Care and feeding

man-dark-silhouetteI am, as you have no doubt figured by now, rather more of an introvert than anything.  Finding some peace and quiet to sit with a good book and a cup of coffee is a pretty much a life goal.  My husband, on the other hand, is an extrovert.  As much as he loves hanging out at home, he actually starts getting twitchy if he doesn’t get to marinate in the wildly swirling energy of a group of people.  Needless to say, Tokyo is a good place for him.

The only real trouble is that he’s caught between wanting to do what I need him to do for my own mental health (take our son off for a few hours so I can have some peace and quiet at home, turn the TV down fairly low, that sort of thing,) and honestly not understanding what I need.  To him, going out with a large group and spending hours talking and eating and going to karaoke 7is as necessary as breathing.  To me… well I like a few hours of that, but it’s exhausting beyond words after a while.  I’m pretty classic.  I need alone time to recover from being social, with fairly few exceptions.

So the other night we went out to celebrate two friends’ birthdays.  It was a wonderful day that was half spent just us as a family, wandering around and seeing the sights as we slowly made our way to the restaurant we were meeting everyone at.  Once there, we had a fun, slightly odd meal of almost all pies, and they wrapped up while I wrangled The Boy.  On the train home there was a flurry of texting, then silence, then more texting.  The Boy and I were ready to get home and crawl into bed, but my husband? He wanted to go back, meet everyone for karaoke at another station not far from us.

So, in a park in Tokyo, on a warm autumn evening, I had to call him to task.  It was an entertaining conversation that never quite reached the argument stage, where I told him to go.  Go play with his friends, sing loud songs about giant robots and argue about whose turn it is next.  He wanted to stay with us, go through the whole bath-and-bed routine with our son.  Watch whatever recorded on the DVR that day.  He wanted to take care of us and make sure we weren’t left out, even though he reeeeeally wanted to go out and play with his friends, and I wanted to go home and take a long bath.

I feel for him.  It’s hard, not understanding at such a visceral level what makes someone else tick.  I don’t see the appeal, myself, of karaoke.  Or of loud restaurants and spending hours at an arcade with the flashing lights and overwhelming noise.  But my husband does.  He thrives on it.  And I love him, so I send him off.  And he tries to understand the other side of that coin, to help me get the time I need, but I think that ultimately it’s much easier for an introvert to send someone away than it is for an extrovert to leave someone behind.

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Trouble’s Brewing

Here, my dear, patient readers, is a little teaser excerpt from Brewing Trouble.  The manuscript is finally complete, and off to the editor, so if you see any typos, please feel free to let me know!  After all, even editors are only human.

 

Sarah and Gabe were laughing when they walked into The Apothecary tea shop.  Gabe only helped out a few days a week now that he was working with Sebastian and Kai at the apartments.  He didn’t need to wait tables anymore, and as a result of his schedule, it meant that he was working seven days a week.  Still, he said he liked the atmosphere at the shop, and he’d rather spend a day off there anyway, might as well get paid for it.  Sarah was just glad of the chance to hang out with him.  She liked the kid.

It was still early enough that the shop wasn’t open yet, so the fact that there was nobody in the dining room wasn’t a surprise. The fact that they stepped into the back room to grab their aprons and found Doc being fussed over by the new girl was.

“Doc!  What happened?” Sarah hurried over to inspect the scrape that ran up from the older woman’s elbow.  Meg— the new hire— was dabbing at it with a clean tea cloth.

“I’ll get the front set up,” Gabe said quietly so just Sarah could hear.  He didn’t say that Sarah could handle the Meg Situation.

“Some jerk on a bike damn near ran me over on the way here.  Didn’t even apologize or slow down much.  Just wobbled a bit and kept going, while cussing at me,” Doc scowled.  “Like it’s rude for a pedestrian to be crossing the street in a crosswalk or something.  Jackass.”

“Hold still,” Meg stuffed the cloth into her pocket and started to turn towards the shelves. “Now where’s the first aid kit back here?”

“I’ll get it,” Sarah said.  Nobody wanted Meg rummaging around too much.  All the shop stock was on the front shelves, but in the back of the room were Doc and Sarah’s more specialized supplies.  It wasn’t always easy keeping a community of spirits healthy on a normal day, and in the past six months, abnormal had become much more common.  Wights and Hunters and warlocks and… Sarah sighed and grabbed the small kit near the front of the shelving units.

“Here we go, Doc.  Get to break into the new batch of ointment yourself!”  Sarah winked.

