Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Monday, May 31, 2004

Apparently, Saturday was 'Insult Your Friends Night'.

Not that you'll find this holiday on any calendar, but it certainly seemed so from my point of view. Witness the following dialogue that occurred among several of my friends:

"Your blog pic doesn't look like you; it's too pretty."
(And the speaker had to spend the rest of the evening apologizing...)

Young Guy: "But gay guys are stupid."
Gay Guy: "Thanks a lot."
Young Guy: "No, no, I meant, you know, gay guys my age are stupid."
Gay Guy: "So now you're calling me old?!"

That same night, we got into a conversation about everybody's weirdest turn-off. I don't mean the obvious relationship deal-breakers, like infidelity or, say, mass murder, but highly personalized ick-o-meters featuring such quirks as overly abundant pubic hair, excessive girliness (This from the gay contingent, mind you), poor grammar (That was me, of course), and yipping. Yes, yipping-- defined as a sort of high-pitched, staccato utterance during sex. Go "uh uh uh" in your best falsetto tone, and you'll get what I mean. Apparently, while it is fairly desirable for women to emit such noises during intercourse, for men, whether straight or 'complex', it is strictly verboten.

From there, we quite naturally segued into the preferred level of sound during sex: noisy, quiet, or vocal. Opinions differed, but at least a minimum level of verbal response during intimate relations is evidently universally appreciated. Otherwise... well, let's just say the words "cold, dead fish" came up in conversation.

Grammar and Punctuation: the present tense
Obviously, you use the present tense when speaking about the present, duh! However, it's a little more complicated than you may remember from school...

simple present: Nikki writes about grammar.
present progressive: Nikki is writing about grammar.
present perfect: Nikki has written about grammar.
present perfect progressive: Nikki has been writing about grammar.

I'll bet you thought the last two were past tense, didn't you? Nope-- although the present perfect tense often sounds like past tense, it actually discusses a current state of affairs, rather than a past action. In other words: At this point in time, Nikki is a person who has written about grammar. You would only use the past tense if you wanted to express that Nikki once wrote about grammar and no longer does, or that Nikki once wrote about grammar at a specific time in the past. But don't worry; we'll talk about the past tense in an upcoming post.
Nikki bit in at 3:38 PM :: ::
Wednesday, May 26, 2004


This nice person named Chris wrote to me today asking for a reciprocal link between my blog and the Philippine Sites collection. Which is exceedingly flattering, since the 'About' portion of that site says that its objective is "to promote quality Philippine sites" and "only pages with a pagerank of at least 4 are accepted". Woohoo! Who even knew that anyone anywhere was ranking my blog, anyway?

Of course, the reason I'm telling you this is because you might be interested in Philippine Sites and the various intriguing links available there. Okay, really the primary reason I'm telling you this is because the whole thing just tickled me and made me feel all pleased with myself. What can I say? I'm easy that way...

bibliophilia: Trinity
Trinity is comic book legend Matt Wagner's rendition of the first-ever team-up among even more legendary comic book figures Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. And before I tell you any more about it, let me first state that I adore Matt Wagner. Loved Grendel, loved Mage, love the man. Hated Trinity, with a passion. I felt that the characterizations were off-base, the dialogue was anachronistic, the plot was muddled and overburdened, and worst, worst, worst of all, the misogynistic portrayal of poor Wonder Woman was simply revolting. You could have cast Lois Lane in the same role, and I still would have felt she'd been short-changed in light of her established capabilities. Even granting that this was supposed to be a young and inexperienced Amazon princess, it still didn't make sense that Batman fared far better in physical combat than she did.

It's my opinion that respect for the characters is becoming an overlooked responsibility in comic book writing. Everyone just wants to revise, revamp, and renew-- which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when dealing with little-known or underutilized properties. But when it comes to names with decades-long histories, such as the aforementioned Supes and Bats, then the writer owes it to himself, his readers, and the characters themselves to maintain a semblance of integrity with what has previously been established. I'm not saying that change is bad; I'm saying that it needs to be applied with logic and delicacy, in the manner of Mark Waid's Fantastic Four, not Grant Morrison's sound-and-fury New X-Men.

