Friday, December 12, 2008

In which life has happened...

Good God, life just happened and I've forgone blog-posting! Thanks to Richard for reminding me!

Um, ok, Finished the novel, kitty (Schmendrick) went missing, kitty was found, renamed (now Count Albus von Schmendrick) after his third brush with death. Yes, third. In four months. He's only about 7 months old total. He's a cuddle monster with a furry death wish, and he's scared of Isis, our queen cat. She needs only a short name to embody her majesty. Be afraid!

I injured my back while reaching for a doorknob. Yes, it is possible. Keep up on your spinal health, kiddies. Sake works wonders for easing stress. Use it.

I read Mists of Avalon for the first time. Funny, it broke a lot of rules that I've been told you shouldn't break when writing a novel.

I saw the Twilight movie. It wasn't awful if you're a fan of the book. If you're not a fan of the book, then it was awful. The girl who played Bella did a great job. Robert Pattinson is lucky he reminds me of Gabriel, who is hottness itself. Yeah, that's right. It's spelled hottness, bitches! Some of the characterizations and casting I totally didn't get. The guy who played James seemed miscast. Some of the clothing was a bit, er, vampy. It was almost campy vampy if you follow me. As in not very fresh in approach to vampire fashion. It looked sorta lame. The girl cast as Rosalie is ten thousand percent NOT what I pictured. The guy who plays Jasper is equally so. I mean, he's supposed to be from the Civil War as in from the 1850's, not Civil War as in the Marvel Comics crossover megalith from earlier in the year. I couldn't tell if he looked 2008 or 1798, but he sure as hell didn't look 1858. Ah, no.

However, the script was ok, and the few variations from the book were actually well done, with respect for the text (unlike that HORRID Eragon film. Gah!), and in keeping with the tone and fanbase. The special effects were kind of awful. The cameo of Stephenie Meyer in the film was cute and unexpected. I doubt I'll get the DVD's but I'll probably see the next film when it comes out.

Currently reading book 2 of the Darksword Trilogy (Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman RULE!). I'm enjoying it!

Reread Watchers by Dean Koontz. Such a great fucking story, even 22 years later. It barely seems dated. I read it with a new appreciation, since I now live in SoCal, where the book is set. I'm familiar with most of the places in the book, so it felt cooler somehow.

Read Water for Elephants. Great book, highly suggest it. It's a unique telling of a man's life in the circus and his relationships with people and an elephant. It was riveting! Totally unlike anything I'd ever read.

Bettie Page died today at the age of 85. Long live the Queen of Curves!!!

Finally saw Juno. It was cute. It wasn't as punishingly punny as I thought it would be, thank God. Turns out the writer has another film coming out in the next month, and the poster for it looks exactly like the HBO series True Blood poster. Hmmmm.

Speaking of True Blood, I read all the Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire novels by Charlaine Harris. Go for them. All 8 of them. NOW. I just wish Sookie would pick someone to fuck consistently.

True Blood was a kinda awesome show, but ended kinda poorly. I couldn't figure out where the hell they got half the season from, expounding on nonexistent shit from the novels. Still, they were fun to watch. And you get to see boobs, most notably of Anna Paquin and (very briefly) Michelle Forbes. (yes, Ensign Ro. THAT Ensign Ro. You wanted her boobs, you got 'em. But if you blink you'll miss it.)

I finally watched the last 3-part episode of the last season of LOST. For Fuck's sake, I have no idea how I'm gonna wait 6 more weeks to find out what happens!!! AAAAARARRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!! Come on, January 21st....

Uh, I think that's it. Working on the rewrite, holiday parties, workworkwork... c'est tout.

Until next time!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Continuing the QoS and Star Trek Rant...

Ok, to finish with a few thoughts:

What really bothers me about the new Star Trek movie is how airbrushed it is, as shown by this example. It's not dirty enough, and these boys look like they're about 19. Quinto doesn't look only 2 years younger than me. He's too smooth.

I've really been thinking how my love for Spock got me into that godawful marriage. I thought I found cool, beautiful, and brilliant, but I found hateful and abusive instead. However, this is certainly not to imply that I believe Spock to be abusive. That was just the emotional thing on the show that made him distant. The coolness was real, not manufactured. That, and my ex is a violent douchebag. And Spock/Leonard actually has a nice ass. Not so much the case with my ex...

Oh, and whatever SciFi Winona Ryder has ever been in has SUCKED. Fantasy she's good with. But she's wearing a kryptonite strap-on dildo for sci-fi, and this shit's gonna hurt.

We'll have to see.

OK, so the Bond movie... Bad ass! Daniel Craig is officially my favorite Bond! The Jack White/Alicia Keys song was ok, and rocking. The villain could have been stronger, but I thought the plot was excellent. I get the feeling they're gearing up for something pretty nuts for the next film. The film was action-packed, and I'm trying to remember when I've seen a better posse walk - especially since Bond has no posse! And I like the depth that this new Bond has. He's not a "fuck 'em all, and let M sort 'em out" kind of Bond. Yeah, he gets busy. He's Bond. But it wasn't flashy or gratuitous. It wasn't like Roger Moore who schkeezed on every skirt that passed.

I love Judi Dench as M even more now. She is made of iron. I wanna bet that plucky and awesome, and she's got a few years on me. I'd trade!

Just once, though, I'd love it if they got a Bond girl who wasn't a size 4 or smaller. Just once. Juice is where it's at, yo! Bring the jiggle!

On Daniel Craig, I am continually startled at how he moves with speed and grace AND strength. I'm not into blondes, but DAMN! Just Damn!

Go on and see it kiddies! :D

In which I rant about the new Star Trek trailer and gush over Quantum of Solace...

Ok, so it worked out where Gabriel and I got to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film last night at midnight. I was pumped about the trailers, too, since the new trailers for both Watchmen and Star Trek were to be included also.

The trailer for Watchmen wasn't up. Goddammit. I'm reserving judgement on what I perceive to be an unnecessary sin of Hollywood, but I accept that it is unstoppable. So I want to see the trailer. Is that too much to ask, you AMC fuckers??? Word to the wise: if there is a highly anticipated movie, and the studios release that its trailer is to be put before a certain film, PUT IT THERE! Assholes. A lot of fans were expecting to see this trailer. I am perturbed that I did not get to.

