity, anyone? If this is what it takes, I'll do it. I don't care what it is as long as we end up with a reasonable outcome for him, and for all of them.

I know there is nothing certain in this whole teenager thing, even without this to complicate it. I used to be certain that somehow we would find a way through this, but I'm not anymore. I've seen now what the path will be if it keeps going the way it's gone this last year. The odds I'm fighting just keep getting worse. I wanted to scream at some poor lady from church yesterday. I know she was trying to comfort me, but she has a talent for saying precisely the wrong thing at the wrong time. That whole "the Lord wouldn't give you a task without giving you the way to accomplish it" platitude just hurts when you feel like you've failed this badly.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The Longest Miles...

My younger son is in the hospital, so things are a little messed up around here. Things are going to be fine, but we are going to have an interesting few weeks getting things straightened back out.

The hardest part is every time I go to visit him, I have to leave. And the longest miles I have ever gone are when I have to drive away from there without him.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project

And just when you thought I might have moved on to meaty topics to the exclusion of all else, we have The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project! Yep. They Turing Tested a Twinkie. Make sure not to miss their results in Haiku!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

My Life As A Mom-friend...

Twenty years ago, young women of my age would send their husbands off to work in the morning, get the kids settled playing in the yard or bundle them up and bring them along in a sort of game of house swap. They would all show up at one house or another to “have coffee” while the hordes of the neighborhood played in the yard. I watched my mother and her friends around the kitchen table enviously so many times, wondering what they had to say to each other that took all that time. With so many young women having careers and waiting to have families the very nature of these interactions has changed. Now, many young women can’t look around her neighborhood and find a group of like situated people to interact with. Instead of the kitchen table, the office and the closest coffee shop are the new venue. The standard office kaffee-klatch will have single people, married people, divorced people, single parents, different genders, you name it. New ways have to be come up with to deal with those different circumstances and the restrictions it can cause.

In response to the new situation, people actually have begun to develop their own new words for the various kinds of situations as a sort of shorthand to explaining all those various circumstances. I was once told I am a “Mom-friend”. With a subtle cynical air, I asked what that meant. She helpfully explained that this means a friend with kids that you can only see when they manage to dump the kids on a spouse or babysitter or whatever. Used in a sentence in place of the term “girlfriend”. She doesn’t seem to make any separation between single parents and married parents. I nodded wisely and let the subject drop, quailing a bit inside.

Later on, I got mad. How dare she pigeonhole me like that? It made me want to throw up. A little delicate probing at another time brought out the rest of the story. This one gal has a whole new hierarchy based on how much time the people can spend with her and what they can do together. Mom-friends rate lower than single-friends, since the Mom-friends can’t just drop everything on 20 minutes notice and come over and watch movies at her house at midnight on a weeknight if they want. Male-friends are guys she sees in social settings but for whatever reason aren’t suitable to become boy-friends. There is a sub-set called Dad-friends, but I don’t know what that is all about, and I’m fairly certain I don’t want to. Everyone she knows is categorized and pigeonholed and her interactions with them are run accordingly.

Since then, I have seen the term a couple of times on newsgroups and message boards. It still makes me a little sick inside. One of the side effects of the Internet has been an explosion of writing, from all walks of life. Until recently, only people who could convince a publisher their words were worth money could get their work on paper and in front of the public. Now, everyone with a keyboard and a dream can spout their prose on the world. Our society has changed in so many other ways as well, and in many cases the Oxford just doesn’t seem to have the right words. Everyone chipping in can make for some interesting discovery, but it also means that with no editorial resources, some interesting usages are getting out there in front of people, and from sheer repetition can become part of our language.

As cold and mercenary as this person’s approach to life seems to me, there is an uneasy germ of truth in it. I am a friend, and I am a Mom, and I truly can’t just drop everything and go play whenever I want. If she wants to categorize people to manage her investment of time, then so be it. I have other friends, who are happy to see me when we can get together, and understand when I can’t. But I don’t like the term, I just don’t. I have a term for her, too. Former-friend.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all....

Been in the Pit of Despair this last week or so, and things are just not looking up yet. It's always interesting looking at life from the belly of the Beast. I mean, I'm just enough into this that I'm starting to get the full view of just how deep the rabbit hole can go, but I'm no where near the spot where I can start climbing out. Sort of like waiting for Christmas when you were a kid except there's no good thing waiting at the end.

I'm not going to snivel on for the length of the Bible about this. I could I suppose, but who the heck wants to read that. Heck, I don't even want to read it.

A couple of high-points:
  • Saw Pirates of the Carribean, finally. Incredibly cool flick. Will be doing a full review here soon. You'll see it on movZilla if GamerDad doesn't need it.

  • Finally got the clearance to updated our spec/requirements/testing procedures at work. That's the good news. Bad part - I get to do it ON TOP OF my current workload, which is vaguely psychotic already. Gonna be an interesting month.

  • At any rate, I hope to develop a more normal schedule of things here soon. Already learned about promising things, though, so I won't. If you're really bored, there is a new review of "The Core" on movZilla, and a link to our new venue Gamerdad (which is also joining our Links Bank here today).

    Thursday, September 11, 2003

    On this day of remembrance...

    That day has come around again. As it will every year now until those of us who watched it in stunned horror are old or gone and only those who have seen the pictures remain. It will join the parade of Time/Life books that our grandchildren will see on our bookshelves and use to build forts and we will explain to them every year why we are a little sad on that day and get a little peeved when they are properly solemn for a second and then ask us if they can use the Elvis one instead, then. I did this to my Gramma on D-Day once. She lost two brothers on those beaches. To me they were just black-and-white pictures in the photo album. Like so many other things, I understand it a little better now.

