March 31, 2001

la vita e bella


The hotel in Oakland has a phone with a data port. The phone is next to the bed. So Iím sitting in a rumpled bed, checking email while T is in the shower.

Life is good.

Posted by dichroic at 08:31 AM

March 30, 2001

And I realize....Iím going home


I leave

Today

This is a good thing.

Assuming of course that I do get to leave. Itís absolutely pissing down rain and sleet and it all turns instantly to slush as soon as it hits the ground. It should all be rain closer to Providence, though, and I donít think that the ceiling is low enough to prevent us taking off. I do have a bit of wistful feeling at leaving -- there are some good things here -- but this weather is rapidly making me forget them.

Anyway, if youíre ever stuck out here, I do recommend the Residence Inn in Westborough, MA. Rooms arenít bad, and the staff has really been extremely pleasant to deal with.

Time to log off and pack the laptop, so I donít really have anything more profound to say. Prufrock does, though, about political correctness -- the last paragraph of his entry today is exactly right. Molly Ivins, one of my favorite columnists, has said something similar.

I may or may not be able to write this weekend. If not, see you Monday.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 29, 2001

waiting....waiting....waiting....


1

day until I return home


Less than that, really. In......22 hours and 40 minutes I will be somewhere in the air over, oh, maybe Tennessee. Or somewhere between here and Arizona, anyway. In approximately 29.5 hours I will be sitting down next to T. and ordering a beer. (Cue Homer: Beeeerrr....)

So now Iím into waiting mode. Not my favorite thing. I can tell already Iím getting all hyper and twitchy. My sentences are more Hemingway-length than my usual Henry Jamesian multiple clauses. And itís not caffeine, Ďcause Iíve hardly had any today. Really. Ignore that Coke next to the computer. Itís only my second for the day and I had peppermint tes with breakfast and ginger ale with lunch.

Ohhh. Maybe itís not caffeine but sugar thatís making me hyper. I really should go put the nervous energy to use and finish my packing. Iíll ship one big box and one small one, and will be carrying a big suitcase, a small suitcase, a carry-on, and an adorable baby Martin guitar. (Itís a backpacker guitar, the only kind of Martin I could afford. My picking skills donít justify a real Martin anyway.) Packing up three months of your life is a weird feeling anyway. Way too much shit. Thereís the stuff I first brought out, the stuff I brought on later trips (I never seemed to take anything home except books Iíd finished reading), and all the crap Ive bought during three months when shopping was often the only convenient form of recreation (Iím not big into TV). (Wow, two paragraph clauses in one sentence. Must be lapsing back into H. James voice.)

Not sure which is worse, waiting or packing. Yes, I am. Packing is over with sooner.

Separate subject: Iím impressed with the way Andrew and co. keep adding features, like the nifty previous/next feature (see links below). I keep thinking about getting the gold membership, except I donít think I really want banners and I donít need space for images. (Our photos are here and here. But for $30, I might do it anyway, just to support d-land. Itís definitely done a lot for my (relative) sanity over the past month. After all, I just gave money to Bostonís incredible folk radio station, WUMB, for similar reasons.

Posted by dichroic at 07:31 PM

life and work and stuff


1

day until I return home
Yahooooooo!!



I think I may have pissed off a couple of people whose ideas I respect. (Itís also possible someone elseís opinions caused the friction, but I started that particular topic, and it could have been my writing, so the principle applies.) I wrote, on one of my e-lists, that I do not understand adults, more often women, who donít do anything -- I tend to think an adult should somehow earn his or her place on the planet. (The previous sentence is the part that pissed people off -- itís just a recap, so even if it annoys you, please keep reading to watch me place my foot further into my mouth.)

I specifically noted that this applies only to the ones who really donít do anything, not just to people who donít work for pay. Raising a child well, or creating something, or working as a volunteer, certainly do not qualify as doing nothing, and in the greater scheme of the world, may do a lot more good than simply bringing home a paycheck.

Still, there are people worth listening to who do want to quit their day jobs, so that earning a living doesnít get in the way of doing all the cool stuff there is to do. I understand this to a degree; I would like nothing better than to quit my job and spend my time traveling, and writing and taking photos of my travels. If my time were sufficiently unregimented to allow the simple pleasure of sleeping in when I chose, so much the better.

On the other hand, I understand only to a degree -- I would still prefer to get paid for that writing and photographing, rather than being supported by someone else (though I think, somehow, I could manage to deal with being supported by a grant or trust fund, however undeserved). On still another of Shivaís hands, another factor in growing up is realizing that just because I donít get it, doesnít mean that other peopleís choices are wrong.

Iíve spent more time thinking about this, and realized two things. I realize that, even though Iím always astonished that others would take my bourgeois and occasionally flaky opinions seriously, somethimes they do. Sometimes my opinons will piss other people off. I donít think that means I should necessarily change anything just to keep everyone happy; what it does mean is that I have a responsibility to make sure that I have made the effort to go all the way, that I have followed the direction of my thought down its logical path -- or that I clearly state I have not done so and am still forming my opinions. I may still anger someone, but at least it will be for a reason, and not just through sloppiness.

The other thing I realized, was that my original opinion, that adults should earn their lebensraum, is something I had decided years ago and that should be reexamined. I still think a person should produce some sort of contribution to the world, or at least be self-sustaining, in the course of his or her life. However, a life can be a long time -- enough time to work and to learn and to rest, to create and to have fun. And if some time off to prepare for, or to rest from, the rigors of work are indicated, perhaps that either makes for a better person (because influence on others is one of the things we do with our lives, after all) or a better contribution, in the long run.

If this all sounds pompous, Iím sorry, Iím still working on that. If it sounds judgemental, itís not meant to be. While Iíve talked in terms of other peopleís lives, Iím really just trying to figure out how to run my own.

Another thing that bothers me is that itís only women who seem to talk about or take time off. There are, of course, those women who think itís their right only because of their gender, because theyíre delicate flowers who should be supported by strong men. But letís confine this discussion to people who matter. Among those, I suspect, the biggest hitch to men taking time off is the men themselves. Either theyíre so immersed in the work culture that the idea never occurs, or theyíre worried about the opinions of other men. Now if we could rearrange the world so everyone could work some and play some and rest some ..... no one would need to believe in heaven because there would be nothing left to wish for.

Posted by dichroic at 11:31 AM

Like Butter Loves Bread


1

day until I return home
Yahooooooo!!



One more on marriage: this time itís a song, not a poem, and I canít find the words on the Internet, so Iíll have to work from memory. I learned this one from Mary Zikosí album "Z", but Si Kahn, who wrote the song, has also recorded it, and his version is probably easier to find. I just like the way it encapsulates the satisfaction of every-day life in a good relationship.

Like Butter Loves Bread



No fancy gowns, no high-class towns to promise,

Iím plain as rain, and thatís just not my style.

I never was a one to ask for favors,

But I hope you plan to stay with me a while.

Youíre as comfortable as quiet conversation,

Among close friends whoíve shared the time to eat,

Like good meat loves salt, thatís how I love you.

Oh, itís common now to say that times are changing,
But thatís not true, itís only people change.

My patterns, like your plants hung in my window,

Were worth the time it took to rearrange.

I donít ask for anything that you donít offer,

A place to rest my thoughts and lay my head,

Like butter loves bread, thatís how I love you.

I never was the person to get lonely.

I was satisfied to stay here by myself,

And itís not that I could be here with you only,

Itís just better than with anybody else.

I donít promise that Iíll go and leave you never,

For you know that something always could go wrong,

And I canít say that Iíll love you Ďtil forever,

I donít expect to be here quite that long.

