Sunday, November 30, 2008

That's it for

I use two browsers every day, Firefox for my own use and IE for my work email. When I open IE I land on and am frequently dismayed by the ridiculous items someone has chosen for their homepage. Mostly they're just snarky or irrelevant, like the recent piece about ten actors who had "lost their looks" or a fluff piece on the difference between the way men and women view a piece of pumpkin pie (not an actual article to my knowledge.) But today they stopped being merely annoying and moved straight to offensive. Here's a headline:

Caught practicing the dark arts, witches were subject to "swimming." What exactly is that? And did it hurt?

Really? Practicing the dark arts? Is that what happened? Or were herbal women, midwives, single women, and women who were interested in science falsely accused of witchcraft and murdered? Does the dimwit who wrote the headline really believe that anywhere from 600,000 to nine million women and men "practiced the dark arts" and were caught? In that case how many must there have been altogether? It's ridiculous but worse than that it trivializes a terrible wrong.

Witch hunts are a grievous stain on our history and are still being carried out today.

Try James Morrow's excellent novel The Last Witchfinder if you want to know if being swum "hurt."


All done with NaNoWriMo

I finished my novel for this year. It clocked in at just under 54 k words, which isn't a real novel but is actually longer than the other installments I've written for this series, which started out as a short story, morphed into a ten minute script and is now a series of short adventures.

Of course when I say I finished it I mean the first draft, which is rough as are all of these things that are written quickly. Instead of deleting things I just write notes saying things like "I don't like the direction of this conversation. This character is no fun. They should probably not be here. Maybe the King and Queen of beetles should have gone back to their kingdom and left only the captain of the guard." Stuff like that. That way I keep moving forward and fix things later.


Friday, November 28, 2008


This is an exciting article from Variety. It's about a reality show that combines zombies and Big Brother.

"Dead Set" imagines Britain beset by a zombie apocalypse where the only place of sanctuary is the "Big Brother" house -- that is, until eviction night when all hell breaks loose as the contestants come under attack.
The best part is here:

"The idea for 'Dead Set' arose in 2004 while I was watching '24,'" says Brooker. "Jack Bauer was performing a tracheotomy on a terrorist with a splintered peg or something, and another terrorist came running through the door.

"'I'm enjoying this,' I thought, 'but these terrorists are just ridiculous. They're like waves of Space Invaders. They might as well be zombies.'

That's the best summing up of 24 I've heard. I hope we get this show here in the US.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Are they trustworthy part two

Pearls Before Swine


Can you really trust them?

Pearls Before Swine


Whale in Oklahoma

In the summer of 2001 Chris and I went to California and drove home. One of the places we stopped along the way was this bizarre whale in Cataloosa Oklahoma. It looks much nicer in the picture you'll find at the link than I remember it. The water it is in was pretty nasty and the whole thing was rotting. There's a big pot plant spraypainted on the roof that you can see from inside the whale. I'll have to see if I can find my old pictures from the trip. I posted them at Project Greenlight message boards back in the day but that's all gone now.

Chris found this link while looking for something else. It's good timing as holidays tend to be nostalgic anyway.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where's my spaceship?

I'm on vacation this week and I finished NaNoWriMo this morning so I spent the rest of the day playing Dr. Mario Online RX. I like the classic version because I loved the original Dr. Mario game. I'd beaten level 31 on low, 22 on medium and wanted to try high speed. It took loads of tries but I finally succeeded and was a little disappointed.

In the NES version you get little videos after beating each five levels and the final for the hardest level shows the viruses getting up in the top of a tree and being beamed away. You get somethig different with this game and I don't think it's as good.

But other than that this game is fantastic. You can send a demo to a friend who doesn't have it and you can play together, which is pretty snazzy. It costs 1000 points, which works out to ten dollars if you buy your points directly from Nintendo.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Did you get your Dr. Pepper?

There's still a little bit of time left.

You have the rest of the day. Better hurry the site is overwhelmed.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

A little doggerel for the weekend

Last month I got an email from Variety that said this:

For his next directing effort, Steven Soderbergh is plotting a 3-D live-action rock 'n' roll musical about Cleopatra, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Hugh Jackman.

Doesn't that sound crazy? In anticipation I've written a lyric, probably a chorus, which I hope you enjoy.

