May 31, 2003

grandmother's voice

In my family we have a running joke that my grandfather haunts us when we are all
eating together. Inevitably and unconsciously, someone will start channeling him,
saying all the things he used to say. He used to tell us all how to eat -- "Have
some peas. Eat some more of your chicken. Drink some water to wash it down." And
this wasn't just to me and my brother as children, but even to my mother and
uncle. It sounds controlling but actually it came off as funny and concerned,
since he never minded if you didn't do what he said. He just wanted to make sure
we were all nourished, I think.

Last night, though, it wasn't him
haunting me as I got ready to fly out to see my family. As I packed a skirt and
sweater and heels for the synagogue service, another sweater because it's been
cool there, and a dress for the brunch on Sunday, it was my grandmother's voice I
heard. She reminded me to take jewelry and cosmetics. She never thought I wore
enough of either on dressy occasions; I often wondered whether she'd been nagged
in her turn for wearing them, at a time when lipstick and rouge were worn by the
young, the fast or the rebellious. Though I left the house at 4:45 this morning to
come to work because I'm leaving early, I polished my toenails to please her. The
fingernails remain bare; I want to please my grandmother, but I have a lot less
time to worry about such things than she did, at least when I knew her in

She wouldn't have minded my not taking nylons, though.
She hated wearing them and spent hours sitting out in a lawnchair, baking her skin
to a soft, brown, wrinkled glove leather, getting her legs an even enough brown to
justify skipping the hose in summer. She'd have been fine with my bare legs,
though she'd have told me I needed more tan.

I packed her pearls to
wear on Saturday. I don't know whose voices we'll hear when we're all together at
her daughter's bat mitzvah, but that reminder of my grandmother will be cool and
smooth around my neck.

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

May 29, 2003

got a restaurant to recommend?

Woof. Yesterday was a bit hectic, hence no update. And it wasn't only work, though
that was a major part of it; there's nothing like getting home from a major road
trip on Monday and having to prepare to fly out on Friday. Last weekend's trip was
fun, but also unexpectedly expensive, in that I lost both my sunglass case with
two pair of spare lenses and the charger for my PDA. I must have left the charger
in a hotel room but my best guess is that the sunglass case jumped out of Rudder's
truck when the door was open.

This weekend, I'm planning to take my
extended family out for dinner on Saturday night. The 'rents don't quite seem to
understand that saying a restaurant has reasonable prices is not a sufficient
recommendation, if you can't also say that they have better than "reasonable"
food. Especially when you're going out to celebrate a special occasion. So can
anyone recommend a *good* restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia? I'd settle for one
in Center City, if it has parking.

As I've mentioned before, we're
flying in for my mother's bat mitzvah. Several people have asked me why an older
woman would have a ceremony which is usually held for 12 or 13-year-old girls. The
short answer is that she didn't have one when she was younger -- this was a time
when at least some people, including my grandparents, thought it was less
important to educate girls than boys. I think I've come up with a better analogy,
though, for why this is important to her. It's not like being born again, in some
Christian denominations, which is meant to symbolize a great change in a person's
life. It's more like renewing a marriage vow after years of committment, standing
up literally "in front of God and everybody" and reconfirming explicitly and out
loud something that is important to her. And in a way, even though my mother is
well past puberty and and the theoretical onset of adulthood, I think it's a rite
of passage for her. Now she's not only a Jew by birth but one by study and by
choice, able to participate in all aspects of of the religion even to the
fundemental one of reading Torah. Even if she never does that again.

Posted by dichroic at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2003

back in, full blast

If I had hoped to have a nice quiet first day back after 1750 road miles, 2 races
(plus one coxing debacle), and five days off, I would have been doomed to

Fortunately I know better; the universe just waits to
pounce on forlorn hopes. The universe enjoys evil timing.

And the
above is completely untrue. I did, at least in the back of my mind, hope
for that nice quiet day. My PDA calendar even substantiated that hope, with no
planned meetings until afternoon.

Yes, I am both an innocent and a
sucker. I got here only to be landed with a frantic voicemail from late Friday,
followed almost immediately with a live call about the same problem, and then a
request to present some information to a customer -- a presentation that did not
yet exist, of course.

I've written all of this to explain why it is
that my summary of the latest Dichroic 'n' Rudder Road Adventure consists of only
one imprecise paragraph. In brief, Rudder got two bronze and one silver medal. I
got none, but was happy with the way I rowed my races and am confidently expecting
not to be embarassed by the videotape. Our training session with href="">Xeno was also helpful and productive, though
I'm not quite sure how to implement some of his suggestions. And to top it all
off, my sunburn, though present, is slight.

Now, back to work.

Posted by dichroic at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2003

in sacramento

it's been a nice couple days drive to sacramento. unfortunately it's ungodly hot
here- i'm hoping it cools down for tomorrow's race. and no, living in arizona does
not make me enjoy heat one bit more.

scuse the lack of capitals; i'm entering this on a pda and punctuation is enough
of a hassle.