New movie about Nazis... I was watching amazing Brit actor after amazing Brit actor crawl across the screen. My interest was piqued. And then Tom Cruise, er, cruised onscreen, and I got the feminine equivalent of dickshrivel. He's a wonderful actor, yes. Why he can't bother to have the same accent as anyone else in the film, I don't know. But he's gone too weird. I have a hard time watching him, and the campy-looking eye patch in the flick. It's called Valkyrie, by the way. It reminded me of other stuff that was fantastic once you scraped the turd off the top and ignored its existence.

There was a new Adam Sandler film that I won't be seeing.

But the new Star Trek trailer was first. It's a reboot of the Original Trek from the sixties. As someone who abhors the constant retconning in comics (where the writers decide to start over and pretend that a lot of history just doesn't exist so that they can skip the whole creativity part), I reject the idea.

J.J. Abrams touches something and it turns to gold, usually, so we'll see. If this flick ends up being successful, I imagine we'll be subjected to more of them with random new directors. I shudder at the thought of Michael Bay or Jonathan Frakes at the helm.

The writers have written for Alias (which I never watched), but also committed the sin of writing the new Transformers movie (which kinda blew goats, though that's not all the writers' faults), MI:III (moderately ok). Worse, most of that Hercules and Xena shit was their doing. GAH! Those were so campy and awful and inaccurate, I hardly have hope for Star Trek. The dudes who wrote The Island? Come on, that's hardly amazing enough cred for Trek!

So, the trailer shows Kirk as a kid, then teen in Iowa. Ok, not bad. Chris Pine looks ok as Kirk, although Kirk was never the attractor for me. I'd need to see the film and an old Trek episode next to each other to see. But he's got the posing, arrogance, and posturing right.

Not sure if I buy the kid from "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" as Sulu.

Didn't see hair or hide of Karl Urban as McCoy, at least not a devoted shot as such.

There was, however, a devoted shot of Uhura getting undressed, white bra and all. Zoe Saldana is quite pretty, but way too thin to be Uhura. It's like they succumbed to current skinny-model trends in the retcon. Grrrr... She's a fine actress, but not what I was hoping for. I'm sure she'll do fine, it's just the stereotyping that if you're attractive, you must also be skinny. I hate that. But here's Nichelle Nichols as Uhura Statuesque and voluptuous. A little big for a film star today. You'll see what I mean when you see all of Zoe's ribs and abs when she's taking her shirt off. Covering her face, even. You know, Nichelle once told Dr. Martin Luther King that she wanted to leave the Trek show while it was filming. He told her she shouldn't, because what she was doing for African-Americans was important. The idea of a black female Lieutenant on a flagship for the entire world was an important one, especially since she couldn't have sat in the front of the bus at the time. Star Trek was pivotal in gradually turning racism on its ear. Pop culture laid the groundwork for fighting racism, and Gene Roddenberry (bless him!) saw the future as it should be: raceless. If they reduce Uhura to T&A in this film, I shall be disappointed, just because it ignores the character as a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. More than disappointed. Angered.

Oh, and the last bit: Spock. Oh, where to begin? I suppose you'd have to begin with me as a child to understand my point of view. Small girl, poor, in suburbarural Atlanta in a mixed-race tiny town. At home, white people doing white things. Family of firemen, truckers, dentists and artists. Music everywhere. Broke-down cars and banana pudding, farming at my grandparents' place, and at that damn Christian cult several times a week. And poor. Deciding to feed us or the dog poor. Turning on the oven for heat poor. Living in grandpa's old house poor. Library books, network tv on a tiny black and white set (in the late seventies, color had been out a WHILE), and my imagination as toys poor. I was happy, so I'm not complaining.

But when you compare that to the show, my mind was blown. I was around other races, so Uhura and Sulu were real to me. I had black friends and asian friends. I had white friends, full of bluster like Kirk, and full of earnest help like McCoy. But I'd never seen ANYTHING like Spock. Not just the ears and brows, but the soul, the aching clarity of the self. A man trapped between two worlds (I don't think I had any mixed-race classmates), brilliantly intelligent, strong, tall, secure. He was the first man I fell in love with. Not a sexual love, since I was too little to think that way yet, though he is certainly very attractive also. Not Leonard, either, since I didn't have the fortune to know him. But Spock, the character. I wanted a man like him.

Enter my doom. I once told my girlfriends in high school that my male ideal had a big nose. Tall, dark hair, preferably mussed, broad-shouldered, narrow waist. Brilliantly intelligent. They looked at me like I was nuts and gave me Tom Cruise movies to watch (remember the aforementioned feminine dickshrivel? There ya go). If I saw a man like that, I wanted. If he were distant, I wanted more. I totally missed the point that Spock is completely distant emotionally, and would never open up. Hoo, boy.

Every relationship got me closer to that ideal until my disaster of a marriage with the most "perfect" man: He was actually a cesspool of imperfections. That unavailable thing reeled me in like a goddamn trout. I didn't see the hell I was wrapping myself into. And hell it was. I was a tool. In the words of Nick Cave, "I feel like a vacuum cleaner - a complete sucker!" Glad to be out of that!

It took me forever to see my problem. It also took me forever to find out Leonard was Jewish. Apparently, a lot of Jewish men have big noses and dark, mussed hair. Oh. Funnily enough, I'm with a sexy man of Jewish descent. He's like a mix of Spock and Joe McIntyre from New Kids: Big nose, mussy hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks. I'm in heaven.

So, you can see the loaded history for me with Spock. The boy had damn well better be right if he's going to play young Spock. And he looks like Leonard is the thing! But I don't know if that cool brilliance is there from the trailer. I am completely unconvinced that anyone can deliver that. The times were so poignant and the costs so much, that there is only one Spock.

I am unenthralled. I hope I'm wrong.

And I'm late for work! GAH! I'll pop back in for the Quantum of Solace bit later....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newfangledness and lettuce.

Well, hi all!

This is a photo of my new lettuce and garlic bin! Pretty tasty looking, huh? I planted some lovely heirloom garlic cloves, then scattered seeds over the top. I have a mixed sweet greens & reds, Paris mesclun mix, an Asian mesclun that's good for stir-fries, and spicy micro greens. YUM! Yes, they're planted thickly. I figured I'd just thin right into my salad bowl, which is working great so far!