Grammar and Punctuation: irregardless
THERE IS NO SUCH WORD AS 'IRREGARDLESS'! And I'm warning you now, anyone who uses the non-word in presence will be punished, regardless of who he or she is. (If I shout it loud enough, do you think the politicians and newscasters of the Philippines might hear me?)
Nikki bit in at 3:33 PM :: ::
Saturday, May 22, 2004

flash fiction: In the Absence of Eternity

"...Six, seven, nine, ten," Rico chanted predictably, and Ben was laughing like a silly ass.

"Stop that," Cara chided him. She was trying to be stern, but barely suppressing a fit of giggles herself. He had always been able to do that to her, she remembered now. Joel was a wonderful husband, but not an especially humorous man; Ben could make her laugh even when she knew she shouldn't. Even when there was nothing, really, to laugh about.

Rico could not quite count to ten. It wasn't all that unusual for a barely-two-year-old, but he was extremely bright for his age in all other respects. He'd learned to walk and talk earlier than any of his little cousins, and it wasn't as if he was particularly bad with numbers-- he could count straight through from one to seven with no problem, and onward from nine up to twelve.

It was only the number eight that was a problem. No matter how many times Cara corrected him (gently, but firmly), Rico would habitually skip over it as if it didn't exist. Even with the big, bright numerals Joel had painted on the front yard wall to remind him, Rico would forget. He could repeat the proper sequence flawlessly right after Cara reminded him, but by the next day, the eight would disappear once more from his vocabulary. It was a mystery.

Cara lived a life that was generally devoid of mystery. Her husband was faithful; her son was open-hearted and affectionate even by toddler standards; even her yaya was as honest as the day was long. She and Joel had their own little home, one car each, and respectable careers with comfortable five-figure incomes. Everything clear and straightforward and perfect, really.

Granted, it had been a bit challenging getting back into workplace after more than two years away. Her old agency had turned her down (gently, but firmly) on the grounds that she had become 'stale' from being out of circulation for so long. Once she had gotten over feeling like a piece of month-old bread, however, she'd found a little ad company that was just starting up; and although it wasn't nearly as prestigious as her old job, Cara liked the thought of growing with the agency, a founding member.

There were some growing pains, naturally-- one of which had thrown her for quite a loop just that afternoon. They were still installing the computer system at the office; and to Cara's mingled delight and dismay, the lead installer had turned out to be Ben.

It was possibly the last place she would have imagined running into him. He had always been good with mechanical and technological things; but back in college, his real love had been rock and roll. He'd lived the life, too-- performing at backstreet dives, sleeping wherever the gigs took him, spending his money on guitar strings and cigarettes rather than clothes and food. And she'd lived it with him in her own way, venturing into neighborhoods she'd never heard of to watch him, pretending he was singing only to her.

She would've thought that he'd rather starve than compromise his dream... unlike her, the would-be poet turned commercial sellout. But everyone had to eat eventually, she supposed. Even Ben had had to grow up sometime.

Maybe more than she would've liked, in fact. It was a strange experience, exchanging small talk with him just like any pair of adults. But Ben was still Ben, essentially; and before long, Cara was so comfortable with him that she was telling him about her work, the haircut she was thinking of getting, even Rico's little counting problem. Without ever consciously deciding to, she found herself asking him to dinner at the house; and even as she was being amazed that the words had come out of her mouth, he was accepting.

Which was how they'd ended up in the front yard, waiting for Joel to come home, practicing counting with Rico, and laughing their silly heads off.

"I mean it, stop laughing!" Cara insisted, giggling helplessly. "You'll make Rico self-conscious."

"I'm not laughing at Rico," Ben explained, unfolding himself from his Indian-sitting position. "Come here, I'll show you what's so funny."

