Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Friday, February 27, 2004

Today is POLAR BEAR DAY, which is fitting, since Dean just read me this interesting news piece about a couple of zoo polar bears who turned green due to algae. Believe it... (indrawn breath) or not.

o bras, where art thou?
One of the little, unregarded phenomena of everyday life is how underwear drawers everywhere eventually transform into extradimensional portals, thereby whisking all your wispy unmentionables off to a galaxy far, far away... This has obviously happened to mine, since every one of my bras-- except for the scary leopard-print ones given by my mother-in-law-- has mysteriously disappeared. Either my portal theory is true, or the leopard bras have gone feral, and attacked and devoured all the other bras in a fit of predatory territorialism. Hey, stranger things happen.

in the news today
Former British Cabinet minister Clare Short claims that British intelligence has been actively spying on the United Nations since the run-up to the Iraq war. The espionage, Short says, includes electronic bugging of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. British big kahuna Tony Blair would not confirm whether or not the allegation was true; while U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard labeled the practice as illegal and said, "We would be disappointed if this were true." Gee, really?

What color are polar bears?

answer to yesterday's question
The wild mushroom classified as Amanita Bisporigera is also called 'the destroying angel', due to the supposed contradiction of its innocent appearance and lethal toxicity. In a matter of hours, even a tiny bite of this gorgeous white mushroom can result in crippling stomach cramps, blood cell breakdown, and eventually death. But really, as any comic book fan can tell you, beautiful things are so often deadly...

Kudos to Marc and Alex for knowing the fun fungoid facts!

Starting March...
I'm going to be keeping a running total of how many correct answers people have figured out, how many Smartypants awards they've won, and-- okay, fine-- how long that 'shame, shame' running joke is going to last. Monthly winners of the Trivia and Smartypants awards may report to Comic Quest at the start of the next month for their prize candy bars or whatever. Whoever does the 'shame, shame' thing the most times in the entire month gets... a poke in the nose!
Nikki bit in at 1:11 PM :: ::
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Today is FOR PETE'S SAKE DAY. Who is this 'Pete' guy, anyway, and why do we go around doing things for his sake?

the bible according to nikki
One of the first things I do when engaged in any kind of serial writing project is to create a series bible. Also called a correspondence, a series bible is a constantly updated file which contains all the information relevant to the series, including characters, setting, premise, overall plot, references, and-- when I'm being smart and disciplined-- log lines. (Log lines are episode-by-episode plot breakdowns, written in as few sentences as humanly possible.)

The purpose of this file is pretty self-evident: it's mostly so that, in the course of an extended storyline, I don't go around contradicting myself or forgetting to seed plot elements that are supposed to crop up later in the storyline. The log lines are especially useful because they help me pace the story as I go along-- and they save me from having to rack my brain to figure out what happens next as the deadlines loom. However, in cases where the project is a collaboration (like, say, anything requiring a visual element, since I'm artistically-retarded), the log line isn't just for my benefit; it's disseminated to everyone involved in the project so that we all understand what's going on, what has gone before, and where we're attempting to take the story.

So it really surprises me to find out that a lot of people don't make series bibles, or don't even know that such an animal exists. Because it just makes serial writing geometrically easier, and it simply makes sense. If anyone would like to know how, just write me and I will try to explain how I do it. Then we can all spread the Good Word...

Who or what is the 'destroying angel'?

answer to Monday's question
Curling is a sport played on ice, in which heavy stones with handles (known as curling stones) are slid towards a target. It was established in Canada by Scottish soldiers in the mid-18th century.

Congratulations to Ariel and Alex for being right on target!
Nikki bit in at 5:25 PM :: ::
Monday, February 23, 2004

Today is CURLING IS COOL DAY, which I thought had something to do with hairstyles, but doesn't.

Excelsis vignette: Lupus Solaris
"It's a werewolf," Victoria argued rebelliously. She was a musician by trade, and took her career almost as seriously as she did their vocation. "I fail to see what a garden-variety lycanthrope has to do with the likes of us. Let somebody else avert the crisis for once."

"It's not just any werewolf," said Vesper, who was extremely well-read for a professional thief. "It's supposed to be an incarnation of Hati, from Norse mythology. Or Skoll, we're not sure which yet."

"Bloody Scandinavians," Victoria swore, "and even so, so what? If it isn't the actual Fenris wolf, why should we care?"

"Because Hati and Skoll are the wolves who are destined to devour the sun and the moon," Devon replied patiently. Victoria thought this was a strange trait in someone who went around jumping off planes for a living, but that was Devon for you.

"Besides, werewolves... cool," Reynard offered. Reynard 'the Fox' was a musician too, but he and Victoria were about as different as a concert violinist and a cutting-edge club DJ could get.