Unfortunately, the dreaded cabbage moth has visited. It's a pretty little white butterfly. It lays zillions of eggs on your greens. The eggs hatch and hungry little monster-pillars come out and munchmunchmunch. I've resorted to the BT again. *sigh*

Here's a shot of the intro to my garden:

Yeah, I know. It looks white trash-tastic. But it works. Here's the second half:

I've cleaned up since this photo, and put in another lettuce and garlic bin (with the wilting lettuce needed to be transplanted from the earlier photo). I've also destroyed both the grow-outs of the Purple Haze tester. I'm about half a second away from doing the same on the Power's Heirloom, since it has not once set fruit.

The black prince and black plum are producing nicely. Hopefully, they will ripen before any frost. Unfortunately, those don't taste as great as I'd like them to. The first black prince (picked and eaten in a lovely salad November 2nd) actually tasted kind of lame. It thought about tasting like a tomato, honestly, but I'd already swallowed by then. However, it was far better than the atrocious excuse for a tomato that was on a sandwich I bought today. If I'm paying $6.95 for a tomato-basil-mozzerella panini, shouldn't the tomato be amazing? I mean, it's only 33% of the sandwich ingredients. At an expensive bakery, no less. Actually, the basil was tough and lackluster, too. I need a panini press...

What I'm finding is that I'm excited by the thought of a tomato. That is, until I get a tomato that I didn't grow, or I didn't get from a market myself. Food service tomatoes are SHIT. No wonder I spent my early life thinking I hated tomatoes! I *do* hate tomatoes, at least the readily available ones! A real, flavorful, juicy heirloom tomato? Now that's where it's at! Some restaurants have the tomato thing took care of: P.F. Chang's, Claim Jumper, Twist in Atlanta... but they are few and far between. We need more tomato lovers!!!

Which brings me to this: I have begun a new blog. A Southerner's Guide to (surviving) Los Angeles. In it, I will detail the search for Southernness in the greater L.A. area. Good food and recipes and locales, hoo-ah! Come on over!

Monday, November 3, 2008

On the Finishing of my Novel...

So last night, I finished writing my novel. I was approximately 2.5 days late in doing so, but I did it! I'm SO happy with it! Borders does not serve champagne. I celebrated with a root beer float instead.

Tuesday and the Moon :Tuesday's fiancee is missing!! When she tries to find him, she ends up on another planet between the Earth and the Moon, and discovers that he's not all he said he was.

I'll start to talk more about the experience soon. I am starting a rewrite class, so a full beta reader version should be ready at the end of December.

I worry that I don't really feel any different. I'm still me, but I just accomplished this massive goal. Given my current worries, I feel this huge pressure to make writing profitable, but the money is only there for a lucky few. Since when have I ever been that lucky? I learned a long time ago that luck isn't my strong suit. Hard work is.

I write because I have to. It is in me to write these tales. They want to come out! There are 36 more in the wings. Hopefully, somebody likes one of them.

The joy has been dampened, however. Today, my fish is dying, my new cat is missing, and one of my turtles is dead (RIP, dear Herakleitus). All this happened since I finished, so there has been little time for joy. That, and the fact that I need a lot of money fast. I really hope things turn around soon. I also hope that both my grandfathers get better.

Life. So full of joys and miseries. I'm getting a whole lotta both right now.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How I skipped September and the Two Hundred Dollar tomatoes I ought to have skipped.

Yeesh. Bit of a gap since last post, sorry. Life happened!

I now have a new car. I've already had a collision in the new car. I've already had to take the same car to the shop for non-collision issues. I've come well along on Tuesday and the Moon. I've had my debit information stolen and my checking acccount cleaned out. I've rescued a cat that i now want to keep. I've had an interesting few weeks.

So, yeah.

The tomatoes... yeah, they're nuts. I started building homemade sub-irrigated planters that are like the EarthBox brand, only better and cheaper. The idea is to water once or twice a week, and the plants take what they need. It's lower impact, There's some directions for making your own here and here. Making your own is cheaper than buying the real thing, not that I'm knocking Earthboxes at all! Great product! But I am broke as phuc, and what I've grown this year would have cost me $500 just for the boxes (they're $50 each), and that's not half what I'd like to grow. Plus, Earthboxes are shallow, and I grow indeterminate tomatoes. They need DEEP dirt, so making my own was the only way to go. I can make the equivalent of 2 Earthboxes in growing space for less than $8, so what's the poor waitress going to choose? $100 or $8?

So anyway, I've been trying like hell to grow. I should photograph the cemetery of dead smaller pots that just couldn't stay watered in the California heat, or else suffered from damping off. I started some twelve varieties. The first installments of the saga can be found here and here.

So the ones that I thought would live did not. I have five survivors: Black plum, black prince, power's heirloom (which was a freebie. I didn't even order the damn seeds.), the San Marzano from the nursery, and one testing out of a Purple Haze to see where the hybrid falls. Not one has actually produced a usable fruit. Only 3 have set fruit at all!

The costoluto genovese and 2nd jaune flamme did not survive transplant. (the first jaune flamme was light years ahead of the other seedlings until transplant when it promptly gave me the middle finger and didn't grow an inch. It was then destroyed in the caterpillarpocalypse.) The Dona, hawaiian currant replacement, and 2nd san marzano did not survive the 2nd heat wave.

Then, the caterpillars hit. I didn't know that the little black sandy specks everywhere were caterpillar poo. They decimated everything. My first 3 tomatoes had caterpillars in them as well as splits. They were useless. So I waged Caterpillar Armageddon right after they dropped the caterpillarpocalypse on me. I did what the web told me which was cut the 'pillars with scissors if I found them. The ensuing green goo-splosion has put me off avocadoes indefinitely. I much prefer a weekly dose of BT, which is a bacteria that kills them, but not other bugs, birds, cats, etc. I didn't have time to order the flies that destroy the caterpillars. Desperate measures were needed. i took care of them, and then, BAM! Blossom end rot on the San Marzano. Goddammit...

As it stands right now, if my 2 likeliest tomatoes actually make it, then they will have cost $200 each. Not tomato plants. Actual tomatoes. Those fuckers better taste good. I hope to put them in the 90-day novel potluck later in the month, which gives them about 4 weeks to mature. I am hopeful. They'd make pretty caprese salads.