As she allowed herself to be led by hand down the footpath, Cara realized she had forgotten how tall Ben was. Joel was an average-sized man, only an inch or two taller than she was. It made kissing convenient, though she'd always secretly thought it looked so sexy in the movies when a man and woman had to strain to get to each other, to connect. It almost seemed worth the perpetual crick in the neck.

"It's this tree," Ben was saying. "There's a tree growing right in front of the number eight, see? That's why Rico skips over it."

Cara shook herself out of her thoughts and looked-- really looked-- at the yard for the first time in ages. It was true. Somehow this tree had sprouted up out of nowhere in her perfect yard, right next to the wall, directly in front of the number that Joel had painted there. She couldn't imagine where it had come from, or how no one had noticed it all this time. It was actually a rather attractive tree, but it had burst right through one of the flowerbeds, and completely obscured the number eight. And changed everything.

She could have it removed, of course, ripped out at the roots if necessary; but she knew, deep inside, that even if she did, nothing in her life could ever be clear or straightforward again.

"Where Daddy?" Rico was asking, peering down the road from his spot on the porch steps.

And suddenly Cara was crying, and Ben was asking why; and she didn't know enough words or numbers or music to possibly explain.
Nikki bit in at 1:02 AM :: ::
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

blind lust

(a rather perverse and un-PC entry)

Does anyone else think that having sex with a blind person would be hot? I'm sorry, it's just that I thought this was my own private peculiarity, but it turns out that Andrew happens to share it. So I wondered if maybe it isn't as strange as it sounds.

I mean, just imagine being touched by someone for whom touch is such a primary sense. Imagine their fingers, sensitive and questing and knowing and sure, all at the same time. Imagine how their lips would explore you, inch by inch, staking their claim on a journey of tactile discovery. Imagine how every gasp, every moan, every whimper would mean something, would speak volumes. Imagine them learning the scent of your skin, the sound and feel and taste of you, all the secret signals that make you quiver and arch and writhe. Imagine them doing it again and again again, until you, too, are sightless and senseless and mindless with delight and desire and despair.

Now go and find yourself a blindfold.

Grammar and Punctuation: whom
'Whom' is a word that has fallen largely out of use these days, probably because its usage appears dauntingly complex. But it's actually rather simple-- 'whom' is a pronoun analogous to 'him' or 'her', while 'who' correlates to 'he' or 'she'.

As in the following cases:
Fantasia is the contestant who I hope will be chosen. (I hope she will be chosen.)
Fantasia is the contestant whom I hope they choose. (I hope they choose her.)

Also, any time the pronoun 'who' is linked with a preposition, it should be changed to 'whom', as in the famous For Whom the Bell Tolls (because, if you analyze it, you can't say "for he the bell tolls", but you can say "for him the bell tolls). Get it? Got it? Good.
Nikki bit in at 3:57 PM :: ::
Monday, May 17, 2004


I am severely disliking the Blogger comments system, and seriously considering going back to me ol' Haloscan. If not for Lisa, I never even would have realized you have to highlight the Blogger-run comments in order to see them. How dumb!

Meanwhile, the profile system is kind of cool, as I've already received some email (which I very nearly deleted, thinking they were spam!) from people with common interests. One of them was this 22-year-old guy who wrote: "Your (sic) so incredibly hot. Any chance a guy like me would have a chance?" Which, you know, is flattering, not to mention cunningly phrased, but really... Is it the phrase 'loving wife' I need to highlight, or the one that says 'age 31'?

I don't know what it is about me that prompts complete strangers to come up to me on the street (and now on the net) and declare their interest. I know it can't be looks, because this happened when I was pregnant; it happens when I know I look like trash; and if it continues to happen when I'm fortysomething instead of thirtysomething, I'll know I've been wasting my time when I could have been using this strange mutant power for the good of humanity. I thought it might be pheromones, but those don't work online, do they?

Probably I should wear a sign on my forehead: "Private property. Violators will be persecuted." Especially ungrammatical ones.