But I can say that Iím content to stay here with you,

As long as youíre content to stay with me,

Like the river loves the sea, thatís how I love you,

Flow in to me.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 28, 2001

replacement entry


2

days until I return home




I just realized that my last entry was pretty lame and whiny, as well as way too self-referential, and I really donít want to have it sitting right on top to be the first thing everyone sees. So I will now proceed to write something brilliant and hilarious to cover my tracks.

Yup. Here I go. Any second now........

Or maybe not.

For anyone keeping track, I did decide to let T. book me an executive cab or whatever they call it. I donít much care what the vehicle looks like, just that the driver be willing to help me carry my bags. (Well, as well as the usually taxi-driver basics: not too much body odor, not too scary a driver, and a working knowledge of the local geography.

I imagine everyone else will be shit-faced by the time I get to the Bistro, but thatís all right as long as theyíre still there and theyíre reasonably amusing. These guys all spent their college years in New Orleans, so theyíve had plenty of practice, but theyíre likely to be a bit rusty. T. certainly is; rowing is not good for building alcohol tolerance, probably due to ridiculously early hours and decreasing body fat.

Whatever Friday night is like, the wedding itself on Saturday ought to be fun. Iím going to attempt total babe mode, or at least at close to it as I ever get. Dichroic the semi-babe will be wearing a black stretchy sleeveless top with a killer skirt (knee-length, turquoise satin and black lace overlay with magenta sequins sprinkled on it) and strappy black high-heeled sandals. And toenails painted to match the sequins. With any luck, someone will notice (someone Iím married to, I mean, rather than some stranger who should be paying attention to the bride instead). With a bit more luck, I wonít freeze my toes off. Blackened frostbitten skin goes badly wth magenta toenails.

Going home will be even more fun -- unpacking all my stuff, having access to a washer/dryer that donít involve a walk across the courtyard and the search for 8 quarters per load, my own bed, a comforter Iím not allergic to and real down pillows instead of those hotel things.....ohhhh, yeah.

I hope the cats remember me.

Posted by dichroic at 04:31 PM

Metawriting

2

days until I return home



Iím a little worried that I donít seem to be able find this site through any of the search engines Iíve tried -- I submitted it to all of them last week (via SiteAdd). I would like this page to be easy to find. Iíve known quite a few writers who say they write for themselves, and donít care if anyone else ever reads their work. Iím sure I would be a better person, and probably a better writer, if I felt that way, but I donít.

I do write partly for myself; writing my thoughts down in a coherent fashion helps me to clarify them and to follow each thread to its natural end. Otherwise, Iím apt to have several idea-threads swirling and tangled in my own mind, never taking the trouble to separate and follow each one.

More than anything, though, to me, writing is a way to communicate. I do hope someone is out there, reading this and saying, "Yes, I feel that way too." (Yeah, well, okay -- I also hope someone out there is saying "Sheís pretty good, for someone who doesnít think of herself as a writer." I believe Mechaiehís phrase is "applause whore".)

I never claimed to be consistent, though. So far, Iíve been reluctant to mention this page to anyone I know elsewhere. The three people whose own journals got me hooked and convinced me to start dichroic know about it (Credits: the other two are Phelps and Evilena) but it took me several days to bring myself to tell even T. about it. Iíve told my brother, the writer, though I donít think heís surfed over here yet, and stealthily stuck the URL in (once, with no explanation) under my signature on a posting to the e-list I moderate, and mentioned it to one other person because I was trying to persuade her to start her own journal. (Sheís done some writing about rowing that I think should be more widely accessible.)

Iíve been loath to "advertise" more, because it would feel like bragging about something that may not be worth bragging about. Also, Iím not sure I want all of the people I know In Real Life, or even on the Net, to see this: what if I start rowing again and want to complain about someone in the boat with me? What if I say say one of my listsibs is a troll, and s/he reads this? What if I admit to having lustful thoughts, and my mother reads this? (Well, she could probably deal with lustful thoughts....but what if they led to actions?)

Clearly, these problems arenít unique to this forum -- the same issues would have plagued anyone who ever published a book any part of which was inspired by real life, or who ever wrote a newspaper column about anything other then bridge (and maybe to some of those), or to any actor who infused his/her emotions to make a fictional character become real.

No, I havenít been reading Henry James. Why do you ask?

So anyway, if youíre reading this, and you happen to feel like sending me a note, or filling in the guestbook, feel free. If not, Iíll just assume you (plural Ďyouí) are out there, and that youíre all wise, witty, appreciative, personally attractive ... and busy.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 27, 2001

airport transportatio


3

days until I return home





Iím not entirely sure whether itís fair to write about this in a public forum....on the other hand, Iíve already shown it to everyone at work, and itís so hilarious I canít resist.

T., as I have mentioned here, is somewhat unclear on the full definition of "romantic". Weíre supposed to meet Friday night in Oakland, and after a weekend there I get to go home with him and stay. The problem is, he really doesnít want to pick me up from the airport. Yes, heís excited to see me after two weeks apart and after three months in which we havenít gotten to see each other for more than a day and a half at a time -- this is not in question.

However, on Friday night he has the opportunity to go out with friends whom he hasnít seen for timespans ranging from a year to a decade -- starting an hour and a half before my plane lands. The hotel, the airport, and the cafe theyíre going to are actually all only a few miles apart. However, Iíll be dragging massive quantities of luggage, even after shipping two boxes home.

Today, he sent me an email containing this:

What if I purchased an executive cab to wait for you at the airport (sign with your name and all), take you to the hotel, and then to the Bistro? Would you consider this a romantic gesture and consider me the best husband ever, or would you see this as a cheesy way out that allows your low-life husband to get drunk with all his old college friends?

Your input is greatly appreciated.


Judging by the last sentence, heís clearly been writing too many memos at work lately. That was my only immediate reaction, though; it took me several minutes to decide on the other point. Eventually, I told him that substituting money for his presence did not qualify as a "romantic gesture", though he did get points for creativity. And for surprising me -- I found the email quoted above so hilariously out-of-character that I whooped out loud, in the office. I love being married to a man who doesnít bore me.

We may well end up doing it this way. If so, theyíd just better stay at that bar long enough for me to get there and have a couple of drinks.

Posted by dichroic at 06:31 PM

Marriage and rowing


3

days until I return home




I was anticipating having more to say about marriage than I have had. Maybe itís an experience better lived through than described. Maybe Iím afraid to sound too gushy; Iíve found it both immensely rewarding and greatly adventurous. I donít think most people have that experience of it, though I do know and have read of some that do. Frankly, most peopleís marriages look stale, flat, and unprofitable (emotionally) from the outside. I hope that this is just an indication that I am not sufficently observant to get a true picture, or possibly a sign that the people I know prefer to keep their private lives private. Iíd hate to think so many people actually live like that.

Anyway, since Iíve run a bit dry on marriage, hereís my favorite quote on the sometimes related subject of rowing. I think that not only rowers but anyone who has had the experience of singing in a good choir will recognize this description. There are times when everyone is perfectly on key and the air seems to vibrate as the sounds swells. Rowing can be like that, at its best.






From Silverlock, by John Myers Myers:


Of all sports, rowing offers the least to outward seeming. It is hard work unleavened by variety. Worse, a man attending to business canít see where he is going. The pleasure compensating for this madness is at once simple and subtle. A need of men, generally denied, them, is to feel a part of something which works smoothly and well. In a mated crew the ideal is reached, the feeling of perfection passing back and forth from the individual to the team like an electric current. Until exhaustion breaks the spell, there is no more to be desired.

Posted by dichroic at 02:31 PM

Brooks on marriage


3

days until I return home





T. is now trying to decide whether to pick me up at the airport on Friday night -- instead of flying directly home, Iím meeting him in CA, for a friendís wedding, and he flies in a few hours before me. Considering I havenít seen hime for two weeks, and am coming back for good after an absence of 3 months, it occurs to me that perhaps this shouldnít be a hard choice for him.

