December 31, 2002

a toast to the alt jahr

We're at home for New Year's Eve; we rarely end up going out in the traditional
sense. We do have a semi-tradition of spending New Year's Eve in dumpy motels in
the middle of nowhere, for various reasons -- everywhere from Pensacola Beach,
FLorida, to Chirstchurch, New Zealand. (Though to be fair, that hotel was far from
dumpy. But we were jet-lagged and bleary-eyed enough that it wouldn't have
mattered.) My favorite to date was New Year's Eve 2000, when we camped out in the
Chiricahua Mountains (that's Chee-ri-CAH-wa, kids). We took a bottle of Dom and
some very good steaks and shared some Jiffy-Pop and an impromptu champagne tasting
with the like-minded folks in the next campsite. They'd brought Pol

This year our champagne tasting is on a somewhat lower scale;
we've got two bottles of our usual Freixenet (having determined that yes, Dom
Perignon does taste better, but not enough to justify $100 instead of $10)
and decided to determine once and for all if we prefer Brut or Extra Dry. The
latter came out ahead in the popular opinion polls. All two of us, that is; we
haven't asked the cats to vote, though given the aount of champagne present we may
well do so.

In other news, yesterday we did some ambitious four-
wheeling, checked out a remote climbing area and ruined the side steps on Orange
Crush, Rudder's new Hummer. Oops. Silly design, anyway. We finished the painting,
cleanup and unmasking and now have a yellow entry hall with spandy white woodwork.
And my new Handspring arrived today, so I've been setting that up and figuring it

2002 has been an interesting year and one bringing
opportunities and choices, for me and for others. It will be interesting to see
what we do with those in the next year.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 29, 2002

why was that?

Remind me again, why did I ever think painting was fun?

Posted by dichroic at 03:08 PM

December 28, 2002

still tired

Well. This vacation is not being nearly as expected. I am writing this on Day Two
of what's turning out to be a three day painting project, even though we're only
painting a laundry room, a hall, and one wall of the family room. The problem is
that because the dryer vent is way too long, to actually have the machine dry out
clothing we have to vent it indoors to a little box with a screen on top. This
works about as well as you'd expect, which is why the first step of cleaning the
laundry room was to vacuum and scrub the walls and get mummified lint off

Then of course there was the usual masking fun, followed
by painting trim and then realizing it will need a second coat -- that's today's
project. Yes, we decided to paint the trim first. It seemed to make more sense due
to the logistics of masking, and because the yellow walls will be darker than the
white trim and thus their paint will cover smudges of the white better than vice
versa. Or something.

Menawhile one sinus is chock-full and my head
hurts. Either I've become allergic to paint or we're due for another weather

And on the non-relaxation front, I haven't yet made it out to
use the Borders gift certificate I found in my stocking or the ones to the bead
place I got for Chanukah. Dammit. I've already had one minor hissy fit (an amusing
one, I hope, not a nasty one) to convince Rudder I needed more relaxation time
but unfortunately there's just too much to be done for that to have had much
effect. I married the wrong man for relaxation, or else it's just that Real Life
doesn't support that sort of thing.

Posted by dichroic at 08:37 AM

December 27, 2002

consumer complaint

Consumer complaint ahead: Fucking Handspring
still has my cool new Treo organizer/mobile phone listed as "awaiting shipment" --
since the 23rd. Now, I know Christmas was in there, but the other days were
workdays, especially for the automated warehousing robots I'm guessing they use. I
ordered on the 23rd, the phone plan was approved the same day, and the thing was
moved to the warehouse to await shipment, according to their tracking page.

I finally called to see what the deal was, and the customer care rep
said, "Oh, we're having a delay on the Treo 180, and they won't ship until the
31st." WHAT?? I asked, "And when were they planning to notify me of this? It's not
on the shipping page or in any of the three emails I got from you about the
purchase." (Note: Thank-you-for-ordering, order confirmation, plan approved).

She claimed it was on the web page when I ordered but I didn't see
it -- the info about the product and the service plans and special offers for it
were sort of haphazardly scattered over several pages, and several of them still
claimed express shipping was free, an offer which had expired the day before. I
suggested that perhaps the pages hadn't been updated at that point, and she said,
"Well, it's possible."

She did credit me for the express shipping
since obviously this is far from express service, but I'm still irked. I wanted to
play with my new toy before going back to work. This thing better be wicked cool
when I get it, because right now I'm still pissed.

Posted by dichroic at 01:52 PM

December 26, 2002

boxing day


As I was about to start this entry, I got called out to be Safety
Monitor as Rudder lowered the first turkey into the boiling oil. Yes, I
said "first"; we are having not one, not two but three turkeys. Two deep fried,
into which Rudder injected seasonings two days ago, and one smoked, a birthday
present to Rudder from his brother. Why yes, my husband does tend to excess, as
just witness the behemoth in the garage. This is the view upon opening the door
form the house to our garage: .

So now I'm
just wondering. Dinner will consist of slices from the smoked trkey and one of the
fried ones. (Deep fried turkey is juicy and not at all greasy) as well as French
bread, salad, and asparagus and new potatoes tossed with lemon butter, followed by
cheesecake-browsing for dessert -- we bought six slices of six different kinds.
The question is: if I do up a bit of New Orleans Shrimp for as appetizer, would
that be overkill, or just part of the theme?

Merry Christmas, y'all.
Peace on Earth, to all humankind.

Today: We did have two kinds of
turkey as well as shrimp hors d'oeuvres. However the computer was being crotchety
so I couldn't put up my entry. Today's plan is to do absolutely nothing: nibble
snacks and leftovers, nibble on each other, play with our new gifts and toys.
Happy Boxing Day.

Posted by dichroic at 01:10 PM

December 24, 2002


I was cleaning out some drawers in the china cabinet yesterday, in order to make
room for the entire set of china Rudder's grandparents gave us last May -- and
which have been sitting in boxes next to the cabinet ever since. In the process, I
also went through my old tapes and reunited some empty cases and orphaned tapes
sitting around.

Tapes .... I had forgotten how much I loved some of
the music on those. I don't buy or make tapes anymore; these days I mostly get
commercial CDs. The tapes are mostly from college and just after, and I think on
balance I love them more than the music I have on CDs. There are three reasons:
first, I had much less money then so I only bought something or went to the effort
of taping it if I did really love it. Second they're from a time in my life when
maybe music had more impact on me. And third, they're from when I was still
discovering the folk music I still love. I had a boyfriend with a great album
collection and a local folk club where I volunteered to introduce me to the best
older and newer music. I don't have that kind of music community in Phoenix --
there's an Irish music club out here that also turns out for bands like Great Big
Sea, but that's about it. Really the only new artists I've found since that I love
as much as GBS and Gordon Bok.