Grammar and Punctuation: the basic punctuation marks (for Alex)
The exclamation point is possibly the most abused punctuation mark in the history of writing. I'm actually guilty of overusing it myself in casual writing, but well, it's fun to use and it looks nifty. Properly speaking, though, the exclamation point should generally be reserved for-- Are you ready for this?-- exclamations or commands.

'Sage is a talented girl!' is an improper use of the exclamation point, while
'What a talented girl Sage is!' and
'Sage, be talented!' are entirely proper.

Used sparingly, exclamation points become more powerful when judiciously applied, thus eliminating the need for multiple exclamation points. Similarly, one question mark is more than enough to denote a questioning tone, and a single paired question mark-exclamation point set ('?!' or '!?') effectively conveys amazement without needing to belabor the issue. If you want to show that the person speaking is even more confused or amazed than they were previously, that's where descriptions and/or depictions (in the case of grafiction) come in. Punctuation is not intended to tell the story for you.

Generally, I find that it's best to read your work out loud to make sure that everything is punctuated the way it should sound. If you don't know how to use periods, however, readling aloud will not help you; in fact, you should just stop looking at this portion of the blog, because truly, there is no hope for you.
Nikki bit in at 2:58 PM :: ::
Saturday, May 15, 2004

yet another pet peeve

Today I tried a new prepaid Internet card, and I paid for my lack of brand loyalty-- turns out the reason they offer six hours more than anyone else on the market is because it takes about that much longer to connect. Feh! Don't buy 'Fuel', y'all.

I must say, however, that the customer service guy I called up to complain to was very nice-- even if he was a breather. You know, one of those folks who breathe heavily into the phone, making for very uncomfortable conversation. You feel like somehow you're being molested, even if the person in question is, in fact, nowhere near you, not to mention trying to help you, albeit unnervingly. It's eerie.

Like those guys you sit next to in public transportation who are constantly, noisily expelling air through their nostrils. What's that about? I mean, granted, the pollution around here is pretty bad, but we don't all feel compelled to go around acting like moose (Mooses? Meese?) in mating season. If their noses are stuffy, there are handkerchiefs and tissues that were invented just for that sort of problem.

Then there are the people who breathe strangely through their teeth. I dunno, is that supposed to be a filtration system? It's less conspicuous, though, than those folks who run around town with handkerchiefs or even surgical masks tied over their noses and mouths. Like that's going to keep out the carcinogens, I'm sure. Of course, it could be that some of them are simply poorly disguised superheroes, in which case I apologize for snickering behind their backs.

Actually, the worst part about weird breathers is that you can't really snicker behind their backs-- you never know if it's some kind of terrible medical condition. So you have to politely pretend not to notice, while secretly this queasy-wheezy behavior is driving you up the wall.

It probably says something about me that the way people breathe can have such an effect on me, but there you go-- I never said I was nice.

Grammar and Punctuation: capitalizing titles
Capitalization is way too diverse a topic to cover in a single post, so I'm breaking it down. This one is about the use of capitals when applied to job titles or positions. Contrary to popular belief, you do not capitalize every instance of a position or title; you only capitalize when the title immediately precedes the name of the title-bearer.

King Midas was a greedy man.
Midas, the king, was a greedy man.

If you read fantasy or science fiction, you'll see a lot of over-capitalization all over the place, as you will in practically any corporate big-shot background piece. Properly speaking, though, even the pope doesn't get capitalized when we're not mentioning him by name.
Nikki bit in at 5:04 PM :: ::
Thursday, May 13, 2004

"Drums in the deep..."

Experimenting with the new Blogger features, I set up my profile, but it doesn't seem to be working quite yet. Actually, a lot of things between me and the new Blogger are not working quite yet... For instance, I can't sign out of my dashboard page, which is a problem, because I work on a number of my friends' blogs, and now I can't get to their templates! I feel like one of those doomed dwarves of Moria: "We cannot get out. We cannot get out..."

my own new feature
Okay. Since so many of my friends seem to be writers (Fancy that!), and so many of them seem to ask me to edit their work, I thought it was time I helped them understand the logic behind all those dismaying red marks I smear all over their precious manuscripts. Yes, folks, there is logic behind it, and not mere bitchiness-- there are rules we editor-types follow, and once you know and understand them, it's really easy to resolve and avoid all those irksome issues of grammar and punctuation, and thereby stop giving Nikki a headache. Ready? Read on!