“Wow, is that handmade?”  Meg gasped, her eyes wide.  Doc and Sarah exchanged glances.

“Yep,” Doc answered.  “Made it myself.  I’ve studied herbal remedies for years.”

“Oh my gosh, that is so exciting!  I’m considering that path myself,” Meg gushed while she watched Sarah carefully.  “It would mesh really well with my other skills.  After all, I’m a witch, you know, and it just seems like such a perfectly witchy thing to do.”  Doc’s eyebrows shot up her forehead and Sarah almost dropped the jar at this declaration.  They exchanged glances and turned to look at Meg, who was holding out her hand to take the jar and peer at it curiously, completely oblivious to the other two women.

Sarah reached out mentally, seeking a trace, a wisp of power to confirm the girl’s statement, and came up blank.  Another glance at Doc confirmed that her mentor hadn’t detected anything either.  They shrugged and moved on.  Lots of women called themselves witches.  It was a cool thing, or a spiritual thing, or a wishful thinking thing.  If Meg wanted to call herself a witch and study herbal medicine there was no reason to discourage her, after all.

“My coven leader agrees that it’s worth pursuing,” Meg turned the small jar this way and that, as if she could figure out its secrets just from peering into it.  “She’s really encouraging that way.  It’s so nice to have that sort of guidance in one’s life, you know?  Everyone should have a mentor of some kind, I think, even if they don’t have access to the magic of the deeper mysteries like I do.”

“Well if you want to learn a few things, I could tell you some.  It takes a lot of hard work and focus though, if you want to really know much about it all.  If you really want to pursue it, you need to learn a lot of biology and mainstream medicine as well,” Doc said.  Sarah bit her lip to keep her laugher back and taped the square bandage over the scrape.  It wasn’t bad enough for anything more than that, but it would annoy the older woman every time she bent her arm and noticed the tape.

“Oh, do you mean that?”  Meg was starting to really gush now, and Sarah smiled.  “I’m sure that I’ll be able to pick it up quickly once you start teaching.  I have a true connection to the energies of plants.  My coven leader says she’s never seen anyone as inherently talented in the garden as I am.  She loves it when I come over to help her out with the weeding and harvesting, she says that the plants always seem more lively when I’m done.”

Sarah was not surprised.  Gardens generally look nicer after a bit of attention, but if it made Meg happy, then who was she to judge?  And there were plenty of herbalists out there that had not a lick of magic in them who were true healers.

“I’m always impressed by anyone who can be a healer,” Sarah said.  She finished packing up the first aid kit and returned it to the shelf.  “Doc’s been teaching me a bit, but I don’t know if I could ever be as good as she is.  Or as my gran was, from all I hear.”

“Oh, honey.  You’re an excellent student, don’t be talking yourself down.  Your gran would be so proud of you, and of how far you’ve come in just a few months.”  Doc reached out and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder, a small, sad smile on her face.

“Where’s your gran?”  Meg asked.

“She died last winter. Cancer,” Sarah answered, washing her hands.  She rummaged under the sink for the cleaner and a rag.  “I hadn’t seen her since I was a kid.  She and my mom had a fight about something, and Mom never forgave her, I guess.”  Sarah shrugged, but the acid mix of emotions stirred in her stomach again.  Regret at never being brave enough to defy her mother until Gran was dead.  Anger and frustration with her mother for being so close-minded and controlling.  Guilt at feeling glad to be away from both her mother and New York City, and at not being a better daughter.

“Holding a grudge only hurts the grudge holder,” Meg shook her head sadly.  “And I guess it hurts the grudge holder’s daughter, too.”  Meg stepped forward for a quick hug.

“That’s very wise, Meg,” Doc said.“And you new her Gran.  Sarah is Rosie’s granddaughter.”

“And my mom was her daughter in law, but I think your point still applies.  I don’t think Mom came out of the whole thing unscathed either.”  Sarah sighed, then shook her head so as not to get lost in memories.

Doc shooed both women in front of her and toward the door like she was herding ducks. “Maybe we can continue this out front, where I’m sure Gabe could use our help.”

“Oh!” Meg jumped, then scurried out to the front.  Doc just laughed quietly and shook her head.

“That girl is sweet.  A bit easily led, but sweet,” Doc said.  “I suppose I can teach her a bit about the teas and what have you.”

“I kind of wonder about this coven, though.  How are we going to deal with our…” Sarah groped for a subtle way to say Spirit customers that need magical help but her imagination failed her.