And maybe I love them more because you
only get to hear something for the first time once. Then again, rediscovery is
almost as thrilling, plus it has the sweetness of nostalgia added in. And
listening to Cindy Kallet is still like laying back into a sunbeam and having warm
honey poured all over your body. Mmmm.

And a pot of chili is
simmering in the crock pot. Mmmmm again.

Posted by dichroic at 03:59 PM

December 23, 2002

what's that watery stuff falling from the sky?

Rudder's birthday today, so while he's out flying (assuming he is -- the weather
isn't cooperating) I have to go out in the rain (!) and get a card for him,
then come back and wrap all those presents I never managed to give him for
Chanukah. They'll be stocking stuffers instead. I should also go and get him a
Dilbert daily calendar because I haven't gotten one and we've exchanged them for
about 5 years straight now, but I really don't feel like it. Oh,, I
suppose it's too late for that.

And I'm still vacillating over
ordering a new Handspring organizer/phone for me. I waited a day too long and now
their shipping isn't free anymore, dagnabbit. (I've have ordered yesterday, had I

Off to get rained on.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 22, 2002

how to wrap

How to wrap a large wheeled suitcase: don't bother closing the bottom. Just wrap
the rest of it, leaving the bottom open so the wrapping is sort of like a large

How to wrap an IOU for airfare to Ireland (an IOU so we
can pick the date together: write it on a shamrock cut out of green paper, then
tuck that into a tourbook on Dublin. (Or two, if you can't decide between them.
TIP: try to make the shamrock small enough to fit inside one of the books.

The aboe has been brought to you by the voice of

Damn it, I forgot to get a card for Rudder's birthday

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

real trust

Been an interesting couple of days. Not that I needed any proof that my husband
loves and trusts me, but if I ever did, I have it now.

Friday night,
Rudder told me he had "something" he had to pick up -- it hadn't been ready when
he'd originally bought it, and he'd thought he'd have to get it Saturday, but it
was ready for Friday. He'd made an appointment to get it at 7:30. Given the timing
and the fact that he's not usually mysterious, of course I thought it was
something for me -- jewelry or something that could be custom ordered. While he
went to get that, I went off to Michael's to see if I could find some way to wrap
his presents, one very large and one more an idea than an actual present.
(Actually, chatting before I left, I figured out how to wrap the one; printed on
an appropriate shape and tucked in an appropriate guidebook. (He's in the room as
I type this.) In case anyone needed to know this (SwooP, you there?) 7:30 on a
Friday night is an ideal time to visit Michael's. The place was deserted (amazing,
since it's opposite our local mall) and all the wrapping paper and ornaments were
on sale, 50% off. I ended up spending way too much on paper, candles, and a few
more icicle ornaments there and at the Pier 1 next door. I suppose that means
their sales had the intended effects. Just doing my bit for the local

Then I got home and there was a dark orange BEHEMOTH in the
middle of my driveway! Turned out the "something" Rudder had to go get was the href="">Hummer H2 he's been
planning to buy. (NOTE: For himself, not for me!) I had wondered about that; he'd
been planning to purchase in a month or so, but then it turned out the price will
be going up by then and then the dealer called -- they had one in stock with all
the options he wanted. I figured he needed to decide on that soon, but he hadn't
mentioned it -- in retrospect I should have been suspicious.

parked it out front because the Behemoth, henceforth to be known as the Orange
Crush because it is the coppery color the dealer refers to as Sunset Orange
Metallic, is so big that he wanted to have me spotting when he drove it into the
garage the first time. There was some doubt as to whether the rack on top would
fit under the open garage door. I told him that before we did that, it was
necessary to take the new car for a joyride. So we went out and looked at some of
the Christmas lights before affirming that the Crush does, indeed, fit in our
garage. Barely.

He spent last night cleaning some other stuff out of
the way so now we can park it next to Zippy the Honda and even get the doors of
either vehicle open. Now when you open the door of our garage, you are greeted
with an in-your-face ferociously glowering grill. I need to post a

Yesterday we drove up to the town of Show Low, about three
hours away, just to buy a live Christmas tree reared at the proper altitude for
planting on our airpark proprety. We took my truck so we could stash the tree in
the pickup's bed. As it turned out, the biggest live trees they had were about 3'
tall, so we could have taken the Orange Crush. Given the size we were also glad we
had bought a regular cut tree, since that one is much bigger. We ended up buying
two, an Austrian Pine and a Colorado Blue Spruce. This is a Good Thing; we
checked the property on the way back and found that someone had completely
uprooted and tossed aside one of the biggest of the young trees we planted last
spring. At this time, the prime suspect is described as being about 7' tall, with
broad antlers and a taste for tree bark. Yes, there are elk in the

After we got back, Rudder did the aforementioned garage-
clearing. I headed out to do some more food-shopping. My truck is not a good
shopping vehicle -- groceries left in the bed tumble and spill. The Civic works
well, but there are Special Things in the trunk I didn't want Rudder to see when
he helped me unload. Options: 1) don't let him help me unload, or at least get
everything out of the trunk myself. 2) Take the Crush. Rudder urged me to do the
latter, to take his new baby to the land of careering carts. (As he pointed out,
the Crush has brush guards, bumpers, and steps all aorund so at least a cart
couldn't scratch it.) And that, my friends, is how I know my husband loves me: He
let me drive his brand new truck. Without even having him along. Is that sweet or

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM

December 20, 2002

slow day

Last day before a 12-day holiday and I am NOT having a productive

Big surprise there.

I slept in this morning
(clarification: until about 5AM) and didn't erg, because the alternative was to
get up at 4 to get on the rowing machine before Rudder. Sadly, I can't say I feel
any more energetic for the extra sleep and lack of exercise -- oh no! don't tell
me my body has become erg-dependent!! AAAUUUUGHHHH! Does Betty Ford have a program
for this?

Having, finished (FINISHED!) the challenge, I only would
have done about a half-hour's time on the erg, so I still may do it

I am such a waste of an occupied chair today. I keep trying
to at least do some reading, but it's not working. Maybe I'll clean my desk. That
will serve the dual purposes of keeping me busy doing somethign sort of
productive, and ensuring that I don't forget anything I need to take home -- which
reminds me. Hang on. [Carefully makes sure the last sip of tea is finished and
throws mug into backpack.] The mug I use for making my tea has tea-crud on the
bottom, and it's one of those tall insulated ones -- too narrow to reach the
bottom. I keep forgetting to take it home so I can get it cleaned out with a

Any bets on how long it will take me to bring it back in?

