English Major’s Lament

So now I have flu. Went to Urgent Care where a doctor stuck a very, very long and thin Q-tip up my nose, took the result away and came back with the diagnosis – did you know they can do that? Modern medicine, amazing. But so much for the flu shot I got a while back. Pretty much bedridden for two days, I got up yesterday and by noon actually got dressed, though by nine I was back in bed. Later today I’m going to take a shower, the long, hot kind where after the final rinse you stand for a while with the water beating down on the nape of your neck.

As long as we’re talking recipes using cream cheese, here’s one I really like. Take a room-temperature pack of cream cheese and add a tablespoon of mayonnaise to further soften it. Add at least a tablespoon of curry powder (YMMV, I like a lot of curry in my curry dishes), mix thoroughly, and spread it directly on a dinner plate. Scatter a drained can of broken shrimp (not baby shrimp nor whole shrimp) over the cream cheese mixture, and top that off with chopped green onions. Serve with a fancy butter knife next to a bowl of Ritz crackers. Delicious!

Are you one of those persons people who doesn’t know when it’s there or their or they’re? Or always guesses whether to use its or it’s? Weird Al Yankovic offers this annoyed grammatical ditty on those little structural issues you might have been missing.

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Prognosticator – Not!

I am not a good prognosticator. For example, last week I wrote this:

Later today I am going for a mammogram – my last. One of the good things – and there are a few – about getting older is that some of the less pleasant medical procedures are no longer done. This is one of them.

I got a call on Thursday; the technician had detected something in the mammogram picture of my left breast that needed further investigation. There are not many messages more calculated to raise a chill than that. It wasn’t a “lump,” they said, but wanted me to come back for another shot at getting a picture of it.

So yesterday I went back and was introduced to a new machine that took 3D pictures. It took two tries – the anomaly was close to the chest wall and hard to capture – but they got it. And I’m fine. The tissue in my breast is “complicated,” however, and I am not to cease getting annual mammograms. So there was joy in the afternoon, but not a total “whoosh” of relief.

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Pleasant Discovery

Java the cat is settling in, as seen by her asserting herself on things that don’t really matter. For example, she cannot bear a closed door. When Ellen wished to sleep in undisturbed, Java came to find me and begin whining in her low, rusty voice. She had been recently fed, she didn’t want to lie in my lap while I worked on my computer, she didn’t want me to find and throw a toy. She led me to the closed bedroom door, sat in front of it and whined some more. So I opened it, she went in, turned around and came back out again. And didn’t whine any more. All she wanted was the door left open. She is the second cat in a long line of cats who lived with me who had a thing about closed doors.

My sister-in-law, her owner, is home from rehab, but still not in a state to care for Java, so the cat will continue in our care for at least the next couple of weeks, and probably longer.

Later today I am going for a mammogram – my last. One of the good things – and there are a few – about getting older is that some of the less pleasant medical procedures are no longer done. This is one of them.

I am re-reading some of my published work.  Some of it is pretty good, which is a very satisfying discovery.  Have any of you published authors done that?  There are some turns of plot and phrase that I’d forgotten about and was pleased to come across.

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A Temporary Cat

We have a cat – probably temporarily. Her master died and then her mistress fell and broke some bones and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a nursing home. We volunteered to care for the cat until her mistress comes home.  Java is a purebred Bombay (a breed I had never heard of before), solid black with large, deep-gold eyes, a sharp break between forehead and nose, and a short muzzle. Very, very shy, we brought her home and she promptly vanished for two days.

I finally coaxed her out from under our bed Saturday evening, and she immediately turned her behavior around and went from Ellen to me to Ellen to me all evening, purring.  And woke me up at five o’clock Sunday morning, wanting to be fed (she hadn’t touched her food before).  Her coat is longer than a short-hair, but lies flat, and is incredibly soft and smooth.  Her cry is short and harsh, not quite as deep or loud as a Siamese, and she has the Siamese short, thin tail. Wikipedia says her breeder began with a Burmese and a black tomcat.

Now that she’s decided we’re okay, she comes around often seeking a rub.  She’s been through a lot.  First her master disappeared, then her mistress went away – and now two strangers have come and taken her from her only home, so no wonder she was upset.  But she seems to be glad to have human company again – while I was editing this she lay across my chest, kneading my forearm and purring. When we had to put our last cat to sleep, we swore we were done with cats. But this mostly isn’t our fault, and so it’s nice for us to have a cat in the house again.