"It will be good fight," growled Gregor, who tended to lose his English when the prospect of physical conflict came up. Victoria could only imagine that he was absolutely speechless on the soccer field.

"And I've already requisitioned multiple rounds of silver ammunition, as well as target-specific wards for either wolf, whichever it turns out to be," interjected Sho, who was smiling at Victoria as if he already knew she was going to agree. Which he did. Because she was, of course. It was a matter of faith.

"Bloody... Hel," Victoria sighed, and lifted the phone to cancel her concert in Paris.

What does 'curling' mean when you're not discussing hair, weights, or surfing?

answer to Thursday's question
The Lovers of the Stinky Rose are a bunch of garlic devotees in Berkeley, California. Now, I'm a garlic fan myself, but not to the extent that I'd actually meet once every month to talk about it, or hold an annual 'garlic festival', or even publish a newsletter called Garlic Time. I suppose it takes all kinds.

Congratulations to Marco, El, and Ariel, who sniffed out the right answer. And shame, shame, shame to Alex!
Nikki bit in at 1:43 AM :: ::
Friday, February 20, 2004

Yay, Dean!

I am sooo unbelievably proud of my husband. He is just the bestest, smartest, talentedest man to ever walk the face of the earth, with the possible exception of Leonardo da Vinci, who was far less good-looking. He will soon be a bona fide internationally-published writer, and in one of our most revered anthologies, to boot! (Check out his blog to find out more.)

I am so excited that my grammar is gone and I can't possibly post anything else today.
Nikki bit in at 5:45 PM :: ::
Thursday, February 19, 2004

Today is not a holiday of any sort. Which is apropos, since I'm spending my birthday working!

birthday blitz
Got a stack of presents at midnight from my darling husband and my so-sweet in-laws. Dean got me a printer (at laaahst!)-- which I pretended to know nothing about even though I partially watched him set it up-- and a lovely necklace-and-pendant set. Particularly disturbing was the pair of leopard-print bras I received from Dean's mom. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but when your mother-in-law starts trying to sexify you, it just seems like it's time to start worrying...

in the news today
43-years-strong couple Barbie and Ken have officially broken up. According to dollmaker Mattel at last week's Toy Fair, the pair feels that "it's time to spend some quality time-- apart." Mattel representatives would neither confirm nor deny whether the dissolution of the relationship has anything to do with the latest member of the Barbie line, newly-launched Australian surfer doll Blaine.

Honestly, first Nancy Drew dumped Ned Nickerson, then there was that rumor that Ernie and Bert were gay, and now this. Is nothing sacred?

Who are 'The Lovers of the Stinky Rose'?

answer to Tuesday's question
Famous Hollywood hoofers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had it written in their contracts that they were not permitted to dance together in public. It's not that they didn't want to; for some strange reason, they weren't allowed to. It's speculated that the movie studios didn't want the public to be disillusioned upon discovering that, in fact, the dancing duo could not actually dance on chairs or in air. Interestingly, Astaire's favorite dancing partner was not Rogers, but rather, fellow danseur Gene Kelly. Now, isn't that toe-tappingly intriguing?

Congratulations to Alex for being right in step; and a Smartypants Award to Vin, for his unintentionally prescient response!
Nikki bit in at 10:47 AM :: ::
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Today is MY WAY DAY. Of course, if you happen to be an Alfar (particularly the oldest or youngest of my nuclear family), every day is 'My Way Day'. And if you don't like it, there's always the highway...

Sage remedy
Last week, I cut my leg shaving and put a Band-Aid on the cut. Sage noticed the bandage and wanted to know what it was. "It's a Band-Aid," I told her. "You put Band-Aids on ouchies to make the ouchie all better."

I ended up having to take a Band-Aid from our medicine kit and letting her try one out so that she could understand. "Ouch," she play-acted masterfully, looking woefully at her bandaged arm.

Tonight, Dean had a headache and didn't feel up to running around as usual with his daughter. "Sage, Daddy has an ouchie," he explained, pointing to his forehead.

After that, nothing would do but that I take the medicine kit down from its shelf and produce a Band-Aid, which Sage proceeded to carefully apply on her father's ailing forehead. Giving him a kiss, she then authoritatively pronounced, "Okay. No more ouchie."

Truly, her logic is flawless.

in the news today
A thief who specialized in stealing from Austrian churches has returned his loot after going to confession. A day after he told a priest in Graz about his crimes, "boxes and plastic bags filled with works of art were found in the church," according to police spokesman Robert Koch. The loot included a missal, a chalice, candlesticks, a silver peace dove, two statues, and six pairs of baroque angels. Police say the pieces were stolen in the Styria, Carinthia and Burgenland regions during the past six months. They are now trying to figure out which goods belong to which of the robbed churches, implying that while confession may have improved the thief's sense of morality, it did not do much for his memory.