The boyís got no feeling for romance.

And hereís what Gwendolyn Brooks has to say on what a marriage (in my writing, I use Ďmarriageí as a shorthand for Ďmarriage or other longterm relationshipí) is really like. I donít know why this resonates so with me, but I think it would with T. also.

WHEN YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN SUNDAY: THE LOVE STORY

That the war would be over before they got to you;

--And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday,

And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday -

When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,

Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon

Looking off down the long street
To nowhere,

Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation

And if-Monday-never-had-to-come

When you have forgotten that, I say,

And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,

And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;

And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,

That is to say, went across the front-room floor to the

Pink-spotted table in the southwest corner

To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles

Or chicken and rice

And salad and rye bread and tea

And chocolate chip cookies --

I say, when you have forgotten that,

When you have forgotten my little presentiment

And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed,

And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end

Bright bedclothes,

Then gently folded into each other --

When you have, I say, forgotten all that,

Then you may tell,

Then I may believe

You have forgotten me well.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 26, 2001

Saturdayís visit


lunchtime 2001-03-26 010326_59.html
Saturdayís visit

4

days until I return home




I was so annoyed yesterday that my dial-up connection was still down (and it still is), that I didnít mention what a good time I had Saturday, visiting the Phelpses en famille. It was fortunate I had planned the Great Northern Expedition that day, too, as the alternative would probably have involved a lot more swearing at the ISP.

In fact, though, the drive north wasnít an expedition but a pleasure -- everything is just hovering on the brink of spring, poised to explode into green. The trees are just coming into bud, and there are no green shoots yet, but the earth is wet and black (and mostly uncovered by snow, finally) and it smells like itís ready to grow things.

The rest of the day was a pleasure, too. We started by having very good sandwiches in the local Barnes and Noble, then promptly lost each other among the stacks for longer than planned. Big surprise there.

For a woman "without a shopping gene" Phelps was remarkably tolerant of being dragged to stores weíd already hot on my last visit. YMP was even more remarkably tolerant, as a 10-year old in a glass store being repeatedly cautioned about touching anything. (For Phelps, I think it helped that the stores sold some beautiful and unusual things, in glass and other media instead of, say, clthing; for YMP, it helped that the second store had some sturdier items to play with.) I tried to keep it brief, and the person behind the counter of the first store was able to direct us to the second one we wanted, so we didnít have to wander in search.

In the first place, I bought a pair of earrings identical to the ones I bought last time, and of which I had managed to lose one. So now I have three; either Iím prepared for next time I lose one or I should get a second hole in one ear. In the second store, I purchased the item I had come for (on which more below), but also picked up more earrings and a few gifts while the shop owner chattered to a previous customer. Not coincidentally, both pair of earrings are made of dichroic glass.

The real aim of the shopping was something I had seen earlier and had regretted not buying ever since: a menorah shaped like an airplane, with a woman pilot (well, ok, the genderís not entirely obvious, but I think sheís a woman). Itís metal, in yellow and other bright colors, and Iíve never seen anything quite like it. Phelps fell in love with a Noahís Ark menorah by the same artist, but it was larger, more complicated, and, unfortunately, cost 4 times as much.

Afterwards, I was given a guided tour of a "true small New England town", with some great houses. In fact, between those and the houses I saw Sunday in Westborough and Southboro, Iíd be ready to move if I thought I could afford one. And of course, we talked, and then returned chez Phelps and talked more, and had dinner and talked still more. Iím still not quite sure if Mr. Phelps is just quiet, or if he had trouble getting in a word edgewise, among the three of us, but heís an interesting guy. I always enjoy seeing parents (both of them) who clearly enjoy their children too, especially after the woman scolding her kids in B&N -- I hope they donít associate scoldings with books later on.

YMP and I compared flexibility and discussed codes and languages -- sheís now combining codes and other alphabets, to write "stories no one else can read". Sheís also got an interest in languages that seems to me unusual for a 10-year-old, and a radiant smile. Seems like that would be a useful combination for getting on in life.

Posted by dichroic at 11:31 AM

online, oddly enough


As Iím on the road for work, Iím dialing in through our corporate account. Apparently our ISP sold our accounts to Mindspring, who can only be an improvement, as far as Iím concerned. The funny thing about this is that Iím not supposed to be able to log in today. Maybe itís payback for all of yesterday when I was supposed to be able to log in and couldnít?

Off to shower and conference. Iím having a hard time getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep that I can get up early enough to work out, but Epcot was worth it. (On a not entirely unrelated note, a recent article in the Vocabula Review says repetition is allowable, citing Winston Churchillís "We shall never surrender" speech as a shining example.)

Posted by dichroic at 08:31 AM

March 25, 2001

Frost on marriage


5

days until I return home




Grrrrr.....my Internet connection has been down since Friday night. I found this out right after driving home Friday with a headful of things I wanted to write here, only to find my (corporate account?s) userid and password aren?t being recognized. Neither my company's admin team or the ISP seem to have any idea why.

The things I?m most looking farward to resuming on Friday night are living with my husband and rowing, in that order and with a wide gap in priority between. I had decided on Friday that I wanted to spend some of the rest of the week considering marriage and disscussing some of the writings on marriage (and maybe some on rowing) that ring true to me. And so, to combine the subjects:

THE MASTER SPEED
Robert Frost

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the steam of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore

Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

I'm going to be most unimaginative here, and mostly write about that last line, the one everyone else quotes. I will just note first, though, that the earlier part reminds me of some of Henry Vaughan's poems ("I saw Eternity the other night, like a great ring of pure and endless light.") Interesting that to Vaughan, it seems to be a transcendent God, or at least a Prime Mover, that brings the speaker outside time and wordly motion, whereas for Frost the cause is love. It is left to the reader to draw conclusions about whether the two are one, whether this is a sign of the degeneration of modern writers or whether the two poets just think differently.

In that phrase, "wing to wing", I suspect that Frost, a farmer, was thinking of geese flying in formation. To me, though, the phrase suggests an aerobatic team such as the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, Snowbirds, Red Barons. The planes fly wingtip to wingtip sometimes, separated only by inches, then may angle away to do loops and rolls independently. Sometimes the planes will mirror each others' motion in different directions, sometimes one or two planes will take center stages wile the others lurk in the background. I think this analogy to marriage may be better even than Frost intended.

The "oar to oar" phrase, though, is problematical. Generally, in a rowing shell, the aim is to keep the oars in perfect rhythm, but never "together" in the sense of close to each other. (Clashing oars with your teammates is a Bad Thing). The only time I can think of when oar blades would come together, in any sort of boat, is during a race, which seems inappropriate for the sense of the poem. Another possibility is that Frost was thinking of oar handles, not bades. The handles do come together on each stroke in either a rowing shell or a simple rowboat. One oar rowing by itself can only send the boat in aimless circles; it takes both to go in a straight line or in any sort of controlled motion.

Despite the above paragraphs, though, it is the poem as a whole, not just unison of the last line, that to me fits the experience of marriage -- that ability to stand back, and watch the world, and analyze it together.

Posted by dichroic at 03:31 PM

March 23, 2001

books and gowns


7


days until I return home

Iíve been reading the Harry Potter textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages. Theyíve very clever, but also very thin, and I think Iíd have been upset at having paid for them if it werenít that all proceeds go to a good cause (Comic Relief UK). Not only J.K. Rowling but also the printers, publishers, and everyone else (including Albus Dumbledore, who wrote the forewords) donated their work, so it really is "the proceeds", not just "the profits", that go to charity. The satisfying end result is that HP fans get to troll for possible hints as to Harryís future adventures while feeling virtuous (for giving tzedakah) instead of guilty (for spending yet more money on Potterbilia).