    And that is how life is supposed to be, I think. We rebuild ourselves. This big sharp thing is driven up through of the fabric of our lives and after a period of shock we blaze new trails around it. Then at some point down the line the edges are softened by the winds that blow through our lives and the grass grows up over it and flowers start to bloom on it, and it starts to feel like it was always there. We pass it on our way, and remember for a moment, but then we have to go on. How many of us noticed beyond a few newsflashes when D-Day rolled around this year? Unless you were in the business of marking the day, most of us just had a few sad introspective thoughts on our drive home and left it at that. I'm just as guilty as everyone else - my Veterans Day poppy which lives on my rear-view mirror got a few more looks that day and the kids and I had a talk while we were driving somewhere and that was about it. My aunt has those pictures now.

    My uncle who worked in the Pentagon (and thankfully wasn't there that day) died in a car crash two months ago. I guess it's all a matter of perspective. I can't tell you if I would have mourned more if we had lost him that day or not. I am glad just from the standpoint that his family had the intervening time with him that they would have lost. I only talked to him about it once. He downplayed it, saying that it was hard to loose all those friends.

    Maybe that is part of the sharpness of this. These people would have all died at some point. We all have to face that. But one day all of them just go off to work or travel, minding their own business and then it happens. Suddenly their families get a phone call and are told they have lost the time between that indefinate and hopefully far off day and this one. That is what I mourn. That is what makes me angry. Collectively, how much love and friendship and every good thing did those families loose? It isn't the buildings and the dust blowing through Manhattan; it is the intangible stuff that matters and is the hardest to track. We can look and try to count how many kid's birthdays are shadowed by a missing parent, how many graduation days. But we'll never know it all; we can't count bedtime stories and kisses on the cheek on the way out the door and a finger pointing out a more correct answer on a homework sheet.

    James Lileks captured it well:
    Somewhere lodged in the lung of a New Yorker is an atom that once belonged to a man who went to work two years ago and never came back. His widow dreads today, because people will be coming and calling, and she'll have to insist that she's okay. It's hard but last year was harder. The kids will be sad and distant, but they take their cues from her, and they sense that it's hard - but that last year was harder. But what really kills her, really really kills her, is knowing that the youngest one doesn't remember daddy at all anymore. And she's the one who has his eyes.

    Two years in; the rest of our lives to go.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003

    What my learned colleague of the opposition is TRYING to say...

    I somehow got roped into an online debate. The topic is about whether the US government should pay reparations for slavery. The online part adds some interesting twists to things. In a case like this, it is most odd not to know the skincolor of your opponents or team mates. I've never even met my team mates. I know nothing about them but what they've chosen to post on a discussion board, and they know nothing about me.

    It goes the way these things always go. Must dust is being thrown up in all directions about things that you would think have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with this, but are cast in the most urgent relevency. Soapboxes are in a state of high polish, and there is much holystoning going on down in the ranks of rhetoric.

    I had forgotten just how much maddening joy this is. The rush of adrenaline as you listen to their measured phrases and try to shore up your own arguments while poking holes in theirs. You spend days shaking inside and praying you aren't shaking outside, too. I'm tied up in knots - I can't eat, I can't sleep, but I haven't had this much fun in years.

    It's cool to see the people I usually chat with in this sort of light. We usually talk about non-esentials or politics. Someone may go off and go all formal on one topic or another, but we usually don't get exposed to the true depths of the brains hitting those other keyboard keys to the extent we are now. It is awe-inspiring and terrifying. There is some amazing power just floating around those Fray-boards, and I don't think most of us ever saw it.

    Saturday, September 06, 2003

    Fighting Fair

    Like to argue? Want some help with someone else's "ideas"? A friend pointed out this link to me. It is titled A List Of Fallacious Arguments, and it gives an exhaustive list of how people use bad technique to support their arguements. Since I'm in a debate on one of my favorite forums next week, this will come in majorly handy!

    Wednesday, September 03, 2003

    It isn't the beginning of childhood that is the problem, it's the middle.

    It seems that all my friends have decided it is time to have children of their own. This is interesting to me, because I had mine quite some time ago and so I see them starting out now and I just shake my head. Those days were wonderful, and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but it was not easy. There's millions of words out there of advice about what to do with babies, but let me add a few. I know you're tired. I know you have no idea what you are doing and they seem so fragile, but believe me, that fades. Far quicker than you want it to.
    • This too shall pass. Or, to put it another way, "The darkest hour is only 60 minutes long." This first year is literally that, only a year. It feels like eternity right now, but it does end. And when it is gone, it really is gone forever. Just hang in there.

    • Get a good picture of you and the baby while it is sleeping and blow it up really big. Hang it someplace where you can see it when you are trying to get them to sleep. If you have other children, catch them too, and do the same thing. Sometimes, just the evidence that they do in fact sleep at some point, and they are absolutely adorable when they do it really can help you get through it. (plus the photos are good grandma-fodder later)

    • Everyone has all sorts of advice, but at 3 am, it doesn't mean a bloody thing. You know your child better than anyone. When we were trying to deal with my daughters and the boys, my doctor suggested writing down a list of things to do that soothe each child and stick it to the wall by their beds. That way, when that child got upset at night we could just start at the top of the list each time and work down. Each kid is an individual, so they need their own list. Sometimes having it written out makes it easier to know what do at that unholy cow-milking hour of the morning when you can't see straight and they are wailing like a banshee.

    • You have the same 24 hours per day you had before the baby, you just have more to do in that time. I know it sounds silly, but you are not in some sort of odd timewarp. Prioritization, writing down EVERYTHING, and a liberal dose of help from others (paid or otherwise) will get you through this.

