January 31, 2003

War, what is it good for?

I find it more than a little distressing that most people I talk to these days are
not convinced we ought to go to war, but are resigned that we're going to. You'd
think anyone old enough to remember Vietnam (and who used some dubbleyou -- er, I
mean dubious -- methods to avoid serving there) would have scarring memories of
what happens when you get into a war that doesn't have popular support.

It's even more perplexing because it doesn't seem that hard to get
popular support. Given the level of resignation I've seen and the fact that there
doesn't seem to be anyone who doesn't consider Saddam Hussein a mad and evil man,
a large number of the people I've spoken to would likely to be happy to be
convinced that we ought to go to war. (I live in a fairly conservative state,
though.) A good number of those now in power brag about their faith and supposed
morality, but how can it be moral to send people off to die who don't believe that
the cause is worth dying for?

I'm not a pacifist. I believe that war
is an awful, horrible thing, a thing of sordid mud and pain rather than glamor and
nobility. But I believe that there are things even worse, that war is a last
resort but that it is a valid resort to combat those last worst evils. It would be
nice, though, if more than one of us believe that it is a necessary thing in this
time and in this place. If Colin Powell doesn't show the world some evidence, and
by "show" I mean "make really, really obvious, with an Adlai Stevenson sort of
clarity", I will be very disappointed.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 30, 2003


Within the last two days I've volunteered to help someone create a new Information
Science program in the Netherlands (by "help" I mean "be one of the people she
bounces ideas off") and to edit a whole set of material for a four day class at

Yes, I'm a masochist.

Well, it's really not that
bad. The first probably entails very little work, just an occasional opinion. (For
me, I mean; it will be an enormous amount of work for the person who has the main
responsbility.) The second was more a matter of irritation than benevolence. Bad
spelling and grammar just annoy the shit out of me, and I can't not notice
them. I'm one of those natural editor freaks, a trait I share, apparently, with
the entire Fadiman family (according to Anne Fadiman in the wonderful collection
Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader -- ooh, due for a reread on that one)
and half of the LordPeter list.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

who me?

Out to dinner and so up late last night. Rowed this morning. (Yay me!) In class
all day. Only a short break for lunch.

Which is to say, look
elsewhere if you want brilliance or even coherence.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM

January 29, 2003

in review

Yesterday I had my first performance review here. I'm beginning to think that it's
better for a company to force everyone to do reviews at the same time, because if
you do it on the employee's service anniversary (the other common method) it's too
easy to postpone. I once went about three years without a review. ANd yes, you
should be getting feedback all along but at that place I wasn't, and it is
probably a good thing to sit down and talk to your boss once in a while. Assuming
your boss isn't evil, or stupid, or like the one I once had who would chew tobacco
and spit (into a can, mercifully) during meetings. I have rarely been physically
nauseated in staff meetings but that did it.

My current boss (the
Bosstrienne) isn't evil at all. In fact, I was impressed at how the review went.
(No, not by myself!) The mst notable thing about her as a boss is that she is
always, always positive. I've never done anything for her without getting a "Good
job!". This is not terribly helpful, because if someone compliments everything,
there's no way to tell if you're really doing a good job or just being overrated,
or to tell what needs improvement. So I was wondering, going in, whether there was
going to be value to this.

There was, though. She was hamstrung by a
silly policy requiring every review to have two of twelve areas listed rated at
excellent, two at Needs Work, and two At Standard. Even with that handicap,
though, she was able to give me a few things to work on (without ever actually
doing anything much resembling criticism, mind you). Impressive.

was a bit easier for her since I'd already listed things to improve on the first
draft of the review they told us to fill out in advance, and my list agreed with
hers. I'm weak on business knowledge, because they just don't teach that stuff to
engineers. As you rise through the ranks, you either get a related Master's degree
or pick it on on the job, as I'm trying to do now. Also, I'm supposed to work on
not coming off as what the Bosstrienne refers to as a "know-it-all", what some
other less kind people have called "condescending", and what I should probably try
not to think of as not suffering fools gladly.

I can't believe I
haven't written about this before, because it's sort of important to me. I noticed
years ago that Ben Franklin and Isaac Asimov have a lot in common. Both were
experts in a startling variety of areas. Both apreciated the other sex, sometimes
in more than theoretical ways. And both, according to their respective
autobiographies, underwent a very conscious transition that led to them morphing
from annoyingly bratty young men (think Jason in the comic strip Foxtrot) to
beloved old men. In both cases the transition was based on the epiphany that they
did nt need to carry the responsibility of what Asimov refers to as "the smart
man's burden"; the need to correct everyone's errors. They might have more ideas
than others, but they didn't need to take credit for all of them; Franklin began
speaking as if he were only communicating the ideas of a group.

Clearly I need to make the same sort of change, and work on some
accompanying nonverbal mannerisms, but it's something I've been working on for a
few years now. Both men write as if they made these changes more or less
immediately, but that may just be the liberty of an autobiographer. Or maybe it's
just a prerogative of genius; I do think that not only did their minds work alike,
but that mine works in the same polyglot sort of way. I am most assuredly not,
however, confusing a similarity in kind with one in degree. I'm bright, but not
Asimov-bright or Franklin-bright. Both were semi-famous by my age and it wasn't
luck; it was purely earned from the products of their brains.

But I
can certainly learn from my betters! And one of the first things I probably need
to learn (not necessarily from Drs. F and A) is to stop thinking of people as
betters and worse ones.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 28, 2003

jargon and fingers, coffee drinks and salsa

Rudder just sent me the following and it's too good not to share. This is NOT an
Internet forward; this is actually directly from a business presentation he
received. Grammatical errors are

"position [Productname] as a
commoditized alignment nescessity, while remaining focus on competitiveness and
leverage customer satisfaction for solutionized global semiconductor processing
quality paradigms, applying a totally independent empowered paradigm approach by
its leading edge integrated system design"

I think he's
considering sending it in to the Dilbert website. I told him that it was a shame
they missed using "proactive", but that "solutionized" should count for at least 3
on the management-speak bingo card. Sadly, I said that right before a meeting in
which I heard at least three people speak the word (!)

In writing yesterday about the href="http://dichroic.diaryland.com/xenophilia.html">clinic with href="http://www.xenomuller.com">Xeno, I forgot to mention that shaking hands
with him when we were first introduced was an interesting if somewhat futile
experience. Think about the topology of a handshake: the palms cross at a 90
degree angle, and the fingers stick out either side to bend around the other
person's palm. Except mine didn't. His hand is nearly as wide as mine is long, and
only the very tips of my fingers protruded. It was like being a little kid shaking
hands with an adult. It was probably weirder for the guys than for me; I mean,
they could probably shake his hand, but it must be an odd feeling standing next to
someone that much bigger than you. I'm used to it because everyone is bigger than
me, and I don't really notice the difference between 5'11" and 6'3". It's all just
up there to me. But as Rudder kept saying, Xeno's a big

On the nutrition front I would like to report that strawberry
smoothies camouflage the taste of flaxseed oil (supposed to boost energy) quite
nicely. I noticed that the little health-food store by the gym where I shower
after rowing is now selling smoothies and coffee and opening early, so I decided
that for once I'd eat breakfast when I should, while still in my glycogen window
instead of forty-five minutes later when I got to work. The smoothie (with yogurt
instead of ice cream) made a great breakfast, except that it's still a bit chilly
here in the mornings. (Stop laughing, out there on the East Coast). By the time I
got to work I was freezing my ass off, even with the car heater on. Someone needs
to invent a hot healthy energy drink; I'm thinking coffee (decaf for me) mixed
with a vanilla version of those yogurt drinks they sell for kids, maybe with some
flaxseed or protein powder mixed in.