I'm not alone. most other California gardeners have reported weird-as-hell growing issues. Pollinators coming too early,

Other casualties: 4 dead eggplants, 2 clinging to life with no fruit. One habanero of six survives and is just beginning to bear. All other peppers (some 40 of them!) dead. Three shrimpy jalapeno peppers less than one inch long got produced before that plant keeled over. Garlic? What garlic? New thyme plant is dead, have bought another. Not one parsley, cilantro, oregano, sage, or marjoram made it. Only thyme and rosemary from nurseries did make it, all my from seed ones died. All six okra bit the dust. All turnips and carrots went buh-bye. No calendulas survived. Hell, even the Borage is dying without flowers.

I hope to make planters every couple of weeks over the course of the winter to add to the 5 I have, plus 2 of the 5-gallon bucket variety. This way, I won't have to muck about with trying to maintain all the little pots. Instead, I'll get them in the self-waterers ASAP. I'll start 'em, sprout 'em, transplant 'emm young, and thin 'em later if necessary. Getting the plants in regular watering and protected from the heat is the hard part here. 80% of my tomato survivors were from seed, and over 95% of my plant costs were in tomato plants that didn't make it. I won't do that again, but I'll use my certificate for my 2 free plants next year. The plant pickup location is near the L.A. location of Penzey's Spices, so I'll consolidate and hit Little India on my way back. Make a day of it outside of damn tomatoes. I might buy 2 more just for the hell of it, but I don't believe that the plants were tempered for my area. We'll see. But I'll definitely combat my late start.

What I did right: BASIL. That shit goes nuts in self-watering planters! the photo is of my recent prevent-the-bolt cutbacks, because when basils go to seed, they lose flavor. I have several varieties that are doing extremely well, and I have cut them back multiple times. I will make my caprese salads for the potluck, and then let some go to seed. I'll try to catch seed for the first time ever! I am loving the purple basils (dark opal, purple ruffles, and purple petra) and having fun making basil vinegars, oils, and pestos. I made an amazing Thai pesto by mixing garlic and equal parts thai basil, cilantro, and mint. I used olive oil, but next time I'll use some sesame oil. White pepper instead of black. YUM! I'll skip the African blue basil next time, though. It is thick and fuzzy. Not a great texture. It's also a hybrid, so I can't save seed.

So, next is garlic and lettuces. Another shot at turnips and carrots. Keep the 'maters going until they keel over. Keep the basils going until they poop out or until the temperatures drop (IF they drop, that is).

I sleep now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

McCain's people are really starting to piss me off...

Just read this on BoingBoing...

This douche thinks it's OK to slam DnD players by stating that:

" It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others."

Then, this popped up from an earlier comment by a McCain staffer:

"If the shareholders of The New York Times ever wonder why the paper's ad revenue is plummeting and its share price tanking, they need look no further than the hysterical reaction of the paper's editors to any slight, real or imagined, against their preferred candidate," said McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb.

Goldfarb compared the editors to a blogger "sitting at home in his mother's basement and ranting into the ether between games of Dungeons & Dragons."

Ok, two words. FUCK YOU!

I know, those words are neither polite nor ladylike. I don't give a fuck.

His staffers are poking fun at things older than I am (DnD first published in 1974, making it about a year older than me), and are not quite relevant. Plus, the former and current DnD people are where they can knock you off your high horse. Those who wrote games and stories for DnD and the like are New York Times bestselling authors many times over. They are in charge of newspapers and publishing houses. Their words, blogs, and opinions are read by hundreds of thousands of people every day, and you want to piss them off? How about DnD players like Marilyn Manson or Vin Diesel? They influence a wide swath of the voting youth, and you just pissed them off. Oh, and they don't live in basements either, assholes! Their rebuttals could be more than just a swift kick in the nuts.

Don't get me started on all the people who are close to DnD, but don't actually play. Just think, over 100,000 people attended San Diego Comic Con. That's just the people who could get tickets and go. More wanted to. That's the same demographic as the DnD group. Well done, idiots. You just insulted over 100,000 voting Americans. How intelligent. Add comics fans, sci-fi fans, fantasy readers, and the more current forms of gaming zeal (Warcraft, Everquest, etc.), and you just lost.

The more I read of McCain's peeps, the more I'm reminded of the cronies who used to hang around the jocks and beat up nerds on command. Problem for you is that we realize now that we outnumber you. And you need our votes, douchebags! Don't piss us off!

The Anti-Obama buttons on the Pieces of Flair application on Facebook really annoy me too. Like McCain 1) knows what facebook is, 2) knows what pieces of flair are and why it's funny, and 3) knows how to make those himself if he wanted to.

McCain is one year younger than my grandfather. My grandfather was a dentist and did well. He ALSO had a farm. He grew his own food. He stuck with his wife, and she with him, DESPITE illnesses, and they've been together almost 60 years. And you know what? They use computers and write their own damn opinions. At 80 and 81 years of age, my grandparents are more worldly and qualified to run the country than McCain. They know about war, loss, strife, illness, planning ahead, budgeting, the importance of family, keeping up with the times, and not being wasteful. I'd rather vote for my grandfather and his stringy comb-over than McCain any day because I know my grandfather would be a caring, fair, and honest man in office.

I don't have so much faith in McCain.

I hope to god, hell, buddha, whatever, that McCain loses. You hear that staffers? Not that Obama wins, but that McCain LOSES. You're leaving me no choice with which way to vote. You don't live in the here and now. The choices you make now will negatively affect me in the years to come. You'll make the wrong choices, backward ones. McCain will be dead and we'll be stuck in his world. I'm not cool with that.

If he's still stuck in the war, then he has a serious problem. I have Vietnam Vets in my family. They, too, have serious problems. They don't think right. I fully expect McCain is not right in the head. If the best thing you ever did in your life was to stay alive in a rough patch some 35-40 years ago, shouldn't you be striving to beat that? Aside from the presidency. If all you can do is crow about how your guy suffered 35 YEARS ago, what the hell is he doing now? C'mon McCain, what have you done for me lately? Oh, you've gotten rich and ignored equality? I got a present for you. It's a middle finger and a treatise on how the Vietnam war was caused by anti-democratic AMERICANS. (Hell no, those gooks can't choose a Communist leader! Fuck their election! Let's kill!). That war was an unnecessary and sad waste of life.