    • Lighten up on yourself, and on your expectations. Due to the aforementioned 24-hours-in-a-day thing, some stuff you used to get done simply isn't going to. Things aren't going to be perfect. There is no amount of wishful thinking or effort on your part that are going to make it so. Be careful what you promise to other people - you don't know the shape of the hat anymore and you can hang yourself. Do the best you can and let the rest go.

    • Newborns hit your life like an atomic weapon and you would have to be some sort of automaton if you didn't feel a bit put out about the entire thing. Your feelings of frustration (or, say it softly, anger) are real. THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PARENT, A BAD SPOUSE, OR A BAD PERSON. No one likes to talk about it, but we all have the urge to play hand-baby from time to time. The difference is all in what you do, not what you feel. Just put your head down until it passes, give yourself a stern shake and a mental hug (or get a real one from your spouse), and then go in and deal with whatever was just spattered all over the floor.

    • SHARE THIS WITH YOUR SPOUSE! You are both lost, exhausted, and scared. Hormones and fatigue poisons are all over, and you are both on edge. You need each other. The only real strength you are going to be able to find in all of this is in each other. At some point in the evening, put the baby close to hand but not in someone's arms, let the others watch a show or run around playing with their toys, and take a few minutes to sit on the couch, hold hands, and just be together.

    When they get older, information gets thinner on the ground. Friends and relatives stop gushing about their favorite trick for getting Jr. to burp on command and they start changing the subject. Or, you just get commiserating headshakes or vague you-should-have-done-X advice. I do have a few notes to impart. This is about the future. I'm not talking about tomorrow, or the next item on the list, but what you would see if you could lift your eyes up from in front of your feet and see a bit farther out. I mean when they are older. Like when you have a fourth-grader who comes home shouting the words to the latest gansta-rap song his friend let him listen to.

    Sometimes when I am hip deep in the morass of my daily life I remember with nostalgia the simpler time when a diaper wipe and a mop could fix things, and their main goal in life was to graduate to a smaller size of Legos. No matter what they tell you, each age has its own challenges. They are just different, not necessarily easier.
    • They do tend to be less physically messy as they age, unless you have a budding mad scientist in the house like I have. Now it is far less about accidents and more about premeditated actions. Spilled grape juice has nothing on skateboard bearing lubricant.

    • Things are just as hectic now as they were then. You no longer have to feed them every two hours or change their diapers. You have to drive them all over heck and deal with their schedule and their friends and school and everthing else. Starbucks is your friend, still.

    • Skinned knees and other concrete problems are a thing of the past. There comes a point were you are dealing with the specters of driver's licenses and school dances for the boys, and boyfriends and bras for the girls. And "because I said so" no longer works as well.

    • Privacy is not a joke. You are used to knowing EVERYTHING about your kids, and now all of a sudden they don't want you to even know if they have eaten yet today. Understand that they need some distance. Just know when it is time for you to become nosy.

    • You are their parent, not their friend. You have to do things to help them learn and grow in this life and they aren't all fun and games. You can show you love them just as much by telling them no as telling them yes. They may not take it that way now, but that doesn't make it any less true.

    The good news is, they do grow up. And even if you feel you aren't good enough and don't deserve it, they are often generous enough to love you anyways. Yes, there were plenty of those "Someday we'll all look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject" sort of moments, but all in all, some of the most precious memories I have are of that time. And if you think poopy diapers are bad, wait until you have to deal with the mess that comes with broken hearts. If could figure out how to make a wipe for that, I would be a trillionaire.

    Monday, September 01, 2003

    School Daze, School Nights

    School is starting again. After running laps between two schools, I got all the paperwork done. I have done my time in the back-to-school-sale trenches and paid really offensive amounts of money for random-seeming stuff and pants with specific names on them. I get my days back to myself, for work or whatever is is necessary. But more importantly to me, we have "school nights".

    People who aren't in my situation may not realize just how precious a gift this is. The days have to belong to my boss or whatever errands and chores need to be done. Evenings and mornings are the children's, to do with as they see fit - part of my job as a mom. But once they are properly settled into bed every weeknight, the next couple of hours are MINE.

    It is the only time of the day that is truly my own. I decide what goes on. I do chores and what have you, but not due to necessity but because I choose to get them done now as a present to myself an easier to do list tomorrow. If I want to spend the entire night with the Master Chief blowing things up or vegging in front of a DVD that the kids hate, I can. If I want to invest it in getting some work done in peace and quiet, I can TS in and do that. I can actually hear myself think if I want to, or I can choose to crank something obnoxious on my headphones so I don't have to. I get my life back to myself for as long as I can stay awake.

    My friends and family are forever after me to "take care of myself". I have tried to explain it to some people, but the only person I know who gets it has sleeping habits as bad or worse than mine. My life is overbooked to the Nth degree. There is no way it all is going to get done, and something has to give. I won't drop the ball at work or take it out of what I owe the children. If I am going to have any time at all, it has to come out of the tattered shards of my day that aren't promised to others and at this point, sleep-time is all that isn't.

    This time is an investment in the parts of me that being a mom and an employee and a friend and every other label I wear do not cover. This part doesn't need much because there really isn't much at this point. But it needs care and feeding just as much as the bloody laundry needs to get done or the kids need dinner. It is the part that will be left when the kids grow up, and when I retire. If I ignore it for all these years, when I need it to step up to the plate and take over for those peeled off labels it isn't going to be able to.

    Friday, August 22, 2003

    Tuesday Morning Quarterback is BAACCCKKK!!