If anybody reads this and
decides to market it, all I ask is a year's supply.

Other questions
on nutrition, since I've just eaten lunch and the cafeteria had chimichangas
today: does salsa count as a vegetable serving? How about beans? Even if they're

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 27, 2003


The dominant sporting event of my weeend was not the Superbowl. (I did watch it,
though I generally define "watching" TV as taking occasional peeks at it over the
top of a book.) Both mornings this weekend, Rudder and I participated in a rowing
seminar with Xeno Muller, winner of the
gold medal for men's single scull in Atlanta in 1996 and the silver in Sydney in

It was good. Xeno's a hell of a nice guy, down to earth and
with a contagious enthusiasm that's impressive in someone who's been doing this
half of his life. He has am emphatic presence, partially but not entirely due to
his being rather a large lad. (I think Rudder and the other male participants were
a tiny bit cowed.) (He's cute, too.) More importantly, he didn't tell us anything
stupid -- all of his comments on good rowing form are things that make sense in
terms of basic biomechanics. (Not true of the styles taught by some

Of course, I may be a little biased because he was very
complimentary of my form and Rudder's, commenting that, because we've been rowing
longer, we're way ahead of the other rowers in the seminar. However, said other
rowers are still faster than I am and I don't expect to be getting any taller in
the immediate future. I can't get let my head swell much, since all it would take
to deflate it would be two words: "Wanna drag?" We didn't get as manypointers on
form because of that, but he did correct some bad habits I'd been developing --
this is what I need occasional coaching for

Xeno did give me
some helpful rigging tips. I made an easy change or two, and did seem to be moving
a little faster, but there are some things I can't easily change (the shoes don't
fit in front of the righer, so they need to be in front of or behind it). Now, of
course, my ever-helpful husband is all in favor of taking my boat apart to try to
optimize it. Rudder's not terribly well-acquainted with the idea of "good enough".
I suppose if we can make it better, it will be worth it, but when we doi take off
that rigger I'm going to be very very careful to mark the present positions so we
can put it back if necessary.

Longtime readers of this journal may be
shocked to hear that the seminar was arranged by the local junior crew, nexus of
the often-vilified (by me) Coach DI: he had two boats-full of juniors in it but
also invited any of the local rowers to sign up (I think he charged us the same as
the juniors). I think, though, that while the idea may have been his, the actual
arranging was done by one of the parents. Nothing wrong with that; if you're not
good at organizing, the best thing may be to let someone else do it. Furthermore,
DI was in full-on Jekyll mode all weekend; not only was he helpful and friendly,
he went out of his way to be generous -- actually loaned one person a boat when
there was a conflict with the club boat she expected to use, and in general tried
to make us all look good in his comments to Xeno. Impressive. He told us he's
planning several more of these seminars, some with equally impressive names. If
they all go this well, bring 'em on. If they don't happen, at least we had this
one. I think its success went a long way toward mending some strained
relationships around here, too. (Though at least one other coach may not be best
pleased at Xeno's comments on the style he teaches -- and several of his most
dedicated people were in the seminar. But I'm with Xeno on this one, purely from
the physiological and engineering standpoints. (It wasn't the charisma. Really.))

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 26, 2003

God Bless ... not that song

Can we just retire the song God Bless America? Please please please? I hate that
song. I don't think anyone but Kate Smith should ever be allowed to sing it
again, and I think she's dead, so that's safe. (Do I mean Kate Smith? The old
woman who used to sing it at hockey games, whoever she was.)

I was
afraid, when they announced Celine Dion wold be singing it at the SuperBowl, that
it would be instead of the national anthem. It is NOT the national anthem, dammit,
no matter how many times it's been perpetrated on an innocent public since
September 11, 2001. I have never been one to believe that an important subject is
justification for bad words -- Q wrote something to the effect that it was
important for a nation to develop its poetry "because we still have heroes to
celebrate". (Scott had just died in Antarctica.) That's still true.

And whose dumbass idea was it to have Celine Dion sing it? The
woman's a Canadian, for cripes sake.

I was immensely relieved when
they brouy out the Dixie Chicks to sing the REAL anthem. They did some sweet
harmonies on it, too, and the crisp salutes of a diverse military group was
actually touching.

But if people want another song to add to The
Star-Spangled Banner, which certainly has its drawbacks (i.e. most Americans can't
actually sing it), can't we sing something like America the Beautiful? Or, since
I'm still an unregenerate radical, how about This Land is Your Land or Phil Ochs'
Power and Glory?

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 24, 2003

what it means

"For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat and when there's hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad times) to laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your kingdom."

Read that, subsititute "leader" for king, think on our current body politic, and weep. Somehow I don't think any of them have read The Horse and His Boy lately. I wonder who Lewis had in mind when he wrote those words, and whether he was intending satire -- though British leadership in WWII probably comes as close as any to those words, in modern times. ("Nothing to offer you, but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" .... "Now I can look the East End in the face.")

THaHB never used to be my favorite of the Narnia books, but I recently reread it (spurred on by an audiotape that abridged way too much of the story) and had to reevaluate. There's a lot more to it than I had realized, on how to run a life as well as how to run a country. I'm off next for a rereading of The Magician's Nephew and maybe The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though I may not make it through the latter. It and The Last Battle are among the books I've read so often they're internalized. I don't need to reread them more than every decade or so now because their words are an irrevocable part of my internal dialogue.

I've also been reading Quiller-Couch, first On the Art of Writing, then his autobiography, and they also are growing experiences. Just on the most obvious level, it's the first nontechnical book I've read in since my teens that consistently kept introducing words I'd never heard, a bit of a blow to the old ego. ('Bewray' and 'pullulate' were the first two to send me to the dictionary.) There are phrases that struck me on first reading and good advice I'd seen quoted by those who learned from him. Considering that most writing I do is technical (and the rest is long-winded) I need to remember his definition of jargon, especially. (Not because he objects to technical words, but because meaningly phrases are so often used in corporate writing.) I can tell I'll be rereading Q until his ideas and phrases are in my brain and tongue for future use.

In the car, I'm listening to Maria Shriver reading her book, Ten Things I Wish I'd Known. Generally my idea of a self-help book is the aforementioned On the Art of Writing, but this one really is pretty good. I won't say there's much in there I didn't know, but there's a lot I learned the hard way, and there's some I needed to hear verbalized or to have repeated. Some of her choices were certainly not be mine -- not only am I not much interested in TV news, but I have no desire to have four kids. And she did the latter starting at age 34. (I admit, Arnold has his points. And he's aged well -- he's far more appealing now than his was in his youth when he never got to show a sense of humor.) But she reiterates her respect for those who make different decisions, and her advice to listen to your own gut on moral and life issues, not other people's rules. And she drives home some points with which I vehemently agree. For example, she says flat out that while she chose to scale back her career drastically when she had kids, that was her own choice, and that her husband has tailored his career to the kids' needs as well -- that both parents, not just the mother, need to plan lives around their kids, that men can't just assume their wives will take care of everything non-job-related. She's said a few things that make me think well of Arnold as well -- when he first told her not to expect him to make her happy, that she had to do it herself, she thought that he still didn't have his English quite right yet. Now it's one of the lessons she's passing on. I don't know this book would have been a life-changer even if I'd read it back in college, but like the Richard Bach books I occasioannly reread, it says some things I need to be reminded of now and then.

