September 30, 2001

for the love of books

I've been reading For the Love of Books, a collection of writers' words
about the few books that most influenced them. It's not quite as magical as my
beloved battered copy of That Eager Zest, possibly because the latter is
entirely about magic, about the first moments when the major acolytes of words
felt the first devotional stirrings. Still, though, For the Love of Books
is far more interesting and readable than most of the similar attempts I have
seen. Likely that's because the selection of writers is well done, from John Barth
to Dave Barry to both Fadimans -- Clifton and Anne -- to Frank McCourt to John

A distressing number of them gave their deepest allegiance to Moby-Dick,
which should please she-who-was-Phelps but worries me, since I have never really
been able to read it. Maybe I'll try again, some year. Another great influence on
many is Proust's Recherche du temps perdu either in its best-known English
translation (Remembrance of Things Past) or a more modern one, or in the original.
Several picked Huckleberry Finn and Aristophanes, both of whom work better
for me. Several mentioned more idiosyncratic books, or the first children's books
that brought them to the world of words, or books that once resonated their world
but were later outgrown - Hemingway is frequently invoked in this

But in defense of my lack of interest in Moby-Dick and Papa Hemingway, here is y
favorite passage from the book. From Pete Hamill, author of Flesh and
, Snow in August, and A Drinking

"What I think poetry does -- like music-- is
hit some tuning fork in your brain. It's the reverberations of that tuning fork
that really stimulate both your imagination and your understanding of other
writers. Readers should learn to trust that tuning fork in poetry as well as
prose. There's no shame in not being able to read Jane Austen. You just say, 'It
doesn't hit my tuning fork.' "

Before this, among others of course, I read At Home With Books, a collection of photos of great home libraries. At least For the Love of Books has got me thinking about what else I should do, read, an write. The last book only left me with a nagging envy of other people's bookshelves and a desire to go tour Chatsworth. Funny, how that house and its associations seem to keep coming up -- the house itself is lauded in How Buildings Learn and its chatelaine is the youngest of the Mitford sisters.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

in shock

Good lord. I'm still in shock from this morning's news. I think this will be like
in during the Gulf War, and I will be spending today planted in front of CNN. God
help us all if we have to try to go to war with a terrorist organization - it
could be like trying to fight a cloud.

Posted by dichroic at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2001

World's Hottest Race Report

Post Race Report:

The World's Hottest Regatta did not live up to its
name -- in fact, the early morning was nice and cool and the temperature during
last few races (at around 9:30) was at least bearable. Yay!

didn't win our race. Boo.

But we lost by only 5 seconds to some of
the fastest strongest local women, who said they had to work their hardest to beat
us. Yay!

The third-place boat in our race was a good 30 seconds or
more behind us. Yay!

I also got to cox a Men's 4 who rowed a good
strong race. Yay!

But they also came in second. Boo.

they only gave medals to first place winners this year. Boo, boo,

T2 Hatfield was out of town, so he and Rudder
couldn't race their double. Boo.

But Rudder ended up racing with C.,
who won Nationals a couple of years ago in the Men's Lightweight Double event.

They were more than a minute ahead of their competition. (The
whole race only lasts 3.5-4 minutes for most people.) Yay!

didn't reach Rudder's secret goal of having the fastest time for all races for the
oat, and as day. Boo.

Instead, they tied the winning Men's 8+ (that
is, their boat, with two people in it, was faster than any other boat, and was as
fast as the winning boat in the race with eight men in it.)

Afterwards, we went out en masse to Chili's, came home,
snuggled, and zonked. (Sorry, bad sentence. Only the Chili's outing was en masse.
Probably everyone there went home and bonked, but separately.)

For more insight into how addictive this sport
can be, check out the songs page at the unofficial web site of the href="">Twickenham Rowing Club. Click on the oar labeled
"Stuff" and then on "Top of the Pots".

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2001

What was I going to say?

There's a new upscale mall not two miles from my house, that will be opening in
less than a month. If I'm still unemployed by then, I can go hang out there and
pretend I'm too rich to have to work. Obviously, that would mean also pretending I
dress the way I do out of some kind of reverse chic. Or maybe just because it's

Several stores in the new related shopping centers on
other corners of the mall intersection have already opened. Today I went to check
out The Great Indoors, which carries pretty much everything for the house except
major furniture -- basically, it's like a combination of Home Depot and Bed, Bath
and Beyond, with several dollar signs thrown in. They have alphabet stencils which
I'd been looking for ages. You can find little bitty ones, but it's hard to find
letters big enough to be seen if you put them up high.

So now my next
project is going to be stenciling a quotation around the dining room, up near the
ceiling. I'll go buy the stencils and paints just as soon as I remember the
perfect quote I'd found for that spot.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

ready to race

Got our race tomorrow -- its official name is the World's Hottest Regatta.
Unfortunately, it may live up to the name, since highs tomorrow are predicted to
be around 102. Still, humidity has dropped drastically -- I got a nosebleed this
morning to prove it -- and our nights cool off so much that it takes a while for
the day to get obnoxiously hot. This morning was deliciously cool. So the later
races tomorrow may be a bit too warm, but it shouldn't actually be

And I devoutly hope my four will kick some heavyweight

There is pretty much nothing else new here. I need to work on a
couple book-related projects, I've almost got another beaded embroidery done, and
I still have no new job prospects.

The good news about that last
part is that even if I got an interview tomorrow, I should be able to start late
enough that I will be able to drive to Austin for the Hallowe'en regatta there
with Rudder. He would be driving anyway, since he's got vacation time he needs to
burn, but I think it would suck for him to have to go alone. That regatta, where
we'll be able to connect with Rudder's brother and a lot of our old rowing friends
from Houston, should be a blast.

I need to talk about libraries here
-- maybe I'll do that this afternoon. Stop by later and see.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2001

how a dentist should be

I realize this sounds like an oxymoron, but I actually had an enjoyable dentist
visit today. First of all, I didn't have to wait long, but, since I'd been a bad
girl and bought a used copy of Barbara Pym's Civil to Strangers and other
for $4 (after spending money on beading supplies yet again), the
wait was pleasant. I only had to get examined, not cleaned or drilled or filled or
capped today.

First, the tech took X-rays with a very futuristic
machine that held my head still and moved around it. After I commented that it
seemed more like something that would be scanning my gene pattern before
transporting me to the bridge of the Enterprise, we talked about the different
Star Trek shows. She had a lot more warm personality than the usual dental
hygienist is willing to show to yet another open-jawed drooling patient. Next, the
dentist showed up. Like the tech, she was a medium-young black woman -- old enough
to seem experienced, young enough to be cool. She examined my teeth and X-rays
fairly quickly, and the three of us spent longer talking about the telethon the
other night, and the indistinguishable women singers on it. I used the term
"divas" to refer to them, for lack of a better description. The dentist had firm
opinions that people like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey had not earned that label
yet: "You've got to have twenty years of attitude first."

The whole
thing was over sooner than I thought possible, and then it turned out that thanks
to my new insurance (I switched to Rudder's when my own ended) there was nothing
at all to pay. So to recap: short wait with a good book, cool high-tech machines,
no pain, good conversation, no discomfort, no fee. Definitely a success.

Posted by dichroic at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

a formidable compliment

T2 Hatfield paid me the nicest compliment yesterday, though I'm not at all sure it
was intended in that way. We were out at a local Mexican place with him and Egret,
because that's what they do on Wednesdays and after about the first three times
they talked us into going we realized it gave us the illusion of having a social
life. As always, we were talking about rowing and as usual we were griping about
DI. T2 said, "Hey I was making fun of you yesterday," which surprised me because
as far as I can tell, he's almost never not making fun of someone, and I
couldn't see why this would be special enough to talk

Yesterday, he'd been exchanging emails with another rower, who
was the first one to let me know of a rumor that led to my finding out that DI
still hadn't turned in our regatta forms. (I won't give the other rower a nom
here, because I couldn't possibly come up with anything as cool as his real name.)
The Other Rower (TOR for short) was telling T2 he sort of regretted having gotten
anything started. T2 told him, "Yeah, you've unleashed not only the wrath of DI
but also the wrath of Dichroic. Those are formidable forces."