    Yes, it's that time again, and the gridiron giants are bashing their preseason heads together. For those of you who don't have time to follow football properly but want to be able to understand what the guys are blathering about at the watercooler, we have the Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Gregg Easterbrook gives us a weekly breakdown of football follies and features over on ESPN's Page 2.

    No, they didn't pay for this link. I just love TMQ and seeing it was back with us helped move this day a couple notches up the suck-o-meter and I wanted to share it with you. I can't put a perma-link up to them because they insist on not having a central page to find his articles outside of the Page 2 homepage and I'm not going there. I may be a geek, but I'm still a chick. ;)

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    The Centrist Papers....

    What do we do, we "moderates"? We are reviled by both parties; anyone who is left of Rush Limbaugh is scathingly called the L-word, and anyone to the right of LaRouche is referred to as a neocon or worse. My favorite appellation applied is "RINO" or "Republican in Name Only". Seriously? In name only? Are they somehow faking conservative fiscal-leanings?

    Oh dear! Lock up your daughters.

    I have found that I am not the only person who has thought some of these thoughts. One of the nicest things about being a loosely defined collective without a defined platform is we don't have to nail the planks down quite so hard. There is room for more than one viewpoint. So, in the spirit of the great polemic political tract writers of our Revolutionary period, I will begin assembling some of the moderate-conservative thought floating around out there into one meaty tome. We'll call it "The Centrist Papers".

    Tonight's installment is from Bill Whittle over at EjectEjectEject, and is entitled "Responsibility". Enjoy.

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

    Going Back to Bed and Pulling Covers Over My Head

    Maybe forever. I'm all in a welter. One of the people who I know from the Fray has been terminally ill for a long time. We had all sort of come to terms with it as best we could, and welcomed every post he did. His son has just posted that he is gone.

    I know very little about him in real life. I don't know his real name for sure, only his posting handle. He moved to Florida a bit more than a year ago. He has a wife and at least two kids. But even though I know so little about his life, I feel like I knew him as a person very well. He was adept at sharing his thoughts and feelings, and could stagger you with a well placed thrust of wit.

    On top of everything else, this has really taken the wind out of my sails. One foot in front of the other today. Working on subduing Mt. Washmore (great name for it Franklie) and not mangling the kids. And later, I'll mourn.

    Friday, August 15, 2003

    I just tried out Blog This! This is quite cool! As long as I'm not doing any template changes, this is absolutely great.

    At any rate, I'll be back later with real content. ;)

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    Sniff, sniff, koff, koff...

    MsZilla has been having a lovely time in the health department lately. In some respects, it's a good thing. I have been afraid that something like this would happen for a long time, and now that it finally has I know where and how my preparation for that was sufficient, and where it wasn't, and now I can take steps. It's almost a relief the shoe has dropped.

    I ended up spending a night in the hospital. This concept has terrified me since the kids and I ended up on our own. What would I do? How would we handle things? I had put some things in place, but I wasn't sure what would really happen.

    Well, now we've had our Hudson's Bay Start. If it was longer than one night, I would have to make some changes. But other than the fact that the kids are treating me like glass now, things went okay. I know that sounds silly, being upset because they have put on the white gloves. But I hate it when I worry them; skateZilla in particular was very scared.

    But I'm home now. Hopefully tomorrow I can start eating normal food again. Still coughing and wheezing but non-contagious. I can't even go give this to our "favorite" vendor out of spite. I got back to work today, and damn do I have a lot to do to catch up. Oh well. No rest for the wicked. Not even the extremely wicked. ;)

    Monday, August 04, 2003

    It begins...

    The dreaded First Day of School fast approaches. We must arm ourselves for the dread tasks that lie ahead. First, a trial of strength and endurance of epic proportions as we set off on our quest: School Shopping.

    Seriously, we aren't going to pull a sword out of anything. We just have to pick up a few things. Come on! It'll be fun! Based on our previous experiences I took the time to write up a few things, just so you know the schedule and we are all on the same page. Take a look.
    1. $16 for a pair of socks is right out. Especially since their only feature is a green line at the toe and some incomprehensible piece of corporate grafitti on the ankle. And doubly especially since you tuck these things down into your logo-drenched sneakers so people can't tell you are wearing socks and won't see the stupid grafitti anyways. Besides, for $16 a pair they had better include the answers to your first math test, and the package says these don't.

    2. You do have opinions about these things. Exercise them. If you say "Whatever..." in THAT tone of voice when I ask you to choose between two items, I can guarantee that I will take whatever steps I can to pick the most heinous of the two.

    3. I am NOT buying anything Harry-Knowles-brown. I know all about your friends telling you that naturals are the "hot" color, but they are idiots. You do realize that color plus denim blue makes you look like a geeky website. If you don't believe me, go to This is most definately not a "hot" look. Besides, you're 12! "Hot" is not the adjective we're looking for here.

    4. Off to Starbucks for a round of Midol and a quad latte for Mom.

    5. Gentlemen, if you are that bored with this we can go home, and you can find something in your current mountain of clothes to wear that first day. That's all you will wear the rest of the year, anyways. If you continue to work my nerves, I will drag you through the ladies lingerie section again on our way back to the shoe department. And I mean the granny end of it. And I will smile and wave at the girls from your school that are stuck there with their moms just in case they might have missed you hiding under that display.

    6. Ladies, if you are that bored with this we can go home, and you can find something in your current mountain of clothes to wear that first day. If you continue to work my nerves, I will drag you through the little girl's clothing section again, making sure to pretend that we are shopping there. Can you say Barbie underpants? I knew that you could.