Also, If you can't operate a computer, then you don't understand 90% of the current work force and business operations. That means you're out of touch with reality. That means that you don't understand your people, and that you won't make the right choices for them, bottom line.

But last, the fact that the posts on the McCain blog are closed to comments says much. Why are you hiding, little wussies? Scared of us meanie bloggers?

So, John, I'm sorry. No Presidency for you!

Oh, all right. I'll give you a chance.

Roll a perfect 100 on a 5d20. Then, I'll give you Governor Bush's office.

And so it begins...

So, we're starting to actually write this week somewhat. We were outlining, and now we're writing. Tuesday and the Moon has become steampunk. Yay! Or, Gah! At any rate, I write. One day, you read!

We're not supposed to talk about this too much, so I'll change the subject.

I have one almost-ripe tomato. YAY! I can't seem to get the others to pollinate worth a damn. The homemade self-watering containers are working very well, but I need to make more. The plants that were tiny are now BIG. They need more space.

Oh, and I'm sick of being broke, but when is that news?

Send me love and good thoughts!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Yes, I'm writing away...

I'm busy outlining, but I'm not supposed to talk about it. Shhhhhh....

What I'm going to do instead is journal the process, and then release it in installments when I'm done writing the novel. Once the tale marinates and gets rewrite one, then I'll be looking for beta readers.

Currently, I am on track to finish one week ahead of my self-imposed deadline (counter to the right), and I just hope that continues.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Heh. I'm on

You know, nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing your name in print. Specifically, my name in print in the back of More Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home, a sourcebook for the Dragonlance series. I have discovered that actually lists me for my work in this book (under my maiden name, though).

Go on! Try it! (I know you won't!) Go to and search "jenna simmons" under books. There I am! :D

So, apparently, my publishing credit is more real than I thought. I'm on frickin', and it's not a vanity POD press book! YAAAAAAYYY!!!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Nervous as hell...

So I start my 90-Day Novel class tomorrow morning at 8:45. I'll finish 6 days prior to my 33rd birthday, which means I squeak in JUST in time. Jitters much? Ehyeah!

I want to thank Gabriel for sponsoring me to take this class. He's such a wonderful man, and I'm very lucky to have him!

I'll keep everyone posted, and meanwhile the clock is ticking. The countdown is listed in this blog off to the right!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I have been promoted!

I am now no longer the Goddess of Tomato Death!!! I am now the Goddess of Tomato Mediocrity!

Yeah, some promotion.

The baby hawaiian currant keeled over, so I'm now relying on the highly heat-stressed one to bear fruit. It probably won't bear much. One sweet pea currant seedling is alive, but not growing. Period. Damn.

I found a caterpillar curled up inside a jalapeno. He had already killed another one. He went in the trash bin. Wonder if this is the culprit who's been munching my lettuce. He's gone now, but I might need to take action...

I created 4 self-watering containers which have been populated with seeds and seedlings, so we'll see how they do. Unfortunately, I've had to move everything to the far less sunny side of the house. :( I'll be upgrading container size on a few seedlings to try to get them to grow. I need to buy a ruler, just in case I'm not noticing that they ARE growing.

Been using a lot of Great Big Plants and Neptune's Harvest fertilizers as foliar sprays. We'll see if they help. I've also been watering with the water from my turtle aquarium, but now that I'm using the self-waterers, that would be a bad idea to continue. Now I'll have to try building a greywater filtering system, maybe similar to a folkewall. Not sure that'll work in our current housing setup, but we'll see.

I'll work on some photos soon!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tenses make me tense...

I've been reading the back posts of the Miss Snark blog, and ran across this entry:

(P.S. - Read the comments, too!)

This is a discussion on tenses, and how editors HATE to get submissions in First Person Present Tense.

Some subsequent posts in the blog go on to talk about some very successful tales told in this tense, one that is in Second Person Present Tense, and another that was FIRST PERSON PLURAL Present Tense.


But I was wondering about your experiences in this, or your thoughts.

My POV: I utterly detest most writing in the present tense. Note the word "most." Not all. But most. I usually detest First Person POV, too, but not nearly so much as present tense. Put them together, and if I were an editor, that ms would be outta the slushpile and into the shredder before you could speak the second 'B' in "Bob's Yer Uncle." I would instantly return a book that I bought if I opened it and saw such a travesty on page. Blogs or news articles or nonfiction can work with this, but not fiction in my opinion.

Perhaps because it's my years of gaming, and that's how you talk during a game, ( "I roll this d12 in an attempt to successfully wield my +18 hackmaster against this harmless bunny." ), or maybe because I've seen this type of hack fiction before ( when I was 13, an awful writer, and this was staring up at me from my finished pages ), I'm so unimpressed with it now.

Personally, I've never seen it work. I can't get out of editor mode long enough to enjoy it. A master might be able to make me forget with his or her craft, but I have yet to meet that presentation of work. It just seems inappropriate for the fiction page. It's like going to a play and the lead actor is wearing nothing but a rubber chicken... you're going to have to work VERY hard to make me forget that rubber chicken. It just might be impossible.

Another person mentioned on the blog how it's possible that people write like this because this is how they talk in life. Again, not necessarily appropriate for a page in fiction.

I picked up a book called The Witch of Cologne. I cracked it open and nearly screamed in fury. Present tense. In HISTORICAL FICTION!! I mean, really, this is about religious crap from 500 years ago, and that's hardly acceptable to write in the present tense. I forced myself to read the whole bit, and the story was quite good. However, I don't suggest this book to anyone, and I do not plan to reread it. From me, that's a horrid review. I reread everything. I got suckered in by the title and the hot photo on the front of a girl in an open corset with no undershirt. Never again.

I noticed some stories in an anthology lately, and they had the same problem. I liked those stories the least.

I recently read the new "V" book, and finally understood what my 10th grade English teacher meant when she said "Third Person Omnicient run amok." This book had that quality, and fortunately Kenneth Johnson is a good enough writer to make you forget that. I can't deny that I had to scramble to keep up with what was going on with whom, though. The head-jumping between nine (yes, nine) characters across just two pages was enough to make my own head spin. Good story. Well told. Lots of head-jumping.