Last night I went with a coworker, who will here be known as Hello Kitty, also out here from AZ, in search of wedding dresses. Said dresses require 6-8 months (!) to be delivered, plus time for fittings and alterations, so itís difficult for her to know whether to buy one here or at home, since she may end up out here again for a second stint. Dress styles have changed for the better since I bought one 8 years ago, and they definitely looked good on HK, who is tiny but well-shaped and graceful. It does worry me just a bit that she seems to be happier about and more interested in the dress than in the man sheíll be wearing it to marry.

Reading Mechaiehís account of a weekend in New Orleans reminds me that I recently bought the middle book in Barbara Hamblyís Ben January mysteries -- turns out I had originally bought the 1st and 3rd. Theyíre set in New Orleans in 1833, and seem to have involved a lot of very careful research. January, also addressed as Monsieur Janvier, or Michie Janvier in the more colloquial variety of local French, is a very sympathetic character, a Ďfree man of colorí as in the eponymous first book, but it is the Creole milieu that makes the stories so fascinating. Unfortunately, I canít remember when the big fire hit New Orleans and burned down most of the other buildings, so am not sure if I should recognize any of the places. Itís clear, though, that the place where January stops for coffee and beignets in the French Market is the same as todayís Cafe du Monde, a required stop for tourists today, but also for locals venturing (or living) in the Vieux Carre.

I expected this diary to become more of a series of essays, but instead it has been more of a true journal, so far, which surprises me since Iíve never kept one before. Itís a little too seductive to be able to record passing thoughts in a paragraph instead of developing ideas into a complete essay. The latter demands much more structured thinking. Thereís nothing wrong with the journal form, of course, but I think I do need to write a few more of these entries as essays on an idea in addition to the simple "how my day went and what I read" sort of thing above. Maybe later!

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 22, 2001

Whatís wrong with Pat

Iíve been rereading L.M. Montgomeryís Pat of Silver Bush and its sequel, Mistress Pat, for probably the hundred-and-third time. I donít know why I keep rereading them -- in a lot of ways, theyíre some of LMMís worst-written books.

Now, I enjoy reading fantasy and SF; I am very good at willing suspension of disbelief. So I am prepared to believe in a main character who loves her home so much that she never wants to leave it, hates any slight change, and enjoys housework ("making Silver Bush beautiful"), despite the fact that the book is set in around 1920, when housework on a farm was still back-breaking daily labor.

Later note: Just saw Evilenaís comment about Patís "pathological attachment to that house".

And I have no problem with the idea of Pat wanting to be a home-maker instead of having a career, or with the little speech her mother gives her just in case, before having a dangerous operation: "I want you to be a happy wife and joyous mother of children, as Iíve been ... Iíve loved to wake in the night, and to know my husband and children were near and sleeping safely. Life has no greater joy for a woman than that." In fact, she may well be right -- I would only argue that that particular joy isnít, or shouldnít be, limited to women only.

There are three things that do bother me. The biggest one is that so many of the characters arenít real. Only Pat and Judy, and, to a lesser degree, Jingle in the first and Rae and Tillytuck in the second book, are fully realized. Patís rival May Binnie is also real, despite making only offstage appearances in the first book. But there are so many others -- Mother, Bets, Winnie, Cuddles as a little girl -- about whom we are told, but who are never really shown. What makes Pat love her mother so? Damned if I can tell -- all I see is who never shows emotion, and who spends her time taking care of the baby, and leaving all the other children to Judy.

The next thing I donít understand is why so many major life events are kept from Pat and her sibs, but broadcast to the neighborhood. Over and over again, Pat learns upsetting news (Motherís operation, the possible move out West, the possible adoption of Winnie) from the obnoxious May Binnie. What were her parents thinking? And the trait is passed to the next generation -- the family learns of both Joeís and Sidís engagements from the neighborhood gossip, not from the boys themselves. A decent privacy is one thing, but this is ridiculous.

Finally, thereís Patís own obtuseness. It takes her until age 31, after all manner of other love affairs, to realize she loves Jingle, her best friend since the age of 7, and that he is more important than even Silver Bush. Perhaps, like Jo Marchís Professor Bhaer, this is a bit of wish fulfillment for the author, who herself was not married until age 32, and who was not deeply in love with her husband.

Compared to the Anne books or to my favorite, The Blue Castle, the Pat books arenít some of LMMís finer efforts. I have no idea why I keep rereading them.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 21, 2001

Intro

Looks like the work out here may be getting more interesting. Just in time for me to leave. Thatís ok, work back home may be plenty interesting also, if I can just manage not to get laid off. On the other hand, I have a Life back there (well, an excuse for one.... a poor thing, but mine own). In my book, Life trumps Work any day.

In the interest of proving that I donít really have a bad attitude (stop laughing back there), herewith, a list of Things I Will Miss in MA:

-- Spring (Iíve already missed the one back home, I think)

-- WUMB (pledge week is on and I may have to give them some cash even though Iím leaving)

-- Some of the people Iíve worked with (but email will suffice)

-- about half the snow Iíve seen (the other half was overkill)

-- cool weather

-- cool weather

-- cool weather (maybe itís time to move out of the desert!)

-- 40-hour work weeks

-- sleeping in (all the way to 6!)

-- staying up late (though only from the nights spent socializing. I wonít miss the late nights spent flying across the country.)

Iím sure thereís more but I have to go get my laundry. Notice that the hotel laundromat is not on the above list.

Posted by dichroic at 07:31 PM

"sweet" dreams


For some reason, as I was going to sleep last night, I was convinced I was going to have nightmares, so I tried to think pleasant thoughts. As it happened, I dreamed about eating doughnuts. Apparently, it worked.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 20, 2001

Shoes....lots of shoes


night 2001-03-20 010320_72.html
Shoes....lots of shoes

Earlier this evening I stood in line behind two women who were in the process of buying roughly 30 pairs of shoes (I am estimating, but not exaggerating). They had more than one pair of several styles, sometimes in different colors, sometimes in the same color. I think there were at least 4 pair in one style (high-heeled red open toed slingbacks, with a square toe and a bow, if youíre interested), so itís not that there was one pair for each woman in each style.

I could have switched to the other line, which was moving faster, but after about the fifth pair, I got interested, and spent the rest of the time thinking up reasons why they might have been buying so many shoes:

1) The obvious one -- shoe junkies with money to burn.

2) They just got back from a Peace Corp stint, have almost no shoes left, got well-paying jobs, and are celebrating and stocking up. (My college roommate said it took her a while to get used to wearing "real shoes", instead of sandals or no shoes at all, when she got back from Africa.) Note: the shoes they were currently wearing make this unlikely, unless this was not their first store.

3) Theyíre in charge of wardrobe for a hot new sitcom being filmed about dot-commers in the tech corridor outside Boston (who apparently dress better than their real-life counterparts, but thatís television).

4) They plan to donate them to charity, on the theory that Good Will shoppers deserve something brand new for a change. (The styles chosen didnít seem terribly practical for anyone who needs to get a lot of wear out of their shoes, though.)

5) Money to burn and theyíre having a theme party.

Any other explanations? Mail them to me.

Anyway, the whole incident went a long way toward assuaging any guilt over the three pair I bought.

Posted by dichroic at 08:31 PM

Iíve lost spring


afternoon 2001-02-20 010320_71.html
Iíve lost spring

Itís supposed to be almost 90 degrees F in Phoenix today. Thereís still snow on the ground here. I would enjoy the contrast, except that when I go home in two weeks, there will probably still be snow here, and temperatures there will be well in the nineties.