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

May 21, 2003

the beast is loaded

This morning instead of rowing we loaded up. Now there are FOUR boats (two singles
and two doubles ) and FOUR sets of oars on the Orange Crush. And before you begin
visualizing something like a trailer with a rack, I will clarify that these boats
are side by side by side by side, with the singles on the outside and the doubles
in the middle. The singles are on racks that raise them up a little and the oars
are bundled under those. I really should have brought the camera.

it gets even better inside. Currently there are six riggers (aluminum wings four
feet long with an oarlock on each end), a big toolbox, a plastic box full of seats
and such, two folding platforms we use so we can reach to put the boats up there,
four folding chairs we use as boat slings, two bigger chairs we sit in when not
racing, two canopies (ours and Hardcore's) and some odds and ends. That's all in
back -- the back seat is reserved for clothing and the large five-days-worth-of-
snacks-and-drinks cooler that are not yet loaded.

packing many items into limited space *without breakage* and with the ones needed
first in front is Rudder's superpower.

Posted by dichroic at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2003

the evolution essay

The other day I was going to write about why I think creationism is absolutely silly, but my computer rebelled. Most of what I have to say on the subject, you can get by a combined reading of Steven Jay Gould, L-Empress's latest entry, and possibly the first half of Bill Whittle's essay "Magic". (The last half has some interesting points, but it's on a subject I know nothing about and is irrelevant to my point.) Reading L-Empress today got me thinking on the subject again and I'd like to add a few points (which is predictable, since she wasn't addressing the subject directly). If you go read her first, some of the following may even make sense.

Some of the following may be offensive; I'm sorry for that, but I simply cannot express my own opinion honestly and still pretend that I believe I can have an intelligent discussion with anyone who holds some of these beliefs and who will not listen fairly to the real evidence against them. If this is you, you might as well save your time and go away now.

Creationism in the old-fashioned six-day sense is generally due to a literal belief in the Bible. This is why "disbelief" in evolution is found almost exclusively in the US. I have put the word "disbelief" in quotes because the major difference between science and religion is that science, properly and ethically done, does not depend on belief. If it does, then it isn't science no matter what they call it. L-Empress has explained gently and cogently, and Mr. Whittle a bit more aggressively, why believing something you are told, when available evidence disproves it, is not adult behavior. Believing something that cannot be proven or disproven is the essence of religion, which is why many people are able to be scientists and believers at the same time, but this is a different issue entirely. I'm still six years old, myself, in many ways. When someone tells me to believe in something which seems unlikely to me, my first question will generally be "Why?" If they can back it up with data, fine; however, I have serious trouble with the concept that someone's word ought to be respected purely because of his or her position (just ask my mother). In the best of all worlds, position is earned by qualifications. In many cases, position is respected by a general agreement that doing so is best for most people (police, for example). But "believe this because I tell you that God wrote it, because someone told me that" isn't one of those cases.

Also, there are linguistic and sociological issues for me. Even if God did originally hand down the Five Books to Moses on Mount Sinai, I just plain know too much about the inaccuracies of transcription and translation to feel sure that that Word is exactly what I can read now. Also, I have to take into account the enormous amount of time and change since then: those were primitve people -- Bronze Age, I think, someone correct me if I'm wrong. If I were to speak to them, I would need to speak in terms they understood. I would not be able to be exact about numbers, so that I might well say that Methusaleh lived 969 years, for example, meaning only that he lived to be very old. Or that the world was created in six stages, to answer that universal "how did we get here" question, even if that was slightly inaccurate. I have a lot of ways of thinking and concerns for consistency and logic that imply
didn't exist then. (I'm not anything special; we all now have those. And surely an omniscient Being speaking to me now, today, would have the same sort of

Finally, I cannot bring my engineering mind to literally
believe in anything that contradicts itself. The stories of creation and of Adam
and Eve are told several different ways just within Bereshit (Genesis) for instance.

Now, "scientific creationism" is a way to attempt to join the teachings of science and religion. This can involve teaching that the world was created as stated in Genesis but in six thousand years instead of six days, which is no less silly than six days, given evidence for a four billion year old Earth. The other end of the spectrum is the belief that God set up the universe to unfold in the Big Bang, expand, and eventually form life in ways that agree with the evidence we have -- that if there is a Supreme Being he, she, it, or they do not (either cannot or choose not to) contravene the laws they set up. This doesn't strike me as silly at all; the only flaw it may share is this: if it is not subject to experiment, at least hypothetically, then it is not science -- even if it might possibly be true. This is one reason we have religion, in fact: to
explain parts of our experience or questions that cannot be tested by science.