I mean
really, what woman doesn't want to be thought of a 'formidable force'? It sounds

On a more mundane note, I have a checkup at the
dentist this afternoon. Blahsuck, to quote href="">Natalie. Even us formidable types can't be
forces of nature all the time.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2001

same ol' same ol'

Maybe I should just set up a stock diary entry for all the stuff that seems to be
the same every day:

I rowed this morning. I'm
tired. My crew rocks. Coach DI was AWOL again. And he still hasn't done something
he promised to do. What an idiot.

To be labeled
"Stock Entry 1" and taken 3 times a week or as necessary.

The thing
DI was supposed to do was to register all of the entries in the regatta on
Saturday, but if I'd put that in, then the Stock Entry would only be valid for
this week. As it is, I figure it's applicable almost anytime.

anyway, the man hasn't registered us for the regatta, which is being run by the
other local rowing club. And it is, I repeat, on Saturday. Which is -- hello DI? -
- 4 days away. I think the deadline for registration was about 2 weeks ago.
They'll still let us in, because not doing so would seriously diminish the amount
of competition (there are some people coming in from CA, but most of the crews
there will be us and the other club). However, anyone who has ever organized any
sort of sporting event, especially with quite a few different categories, will
know exactly how inconsiderate this is.

I will say that I've just
finished reading Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds and DI's self-absorption
goes a far way toward making Lizzie Eustace more believable.

promised a while back that I'd stop whining about him, didn't I?

On a happier but still rowing-related note, I am psyched for
the upcoming regatta. Yosemite Sam had us (my four, a men's eight, and a
heavyweight women's four) doing 500m race pieces this morning. By all rights, the
other four should have beat us with open water between the boats. Instead, we beat
them every time. And the men's eight was ahead of us, but not all that far ahead.
I knew our boat felt great together, but I did have a few reservations about how
fast we actually were. I don't have them any more.

Still no progress
on the job front, but I did calculate that my saved money will last a good bit
longer than I'd originally thought. It's worrying, though, to read about other
people getting lots of interviews, or href="">Caerula's husband finding a new job within
a couple of weeks of losing his old one, when I'm not getting any

Oh well, onward. The only thing I can do is apply for more
jobs, work on that book proposal, and research my options.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2001


I don't think I've written much explicitly about the September 11 attack since
that week, and yet in another way, it's been in the background of almost
everything I've written or thought since then. It's colored all of the news,
foreign and domestic, and lurked in the unspoken layer of every conversation.

I wondered, at the time, if it would be like the previous bombing of
the WTC, or Oklahoma City. At the time they occurred there was a lot of talk about
how "this changes everything, and Americans will never feel safe again". We did
feel safe, though. McVeigh's arrest and later his death filled the news reports
and made for a lot of water-cooler conversation, but most American's lives were
not tangibly altered (except, of course, for those whose lives were all too
terribly changed or ended). The WTC bombing did alter some emergency policies in
that area, which may have saved lives this time around, but again, most people's
daily lives didn't change much.

Of course, it's hard to tell while
we're still so close to the initial event, but it looks to me as if this one
actually will have long-reaching consequences. The reserves are called up (and
their mortgage rates lowered, as of an announcement this morning), the Dow has
plummeted, enlistments in the military are up, Bush has at least avoided looking
like a complete idiot, Giuliani has unexpectedly emerged as a real leader, and a
feeling of community has emerged that I hope will have lasting effects. The rest
of the world has shown more sympathy with the US than I can ever remember, Israel
and the Palestinians have both declared a cease-fire (though it is wobbly on both
sides) and even the Japanese have pledged to send troops.

I can't say
the job market has improved any, though.

On a completely different
note, I ran into ExecuRower and DrunkTina at the gym this morning. ExecuRower, at
least, can waste me on an erg....but I am selfishly, shallowly, and thoroughly
glad my thighs don't look like that.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2001

a not particularly manic Monday

The Dow is up, and so is every stock I look at, except my former employer. How
gratifying. Tough not too much so, since all of the stocks I own are still way,
way below where I bought them. If I do decide to go back to school and enter a
completely different career field, it will not be stock broking. (Stock

Practice got called today. My four was already out on the
water (because we are such coordinated and efficient women) when Yosemite Sam came
roaring over and told us to head back in. A ranger had kicked the other women's
four off the lake for not having sufficient lights (it's still fairly dark at 5
AM). Apparently, our lighting was OK, as was the men's eight, but there weren't
enough flashlights to go around. YSam decided if one crew couldn't row, all of us
couldn't row. That seems reasonably fair to me, since it's a bit of a crapshoot
who ends up with which lights anyway. My only quibble is that we do have a race on
Saturday which we ought to be preparing for. However, he made an executive
decision and I think it is a reasonable one.

There are two things about the situation that leave me furious, however.
For one, we each paid $100 for this two-month session -- they just raised the
rates on us. There were at least 20 people out there today. I'd think that
$2000 would be enough to buy a few more fucking flashlights. And second, DI
(who would be the person who should be making sure our lights are correct) wasn't
even there, and as usual, hadn't given YSam or anyone else notice that he wouldn't
be there. It is not a coincidence that DI can stand for DIckhead as well as Drill

Yesterday, after I wrote my morning entry, I did 5 1000-meter pieces on the erg.
That would be similar to 1 5000 meter piece, except that I stopped for a swig of
water after every thousand. I did break my all time 1000m record, so I wasn't just
being a weenie. (I can report, by the way, that the Judas Priest episode of Behind
the Music is ideal for erging. Interesting enough that I didn't need to flip
channels, not so much that I couldn't concentrate on what I was doing, and with
occasional bits of heavy metal for when I needed to pull really

After that, I was a lot less stir crazy and more willing to hang around doing
normal stuff. So Rudder and I went out to eat -- this was around 1PM, and as it
turned out, our first 3 restaurant choices only serve dinner on Sundays. We ended
up at Pei Wei's Asian Diner, which, it turns out, is owned by P.F. Chang's. The
menu is similar, but unlike Chang's, Pei Wei does seem to have meat and vegetables
in the same dish. After that, we spent some quality naked time together (like href="">Genibee but unlike href="">Natalie). Then
Natalie convinced me to install AIM (my ID is dichroicpb, if anyone cares) and we
spent some time chatting about the look for this book review project idea I swiped
from Mistress Sinister. N's done a
lot of work on it lately, so I need to bone up on Greymatter and then do my share.
I am also going to cruise through some of the other local bead shops, and make the
necklace I was "commissioned" to do Saturday night. I think I'll do matching
earrings too, and ask if she wants those also.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2001


Bored. I am boredboredbored. I think I wouldn't have minded having a few quiet
weekends in a row, normally, but at the moment, a "quiet weekend" translates as
one where I have nothing to do but exactly what I've been doing during the week,
except with Rudder's company. Or I would have his company, except that he's spent
some time at work both yesterday and today. He's promised to come home by noon, so
that we can do something, but I can't seem to think of much I want to do. We've
done most of the indoor stuff in town, and it's still too damn hot to go hiking or
riding or climbing outdoors.

I did just check the local listings and
there is a Cider Festival we could go see, or a County Fair in a town far enough
up in the mountains that the temperature might be tolerable, and an exhibit that
might be interesting at the Science Museum. I suppose any one of those might be
ok. Rudder was even desperate enough for ideas to suggest hanging out in a mall,
which he likes a lot less than I do, but it's no fun when you're trying not to
spend money. Half the fun of window shopping, I think, is to know you could buy
something if you absolutely fell in love with it.