I feel like Iíve lost spring this year -- three months of gorgeous weather gone that Iíll never get back. Thereís a poem in there someplace, but I may never forgive my company for this.

A. E. Houseman, smart enough not to waste his springs, wrote this one:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.


Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.


And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

Posted by dichroic at 02:31 PM

writing, shopping, rowing


I havenít missed a day writing here yet, except for when Iíve been out of town. That will change -- already, Iím down to writing once a day, instead of the three times I started with. When I get back home, Iíll have a lot more going on, too -- rowing and probably working longer hours, more stuff to do around the house. And T, of course. Itís amazing how much less spare time I seem to have when heís around, even when we have no plans but eating dinner and getting to bed early. And, speaking of going to bed early, once I start rowing, my evenings will be considerably shorter. Waking up at 4AM does that to you.

This weekend, I will be driving up to see Phelps; Iím very much looking forward to meeting YMP and Mr. Phelps, who were out of town last time I visited. YMP, especially, sounds extraordinary, even after applying the doting-mother filter to stories Iíve heard about her.

Iím also hoping to buy a menorah shaped like a woman flying a biplane that I resisted last time I was there and have regretted ever since. Iím such a materialist. Itís not about owning expesive stuff, or designer stuff, or even vast quantities of stuff, but I do glory in owning cool stuff -- unique things, clothes that are somehow perfect for me, items that just fit my life. After all, how often do you see something that perfect for you? (How many Jewish women pilots are there in the US? I suspect the answer is only in four digits.) Anyway, I have a thing for biplanes.

Less than two weeks left of my stay in MA -- Iíll be glad to get home and back to rowing, though Iím afraid it may be painful at first. Caught among various illnesses, late nights, and travel, there have been a few weeks in a row where I only got to the gym twice. I have a good shot at making it four times this week (possibly more, though I donít generally go on weekends). I did 5K on the erg this morning, though only at half pressure (inertia caused by trailing end of the latest sinus infection).

Iím especially worried that I may have developed bad habits on the erg -- Iíve been trying to concentrate on quick hands away and on level hands, but there are so many things to concentrate on all at once while rowing that itís possible something else has gotten away from me. And though I think erging is harder than rowing, erging for half an hour at a time is probably not equivalent to rowing for two hours, even after factoring in time to carry the boat to and from the water. Endurance will be a problem, especially if I end up in a boat with two other lightweight women who are distance runners (emphatically Not My Sport).

But weíll see. And with a little luck, what weíll see is me ready to compete by our next regatta, in early May.

And the good news -- the ears have finally popped! It only took them about 16 hours after the last flight.

Posted by dichroic at 11:31 AM

March 19, 2001

regatta weekend


morning 2001-03-19 010319_14.html
regatta weekend

Iím back from the Long Beach regatta. Iíve got surnburn on my face and forearms, ears still unpopped from the combination of airplane flight and tail end of a sinus infection, and a flap of skin ripped on the the bottom of one foot, from too much running barefoot alongside the racing boats. (It was too hot to wear my boots, and my sandals were packed.) Since I believe that the measure of how good your weekend was, is how sore you are on Monday, this is all a Good Thing.

I flew out of Boston instead of Providence this time; it took me roughly twice as long to get there as it should have, because of traffic. Luckily, Iíd listened to the locals and allowed enough time. The restroom in Logan airport reminded me of how much I hate ladiesí room lines; not only is there the basic problem of waiting to use the loo, but then you know youíre using one someone else just vacated. Ewww. Especially if itís still warm. (Sorry for the mental image.)

An odd thing happened while I was waiting in that line though. I realized I was rephrasing all my thoughts into essays for this journal. I noted I should write about the lines (see above). Then I realized what I was doing. Then I starting thinking I should write an essay about how everything I thought was turning into essays in my head. Fortunately the rest of the weekend was distracting enough that I forgot all of this, or I might have been stuck in an infinite loop.

Back on the topic of bathrooms (sorry again), when I got on the first airplane, for some reason, American Airlines had decided that while we were loading onto the plane and waiting for the flight to start, all of the TV monitors onboard would show a series of scenic videos. Unfortunately, all of these were waterfalls, ocean waves, and other sorts of rushing water. Seemed like an odd choice, on an airplane with over a hundred people and three lavatories.

The rest of the weekend was very good, except that it was the first regatta Iíd been to in about 10 years in which I didnít compete. We had three juniors boats there (M4+, W8+, W8+) as well as quite a few Masters, Novice, and Open boats. Our juniors, like most of the teenagers Iíve met in the last several years, seem to be extraordinary people, must more accomplished and confident than I was at their age. I donít know whether itís an unusual generation, or if Iíve just been lucky.

I think we won some of the 500m dashes (they were still going on when I left for the airport). Besides those, Tís M4+ and a W4+ both came in second (Tís boat lost to a nationals champion and a boat heíd been with for 2 years; the women came in second by only .37 seconds). I think a novice W8+ also came in second, but am not sure of all the final results.

One of the most interesting parts of the weekend was hanging trying to be helpful with some of the adaptive rowers in training (in this case, it was all paraplegics, though the term can also refers to rowers who are blind or have other disabilities.) Long Beach has a top-notch adaptive program. They were rowing a Maas rec shell with "scullies" (little outrigger floats) attached to each oarlock) and a fixed seat with a back. The woman doing the coaching was incredible. I think sheís won some international golds for fixed-seat rowing. Not only was she an excellent coach, but the next day, she competed in both Womenís Master singles (in which everyone else was using their legs) and fixed seat rowing. She was toward the rear in the former, but staying with the pack. Just amazing. In the latter, she was boatlengths ahead of everyone else.

Getting in and out of the shells seemed to be the hardest part for her students (itís not easy for anyone, since sculls are very tippy). One woman, especially, had only just lost the use of her legs and hasnít yet learned all the tricks of balance, I think. She was very upbeat, though, far more than I think Iíd have been in her place. Iíd guess that itís also very good for morale to learn a completely new skill, something you couldnít do before losing the use of your legs. It probably also helped that the coaches were similarly handicapped (a precise term, I think; they held back somewhat by their paralyzed legs but were certainly not Ďdisabledí). They were able to offer their students advice for dealing with life in a wheelchair in general, not just rowing, and to be role models. Certainly Angie, the main coach, would be a role model for anyone, functioning legs or not. It was all educational, partly because I think Tempe will eventually want to start an adaptive program, and partly because I always find it useful to watch different coaching styles in any phase of rowing.

One of our rowers whoíd driven up (instead of coming in the bus) kindly gave me a ride to the airport -- Long Beach is a nice small airport, where you have to go outside and up the stairs to get on the plane. I like it because it feels more like actually flying -- in fact the FBO and Pilot Shop are right across from the terminal (so of course I stopped in the latter).

Landed in Boston at 1:20, only got lost once when trying to get on 93 South to the Pike, got home sometime around 3. If Iíve said anything stupid above, be sure to blame it on lack of sleep.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 16, 2001

off to Long Beach

I was just reading krapsnartís latest entry, in which she discusses the perils of having a "proofreaderís eye". Itís always a sort of relief, to read about others with the same gift/curse. I first encountered someone else with one in Anne Fadimanís wonderful Ex Libris, in which she discusses growing up in a whole family of natural editors (her father was Clifton Fadiman, her mother is Annalee Jacoby). Iíve also met others in my email listgroups -- my main ones are blessedly full of people who understand the use of the apostrophe.

Iím still trying to figure out how to ask one of my companyís VPs whether I can proofread the weekly newsletter he sends out to half of my company -- he averages about 2 spelling or grammatical errors per issue, which strikes me as unprofessional.