Grammar and Punctuation : its and it's
Lots of people get these confused, but the rule is actually simple. "It's" is a contraction of "it is", while "its" is a possessive pronoun.

It's the dog's bowl. (It is the bowl of the dog.)
That's its bowl. (That is the bowl which belongs to it.)

When in doubt, mentally substitute "it is" for the word in question, and see if it makes sense. (I.e., "That's it is bowl" clearly does not make sense!)
Nikki bit in at 1:52 AM :: ::
Monday, May 10, 2004

dollhouse dialectic

My husband and I are the only couple I know who can manage to get into a discussion involving art, colonial mentality, and religion in the process of outfitting a little girl's dollhouse.

It started out with Dean complaining about the lack of pure aesthetics in Sage's dollhouse. "Where are the paintings?" he wanted to know. "Why is everything so boringly functional? Where are the stunningly impractical stone-and-glass sculptures by Impy Pilapil?" He then went on to critique the English-country mode of the decor: "Don't we have a resposibility to inject some Asian influences into our daughter's abode of the imagination?"

I conceded that perhaps he did have a point or two, and suggested The Museum Shop as a possible source of problem-solving miniatures. So we hied off to Megamall; but unfortunately, all we were able to find in the appropriate Lilliputian scale was a tiny representation of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh. "It's perfect!" Dean enthused. "It could be something the doll family picked up in their world travels."

"It's ugly," I pointed out.

"It's not ugly; it's exotic!" he protested. "We could put it in the study."

"We could do that," I replied patiently, "if it weren't so ugly. Which it is. Which is why we won't."

Dean was aghast, but I was adamant. The only way I would agree was if we glued a chunk of crystal to Ganesh's head, thereby approximating one of the aforementioned Impy Pilapil sculptures. Dean thought this was a cosmically disrespectful concept, so we ended up leaving the store, Ganesh-less and bickering. "Just you wait," Dean warned me. "If we find out in the afterlife that Hindu mythology was the one true religion all along, I'm not going to help you explain to Lord Ganesh why you wanted to stick a rock on top of his sacred head."

I shrugged. "I'll tell him, 'I'm deeply sorry, Lord Ganesh... but it was ugly.'"

We ended up with a pair of jade temple dogs that I picked up in a knickknack shop. I'm not sure if Sage appreciated the amount of philosophical consideration that went into her latest decor item.
Nikki bit in at 10:59 PM :: ::
Sunday, May 09, 2004

some kind of code...

Aside from getting me great goodies on special occasions, Dean also often picks things up for me just because he knows I enjoy them. (Isn't he the best husband ever? Not that I have much basis for comparison, mind you...)

This week, he brought home the third season DVD set of Alias, my current favorite TV show. Despite the fact that it was a truly terrible pirate copy, I'm so addicted to the show that I ended up watching the whole thing straight through in just two nights. So we decided not to demand our money back from the DVD guy, not least because the copy on the packaging was nearly as entertaining as the show itself. The blurb, in particular, truly must be read aloud to be believed:

"Mild a burst of television drama gathers the market, having the new action finally the a that big and hot the United States in two years hold woman with work a life time. This set of As B Ctelevision network takes charge of the play gathers, not only playing a pair of spieses in beautifully there is all on gold ball each big prize of etc. item got ,more at one hlow held redly pressing leading lady in spirit in Chinese and English in play add ,her in this play surprised in details, act the fire explode, every kind of disguise the foppery pattern 100 out but its in evil in the night of of performance same not to has plande to regard evil the girlfriend of in night as the leading role to the movie company another clap a female hero slice."