PS. Forgot to mention a local news item today. Apparently, some guy in town who
wrote a book on "dirty divorce tricks", a few years ago, specializing in advice on
how to get out of paying child support. I can understand being upset enough to
want to get back at an ex-spouse, but what sort of subhuman takes it out on
children? Apparently, the sort who just got arrested for --- you got it --
nonpayment of his child support. Karma in action, or a God(dess) with a sense of
humor, you choose. Either way, it sure as hell brightened my morning commute.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 19, 2002

woman with a ravell'd sleave

I'm not entirely sure why, but I think I'm as excited about Christmas and New Year
this year as I have ever been. We're not doing anything special at all; in fact,
here's the list:

  • sleep late every damn
  • not erg 10K every day (I'm vacillating between trying to
    hit 250000m by New Years, less than 5K/day average, or not touching it at
  • Head up to Show Low and buy a live Christmas tree we can later
    plant on the property (we're buying it there because we need one adapted to that
    altitude, about 5000' higher than here)
  • drink lots of wine. And
    some beer, and champagne on the holidays
  • cook some good meals --
    deep-fried turkey for Christmas, chili for Christmas Eve, not sure what
  • paint one hallway and a wall of the family
  • read and read and read
  • spend at least one whole
    day in bed. With Rudder, of course. And the box from href="">Blowfish that's under my tree this
  • And read some more
  • finish rejuvenating an
    old necklace my mom asked me to fix about a year ago (Venetian glass beads,
    actually bought in Venice, circa 1967)
  • Minor household
  • Go out rowing, for fun, not training, in actual daylight. My
    boat is dusty.
  • Hang out with the kitties, who clearly don't think
    we're spending enough time with them.
  • Buy myself a library table
    (Rudder is not fully aware this will be happening this soon.)
  • Plan
    our spring trip to Ireland (He doesn't have full details of this,
  • Stay up late -- like, at least through prime
  • Spend a few small gift cards I got for Chanukah -- books and

And really, that's about it. If we get bored we might
go camping at Death Valley for a couple of days. So I don't know why I'm so
thoroughly psyched. Since no one is staying with us, we won't even get as many
presents as usual. I think it may all come back to activity #1, way up at the
start of this page.

Posted by dichroic at 01:58 PM

December 18, 2002

mixed grill

Another one of those mixed days here.

Good: I just found out I will
be able to take off from 12/22 all the way through New Year's Day, and won't have
to borrow vacation ahead or take more than a few unpaid hours.

Rudder keeps making noises about how much we have to do over the

Good: I think it won't be that bad. He always finds lots of
work for himself, but I think I'll only have to work with him on some painting,
which I enjoy, and a few other things like backflushing the

Bad: I lost my PalmPilot yesterday, complete with credit card
number`, all my financial numbers, and my passwords to all the 10 million work
applications that all need separate ones.

Good: The important
passwords, like for my credit card's website aren't there, just little hints to
remind me what they are.

Bad: But I can't get into any site or
application whose password I don't remember.

Good: I was thinking
about getting a new cell phone anyway, and this Palm was two years old. For
$100 less than this one cost, I can get a Handspring Treo that's a phone and
organizer, that's as small as the one I lost. And I can get a phone plan for it
that's only a couple dollars a month more than the prepaid one I

Bad: This plan doesn't have as good coverage as my current

Good (well, less bad): But it's a newer system that my current
provider is also moving toward, so coverage should improve.

Because of the lost Palm, I cancelled my credit card and won't get the new one for
5-7 days.

Good: But I can call on Saturday to get the number of the
new one, so I can use it online or over the phone. Say, to buy the new Treo. And I
can use my debit card for all in-store purchase -- don't think I had that number
in the old Palm.

Bad: Yet more money to spend, on top of all the
holiday and birthday presents.

Good: But the days I don't have to
take unpaid just about cover it.

Good: And I get wonderful, blessed,
free time to spend at home with my Rudder (and I mean those two words in the
metaphoric as well as the more literal sense) so who cares what minor irritants I
have to deal with?

P.S. The Palm has been found, though naturally it's too late to uncancel the
credit card. As a fervent believer in Murphy's Law, I knew this would happen. I'm
not sure whether to be relived or disappointed that now I have no excuse to buy a
new one.

Today I am thankful that: the Goods are outpacing the Bads. And that
tomorrow I will be done the erg holiday challenge!!!

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 17, 2002

the decline and fall...again

I read this article by Linda
Hall with a strong sense that I had seen it before. People have been compleining
about the decline of the English language since well before the Norman Conquest.
They've been right since then, too, but only if you assume that change is
necessarily change for the worse. If there were any learned writers who were
paying attention to English in the first two centuries of the milennium, rather
than writing in Latin to impress religious colleagues or speaking in French to get
on at court, they would have had a very good case for the decline of the language.
It was changing quickly, acquiring a simplified grammar and borrowing new
vocabulary with the speed of a pidgin language, so that grandparents would
literally not have been able to understand their grandchildren, had their own
language remain unchanged. By the time of Caxton's ubiquitous "egges/eyren" story,
English was again the national tongue, but was so fragmented that a dialect from
one district could not be understood in another. And yet it was the result of that
"decline" that became the instrument played by maestros from Chaucer to
Shakespeare on up to Wharton and James, whom Hall holds up as exemplars of correct

It's also interesting that James's work always seems to be
cited as a paragon of good English. There's no doubt that he was the master of an
idiosyncratic style, and none that his weighty sentences are always grammatically
correct. But would it really be a good thing if everyone wrote in James' ponderous
style? Reading James requires plenty of time, and a patient mind. There's still a
place (and there always was) for things that are easy to read at a surface level -
- more so if, like Jane Austen, they also repay a bit of deeper

And what, precisely, is wrong with hanging out? What else
were Shakespeare and Jonson and Marlowe doing in all those Elizabethan pubs?
(Well, besides tupping barmaids or lads, as appropriate.) What else was Boswell
doing with Johnson? (Besides the hero-worship and puppyish flattery, both of which
is still visible in any junior high -- or Senate office.) What were Chaucer's
didn't equate to, "Dude!! Road trip!"? Except that, according to Hall, the Wife of
Bath was somehow morally superior because she didn't say "Dude!"

Yes, some people get annoyed by youngsters who think they've
discovered sex, or safety pins through facial piercings, or the joys of slang
their elders don't understand. Me? I get annoyed by those who profess to have a
knowledge of history who yet repeat thousand-year-old complaints about the decline
of civilzation and the language.

Today I am thankful for: a
sense of history, and a sketchy but working knowledge of same.

Posted by dichroic at 10:14 AM

December 16, 2002

I think that's it

It's been too long since I updated. I can tell because now I want to write about
the boat parade and the guaranteed-seedless oranges, the half-marathon, the tree,
the local climate, getting back to work, and holiday presents. And probably other
stuff I've forgotten. And e-cards. And good cheese. I don't know how to write
about all that coherently without creating The Entry That Ate My Day, so I'm
afraid coherence will have to suffer.