    7. Young man, you will only wear one of each kind of garment that first day, so put back the color-coordinated selection of boxers you were planning on graduating down your backside. Showing the top of one set of underwear is bad enough. Showing the tops of four pairs is ridiculous. Besides, you would have to walk your pants on a leash if you did that. And yes, right and left socks count as separate kinds, smartalec. And your shoes do, too, so you have to wear both.

    8. Young lady, if the care tag is the largest piece of fabric on the underwear, you can forget it. Fugly colors are fine, it's your funeral. However, please remember that you just picked out a pair of white capri pants, and that chartreuse will show through those like a lighthouse on a foggy morning. No, that doesn't mean you can pick out that loud pattern so it will look cool when it shows through!

    9. Genuflect when you pass through the door to the shrine of caffiene! Another quad latte for Mom.

    10. If the heels of the shoes are so high they have their own weather pattern, you can forget it. If they are a color that doesn't occur in nature, you can forget it. No, they don't even have that one on the Discovery Channel. I don't care if they are the coolest thing ever, they are still too small. No. I don't care if they coordinate with your technicolor-painted toenails (particularly once your toes turn that lovely shade of purple due to obstructed blood flow).

    11. If they are hobnailed or have steel spikes sticking out of them anywhere Mom may buy a pair just for the rest of our shopping excursions, but you sure aren't. If they are a color that could be used as construction traffic control or if they are lighted so they can be used to signal the mothership, it ain't happening. If they cost more than the gross national product of the European Union, you can forget it.

    12. Young lady, you are NOT leaving the house in that shirt. Heck, you aren't even leaving your bedroom in that thing. Put it back. Here, try this mumu, uh, I mean chic new blouse.

    13. Young man, there is a skimpily-dressed female draped all over that skateboard on that t-shirt. Not in this lifetime! Here, look at this one with the vaguely satanic symbols all over it. Maybe the vice-principal will think they're cool, too....

    14. Let's try Tully's this time. They're closer. Another quad for me, and sedatives for the rest of the posse.

    15. We will only be buying the stuff that is on the list they sent us. And no, those pens with the feathers sticking out of the backside are not on the list. Neither is that huge AC/DC sticker. What! They can't have dredged those guys out from under a rock. Can they?!

    16. It says college rule on the list. Why do we have four cases of wide rule in this cart? Sorry gang, that trick was old when I was in school; they can see the difference. Nice try, though. Just type it and print it out in 13 pt. font. Duh!

    17. They want HOW MUCH for that binder? You're joking! Besides, it's puke green. You're girlfriend will laugh and you won't bring it to school for the rest of the year.

    18. No, Mr. Harry Potter isn't showing up on anything we're walking out the door with, young lady. Neither is SpongeBob. Would you like to rephrase that while you still have your health?

    19. Sorry gang. We will only be going to seventeen stores per day. And that means 24 hours, smartalec. I know this cramps your style, but any more than that would strain the fabric of space-time. The dilithium crystals just can't take much more of this...

    Anyone got a sword stuck in anything?

    Sunday, August 03, 2003

    Friends don't let friends blog drunk!

    I'm not drunk, first of all, but I saw a bumpersticker that said that today and I thought it was pretty darn funny. Right up there with "My kids drive me crazy; I drive them everywhere else". I guess if it is hitting bumperstickers blogging is starting to seep into the rest of the strata of society. Should be interesting.

    Have you ever noticed what I refer to as "Calling Card Syndrome"? It is when someone, for whatever reason, is so tied to one particular part of their identity that they have to make sure you know it when you talk to them. If they could do it gracefully in this day and age they would have cards printed up with that on there and hand them out all the time. A famous example of a carder would be Sir Ian McKellan (who has not only come out of the closet, but out onto the lawn). But we all know people like this, and most of them aren't homosexual - they have kids or are getting divorced or whatever, and they have to make sure it gets mentioned in every gathering at least once, just to make sure you know about it before they can settle down to a conversation.

    I didn't think I was too susceptible to it, and usually I was kind of sad for people who were so consumed by that one thing that it impinged on their life so deeply. Until I caught myself doing it. I guess in retrospect that no one really thinks they do stuff like that. Sort of the same Cleopatra-level denial you see on the roads. If 30% of the people on the road get cut off in the course of their morning commute, that means that 30% of the drivers cut people off. And yes, you might be part of that 30% if you looked out and admitted it to yourself.

    Unsettling as it is, noticing it in myself did give me one thing - a better handle on what it is and why it happens. In my case, anyways, I think it was a combination of fatigue poisons, and a feeling that I had to know if they would talk to me even if they knew about it. I know it sounds silly, but in the harsh light of day when I re-read the irretrievable evidence of my folly that is what I truly felt. And in that morning after, all I can say is I felt relief that it was finally sitting out there for all to see and I didn't have to figure out ways to sneak my conversations with those people around its edges without waking it up anymore.

    Another important aspect is that it is my own problem - none of them have ever indicated that they would react negatively. Despite all evidence to the contrary and the certain knowledge that they were far more likely to be supportive than vindictive, I feel afraid and ashamed and damaged in some way. I felt that for whatever reason people might not handle well knowing this, and in the case of these people it actually mattered more to me that they knew this and liked me anyways than the consequences of them reacting negatively.

    Now that I see it, I hope I can stop it. I have a lot of great friends and they don't need to get something like this ground into the conversation every time I am there. They get enough of that already about the kids. :)

    I do want to point out that I don't care if Sir Ian goes for men, women, salad vegetables, or the family pet. I enjoy his acting and have enjoyed listening to him speak in interviews and I don't care that he and his life-partner could share a razor. Actually, the list of personalities that fall into this category is quite long. Maybe I'll do a post about what is my business vs. what is someone else's business.