Maybe I'm just curmudgeonly and hidebound, but I'm kind of fine with third person limited past tense. Works for me. It's comfortable, and I like to read and write in that POV/tense combo. If I want to change character view, I limit quite arduously to just that character's POV for that scene. Or I try to, anyway. We all fail sometimes.

So what do you think? What's your favorite POV or tense?
(neato tense list here: )

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Works in Progress...

Hi all!

Just a progress report...

Been updating an older story, The Kill Lina Fund. I wrote it right after the divorce, and on looking back, it's quite good. Just needs polishing!

I'm still rocking out Tuesday and the Moon, and now it's going to be my focus for the 90 Day Novel workshop taught by Alan Watts. He wrote a really good book called Diamond Dogs, and he wrote it in 90 days. Pretty cool.

I'll keep everyone updated on how the workshop goes. I only have about 100 days until my birthday, so Tuesday has got to be finished by then. Fortunately, the workshop ends 6 days before my birthday. Kismet? Fate? Karma? Coincidence? You tell me.

Then, NaNo WriMo begins, and I'll probably start working on The Lineup, or maybe American Napoleon (Gotta change the 2nd title... too on the nose, I think).

You guys think I can bust out 2 novels before 2008 ends???? We'll see. Votes of confidence would be appreciated. :)

I am the Goddess of Tomato Death!


I order tomato plants. I go to my friend's wedding. I come back, and it was 105 degrees while I was gone. Tomato plants dead. Crispy. Yuck. Lost a billion seedlings, too. Despite eight separate plantings, not one calendula has survived. The Gods of face cream are rebelling. They don't want me to have this pretty stuff on my face so that my face will become a mite prettier. Bastards. My tarragon is gone! NOOOOOOOO! Took me eight months to find the damn thing to buy it (French Tarragon does not grow from seed. Gotta buy a plant)!

I sigh, start up more plantings (since ten of twelve tomato varieties are now deceased), and look for mature plants again, since I've now lost three to four growing months.

I order a few more plants from the same place, and drive all the way down to bloody Lomita to pick them up. This is the week that gas almost breaks the $5/gallon barrier. And it's at the other end of L.A. from me. Down the 405. Dear god, NO!

But I go. I buy plants. I transplant all of them. I make it back alive (barely). I buy locally several mints, a new tarragon, some lemon verbena, and rosemary.

Within 48 hours, the temperatures reach 116 degrees. I am away from my plants for 4.5 hours. They are crispy fried when I get back. All of the mint leaves are dry. All of them. The rosemary is black, the tarragon is brown.

The San Marzano isn't recovering well. The Black Plum is desperately trying to sprout new leaves, but I have more coming up, just in case. The Dona was much shorter and less leggy. It lost one big leaf, then another. It just might make it. The Hawaiian Currant is sprouting a few new leaves and some blossoms as well, but it's likely too stressed to fruit well. I'm just glad the new Sweet Pea Currant and Golden Grape varieties hadn't sprouted yet, so were therefore inside and not dead.

But still, I've managed to kill the cayenne pepper plant. Heck, every pepper plant I've started is dead. I just bought a 6-pack of habanero, just in case, and will return for jalapeno, poblano, and ornamentals. My seeds keep dying around week 4, and I don't have time to keep fooling around. Planting #4 of the rainbow bell pepper variety is also kaput, just like 1-3. #5 is at first-leaf stage. I'm not holding my breath.

Next year, I start in January, and I hope to hell I'm not living in the valley by then.

Reasons networking sites just might be the spawn of Satan...

Ok, not spawn of Satan, really. Since Satan is a myth, that would make them myth-spawn. That's like Spawn of Cinderella or something. Not remotely frightening. OK, Cinderella spawn would indeed be threatening,

How about this: Social networking sites are the breeding grounds for all your worst nightmares: blasts from the pasts--as in the unwanted ones.

I cringe to think that old photos of me might surface. You know, the high school ones that we don't want to talk about. Like the ones back in the day when MTV was loaded with Winger videos. I was not attractive at the time. I promise. You don't need proof. You don't want to see proof. No one does.

But what did surface galls more. While surfing Facebook, I ran through my nephew's friends... and found my ex-husband's profile right next to mine. I don't even want to be next to him in the virtual world. I don't want to watch Buffy or baseball because I don't want to hear his fucking name. And right now, what I want more than all the world is a copy of the divorce decree that says I don't have to have his last name on my driver's license anymore. That would make me happy. That he was supposed to give me copies of all said paperwork is completely off the point. I don't have this one scrap, and I'm going to get a copy, goddamit! (preferably without any more air wasted by speaking to him)

I know that hating a last name associated with an unsavory person is akin to disliking Wagner's music just because Hitler liked him. It doesn't make much sense. But quite honestly, I think of it as my slave name, so now I want it gone. It lumped me in that group with him again, which is something that I've tried very hard to avoid. I stayed there too long like a willing schmuck. I'm no longer willing, so can I have a bit of separation, please?

I fixed the Facebook quirk. It now features my pen name. Good enough for now.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Oh, and I AM still working...

Added 2, possibly 3 new paid jobs. Finally. No, not writing ones. Demoing and selling of sustenance and vices ones.

I have continued with Tuesday and the Moon. I have done some re-working and fleshing-out of The Kill Lina Fund. I have even remembered a story that I started in my head about 8 years ago or more and dusted it off for a fresh go. It's tentatively titled Fish Story.

But Tuesday must get cracking. I have therefore added a countdown widget. I have just over 4 months to write a novel.


See y'all later!

Memorizing Harry Potter doesn't count!!

Things running through my head lately...

I was looking at the Clarion 2008 workshop and realized something: I have no frigging clue who half of the instructors are, and have only read works by one of them. (faculty list here) Same for the who's who of their previous faculty and alumnae.

I read this list. It features 15 sci-fi novels that you must read. I, a supposed author of sci-fi/ fantasy have read only 6 of these 15 novels. 3 of them were read more than 15 years ago. I have not read even one of the items listed in the response comments to this post I've linked to.

Seems like I should at least read something of *all* past & present SFWA presidents. I haven't.
Seems like I should read something by every Hugo or Nebula award winner. I haven't.
Hell, I haven't even read half the novels on this list of authors/books that won BOTH the Hugo and Nebula. Not even close to half, actually. Want to know how many off this list I've read? TWO. I'm also astonished at how many I've heard of, but as movies, and as movies, they sucked.