Here she is, looking out of the corner of her eye at me while she lies in my lap.


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January Thaw Self-Promotion

We’ve been enjoying an unusually long January Thaw – a few days every year when the winter is interrupted by mild weather, temperatures above freezing. This year it’s gone on for almost two weeks. But it ends today. Still mild this morning, by tomorrow we are predicted to have several inches of snow and it’s back to the arctic. Oddly, the January Thaw is not welcomed with glad cries. It makes us uncomfortable, it’s unnatural (though it happens every year), and we frown at the sky and almost welcome the inevitable plunge in the thermometer.

Self Promotion Time:  Here are two links to two other web sites run by Joan Verba, small press publisher:



My muse is down again, so I’ve been working on my coin collection, writing thumbnail sketches of the English monarchs whose coins are not yet in my hands. A couple of observations: There are some severe meanders in the line – not every king or queen was the son or daughter, or even sibling or grandson or daughter of the previous monarch. On the other hand, they were all related; even William the Conqueror and his predecessor, Edward the Confessor, were cousins. And I was surprised at how long it took for the Church of England to settle into the bones of England. A hundred – two hundred – years after Henry VIII first broke with Rome, there were still Catholics slipping into the royal line. And there was George V, Victoria’s grandson, who was “Europe’s Uncle,” because the monarchs of every country involved in World War I were cousins or nephews/nieces – because Victoria had nine children and forty (!) grandchildren and found royal or noble spouses for all of them. See this, if you’re interested: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/victoriaqueen/a/victoria_childr.htm

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Getting Re-Published

I have nothing to say. Seriously, nothing.

Well, one thing: There is a collection of short stories, some written by me, some written by me and Ellen, some written by Ellen. The title is a play on a state characteristic called Minnesota Nice: Minnesota Vice. Because currently the most famous pseudonym of the two of us is Monica Ferris, the publisher is Monica Ferris Presents. All the stories are previously published and I think at least some of them are damn clever. This is an ebook available on Amazon and Kindle. A hard copy in Trade Paperback format is coming very soon.


And wait a minute, here’s something else: We are also working on republishing a collection of stories set in a late-medieval nunnery, something I wrote while establishing and exploring my “persona” in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I used serious research into medieval nunneries and the Holy Rule of St. Benedict to establish the place, and at the same time named the nunnery Deer Abbey and described the Mass Priest assigned there, Father Hugh of Paddington, as a “small brown fellow with kind, anxious eyes, who means well.” The abby’s proper name is Abatia Cervi Albi, Abby of the White Stag, from the vision of St. Eustace. Look for it soon as The Chronicles of Deer Abbey.

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The Eagle Has Landed

I am more than willing to agree with any critic who points out that the cozy or traditional mystery sub-genre is unrealistic. Especially the sub-sub-genre I write in: the amateur sleuth. Good heavens, what is this person with no training, no badge, no official status doing meddling in murder investigations?  She should stick to her knitting. On the other hand, reality is at least equally stupid and even, uh, “unrealistic.” I offer as evidence the following collection of actual misbehavior by law-breakers: http://www.collegehumor.com/post/7040496/some-lawyer-is-posting-hilarious-tips-on-facebook. I could not use any of these in a plot, any editor would turn it down as unbelievable.

Yesterday – Monday afternoon – in a light snowfall, I was driving home on Louisiana Avenue, through a neighborhood of small, well-kept houses. and to my astonishment saw a bald eagle on someone’s front lawn. His wings were moving, he was obviously standing on something struggling. There was already snow on the ground, several inches of it, so I couldn’t see what he had hold of. I drove a block farther, then turned into a driveway and changed direction to take another look, but when I got back, he had flown off, probably with his early supper. It is remarkable how these magnificent birds have become almost common. I’ve seen them in the area, flying and roosting in trees, but this is the first time I’ve seen one on the ground. Though now I think about it, maybe it’s the same bird, or one of a mated pair I’m seeing; my sightings have all been within a few miles of one another. How big is an eagle’s territory?

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