    Friday, August 01, 2003

    Life as Art...

    So many of us would like life to be like art. I am predominately more the sort of person who thinks “More matter, and less art.” Occasionally, I run across a disturbing streak of fancy, though. It mostly manifests itself in daydreaming and storytelling.

    I used to always wonder what it would be like to be the characters in the books I read. I would sit in English class and suppose myself young Jo Marsh, with her silly cap on her head and “genius a-burning”. In science class, a young Marie Curie discovered radium time and time again, and Jane Goodall discovered countless secrets in the jungles of Africa. Most of my shop classes were spent with Thomas Edison watching over my shoulder. I couldn’t tell you if it helped my grades or not, but I didn’t know about Admiral Hopper yet, and I failed computer science class, so maybe it did. Or it might have been the Apple Basic. ;)

    I made myself part of stories, if I couldn’t find a ready someone to be. Captain Kirk never had a better weapons officer than my Katherine Wright. She also voyaged the seven seas with Horatio Hornblower, swathed herself in battle-silks and swung sword with Captain John Carter in the red deserts of Barsoom, and soared the skies of Pern on her queen dragon Zaralith, and blew up more Cylons than you can shake a stick at out of in her Red Squadron Viper. I have some fairly pathetic self-referential fan-fiction that I would never show to a soul I wrote in high school. Some writers (Diane Duane, for one) have made huge bucks out of that, but I think I would be too embarrassed.

    She was a versatile lady. Not a thing like me though. I guess she was what I wish I was. I think in some ways, she is still with me. I sometimes dream, and find myself in the story again. Last year, I had a series of very vivid dreams with her as a fighter pilot in Babylon 5. She died gloriously.

    She doesn’t seem to have an easy life. Sort of like a superhero character – they all tend to have had horrible pasts, with family members dying and all sorts of tragedy. Then they triumph over all, and find true happiness and fulfillment. Or die sacrificing themselves for something in a huge battle against dire wickeness. Either way seems painful, to be honest.

    Even so, I sometimes still wonder, just what it would be like. Then real life kicks in the door. I have to go make dinner and feed the kids. Sometimes it’s hard to say that sentance without a little voice in my head saying, “To what?”

    Wednesday, July 30, 2003

    Crawling back out from under the rock...

    Unfortunately, we've been under a rock here for the last several days. Allergies -> summer cold -> sinusitis -> MsZilla sitting around honking like a goose into tissues waiting for anti-biotics to do their job.

    I'm slowing dragging out of the mire, and have great and glorious plans for this evening on all fronts. Stay Tuned!

    To keep you occupied today, I added a link to MetaFilter to the Links Bank. How cool is that!

    Friday, July 25, 2003

    Girls Night In

    Both gentleman of my household have found somewhere else to "hang" or "kick it" or whatever they call sleep-overs these days. This is a rare thing. It's just us girls tonight.

    It's kind of an odd dynamic. They are out here on the big TV playing Kingdom Hearts and Read My Lips at the same time. This might explain why Anselm keeps handing their backside back to them, but I don't say that. It's interesting to see the different dynamic between their playing and the guys playing. The guys are all braggadocio, flailing around and thrashing through. With the girls, it's all about who does what and how they do it. Unfortunately most games are designed by and for guys, so guess which strategy is more successful. The "girls" games we've tried are so insipid they annoy even them - there's no point in using a computer for that when they can go do it together with their friends. They'll figure it out. I've been coaching them on the care and feeding of RPG characters, and they've really improved. I'm not sure if this is an important life skill in this day and age or not.

    I dusted off my copy of "God's Debris" by Scott Adams. Well, you can't dust off an e-book, but you get the idea. Still an interesting exercise. I don't know if I believe all that mental maneuvering, but it does make for some good cerebral gymnastics if only to debunk it. Which from what I understand is kind of the point.

    I just discovered that there is a real town called "Poughkeepsie". Holy cow. Mark another one off the "towns I thought were scriptwriter's creativity" list. What is the weirdest town name you know that is real?

    Wednesday, July 23, 2003

    Paper boats and little trains....

    ZillaJr was just bit with the car bug this evening. Before this, we've talked about it, but no real action was taken. Today he calls me at work to inform me that he just washed our old car and checked all the fluids, and now he wants to jumpstart it. I was not amused and told him to wait until I got home and he should go find some of the tools skateZilla has lost in their room in the meantime. I came home to see just his back half sticking out from under the hood and he and two of his buddies pointing at stuff with that glee they used to reserve for cool bugs they found. He was covered in that black dirty grease from the outside of the engine topped off with a blissful smile of pure happiness on his face. I've seen the signs before. Lord help me.

    grrlZilla and bookZilla have taken to primping to go to bed. I'm serious. I caught bookZilla coming out of the bathroom about ten minutes ago made up to the nines. We're talking prom-level makeup and serious hair. I asked her why, and she just fixed me with that haughty teenage "you'll never understand" look and mumbled she was going to bed. How did I end up with two makeup drenched clothes-horses?

    skateZilla is spending the rest of the week with an old friend who is going to be moving to another state, so things are really quiet around here. It's interesting how the dynamic changes when just one of them is gone. Any one of them seems to change things until they are almost unrecognizable.

    They are all growing up. I see signs of it every day. I am so scared for them and so proud all at the same time. Just like Jackie Paper, those paper boats and little trains are making room for other toys. I'm not sure what I'm going to do - slowly slip into my cave?

    I added The Grand List of Science Fiction Cliches to the links bank. Funny in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, and a great reference for those deus ex machina plots that writers always seem to fall into.

    Monday, July 21, 2003

    Pumpkin-time for this Cinderella....