I found this list of 100 great works, and then references to a book to BUY to read about books to read, which is kinda depressing. (the 1001 things to do/see/read/be before you die books depress me. I've got that much time OR that much money. not both. Makes me feel like my life isn't worth living if I'm not wearing Prada and I'm a size 2. I've got Hollywood and the fashion industry to make me feel bad about myself. I don't need to buy books that do that, too.) Maybe I'll check that list/book out from the library. Not sure it's worth the cash.

However, I did find this fabulous rebuttal post which makes me feel a mite better.

Anyway, here's the thing: I always say how much I like to read and how much I've read, and how I like sci-fi and fantasy... and apparently I'm a liar and a fraud. Memorizing Harry Potter and the Anne McCaffrey Pern novels doesn't count. Reading Jane Eyre a billion times doesn't matter. I'm not trying to release a novel in England in 1847. I need to know what's up with the market NOW. A.C. Crispin said so at a workshop that I took ages ago!! You need to know the market you're writing for -- and for a number of reasons! Why haven't I?

I know I'm broke, but money shouldn't be a deciding factor. I know what a library is, and how to use one. I'm less than 2 miles from 3 branches, and my boyfriend IS A LIBRARIAN. I know the "read it in Barnes & Noble to see if it grabs you" trick. I've even used it. Then why haven't I read more sci-fi??

Maybe because I got wrapped up in those multi-writer worlds for a while (Dragonlance is primary suspect), and I realized that all the decent works in that world were written by only a very small portion of the writers (Dragonlance: 190+ novels/ 12 by the "originators" that don't suck. That means 6%.). Turns out that those worlds are plotted by the finance group of the publishers, and they want the big bucks, and they're gonna milk the cash cow 'til the cow drops dead. Not exactly an enticement to read them.

Whatever the reason I'm not so well-read, I'd like your thoughts on the matter.

I'd also like to know your must-read list! Hit me!!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Celebrity Sighting, Southern Food madness, and a new place in L.A. that I like

Ok, Normally, I don't get too tweaked by celebs... until Ed Asner and Abe Vigoda walk in...

I made shrimp and grits. They were nummy. If you've never had shrimp & grits, you're missing out.

I made fresh strawberry shortcakes, and forgot to take pictures before Gabriel & I demolished them. They were also tasty! For the biscuits, I used a recipe like this, except for some changes:
1- added sugar (evaporated cane sugar, the good stuff from Trader Joe's) about 1/4 cup
2- added molasses, about 1/4 cup
3- added 1.5 tsp of Vanilla Paste, also from Trader Joe's.
4- No buttermilk. Half & half, lemon & skim milk mix (out of buttermilk, but not wasting the amazing fresh strawberry opportunity!)
5- didn't roll & cut. Instead made a squareish dough shape and cut 4 squareish pieces with this scrapey-measurey-knifey-spatulaey thingy I got for free at a yard sale. (Mine is cooler. It has a ruler etched on the blade. Very handy, though. Get one!) I guess I took the scone approach, which made for a nice, light texture.

I then mixed some diced fresh strawberries, raw sugar, more vanilla paste, water, and a touch of cornstarch to make the strawberry sauce. I left it very chunky, and poured it over the split biscuits, added more fresh berries, and added Fair Trade Vanilla Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Yes, you should be envious. Except that my oven sucks, and the bottoms were burnt. :(

I got the strawberries at the Grand Central Market, which has been open since 1917. I walked out with 2 large bags of produce for about $8. I got fresh cherries and lovely red potatoes and fava beans ($.69/pound! They're $2-$3 at my farmer's market!). Nabbed grape tomatoes, cilantro, and other yummies, too.

Had the most amazing fresh horchata there, which you must try if you never have. Most Mexican restaurants/cafes/stands have it on tap alongside the Coke in the fountain. The fountain stuff is OK, but get it fresh if you can! Technically, horchata could be any of a variety of melon or fruit waters, but the main one is milk, rice, sugars, and cinnamon. Good cantaloupe water is bomb, too!

Funnily enough, the huge fresh horchata cost as much as our entire lunch! We each had a single soft taco that took up an entire large plate! They came with extra tortillas and cost only $2. And they were gooooood! Horchata? $4 for the big one!

I have Kathleen Duey to thank for turning me on to the market. She posted about it on her blog on the June 1st, 2008 entry. I met her that day at Book Expo America, where she was signing her National Book Award Finalist book Skin Hunger. I must say that the book was wonderful, and I'll review it in the near future. And I'm not just saying that because I got a free autographed copy, honest!

Monday, June 2, 2008

China, you gotta chill.

Ok, Pissed off.

Just read this article about rules that the Chinese government is imposing on people visiting for the Olympics.

I understand them issuing a pamphlet that says things like "Oh, by the way, we do things a little differently here. These certain behaviors or actions are illegal." I'm cool with reminding foreign visitors of certain laws. However, if it's only available in Chinese (the Olympics is in English and French, btw), what good is it?

And if they're trying to quell rightful protests, or limit the ability of athletes or visitors to speak their minds, then it's just wrong. To me, this means that they have skeletons in the closet that they don't want known. Seems to me that if you have skeletons, and don't want them known about, then don't apply to host the goddamn Olympics!

I have nothing against the Chinese people. If the Chinese people have chosen Communism for their way of life, then that's cool, too! That's their choice. However, I do NOT agree with the current methods of the current Chinese government, and I also do not agree with some of their choices surrounding the Olympics. I most certainly do not approve of the treatment of Tibet. For fuck's sake, the Dalai Lama has to get PERMISSION FROM THE GOVERNMENT TO REINCARNATE!!!! Seriously, how retarded is that?

But I digress.

My point? The government of China has set up some really asinine rules, so in return, I have exactly one rule for the government of China: Kiss my ass. I won't have anything to do with your mockery of a beautiful world event.

I'm pretty sure that one or two more people out there feel the same.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Book Expo, and a review

So, I'm frigging tired.

The McDonald's southern chicken biscuit is a pretty tasty Chick-Fil-A ripoff, turns out. You can even taste the pickle juice in the batter. Oh, and so far 3 out of 3 locations near me do NOT have sweet tea. Bastards. Not nice to do to a Southern girl at 8 am on her day off.