“Our work with the spirit folk?  We’ll manage,” Doc shrugged.  “It’s a bit of a lull right now, thankfully.  I’m hoping that we have a few weeks at least, between Gabe’s adventures and whatever it was that he saw coming next.  He tried to get a clearer vision, but I guess that seeing what could be and what will be are two entirely different things.”  Doc started pulling supplies down from the shelf and Sarah joined her at the work bench, curious to see what today’s special blend of tea would be.  Doc started with the green tea she favored for blending.  The sweet herbal smell floated through the back room and Sarah took a deep breath to pull the sensation into her body.  The barest fizz of the magic inherent in the tea plants soothed her as much as the familiar scent of the tea.

“Yeah.  He was explaining it to me a little,” Sarah nodded.  “I guess, the more branches there are between now and the possible future event, the fuzzier it is for him.  He can see the past a much clearer, but only little bits of it, like a short internet video or something.”

“Yes,” Doc nodded, measuring the tea into her large mixing bowl with practiced movements.  “Also, he’s still adjusting to being able to call his visions on command instead of whenever the power leaks out of him and takes control.  He’s been practicing every day, though.  I think he’ll get the hang of it sooner rather than later.”

The mint’s bright sharpness swelled, then started blending with the softer green tea as Doc scooped that into her bowl.

“Yeah. He’s a great kid.  Young man, excuse me,” Sarah grinned.  Doc added a large scoop of bright yellow lemon peel and the sunny citrus smell added its note to the chorus of scents.  Sebastian will enjoy this when he stops by.  He always stopped by the door when he came in and took a deep breath, scenting the day’s blend and finding some peace in the moment.  Sarah had noticed it soon after she started working there, and it made her smile every time, even when she was having a terrible day.

Doc mixed the batch with her fingers, carefully sifting through the new blend and making sure she was satisfied with the proportions.  She didn’t use recipes for these, going more by instinct, and Sarah herself was beginning to get a feel for it as well.

“Ready?” Doc flicked her eyes to Sarah for a moment, then to the door out to the front of the shop to make sure they were undisturbed, and they both held their hands over the bowl, casting the enchantment they always infused into their teas.  Good health, and now after everything the Village had survived over the past few months, they also threw in a mild protection charm.

After the spells were cast, Doc rolled her shoulders and gestured to the large tea canister they would use for the day.

“You okay?” Sarah asked.  She scooped the new blend into the canister and tidied up the workspace.

“Yeah.  I think I must have gone down harder than I thought, though.  I’m feeling it a bit,” Doc said.  “You mind if I get some office work done for now?  You can call me if you need anything, but sitting down for a bit and taking it easy feels like a good idea.”

“No problem at all,” Sarah said.  She picked up the canister and headed to the front.  “You take care of yourself.  I’ll bring you a cup in a bit.  And a snack when the food gets here.”

“Oh, good.  There’s supposed to be a purslane and tomato salad today.  Sounds just right.”  Doc winked and headed back to the office, while Sarah bumped the door to the front open with her hip.

Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?

Social life

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Shibuya scramble, photo from Visualhunt

our first week in Tokyo was spent almost entirely in the apartment.  Jet lag, rain, a nasty cold, and just plain exhaustion combined to keep me and The Boy inside playing video games and watching TV.  I didn’t mind too terribly much, but on top of my already shattered attention span, it really hasn’t helped my productive output, word out wise.    I did have a couple of fairly productive days, overall, but not nearly as much as I should have, and I’m feeling a wee bit guilty about that.

On top of that, I’m feeling pretty drained, creatively speaking.  What little energy I’ve had this past week has been all about organization and practical stuff.  Go to the Ward Office and get our papers in order.  Go buy a shelving solution for my clothes.  Figure out how to use the washing machine and the cooking appliances.  (Our microwave is also our oven, and all the instructions are in kanji.  I’ve been cooking everything on the stovetop.)

group-day-out-man-people-friends-park-strolling.jpgSo I took the weekend off.  Well, mostly, but even though our shopping trip was to Daiso for household supplies, it was still out at a mall and we got to do some window shopping.  We went out to lunch, looked at the capsule machines, even managed to hit up a kaiten sushi place!  Saturday night we got to hang out with several folks for popsicles and chatting and fun.  We saw another friend for lunch on yesterday, and last night, we went to the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya to meet a  friend and enjoy a collaboration cafe for a Granblue Fantasy Cafe experience.  It was silly and fun and the food was surprisingly decent!