This weekend: rowing clinic with Xeno Muller, gold medalist at Atlanta and silver medalist at Sydney. Should be interesting.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 23, 2003

an ode to my trousers

Today is a death-or-glory sort of day (does that make me a Death-or-Glory toad? or
was that Mole?) in that I have severl meetings that really matter to me. The first
two are over; one went well and one went splendidly. The third, in which I have
the most skin, still looms. This is the one where I have to convince a bunch of
people who have to join my project team -- many of those including some of the
most senior have serious reservations that what I'm proposing will work -- and
some of those have a lot more knowledge of this area than I do. My tactic will be
to assure them that I'll listen to their questions and that we won't force changes
in unless we determine together that they make sense. (This is less common than
you'd think on big aerospace projects.) Wish me luck.

Because of all
those big meetings, today for once I am dressed in an outfit of which Rudder
approves wholeheartedly. His tastes being notably more conservative than mine,
this rarely happens. He's particularly happy that I'm wearing a scarf, which I
hardly ever do because I'm not good with them. I'm happy because the colors are
elegant -- pewter gray and ashes-of-roses and so is the cut -- lean pants with a
jacket down to mid-thigh. I'm even happier because instead of the pants which came
with the jacket, which are now unaccountably too small, I'm wearing pants I just
bought from REI that not only match the jacket almost perfectly, but that fit
comfortably and that stretch. And they're the same size as the too-small
suit pants so I can pretend it's the pants that shrunk. (Though I doubt Tencel
does shrink, so this is pure self-delusion.) In these pants, which are even better
for having been on sale at an absurdly cheap price, I can subdue anyone who does
give me a hard time with spinning Charlie's Angel kicks. If necessary. Or at least
my pants are capable of it; whether I can pull off spinning kicks is another
question entirely.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

the foggy dew

This morning was an unusual and entirely unexpected experience for those of us who
row in the desert. When we got up at 4AM, RUdder looked out the window and
commented it might be too foggy to row. Fog in the desert is usually an evanescent
thing, though, and wind or fog at our house don't necessarily imply the same at
the lake, 10 miles away. The fog was unusually thick in our neghborhood and on up
the highway, though, enough to have me driving a little slower than usual even in
the more-asphalted areas. Once I made the turn to the west, though, I noticed the
air was much clearer and I could see the lakes and its bridges with no trouble. As
usual, we were the first two there (I swear, this trait in Rudder comes from a
minor haunting by my grandfather).

We joked about coming home and
snuggling instead of rowing, but he was supposed to row with She-Hulk today and it
wasn't really anywhere near foggy enough to justify taking the day off.So we took
down the oars, carried the boats to the water, and set off. Even down right there
on the water it was fairly clear, as I headed to the western dam, then turned
around and came back toward the east, but by the time I'd completed my first
thousand meters or so, it was looking a bit hazier. Two hundred meters past the
bridge and I could only see the lights on top of it. I passed the ASU stadium and
saw only a bright white haze, and then moved on to the darker eastern end of the
lake. There are no lights or buildings, or much of anything else out

The Rural Road bridge was nothing but a dark shadow until I
got close to it. After it, there were only a few distant lights on the shore, and
then nothing. There were no sounds from the highways, and nothing I could see but
water and grayness, that would have been blackness but for the lights on my boat
and a fwe by the edges of the lake. It was like moving through cotton. I couldn't
see the buoys that mark the eastern end of the lake until they were 50 meters
away, even with the lights right behind them. Very spooky. I kept thinking of a
story by Larry Niven (I think) about a man who wandered into a dense fog and
wandered out again in a different universe. I made my turn wide, and stayed close
enough to see at least the shadow of the shore, and decided to head back in. I
don't mind the occasional risk if there's a payoff for taking it, but there was no
reason to risk this. And it was dangerous; rowing shells flip easily, and I knew
some of the other boats out there might not have good lights on them. And if I
fell in, the chance of anyone else noticing and coming to help was very low,
something necessary to consider in the water temperature of even an Arizona

By the time I'd gotten my boat up and rinsed it off, everyone
else had made the same decision, even Coach DI's juniors. Rudder and She-Hulk came
up last, so I made sure to give them a healthy helping of shit for not doing the
safe thing until even the juniors had come in. He tried claiming he was flying
IFR, but I pointed out that She-Hulk was actually the pilot (rowing bow) and she's
not IFR rated, and that even in an airplane it's only legal to fly on instruments
if both pilot and aircraft are IFR rated. No nav instruments on these

We used to have to stay on shore for days in a row when we
lived in Houston. Out here we rarely have to cancel practice because of weather.
Next time it happens, I hope it's obvious far enough in advance that I can just
stay in bed.

Posted by dichroic at 10:59 AM

January 22, 2003

the erg entry

Since I talk about the erg (rowing machine) all the time and since I know some
readers here work out, maybe it's time for the how-to entry. Also, it will explain
some of the details I list for my workouts.

First, the basics. Why:
because it's one of the best cardio workouts you can get.

is an erg: They are the
rowing machines used by most rowers because they're closest to the feeling of real
rowing, and because lots of gyms (and lots of rowers) have them. Rumor has it that
NordicTrack's which has a fan moving through actual water, is also pretty good,
but I haven't used one.

How: Sit on the seat, sliding it up to the
fan end. Set the damper to about 3 (this feels like a good racing shell rather
than a heavy barge). Grab the handle, because unless you're very limber it's hard
to reach with feet strapped in. Adjust the feet thingies to a comfortable level --
I put them on the fourth holes. Now straighten out, straightening your legs before
leaning back and pulling in your arms so your hands don't bump into your knees.
Reverse the process: hands out, body over, bend legs. href="http://www.concept2.com/rowing/gs/gettingstarted.asp">Here's what it's
supposed to look like.

Cardio: Start out easy so you don't make
yourself want to puke. You'll probably find even ten minutes challenging at first,
until you build up to rowing harder and faster. href="http://www.concept2.com/rowing/workouts/workoutlib.asp">Here are some
ideas for workouts. I usually do 5000m for normal workouts, or 1000 to warm up for

By the way, about the computer thingy: It will start
automatically when you start rowing nad will stay on for a few minutes after you
stop. You can set it for a specific time or distance but I usually just let it
count up, which is the default. If you press the big button on the lower right you
can cycle through a bunch of information: watts (which I only use for power
workouts, below), total Kcalories burned (which can be motivating), average split,
or distant. On the last two your current split time will also be displayed -- the
split is the time it would take to row 500 meters at your current pace. Stroke
rate (strokes per minute) is shown in the upper right. If you've rowed hard, do a
few hundred meters light cooldown afterwards; you'll feel much better when you get

Strength workout: Basically, I use the ergs to simulate squats.
Except it works your arms too so it's really almost a clean and jerk. For these, I
set the resistance damper all the way to 10, then I do two sets of twenty, keeping
the stroke rate all the way down to 14 (24 is about a normal rate for rowing for
me) so that I don't get any help from momentum. This is the only time I watch the
watts on the monitor; I try to get over 100 on each stroke (but only hit it on
some). I'm puffing by the end. I usually warm up first and do a bit of a cooldown
before the strength piece. I've added this to my erg days and do it as the first
weight exercise on gym days.