Which two Hollywood stars of yesteryear had contracts that stipulated that they were never to dance in public together?

answer to yesterday's question
It's been noted that the gender of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand during egg incubation. Warm temperatures (greater than 29 degrees Celsius) produce more females; cooler temperatures (less than 29 degrees) produce more males.

Only the mysterious Major Domo (who may or may not have worked for X-Men's Mojo in a previous life) got this one 100% right. Runners-up were Alex, Charles, and Vin. We are withholding today's Smartypants award from Dean and giving it to El instead for telling Dean off, which he deserved for using the same joke he used the day before. Shame, shame!
Nikki bit in at 11:29 PM :: ::
Monday, February 16, 2004

Today is U.S. PRESIDENT'S DAY, which used to be George Washington's birthday, until they decided to combine the celebrations for Washington and Lincoln, who were both born in February.

Georgia on my mind
Back in 1973, Washington's birthday (always held on the third Monday of February) fell on February 19, which is one of the reasons I was named 'Georgina', in honor of the great statesman. (The other reason was that my dad happened to be in Georgia when I was born.) Yup, I'm turning 31 this week, which is a pretty cool thing because, as I keep telling people, in a few more years I'll actually be the same age I've always felt. How nice it will be to feel younger than I am, for a change!

I'm asking my favorite storyteller (whom I happen to be married to) to run a role-playing game instead of throwing a standard party this weekend (although there will be food, including my famous spaghetti, if I'm up to it). I'm not sure if everyone from my usual posse will be keen on the idea (though I'm pretty sure Vin and Carl are game), but what the heck, it's my birthday. License for unrestrained selfishness only comes around once a year.

in the news today
A hapless Greek man went online in an attempt to understand why his 25-year-old wife spent so much time on the internet on their home computer. Following a link in the cache of their shared browser, he hit upon a pornography site which featured a video of his wife having sex with her lover. The 30-year-old from Athens called police, who arrested a young man (not the lover, though) on charges of running the exhibitionist site. What happened next between the husband, the budding porn star, and her lover is anybody's guess.

What does the temperature of sand have to do with sea turtles?

answer to yesterday's question
Visually, absolutely nothing happens to a goldfish if you tie a piece of styrofoam under its chin. Once you remove the styrofoam, however, the goldfish will swim diagonally, with its head raised, clearly demonstrating that it had previously been compensating for the added weight of the styrofoam. More interesting is the fact that laboratories and funding agencies actually spend good money to find out stuff like this, including the fact that, if you pour booze into a goldfish bowl, the goldfish will get drunk. I coulda told them that...

Let's flap our fins for Marco, Vin, and Dean, the co-winners of today's Smartypants award!
Nikki bit in at 1:43 PM :: ::
Sunday, February 15, 2004

Today is VALENTINE'S DAY, which you probably know. It's also SAGE'S BIRTHDAY, and the second annual international QUIRKYALONE day. 'Quirkyalones' are defined as "romantics who resist the tyranny of coupledom". So there.

in the news today
Who the heck knows? I'm too exhausted from trying to keep up with a two-year-old all day to find out. Sagey turned two today, and as promised, she was allowed to do anything she wanted, with her parents as helpless putty in her hands. So my Valentine's Day post is coming in many minutes after midnight, because she just now got to sleep. Dean and I gave her a little inflatable playhouse, which she adored... and which she insisted we also had to enter! We'll see how she likes having parents in back braces... She also got a little portable dollhouse, which honestly I think her parents enjoyed more than she did. (But it's sooo cute, and has teeny-weeny little furniture you can arrange and rearrange... Oh, never mind.) She's also getting a Blue's Clues stuffed toy, but she was so enchanted by her playhouse we decided to save Blue for later.

Valentine's traditions and superstitions
1. In the Middle Ages, young men and women in Europe would draw names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would then wear these names on their sleeves for one week, thus giving rise to the well-known saying. You know the one I mean, right?

2. It was believed in earlier times that if a young woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man, but be very happy. If she saw a goldfinch, she would marry a millionaire. Apparently, her happiness when married to either sailor or millionaire was not in question.

3. The Italian city of Verona receives about a thousand letters addressed to Shakespeare's Juliet on Valentine's Day every year.