In fact, this text is so convoluted, it's just possible that it's actually some kind of spy code that we are meant to decipher, in order to join the hidden echelons of the secret world order. If only I could figure out what "foppery pattern 100" is supposed to mean, I'm sure I could become "another clap a female hero slice"...
Nikki bit in at 10:49 PM :: ::
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

smug as a bug

Well, really the expression is 'snug as a bug in a rug', but you know what I mean. Not only am I just two websites short now of completing The Project from Heck (which is due Monday, but which I will probably finish tomorrow or Friday), I've also managed to speed up loading for all the Family Blogs, enlarge the font on Sagey's site (for you, Via!), and finally do something about all the irksome little coding problems that have secretly been driving me to distraction on Dean's blog.

Ha! My coolness knows no bounds. (I already explained the 'obsessive-compulsive' thing to y'all, right?)

*A chipotle, by the way, is a fully-ripened and smoked jalapeno pepper. Which counts as trivia, but really doesn't merit an actual quiz question.
Nikki bit in at 11:50 PM :: ::
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

sweet (dill) revenge

I knew those pickles were trouble! Imagine, there I was, innocently reaching for some pate and a loaf of bread out of the fridge, when the jar of pickles on the side shelf virtually leapt out and attacked me! I kid you not, it viciously thumped into my wrist before falling to the floor, where it promptly attempted to skewer my ankles with glass shards, no doubt in a final gesture of defiance. Good thing Sage wasn't around.

Honestly, I think I'm the only person who regularly gets attacked by kamikaze food items (A murderous coconut attempted to brain me on the street several months ago.), although some might say I provoked it with yesterday's anti-pickle entry. But who would have imagined that pickles could be so vindictive? Much less that they actually sneak into the bedroom at night and go online to read blogs...
Nikki bit in at 12:47 PM :: ::
Monday, May 03, 2004

in a pickle

One of the problems with carrying on a lifelong love affair with words is that words tend to have more power over you than they might over other people. Take me and pickles, for instance. For some reason, I was ten years old before I tasted pickles for the first time. Till then, I had always imagined them to be some sweet, cool, crisply tasty delight-- sort of halfway between the flavors of mint and apples, I suppose. Somehow, I had come to this conclusion based solely on the name: pickles. A cute, crunchy, piquant sort of word, in my estimation. So words literally failed me when I discovered that a pickle, in fact, was sourish, flabby, and had only a vague approximation of sweetness irrevocably tainted by strong scent-taste of brine. Perhaps I was a little too young at the time to appreciate what I have been told is an acquired taste, but sadly, that early crushing disappointment has forever prejudiced me against the entire genera of pickles. We do have a bottle of them at home because Dean happens to like them, but whenever I open the refrigerator, I eye the aforementioned bottle with distaste and vague suspicion.

Such is the woe and wonder wrought by words.
Nikki bit in at 12:06 AM :: ::
Saturday, May 01, 2004


The problem with me is, I have to do everything I do well. If I could only bring myself to do a half-assed job on anything, my life would probably be 60% easier, but nooo... Take this current project, for example, which my client had assumed would be a simple clean-up, but which is instead wringing out my brain and hanging it out to dry. I could just coast along and turn in something that looks good and makes apparent sense, but doesn't really do what it's supposed to. But no, I have to go above and beyond the project specifications, because I can see what it ought to be, and can't stand for it to be less than it should be.

Even at the gym, I've noticed that other women just get on the treadmill, set it to a low speed, and simply plod along at that pace until the time is up. Me? I have to keep pushing my cigarette-compromised heart to its limits by going faster and faster. I have to keep trying to lift heavier weights when other people are asking why the machine can't do anything lighter than its minimum.

And people are amazed that I'm not more ambitious. Please. If I didn't limit myself to projects with some kind of payback, I'd probably kill myself through sheer bloody-mindedness. Gah. How come there are no self-help books called "How to be Mediocre"?
Nikki bit in at 2:49 AM :: ::
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Location: Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

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