The boredom factor: the best thing I've
found is books on tape. However, you can't really wear a Walkman because your
whole body is moving. This is why I do my longer erg pieces at home with a boom
box on the floor. At the gym I hardly ever do more than 2000m, which is 10-12
minutes depending how hard I'm pulling, and people watching suffices for

So now you have no excuse! (Except that you got bored and
didn't read any of this.)

Posted by dichroic at 11:41 AM

January 21, 2003

desert sky

"Magnificent" is the only word for what the sky was doing as I drove home
yesterday. We don't get clouds all that often in this desert, but when we do, we
get scenic ones. They are especially impressive because you can see so many of
them -- on the road I take to get home, I can see many 160 degrees of sky, and it
would be a full 180 but that there are mountains on all sides. This still amazes
me because I grew up on a street where the sky only shows between the tops of
rowhouses. Never saw a horizon except on trips down the shore. Never saw a rainbow
until I was grown. Yesterday I drove home as the sun was low, getting ready to
set. Opposite it, arching down from a low clooud to a mountain was a vivid snatch
of rainbow.

The clouds were piled in tattered and riotous layers and
the sun came through them in odd ways -- turning a snip of cloud to silver here
and pouring gold across a mountain slope there, turning an isolated section of
town to a shining city in a valley, and somehow reflecting a spray of beams
up across dark clouds.

After a while, as the sun lowered, the
layers of cloud melded to more uniform grays and big drops of rain fell on the
windshield for a few minutes. Later, though, the setting sun lifted through the
clouds again and the clouds opposite shone rose and gold, then it set and the
western clouds were layers of red and purple. I was listening to a tape of the
one-man John Muir show performed regularly in Yosemite[1], which heightened my
appreciation for natural beauty.

This morning on the ride in, I saw
the rising sun, big and round in my rear view mirror. A couple of days ago if I
had had a camera I would have pulled the car over and stopped, because the full
moon was big and low over Four Peaks, and the air was clear enough to show the
details of the mountains.

Parts of my drive home are beautiful every
day, with views across relatively unspoiled desert to mountains. The light on the
mountains changes every few minutes and the desert becomes more or less green
depending on rainfall or lack of it. If I could change it I wouldn't give up the
commute entirely, just extract the best 15 minutes from the middle of it. Whenever
we do move from this desert, I think the wide open sky is what I'll miss

[1]Lee Stetson, who wrote the show and has performed it for
years, was recently elected as a Mariposa County supervisor. There's apparently
some question whether the election was a tribute to Stetson or to his alter ego
Muir, though Stetson says it doesn't really matter much, since his own views don't
differ from Muir's in any significant way.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 20, 2003

in honor of the day

We shall overcome,

We shall overcome, someday,

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,

We shall overcome, someday.

We Shall overcome.....

Obviously, "someday" isn't here yet. We still have a mountain to climb to get to the place Dr. and Mrs. King fought for -- a place of harmony, equality, and peace, where there is no poverty. Maybe we can't get to that ideal at all in this world, though that's no reason not to try. "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" said Browning. But one thing I always find, when I'm climbing a physical mountain is that when I'm panting and tired, and the peak is a long way off, it helps to look back and see how far I've come. And we have come some way; for just one example, we wouldn't be seeing backlash against affirmative action if the results hadn't been enough to scare some people. And whatever you think of Colin Powers, the fact that he's where he is, that his position is such that his disagreement with Shrub over affirmative action made national news this morning, can only be progress. That didn't happen the year I was born, and I'm not that old.

We'll walk hand in hand.....

This one has happened, at least where I live, in the most literal sense. I see all combinations of blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos walking hand in hand every time I walk through my local mall (the only place people actually walk around here). From my experiences with my own parents' reaction when I dated an Asion guy in college, not to mention some of the odd looks we got now and then (though never on campus) I can only think things have changed. It may be just geographical, but I hope not. On the other hand, while segregation is no longer de jure, it's clear there's a long way to go until it's no long de facto in some areas. Teenagers may hold hands, but in many places, small children still can't.

We shall live in peace.....

Nope, not this century either. Though at least this morning I was heartened to hear that diplomats on both sides are still at least trying to evade war with Iraq. And the North and South Koreans have been talking. But there's still Israel, and Ireland seems to be backsliding lately. Pakistan is worrying me, and I don't think we've had a President so inclined to consider war a Good Thing since Teddy Roosevelt. And even he changed his mind after a few of his sons were killed in battle.

We shall not be moved.....

Hah. There are still those who have not moved on their positions or budged from their fights, and blessings on them all. And then there are those who once stood with them, and who fought the accumulated wrongs of society, and who then aged a little and gained a little power and began voting and speaking on the basis of a new platform: "I Got Mine." There are those who turned on their once-brothers when they began to follow where conscience led. (I'm thinking here of some allegations I recently read against Louis Farrakhan -- never one of my heroes anyway, for reasons that may be obvious.) There are those who walk the halls of power and forget the people who scrub the floors of those halls -- I see them every day in real life as well as on the news. We could use a little more inflexibility.

We shall overcome.....

Deep in my heart, I do still believe. I do.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 19, 2003

weekend in briefs

Ah, weekends without plans. What a wonderful thing. Here's a story illustrating
exactly why we need breaks from our jobs, and yes, I do have explicit permission
to post it.

The other day after sharing some bodily fluids and
marital joy, I was chiding Rudder for his uncanny ability to always leave wet
spots, and always on my side. He looked up at me, practically batting his
eyelashes, and said, "But I'm good at it. You've got to go with your

Then he looked down, looked back up and said, "Uh-oh. Can
you tell I've been doing employee reviews all day?"

Hell, I'm just
happy he didn't describe it as a "core competency".

Posted by dichroic at 03:35 PM

January 17, 2003

still ain't satisfied

I've been reading some of href="http://www.livejournal.com/users/AngieJ">Ebony's fiery prose; she's
someone I know from a list from way back in her undergrad days. I just found her
site though a link in another journal. (Thanks, href="http://kiwiria.diaryland.com">Kiwiria, and yes I do think you shouold
keep writing!) Now she's on the front lines living what she believes in, and
probably doing more direct good in the world than I ever will. She's always
managed to both interest and educate me. I don't agree with some of her minor
points; for example, high black crime rates and low life expectancies may be
partly due to despair and stress respectively, but I believe you've also got to
give credit (discredit) to simple poverty and the overcrowding that goes with it.
Those things, though, don't diminish the force of her points, and in my
disagreements I am always uneasily conscious that I might be wrong on all of them.
It's hard to argue with someone who's living with the brutal and hard realities
that are so easy to opine about from the soft comfort of the White house -- or
from my comparatively luxurious home and office. (Er, I mean luxurious compared to
urban war-zone Detroit, not to the White House.) (I'm not dissing Detroit as a
whole; I'm sure many parts of it are not brutal. Some are.)

I found
myself wanting to respond line by line to amplify or point out something I thought
she'd missed. I had the same reponse to href="http://batten.diaryland.com">Batten today, but in that case it was out
of disagreement. Funny, I think she and I agree on the very high level and on many
details; it's somewhere in the middle that we draw very different conclusions. We
agree on the need to fight for freedom, just not always on how or when. But it's
always worth debating with someone who thinks about her points, either to learn,
to teach, or to find common ground.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 16, 2003

ms. tact

I actually spend time at two different gyms, or rather two branches of the same
gym chain. At the one near my home, on Wednesdays, I erg and lift weights and
stretch out abused body parts. Afterwards, I can usually count on interesting or
at least friendly and non-irritating conversation in the locker room, in the
primping area. (There's plenty of time for this; at either gym I can walk in,
notice a couple of people blow-drying their hair, shower, dry off, dress, slap
some glop on my face and different glop in my hair, and say goodbye to those same
people, still fluffing away.) The other one is closer to the lake; ostensibly I go
there not to work out but to shower after rowing.