4. In ancient times, a brave and curious young girl could conjure up the appearance of her future spouse by going to a graveyard on St. Valentine's Eve at midnight. She would then have to sing a prescribed chant and run around the church twelve times. This was probably worth it to avoid the consequences of the other belief of the time, which is that she would-- whether she liked it or not-- eventually marry the first eligible male she happened to meet on Valentine's Day.

What happens when you tie a piece of styrofoam underneath a goldfish's chin?

answer to yesterday's question
Valentine's Day has its origins in Ancient Rome, where young women would celebrate the Feast of Lupercalia (in honor of Juno, queen of the Roman pantheon of gods) by writing love letters and sticking them in a large urn. The men would pick a letter from the urn and, for the next year, pursue the woman who wrote the chosen letter. This custom lasted until the 1700s, when people made the revolutionary decision that their beloveds should be chosen by sight, not luck.

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14 a Church holiday in the name of St. Valentine-- although it's not clear which St. Valentine he had in mind, since the Catholic Church recognizes three of them, all of whom were martyred on February 14. The likeliest one, however, seems to be a 3rd-century priest who performed secret marriages when the Roman Emperor Claudius II thought single soldiers were more likely to enlist in the army. That St. Valentine was imprisoned and executed in 270 A.D. It is believed that he was responsible for giving the jailer's blind daughter back her eyesight; and before his execution, he sent her a note signed, "from your Valentine."

It wasn't until 1537 that St. Valentine's day was declared an official holiday. This was proclaimed by King Henry VIII of England, who probably did it because he was having trouble remembering all his wives' birthdays by then. It has remained a widely-celebrated holiday since, even though Pope Paul VI officially removed it from the Church calendar back in 1969.

Congratulations to Charles and El, who obviously have their hearts in the right place! And it looks like I'm going to have to officially sanction a Creativity Award for the funniest answers... This one goes to Marco, for his contribution of gory goodness.
Nikki bit in at 1:00 AM :: ::
Friday, February 13, 2004

Today is BLAME SOMEONE ELSE DAY, which I think is a totally unnecessary holiday, since I know people who go around blaming other people for their problems all year long. Hmph!

Tomorrow, tomorrow...
... is Sage's birthday! She'll be two years old.

It's also going to be Valentine's Day, but anyone with a drop of sense will avoid the mad restaurant rush and go out tonight or the night after instead. Dean and I are going to dinner this evening and exchanging presents (which, natch, we already know all about) and whispering all the sweet nothings and stuff, because we plan to spend tomorrow catering to our daughter's every whim. (So don't be surprised if we're both brain-dead in our next posts!)

In the past, we used to hold pot-luck parties for our single friends. We'd all sit around playing games, pigging out, and watching the least romantic movies we could get our hands on. It was our little way of 'sharing the love', but it's not really viable now with a two-year-old tromping around our apartment. "So when did we stop?" Dean asked me. "When we spent Valentine's two years ago in the hospital, giving birth," I replied...

in the news today
An Indian bride named Jayalakshmi called off her wedding at the altar when her husband-to-be demanded a motorbike as yet another part of the dowry... then she turned right around and married one of the guests instead!

Jayalakshmi's mother claimed that the groom's demands had been steadily growing since their engagement last September. "They did not ask for anything initially," she said, "but later (they) demanded gold, cash, furniture, and a motorbike."

When Jayalaksmi-- apparently fed up with the groom's demands-- nixed the deal, a wedding guest offered to marry her, and she readily accepted. After all, she had to do something with all that gold, cash, and furniture, didn't she?

Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day? (It's not just because it's Sagey's birthday... though it could be!)

answer to yesterday's question
Dolphins do sleep, but half their brains remain conscious even in slumber; otherwise, wholly unconscious, they would sink to the bottom of the sea and drown. So they literally sleep with one eye open, swimming in circles with the open eye facing the exterior of the circle to keep watch for predators. After a certain amount of time, they reverse and swim in the opposite direction, with the other eye now open and the other half of the brain now on the alert. Whales, also being mammals, do the same thing.

Dolphin hoots and whistles to Charles for being wholly conscious of the facts!
Nikki bit in at 2:54 PM :: ::
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Today is LOST PENNY DAY, when we are all encouraged to take the pennies we have stashed away in jars, piggy banks, and whatnot, and put them back into circulation, presumably by spending them. I would, but none of the local establishments will take my 'funny money'...

lubov nyet katorshka
That's what the Russians have to say on the topic: love is not a potato. While this may seem absurdly irrelevant, if you think about it, it's actually right on target. Because you can't eat love. You can't turn it into an alcoholic beverage to get yourself drunk, and you can't hook it up with wires to generate electricity. Despite what the songs say, love cannot solve all the problems that may exist between two people; only a mutual determination to make love work can do that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying 'down with love'. Love is a wonderful thing-- I should know-- and when it's right, it can make every day seem that much brighter, every sunset more spectacular. What I am saying is that it's not a miracle cure, or a universal problem solver. It's neither the philosopher's stone nor the holy grail. Love is only love; and tragically, it isn't always enough. Sometimes you're better off with a potato.

in the news today
New research seems to indicate that chocolate can help improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and produce yet other health benefits. Dr Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School found that cocoa was effective in lowering the blood pressure of the isolated Kuna Indians, who live on islands off the coast of Panama.