After a frenzied morning spent testing (which will begin as soon as the application is ready for us to test), Iíll be flying out to Long Beach, to watch T and my other rower buds race there. I wonít be racing, since I havenít been on the water in 3 months. The flight presents challenges on 2 fronts. First, I have to drive into Boston this time, instead of flying out of Providence as usual. Much as I like Boston, it is a Scary Place to drive, thanks to the Big Dig, tons of traffic, lots of small one-way streets, and a completely unintuitive layout.

Then the flight itself could be painful, since I seem to have come down with yet another minor sinus infection. Sudafed is my friend.

The regatta should be fun, though. I wonít have a computer there, so no further entries here until Monday.

Challenge for another day: how to write a journal entry without beginning almost every sentence with "I".

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 15, 2001

quiz


Mechaieh sent this to me ages ago. I saved it on my home Ďputer, but at the time I was doing the working/rowing/coaching thing and barely had time to read my email, let alone write any. It looked interesting and I have time now, so I went out and found a copy of the questions.

1. LIVING ARRANGEMENT?

Normally, a 5-bedroom house in the Southwest complete with one husband and two male cats. (Iím outnumbered, but Iím a a female engineer so Iím used to it.)

Currently, a hotel suite, solo.

2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?

Right now Iím spending so much time online Iím reading less than usual (that is, Iím reading the latest issue of The New Atlantic, but I donít have three other books going as usual), but Iíve got about 10 hoursí flight time tomorrow, so Iíll guess ahead. Probably Barbara Hamblyís _Graveyard Dust_ (its predeccessor, _A Free Man of Color_, was excellent), the latest issues of Outside and Natíl Geographic Adventure, and maybe Philip Pullmanís _Amber Spyglass_.

3. WHATíS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?

A montage of photos we took in 1996. It was a very good year.

4. FAVORITE BOARD GAME?

Trivial Pursuit, but no one I know will play with me.

5. FAVORITE MAGAZINE?

Outside and Adventure. I also have a sneaking fondness for In Style, and I like Better Home and Gardensí house plan and remodelling special issues, though not the parent magazine.

6a. FAVORITE SMELLS?

The desert after rain, 100 LL avgas, fresh-mown grass, hyacinths.

6b. LEAST FAVORITE SMELLS?

Overcooked broccoli, puke.

7. FAVORITE SOUND?

Wind or rain outside (when Iím in) Stan Rogersí voice.

8. WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD

Nausea, especially the kind you get when you have Seriously Screwed Up.

9. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING?

DO I have to go row??

10. FAVORITE COLOR?

Never really saw the point of having one. But I wear mostly black, white, jewel tones, and light blues.

11. HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU ANSWER THE PHONE?

Two.

12. FUTURE CHILDíS NAME?

Something beginning with L.

13. WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT IN LIFE?

If I knew that, would I be here? I think love is up there, with other types of passion, and purpose in life, and feelings of accomplishment when something was hard or scary to do.

14. FAVORITE FOODS?

Pretzels, hard or soft with mustard.

15. CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?

Dark Chocolate. Good chocolate, not Hersheyís or equivalent.

16. DO YOU LIKE TO DRIVE FAST?

Depends on mood. Fast driving goes with pissed-off or wnting to escape, either way with heavy-metal music.

17. DO YOU SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL?

No, and all the further response I can think of border on the obscene.

18. STORMS - COOL OR SCARY?

Cool.

19. WHAT TYPE WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?

Black Fort Escort GT -- Escort so I wouldnít freak if I scratched it a little, GT so it would be at least somewhat fun to drive, black because it looked cool with the tinted windows and spoiler.

20. IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON DEAD OR ALIVE?

Ben Franklin. Or maybe someone like Maimonides.

21. FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK?

Usually beer, but again, varies with mood. I like my beers chewy, not overly hoppy.

22. WHAT IS YOUR ZODIAC SIGN?

Oh, please.

23. DO YOU EAT THE STEMS OF BROCCOLI?

If not overcooked, sure.

24. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB YOU WANTED WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Well-paid folksinger (this is imaginary, right?). Writer/photographer for an outdoor-sports or travel magazine.

25. IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR?

Very dark navy blue.

26. EVER BEEN IN LOVE?

Yes.

27. IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL?

Who cares, if thereís enough to drink in it?

28. FAVORITE MOVIES:

Hook, maybe.

29. DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS?

No.

30. WHATíS UNDER YOUR BED?

Iím not sure, I put a box of stored *stuff* there a very long time ago. Probably also some shoes.

31. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER?

Favorite number?

32. FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH?

Used to be gymnastics and figure skating. Now theyíre so overdone on TV, Iím tending more to look for sports Iíve done or thought about doing: rowing, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking, aerobatics.

33. SAY ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU.

About mechaieh? I wonít bother -- read her stuff and youíll say it yourself. No, wait -- her writing lives up to her pageís name.

34. PERSON YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND?

Years of getting sent jokes Iíve already seen have left me very disinclined to send anything on to multiple people. I might possibly send it on, but not to more than about 2 people.

35. PERSON YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND?

See above.

Posted by dichroic at 02:31 PM

having a couple of stupid days


I must not be getting enough sleep lately. I donít feel all that tired; the main symptoms are increasing moments of gross stupidity. Yesterday it only showed up in email: first I informed a list I manage that they could elect not to be included in the membership list, only to find that that capability is a casuality of the eGoups/Yahoo! merger. An easy mistake, but an intelligent person would have checked her facts *before* passing them on to 300+ others for whom she is Listmum.

Next, on the same list, I corrected someoneís post on Jane Austen characters, only to realize that he was right and I was confusing Sense and Sensibility with Persuasion. Lucky for me, itís an amazingly polite list.

Today, I called the local helpline, not once but twice to complain I couldnít log in this morning. At the end of the first call, I realize my network cable had gotten unplugged. Tried again to log in, got a message saying my password was wrong when I knew I had typed it correctly, called in again, and realized in the middle of that call that I had changed the password yesterday.

Woke up with a sinus headache too, either another symptom of lack of sleep or harbinger of another sinus infection that more sleep would help to fight off. Unfortunately, I probably wonít get to catch up this evening, since Iíve got a work dinner to go to, and then I have to pack to fly out to Long Beach tomorrow. (Donít expect any entries this weekend.)

*sigh*

If I could redo my undergraduate years, this time getting enough sleep, I could probably graduate cum laude.

Posted by dichroic at 10:31 AM

March 14, 2001

inadequacies?

Rowed 3000 meters this morning, including 1000 in 4:45, which is not very good for most rowers. But itís good for me, and most rowers are not 5í1". I was going to do 5K, but I got bored, so for variety I finished the last 15 minutes or so (1 mile) on a treadmill, and yes I was actually jogging for all but the warmup and cooldown parts. Conclusion: Having forgotten to pick up some other sports bras while I was home last weekend, I either need to not jog or do some shopping. I donít bounce much at all (when I say Iím small, I donít just mean height), but the jogging was just a little uncomfortable.

In other moments of inadequacy, I just read a bunch of other diaries here, which is why there are now 3 people Iíve never spoken to listed in my favorites (in addition to the 3 whose writing convinced me to start these pages). Iím feeling a little short on descriptive adjectives here, but I have concluded I will probably never write with the juice of Miguelito; will never achieve the design sense of Krapsnart (I love the look of her pages); donít have as interesting a life as Jerseygrrl. (I refuse to say never on that one, though my version of interesting in a good way would of course be totally different than hers.)

But Iím reasonably content most of the time and blazingly happy some of it, current interlude excluded, and I do have a lot of different odd skills (even though I donít do most of them *well*), so Iím not going to break my heart over whan I canít do. Though it does provide some inspiration to work on my writing skills and on my Web design, and to keep trying new things.