The extra benefit
to this gym is that while I don't build muscles there, I do get frequent chances
to exercise my tact (which needs it). Tuesday, one woman was talking about having
had LASIK. I mentioned that I was interested, but hesitant because they tell me
I'll eventually have to wear reading glasses even if I have the surgery, and if I
have to wear glasses, why not just wear normal prescription ones and skip the
surgery? She said, "Well, yeah, but how often do you read???" I promise
you, I did not answer her with the question, "What kind of fucking illiterate are
you?" though I think my jaw dropped and it may have been obvious I was thinking
it. She then said, "Well, you're not reading now, are you? Well, no, I
wasn't, having just gotten out of the shower -- but if I'd been at home, I would
have been. I'm reading now, I read for work and for pleasure, I read when I eat, I
listen to books while I drive, and I'd read while I was sleeping if I could keep
my eyes open. I don't expect everyone to do the same, but surely it shouldn't
actually surprise anyone that some people might spend a great deal of time staring
at printed or phosphor words.

This morning, I stood in one of the
open shower cubicles, and glimpsed another one of the regulars across from me.
This one happens to have had breast augmentation (her dad paid for it, which
somehow strikes me as bizarre) and she had an amount put in that I wouldn't have
thought any reputable surgeon would inject. Waaayy out of proportion, the sort of
thing some women have surgery to reduce. This time I had to bite my tongue to keep
from saying, "You paid to make those like that? Why?"

Yup, any
second now I'll be ready for polite society.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 15, 2003

Mindfulness, in more detail

OK, so back to the mindfulness issue.

Since I seem to be working from
a Jewish perspective and starting from food, here's some further illustration.
Harold Kushner (the guy who wrote "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People" as well
as "To Life!", a book I highly recommend, on the basic attitudes of Jewish
theology) writes that Jews say specific blessings before eating not just to thank
God but because it's the next best thing to vegetarianism. This way, you are at
least acknowledging the lifes that died to keep you alive.

In my own
life, I'm not really working from what Shrub might refer to as a "faith-based
perspective". I'm thinking I need to appreciate more aspects of my life for my own
sake, to enrich that same life. It's easy for me to begin arguing from the
tradition in which I was brought up, but I'm really working at least as much from
Socrates' stricture on the unexamined life as I am from Judaic traditions of

The problem is the same one I was discussing before the
holidays, the same discontent that has me revamping my workout and complaining
about my commute, and I think href="http://mechaieh.diaryland.com/nobrood.html">Mechaieh's post yesterday
may be pointing me to a more accurate diagnosis. At present I think that the
problem may be that when I am very busy and I don't have much down time, it's easy
for life to become a set of scurryings from place to place, an obstacle course in
which even the things I like to do become one more damn obligation. I'm beginning
to think that maybe living in the moment, being mindful of each thing, is part of
a solution. Simply scaling back is a more obvious fix, but it's not really
feasible, especially since most of my stressors are actually good things in
themselves. I can't shorten my commute without changing jobs. I really like this
one and I'm not nearly ready to leave it; I like this company a lot; and I need to
stay with it for a long time to establish continuity on my resume. I don't want to
cut back on exercise too much because if I row less I'll do badly in races, and
because I worked hard for my current level of fitness, such as it is.

It sometimes gets to the point where my mind is a frantic blur, like
confetti in a whirlwind and even the things I know are good for me look like
intolerable burdens. Camping might be relaxing when I get there, but packing and
driving out on Friday night after a week of work can look like too high a wall to

I think more mindful living might help. The people who seem
best at the sort of consciousness I'm thinking of usually seem to identify as
artists; Mechiaeh and href="http://kuinileti.diaryland.com">Kuinileti are good examples. href="http://thistledown.diaryland.com">Thistledown and href="http://paisleypiper.diaryland.com">Paisleypiper are two who live
together, which must be particularly effective, though even so most of these
people would probably say that theior lives are far less serene than they look
from outside. They've all carved out time for art and artful pursuit of living. I
know I'll never get to the same extent because my mind doens't work the same way,
because I'm not an artist by talent or temperament, and because, frankly, I enjoy
a bit of chaos and flutter, within limits. It lets me know I'm alive. So this is
why, so example, I've added more variety to my workouts, decided not to emphasize
racing this season, and begun trying to focus on using my morning rows to clear my
mind. Maybe if I plan but don't worry about things ahead, the confetti in my head
will start to settle. Maybe if I try to live in each moment while it's here, the
moments won't fly by so fast. I've already got my drive time to listen to books or
the radio (singing and reading are almost the only things that are never, never
chores for me, no matter what). I need to slow down in speaking also, to calm my
hamster-wheel brain and compose my words; I know this is something I have to do to
become a better teacher and mentor, two major facets of my job.

Despite all the supposed furor of modern life, I don't think it's a
new problem -- why else all the Torah stories about taking time to bless eating,
drinking, waking up, going to sleep, starting, ending, living? And why else are
there all those stories about God speaking only not in a whirlwind but in a still
small voice? Susbtitute "life" or "my best self" or "truth" or what you will for
"God" -- in this case it's all the same for practical purposes. (But please, don't
call it "sharpening the saw".)

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 14, 2003

mindful living

I stole the following story from href="http://mechaieh.diaryland.com">Mechaieh, because I think it may nail
exactly what's wrong with my life, why I'm so drained from work and exercise, and
why I'm having problems getting burned out from

The flow of Divine abundance that makes the whole
earth and the whole universe fruitful depends, [the Kabbalists of Safed] said, on
human intentionality in blessing the fruits of the trees. In this way they, like
the Zohar, put enormous energy and weight into the human act of eating.

Not merely eating, but eating with intention and with proper
blessings. . .They quoted a line from the Talmud: "Whoever enjoys produce in this
world without pronouncing a blessing is called a

Now, this is a Jewish story, which means that
you could take it literally, but you'd missing the point; this is a tradition in
which people have spent 2000 years arguing over every interpretation of every
word. Though it speaks specifically of the blessing of fruits of the trees, on the
next level up (as far as I'm prepared to go here) it speaks of living mindfully,
of noticing what you do as you do it. The traditional sages would say that this is
because God created the world and therefore one should appreciate the divine in
every aspect of it and render thanks for blessings received.

I'm not
that traditional; to me the reason for mindful living is not to give thanks to God
as a sort of quid pro quo. (Though if you believe in even a Prime Mover on any
level, it does seem only polite.) This is probably a bit closer to a
Reconstructionist viewpoint, but mostly it's a poor thing and mine own. The reason
for appreciating all aspects of life is more a matter of enriching my own life, of
sqeezing all the juice from it. There are other reasons for noticing, for example,
what you eat, especially animal flesh, to acknowledge that other life is taken to
support your own. Or to pay attention to relating to other people, of respect for

I'm writing in way too much of a hurry here, probably far too
much for this to be clear, but I wanted to get this first bit written out so I
have it to come back to later. I'll try to go on with it, and get more explicitly
to how this relates to work and rowing and so on.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 13, 2003

about (weekends)

Tune in yesterday for a
picture of Rudder -- unfortunately he's got a bit of a goofy expression in it but
he's aw'fly cute. (I'm not biased or anything, of course.)