I had an amazing weekend talking to other adult human beings and going outside the

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My husband and several plates of Granblue Fantasy themed food!

apartment.   I’m afraid that at a few points I managed to complete word-vomit all over them because I guess I’d had all the chattiness saved up from the past few days.  I mean, I’m introverted, not antisocial, and I’ve been effectively sealed in a box for a week!

It’s a little overboard, probably because everyone wants to see us finally AND they’re in town for a convention, but still.  It’s been really good to see people and be out among other human beings.  I think that when I sit down to work out my next few chapters, I’ll be in better shape to actually get my creativity flowing.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do mid-week to recharge when I need it and it’s just me and The Boy…. Anyone have any suggestions?

Jet lag is not for sissies

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I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

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Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!

Tea, anyone?

The next book in the Los Gatos series is in progress, and I seem to be spending more time in the Apothecary than I have in the past.  It’s fun, actually, since I really enjoy herbal teas myself.  Yes, I have dabbled in herbalism, and though I have made salves and syrups for various ailments, I would never claim to be any sort of expert.  But the teas have always stuck with me.

So I’m having a bit of fun with this, looking up various tea blends, and the magical properties of plants, and what have you. There are a number of amazing resources out there for those who want to get deep into the health benefits of plants (and yes, a lot of it is Science and is borne out by Studies in Laboratories, but I’m not here to argue about it,) and if you want, I’ll list a few of the resources I myself have used.  But for today, I’ve been poking around online, finding recipes that sound delicious or adaptable.  Rosehip and mint tea.  Mint and ginger tea.  Citrus or apple peels and cinnamon chips.

Today, I’ve made my kitchen smell bright with lemon peel and mint fresh from our garden.  A spoon full of rosehips have added a lovely blush to my drink, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day to take my tea outside and read a good book in the shade of our patio.  It’s a pleasure I should afford myself more often, I think.

You may have noticed a new tab up there on the navigation bar.  I have a Patreon page now!  Want your name on my website or even *gasp!* in my books?  Or maybe you just want the sweet loot, and by ‘loot’ I mean ‘even more stories.’  Head on over to the page and check out the rewards.

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Everything hurts

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             Jacob’s Sheep are super adorable.              Photo credit: Alan Weir on Visualhunt.com / CC BY

This weekend, I took some time off editing to hang out with my family.  We all bundled off to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival because when you have the chance to pet a Jacob’s Sheep or an angora bunny, you take that chance.  Seriously, you guys, so soft and adorable!

My mom and I always love seeing the sheep (she was a Future Farmer of America, back in the day.  You know what they say about the best-laid plans and all that.) and I’ve been a knitter, spinner, and weaver since… for as long as I can remember actually.  I can crochet, too, but somehow I never got as hooked on it. So we love wandering around the festival when we can get out to it.  All that fiber!  All that yarn! All those amazing projects and beautiful craftsmanship!  Last year it took us a good 4 hours to see a small fraction of the event, and we basically only left because it started sleeting.

The Boy went with us this year.  It was super fun to be able to share this with him, and I was looking forward to taking him through the fleece barn and show him around the sheep and the goats and poking around the craft stalls to find some wonderful treasure that was small enough we could take it to Japan in our luggage and not have to pay a million dollars to ship it.  We could spend a lazy sort of day mostly outside in the pleasantly not-too-hot weather, and learn maybe a little about how we all end up not wandering around naked all the time.

The Boy, on the other hand, was on a damn mission.  He arrowed into the festival and

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Ok, to be fair.  Picking the right button is always a challenge.

went straight to the first stall and pointed to the pink yarn like “This one, Mom.”  Um… we just got here, sweetie.  We can buy some yarn but let’s look around a bit.  Finally, he put his foot down and we got a skein of candy pink yarn for him (me…) to make a hat from.  Once he had his bag of yarn in hand, he was done with the festival.  Mom wants a fun kit to play with? Tough.  Gramma wants to see the sheep? Nope, time to go home. There’s a whole main barn we haven’t even reached yet?  Meh, who cares, we’re done here.  The Boy had his button and his yarn.

 

Fortunately, there was ice cream available for bribing the kid with, so we did manage to make it through the main barn at least, mostly by carrying the post-growth-spurt first grader piggyback through the thick crowds and now my whole body hates me.  Still, the only other things he stopped to look at after his purchase?  The biggest spinning wheels he could find.

That’s my boy.

Fresh News!