This is one of the
reasons I'd like to move somewhere else. I sort of feel like I've drained the
juice from Phoenix and it's time for a new place. Plus, of course, there's the

Just to keep this entry from being entirely negative, I do have
one bit of good news. I wore the beaded necklace I made to a party last night, and
someone asked me to make her one just like it. I told her I would, and just charge
a few dollars more than the materials cost me. I don't think it would be possible
to make a living doing this, but it might be a way to fund a hobby. I've decided
that I will never make two pieces of jewelry exactly alike (not counting pairs of
earrings) but hers will be similar to mine.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2001

not camping

We were planning to go camping this weekend, up to the property to mark holes. In
case I didn't tell this story before, we dug about 10 holes -- hard work because
the soil is clay with rocks in it -- to plant pine trees. We were told it would be
best to plant in around February, since we're not up there much, so that the
spring rains (that we always hope for but don't always get) will keep the
seedlings alive. Rudder's theory was that we should dig this summer, so that we're
not trying to dig holes in frozen ground under snow. Then we filled the holes back
in with pine duff and cones, in case the very strict Homeowner's Association
doesn't approve of holes. Or at least so if anyone steps in them, they're less
likely to break a leg. We were thinking it might be a good idea to mark the holes,
in case they're under snow and impossible to see in February when we're ready to
plant trees, so I bought some long dowels for the purpose.

I should
state, at this point, that all of the above was Rudder's idea.

not good at dates though, and it turned out that this was the week someone he
works with was having a party that (I think) he really wants to go to, so we
stayed home after all. Next week is a local regatta, the week after that we have
company, the week after that may be Egret's bachelorette party, then we're
traveling to regattas four weekend in a row. By that point it will be time to get
ready for Thanksgiving. It's that time of year again.

The ironic
thing is that when we were planning to go camping, I was regretting that I
wouldn't be able to sleep in (impossible when you're in a sleeping bag on the
ground, for me at least). As soon as I found out we weren't going, I realized how
badly I'd wanted to get up in the pines, breathing cool and clean air. Never
satisfied, that's me.

Clueless is also me. I watched the telethon
last night and have no idea who about half the performers are. All the diva types,
especially, blended together -- who was the one who played piano? Was that
Springsteen in the beginning? Who was the guy later on that sounded sort of like
him, who had Neil Young playing back-up for him? And who was that who did
the nice cover of "Wish You Were Here" with the revamped lyrics? Took me back to
college parties, that one did.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

sharing a boat with the She-Hulk; also, looking for suggestions

Practice this morning left me happy with my boat, but pissed off at Coach DI. (I
know, I know, what else is new?) I keep thinking of something Andy Rooney once
said: that when he broke his collarbone, he knew something about it that the
doctor who treated him, no matter how good, will never know until he breaks his
own collarbone. That analogy applies especially well to a boat like ours, where
we've begun to come together as a team. We're starting to know what each of our
quirks are, and what works well for us as a team -- which isn't always what DI
thinks will work for us.

Also, as Pigtails pointed out, his inconsistency makes him difficult to deal with.
One minute he's joking with us, the next he's telling us to stop talking because
our chatter is becoming unbearable for him and thus must be annoying others in our
crew. The way she put it was, "It's like having an alcoholic

I need to give K. a nom here. She's the token non-lightweight in our four. She's
four inches taller than Egret, the next tallest woman in the boat (which makes her
7 inches taller than me), and a good twenty pounds heavier than the rest of us, so
I'm leaning toward She-Hulk. That's not meant as an insult; if you've ever seen a
comic featuring Marvel's She-Hulk character, you know that she's a total babe
(though green). We love having K in the boat; she pulls hard, has a great
attitude, and doesn't throw off our set. The clearest indication of how hard she
works is that she is the only one of the larger women whose body has
changed significantly since she started rowing. Her rowing style has improved
immensely over the past year or so, too.

Back off the water, I am worried about the job thing, or rather the lack thereof.
Though I have financial reserves to last through March, I need to start making
plans now. If I don't have something within the next month or two, I think it may
finally be time to go back to school and learn to do something new. The most
obvious choices are to get an MIS or MBA, which would make it easier for me to
stay in software, but convince someone to give me a management job. On the other
hand, it's not like there aren't tons of both out there already. Another idea
would be to go restart that Linguistics MA I bailed out on when I took my last
job, and maybe go for the PhD. I would enjoy the period of schooling immensely, in
that case, but I don't know what I'd do afterward. It's the ideal solution if my
goal is to learn, but the worst one if the goal is to get a job. I'd like to
balance those two, really.

Two more far-out options are to go to school for either architecture or law.
They're interesting fields, though my primary interests aren't in the more
lucrative end of either (as an architect, I'd want to design houses, not big
public buildings; as a lawyer, I'd probably want to study constitutional law). But
that's ok. My engineering background would be a plus for architecture, and maybe
for law, if I decided to become a patent lawyer instead. I'm not sure whether they
all have to live in DC, though.

If anybody has other brilliant ideas,
I'm open for suggestions. I've got some writing projects going, too, but I'm not
naive enough to think of living on those.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2001

training but not working

Today I used a bunch of different machines in the gym, just because I've been
getting very very bored. Also, I keep thinking I need to do more for my abs and
back, because they're the foundation for almost every move the body makes. I
think. I was good though, and hardly dropped any of the stuff I've been doing. I
didn't do the high row, but since I did do lat pulldowns, bench pulls, and low
row, I don't think the muscles affected are missing out on much. I did skip the
last set of my biceps curls and upright rows, though. But I added triceps dips, as
well as several abs/back machines. I get bored easily, but fortunately, it takes
only trivial changes to make me un-bored.

Rudder came over on his way
out of the gym and asked me what erg piece I was going to do today (in addition to
my usual 1000-meter warm-up). I told him I might not do one, but if I did it would
be short, a hard 1 or 2K. He said, "But I thought you're doing longer pieces now
to train for the head races?" Well, I am, but not every stinkin' day. Some days
are supposed to be long and low, some hard and fast. Not only do I think that's a
better way to train, but there's that boredom factor again. I mean, it's like sex;
one way might be good, but you don't want to do the same thing every time. (Maybe
I should have used that analogy on Rudder.)

I almost skipped the gym
entirely this morning, because staying in bed was an extremely attractive option.
And we'll be camping again this weekend, so I won't be able to sleep in then. This
is the bad side of rowing with a steady crew; I can't slack off on my exercise,
because I have a responsibility to the other women in my boat. I may not be the
strongest or have the most endurance of us, but no way am I going to be the
reason we lose a race!

Rudder was actually fairly annoying, when he
was telling me what he thinks I should do. I've already had to tell him not to ask
me every single day if there's any news on the job front, because answering no day
after day gets depressing, and it feels to me like he's accusing me of not working
hard enough on getting a new job. This is, I'm sure, completely a figment of my
own imagination and guilt, rather than any intention on his part; he was actually
just trying to show concern. He does have an annoying tendency to tell me how I
should run my life (the same way he runs his, of course) but it's hard to tell
where the line is between him being preachy and me being

It hasn't escaped me that I may be overreacting to him
due to my feelings over still being at home. I do feel a little guilty about still
being out of work. Most of it is the economy, not me, and I do try to send out job
applications or scout available positions every single day. But it still feels
like I should have been able to find something by now. It's been over a month and
a half, and intellectually I know that's not much time. But guilt has no

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2001

L'Shanah Tovah

Mom sent us a card for Rosh Hashanah that I really liked. It was constructed along
the lines of the old song that begins, "M is for the Million things she gave me, O
means only that she's growing Old", and goes on to spell M-O-T-H-E-R. Only this
one had much better wishes for a new year, put together to spell out L'Shanah
Tovah, the tradition wish for a good year. (That's the literal translation: "To a
good year".) The reason I liked it so much was that if all her wishes came true, I
would have an absolutely kick-ass year.

Like this:





New dreams








Sounds like a good recipe to me. Go, Mom.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Have a phenomenal New Year

Practice wasn't quite as good this morning -- we have to learn to keep our boat as
set in rippled water as we can when it's mirror smooth. But something Pigtails
said when she was coxing got me thinking. With apologies to Maya Angelou:

Taller women wonder where our secret lies

We're small and cute, not built to suit a standard rower's size.

But when we start to tell them,

they think we're telling lies.

We say, It's in the speed of our hands,

The control of our slide,

The force of our stroke,

The run of our glide.

We're women


Phenomenal woman rowers,

That's we.