You're the queen of the delta
The queen of my heart
Oh Cleopatra
Don't let us part!!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is happymaking

The only problem is he lies when he says the wait is over. It doesn't come out until May 9 of 2009.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No more zombies

Now that Titan is on insulin he's losing interest in some of former pursuits, like laying on the floor making me think he's dead. He's now able to jump up onto my bed all by himself so I don't have to lift him up anymore.

Sadly he's not as excited as he was to sit in Cam's lap with his front legs sticking straight out and pretend to be Michael Jackson in the Thriller video. He used to be quite good at it but now seems to feel its beneath him. Sigh.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This gave me the willies

Today I was looking for data about bee behavior as they start to settling into the new hive once they've successfully swarmed. I was reading along, la, la, la, everything's fine, when I read this, which made me scream like a schoolgirl:

Expired Queens (Re-Queening): Beekeepers often times replace or "Re-Queen" their colonies for any number of reasons including here in the South attempting to control Africanized Honey Bee takeover. When a new Queen is introduced the old Queen must be removed. There is no better scent than an actual Queens scent. When re-queening simply pinch off the head of the old queen and drop her into a jar with just enough alcohol to cover the queen. After you have a few queens soaking in your jar place a few drops of the liquid in your trap. It doesn't get any better than the real thing.

It was the simply pinching the head off part that freaked me out. I'm not suited for the job of beekeeper. I have trouble even gardening because I feel bad for the weeds and anything I have to thin out.

EDITED to add link, which I forgot.


I like the looks of this school

They have some interesting things going on.

And that's about all I have to say except the diabetic cat isn't eating enough so we had to drop his insulin down a bit. He's asleep on my feet now, doing his job, which is keeping my feet warm. It's meant to snow tonight and tomorrow so I'm grateful he's not too ill to fulfill his duties.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some random stuff

I've downloaded the Wii version of Doctor Mario so you may never hear from me again. (I did manage my two thousand words of my novel, two hundred words of my entertainment column, formatted some newsletter stuff, did my Wii Fit for 36 minutes, read a story by Kelly Link and got the kids fed so I there's some hope for my future.)

In closing I leave with these links.

Save the Boissiere House. Gosh I love this house. It's the kind of place I fantasized about when I was girl. (I'm sure I'm not the only girl in the world who dreamed of an old abandonded house next door with a mystery inside just waiting to be solved.)

An NY Times article about a horse academy at Versailles that I loved. Again, the kind of thing I dreamed about as a girl. I was particularly struck by this quote:

''The number of women reflects the considerable feminization of horse-riding,'' Bartabas said. ''Today in France, 80 percent of horse-riders are women. In fact horse-jumping and dressage are the only sports where men and women compete on an equal footing.''

We kind of have to include other horse sports like racing and eventing but he's right. One of the reason other sports annoy me is because they seperate the boys and girls. I know they've got their reasons but this is just another reason to be a fan of dressage etc.

And finally, from the piece I wrote for the saving money website today, a warning about the dangers of antifreeze to your pets. If a cat walks through spilled antifreeze and licks its paws it gets enough of a dose to be fatal.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

That's quite a reputation my friend

Today we turn away from honeybees a bit and look toward the honey badger, which had quite a ferocious reputation in the last century.

1947 Stevenson- Hamilton (the first warden of the Kruger National Park, South Africa) added to the increasingly formidable reputation of honey badgers by reporting that they killed ungulates (buffalo Syncerus caffer, waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus and wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus) by castration and the resulting fatal haemorrhage. By the 1960’s this had become a common feature of species accounts and the naturalist George Sweeney took it a step further by recounting the story of four tribesmen who encountered a honey badger, which “hamstrung one of the men, clawed another and castrated him with one clean bite”. Some species accounts were then extended to include warnings that “it will attack a human adversary in the same way, swarming up the legs and, it is said, very often attempting to attack the genital organs” (Astley Maberley 1963). Although frequently recounted, no recent (post 1950) or first hand accounts of honey badgers castrating animals (or man) are available and this strongly suggests this is folklore. Certainly honey badgers were never seen to castrate an animal in the southern Kalahari.

I'm almost sad that it didn't really run about castrating much larger animals, but not as sad as the television producer I'm imagining who would have thought he/she could do a series that combined the best of Meerkat Manor and Battlebots...