And yes,
yes I was, I was a good girl today and did my erg piece plus some weights and
crunches. The scale afterward doesn't seem to have noticed but my waistband isn't
tight and I can feel my cheekbones and ribs so who cares? (positive thinking ....
ignore the scale ... pay attention to what really matters ..... and go easy on
both the sweets and the parenthetical comments.)

Besides, the way
work is going, I'll need all the energy I can build up. Nothing bad, but lots of
busy-ness going on. I'm beginning to feel that if there's one Jewish contribution
that really made the world better, it was the invention of weekends.

Before I forget, a couple entries in the guestbook make me think I need to
emphasize that a few days
, I was NOT in any way trying to crow over those who have fewer entries
than I do. I was actually trying to use the numbers as proof of the fact which
needs no further proof, that I tend to be on the loquacious side. Bluntly, I

Posted by dichroic at 11:34 AM

January 12, 2003

the rules

My body is not currently a happy body - shoulders, wahtever those are at the back
of the underarms, thighs, and the blisters on my feet. It made getting into the
Orange Crush with its newly removed side steps into quite an experience.
cFortunately I should still still be sore tomorrow, so I'll know it was a
successful weekend. Just been offered a massage -- bye!


OK, somewhat better, though still a bit sore. This is one of the rules I live by:
1) Always go to the bathroom when you're at one, because you don't know how far
off the next one will be. (Obviously this applies mostly during travel or on
hikes.) 2) Never turn down an offered massage (assuming the offerer is someone you
want touching you). 3) Never miss an opportunity to do or learn something
enjoyable, interesting and rare. I've heard of people turning down chances to do
everything from skydiving free to studying at CERN in Switzerland for the summer,
and the waste annoys me.

On an entirely unrelated topic, here's a picture I took of Rudder with the beard
he grew during vacation, just before he shaved it off. Now, it's clearly not the
most flattering shot ever taken of him, but I think it makes it quite clear why I
hated seeing that beard go. Imagine that face now with the long hair he refuses
ever to grow, factor in that Aragorn was one of the major reasons I enjoyed The
Two Towers so much and ..... granted I'm biased but if you use a bit of
imagination the resemblance isn't totally in my head.

Posted by dichroic at 04:17 PM

January 11, 2003

Up and down and still somehow...

Make that six days in a row of working out. And on the seventh day, even if
it's not quite the right seventh day, I shall rest.

Today we hiked up
Picacho Peak, not to mention back down. It's only about a four-mile round trip,
but it's a sneaky one because you hike up 900 feet in a mile (this is steep, if
you're not a hiker), hike/climb back down what the guidebook I have claims
is 500 feet but seems like less, and then mostly climb up another 900 feet. There
are cables alongside for much of the last half and a lot of it would either be
impossible or very unsafe without them -- even with them a lot of people seemed to
be finding it scary.

Funny how fitness doesn't transition between
sports. Row 10K? No problem. Run 10K? Forget it. Hike a steep 4 miles? Can do, but
my lungs are still feeling the pain lo these several hours later and I don't think
my knees have forgiven me. We used to hike quite a lot, but have done much less of
it lately. Partly, it's because we've done most of the trails of that length
hereabouts and partly it's just that working out and working all week lead us to
want to collapse on the weekends.

Tomorrow I'm happy to say I have no
plans. Uh, except for going flying with Rudder at 8AM. And buying a calendar. And
finishing embroidering that damned tablecloth, again. And grocery shopping. But
nothing that really counts.

You know how it is.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 10, 2003

"You're a Smart Girl, Gay"

Work is starting to get a bit more hectic, as expected after the holiday doldrums.
I did my first teaching on Wednesday (two modules, all afternoon)and I think it
went relatively well. On the feedback sheets, one person said I "need to become
more familiar with the material" (fair enough -- a total of about 140 slides, 4
hours worth, and this was my first time teaching it), but quite a few used words
like "interesting", "smart", and "good presentation". A few people claimed the
particular tools won't be of any use to them. Some of those are right, though I
tend to think a little imagination can adapt this particular tool to be very
useful to most of our people.

The "smart" comment puzzled me a bit,
and it came from several different people. I mean, I am smart (and not especially
prone to false modesty), and it's among the first few words people who know me
would use in a description. I've got a verbal sort of focus, so it shows easily --
I'm not one of those people whom you have to know for a while and gradually
realize they're frighteningly intelligent. I don't reach the "frightening" level,
and such intellectual goods as I have are more or less in the shop window. But how
do these people know? I had never met any of them before Wednesday; they saw me
speak for about three and a half hours from prepared slides (that I didn't prepare
myself). I answered a few questions, but nothing too wild. So how do they know? Is
"bright girl" tattooed on my forehead, as someone once claimed "granola" was?
(That would be shortly before I began working in the defense industry, so I think
it was mainly clothing-related.) Maybe it's just an aura. Or maybe they couldn't
think what else to write on the feedback sheets.

In other news I may
be smart but I'm also tired -- back to the workout schedule and yes I did exercise
all five days this week. I'm not quite smart enough to figure out why my weights
as high as it's ever been. Yes, some of it's muscle .... but probably not all of

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 09, 2003

about other people

Remember, a day or two I made some vague allusions to someone deserving
congratulations? Egret and T2 have
announced that they will be having a litter TWINS this summer! I
can't wait to watch T2 chasing knee-high sprinters going in opposite directions.
(I suppose I'll do some chasing myself, as I intend to volunteer the occasional
babysitting. I never get to play with muchkins any more,

And, proving my status as a bad influence, I'd like to be
the first to welcome Lcubed, a major
influence of my college years, to Diaryland. Just wait until he finds out how
addictive these things can be .... heh, heh, heh.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 08, 2003

writing, ad nauseam

This is a bit scary. I noticed this morning that I have 800 entries up on this
diary (801, as soon as I post this). And it's not like I'm keeping this blog-
style, with lots of little entries each day; these are big honking essays, one or
two a day, several paragraphs each. I knew I was verbose, but

Curious to know just how verbose I was, relatively speaking,
I did some searching around. None of the first several D-land profiles I looked at
had nearly as much volume, including even some of the pillars of Diaryland:
Weetabix, Pischina, Marn, Badsnake, Mechaieh .... all several hundred entries
behind. Anenigma and Gofigure have more posts, but theirs tend to be so short it's
evident they're not afficted with logorrhea. It wasn't until I checked the
numbers on Kinetix, KitchenLogic, and Unclebob that I finally found people who
have posted even more than I have. However, it will be noted by the astute and
habitual diary reader that the diarists mentioned above are all very widely read.
Some of them are professional or semiprofessional writers, read outside the diary
community. Me, I just babble. That's why I like the online diary format so much
(with 800 entries, obviously I do!). I can chatter on as much as I want and others
can choose whether or not to read. Read it or don't, get bored with me, go away.
It's no skin off my nose, and I like it that way.

At any rate, such
writing ability as I may have I come by honestly. My mother is becoming Bat
Mitzvah next May [1] and has just sent me a short article she wrote for her
synagoue's newsletter. The following is an excerpt, with names removed to protect
their privacy.

My name is [Dichroic's Mom], and I
am proud to be a part of the Bnai Mitzvot class. Our joint Bnai Mitzvot is
scheduled for Saturday, May 31, 2003.