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It has been gloriously springlike here in Maryland.  Rainy, yes, but we’ve needed it badly.  The drought here isn’t as bad as it was in California before I moved, but it’s bad enough to warrant concern.  Besides, I love the rain.

Even though the weather outside is gorgeous and seductive, I’ve been inside pounding away at the keyboard.  I finally got to write the wonderful words The End at the bottom of Brian’s latest adventure.  After all the trouble this one’s given me I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see those six little letters.  Of course, the thing needs some major overhaul work on it, but I’ve sent it to my Alpha Reader for a once over before I return to it for the first round of edits.  Overall I’m pretty pleased though, and I think that the bones are good.  Look for news on a release date and so on.  I’m thinking soon, though.  Once I broke past the wall, it went fairly quickly.

A Spirit’s Kindred is coming out sooner though!  Slated for March 11th, I will put it up for preorder hopefully over the weekend, for a special reduced price for launch.  The cover is shaping up and looks amazing, you guys!  You’ll get to see it on Monday I have no doubt.  I’m being a little extra picky with this one, though, which is why it’s taking so long.  I’m pretty sure my cover artist is about ready to plot my death via thousands of paper cuts.

I’ve also got a special promotion slated to run at the same time.  Sarah’s Inheritance will be free from March 9th through the 13th if you haven’t picked it up yet.  Hard to beat free as a price point!  Anyhow, that’s all the news from here for now.  I’m hard at work on a few projects:  Brian’s adventure (man, I need a title for that!) and a new Los Gatos novel is slowly forming in my mind,  and maybe a fun short story or two for my newsletter readers are starting to come together a bit. Basically, the next few months should be a lot of fun, don’t you think?

Demon-American

So my father is my alpha reader, meaning he’s gotten to see everything I’ve written basically as soon as I type the last period.  The popular advice is not to let your friends or family critique your writing, but my family is full of teachers and they’re basically sitting there itching to whip out their red pens and correct some foolishness.  My dad is pretty thorough in his critiques, and usually helpful, even when I disagree with him, and while he couches things in a fun sort of way (one critique was entirely composed of a conversation between his muse and mine.  They got a bit scrappy at one point…) he is never afraid to pull his punches or add his two cents.

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Recently, his two cents include a discussion of food.  We all know that Michael, being a demon, had to adjust a bit to food here in the Human Realm, but my father took it a step further and supposed that Michael like many immigrants before him, would have brought the flavors of home with him.  If we can have Italian-American food, and Sweedish-American food, and Tex-Mex and so on, why not Demon-American food?

So here.  I present to you some photos of Demon-American cuisine, as best we’ve discovered it thus far.  It’s actually been pretty delicious.  Seems a bit heavy on the meat, but I’m personally not complaining…

I can’t quite describe the spices used, but they’ve been used heavily.  There’s been dried fruit and medieval pastry and various kinds and cuts of meat involved.  If you had to guess what sort of food a migrating demon would want to bring with, what do you think it would be?  I’m pretty sure that they didn’t eat just meat…

Fun facts

 

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Photo by ubarchives on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Research is a funny thing.  I have my characters wandering into a truck stop roadhouse in order to get into some trouble (like one does at these places when one is in a book,) and I wanted to have a good idea of what the place looked like inside to give myself a decent guideline when I fleshed out a description.  So I went over to my trusty Google page and searched out ‘roadhouse.’

You guys, I appreciate Patrick Swayze as much as the next person, but seriously?  The whole page just movie links?

I also discovered that Country Rap is a thing.  I’m kinda scared, frankly, but hey.  If it floats your boat, I’m happy for you!  The thing is that while I’m looking up details for my stories, I learn all sorts of weird things.  The history of blood transfusions is fascinating for example.  Did you know that blood donation and transfusions have a history going back at least as far as 1665?  Granted there were animals involved, and it sounds more than a little shady, but a lot of things from that century sound shady to me…

Other fun things I’ve learned are just little tidbits: a few new (to me) monsters like the emandwa who are household spirits that protect women and assist with fertility.  I’ve read a few timelines of World War 2 and gotten sucked into some amazing stories from it.  I’ve skated over some Japanese temple history and I spent about a week reading every story about Coyote I could get my hands on.

Not everything I research makes it into my writing, of course, but without some sort of foundation to build my worlds upon, and if I fail at that, then it shows pretty clearly I think.  And these little details help me make sure that my story hangs together and can survive a bit of a beating if it needs to.  Also, I learn some of the neatest things!  What odd rabbit hole have you fallen down lately?