The boat parade went fairly
well. We had an eight, decked out with white lights along both gunwales, white and
colored lights crusting bow and stern decking, glowsticks along the oars, and
battery lights -- red bulbs and multi-colored stars -- pinned along the rowers'
arms. Rudder was the main planners, and he does tend to excess, which of course is
the right thing to do anyhow in this sort of situation. Unfortunately, I can't
find any pictures of the parade at al online, much less of our boat. But I'm told
we looked good, and rumor has it we won the human-powered division. (Since we
launch on one side of the lake, and the awards were announced on the other side,
we weren't there for them.) It wasn't nearly as much fun as last year, probably
because instead of T2 and Egret we had a bunch of people whom we don't know well,
only a few of whom were willing to help with all the necessary planning and set-

Somewhere during the several hours we were there doing up the
decorations, I ran off to the supermarket with another woman, whom I will call
Anjou. We actually had a blast, picking up things like pizelles and eggnog and
some wonderful sweet tiny oranges (Clementines, maybe?) whose peels practically
zipped off. I can now report that a French accent can be an enormous asset in
brief interactions. Anjou got the produce guy to solemnly swear to her that the
clementines were seedless, and he was charmed; if I had tried that I would have
just sounded whiny. Even I kept having the urge to explain that yes, you can
expect American supermarkets to sell Christmas lights, unlike smaller European
markets. Fortunately I managed to suppress that urge; since she's been in this
state six years, as long as I have, it's probably safe to assume she knows what
supermarkets are like.

Yesterday, I did a half-marathon on the erg.
That's 21097 meters. I was a bit disappointed to finish a few minutes slower than
last year. I wasn't pulling hard, but I wasn't then, either. I now have only about
35000 left for the holiday challenge. (If T2 or Egret are reading this, no, I am
not going to knock it all off in one marathon row. Yes, I am a wimp.) After that
we went out and got the Christmas tree, me walking like an old woman. We've got
it set up, but only had time to put on one string of lights -- because of the boat
decorating, we have tons of them, so it will be a very well-lit tree. Next week
we're driving up north about three hours just to get yet another tree, a live one
that we'll then plant on our lot up north. It's a bit redundant, but this is the
time of year for that. Having come late to Christmas, I'm not annoyed with its
excesses, and have no desire yet to scale back. Besides, just this year we've
gotten about six more ornaments (from Korea, Alaska, the National Cathedral, and
Mount Vernon) and we may be outgrowing one tree. I don't think we'll normally be
having more than one tree, though; it's just that the live one will probably only
be three feet tall and that's just not big enough to make the whole house feel
festive. The first year we had a tree, we bought lots of plain gold and red balls,
(as well as some crystal and silver icicles and a few things we just liked) so the
plain ornaments are gradually being replaced by those that mean something to us. I
still hang at least some of the stars made from tuna-can-lids that I got before I
even met Rudder, when I had a tiny tree one year because Gymrat, a lapsed
Catholic, was visiting over the holiday. (I need to call him, come to think of

This also appears to be the time of year for cheese; at least
three times in the last few weeks, people have brought in cheeses and crackers
(Anjou's Beaujolais Nouveau party, Thursday afternoon in last week's class, and
now today at work) which have included all kinds of wonderful cheeses. Yum. Wines
and cheeses .... nothing like foods that are both tasty and able to make you feel
all sophisticated. I don't know if the cheese markets out here have suddenly
gotten good or what, but I believe I'll be hitting Trader Joe's or AJ's, our local
gourmet shops (supermarkets with delusions of grandeur) for some holiday

The climate thing: I don't think our climate works the way
other places do -- our temperatures seem to depend only on how much sun we get.
There are hardly any clouds to seal heat in or out, so our coldest part of the
year isn't really the part called winter. Instead we always seem to get our
coldest days around now, late December into early January, when the days are

The presents and e-cards things: Uh, need to mail the one
and compose and send the others.

I think that's

Oops, one more thing:

Today I am thankful for: cool

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 14, 2002

purely for morale purposes

Went and wasted me some dollars last night, and enjoyed it too. They let us out of
class around 11, and I (and I think most of the other locals) decided not to head
into work. I did, of course, check my work email when I got home like a good
little employee. Um, I think I did.

So I ran a bunch of errands,
traded my broken boots in for a pair that were similar but come up to the knee,
which I hope I won't regret -- I do wear them with pants, but they're made out of
stretch stuff and are tight to my enormous stud-muffaletta calves (ahem). Then I
stopped in at a local day spa to check out their survices, and cased the local
AT&T place, because my biggish and non-studly cell phone is driving me crazy as is
my prepaid calling plan. I use the plan so rarely I'm lways finding my minutes are
about to expire. However, I've been using it only due to being in class. It
doesn't drive me nuts at all when I don't use it, so I decided to wait another
month and see if I still want to change to a regular plan. If I do, though, I
could get an internet connection, which I expect mostly to use as something to
play with while waiting in line. Or checking my email while in class, if I'm ever
in training much again.

Then I dropped my old boots oand a pair of
Rudder's shoes off at the cobbler. I think I'm the only person who says "cobbler"
anymore -- now they're all called "shoe repair shops". Then I went to he library
and luxuriated in having plenty of time to spend there, and plenty of time in the
near future to read any books I might get. I'll also be spending about 3 hours a
day listening to audiobooks, between erging and commuting, so needed to replenish

And then....ah, bliss. After a couple of hours at home,
I went back to the day spa for a massage. Mmmmmmmmmmm. I opted to try the hot
rocks massage -- not only do they set the rocks on various body parts to impart
heat, they actually use them for massaging. These rocks are hot, about the
temperature of a hot tub, so it feels like tongues of flame moving along your arms
and legs. The table was incredibly comfortable, because they'd added a layer of
eggcrate foam, plus a heated blanket under me. It did get a bit warm by the end.
The only drawback is that it uses lighter pressure than other forms of massage. I
would recommend the hot rock massage for pure relaxation ad destressing, but
because I've always got tight muscles, I think I will opt for Swedish next

I got to the spa a little early, so I wasted time in the nearby
stores. There was one home accessories place, with tchotches all over the place,
and a clothing store of the type I think of as diva clothes, complete with a
manager who calls every customer darling and gets very excited at tight-fitting
clothes. I thinks she takes her own styling cues from some designer, but I'm not
sure which one. The store carries some Versace, but she's definitely not doing
Donatella's looks -- not enough hair or cleavage. I found some clothing I liked,
but asked them to hold it while I went for the massage because it was getting
late. Went back after and did decide to buy all of it, partly against better
judgement. There was a hot pink crinkled silky top with a mandarin collar and
matching flowered chiffon skirt, pink on ivory.I might wear the top under a
sweater; or the skirt with a sweater; I won't wear the set together for 6 months,
but it was half-price and will be wonderful for work then. Thee was a vanilla
ribbed turtleneck that I expect to get a ton of wear from in the next few months,
and a pair of very-low-waited, denim-belted jeans that I will rarely wear, but
that I bought because, frankly, they make my ass look incredible. Unfortunately,
they make it look a little too good for work, though I might be able to wear them
there with a long top. Though I suppose that defeats the whole purpose. I need to
go to parties more.