Next question: how do people manage to write about sex and other very personal stuff in these? I keep thinking my mother (who probably wouldnít mind that much, really) or my coworkers could read them.

Though I will mention that Jerseygrrl is entirely right about the jump-up-and-pee method of avoiding UTIs.

Oh, and reading other peoplesí diaries also makes it unfortunately clear: compared to those with real problems, I am a whiny bitch. Sorry.

Posted by dichroic at 05:30 PM

writing ideas and FBOFW


I was thinking yesterday that it would be fun to write a book (ok, Ďfuní is probably not the right word) in which computers and Internet email groups have magically appeared by the 1860 or a little earlier. A discussion group naturally spawns to discuss Dickens, and members adopt noms from his books. As with some current groups Iíve seen, a spinoff group forms in order to take Off-Topic discussion off the main group....and we see the Civil War through their conversation. The writing could mix the misspellings rife in Civil War letters with some current Internet phrases and acronyms. i think a lot of reading original letters would be required as preliminary research.

Another book would be a love story set *after* the relationship has begun and solidifed -- sort of what ĎMad About Youí did for TV shows, though I was never crazy about that show. If a story is supposed to solve a problem, as I said yesterday, then here is one; anyone whoís been there knows that maintaining a marriage (or its moral equivalent) is more of an adventure than just beginning one.

Actually, the one author I know of whoís done that very well is Lynn Johnston, the creatorb of the For Better or For Worse comic strip. Maybe thatís why itís the only strip that can bring me to tears. Itís not just the obvious parts like the dog Farleyís death or Lawrenceís struggles with his homosexuality, but seeing Gordon and Tracy overcome abusive childhoods and doing so well with their own children and business, seeing Grandpa Jim deal with losing the love of his life, and of course just seeing Elly and John continuing to love and to deal with whatever happens from day to day.

Of course, once I go back home at the end of March, Iíll be lucky to write in here and keep up with my email, let alone get anything longer done.

Posted by dichroic at 12:35 PM

March 13, 2001

separation anxiety


The problem with having some knowledge of history is that it makes it easy to see just how much of a wuss you are. Over the past two months in Massachusetts, the only thing that has been particularly painful for me has been the separation from T. Two months, mind you...and thatís with visits home every two weeks, email and phone calls every day.

I have a cousin-in-law whose husband is an Army Captain stationed in Korea, leaving her alone with their infant and two small girls. Theyíve been apart about as long as we have, but I doubt theyíve seen each other since he left. They were hoping the family could join him but now it looks unlikely, so that they will probably be apart for several more months until he can be posted elsewhere. As an Air Force brat, though, she takes this all in stride, a normal fact of life.

Even they have email and occasional phone calls, though. He can travel home to her faster than John Adams could have reached Abigail, in 1776 when they were apart for months while he urged independence from England and she ran the farm. They could and did write every day and the little bit Iíve heard from their letters ("I live like a nun in an abbey, solitary, celibate...I hate it") convinces me that in this, if nothing else, Adams achieved greatness. He loved a woman as a person and a partner, not an adjunct to himself, a pet, or a convenience, not as a societal should-do or a romantic illusion. Conversely, of course, for Abigail. I havenít seen many unions that looked like "the marriage of true minds"; I know of some, and have seen enough in fiction to convince me their authors knew whereof they wrote. I think the Adamses had one, and those long separations must have been excruciating.

This also gives me a new perspective on all those old ballads about the fair maid faithful to her lover, away at sea for 7 years. Likely sheíd have had a place in her community and an extended support system most of us donít have now, but still, seven years apart with no reunions or even letters doesnít strike me as the best basis for a relationship.

Given the restrictions placed on young women in some past societies, though, I suppose a separation and the ensuing letters might have been a better way to get to know each other (as in Little Women, when Jo and Prof. Bhaer are separated after their engagement: "For a year Jo and her Professor worked and waited, hoped and loved, met occasionally, and wrote such voluminous letters that the rise in the price of paper was accounted for"). If Alcott and her contemporaries are accurate, long separations were not uncommon, though transportation by train must have helped shorten them. Still, no phones, no airplanes, no email. And, of course, the medical knowledge of the time meant that the Long Separation could come without warning, before the lover could come home.

Thank goodness they sent me here with a laptop, and an internet connection. My listgroups and my email have been a lifeline, and I should probably say so to the people involved. Still, satisfying as it is to at least be talking to interesting people and people who care, their ghostly presence on the other end of a phone cable is a modern pleasure, and doesnít satisfy on the primal levels of physical presence, having touch and smell, sound and taste and vision all at once. Modern wuss or no, I will be glad, glad, GLAD when "my love is in my arms, and I in my bed again".

Posted by dichroic at 10:17 PM

Why I want to be a writer


Iíve always wished I were a writer. There are so many aspects that appeal to me: the freedom to work at home, wherever you choose to live; the satisfaction of working on something and seeing it grow; the power of creating a world. Also, I have gained so much from being a reader -- not just pleasure, but a lot of my self is formed and founded on the books Iíve read all my life. Iíd like to give something back, and to participate in the world of the word on even a deeper level. Unfortunately, I lack the two most essential qualities: the drive to write and the ability to plot.

That sounds unlikely, considering how many words I put on paper (or on screen), but to me the word "writer" means a fiction writer, a storyteller, a maker. I can write pieces like this, so maybe I am an essayist, or a journalist. But when I read something my brother, a real writer, has written, I see so much I canít do. Characters, and plot climaxes just donít seem to form in my brain. The complexities of subplots just scare me.

Even in this form, of course, there are things I donít do well. I can inject a sort of humor, but Iíll never cause anyoneís ribs to hurt the way Bill Bryson can. I write about the mundane, but I donít know if I ever reflect the universal, like Montaigne. Even closer to home, I think Mechaieh has a facility and grace with words Iíll never equal. I need to work on avoiding the twin lions (lions? more like warthogs) of pomposity and verbosity before I can aspire to grace.

On the plane yesterday, I was thinking about how Iíd like to write a book and how unlikely that is, given my complete lack of plotting ability. We always think of a story as centering on a single problem: consummating a love affair despite obstacles, finding a murderer, achieving a quest. It occurred to me, though, how many of books do lack any very cohesive single story. David Copperfield, Tom Saywer, Little Women, the Anne books are all stories of lives, with the ups and downs all lives have, but without ending in a wedding, a death or a conquest. Individual chapters may follow the formula of explication, struggle, climax, denouement -- Beth Marchís death, and Tom Sawyerís escape from the cave with Becky are examples -- but the whole book, like life, is a string of situations overlapping each other and not following any rules. Mark Twain was aware of this, writing something like "When writing of adults, the author knows where to stop, that is, with a wedding. But when writing of a boy he must stop where he can."

Travel writings can be the same way; we end up back home, maybe a little richer in experience than when we left but not necessarily having achieved any great milestone. This doesnít keep Bill Brysonís "Walk in the Woods" or Douglas Adamsí "Last Chance to See" from being completely captivating, though hard on the stomach muscles.

Iíve lived 34 years of a life so far. Maybe I could write part of one.

Posted by dichroic at 12:56 PM

relative colors

In the Sonoran desert right now, there are wildflowers beside the road -- yellow ones on the brittlebrush (I think), purple and blue lupine, and the occasional bright orange. The skies, as always, are clear blue, and thereís green on the land and on the sides of the mountains.

It made getting on the plane to come back up north very difficult, as I was expecting everything to be white, gray, and dark brown. Actually, it turned out to be all gray, since itís raining this morning.