Last night, I roasted a turkey breast, which turned out to be even easier
than roasting a whole turkey. There's almost no cleaning involved. I brushed the
skin with oil, sprinkled it with pepper, rosemary and bay leaves, and tucked a
couple of fresh basil leaves under the skin. At the last moment I decided to make
kasha and bowties to go with it, but was out of bowtie noodles, so I made kasha
and rotelle instead.

Note to self: flavored pasta does not enhance kasha.

As festive dinners go, it would have been better if Rudder hadn't gotten home from
work a little late. It's partly my fault for not telling him I would be cooking a
nice dinner, but he did know it was Rosh Hashanah. He's not Jewish, but he knows
enough to figure out that Pigtails and her husband invited us to Erev Rosh
Hashanah dinner on Monday, then Rosh Hashanah must be on Tuesday.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2001

a seedling

According to NPR a little while ago, Israel and the Palestinians have each
declared a ceasefire. Yasser Arafat has told his people not to fire even if fired
upon. I am disappointed to say that Sharon did not match him.

again, Sharon's soldiers, at least, will probably obey their orders. Whether the
Palestinians listen to Arafat is another matter; Hammas has already said they will
not. Still, this is a seedling of peace, barely unfurling its seed-leaves in
ground that has been harrowed over many times and been irrigated with

Maybe the matching ceasefires won't stand through tomorrow.
But for today, I'll take what I can get.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

you don't have to say it again

One effect last week's attacks have had on me is to make me very easily fed up
with repeated words and phrases. Here are some I'm ready to stop hearing now,

  • "horrific"

  • "enormity" (especially when used to mean
  • "I'm not going to (fill in the blank with some normal reaction to being scared and
    sad) because that's exactly what they want." I keep wondering, if we have so many
    people with a telepathic link to bin Laden, why can't we even figure out exactly
    where he's hiding?

  • "I feel like I have to (fill in the blank with something you really want to
    do). It's important, at a time like this, to take care of yourself." This one has
    some truth to it. I worry when I hear about rescue workers not stopping to sleep.
    If they don't stop to recharge, how will they be able to keep going? It's always
    important to appreciate the little joys of life, too, and it's appropriate to
    remind ourselves of that in times of sorrow. But when I hear people who -- like me
    -- have no personal ties to the tragedies using them as a reason why it's one's
    duty to avoid any possible stressful situation, I tend to think it's just an

My reactions to stock phrases and repetitions have become so strong that I've even
had trouble responding to a series of messages yesterday from the women in my
boat, because they were so upbeat and pious -- and in this case, they were being
upbeat because it's a great boat to row in, and were dedicated to the greater god
of the boat because we've really become a true team.

I'm just a
crotchety individualist at heart, I guess.

Posted by dichroic at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2001

stocks and strips

I hope the stock market bounces back today. I don't quite understand the sell-off;
it sounds to me like, "Ohmigawd, price are going down! Sell!" which isn't exactly
the way to make money, as I understand these things. I suppose it's possible
everyone selling was holding short, so they can make money off a down market, but
it seems unlikely that that accounts for all of it. Maybe I'm naive, but I
honestly believed Warren Buffet when he said he sees this as a buying opportunity.

Of course, every stock I buy promptly tanks, so what do I

Coach DI finally videotaped my boat in practice today.
He taped the other boats last week and they viewed their tapes at the beginning of
today's practice. I'm sure it would never have happened if I hadn't organized the
taping, and when I say "organized" I mean said, "Hey, K, could we take you up on
your offer to use your videocamera?" DI's organizational skills are so bad that
everyone was shocked that he remembered to bring candles to Friday's vigil. We
looked all right on tape though. There are still lots of things we can correct, of
course and as always, but generally seeing yourself row is a disillusioning
experience, and it really wasn't this time. We looked solid and together, and as
DI told us, all the things we need to correct are minor.

My carpal
tunnel is feeling like it's too small for its contents, though, so I probably need
to be careful about my wrist position. This only seems to happen when I row
starboard, never on port, so it definitely derives from rowing, and not typing or
other activities.

I'm sorry to see that Lynn Johnston, the author of the
comic strip For Better or For Worse has chosen
to include a general letter of sorrow in place of the usual monthly ones from each
of the Patterson family on her website.

Cartoonists have to be
breaking their hearts right now because since they work 6 weeks in advance, all of
their characters are continuing on their preplotted paths with no reference to
last Tuesday's attack. This isn't much of a problem for some strips -- the Wizard
of Id doesn't know from New York City. And I'd just as soon not see some other
strips' take on it -- it's been a long time since Johnny Hart, the author of BC,
wrote anything I agreed with. But For Better or For Worse has always dealt with
difficult issues with courage and humor.

Michael and Deanna's
wedding in FBOFW has been one of the brighter spots in my past week. Michael, a
young writer, is the character Lynn often uses to think about moral issues and it
would have been fascinating to see his musings on the concurrence of his wedding
and the worst terrorist attack on the continent.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2001

reading Roger Williams

I'm reading href="
3104662-8743048">I, Roger Williams
, by Mary Lee Settle, because I don't
want to plunge entirely into escapism (though I'm also reading The Little
Colonel's Holidays
online) and so I decided it would be appropriate to read
something about the taproot of my country.

According to Settle,
whose interview on NPR I caught one morning(the href=">Diane Rehm show, I think) some of Roger
Williams' writings are at the base of some of the ideas in our Declaration of
Independence and Constitution. He was the one who insured that at least one
colony, Rhode Island, truly had freedom of religion, instead of being like the
others, ruled over by those who had come to escape persecution for their beliefs,
only to turn and persecute other in their turn. Perhaps this book is more
relevant than I had thought.

Settle has obviously spent years
immersed in Williams' letters. The voice in her book is that of a dreaming old man
returning to live over his past, making sense of it and seeing the connections he
missed while living it as it happened. She says in her afterword that she
deliberately uses the voice of his letters, because his formal writings are
convoluted and polished, according to the custom of the time, while the letters,
written in haste while a courier waited, show his thoughts more vividly.

It's not an easy read, echoing an idiom three centuries dead, but of
course the pacing was set by a modern author and it cannot be as alien as a true
diary of the time would be. It is an absorbing read, though, and a bit comforting,
since it speaks of an old man who has outlived his own cataclysms and upheavals
and arrived at peace.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2001

war and tchotchkes

Usually, I can't write an entry here on any subject without mentioning rowing at
the start of it.* I foresee that for the near future, I will not be able to write an entry without mentioning the attack on New York and Washington, and its consequences, instead. This morning, thanks to the links Mechaieh posted, I have signed a pledge against hatred and read the letter Miss Throckmorton posted. On Monday, I will call my Afghani friend Shahin, to make sure she's ok.

Though I can't resist writing about the wonderful rowing practice we had yesterday, or resist mentioning the fact that Yosemite Sam complained to Rudder afterward that my form was perfect -- he couldn't find
anything to complain about.

Last night, I joined other rowers in a candlelight vigil at the lake, which proved to be a wonderful place to have one. People were holding candles in boats just offshore and standing them up in the sand. I think it meant a lot to the juniors, particularly. Some were crying. Most were hugging. One girl said that she had been first shocked, then angry, and that this was her first chance to feel sad. A boy told me that 5 people had been suspended from his school so far for "talking about this the wrong way". This was a chance for them to stand with people who had thought more about the moral consequences of the attack and of our response, I think.

Coach DI brought several sheets of the words to Amazing Grace and a valiant attempt was made to sing that, which would have worked better had more people been willing to sing loud enough to be heard, so that everyone could be on the same line at the same time.

Then some of the juniors wanted us to all hold hands and say a prayer, so we did that. The first guy to speak mumbles ecstatically and at
length, assuring God over and over how much we all loved him (though he did manage to only mention Jesus once or twice). He also thanked God for giving us a president who really cares about our country. I'm sure He has done that, at least at some point, but wouldn't care to speculate *which* of our Presidents that was. I bit my tongue very hard at that point. The others to speak were more restrained but still homogenous enough that I couldn't resist speaking up myself at the end, and offered a pointed prayer that we all learn to come together and appreciate each other's differences and that our leaders act with wisdom, compassion, and restraint. Hey, at least I didn't start out, "Baruch ata Adonai...."