Despite a high salt diet, Hollenberg explained, the Kuna have normal blood pressure, and they consume large quantities of locally-grown cocoa. When Kuna moved to a city and stopped consuming their home-made chocolate, their blood pressure tended to rise, he noted. Early research also showed that cocoa could help increase blood flow in the brain and the extremities, which could prove beneficial to the elderly and diabetics (although that last part sounds like a catch-22 to me...).

See? Clearly, food is more useful than love.

Do dolphins sleep?

answer to yesterday's question
The humps on a camel's back are huge heaps of fat and flesh that can weigh as much as 80 pounds on a healthy camel. When water and food become scarce on the deserts where camels roam, the fatty humps serve as stored food, and are used for nourishment. By metabolizing these fat reserves, camels can go for up to two weeks without eating or drinking, although camels actually eat just about anything, and have been known to munch on tents, sandals, and blankets in a pinch. They can also close their nostrils and are the only animals with humps. (And by the way, Puting Tikbalang-- I've ridden a camel, and the humps are squishy...)

A round of applause to Vin, Puting Tikbalang, and Charles for being humpy triviameisters, and a special wolf whistle to Alex for his really-wrong-but-highly-creative answer!

Oh, yeah, and I officially apologize to Dean for dissing his intestine-condom answer, which really did have merit. I just like picking on you because you're too smart and someone has to keep you humble!
Nikki bit in at 3:00 PM :: ::
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Today is BE ELECTRIFIC DAY, a day set aside to celebrate Thomas Edison's birthday, as well as to "explore the electricity of the human body". Interpret that one as you like, folks!

I got this hilarious photo from Katrina, and just had to share it.

in the news today
You may already know that some local company is holding a Valentine's Day party at which people are supposed to try and beat the world record for the highest number of kisses at a single event. But you probably don't know that hundreds of gay men are planning to do the same thing in Rome. The event is being organized by the homosexual group Arcigay in an attempt to persuade Italian parliament to pass laws giving homosexual and unmarried couples the same rights as married couples. The planned kiss-fest has been condemned by Rome city officials, as well as several right-wing Italian organizations.

Don't they know we're supposed to be exploring the electricity of the human body this week?

Do the humps on camels actually hold water?

answer to yesterday's question
'Groaning cheese' refers to an old European custom wherein a prospective father would gnaw on a massive chunk of cheese while awaiting the home birth of his child. Instead of pacing outside the bedroom door, the father would eat from the center of the cheese outwards until he had managed to create a large hole. Later, when his child was born, the newborn infant would be ceremoniously passed through the hole to meet his or her presumably pacified daddy.
Nikki bit in at 12:45 AM :: ::
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Today is DEVELOP ALTERNATIVE VICES DAY. So I've resolved to swear instead of smoke, and smoke instead of swear.

Saturday night, Vin wanted to know, "What's the one seemingly insignificant trait that could make you write someone off as a potential partner?" (Although, of course, I already have my perfectly perfect partner, I still join in on hypothetical discussions like this in the spirit of... well, hypothesis.)

My answer was, "A naturally repugnant laugh." I'm not talking about the occasional fingernails-on-the-blackboard screech or sonic-barrier-breaking guffaw; I mean the 'hee-haws', the 'hur-hur-hurs', and the 'nyuk-nyuk-nyuks' that unfortunately happen to be some people's normal mode of laughter. I once knew (and intensely disliked) a girl who actually, truly laughed with a phonetic 'ha-ha-ha' sound. Literally, she would enunciate every 'ha', and it was profoundly disconcerting. True, she had many other disagreeable traits-- such as the tendency to lie, cheat, and steal-- but I'm convinced that it was the laugh that really put the kibosh on our theoretical friendship. I'm sorry, but you can only listen to something like that for so long.

in the news today
Indian police have been criticized for bringing in a sorcerer to help solve a case of bank robbery. When over $5,500 disappeared from a desk drawer at the United Bank of India in Tripura, officers called in Haricharan Acharjee, who performed several rituals with a 'sacred pole' before announcing that the supposedly stolen money had been deposited safely. State chief minister Manik Sarkar reacted to this news by urging local police to "develop a scientific temper" and "make this the first and last incident of its kind". Obviously, it wasn't his money that had gone missing...