Today I am thankful for: having enough
money that I can waste some. I really need to donate more to charities, though.

Posted by dichroic at 11:22 AM

December 13, 2002

usual bitching

So, 123000 meters into the erg thing, which means somewhere over 125000 calories
burned, and my stomach is looking pouchy. Where, I ask you, where is the justice
in this world? I'm beginning to think rowing may actually be better exercise than
erging a comparable distance. After all, besides the actual rowing, there's the
carrying the boat to and from the water -- we have a longer haul than any other
boatyard I've seen.

Of course all these late dinners aren't helping:
chili and beer Wednesday night, sushi last night because my class went out to
celebrate the end of training. I keep trying to convince myself that the stomach-
pouching is only an ephemeral phenomenon caused by late dinners not having been
fully digested by early mornng, but I'm not entirely buying it. Of course, I'm not
trying to eat any less, either.

Today I get out early and can finally
do some errands, which is a good thing because tomorrow one of the other people
planning our entry into the annual Boat Parade told all the other rowers to show
up at 2, to decorate a boat for a 7PM parade, and by the time we found out it
would only have confused people to change it. It does not take 5 hours to put
lights on a boat, but since we're among the motivating factors of this whole
thing, we'll pretty much have to be there the whole time or people will just leave
and we won't have anyone to carry and row the eight. I'm not all that jazzed about
te actual lighting anyway, but Rudder gets off on planning this sort of thing.
(Yes, my husband is perverse in some ways.) The parade itself will be fun, if I
haven't gone stark mad by then.

Off to get out some more cards before
heading off to class.

Today I am thankful for: Only a half day
of training!

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 11, 2002


Odd. Went out with Homer and Alice to our local brewpub tonight. This also happens
to be the brewpub in the mall, and it's now December, two facts we forgot when we
arranged to meet there. (We haven't been there for a while, since our usual href="">partners in crime deserted us for wetter
climates.) The odd thing was that parking was easy, and so was getting a table --
much easier than on a typical summer Wednesday. I'm starting to get very, very
worried about the local economy.

Today I am thankful for
Getting to see some old friends, and hear from others.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

drat...very quickly

Busybusybusy. Need to leave for class, running late, but waiting for a floppy to
format so I can put something on it that I want to take. Meeting Homer and Alice
tonight over a beer. How long do floppies take to format, anyhow? Dammit. Don't
want to be late because the instructor WILL embarass me if I walk in after he's
shut the doors.

Phew. It's done. Dammit, now the damn thing only fits
one of the two files I wanted on it. Drat drat drat .... bye!

Posted by dichroic at 07:32 AM

December 10, 2002

more shopping

I'm back in class yet again (sigh), which is why updates are a bit sporadic this
week. This is the last week of my four-weeks-in-four-months training, though.
After this, I'll only (!) have to figure out what to do with all I've learned. And
how to help other people use all the stuff I've learned.

Over the
weekend I did a bit more shopping though these gifts were as much for me as for
Rudder. I did it a bit backward, though; it was only after dropping a chunk of
change at Blowfish that I asked my own
version of Susie Bright, the well-informed href="">Natalie if she'd had dealings with
them. (The original Susie Bright's page links to them, to purchase any of the
products she recommends, so I figured they had to be reasonably reputable. Also,
their web pages are reassuringly coherent and helpful.) Not only did Natalie give
them an enthusiastic review, but as it turned out I could have just waited a day
and read Badsnake on
the subject. I will just note that between the Rancho and Chez Dichroic, Blowfish
must not be feeling the recession too badly. I didn't spend as mch as Bad did, but
then I'm not supplying as many people. :-)

In unrelated musings, I
noted wrongly that my holiday shopping was done. I do have a gift or two left --
that sort of thing always trails out. And in the realm of things I really don't
understand, I've been burning 500-700 calories daily on the erg. So why is it I've
gained two pounds? Cardio exercise isn't supposed to do that, but I don't think
I've been eating more. Odd. I did hear of a similar idea that sounds good;
apparently a local Y here sponsors the "lazy man's triathlon": running 26.2 miles,
biking 100mi, and swimming 3 miles, but over the course of a month. Not for me, I
mean, because that's more running than I'm willing to do even over a month, but
someone who jogs anyway might like it as a goal.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

artistic judgement

Yesterday: a software demo in a hotel next to a fancy shopping center I'd never
visited, then an afternoon off. A tasty but ridiculously expensive lunch in said
center. A visit to the Poisoned Pen, a
mystery bookstore I'd never been to either, where I picked up a copy of Barbara
Hambly's Day of the Dead. (I'd planned to wait for paperback but -- score!!
-- they had a signed copy. Given that I never sell books unless they're absolutely
awful, I have no idea why it makes me happy to know that in five years it will be
worth twice what I paid for it.) Next, an hour and a half with Janice, student
masseuse extraordinaire with a soft voice and strong hands, then a stop to pick up
the film from Death Valley, where I caved in to a combination of exasperation and
holiday-shopping-mode and bought us a light table and loupe. I'm sick and tired of
looking and slides in a one-at-a-time viewer, and given that Rudder's bought ten
rolls of film for Antarctica, I think it's time for better way.

were some good shots in the Death Valley batch, though as usual we disagree on
which ones they were. One of my favorites is of me in the dry chute of a seasonal
waterfall. You can see the whole chute and a bit of sky at the top with light
coming down; I'm tiny, maybe a tenth the height of the chute, dressed all in black
and looking up. My other favorite is the Devil's Golf Course, which is a flat
plain full of rough stubby salt formations. You're looking across the plain at a
mountain with sunrise light on it and snow on the top; the mountains are fuzzy and
the salt formations crystal clear. Rudder likes the waterfall pic but says "It
looks better smaller," i.e. not magnified in the loupe, and prefers a similar shot
of the Golf Course where the whole scene is in focus. Pah. The man has no artistic

(The long-time reader, or the long-married one, will correctly
interpret this to mean "He doesn't like what I like.")

we didn't get these pictures put on CD-ROM or I'd post them and take a poll. We
probably will digitize the best along with our Antarctic shots when we get back,
so maybe I'll do it then.