I got a CRAZY amount of free stuff. I'm not kidding. The bags of books filled the entire backseat and floorboard of the car. I'll post a photo when I have it handy. Aprons, mints, postcards, books, bookmarks, ads, brochures, books, bags, books, frisbees, books, a whoopee cushion, books.... did I mention books?

I've even read one already. It's called Life Sucks, and it's a graphic novel from First Second. So far, I've loved EVERYTHING this company has put out. Life Sucks is no exception. It's about a boy who works at a convenience store who falls in love with a Goth girl. Problem: he's a geek. Another problem? He's a vampire with a very cruel master. That's why he works at a convenience store. the night shift, obviously. Think Clerks, but undead. It's a very awesome title. I wanna be published by First Second when I grow up! Also check out Vampire Loves. This is also the same company that put out the award-winning American Born Chinese. If they publish it, I'm very likely to buy it. I can't say the same for any other publisher, be they comic book, graphic novel, traditional, or otherwise.

I've had a nap. Now I want to sleep. Later!

Still here, exhausted and busy!

Getting off my ass now. I promise!

Since last post:

Learned to loathe LAX. A LOT. Not as much as if I'd been flying out on Airtran, tho. That particular terminal really blows. I got spoiled when I lived in Atlanta, because the airport makes sense and has a wide variety of excellent food options. At LAX, you are screwed!

All tomatoes? Dead. Tarragon? Dead. Most of herbs? Dead. Thanks a lot, random 105-degree heat followed by 45-degree nights. Yeesh. I lost over $75 worth of plants and WEEKS of work. That mint I've been nursing for 8 months? GONE. But the garlic is doing well (in the wrong place)!

Turtles are huge! more than 3 times their original size, and still growing! Lorenzo got put back in his teeny bowl for fighting with the turtles. Dude, they're TURTLES. they have snappy beaks! no wonder you're missing scales! relax!!

Ran into 2 old pals online that I missed a lot: Greg (from elementary school! WAY old history, and glad to have him back in my life) and Richard (from GA Renaissance Festival). Also caught up to Brenda, Nita, Eric, & Calvin from high school. I also found out that 2 of my old high school pals Heather and Andy just got married!

Further developed some of the stickier points in Tuesday and The Moon. Realized while talking to Hilary (Pingle. awesome actress pal from work. rising star, dawgs!) that I have GOT to get cracking. In order for people to test-read Tuesday by October, I need to have a first draft done in the next 6 weeks or so! GAH!!! Gabriel got a new job (YAY!), and is taking a trip to celebrate, so I'll have a week of being bored that will be excellent time to write. Wait, did I say bored? I'll have a car in L.A. for a week.... I could create a LOT of havoc. Of course, I probably shouldn't write that in my blog, because he might be suspicious at 8000 new miles on his car in a week... ;) Just kidding, baby, I'll be good! Truth be told, I probably won't go very far at all. Maybe to Chick-Fil-A. Which reminds me...

McDonald's now has sweet tea nationwide to go along with their southern style chicken biscuit and sandwich. The sandwich features 2 pickles. Cap on Chick-Fil-A much, assholes? Get your own damn idea! and keep the nationwide sweet tea forever, please! (The ONLY way this is acceptable is if the biscuits are made from scratch again like they used to be when I worked for mickeydees back in the early 90's. If these are those damn ready-mades, then I call DOUBLE whackitude. Ya heard that Ray Kroc?) OK, maybe I'm just bitter because I have to drive 30 miles if I want Chick-Fil-A. But I do it because I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Gal. But I welcome sweet tea near me. I just still call shenanigans on the golden arches for their ripoff, and rightfully so.

I have refined my grit-making technique. Bought grits (roughly 8 lbs. worth) while in South Carolina for Ginny's wedding to Roo. (YAY Ginny and Roo!) While there, I also had shrimp & grits 3 times in 24 hours. Life was real tasty there for a minute. Been pining since I got back. Thank god I can cook. I make a mean fried green tomato, too! Muuuuwahahahahaha!!! When I figure out the essence of the Flying Biscuit's Side of Love recipe, I will officially dominate breakfast. I still kick ass on my biscuits, though! (all butter, no shortening. Live free!)

Tomorrow, Book Expo! Yay! I'll miss the farmer's market 3rd week running, but what the hell. I'll be able to buy fava beans next week. This week, I'll hopefully be getting killer loads of free books! Just think, me with more reading material to gloat about!

Speaking of reading, I picked up Stephenie Meyer's new title, The Host. What a unique and enthralling tale! I was captivated the way I haven't been in a long time. Gone is the fanfiction-y feel of her Twilight series novels, and present is gritty, real drama delivered beautifully. Go! Read!

Ok, I'll report back on Book Expo digs soon!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ech. I'm lame. But I'm here.

Hi all!

I've been, er, busy. Yes, I've been writing, too!

Money is nutsy bad right now, and I'm desperately trying to find a 2nd job. I think it'll happen soon. Anyway, much is going on! Since my last post I have:

-Managed to write 18% of a novel (18% of 50,000 words, at any rate). Tuesday and the Moon is coming along very well!
-Tidied up more plots and added 4 new ones!
-Adopted 2 turtles and a betta fish (Heraklitus and Barbossa Tortuga and Lorenzo the fish. Photos coming when I have a camera that doesn't suck.)
-Been working on my credit
-Got a gym membership and actually went to yoga class!
-Contacted old friends
-Had a bizarre 80's heartthrob / cocaine celeb week (more in a future post)
-Started hatching project ideas with friends
-Reignited my love of sushi
-managed to get my mom to stop speaking to me at all (without even trying!)
-got my butt on the phone with folks who needed calls
-semi-financed a trip to Atlanta in May (YAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!)
-Started growing stuff. Basils, other herbs, calendula, 11 varieties of tomatoes (more posts later), fun funky garlics, many peppers and more!
-Learned that Garlic is even more awesome than I thought. Did you know that most garlic produces a flower? And that flower is actually teeny garlic cloves?? How rad is that???

So anyway, I live. I breathe. I'm catching up, I promise. It'd be helpful if I got a bum-kick from y'all sometimes...