What is the 'groaning cheese' custom?

answer to yesterday's question
The invention of the condom is attributed to either a mid-17th century British Royal Guard known as Colonel Condum; or a Doctor Condom, who was reputed to have served as court physician to King Charles II. Charles was supposedly so delighted with the invention that he awarded the good doctor with a knighthood for it. The first known clinical trials of condoms were recorded by Gabrielle Fallopius, who described the type of condom used as a sheath of linen. (And who, judging by the name, had a vested interest in the topic!)
Thanks to Alex for taking an interest, and minus points to Dean for his grody intestine theory. Ew.
Nikki bit in at 12:56 AM :: ::
Monday, February 09, 2004

Today is LAUGH AND GROW RICH DAY. I guess one out of two ain't bad...

domestic crisis
Our nanny had her usual day off today, so Dean, Sage, and I decided to spend some time hanging out at the mall. Sage was her usual delightful self, although her poor father nearly broke his back having to carry her on his shoulders all the way home from Megamall. As soon as had we arrived home and taken off her diapers (She's toilet training.), Sage delivered herself of an extremely unpleasant mess all over the sofa. She was repulsed; Dean was repulsed; heck, even the sofa was repulsed. So, naturally, who had to be the one who cleaned up baby and couch? Yep, you got it the first time. I guess what this means is that when it comes to parental duties, Daddy may carry the burdens, but when the shit hits the sofa, the person who ends up having to keep her shit together is Mom. Gah.

Who invented the condom?

answer to Friday's question
A mandala is a three-dimensional drawing usually formed from colored sand, but also sometimes made of powdered flowers, grains, herbs, or gems. In Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas have three levels of meaning: an outer level (symbolizing the world in its divine form), an inner level (representing a map by which the ordinary mind is transformed into the enlightened mind), and a secret level (predicting the primordially perfect balance of mind and body). Making a mandala is supposed to cause purification and healing on all three levels; however, the destruction of a mandala is just as important as its creation. By sweeping up the powder and dumping it into running water, Buddhists not only ritualistically accept the impermanence of all things, they also spread the beneficial healing energies throughout the world. (I'm betting they don't do this too often with the ones made out of gems, though...)

Are my friends geekily brilliant or what? Gabby, Puting Tikbalang (What is her real name, anyway?), and Alex all had something erudite to say on the topic, while Kate and Dino Yu practically hit the Tibetan bull's-eye.
Nikki bit in at 12:15 AM :: ::
Sunday, February 08, 2004

Yesterday, believe it or not, was 'WAVE ALL YOUR FINGERS AT YOUR NEIGHBOR DAY'. Yup, such a thing actually exists, winning my vote for 'Dumbest Holiday Ever'.

vox populi
One of the nice things about being a cab-taker instead of a car owner is that, when you need to go to someplace you've never heard of in the wilds of Kamuning, you don't actually need to figure out how to get there. You just have to keep hailing cabs until you find a driver who knows what the hell you're talking about.

Yesterday, I had to go and do a voice recording in Kamuning, and was fortunately able to find a cabbie who seemed confident of his route. So, leaving the navigating to him, I concentrated instead on warming up my vocal chords, since I've been suffering a mild cough and cold. I started singing along with the radio... and before I knew it, my friendly cabbie started belting away as well! Soon we had turned into a virtual karaoke cab, and I scarcely noticed how long it took to weave through the non-color-coded Saturday traffic.

In Kamuning, we did have to ask around to find the specific street. I kept asking handy tricycle drivers and sari-sari store habituees where 'K1 street' was, and they kept insisting that I should check out 'Capers'. Despite my song-buoyed spirits, this was really starting to get on my nerves, especially since many of the streets in the area seemed to lack street signs. Finally, we decided to check out the damned 'Capers' road-- only to find out that the street I was looking for was in fact named 'K-first'. Argh! The perils of miscommunication...

in the news today
A 25-year-old American man named Charles McKinley attempted to cut his travel costs by shipping himself in a 42-inch cargo crate from New Jersey to Texas last September. Planning to free himself en route and wander around the cargo area, McKinley was instead trapped and nearly suffocated for the duration of the flight, and was recently sentenced to one year of probation for his crime.