Afterwards I went out for good cheap Vietnamese food with Hardcore, her family, and several of the junior girls -- she's sort of a den mother for the juniors. She's got four kids -- one in college, the rowing one in high school and two little ones -- and I have a feeling all the neighborhood kids have always hung out at her house and complained to her about problems with their own parents. It was a liberating feeling to be out eating at eight o'clock on a Friday night on Mill Avenue, which was full of lights and people. Afterward, I chatted with several people from my list until nearly 11. It felt great to be keeping normal hours for a change, even if I slept in past eight this morning and woke up sore.

I have done very little reading this week, but have spent a lot of time with
needle and beads, since that could be done while watching the news on TV. Here are the results:

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2001

light one candle?

Apparently there is a movement afoot to organize a nationwide candlelight vigil
tonight at 7 PM. The email I got about it claims this will "show the world that
Americans are strong and united", which left me a little confused. United, yes,
but I don't quite see how lighting candles shows strength. The rest of the world
is certainly watching to see our official response to the tragedy, and I hope they
are also seeing Americans working together toward a common goal, but if the
candle-lighting shows them anything, it will only be that we are not quite bright
enough to coordinate across time zones.

That said, I do think the vigil is a good idea, but how it shows us to ourselves
rather than how it displays us to the rest of the world. If it gives us a sense of
unity, or being part of a greater whole, that will strengthen us for whatever
comes next, and for dealing with the grief of what has already happened. And I'm
sure someone will choreograph a display a Jews and Moslems, Christians and
Buddhists and Hindus all standing together in reverence that will end up being
televised -- and maybe that will show the world something about us.

A candle -- flame -- is a talisman of spirit and memory. Like the Ner Tamid, the
eternal light that is always kept burning in every synagogue, the flame will stand
for remembrance and reverence. A whole nation burning candles is a powerful symbol
of mingled hope and grief and unity. We do need that.

Peter Yarrow's Chanukah song says it better than I can:

Light one candle for the strength that we need

to never became our own foe.

Light one candle for those who are suffering

pain we lived so long ago.

Light one candle for all we believe in

that anger won't tear us apart.

And light one candle to bring us together

with peace as the song in our hearts.

What is the memory that's valued so highly

that we keep it alive in that flame?

What's the commitment for those who have died,

when we cry out they have not died in vain?

We have come this far always believing that

justice would somehow prevail.

This is the burden, this is the promise,

This is why we will not fail.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2001

trust and betrayal

It's a cruel irony, that the href="">Ampersand topic for this month is
"The End of the World". My visceral response is that I have been writing of
nothing else for two days now. But that is not really the case, is it, though
Tuesday's events may
possibly have changed our world

My first reaction, when I read
the topic, days before smoke filled the sky of New York and Washington, was to
remember a quotation from Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising

If you have once betrayed a great trust,
you dare not let yourself be trusted again, because the second betrayal would be
the end of the world.

I disagree.

quote is true to the character who speaks it, I think, which may perhaps be why I
have never warmed to her, in her many literary incarnations. To my mind, it is the
speech of a coward, one who, once compromised, will never try again, will never
surmount her failures. Perseverance can be foolish; trying again and again in the
face of literally impossible odds is usually less of a noble undertaking than a
waste of time. But never trying again after a single defeat, never attempting to
correct a single sin, is wasting a whole life.

All of us have
betrayed a trust at one time or another -- for one thing, if we hadn't, blood
supplies would not have been so low on Tuesday, before the long lines began
forming outside donation centers. But whatever the sin may be, an there are more
grievous national sins than this, the past is irremediable. The only right thing
to do is go on, and to vow to do better next time.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Plus ca change...

It may turn out that only 3000 are dead instead of 20000. People reporting this
generally hasten to add, "Not that that makes it any better." Well, it doesn't, if
you're one of the 3000, or if you loved one of the 3000. But yes, it does make it
a bit better for 17000 people who were potentially casualties, and who may turn
out not to be. If there are 17000 people who escaped, then there may be five times
that number who are feeling some of the most profound relief and joy of their
lives right now.

What won't change, of course, are the feelings of
the rest of us who are a bit further removed, and our national response to the
attacks. And I wonder what that will be. Has anyone noticed how many of the
speeches, the ones that say "Things will never be the same. Americans can't feel
safe anymore. We're not removed from the rest of the world," seem to have an odd
echo? We heard the same speeches, from newscasters and regular people, eight years
ago when the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. They said then, "This changes
everything," but in the end, it changed nothing. (Except of course, for the people
who were directly affected that time. I don't want to minimize what happened to
any of them.)

Oklahoma City did have a more profound effect on our
national psyche, but I don't know that it even changed much -- I'm sure Federal
buildings instituted some new security policies, and became a bit more skittish
about threats, but what else changed? I'd like to think that interest in the more
freaky lunatic fringe militias decreased, but that's not what the reports from the
Southern Poverty Law Center, who tracks these things, seem to

In the short term, many people will be much more afraid of
flying, and of traveling in general. In the long term, airport security will be
heightened, if not permanently, then for a very long time. But will anything else
change? Or will we send out a few raids on the perpetrators, then gradually

Unless, of course, we go to war, in which case everything
will change.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2001


Rowing practice was a mess today, for various reasons.

But I donŐt want to
write about it. After yesterday, complaining about rowing seems petty. I have no
problems with talking abut petty things, to keep life going on, or in taking joy
in tiny things, but complaining about minor irritations seems unworthy of the

From the TV and radio newscasters, and also from the people I
talk to, I keep hearing the same words and phrases, neatly packaged nuggets of
shock, grief, or determination. "Horrific." "Enormity." "The grim scene." "America
under attack." "We never believed it would happen here." "The worst attack since
Pearl Harbor." And over, and over, "We will get through this," as though we
had an alternative.

We do have choices, though. We can get through
this and become paranoid xenophobes who hate and blame or we can hang on to our
beliefs, applying the cornerstone of our ideals, "innocent until proven guilty",
even to those we suspect of the worst. And that, I hope, is what all those people
are saying when they vow to "get through this".

It may be that we're
all repeating the same phrases because we're a nation of sheep, but I don't think
that's it. The newscasters repeat themselves because they have to say something --
that's what they're paid to do -- and there's nothing else to say. The rest of us
have seized on those phrases because we have no words to encompass our shock and
so we repeat the words that resound though our airwaves, knowing others will
understand because they share the same grief and shock.

reason we repeat packaged phrases is because the deaths of thousands is too much
for us to grasp. God forgive us, we can shut it off when they're far away -- when
even more thousands die of earthquake in India or famine and disease in the
refugee camps of Somalia. But this is here and we can't ignore it and none of our
usual coping mechanisms will work. So we use the set phrases to package our grief,
to break it up into small enough chunks that we can begin to process

One thing I like about Jewish tradition that I think America as a
whole should adopt is that we remember our watershed events and we remind
ourselves of their lessons, over and over. At Passover, we don't just celebrate
our freedom from slavery. We remind ourselves that others are still salves, just
as we were. We remind ourselves that before we were enslaved, we were well-treated
in Egypt for hundreds of years -- we were "strangers in a strange land", and were
helped by our neighbors, and therefore we are required to do the same for
strangers in our land. Paying it forward is a Jewish concept, though not by that

And there are many lessons that were taught to Americans
yesterday, but here is one. This is what it feels like when thousands of us die.
The grief and the need to help overwhelm us. Next time it happens somewhere else
in the world -- when there is an earthquake or a typhoon or a war or an epidemic -
- we need to remember what this feels like and not choke off our grief, and our
urges to help only because it's happened to someone else.

Posted by dichroic at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2001

still in shock

The last entry was getting long, so I started a new one, and will continue to keep

I keep wondering if the place crash near Pittsburgh might
have been due to a pilot who decided that, since he (or she) and the passengers on
a hijacked plane were doomed anyway, it was better to crash than to kill still
more people by acceding to a hijacker's demands. I wonder. If so, what a hero.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2001

rowing as it should be

We appear to have finally gotten the rowing coaches to think of our lightweight
women's four as a team now, the way they do with Rudder and T2, because they've
put us in the boat together now every day for two weeks. Ahhhhhh....rowing as it's
meant to be, with a crew that fits together and works together, a whole boatful of
people paying attention and fixing whatever needs fixing. Again: ahhh.....