I have been married to
[Dichroic's Dad for 39 years, and we have 2 adult children: [Dichroic], married
to [Rudder], and [My Brother the Writer -- hmmm, guess it is

Although raised in a secular family, my parents sent me to
the Hebrew Sunday School Society for several years where I received a good
background in history and customs. It wasn't as common then for girls to become
Bat Mitzvah. However, I always felt drawn to Jewish activities, like BBG[2] and
Neighborhood Center[3]. I even met my husband at a synagogue dance. Therefore,
when we had children, it was important to me that both my daughter and my son
receive a quality Jewish education. For our family, after trying others, that
meant joining [their synagogue]. As my children moved toward being a Bat and Bar
Mitzvah, I became active in the Hebrew School PTA, and then moved on to Women's

When my son started Aleph class, P

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 07, 2003

finding contentment

Ampersand project: the only way you'll find happiness.

"Trying to be happy is like trying to build a machine for which the only specification is that it should run noiselessly." -- anonymous

The Quest

Most sought their fortunes. I thought it wiser
To seek my happiness. Thus, I quested
Rejecting this or that life-offer
Refusing all inferior benison,
I would not settle for any lesser thing.
And as my fellows on less worthy quests
Chose each his silly path,
I mocked them all. I scorned their choices,
Sure that in seeking mere adventure
Mere love, mere work, mere opportunity
Each life was wasted. I, only I
Still sought the noblest path
As my life's quest. As years went on
There were no other travelers beside me.
Each had chosen a life, to live it out
For better or worse. I pitied them,
Sure only one of pure intent
Could reach the highest sphere.

How rude a shock it was, one day,
When I paused to look, to sneer
As I thought, at erstwhile travelers
They who had settled for mere dross.
For in those lesser goals, in work,
In lust (They called it love)
Or those puerile images of themselves
That they named family,
They found -- it could not be!
But it was so -- real happiness.
How could their lower aims
Have reached my loftier goals?
What boot high standards, then?
Was my quest wasted? No, it could not be!
And yet ... and yet ... and yet
What else to think?

It's a little rough, I think, but I don't really know where else to polish.

Posted by dichroic at 11:43 AM

January 06, 2003

term limits

Among them, John Kitzhaber, the outgoing governor of Oregon (leaving because of
term limits), Cardinal John Henry Newman (dead more than a century), and the
Missouri House of Representatives (where something like 91 of 168 legislators are
new this term) have convinced me that, while term limits may be fine for the
executive branch of government, they're not a good idea for the legislative

The same theme showed up in an interview Kitzhaber did on
NPR, Newman's essay on the proper site for a university, and on a news story this
morning on the new MO legislature, and it's not the obvious one. Most arguments
I've seen against term limits in Congress point out that a legislator whose term
is limited has no time to build a power base, serve on important committees, and
bring that clout to serve his or her state. That's not my po in there; it's always
been obvious to me that if everyone has the same limits, that argument falls
apart. The argument that convinces me is the steep learning curve. There is a lot
to learn about serving in a legislature; there are people to deal with, processes
that are different for each legislative, and a lot of tribal knowledge that must
be assimilated. In my field, tribal knowledge is generally a bad thing; processes
need to be documented whenever possible. In a legislature, I suspect it's often
not possible. (Though it's ridiculous that Missouri staffers need to teach state
reps how to write and pass a bill, as much of that certainly ought to be written

At the moment, term limits are not working well, because
legislators kicked out of office can come back as lobbyists. That means lobbyists
may have the experience and clout to overwhelm and overpressure freshman

It's true, though, that some new blood and new ideas
are needed in government. People shouldn't be able to serve forever, because it's
very difficult to remember why you're there, and whom you're there to serve, when
you deal only with other poltical critters for years. We do need to keep
remembering that one form of term limit that applies to all elected offices in the
US: the ballot. We certainly need to remove impediments to its use; keeping a good
legislator in place is one thing, but keeping him there because he's got so much
funding that all other voices are drowned out is another matter. Drastic reform of
election finance laws may be necessary so that new voices can be heard. New people
need to come in, just not all at once.

Gov. Kitzhaber remarked that
term limits may be valid for the executive branch of government. I think he's
right, at least for the top positions, presidents and governors. They need common
sense, but can build a staff to provide support on the details. And a time-limited
chief executive working with a legislature that's had time to build experience and
relationships may provide the checks and balances that were so important in all
those civics classes we've all forgotten from junior high school -- and that
actually are so important in safeguarding our civil rights.

PS: If
you haven't been keeping up with Doonesbury for the last week or so, go href="http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=index2&cid=1060&pg=1">read it from
about 31 December on for some trenchant comments on Ashcroft's America.

Posted by dichroic at 09:28 AM

January 05, 2003

guest entry: The Beast

Guest Entry: The Beast

First of all, I want to make it clear that I'm
writing this because I want to, not as a favor to Her or because She told me to. I
don't do things for any other reason.

We've been together a long
time, She and I, since I was a tiny orphaned kitten and She was young herself, new
in town and in Her first apartment. I moved in with Her after Her neighbor rescued
me and my brother when the cops got our mother for vagrancy. Unfortunately, I
couldn't persuade Her to take my brother too, even though a few years later she
adopted the Interloper (more on him later). It was just the two of us in that
tiny apartment, fourteen years ago now, which is why we never call each ther by
our names. When She said "You,", I knew She was talking to me because there wasn't
anybody else there. I'm elegant now, but back then I was adorable, with long soft
black fur setting off china-blue eyes. I still have the beautiful fur, of course,
but as I aged my eyes turned yellow. (She says. I'm colorblind, or course.) She
hasn't changed much that I can see; She looks a little more weathered and She
keeps changing the length of her fur (why do they do that?) but she still smells
the same. Like pretzels, mostly.

We weren't alone for too long before
She let Him move in. At first He'd just stay with us, but then we moved to a new
place. I hate moving, but at least that place was a little bigger and I had stairs
to chase up and down. I used to like to nibble toes back then, and He kept his
outside the blanket, so that was something to do when they were sleeping. I'm
nocturnal by nature, you know. I didn't like Him so well when He was awake, though
I've realized now He probably wasn't the one who locked me in the closet that
time. She had to come rescue Him when He was fending me off with a tennis racket -
- I was a real terror back then, I was. Ask Her sometime about the time I
intimidated a Texas cop, when I was only half grown. Anyway, He's settled down
well, and has proved to be actually more trainable than She is. He's much more
willing to let me in and out of the back yard (if they'd only keep the door
open, or give me a flap I could open myself, we wouldn't have these issues) and
He's pretty good about not moving if I'm sleeping in the crooks of his legs, and
petting me when I want to be petted. She keeps wanting to pet me on Her schedule
or stop when I want Her to keep going -- She doesn't seem to realize that cats
ALWAYS set the schedule. She feeds us though, and She always gets us top of the
line food, as I deserve.

Yes, I said 'we'. After we'd been together a
couple of years, she started to get some silly idea that I might be "lonely". She
talked Him into agreeing, and one day they brought home the Interloper. At least
he matches me nicely, with his black and white coloring that they call "tuxedo",
but if they thought a short-haired cat wold shed less than I do they were sorely
mistaken. He kept wanting to follow me around and sit next to me -- well, wouldn't
you be annoyed? After all these years, I've given in a bit on that, and I admit he
does come in useful in washing the parts I can't reach, but I still don't see why
if She wanted two of s, She couldn't have taken my brother to begin with. I liked
him much better. Or better still, a nice friendly female .... not that I could do
anything about that, after that little trip to the vet (and She wonders why I
still don't like to get in my carrier. I know where we're going!) but still, a
girl would be nicer to snuggle with. That part was His idea, anyhow; He picked
this Interloper cat out because of his looks, and because He thought he was
"lively" from the way he ran around the adoption place. "Lively", my tail --
scared out of his whiskers is what he was. Can't blame him for that, but he's
still scared by every little noise they make and still whines all the time. They
like me better, of course.