Just thought it might be interesting to take a little break from our usual trivia to let our voices be heard on the following Uber-Important Issue: The Golden Schmoes Awards have posted their nominations for the Best Tits and Ass in movies this year. Nominees include Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), Monica Bellucci (The Matrix sequels), Jessica Biel (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3). So tell me: who would you vote for?
Nikki bit in at 3:29 PM :: ::
Friday, February 06, 2004

TODAY IN HISTORY... Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip debuted in 1952.

so shoe me
Yesterday I bought my first pair of post-high school sneakers. Up till now, I've managed to lead a life utterly devoid of the need for sneakers (for so many years that the word 'sneakers' itself has practically become obsolete), but having signed up for gym membership-- and having spent nearly all of our trip to Enchanted Kingdom envying Camy's cool 'n' comfy shoes while I suffered in my purgatorially uncomfortable step-ins-- I was forced to admit that the time for sartorial sacrifice had arrived. To my surprise, I found that sneakers had evolved in the intervening years, and were no longer necessarily the clunky, ugly things I remembered. So I got a pair, and they're pretty neat-- although I'm still protesting the fact that not all of life's activities can be performed in boots or sandals.

in the news today
A Nepalese man from Durgauli died just three days after he had gotten married... to a dog! 75-year-old Phulram Chaudhary wed the dog in what has been described as 'a prevalent practice' for men who have regrown their adult teeth. In Nepal's Tharu community, such men must thereafter take a dog as a bride in order to avert misfortune.
Well, arguably, nothing worse is going to happen to him now.

Just what is a mandala, anyway?

answer to yesterday's question
Igloos actually do melt inside, but snowflakes landing on the outside of the igloo also melt and quickly re-freeze on the roof, forming a replacement layer of insulation. This would seem to imply that igloos keep getting bigger as time passes, but the melting and freezing are really so infinitesimal that they're barely noticeable. The interior walls of igloos are actually melted with a whale blubber lamp prior to habitation, making the ice-block structure wind-proof and capable of withstanding the weight of a full-grown polar bear.
High marks to Alex, Dean, and Vin, for very nearly figuring out the frigid facts!
Nikki bit in at 11:04 AM :: ::
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Today is TORTURE ABOLITION DAY, presumably a holiday that gives everyone the right to... uh, not be tortured?

Sage's life lessons
One of my major responsibilities as a parent is teaching Sage the essentials-- things like: "It's not good to hit people, but occasionally, a verbal smackdown is entirely appropriate," "Be polite to everybody, but you don't have to go around kissing everyone you meet just because you happen to be less than three feet tall," and "Go ahead and handle the crystal, but for God's sake be gentle with the comics." Okay, so it's not exactly what most parents teach their kids, but hey. She is an Alfar, after all.

Yesterday evening, as we were watching Justice League on TV together, I taught her some absolutely vital vocabulary words. She now knows how to say "Fash", "Grantern", "Ba-man", and "Supaman". 'Wonder Woman', 'Hawkgirl', and 'Martian Manhunter' are still challenging for her, but we're working on it.

How come igloos don't melt when a fire is lit inside them?

answer to yesterday's question
Yes, my brilliant friends, you were right. Daylight savings time was indeed conceived in order to take advantage of more hours of sunlight during the months when the sun rises and sets earlier in the day, thus lessening the need for artificially-generated light. The reason we folks in more tropical climes don't need to make the adjustment is because our countries are closer to the equator, so the change in seasons really doesn't make all that much difference in the amount of sunlight we get over the course of the year. Daylight savings time was originally invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century.
Brownie points go out to Alex and Vin, for getting it right! (And minus points to El for being a smartypants.)

Nikki bit in at 11:56 AM :: ::
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Where have all the tagboards gone?
Probably this should count as a 'pet peeve' entry, because technology and I seem to regularly experience serious non-compatibility issues. But seriously, how rude of the tagboards to stop functioning barely a month after I convinced Vin to switch over from Floogle! Is this what I get for my consumer recommendation? Do they not realize how embarrassin' this is for me?

Meanwhile, I keep getting suspicious messages on my previously spam-free email account. I'm convinced these are some schmucks attempting to pass me some evil virus, which, in my book, has become a crime practically tantamount to murder (of my beloved computer!). Whoever you are, I'm warning y'all, leave my inbox alone or I will hunt you down with Marco's vanishing ray.

What's the point of daylight savings time?

answer to yesterday's question
When oil was first found in Pennsylvania in 1859, a chemist named Robert Cheesebrough noticed that a colorless film called 'rod wax' collected around the pump rods on oil wells, gumming up the works until it was removed. He noted further that oil workers would slap the gunk on any exposed injuries, where it not only stopped the bleeding, but also seemed to help cuts heal.

Abandoning his earlier dream of becoming an oil magnate, Cheesebrough raced home with some rod wax, and set to work creating a clean form of the stuff, which he called 'petroleum jelly'. He ended up making so much of the jelly that he filled up every last beaker in his lab, and, in desperation, tossed out his wife's fresh flowers in order to use her flower vases for additional storage. Thus the brand name 'Vaseline' was born.