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Friday, November 14, 2008

My cat has diabetes

Titan, our older cat, has diabetes. His blood glucose was more than four hundred when I had him in the clinic on Saturday. He's also lost his ability to stand up all the way. Instead of standing on his toes he sags down onto his hocks because of a neuropathy. He's lost muscle mass along his top line so he's all bone, then fat since he's pretty hefty. He's about thirteen years old. We're not sure exactly how old because he was abandoned when we got him, around Christmas 1999, but the vet clinic where he was dumped think he was four or so.

I dropped him at the clinic this morning so we could get a urine sample and picked up back up in the evening. Cam and I had a lesson in how to give him his shots and what to do in a diabetic emergency.

Tomorrow I call around to try and get the best price on his insulin and then we'll see how he does.

When we had him for his yearly checkup last year his blood was fine. I really should have started bringing him in every six months at his age, then we might have caught this sooner, although Dr. Gray said his hospital cat went from normal in January to 600 plus in February, so maybe not so much.

We're also going to put him on a diet, which may help kick start his insulin production back up. Cats are the only creatures that can and do start making insulin again after their pancreas gives up the ghost. This is nice but can be a danger since the cat will then end up with too much insulin. Sounds like we have a lot of fun ahead of us.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just in case you're not tired of bees yet

I give you a photo of a soaking wet bee.

I'm nearly halfway through with my fifty thousand word count for November. Details here. (The title isn't really the title. It's just a working title.)

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How do you like your presidents?

Plucked from my Small Beer Press newsletter, this hilarious sticker.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Safely removing bees from a chimney

Here is a fascinating account by Paul Hooper who was asked to move a hive of bees that had been living in a chimney for more than twenty years! As he says the owner of the farmhouse was quite keep on keeping the bees alive so Mr. Hooper had quite a task in front of him.

Removal of the bees was achieved by sealing all but one entrance to the hive, and placing a one-way escape on that remaining entrance. A single box hive was placed such that its entrance was adjacent to the escape. During all this activity the bees were very busy, going about their normal business apparently oblivious to the changes taking place in their environment. At no stage during the entire seven week operation did any of the bees exhibit any aggression – until the box hive was finally closed up and removed from its perch on the chimney.

There are loads of nice pictures to go with the article. Well done Mr. Hooper.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

My cat is very annoying

I've got an old grey cat called Titan. Someone abandoned him in the woods behind the vet clinic in Crofton right before Christmas, 1999, which is when we got him. His estimated age at that time was four, so he's getting up there now. He's started to show signs of his age over the last year or so - limping, not grooming and peeing like mad, but we haven't been able to get a urinalysis because he's wily.

Last night I locked him in the bathroom with a special non-absorbent litter so we could bring a urine sample with us. I put him in there at six pm and he still hadn't peed at 10:30 this morning when we put him in the car to go to the vet.

We were taking both cats and all four rats so four of us went, Cam, Cullen, Cullen's friend who I won't name, and myself. Cullen's friend held Titan for the trip as he should have been the easiest since he relaxes in the car and doesn't fuss.

Except he let loose after about twenty minutes in the car, pooping and peeing everywhere, especially on Cullen's friend, who was wearing his lucky pants.

Score Titan one, us zero.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sifting through poems

I've spent part of the last couple of days looking at poems for the Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest. All the juniors at Old Mill have to pick a poem and perform it with the chance of moving up and going to the actual contest. Cullen did the Naming of Parts, which is an amazing poem although if you listen to this one audio floating around online you won't like it.

Cam picked this one by Margaret Atwood, at least partly because he liked her contribution to One Ring Zero's Author Project.

The poem he picked is called They are hostile nations and hopefully will work as a performance instead of a recitation.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Maybe someone needs to get out more? Or just read more?

Cam is reading Undine by Penni Russon, which we checked out from the library. Someone has crossed out part of chapter Nineteen, which reads "Jasper would be eating his tea now" and written in black marker above it

"How does one "eat" tea?"


Dear reader, critic and copyeditor,

In case you find this blog entry you might find this link of interest.



PS - please don't write in other people's books. Thanks!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Rumor Control is Kind of Depressing

Take a look at this page from the Maryland State Board of Elections.