Today was back to work, but did include a
lunch out with most of my department. Paid for, even.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 08, 2002

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Things I learned this weekend: "In Dulci Jubilo" is actually the same as the carol
"Good Christian Men, Rejoice" that I sang in junior high school choir. (In a choir
that was more than half Jewish, including the choir director,

I'm still in remedial Christmas education, not having
celebrated the holiday until I took up with Rudder. Now we do both Christmas and
Chanukah. I confess, though, that I use Rudder as an excuse. I do throw myself
into celebrating Christmas, though in a secular way. For one thing, I like
holidays, the more the better. This is a Jewish thing, I think; we have more
holidays than anyone except Catholic-school kids who get off for all the saints'
days. For another thing, I figure anything that promotes "peace on Earth, good
will to mankind" is worthwhile. Thirdly, it is just strange living in the U.S. and
not celebrating it. I'm not fond of feeling left out. Growing up, we sang
Christmas carols and made Christmas crafts in school, and watched Rudolph, Frosty,
and Charlie Brown every year. The mall (in our largely Jewish neighborhood) decked
itself in lights and fake evergreen garlands. I think my parents even got a
picture or two of me on Santa's lap, and rumor has it I'd memorized The Night
Before Christmas
by age two. And yet we had no tree or presents or

I think this is something that's been a problem for
Jews in general since moving out of the ghettos and participating in the larger
culture. My great-gradnmother referred to my grandmother, her non-Yiddish-speaking
daughter-in-law, as a "Yiddishe shiksa" (lit. Jewish gentile). My uncle reports
that he and my mother did have Christmas trees as children, 'until we realized we
were Jewish'. I went to college with people of Jewish background whose families
always celebrated Christmas. We often gathered for big family dinners then,
because that's when everyone had time off.

It's hard not to
celebrate when it's a recognized national holiday with an official national tree
at the White House, when all businesses are closed and everyone has time off, when
every magazine has articles on what to wear at holiday parties and what to buy as
presents. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future, as the various
Christian denominations become less of a majority in the US. (This might not
happen if Hispanic Catholics coming in balance out Buddhist and Hindu immigrants,
or if the latter tend to convert as they assimilate.) My guess is that we'll
continue to celebrate the holiday but in a more and more secular way, as Japan

I sympathize with religious Christians who hate to see their
holy feast co-opted, but I suspect they're fighting a losing battle. (Only as far
as the wider society goes -- if I can celebrate Passover in my home, there's no
reason Christmas can't be Christ's mass in theirs.) At any rate, since most
Biblical analyses I've seen seem to think Jesus would have been born in spring,
and since our current celebrations owe at least as much to Yule and Saturnalia, it
may be a battle lost before it started. Besides, it was a battle lost to win the
war; co-opting local holidays was a primary method early missionaries used to gain

So I do celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm and enjoyment,
marred only by a limited tolerance for kitsch. I'm not a high-culture snob; I like
things I understand. I prefer Norman Rockwell to Jackson Pollock or even your
average medieval allegorical painter. In the case of Christmas decorations, the
kitch-tolerance line is fuzzy. There's "not in my house", which includes pretty
much any decoration that makes noise ecept jingle bells, and then there's "get it
out of my sight", which would include the bare-bellied wiggling Santa I saw the
other day. In other words, I'm pretty tolerant.

In the matter of
music, I draw the line much sooner. First of all, Christmas music Should Not be
played before Thanksgiving. Second, I really wish people would give up entirely on
updating holiday music, unless the resultant oeuvre has either entertainment or
aesthetic value. In other words, "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' Around the
Christmas Tree" should be abolished. I'm OK with Rudolph and Frosty (the songs) as
long as I don't have to hear them more than about three times a week. (A futile
ambition.) My favorites, though, are the really old traditional ones that seem to
hold layers of meaning like "The Holly and the Ivy" (I keep wondering if all the
Jesus stuff was a later addition) and "Lully Lullay" or the semi-obscure but
beautiful ones like "In the Deep Midwinter" or "I Heard the Bells on Christmas
Day". As an antidote to the horrible mall music I've been hearing, I've gone out
and bought CDs by the Medieval Baebes (which then saw mentioned in In Style
magazine -- hey, I'm trendy!) and the Robert Shaw Chorale, and a Chanukah
compilation including They Might Be Giants (they're Jewish??). I haven't listened
to the last; the Shaw one is good traditional and some not quite traditional
music, nicely done, and the Baebes are lovely pagan-meets-medieval Christian-
meets-Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares. So now should I accidentally flip to the All-
Really, Really Bad-Christmas-Music-All-the-Time radio station, I have the

Oops, almost forgot:

Today I am thankful for: All my shopping's done and I'm more than halfway
through the erg challenge.

Concept II Holiday Challenge: Approx. 88000 meters left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM


Erg. erg, erg, erg. Another fifteen thousand meters knocked off today, and I'm
thoroughly convinced there's a very good reason those rowing machines aer called


Unfortunately, RUdder hasn't erged yet today
so he's way too fucking energetic and is driving me nuts. I've been trying to
hint, in subtle wifely ways, that he's got plenty of time to do his daily hitch
before we have to go out, as long as he doesn't do anything insane like a half-
marathon (having done a whole marathon yesterday, I can't imagine why he'd want to
do more than necessary today) but the hinets are not landing on fertile


Ergito, cogito sum -- I erg, therefore I think I am. Only I'm not entirely sure
what I think I am.

Posted by dichroic at 11:33 AM

December 07, 2002

back in black

Today I have:

erged 10000 meters

gotten my hair cut

(pretty much) my holiday shopping

addressed most of my

And now we're off for a dinner cruise -- just a little one, on
a local lake, which one of Rudder's vendors hosts every holiday season. I think I
should now be allowed to retire from the holidays and let someone else do the rest
of it.

Of course, that would work better if there were a tree or any
holiday decorations up at all in our house, and if I didn't still have another
155000 meters to erg by midnight Christmas eve. Damn. And I don't even have kids.
How do people who do manage?

Today I am thankful for: the
mall's not being overcrowded today, though it probably isn't a good sign

Posted by dichroic at 02:55 PM

December 06, 2002

Where have I been?

Let's see, why haven't I updated? Yesterday there was the day off that made me
want to go back to work for a rest. Up only slightly later than usual, erg 10K,
shower, breakfast, off to the mall to buy holiday music at B&N and return a
sweater. (I love that I can mail-order clothes from J. Crew and then return them
to the store if they don't fit. Shorter line and closer than the post orifice
and no shipping charge.) Over to the bank to get in my safe deposit box,
which would have worked better if I had remembered that you need a key, then to
pick up some more glowsticks for Rudder's art project. (Actually, decorating a
four-man shell for the lake's Christmas Boat Parade. It's not easy to light up an
unpowered boat that's extremely fragile and only about a foot wide. That will need
to be a whole 'nother entry, probably.) Then to the library for audiobooks to erg
to. (Score! Elizabeth Peter's latest Amelia Peabody, which I couldn't decide
whether to buy.) Then to another store to get Rudder's birthday gift, then the
supermarket for ingredients. Home again, to make the World's Easiest Potluck
dishes, a Mexican Layer Dip and an Eggnog Pie. The pie was a new recipe someone on
an email list had posted and it is stupidly easy: mix eggnog, cream, sugar, eggs
and brandy. Pour in piecrust - storebought, of course. I don't *do* piecrust.
Bake. Ta-dah! Tasted good, too, though I certainly should have been a tiny bit
less lazy and beaten the eggs first.