Today we had another woman, K, coxing us for the first half of
practice and rowing for the second half. Both halves went very well and we felt
stronger with her in the boat than with some of the others who have sat in with
us. She's not a lightweight, but not huge either (twenty pounds more than us
little people, that is, but not forty pounds more like a lot of the bigger women).
Our local race at the end of this month doesn't have a lightweight four category
anyhow, and Egret will be out of town for the race, so we've asked K to join us
for that. I need to come up with a better nom for her.

On Saturday, I
showed up to watch a volleyball tournament the rowing group was having. Since it
was held at 2PM, on an early September day in Phoenix, I decided that actually
playing would be unpleasant. Anyhow, I have this problem with volleyball: I don't
mind playing for a little while, but no one ever lets you stop. It's always, "You
can't go now! Just one more game! One more match! Best of three!" It's not that
I'm especially good at it, but many leagues or tournaments have rules about the
minimum number of women on a team. It was not infernally hot, though, and no one
got heat stroke. In fact, it was quite pleasant sitting in the shade with Egret,
Yosemite Sam, and his wife and son. I'd brought a bit of needlepoint, as well as
my usual book, and got teased for being such a domestic picture. But hey, I'm
unemployed. I need these little projects to gain a feeling of

Not much else new, except that I'm resolved to be a
bit more productive this week. I hope to finish the proposal for my book project
by the end of the week (or mostly, anyhow) and to check out the newspaper want ads
earlier in the week than I have been (though I do check online job ads daily).
Also I need to get my truck's tires rotated and oil changed. Sounds like an
exciting week, huh?

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2001

an exercise

I've been reading a book on writing, The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman.
I don't generally write fiction, which is what he's concentrated on, but he has
had some useful things to say about presentation, writing style, and so on.

In the middle of his chapter on dialog, I realized I have absolutely no idea how
to do that, no idea whatsoever on how to tell a story and makes the characters
real. (Maybe that's why I don't write fiction, eh?) So just as a writing exercise,
here is my day so far, in fictionalized format.

Dichroic and Rudder were having a hard time fighting off the Bed Magnet, on
a sleepy Sunday morning when they had no real plans to pull them out of bed and
into their day. He rolled over, put an arm around her, and muttered, "So are we
going to get up and take turns rowing the single?"

She opened one eye, decided the effort was too great, closed it again. "I
can't get excited about sitting on the beach, waiting an hour while you row, and
then getting into a boat I've been rowing a lot lately anyway."

"I know what you mean," he said. "Anyway, if I'll be racing in the double
with Ringer, I don't really need to row the single. But what else can we do

She enumerated possibilities, "We could go to the Art Museum. We could go
hike up Four Peaks -- it should be cool enough there. We could do the sprinkler
system. We could just stay in bed all day and not do anything."

He nuzzled closer into her neck. "And have lots of sex?" he asked


They stayed entwined and horizontal for a few more minutes, enjoying the
chance to do nothing for awhile. Eventually, he swung up to a sitting position and
said, in a wheedling tone, "We have all day for that, but we should probably put
in the sprinkler system before it gets too hot. Want to learn to glue pipes

"Not really," she answered. "But I guess I will." She followed him out of
bed, brushed her teeth, pulled on some clothes loose enough to be cool in the
desert heat she expected, and found him out on the back porch.

"Hey...this is nice!" she exclaimed, surprised at the temperature of the
September breeze on her face. "It's almost cool out!"

"Yup," he answered. "Nice. Can you come over here and dig out the pipe
coming from over there? The small hand shovel should work well for that."

The morning rapidly grew to seem less cool as she worked until finally she
reached two pipes buried eight inches down, complaining at the sandy soil that
slid back in the hole almost as fast as she dug it out.

"That's deep enough," he said. "Just widen it a bit and see if you can pull
out that black pipe -- it's pretty flexible."

She did as directed, then looked over to see that he'd finished half of the
ten-foot trench they needed to lay the pipe for the sprinklers.

He transferred the shovel from one gloved hand to the other and used a
forearm to wipe sweat from his forehead. "Come over here and I'll show you how to
glue joints in the piping. You'll be amazed at how fast this goes. See, we need to
go from this faucet down, then along the ground to the trench and over to the new
controller. Don't worry, though -- it's not rocket science."

That last was a standing joke between them, as they had both formerly worked
on NASA projects. She absorbed his directions, nodded, then began work. As she
expected, the project did not go "amazingly fast". It went smoothly, though, and
they were done in an hour or so, with only one or two tiny leaks that they left to
fix another day, as the late-summer heat was starting to build in the desert

They cleaned up their tools, and went inside companionably, deciding to skip
breakfast and go straight to tuna sandwiches for lunch. She made the sandwiches,
turning at the sound of frantic miauling to give a bit of tuna to the cats, who
had, as usual, magically appeared as soon as she opened the cans of fish.

After lunch, she went over to the computer and began work on her daily
journal entry.

Hmm. That was a little easier than I expected. Now if only fiction didn't also
require all those hard things like plot and characterization....

PS. I still don't believe in this stuff, but this one is very near: a description
based on my name. The only thing they
got wrong is that I am quite happy to let others do their own work -- even if I
have to do some fixing afterwards. I want stuff to be done right, but I'd rather
let other people do as much of it as possible.

As Paula you seek change, travel, new opportunities, and new challenges. Your
active, restless nature demands action and you dislike system and monotony. As you
are versatile and capable, you could do any job well, although you would not like
to do menial tasks. Having considerable vision, you could be adept at formulating
new, more effective ways of doing things. You could organize the work of others,
though in your impatience to see the job done efficiently, you would likely step
right in and do it yourself. You could work well in sales and promotion, and would
not be afraid to risk a gamble as the name gives you much self-confidence. You do
not find contentment in the routine tasks and responsibilities that are associated
with home and family or with administrative detail in the business world, so you
have to guard against frustration and even moods of depression over your personal
responsibilities. The restlessness this name creates could find an outlet in
caustic, irritable expression. Also, the intensity of your nature could result in
tension in the solar plexus causing stomach trouble and, because you take your
responsibilities seriously you could experience much worry.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2001

don't read this book

I spent half an hour this morning reading a book on how to get jobs. That's half
an hour on the WHOLE book; the author was a man of few words and much

I wasn't sure I'd actually finish the book; the fact that
the author used words like "dollarize" got on my nerves early on. The presence of
the phrase, "that matters not a wit(sic)," had me questioning his editor's
competence as well. Thank fortune it was a library book, and so none of my dollars
were spent to support the author's conviction that he could write

He did have some good points though, and I will reiterate
them here, out of the goodness of my heart, to save anyone else having to read
this thing.

  • Treat job-hunting as sales, because
    you're selling yourself.
  • Use the word "you", not "i", in letters
    and interviews.
  • Use the basic sales technique: find out what your
    customer's problems are and solve them.

I list these
here to remind myself; I can see how I haven't done each of these when I should
have in recent job-hunting efforts.

The book is Don't Send Your
, by the way; I'm reluctant to mention it because I don't want to give
them the Google hits, but there's no point in summarizing if I don't name the

I also need to keep reminding myself that this is not what I
want to do for the rest of my life (either the jobhunting or most of the resulting
jobs) and so I need to work on my book project and on finding other avenues toward
a Proper Job.

I also need to kick back and enjoy a lazy weekend, but
no self-reminders are needed for that.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2001

women athletes, autism, and women athletes

It is FINALLY getting cooler in the mornings. Callooooo! Callaaaayy! I gloat. Hear me!

Yes, I am fully capable of mixing Alice and Tom Brown when happy. Not only was the weather pleasant (Callooooooo!) but we did a lightweight Womens' four again, which was also very pleasant. We are a kick-ass four and I am really looking forward to racing with this group -- in fact, one thing on my list for today is to see if there are any fall regattas not too far away that have a lightweight category.

None of us but Pigtails actually got much constructive coaching today, but they did give us a lot of compliments. Not helpful, but at least pleasant.