    Well, I just had some news that totally took the wind right out of my sails. It's silly of me to feel this way - I've never met this person face to face, but it still hurts all the same.

    I finished the fifth Harry Potter book (by dint of sneaking it out from under bookZilla's lax fingers in the middle of the night). I have two copies, but I couldn't get either one of them to let go during daylight hours, and plus I have this pesky job-thing to deal with. It was interesting, to say the least. I want to read it again when I'm not punch-drunk from sleep-deprivation and see if it comes off differently. I can say that there is no way you get everything the first time through this one. I've already had a couple of inadvertent back-tracks due to the girls loosing my spot and I know that I picked up things I missed going through them the first time.

    At any rate, I'm gonna go and step into a phonebooth and put on my sane human being costume and see if I can't get some sleep.

    Saturday, July 19, 2003

    Parent, Know thyself....

    The best things in life aren't free, they just don't cost money. That is something a lot of people don't understand. Usually, they cost you time. Kids teach us these things just by being around. The best thing about them isn't being able to buy them things or take them places, but just being there and being with them. Getting to know them as people and getting them the things that really make them happy. If you take the time to notice, you might just be surprised.

    I see so many parents who don't know what is going on in their children's lives. This usually shows up the worst when one of mine is invited to one of their kid's birthday parties. I ask the parents "What would X like?" Time and again I run into parents don't even know what he wants for his birthday, or what kind of music their kids listen to.

    As they get older, the kids don't help much, I'm afraid. As they are in the process of separating themselves into "me" and "not me", and as part of that whole process they have a vested interest in keeping you away from some aspects of their life.

    There are ways to keep things together, though. In my case, I have found that all it takes is even more time. Time to listen to their music, to watch those obnoxious movies full of explosions and silly posturing that they love so much, to pick up a game controller and play the games they are spending so much time thrashing through, to read the books the school is forcing them to read, to have them show you that move they just perfected at the skatepark.

    And then the time to talk about them. Nothing overly-planned, nothing too much, nothing forced, just have a conversation. Like you would have over coffee with a friend. I have had lots of luck with asking them to explain what the heck "x" new word means. With a tiny bit of genuine encouragement, most of them will rattle on forever if they are teaching you something. They love to have it proved that they know more than you about something.

    Of course, if it has been a while, you have a tougher row to hoe. Start small. You might want to just let them "catch you" reading your own copy of the book, or watching the film. Just be sure you aren't invading their space in the process - if it is their game console and not family property, make sure you ask first. But carry on with it, and follow through.

    Really try it out and be honest with yourself. You don't have to like it all. I have had to listen so some fairly heavy angry-young-man music, and having never been angry, young, or male, it can feel like torture sometimes. If I like maybe one song off each CD, I feel like it is a win. Mine actually like the fact that I don't like some parts of it because it helps them feel that when I say I like something I really do. If you really can't stand it, there are plenty of other things out there you can try instead.

    Then once you have found something you actually like about it, ask them their opinion on it. Be prepared to be rebuffed pretty hard, but keep at it. If you are genuinely interested, it will come through. They may never say it out loud. You may get treated to the best performance of studied indifference you have ever seen, you may get condescending answers, and they may talk about you behind your back to their friends in the most disparaging way. But they do notice, and it does matter a great deal. That is why you need to find something you like enough to do this even in the face of their studied disdain, and carry on anyways.

    I have been lucky. I stumbled upon the above advice when mine were very little, and for whatever reason I have been able to keep a connection. I have always liked games, so I have chosen to keep up with that the most, and in fact I write reviews for an online gaming magazine now, and GM one of their roleplaying groups. They are used to it. Now that they are teens, they don't think it is so weird that I can hold my own in the games they play (and beat them in some), or that I have heard of these Linkin Park guys and can discuss their music and even like one (and only one) of their songs, or that I know what a melon grab is when I see it.

    Their friends think its weird, though. And I think that is sad.
    I love the smell of erasers in the morning...

    The oddysee has begun. I was grocery shopping this evening and we ran into the very first kiosk of school supplies for the year. grrlZilla let out this sort of tortured wail, and I have stood there and chuckled quite evilly for several moments. Yesssss......

    I know that gloating is unseemly, so I do try to keep it where they can't see it. But here in the depths of summer, when all seems to be a barren wasteland of broken curfews and drifts of huge sneakers in my foyer, I have to keep my eyes on the prize. This too shall pass. One day not too far off, all these persons from Porlock will be picked up in the morning and trundle off to their appointed rounds instead of holding a mock UN meeting in front of my house every day.

    In the spirit of keeping that firmly in mind, I have added a countdown timer to the first day of school in our school district to this site.

    I also added a DVD review to movZilla. Still trying to get Tomb Raider up to snuff; I have finished it. Trying to go through it again and see if repetition helps. I think longingly of X2: Wolverine's Revenge now. Those days seem halycon compared to the torture that is the control system in this thing. I'll keep the rest for later.

    Thursday, July 17, 2003

    Some people believe...

    in the mythology of Sleep. Others in that whole Free Time thing.

    I believe in the mythology of testing (or QA for short). Not only that, but I am proseletizing here at my place of work, and have converted most of the rest of the development staff to the faith. The rites of the faith require masses of hardware and copies of every browser known to man. The rites of the faith are distinguished by an ancient process of trying stuff out before you make other people deal with it.

    Quote of the Day

    Actually, I need a little help on this one. I remember the quote, but I cannot place an attribution anywhere! I am in possession of this really cool thought and I don't know if I can use it! It is maddening.

    "The tears of the weak are meaningless, but the tears of the strong can change the world."

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    Bit by bit....