Only problem was that the pie
took longer than expected to bake (My oven's fault, I think) leaving me nearly no
time to nap with Rudder before leaving for the work Christmas party, at my
regrettably-soon-to-be-ex-boss's incredible house way out in the desert. That was
fun, since I like my coworkers. Food, bonfires, and even Frosty and Rudolph
projected onto a sheet for the kids.

This morning we slept
wonderfully, luxuriously late and then stayed in bed even later -- I'm talking
normal non-rower weekend hours, ten 10AM. Good thing, because then I had to erg a
half marathon, 21097 meters, which I did in five minutes less than the last time.
Then I'd have updated but my fingers weren't working so well, and when they'd
rested I had to do all the rest of my Christmas cards. Which brings us down to

And now I'm hungry.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 05, 2002


Rudder and I spent the five nights of our Thanksgiving break sleeping in a
(mercifully comfortable) sofabed, on the fifth floor of a corner building, where
sirens spin by from the nearby police and fire stations, cars drive by at all
hours, and people walk by and sometimes yell to each other on the street below.

(We also slept on pillows with a strong resemblance to
griddle cakes. I know what my uncle is getting for his next birthday.)

During the day, we pushed through crowds at museums,
spoke loudly so we could hear each other in crowded restaurants, and tried to find
enough quiet in our heads to properly appreciate monuments and a

When we got back, the first thing we noticed was the
quiet. There is a small airport nearly next door, but it's not all that busy even
during the day and hardly anyone lands there at night. We're toward the back of a
quiet subdivision that backs onto fields and an Indian reservation. When the
lights and fans are off, the only thing we hear at night is the ever-present 60-
cycle hum all modern buildings have, and an occasional car on the street out
front. There is an easement in back of us, so the houses and streets behind us are
a good bit away. A couple of times the power has gone off and even the normal hum
has gone quiet, leaving the house in an uncanny silence.

It's not at
all fancy; though we have some good wood pieces, most of the house is not so much
decorated as furnished, and the condition of the upholstered furniture makes it
clear that our cats are not declawed. The place is big -- 5 bedrooms for the two
of us. There's always somewhere else to go if you don't like where you are, always
a free room. It's very restful.

Or at least, it would be, if I got to
spend any waking time there.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM


I wonder whether, maybe, there are only a few things that have ever changed. Two
of those are the scale of events and the speed and ubiquity of communication. That
is, war was always linked to despair, but the big wars of this century have
brought pain and death to more people than those of any other time. And modern
communications have let people know of and grieve over events all over the world,
instead of worrying only about local problems. But more essential things don't
change. Longfellow, the poet who made it ok to be brilliant only some of the time,
wrote this in one of his better efforts:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play.

And wild and sweet the words repeat

of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought of how this day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rung so long the unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then in despair I bowed my head.

"There is no peace on earth," I said,

"For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells now loud and deep:

"God is not dead nor doth He sleep.

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.

Incidentally, other things that really have changed over time are that a greater
percentage of humans do have the right to pursue their own vision of happiness, or
a way to get to where they can have that right, and that more and more types of
prejudice are viewed as wrong by more and more people. Despite the Irish Troubles
and the Mid-East unrest, and the recent genocides in Africa, despite some of the
things happening even in the US, and a world with more troubles than Pandora had,
those things still give me Hope.

Today I am Thankful for: See above.

Posted by dichroic at 08:15 AM

December 04, 2002


Funny, work doesn't feel all that busy these days, but I don't seem to have any
time at lunch to post here. I still haven't settled in to the new job -- next week
I'll be back once again in grumblegrumble training. Actually, it's great training;
I just wish it came at more widely spaced intervals.

The holidays
have now officially hit. Normally there's some period in November where I realize
we have things scheduled every weekend until the end of the year. This time, we've
had busy weekends since the end of October, but we had a couple weeks' break
between regattas and Thanksgiving so that the earlier part didn't feel like
holiday season. Now I know we're into it because we have holiday-ish things every
day for the rest of this week. Fortunately, the friends we were supposed to meet
tonight, the ones I had totally forgotten about, emailed and canceled because they
got sick over Thanksgiving. Poor things; it's not just being sick for the holiday
itself, but I'm sure the trip back was miserable.

So instead tonight
we will shop, since we'd let the pantry empty out before our trip. Tomorrow we
have a meeting to plan how to light the boats for the annual boat parade; Friday
night there's an end-of-year rowing outing, Saturday we have a dinner cruise (on a
local in the mountains) from one of Rudder's vendors, and Sunday is the annual
holiday thing from my work. I am so looking forward to spending Christmas
at home with Rudder, relaxing and maybe painting and rearranging the house a bit.
There will be at least one day spent without getting out of bed, we've promised
ourselves. There will be a tree -- we never have one on years we travel for the
holiday. I've promised myself to decorate the family room nicely even if I have to
buy more things to do it (yes, it's severe penance). There will, I have vowed, be
a fire in the firepit I hardly ever get to use. And popcorn. And hot chocolate.
And hours and hours and hours to read.

And I'll have to bone up a
bit for some a class I have to teach just after New Year's but nothing is

In other news, I'm once again attempting the holiday erg
challange -- 200000m between Thanksgiving and Xmas. That's almost a week less time
than last year, and I missed 5 days due to our Thanksgiving trip, so whether I'll
make it remains to be seen. I did get on an erg once during the trip, for 10K, so
only 175000m left to go. I can't wait.