For some odd reason, the keys on the left side of this keyboard are louder than those on the right. I've probably gotten crumbs in it -- I have an unfortunate habit of mixing food and keyboards a little more closely than is optimal for the latter.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a former co-worker from Boeing and her husband. They both quit work awhile back in order to have more time to work with their autistic son and it sounds like their methods have worked extremely well with him. They hope to get a grant to work to teach their methods in a local school for autistic kids. I don't know much about autism, so it was fascinating to hear them.

Apparently, the cornerstone of their method is to realize that as far as these kids are concerned, everything is fine. They may have retreated far inside their own heads, but they're happy in there. So instead of forcing them to cone out in order to make other people happy, they start with a basic respect for the kid and work from there. Their own son is now social and verbal, reading and speaking and making eye contact. Perhaps the fact that the mother herself has a problem with her legs that forces her to use crutches or a wheelchair has helped them realize that a disability can be a fact and a hindrance without being a tragedy. I don't know, but I am impressed.

I'm not an expert on this stuff, not having kids, but a lot of what they were saying sounded to me like an amplified and targeted version of general good parenting techniques. I suggested that after they finish their book on dealing with autistic kids, they write one aimed at all parents, adapting the lessons they've learned to dealing with all kids.

They get to practice dealing with other kids anyway, since
they also have an 11-year-old daughter who is not autistic -- I gather one of
their challenges is to make sure she gets enough attention, that all their time
isn't spent on her younger, cuter, and needier brother. Right now, their biggest
concern with her is that she's not even a teenager, and is very skinny, and is
thinking she's too fat and trying not to eat. Arrrgh.

I recommended the book "Generations", in hope that hearing three generations of women talking about their lives might give her interesting perspective. I should also have recommended "Game Face" which I've just finished. It's a collection of words and pictures of women athletes throughout the century, or all ages, shapes and fitness levels, from a little girl playing with a ball to Flo Jo to Ernestine
to a swim team of older women from over in Sun City. Great book. And great role models.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2001

Library origins

Another use for online journals: put all your questions in and hope some reader
knows the answer. Of particular use for those too lazy to do proper

Who is the benefactor to humanity who invented public
lending libraries? Benjamin Franklin usually gets credited, but (much as it pains
me, a Philadelphian and Penn alum) to admit it, I don't think he deserves all the

The great library of Alexandria was reputed to have a copy of
every book then in existence, but I am sure it wasn't open to the public (most of
whom couldn't read anyway). Monasteries and colleges have had for libraries as
long as those institutions have existed, but those, again, were only open to their

The British Library dates back to 1753, but in its early
days was simply the library of the British Museum. Its great Reading Room was not
opened until 1857, and anyhow, as far as I know, it was not a lending library, at
least not to the general public. Holders of a library card could read there, but
not necessarily take books out (someone let me know if I'm wrong

The Library Company Franklin invented was a group of not-too-
well-off, studious young men (geeks, in other words) who decided to pool their
books so that they could all have access to each other's books, forming a much
larger library than any of them could afford on his own. This was a true lending
library, whose books could be withdrawn for a set period of time by any member.

What I want to know is, how did libraries grow from Franklin's
private Company into facilities open to any resident of the town? Who is the
genius who deserves all the lilies for the idea? Andrew Carnegie's money enabled
many a small town to have a library, so he had a lot to do with making libraries
universal, but I don't think it was a new idea by then.

Whoever it
was, we should name a new holiday for him or her, and all take time off from work
to read on that day.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

out of the Chuck

I think boredom has finally hit. I'm getting tired of staying home -- someone
please offer me a great job. Unfortunately, this still hasn't driven me to be much
more diligent about all the things I really should be doing, from writing to

We had some bad news yesterday: Rudder and his
doubles partner T2 Hatfield did not get into the Head of the Charles regatta. It's
a random draw rather than a qualification, so this is just pure bad luck. We had
thought they would definitely be in, since the HOTC rules state that "no event
shall be made to fall below 60 entries", and they don't get quite that many people
wanting to enter in the Men's Championship Doubles, but apparently those 60
entries include both men's and women's events.

They have been
training so hard, and rowing so well -- on Friday, they beat two eight-person
boats in a 5 mile race -- that this is a strong blow. In the course of several
beers last night, I learned something that makes it even sadder. Apparently T2 had
ordered their racing jerseys specially; he rows bow, so is more visible, and on
the back of his shirt, he'd had printed, "Egret, will you marry me?" It turns out
that Rudder has known this for a month and not told me, the swine.

After finding they were out of the race, T2 apparently couldn't wait
any longer and told Egret about the shirt. They've lived together for several
months now, so I don't think it was a great surprise to her, or that her answer
was in doubt, but still, what a great way to propose, and what a shame not to be
able to carry it out.

They ordered Rudder a matching shirt with no
words on it. We were joking that it should have said, "Egret, marry
him....please!" T2's butt has a tendency to fall asleep after long rows, making
his legs numb. Egret has to stay around, because certainly nobody else wants to
massage it for him!

I was proud of the boys, though. I thought last
night's beers would have been intended to drown their sorrows, but instead, each
of them showed with a schedule of upcoming races, and they immediately began
making alternate plans. The most insane possibility is that they would row that
Head of the Colorado (aka the Pumpkinhead), in Austin, on October 27, then do two
back-to-back races in San Diego on the next weekend, then one in L.A. the weekend
after that. After that, presumably, they would collapse into exhaustion and spend
the rest of the year trying to recuperate.

I will miss seeing href="">Mechaieh in Boston, too, just to make my
disappointment more severe. She has been kind enough to suggest that we try again
next year though, and hope to have better luck talking D and href="">Natalie into joining us there. (D?

Much as I was looking forward to Boston, though, I can't
complain, if Rudder and T2 aren't. With luck, we'll end up doing the PumpkinHead,
which will not only let us spend Halloween on 6th Street in Austin, but would let
us see Rudder's brother and lots of our old friends from Houston. Egret and I may
race, too, which we hadn't planned on doing in Boston. That would be

Sigh. Replan. Life's like that.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2001

on a food binge

I got to row in a lightweight women's four this morning, with a coxswain who only
outweighed each of the rowers in the boat by about 20 lbs. He's good though (I
trained him) and at least doesn't outweigh us by 40 lbs or more, like everyone
else there. It was a very good row, until the last piece where the coaches
switched two other people in and we weren't as well matched.

I'm on
a bit of a cooking spree this week. Yesterday I made chicken soup (from chicken,
vegetables, herbs, water, and my grandmother's recipe, that is, not from a can).
It's been hitting 105 degrees F or so, and if thus not an appropriate time
for soup, but I was in my local market yesterday and they were actually carrying
mandlen (soup nuts) for a change, as well as packages of whole cut-up chicken
complete with all the icky parts, so I couldn't resist.

Mandlen, for
those not familiar with Jewish food, are small delicate balls about the size and
shape of those round jaw-breaking oyster crackers, and weighing perhaps one tenth
as much. They have a very soft crunch, are mostly air inside, and you float them
on your chicken soup.

I considered also making matzah balls, which
are heavy dough dumplings that sink in the soup, absorbing enough of it to give
them flavor. However, there were critters in my matzo meal! Don't know what
they are, where they come from, or most importantly, how to get rid of them, but
we tend to get small ant-like bugs in flour or anything similar that is left
unsealed. We keep our flour and rice and sugar in plastic airtight canisters,
which seem to work well (though we've never had trouble with bugs in the sugar,
for some reason). The matzo meal box was actually in a ziplock bag, so I don't
know how the damned beasties got in, but get in they did, so I had to throw the
box away.

The major question with chicken soup is always what to do
with the left-over chicken. When the soup is finished, you're left with an entire
cooked chicken. It's way too much to throw away without guilt, but it's also
tasteless, having had all of the flavor boiled out into the soup. And the skin
comes out all nasty, yellow and goose-pimply and hard to remove. Mom usually
sprinkles hers with paprika and broils it for a few minutes, but that's not a good
answer (see the part about "tasteless", above). Or she'll make chicken salad,
which would work better for me if I liked chicken salad.