Posted by dichroic at 12:33 PM

March 11, 2001

thoughts on male anatomy

Whoever invented the phrase about "the iron hand in the velvet glove" wasnít thinking about hands.

Posted by dichroic at 04:55 PM

March 09, 2001

Ice Fog Dance

I do have guitar chords for this one. An ice fog is a real event, in which the water vapor if frozen, and apparently the motes do sparkle. I heard about it on the radio program "Earth and Sky", and somehow had to write about it.


On a cold clear night
When the air was still
I saw sparkling motes
Of ice distilled.

And they danced
Wild, fair and free,
And they danced
To an ancient melody.

I watched them dancing, and I wanted to join in
I tried to take the air, but I did not know
Where to begin.

Then I came and held you
After time apart,
As I held you tightly
Joy woke my heart

And it danced
Wild, fair and free,
And it danced,
My heart with yours, and you with me,
And it danced,
And I heard that ancient primal melody....

Posted by dichroic at 02:34 PM

Sarah Whistled When She Walks

This is a rare one of mine that's not meant to be a song, but I'm afraid it is horribly derivative ("Jenny kissed me when we met..."):


Sarah whistled when she walked,
Tangled bits of tunes that trailed
Away behind her like a banner
Floating on a trailing wind.

No matter now that she's far gone,
I seem to see her when I hear
Tuneful snips of tangled song
Set dancing on a trailing wind.

Posted by dichroic at 02:32 PM

Modern Verse


I have trouble with a lot of modern poetry -- not all, but a lot of it. I finally think Iíve figured out what my gripe is; itís that, to me, poetry is supposed to be about both language and ideas, and the marriage between them. A lot of the modern stuff seems only to be about ideas, which I would define as philosophy rather than poetry. Worse are the ones that are deliberately obfuscatory, with not even an attempt to communicate the inherent idea to anyone buts its author. Iíve also heard some pieces that seem to be about only language, with no attempt at meaning, though I suppose this may be the point in itself.


Thereís wonderful new stuff out there too, of course, so maybe itís just another case of Classic Rock syndrome. You know, that the one that says that there werenít more good songs in the 60ís, itís just that the awful ones have long since died a merciful death and (one hopes) donít get replayed. With brand new music, in contrast, we hear it all, the good, the bad, and the execrable.

Iím not quite such as fogey as to insist on rhymes, though I do appreciate them, or the alliteration of Norse sagas, or the patterned syllables of haiku. Of course, itís also true that most of what I write never makes it beyond the level of doggerel, so perhaps I ought not to criticize my betters. Also, a lot of mine are really meant to be songs, which of course would work better if I had the talent to write melodies for them.

The next two entries may help to illustrate.

Posted by dichroic at 12:04 PM

March 08, 2001

Intro

I donít know how much Iíll keep writing in this as time goes on, but right now I have the time, and the need for an outlet, and maybe a need to write something more formal than an email and less structured than a test plan. Iím afraid there may be a good bit whining here for the next three weeks, but I promise to try to write about the good along with the bad.

At the moment, Iím....not a fish out of water, but a rower away from (unfrozen) water, a pilot away from VFR weather, and most of all, a woman away from her partner. Iím away from home on a business trip that started two months ago, and is scheduled to go for another month.

There are compensations to being here in central Massachusetts: cold and interesting weather, *great* radio, a client whoís easy to deal with. But I donít find that they compensate for being away from home for so long. First and foremost, I donít much like sleeping alone, without even cats to warm my feet. I referred earlier to my Ďpartnerí, because thatís the best word for what he is, though weíre legally married. I donít need him at all; we donít Ďcompleteí each other, or any of the other cliches of romance. Weíre together entirely because we want to be, and so far thatís been the basis for a happier and longer-lasting partnership than most others Iíve seen.

Also, thereís the rowing. Iíve been rowing on and off for a decade -- steadily for the first five years, then only occasionally when I moved to the desert there was no water nearby. Since the City of Tempe filled its man-made lake and started its rowing program, itís been a major part of my life, both rowing and coaching. Since coming up here where all the lakes and rivers are frozen, I havenít been able to row anywhere but in the gym...and itís NOT the same.

This is especially frustrating because, in season, this part of the world is a rowing mecca. Boston, home of the largest rowing event in the world, the Head of the Charles, is less than an hour away (Massachusetts is a small state!). Worcester, where Iím working, has 3 or 4 collegiate programs and several Masters (age 27 or older) programs. Both fortunately and unfortunately, Iíll probably be gone before that starts back up. Iíve already missed enough training that I will not be able to row in the first spring regattas, though I will get to go out to watch one, in two weeks.

With all that, though, Iím sort of enjoying the northern winter -- it has a purity to it somehow, even in the middle of a city. And this whole state has an incredible amount of live music, folkie and otherwise. And even living in a hotel has its perks (someone to clean daily). But Iím ready to go home.

Posted by dichroic at 04:31 PM

Intro


18:45:48 2001-03-08 010308_49.html
Stars and clouds

In one of Richard Bachís books (Illusions?) is the following bit of dialogue:

"Would you say thatís a perfect sky?"

"Itís always a perfect sky."

Heís right, but sometimes thereís something special there. The reward up here for surviving two days of "the storm of the season" was a perfect clear winter night last night. I had stopped at the gym after work, so the stars were out as I came back to the hotel. Because of the bulk of the hotel and its lights, I could only see half the sky, but the Hunter was there, and the moon was full. I stopped to look at them because I always do.

There were a few clouds moving across the moon, quick enough that I could see their motion, not just tell that they had moved. My internal temperature was high, because I had just rowed a long piece on the erg, and the air was dry, so I was breathing steam even when I breathed through my nose.

From my perspective, the clouds were moving directly from left to right across the moon, and as I breathed out, a veil of steam rose straight up,

crossing the cloudsí motion at a right angle. The stars were sharp and clear, and some showed through the bare branches of the tres on the hill above me.

I have a need to see stars every so often, I think. I love looking at the moon, but thereís always a ache because, unless things change drastically (or at least unless NASA relaxes its vision requirements), Iíll probably never get there. I hope Iím wrong.

But I never really expected to get to the stars, so I can look at them without regret. The more cleaqrly I can see them, the better. The best Iíve seen were out in the deserts, in Oregon, Arizona, and the Australian Outback. Seeing the Southern Cross was, for me, the highlight of our trip to Oz. I donít have a formal list of Things To Do In This Life, but if I did, seeing stars from the middle of the ocean would be on it. I wonder whether cruise ships have enough lights to have light pollution, or if thereís somewhere on a ship to escape them?

Posted by dichroic at 04:31 PM

weekend plans


13:32:20 2001-03-09 010309_56.html


I have nerves settled in my stomach today (or maybe itís that chocolate I ate -- well, I put them out for public consumption, but no one else is doing their part).

I assume the jitters are related to my trip home, planned for today, and the snow forcasted ditto. I havenít been home in 6 weeks, havenít seen T in 4. Also, after 2 consecutive snow days this week, which caused me to end a trip early, miss seeing some friends, and spend 48 hours cooped up in a hotel room, Iím really not ready for more snow.

If the weather will only cooperate, this has the potential to be a better than ideal weekend. My definition of an ideal weekend includes a strenuous outdoor activity (hiking, climbing, rowing), some socialization with friends, and, of course, a strenuous indoor activity (of the horizontal variety). In this case, Ďbetter than idealí comes from the possible addition of birthday presents, though if my family runs true to form, there will only be the one from Ted. Though at least the ones from my parents and uncle usually do get there eventually, which is more than can be said for Little Brother. I have some hopes his new girlfriend will eventually bring about reform in this area, as in others, but weíll see.

I just hope the snow holds off!

Posted by dichroic at 01:32 PM