These rumors are sad. I remember some of them from the last cycle. For instance someone was passing out red flyers in the poorer neighborhoods around here with the rumor about getting arrested at the polling places. The one about one party voting on the fifth was also rampant.

I'd read about a couple of others in the papers. I'm just wondering how many people who might have believed these rumors had access to the internet, or thought to go to the official site to to find out for sure.

I posted about my voting experience at Scalzi's site but I didn't mention that I woke up sick as a dog. I took some medicine to stop me throwing up then threw up for twenty minutes straight. The medicine can't really work if I've vomited it out. I finally got it together and made it to the polls, where there was a nice long line.

It was a great deal of effort but well worth it. Cullen voted for the first time, which was exciting. Seeing all sorts of different people voting, some beaming with pride, some sighing big sighs of relief and some stoic was moving.


Monday, November 03, 2008

It's hard out there for a bee

There are bees in the book I'm writing this November. They aren't the entire plot or anything but I suppose you could call them a plot point. I'm trying to figure out how far and how fast the bees go when they're swarming. That's when the old queen buzzes off with a bunch of her brood to start a new hive, leaving the new queen behind, in case you didn't know.

Of course if you type bees and travel into Google you get a bunch of hits for Burt's Bees travel sized blah blah blah, which is singularly not helpful.

Anyway, I'm just looking around this website,, and I'm a bit dismayed. It sounds like the bee's life is not much fun at all.

Q. What is the expected lifespan of a honey bee?

A. Life expectancy depends on the time of year and the caste of bee. Queens can live up to three years. Drones die when they mate or if they have not mated by the beginning of winter, they are ejected from the colony to die. During late spring, summer and early fall, a Worker will live only about 6 weeks. When born, Workers serve as nursery workers for some 2 weeks. After that they collect nectar and pollen until they die. Workers born in late fall, will live some 4 to 5 months, so that they can keep the Queen warm during the winter months.

Get out drones! Out, we have no use for you and we need all the food we can get our little feet on to survive the winter! And out go the drones to be eaten by skunks or freeze or whatever. Then the poor workers, worked to death at an early age. But that's not all. Look at this statistic.

The average honeybee will make one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its

How sad is that? Poor honeybee making about as much honey as stays stuck on the spoon when you fix your tea and then that's it, game over. It's tragic.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dear Mrs. Cookwell

Dear Mrs. Cookwell,

Please hire a ghostwriter. Here you had a fabulous question and your answer was dead boring. Maybe you could supply the expertise and someone else could punch the answers up for you?


A Disappointed Fan


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Totally confused

Once again weird rumors are going around one of the sites I work on for my day job. I just posted this in an effort to clear them up. Hopefully this time it will take.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad. I haven't even had time to read Boing Boing or Making Light more than a handful of times in the last several months. I've only read a few posts at and I haven't even had time to read any of the short stories.

The idea that I'm going to take what little spare time I have and spend it making my job harder is so ridiculous I can't understand how it got started.

What's even crazier is that the person who started this rumor isn't just calling me a liar, they're also calling my boss a liar. So weird.


NaNoWriMo 2008

It's November first, which means I won't have any spare time for the next month. I've taken part in NaNoWriMo since 2003, winning it every year except 2004 (which was a bad year what with my brain swelling and losing part of my vision and all), and even then I could have done it if I'd had a little more faith. Instead I spent the time planning out and working on what became Quality Time Weekly, which is about to enter its fifth year so overall I'd say it wasn't a total bust.

Anyway, this year I'm starting November exhausted, which isn't a good sign. I've having a lot of trouble sleeping, staying awake until four or five most mornings then dragging through the day. I was up until four, had repeated nightmares about being bitten by the same stupid rattlesnake and finally gave up around ten am.

I woke up this morning and thought I need to write 1667 words for NaNo, start next week's Quality Time, write something for Shoestring Living, take care of some bills, work out for 36 minutes (a strange goal but it's this week's goal) then do it all again the next day and the next and the next and the next and so I did the sensible thing and read the first two hundred pages of Will's book The Gospel of the Knife instead...

I don't know, maybe I could just write the entire thing over Thanksgiving? That way I can keep working on this dreadfully slow German Shepherd Dog thing I've been trying to write since May. Sigh. (I think I finally hit 70,000 words last night.)

I did manage to write 500 words or so after midnight last night so there's only 46,500 to go. I can do that, can't I?