I am trying
a new solution this time. I'd bought some very thinly sliced beef, thinking to
make Mongolian beef or something like that with it - something sweet and spicy,
with a vaguely Asian flavor. I found a recipe for pork satay, decided beef would
work as well, made a bit extra of the marinade (measure ingredients? who, me?),
and threw both the beef and chunks of the chicken from the soup into it. It will
have about 9 hours in the marinade; I don't know if the already-cooked chicken
will absorb it as well as raw meat would, but I figure marinating can only

But I do have one question about the marinade: who ever thought
peanut butter dissolves in water and soy sauce?

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2001

work and too little time

I skipped going to the gym this morning because it wasn't open as early as I
usually go, a fact Rudder verified by heading over there at 4:30 or so. (I usually
don't get there until well after 5.) So he came back home and we went back to
sleep, together in our wonderful soft warm bed, prolonging our holiday weekend by
two more precious hours.

I always find it almost offensive that I spend more awake time with my assigned
coworkers (or at the moment, with my cats) than I do with the husband I chose and
with whom I spoke my vows. This to me is one of the prime indicators that there
are serious flaws in the modern model of work, at least in the office sort of job
where I've spent my career.

We heard something on the radio the other day about the introduction of the eight-
hour day, a radical idea for its time. The slogan was "Eight hours to work, eight
hours to sleep, eight hours or recreation." That still sounds like an ideal
proportion until you consider how that eight hours is spent. A typical proportion
might be:

  • one hour to wake up, shower, and dress
  • 2 hours getting to and from work -- loading the car, driving, parking
  • 1 hour for lunch -- breakfast is grabbed on the run
  • 1.5 hours for dinner -- cooking and eating it
  • one hour for exercise
  • 0.5 hours to get ready for bed

This adds up to 6 hours out of that "recreation time", and so far this
hypothetical person hasn't so much as played a game of solitaire -- and notice I
haven't even included time to take care of pets, much less children. Add in time
to dress and feed the kids, take them to sports practice, music class, or
playgroup, and forget about having any "quality" time left over. Having two days
off for every five we work sounds like a reasonable compromise, until we have to
spend our weekends catching up on the chores, errands and housework we have no
time for during the week.

And so we rush. In the attempt to snatch a few more minutes of discretionary time,
we compress our morning routine, eat lunch at our desk while working, grab takeout
food for dinner that can be eaten while standing and doing something else. No
wonder we all feel flurried; no wonder I'm still enjoying being unemployed.

Part of this imbalance is because the idea of designating time for work and
recreation is fairly new and we still haven't worked out all the bugs. To the
working class in more agriculturally-based times, the only time adults dedicated
purely to recreation might be a neighborhood dance, held once a month or so. The
compensation for this, before the rise of factory work, was that more of the work
itself might be combinable with pleasure. A group of women doing the family sewing
might gossip or take turns reading to each other; shopkeepers living behind the
store might have their children with them, helping out or being watched over
according to age; farmers mending tack in the long winter evenings might tell
stories or sing with their families. (The decline in attention span can be
measured in the decreasing length of the songs people sing. Older ballads might
have run to 50 verses, with some being made up to fit the story to local

As office and factory jobs -- that is, work outside the homestead -- grew to
consume more of the population, other balances evolved. In Jane Austen's Pride
and Prejudice
, Eliza Bennett's uncle, though in "trade" seems to have plenty
of time to travel with his family. But what of the poorer men who worked for him?
Dickens shows that no care was given to the recreational time of the poor -- Bob
Cratchett barely has Christmas Day off to spend with his family; his wife
shoulders all the care of the house and children (and probably earned a few bob
whenever she could, working at home). The labor movement, among other factors, has
improved the lot of the Bob Cratchits. His 21st century great grandson and
granddaughter at least get to eat dinner with their families -- if the kids aren't
out at soccer practice, that is. Now it's the bosses and the professionals who
work the 12 hour days, sometimes to make more money, sometimes just to keep their

There are people whose work is a vocation. Sometimes, if it's a noble enough
vocation, we even sympathize when they spend less time on other obligations. No
one says Nelson Mandela should have renounced his principles in order to stay out
of jail to bear Winnie company. But these are rare exceptions. The ideal would be
to combine a true vocation with the time for family an friends -- this is the
solution Louisa May Alcott finds in her recently resurgent book Work. For
the rest of us, though, where true vocations are not obvious, we need a better way
to combine work and pleasure, so that we can all have some of both, without
waiting for the weekend.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2001

the divine Miss A.

This may be a short entry, because my fingers are a bit numb. I rowed just a titch
under ten KM in the single today, so they've earned the right to have no feeling
for a while. The rest of today will probably be spent doing very little.

I'm in a Jane Austen mood, having just read Stephanie Barron's
Jane and the Wandering Eye, a mystery in which Jane herself is the
detective. I didn't find it convincing enough to believe the narrator to actually
be Jane Austen, but it had an agreeable period flavor, a heroine with some insight
and a good helping of asperity, and quite a few Austen quotes. It has given me a
taste for more of the original, so I'm not reading a selection of letters to her
sister Cassandra, and will probably follow that up with a rereading of
Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park. I've only read those once each,
not liking them nearly as well as Pride and Prejudice or Emma, or
even Persuasion, but the fault may be in myself rather than in my material,
so I will try again.

I may take up href="">Mistress Sinister's idea and
create a book review site, though I will probably not host it on Diaryland as I
want it to seem less like a journal and thus more accessible to those outside the
diary community. More on that if events warrant.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2001


OK, I've finished the first revision of this layout, so feel free to point out its

We've returned from camping, relaxed, refreshed, and sore, as
usual. Unfortunately, the soreness tends to last longer than the relaxation. It
derives from sleeping on the ground and from muscles unaccustomed to shoveling,
or, these days, to mountain biking.

We went up to the airpark, to
breathe air that's not brown, attend the annual meeting there, and dig holes.
Rudder has many odd quirks I don't understand due to his having grown up in a
small town in Oregon, such as a fondness for chopping wood. (His brother and one
grandfather have it too, but I still don't know if it's transmitted via heredity
or environment. One such quirk that has recently manifested is a preference for
pine over juniper trees. He says that he just wants a balance of both
kinds, but I notice that he keeps chopping off the lower branches of the junipers
to make them shaped more like the pines. Well, that and to reduce fire dangers.

I sort of like the junipers, myself, being of the girl persuasion
and thus preferring a bit more cover for those natural activities that can make
you feel a bit exposed when you're camping on land that has a house in one
direction, a hanger opposite it, a road at right angles, and a runway on the
fourth side. They're all a good distance away, with trees in between, but

Anyway, the holes we dug were for planting more pine
trees. We were told they'd have a better chance for survival if we plant them
around February, so that they can be watered by the spring rains we hope we'll be
getting then. Rudder's theory is that it's better to dig the holes now, in case
the ground is frozen then. They took forever to dig anyhow, because there's a
layer of clay we had to use a pick to break through. We filled the holes back in
with lightweight pine duff and such, so that a) the homeowner's association won't
complain (we don't know their feelings on open holes) and b) no one will step in
and break a leg. Only after we had done that did Rudder realize that the re-filled
holes might be a bit hard to find if there's snow on the ground when we go to
plant the trees. If we go back up this fall, we'll try to remember to mark them. I
want to place some reflectors anyhow, because it's hard as hell to find where the
turn on to our property is, because it's always dark when we first get

We also did a 7+ mile bike ride, on a beautiful forest trail
we found in the national forest right next to the airpark. It was probably made by
and for ATVs, so it was doubletrack for us, with just enough technical stuff to be
fun. I'm a weenie about steep downhills, and not crazy about all the rocky trails
we have here. This was just nice dirt, with the occasional branch to hop over and
small whoop-de-dos to add a little interest. There was no one else around and the
trail seemed to go on for miles in both directions, through forest and

We came back today instead of tomorrow, partly because I can
only take just so much aimless relaxation (away from my comfy reading chair) and
partly to have the extra day to catch up on chores and errands and stuff. That
second one is Rudder's reason, of course; I have nothing but time to catch up
until I find another job. Can't say I'm getting tired of it yet.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)