Today I am thankful
my company's shutting down for at least a week over

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

December 03, 2002

turkey in DC

The Thanksgiving trip, from which we got back last night, involved getting to DC,
cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner for three (me, Rudder, and my uncle),
monuments and museums, a cathedral, more museums, meeting up with friends,
visiting Mt. Vernon, walking around in Alexandria, and getting home again.
Respectively, things were ok, good, interesting, amazing as usual, good, great,
interesting, cold, and kind of sucky. On balance, I think it was a

My uncle is the easiest of my relatives to stay with and
hang out with. This is partly because he goes to interesting places and does
interesting things and thus has interesting things to talk about, but more because
he has a condo in a neighborhood described by this month's issue of In
magazine as "edgy" (they had a blurb on a salon just across the street)
which boasts two bathrooms. And no denizens with IBD, which makes it a far better
place to stay than, say, the house in which I grew up. He's a pretty good DC
tourguide, too, except for tendencies to get distracted and start telling stories
when he's giving driving directions ("I remember bringing your grandfather down
this road..." "Um, excuse me, but do I need to get in the left lane now?" "My
friend Susan used to live in that building..." "That's nice but should I turn
here??") and to chatter on when you want to be experiencing a cathedral in

The Air and Space Museum wasn't quite as much fun as usual
because of huge day-after-Thanksgiving Day crowds. (And why on Earth are there
always, always Amish families in there? I don't get it.) It and the other href="">Smithsonian museums now all have guards at the doors
checking bags, so we actually had to wait in line to get in. On the other hand,
there was no wait and few people, at the Ripley gallery, which had a good exhibit
of portraits of famous women. The Building
has a spectacular atrium (you can sometimes see it televised when
Christmas concerts are held there) and a few good exhibits on public
infrastructures and the history of Do-It-Yourselfing, but the best part of it is
really the shop, if you like museum shops. The href="">National Cathedral
is always stunning and always worth seeing, unless you're my mother, whose
attitude toward it is, "Aren't there any nice synagogues around

We saw a wild turkey at Mount Vernon on Sunday -- I guess it
feels safe now.

Saturday night we had one of the highlights of the
trip, an evening at a brewpub with friends. Rudder's college friend IE came out,
and (drumroll) I had a chance to meet href="">Jenn, who arrived with a friend, K, whom I
keep thinking of as Laura. She looked like a Laura. It was an interesting group:
two rowers, two passionate sailors, my uncle, who loves travel and food and is
wont to reminisce about meals he had in June of 1972 in Paris, or late 1983 in New
York, and IE, who informed us that he can't wait until retirement so he can play
golf, every day and all day. I was very excited to meet Jenn, and enjoyed it
thoroughly. It's always interesting to see how someone is different live than
online -- Jenn is a bit softer-spoken than I had expected, though just as
passionate about her boats, and she somehow had never gotten around to mentioning
the vague resemblance to Nicole Kidman. (She looks like Nicole when she's just
being Nicole, in an interview or whatever, as opposed to when she's decked out as
the Glamorous Movie Star or costumed as a consumptive stripper.) That may explain
all the marriage proposals, anyhow. I think Laura had a good time, though she was
a bit quiet -- it must be odd to spend an evening with your friend's cyberfriends
and several others you know nothing about. What with the obsessions ranging from
competitive watersports to competitive eating, we had no shortage of general
discussion topics at least, especially as Rudder knows enough about sailing to ask
good questions.

The worst part of the trip was getting home: there
was a snowstorm in Chicago that resulted in our flying into Phoenix at 11PM,
instead of 5:30 as originally planned. Bleah, but better than it could have

Today I am thankful for: being back home.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

cheers, beauty, and holiday delusions

Two very short essays today.


It's an odd thing about people in the desert; come the
Christmas decorating season, they seem to want to pretend not to be in the
desert. In my neighborhood, twinkling lights strung on saguaros, or even lit
ornaments hanging from them are common, though I think that's more a matter of
celebrating what you've got instead of wanting what you don't have. At any rate,
the effect is more one of Southwest festivity rather than of a cactus in pine-tree
clothing. The Southwest theme is also evident in the many houses with luminarias
lining their paths. Those have spread elsewhere, but I think they derive from Old
and New Mexico and Arizona originally. Originally luminarias were just paper bags
filled half-full of sand, with a candle sitting in the sand. It gives a warm
golden glow through the brown paper. These days they're more apt to be plastic and
electrified, but the effect is similar.

The denial is factored in to
some decorations that have been becoming much more common in the last few years.
It's always (since the advent of electric Chistmas lights, anyhow) been common to
outline your house in twinkling bulbs, either white or clear. Lately, though,
almost every house in the neighborhood has its roofline dripping with icicle
lights instead of a straight line. Sometimes these are so thickly gathered as to
look more like a wide band of tiny lights, sometimes they are spread widely enough
to show the icicle effect.

If icicles in the blistering deserts
aren't weird enough, there are the streams. Many houses here have desert
landscaping instead of grass, and for good reason. Much less work is required,
less of our precious water is required -- we're in year eight of a severe drought
-- and native plants adapt better to our climate. Like the real desert around us,
these mini desert-scapes often contain small washes, sculpted stream-beds picked
out with smooth rocks. WHat more and more people are doing during the holidays is
to convert these into flowing streams. When done well, this involves strings of
twinkling blue lights scattered randomly along the stream bed. Of course, some
people don't quite get the idea, and use other colored lights, or lights that
don't twinkle, or lay the light-strings out ruler-straight so the effect looks
less like a sparkling stream and more like a string of lights accidentally left on
the ground.

Between cactus Christmas trees, icicle lights hagingin up
in 70-degree weather, and blue streams coursing across desert lawns, not to
mention the snow a nearby town sets up one day every winter for the kids to play
in, I'm convinced many of my neighbors are in denial. Next they'll invent glowing
white sheets to lay on the gravel to simulate snow in the front yards.
Ooops....maybe I shouldn't mention that idea too

Cheers and Beauty

some reason, this morning at the gym my mind kept running over what I think was
one of the finer moments in the old TV show Cheers. In the episode, Coach's
daughter was visiting. I don't remember the actress's name -- I think she also
played the secretary in Moonlighting -- but she was either very plain or
was made up to look plain. Think of Adrienne in the first Rocky movie.
Coach believed his daughter was beautiful, and had always told her so, but she had
a much harsher view f her own looks -- and the show's audience was clearly meant
to agree with her. Her father couldn't understand why she never went on dates or
had a boyfriend, and she couldn't seem to explain to him. FInally in desperation,
she stepped back into a bright light and said, "Daddy, look at me! For get I'm
your daughter and really look at me! What do you see??"

He looked and
got very solemn, and whispered, "Oh, my God."

Then his eyes filled
with tears, and he said, "You look.... you look just like your

I think the show's writers meant to make a point about
delusions and families being hopelessly partial because the daughter's next line
was an emphatic, "Exactly! And Mom was not..." then, very gently, "Not...
comfortable with her own beauty, you know that." But if that's what they intended,
it's not the point I took. To me, it speaks of love and of the subjective nature
of beauty. Of course she was only a fictional bit character on an old TV show, but
I have a tendency to believe in imaginary characters, having spent too much of my
childhood in a world where the only people who shared many of my interests and
feelings were fictional. I can't help hoping that shortly after that episode, she
found a man* as loving and honest as her father, and that that conversation helped
her believe him when he told her she was beautiful.


*Note: I'm not just being heterocentric here, though I
confess that I wrote first, then thought. The show made it clear she was
interested in men.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM


Thanksgiving mostly good, but the longer post I wrote was disappeared on me. Will
try to reconstitute it later.

Posted by dichroic at 02:11 PM