One good thing about them is that they
give me the respect due my age. They don't laugh now that I'm having trouble
making high jumps onto things. I think they worry a bit about whether I'll stay
healthy. Don't take me to the vet and I'll be fine, that's what I

It's a good life with them, I suppose. They feed us well and
sometimes we get bits of cheese or tuna or turkey. They go away almost every day
so the Interloper and I have the place to ourselves, and it's big enough that I
can avoid him when I want. Our favorite thing is when they come in (where do they
go all day?) they always look all tired .... so we open one eye, look at them, and
yawn. Just to rub it in. I enjoy being a cat.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

January 03, 2003

how not to cook with wine

Yesterday and today I am working while Rudder is still off. He spent yesterday
working on issues with the Orange Crush (the side steps that weren't quite up to
the wild offroad ride we took, among others), trying to fix the connection to the
washer (ended up having to call a plumber ... and he still can't understand why I
hate dealing with plumbing myself) and, in a rare moment, fixing dinner for me. He
had it on the table within about ten minutes after I got home: chicken breast
medallions and tomatoes in champagne sauce over rice, complete with tablecloth,
candles lit, wine in the good crystal, and ice water in Margi Gras plastic cups.
So OK, he never quite gets that elegance thing down par, but still, champagne
sauce and all, and the food all ready when I got home. He'd added a bit of vinegar
and lime juice, scallions, and all kinds of stuff.

I took one bite of
tomato and barely managed not to spit it out. That shit was nasty. After
some questioning, the problem emerged. Because we'd tasted href="http://dichroic.diaryland.com/altjahr.html">two kinds of champagne on
New Year's Eve, we had a total of about a bottle left. Flat, naturally, so he
decided to cook with it to avoid waste. He's usually a decent cook, who prefers
improvising to following recipes, but not a fancy one.

Well. The last
time I cooked with wine, on New Year's Eve, the recipe called for three
tablespoons of it, sauteed with butter and garlic. Normally, when I throw wine
into a sauce, I add about a splash of it. Apparently what Rudder did was the put
the chicken and vegetables and the entire bottle of champagne into a
crockpot and simmered it for an hour. I can now report, firmly, that this is not
the proper way to make a champagne sauce.

On the plus side, not
feeling too well a few hours later kept me up for a bit, enabling me to have a
nice long chat with SWooP, so between that and the sweet intentions behind it,the
dinner wasn't a total waste.

Posted by dichroic at 11:41 AM

January 02, 2003

I did / I didn't

Oops -- fixed an error so the following is now readable -- thanks, href="http://mechaieh.diaryland.com">Mechaieh!

After getting some comments on it from an old friend (hi, L3!) I've finally
updated my Books page. I
changed the direction a little, including more things that I read and like but
that haven't necessarily changed my life or even my inner life. Every book changes
your (well, my) thinking a little, anyway. And I've now included a couple of
authors, like Madeleine L'Engle, that I have no excuse for forgetting when I first
created the page. And speaking of books, if you didn't see my previous entry, go
check out Samuel Pepys new

We got a lot of things done over the holiday: painted, went
offroading and investigating a new climbing area, finished up the erg challenge,
celebrated Rudder's birthday, celebrated Christmas with ridiculous amounts of
food, and New Year's Eve quietly. I finished a necklace my mom asked me to fix
that's been hanging around forever. I updated my wardrobe further. (Oh, wait, I
was supposed to avoid that.) Finally had almost enough time to read. Spent
time with Rudder. Made scones and chili and turkeys and turkey soup and veggies --
not all on the same day, but we have an awfully full freezer. Bought two more
trees that we'll plant up north in spring. I dragged Rudder to look at a table I'd
like to buy. And toward the end I finally got to relax, as I'd wanted to do.

I keep having to remind myself of, because we didn't go camping, I
didn't finish some embroidery, we did only the needful amount of cleaning, we
didn't set up a library (though we did plan what we need for it), we didn't
socialize much. I didn't exercise much or rethink my workout schedule. I haven't
even finished sending out the annual "awards" to the list for which I am the
moderator emerita.

When I mentioned to the woman in the next cube
that I hadn't gotten as much done over break as I'd have liked, she said, "Yeah, I
always set my standards too high, too." I like that. I didn't fail to live up to
my plans, I just have overly high standards. I'm not a a shlub who didn't get
anything done, I'm a woman with lofty ambitions. It's all in the frame of

Posted by dichroic at 01:02 PM

January 01, 2003


Very cool. I had it from Neil Gaiman, who
had it from Oliver Morton (a friend of his and fellow author) that Phil Gyford has
hit on the cool idea of putting up all of Pepys as a blog, on a day-by-day basis.
It starts today, right href="http://www.pepysdiary.com">here.

I have no idea who Phil
Gyford is, other than that he's clearly a Pepys fan, but what a great idea.

Posted by dichroic at 06:11 PM

resolution? me?

I have no resolutions this year, really, except maybe some work-related ones. I
can think of a few things I'd like to change, but not much to

At work, mostly I'm resolving to keep going on
through and beyond my project, to drive it through and get it done. It still
scares me, since I have very little idea of the technical how-to's involved, and
since it depends on a number of other people many of whom are not (yet) too happy
about the idea. I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up, but
the situation I've gotten myself into is wonderful for at least the near future.
Plenty of opportunity to learn and practice new skills and tools.

keep thinking I should be nicer to Rudder, but then I keep thinking I'm nice to
him when he's nice to me, already. Maybe I should be nice to him all the time,
just as a test of character?

I don't really need to work out more. I
do need to continue getting the same amount of exercise (which I have notably not
been doing duringthis vacation) and I really need to revamp my workout to deal
with my burnout issues. Or I could do something like bagging half of the sporting
activities and going for my instrument (flying) license instead. At the very
least, I need to join the Million Meter club on the erg -- I'd be way past it
already, but I've only been logging my distance for the past less than two years.
I've got just over 100K to go, so could finish it this month if I were willing to
really buckle down.

The one area of my life that is not satisfactory
is that I don't really have many local friends. Every time I make a friend here,
he or she moves away. (Is it me?) Maybe this year I should concentrate on trying
to build relationships. I'm finaly outgrowing the tendency to want a prefect "best
friend" who's interested in everything I am. There are just not too many people
who are into rowing, flying, and reading everything from Heinlein to Austen to E.
Nesbit to de Lint to Hambly to Bryson to L.M. Montgomery to Doug Hofstadter....
and it's just unreasonable to think that the person with those interests would
just happen to live in my zip code. Now I'd be happy to settle for, say, someone
who reads Heyer instead of Austen, or Niven instead of Heinlein, or Perry instead
of Peters (all inferior choices in my book ) and who has a passion of his or
her own to discuss even if it doesn't match mine. But they have to read and they
have to think and they have to do .... something. Especially the first two of
those. And they have to like me, an important qualification. There are a few
people at work I think have promise, so maybe I need to make an effort to reach
out, especially to the ones in my former department whom I don't see much any

So there's a resolution, and one that should be pleasant to
implement. Oh, yes, and I need to continue to buld up my nest egg, too, though
that will be a bit less fun.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM