Archive for the ‘Totally Off Topic’ Tag


It’s close enough now that I’m starting to believe it…Spooky Man and I are going to the Oregon coast for a week at the end of August. This will be our third vacation in nearly 26 years of marriage. The last two times we went on holiday, I was unemployed at the time; this year that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve got the dog and indoor cats (on their special diet because they are somewhere between heftychonk and megachonk) scheduled for the kennel, a house sitter lined up, and my special login for work. Yes, I will be working for a few hours because I have translations coming back that week, but I’ll be doing it over coffee from our hotel, looking out onto the ocean. I’ll also be working on Kindness of Strangers.

In closing, this is Flynn (formerly Lord Minamoto, Samurai cat), Spooky Man’s latest stray (abandoned by a neighbor’s temporary roommates last year), both deep in contemplation and in mid-yawn:








Because cat pictures. And because he is a fluffy beast.


So, Breast Cancer Came Back

Ductile carcinoma in situ calcifications turned up on a mammogram in February, looking like someone got dust on the negative. Only it was a digital picture. Sigh.

One closeup mammogram, one needle biopsy and three doctor appointments later, the left tata became medical waste. It had thought about killing me twice, so it had to go. And on April 8, it went.

Luckily, it was just starting to think about it (ductile carcinoma is sometimes called Stage 0 cancer, because the body is walling it off with calcium so it hasn’t started to spread yet), which means no chemo. Since chemo is nasty no matter how you look at it, this is A Good Thing.

Right now I’m an Amazon who isn’t good with a bow, and my pendant watch keeps hanging funny, so I’m starting reconstruction on August 18. They’re going to sneak a little muscle from my left shoulder blade area, along with some skin, and put in a tissue expander, which is like an adjustable breast implant. The muscle is to help hold it in place.

The tissue expander starts out kind of flat and they add fluid once a week until you get the size you want — in my case, to match the other side. Then they take it out and put in the permanent implant. And I go buy a t-shirt that says, “One of them’s fake, because the real one was thinking about killing me.”

It’s nice, living in the future. Cancer is annoying and expensive, but it’s nowhere near a death sentence anymore. Also, after the initial wave of terror passes, it’s boring. As a result, this is probably the last you’ll hear about it from me, unless I’m complaining about surgical drains.

So do your exams and get your mammos done. It’s a lot cheaper and less awful if you catch things early. 🙂


I am The Nexus of All Great Fictional Starship Captain Families

Not really, but… a couple of days ago, I got to thinking about my dad’s sister. She married a man named Kirk and they had two children before she died tragically (there was a crib death and a suicide; it’s all very sad and it happened before I was born), so I never got to know my cousins.

But I know I have cousins named Kirk. As far as I know, they’re Montanans, not from the Midwest, but they could move in the next few hundred years.

One of my mother’s sisters married a man named Pike and they had two sons. So I have cousins named Pike. They live in Arizona. Lovely people.

Have I ever mentioned that my mother’s maiden name was Reynolds? Yup, all kinds of relatives named Reynolds, including a bunch of cousins; Mom had nine brothers and sisters, so it’s not all that surprising.

So that’s two famous Star Fleet captains and the iconoclastic head of the Serenity crew that could possibly carry some of the same DNA I do. That is, if they weren’t, you know, made-up characters.

As far as I know, though, I don’t have any relatives with the surname Khan or Adama.

Yet (she typed with an evil grin).  And now, back to editing Getting Lucky.


Things that go bump in the night

I’m not a target market for most paranormal romance or urban fantasy books currently in print: There is no such thing as a vampire, and there is no such thing as a shifter (werewolf, dragon, yorkie, hamster — whatever you choose, it ain’t happening). Thus, I have a great deal of difficulty reading books with this sort of monster as a main character. Or in the book at all.

Why? Because of the physics and biology of the thing. Really, it’s the same reason nobody in my science-fiction books is going to have a romantic relationship with an alien. Ever. Bestiality makes me gag.

First of all, vampires are dead (the root of undead is dead; look it up). If you have a romantic relationship with a vampire, it’s necrophilia — euww…just…euww. Plus the fact that vampires are ‘immortal’ and they can create other vampires. Even if a vampire created one other vampire per decade, and that other vampire created one other vampire per decade, you get a geometric progression and after a while (it doesn’t matter how long of a while because they unlive forever), there’s nobody left to eat, just vampires. And then they all starve to, uh, death.

I realize this stems from the perfectly human desire to stay young and not die — I’m big on not dying, myself — but really, sleeping in a coffin and eating people (particularly when you don’t know where they’ve been and what/who they’ve been doing)? Sorry, I have other ways to accomplish the same thing that don’t strain my logic circuits nearly as hard.

And then there are shifters…sigh. Have you ever broken a bone? Dislocated a joint? Torn a muscle/tendon, heck, had a really bad cramp? They don’t go away in two seconds. Bones that snap and relocate themselves take weeks to reknit. Weeks. Sometimes months.

Do not let the word magic cross your lips in defense of this trope or you will be subjected to an eye roll — I’ve been practicing with teenaged girls, so my technique is almost ninja-class at this point. You will not survive.

The problem is in biology and organic chemistry; cells can only work so fast.

So a shifter will not turn into a wolf/panther/dragon/hamster/rhododendron for three nights in a row and then go back to normal for three and a half weeks, sorry. And if your bones, muscles and tendons start reshaping and rearranging themselves, you’ll be too busy screaming in incredible pain to be very menacing to anyone.

Plus there’s the whole mass factor–120-pound human female becomes a 70-lb North American wolf bitch. There’s 50 pounds of flesh missing in that equation. Or better yet, she turns into a 6-ton (12,000-pound) fire-breathing dragon! Where did the 11,880 pounds of scales, wings, talons and etc. come from? Dark matter? Insert derisive snort here.

All this rant is not against paranormal stories in general, but for pity’s sake, at least try to make them non-ridiculous. Have you ever come across phenomena you can’t explain? I have.

I live with a man who can tame any animal within seconds of meeting it; he once chittered at a feral rabbit on the VA medical center grounds and it started hopping to him. He wasn’t even speaking rabbit; it was the same noise he makes to talk to squirrels in our back yard. (It’s rather odd to wander outside and catch one’s spouse having a conversation with a squirrel, but I have done exactly that. That’s one of the reasons his blog name is Spooky Man.)

Not to mention the dogs, cats, bunnies, cows, llamas, goats, ferrets, and whatever else that have tried to follow him at the Western Idaho Fair. Spooky Man is not allowed in the animal barns unaccompanied.

Plus, I’ve got a ghost cat in my house — I have seen the black shadow of a long-haired cat flitting from one room to the other and we have no long-haired indoor cats. Even Tuffy, our long-haired outdoor cat (who refuses to become an indoor cat), has a Maine Coon-style outline, which doesn’t fit Ghost Kitty. Yeah, we named the ghost cat, which shouldn’t be surprising since I live with, well, Spooky Man.

However, I’m the one who scares away ghosts, identifies flying objects, explains magic powers (with string theory, but still…), and generally explicates the inexplicable. This is why I’m not a target market for paranormal romance and urban fantasy. If I were living the X-Files, I would be Scully.

Marroooo! The Cat in the Pack

I have a cat who, I think, thinks he’s a dog. I have another cat who will speak dog if Spooky Man asks him to.

What does this have to do with “Marroooo!”? Well, we took Stuart to the vet last summer with Hank the dog. And he discovered — again — that he doesn’t like car rides. We discovered what he sounds like when he tries to howl like Hank: Meeeoooow. Meeeooowww. Maarrroooo!

This is all backstory.

Tuffy, the outside cat, recently had to spend the night inside because Spooky Man was sure it was going to be Too Cold For Outside Cats. At four a.m., my darling man got up to use the facilities and Tuffy — wide awake because all self-respecting cats should be out catting around at four in the morning, thank you very much — meowed and chirped to go outside, please.

Spooky Man said, “Okay, you can go outside if you give me one ‘maroo’ and one ‘maroo’ only.”

Tuffy immediately said, “Maroo?” Yes, it was in the form of a question. A rather puzzled question, too, actually.

Spooky Man let him out. It took me 15 minutes to stop giggling and go back to sleep. This is the sort of reality you can never put in a novel because it won’t be believed.


News from Real Life

Last Friday I bought a new car.

I did my homework to figure out exactly which model I wanted, I was pre-approved for a loan from my credit union, I had detailed my trade-in and removed all personal possessions from it, I knew what price point I wanted. I was ready.

It still took four hours to go through the negotiation and buying process (paperwork). It might have taken longer because I didn’t use the dealership for financing, even though all the financial gurus say not to.

It took another half-day to get the new car registered and the insurance switched over. I don’t remember all this extra work when I bought the Subaru, but that was fourteen and a half years ago.

The new car is a slightly used 2012 Ford Escape XLT, with more freaking buttons in the dashboard and steering wheel than some airplanes I’ve flown in.

I think I have to know Morse code to reset the trip odometer, but it locks/unlocks by itself and nags you when the oil needs to be changed. The first time it locked the doors while it was moving, it startled me to the point of almost driving off the road.

It also has an automatic transmission, my first ever. I don’t really like the automatic transmission, but I guess 99.5 percent of humanity is too busy texting, shaving, eating and/or putting on makeup to learn how to control their vehicle by properly using a clutch.

Yes, that was a slam at people who can’t drive a car with a manual transmission. You will not survive the coming apocalypse, as zombie hordes can manage automatics. So there. Ha! (Yes, we still have a car with a five-speed, so we’ll be able to get away.)

Spooky Man has accused me of being twitterpated with the new car. If I am, it’s his fault; he chose the car, because it has the most comfortable passenger seat of all the models on my short list. I am happy with the purchase, even if the process can be exhausting.

God willing, I won’t have to do this again for a decade.

Follow-up note 9/17/2012: I figured out why it took so long to write up the purchase agreement. A credit union I used to belong to 15+ years ago sent me a letter explaining why they turned me down for a loan. I called them, because I didn’t apply for a loan with them. Turns out the dealership did — after I had told them I had my own financing. Sigh.

Vital Records vs Public Records

The “birther” thing came up again recently. I don’t really know why, because you can get a copy of that birth certificate on a coffee cup. One of my colleagues at the day job has one.

The whole controversy makes me twitch, because a significant number of people in the U.S. seem to think they have the right to possess a copy of the birth certificate of a perfect stranger. This tells me they have no clue that a vital record isn’t a public record, and they do not have any right to an unrelated citizen’s vital information.

My mother worked for the Idaho Bureau of Vital Statistics as a microfilm technician during the 1970s and 1980s. She converted century-old records of births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and adoptions to the hi-tech record-keeping medium of the day.

As a result of mom’s esoteric job, I learned the difference between a vital record and a public record. A vital record is proof of identity. Nobody has the right to get a copy of my vital records but me or a first-degree relative. And both I and any first-degree relative have to prove identity by submitting a photocopy of government-issued ID, both front and back (and pay the fees), first.

The Idaho Bureau of Vital Statistics has no sense of humor, no good faith, and no direct contact with the public. You have to make a record request by mail, fax, or internet form (via a 3rd-party company that charges almost as much as the certificate fee).


This is the case even for presidential candidates who otherwise give up all rights to privacy. (By the way, neither presidential candidate for the 2008 election was born in the continental U.S.; John McCain was born on a military base in the Panama Canal Zone. Interesting trivia.)

Okay, this is where the political references stop, because the reasoning behind the confidentiality goes far beyond politics.

You can use a birth certificate to establish a new identity; you only need a birth certificate to get a Social Security number (I certainly had no other ID when I was six — mom got SSNs for all three of us; I needed one so she could put the car-accident settlement in a savings account). With a birth certificate and a Social Security number, you can get a driver’s license, a passport, and a life.

Posing as a family member to request the birth certificate of a person who died in childhood was a thriving activity in the 1970s. Most of the staff of the Bureau back then was devoted to researching every request to make sure it wasn’t fraudulent.

The confidentiality of vital records protects everyone born, adopted, married, or divorced in the United States. So be thankful there’s a difference between a vital record and a public record. It keeps Coneheads from ruining your credit.

Spooky Man is an Unspecified Number of Years Old Today

I could tell you how many years, but then he’d have to kill you. And since he’s old and decrepit, you’d have to hold still for it; it’s just easier all around not to reveal the number.

Happy Birthday, honey. Love you.

I Hate Change…Purse Trauma

I am female. And I am abnormal. How abnormal? I hate shopping, I own 12 pairs of shoes and I’m having mental trauma over replacing my one-and-only worn-out purse.

My taste tends to simple design, but at the same time I’m very particular–like the recent car commercial, “almost” isn’t the same.

When I figure out what I’m looking for and I can’t find it (or can’t find it for a reasonable price, which is a different issue), I become highly perturbed and end up creating it for myself. As a result, shopping is pretty much useless for me, unless I’m buying raw materials.

Then, three to five years later, when I don’t want/need that particular thing anymore, it turns up everywhere. At a reasonable price.

Some people think I’m cheap, but I’m not, really. Take the purse, for example. I’ve been working with leather since, well, grade school (girl scouts, 4-H, etc.), so I understand what’s involved. To me, no bag/purse on Earth is worth US $400 for the privilege of advertising someone else’s brand.

It doesn’t work any better than the generic version. I’m not interested in impressing my neighbors with my poor financial acumen (I blew a car payment on this handbag!). And shouldn’t the designer be paying me for advertising space? I’m just sayin’….

So. My purse/bag has been in the process of wearing out for two years. The strap is cracking and falling apart. The zippers are fraying and getting stuck. I’ve nursed it as long as I could, but time catches up with everything.

For approximately 18 months, I’ve been waffling between three leather organizer models that all cost less than $30 online. I’m going to keep and use this one bag for eight to ten years (or whenever it wears out), so it has to be the Right One.

Last week, I gritted my teeth and made the selection.

Today it arrived. Spooky Man sent me to my room after dinner to load up the new bag (he knows change makes me cranky), and…everything fit.

It’s still going to take some getting used to, because it’s different. But I think I’m going to be okay.

And now for my next trauma…Spooky Man muttered something about it being time for a new coat. Gulp. Couldn’t we just buy a photovoltaic grid instead and turn up the heat? Those are easy.

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