"Rod wax". Honestly, how obvious can you get?
Nikki bit in at 1:37 AM :: ::
Tuesday, February 03, 2004

more pet peeves
Apparently, I am irked by nearly any situation that combines stupid people and devices with keypads. Case in point: the ATM line, and the double-digit IQs that seem to populate it:

1. people who wait until the absolute last second to get out their wallets, thus delaying everyone else in the mile-long payday queue. I mean, what is that? Are they afraid they're gonna get robbed? Like, before they withdraw their money?!

2. people who cannot seem to fit their ATM cards into the card slot. I keep wanting to sit them down and make them practice with my daughter's shape-sorting toy until they get it right.

3. people who cannot remember their PIN numbers. Hey, you made the code, genius! If you can't remember, go back to your bank and ask them, and put yourself out of my misery.

4. people who are unhinged by simple onscreen questions. I imagine them thinking, "Duh, what language do I prefer?" How about the one you're-- theoretically-- thinking in, pal?

5. people who are too dumb to live, let alone receive money. You know, the ones who insist that the machine is out of cash when you can clearly read the message that says: "Your bank is currently not communicating with this ATM." And they stand there in the way, waiting for everyone else to buy into their idiocy and leave.

6. people who continue to chat or text on their cell phones when it's their turn to use the machine. Although, after all, we've established that they cannot possibly be expected to operate more than one device at a time. Including that biological one which is laughably referred to as a brain.

Honest to God, they should make people take comprehensive examinations before issuing them ATM cards. Then again, the idea of asking these folks to (shudder) fill out a bank request form may be entirely too horrific to contemplate.

Why is Vaseline called 'Vaseline'? (Smart-alecky answers will not be entertained!)

answer to yesterday's question
Okay, the answer I had in mind was that 'hagazussa' is the German root word for 'hag', referring specifically to a type of hideous cannibalistic sorceress. However, in my efforts to provide thorough information, I discovered to my surprise that a hagazussa is also (a) an eel-like marine creature with a tooth-filled round maw surrounded by eight tentacles, and (b) a specific rock group, most likely German in origin. (Not only are the websites relating to the group all written in German, but if you ask me, only a bunch of Germans would go around naming themselves after an ugly cannibal witch or an ugly cannibalistic fish.)
Nikki bit in at 12:09 AM :: ::
Sunday, February 01, 2004

Bloggone it!
Been so busy the past few days my left index finger actually started to ache from all the typing I've been doing, what with two long-term projects and the never-ending slew of one-shots. Not to mention that Sage has been undergoing some kind of separation anxiety-- her yaya is on vacation, and she seems to think I'm also going to disappear on her if she doesn't see me at least once every two hours or so. So I've been running around like a headless chicken, and have wrung out my brain to such an extent that this is the only time I've been able to write anything coherent that didn't have a deadline.

The good part is that I'm pretty excited about several of the things I've been working on. They're still in the hush-hush stages, though, so I can't tell y'all about them yet, even though I'm dying to!

Sage the sophisticate
Dean and I have been taking Sage with us to our various meetings and errands around the city the past couple of days. Satisfyingly, she has proven to be a very pleasant and not-at-all difficult companion (except for her exhausting tendency to want to be carried only by her mother...), comporting herself with courtesy and charm even in technically non-kiddie environments like restaurants.

Our secret agenda is to take her around to various toy stores, so we can see what she might want for her upcoming birthday. To my combined amazement and delight, she seems most attracted to those car-racing tracks generally targeted at young boys. When I told her I thought it was great that she didn't feel compelled to submit to outmoded gender biases (not in those words, of course), she looked at me matter-of-factly, and pronounced, "Tama!"

That's my girl.

What is a 'hagazussa'?

answer to last Monday's question
Despite what you may have heard in that song sung by Bette Midler, the bra was invented neither by Otto Titsling nor by Philippe de Brassiere. Primitive bras were used as far back as 2500 B.C., when Minoan women used a very similar garment that lifted their breasts out of their clothing, leaving them exposed. In 1893, a woman named Marie Tucek patented a 'breast supporter', which featured separate pockets for each breast, over-the-shoulder straps, and hook-and-eye fasteners in the back... but she never marketed it. The bra never truly became a hit until New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob created one of her own design to wear with a sheer evening gown at a social affair. The bra-- instead of Mary-- turned out to be the hit of the evening, and the brassiere finally took its rightful place as the preeminent support system for women everywhere.
Nikki bit in at 6:09 PM :: ::
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Location: Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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