    I've done a lot of work on this site this last few days, but you really can't see it. And it's a good thing. It will show up as some ease-of-use improvements that will help make this site a bit easier to read and to move between it and it's sisters. I have some more improvements coming. That's how you do things on the World Wide Wait; one little bit at a time.

    (I'm sorry, but the pun was intended. I'm so tired I don't think I have two dendrites on speaking terms at this point, and in this state that was almost witty.)

    Lethargic Lad is still MIA, so I've found an understudy. is a flash animation of a green space monkey. Interesting little story. I'll be watching as the episodes are posted - this one contains a reference to Starbucks. Percolationist that I am, I've just gotta see where this is going.

    Saturday, July 12, 2003

    Archive Trolling

    I have a lot of works that I have written in various other places. I'm gonna gather a bunch of this stuff here, sort of as a "best of" thing. This was originally posted on Slate as an answer to a question from someone from Alaska who wanted to talk to me about it. The whole thread can be found here.


    Yes, I remember...

    I'm not an Alaska Native, but I was lucky enough to be born and raised there. I got the best of both worlds. I spent half my life in the Interior, and the other half in south-central.

    I have played in a runoff waterfall right next to the highway and watched reckless windsurfers dare the tide-rip in Turnagin Arm as the Winnebagos lumbered by and the mountains seemed to laugh at all of us in the sun. I have stood on the shoulders of Denali itself, leaning on an ice axe and I have watched the sun rise over the rest of the Range, that clear pink light chasing away the sharp-edged shadows and leaving the peaks stained rose and gold. I have stood at the edge of the world and looked out over the pack ice and wondered if Santa really does live out there.

    I have watched bears fish and people fish and sometimes watched the fish get their own back. Having a large halibut in a small boat is my working definition of a bull in a china shop. I have pulled rainbow flashing sheets of smelt and struggling nets of salmon out of the river, and then jockeyed with the rest of the children to try and avoid the incredible amount of work it is to deal with them once you do. I too have walked the beach looking for dimples, and then dug frantically at the clinging gray mud racing a razor clam. I have watched the sun rise over the Flats when we camped down by the river so we could fish before the tourists get up.

    I have felt the sea slap the sides of my kayak as a pod of curious orcas came to see what we were doing nancing around on top of their world. I can still feel the slick wet-neoprene feel of the black skin sliding under my hand as I caught myself on its back when it bumped me and the solemn realization that 30 tons is a hell of a lot bigger in real life than in the abstract. Particularly when it winks at you (I swear it did!).

    I have sat on the floor next to a glowing oil-barrel stove in that one-leg out half-lotus with the old ones, watching their flashing needles and beads make beauty, and mine struggle to follow. I have run with the dogs and raced snowmachines with my Gramma. I got 13 rabbits on my trap line one day, and I was so proud. I have ridden 150 miles on frozen roads "into town" to go grocery shopping and to buy my prom dress.

    I know the crash and hustle of the rink. The scent of a hand-me-down hockey helmet and the leather of the glove. The weight of big stick in my left hand and the gear digging into my shoulder and not being able to wipe away that drip of sweat freezing on the inside of the helmet because I can't raise my mask in the middle of the game. The endless laps under the lights and the lashing whistle of the coach. The endless laps at night on the lake under the stars when no one is around, feeling the grooves cut into the ice from the kids playing and the pick up game you and your buddies played after practice and the most wonderful sort of peace descending.

    I know the racket and vibration from chainsaws, and the way your hand keeps tingling for a minute even when you put the saw down. I have stood back and watched it fall, and then went in to dismember the fallen and load it into the truck. The sharp piny scent of broken branches competes with the curiously sweet, burnt scent of two-cycle oil as you walk to the next one.

    I could go on, but I had better not. Duty calls here Outside. And you are right, even here, these people and places are with me. I can stand here in this muddled gray morning and have these things in my heart and be the better for it.

    Friday, July 11, 2003

    Big Doings Over at Chez MsZilla

    Three may be a crowd in some circles, but a couple of friends of mine and I think it is just fine. MsZilla has developed a couple of partner blogs.

    Actually, they are just my blatherings, separated by topic. Turns out I usually talk about games, movies, or dreck. So, we have MomGamer, who will be handling all game related stuff, movZilla for film-related madness, and MsZilla for the random stuff that defies categorization. Bear with me while I get this stuff all integrated and get all the content I have out there.

    I have more links coming, too. I'm having way too much fun with this.

    Wednesday, July 09, 2003


    The kids were watching "The Cutting Edge" for some adolescent reason I'm not going to try to fathom tonight. I have to admit to liking this film, if only for the sheer improbabiliy of watching them try to convince people that a hockey player can turn into a world-class championship figure-skater in something like six months. Heck, it's hard enough to convince people that an actor can stand up on skates.

    Actually, I also have a soft spot for the characters. Moira Kelly is the classic fragile frozen-queen type, and her bewildered expression as he turns her ordered little life on it's backside really sells her character. D.B. Sweeney's take on hockey players was interesting, but in real life he would have spent most of his time on the road doing laps around the gym mummified in atheletic tape shouting "Chilly Willy is my hero!". My favorite line is when her boyfriend says, "I don't like to see her upset," in his own unique attempt at being British and Doug answers, "I'd invest in blindfolds." Roy Dotrice is one of the best character actors out there, and he gets his Russian thing on with a certain glee that is great for the character.

    At any rate, back to real life. Sorry, just had long laugh at the thought.

    Quote of the Day
    In the midst of the word we were trying to say,
    In the midst of our laughter and glee.
    We will softly and silently vanish away,
    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

    -- Lewis Carroll "The Hunting of the Snark"