There are good answers to most of the questions that are frequently asked either by creationists or by those who are just trying to understand. For example it's called a theory not because we're not sure of it but because that word has a special specific meaning in the scientific method. It just means a coherent idea. This is technical jargon, just as I, as a software engineer might say "code" to mean a computer program rather than something a spy would use in the general meaning. Stephen Jay Gould explains that and other ideas better than I can in Rocks of Ages and his other works. I'll just speak of one more that involves me personally. I'm not a biologist, evolutionist, paleontologist, or in any of the related disciplines. What I know I've learned from reading on those subjects for most of my life. In fourth grade, I did want to be a paleontologist when I grew up, and paleoanthropology is still one of my interests. So why do I believe their words but question my friendly neighborhood rabbi, priest, or imam? I don't. But if I ask, the scientists can show me data. They don't believe blindly: they form a hypothesis and then attack it. (Technically, the scientific method can't be used to prove anything, only disprove it.) If they can't shake the hypothesis, they eventually accept it as truth, those it's still always subject to new attacks in light of new information. A good scientist (not every person with that title, just the honest and ethical ones) will make decisions based only on the weight of evidence and will admit what he or she doesn't know. Incidentally, any rabbi I would be inclined to trust will make the same admission.

I believe it was a religious figure who said that that is the beginning of wisdom.

Posted by dichroic at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2003

Ireland photos

Monday, later:

Humph. Absolutely NO comments on the photos, to date. I think I'm going to sulk. *pout*.

Monday, lunchtime:

I posted the rest of this yesterday, but I don't have time to say much today (teaching again) and anyway I really really want you all to see my Ireland pics -- what a beautiful country.

We finally got the film photos (as opposed to the digital ones) from Ireland back. They take so long because we have them put on PhotoCDs as well as having the slides developed. Here are a few samples:

Some ruins at Ferns

I think this may also be Ferns.

castle at Klkenny

Blarney Castle -- the grounds were beautiful and we were there just as everything was in bloom.

See what I mean?

Unfortunately the light wasn't ideal for photography when we were at the Cliffs of Moher.

But we enjoyed it there anyway.

The castle at Trim.

I deliberately put low-resolution small images here; nonetheless these images are copyright by me, 2003. If you are interested in obtaining a higher resolution
image that can be enlarged, or in seeing other images from Ireland and elsewhere, please e-mail me.

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

May 17, 2003


I'd been curious about science fiction / fantasy conventions for years, but now,
having spent part of today at Leprecon, I've
concluded they're not my heaven. I can see going again with a friend, or to meet
an author I really like, but not on my own and not just to go. I don't know how
this compares to other cons, but it was a bit smaller than I'd expected; four
panels at a time, yes, but not all that many dealer tables, and though this con
focuses on art, the art there clung rather more closely to the semi-naked-woman-
with-dragon school than I'd hoped it would. There were a few astronomical
pictures, but not as many as I'd hoped and not nearly as many new ideas as I'd
have liked to see. Also, I got annoyed at the myriad artists who had drawn either
semi-naked women with wings or cats with wings (can you imagine what the house
would look like??) without, apparently, ever having considered the musculature
that would be necessary to operate said appendages.

It was a bit of a
freak show, and I mean that as a compliment. Many of the people attending had
either physical or social handicaps (and I am not excluding the possibility of
being in the latter category myself) and it was clearly a comfortable and
accepting environment. I can't imagine anyone there making a comment to the man
with hands growing directly from his shoulders other than, "Nice

I did very much enjoy meeting href="">Charles de Lint and his wife Mary Ann
in a small session. Not only were they gracious and interesting, but
they brought guitar, mandolin, and flute and made some most excellent music
together. It must be wonderful to make music and share writing with your spouse,
though I suppose divergent interests are rewarding in their own way. I did skip de
Lint's Guest of Honor speech though, and went home early. I couldn't imagine he'd
say more than I'd already heard and in a much more enjoyable small-group
environment, and all the other things I wanted to see were late enough that I
wasn't going to stay for them. It was a fiarly long drive home, and I wouldn't
have enjoyed it three hours after my normal bedtime, even if the body-painting
demo did sound interesting.

I may try again in a year or so, though,
when the world fantasy con is going to be right near home. Especially if a certain
calligrapher makes good on her threat to come use my spare room during

Posted by dichroic at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2003

it's not making data based decisions

Huh. Apparently my computer's a creationist.

I heard of a survey this
morning that claims more than 50% of Americans "don't believe in" evolution, as
if belief were even relevant to the question. I don't believe in that survey,
myself, but it's downright embarassing that any significant fraction of Americans
would say such a thing. I am embarassed too that so many don't understand the
concept of the scientific method, or prefer to base their viewpoints on received
opinion rather than on evidence in the sphere of science. (As opposed to the
sphere properly governed by faith -- and in biological anthropology, I confess,
the two may be closely related. Not all facets of our self-consciousness belong to
either.) Yes, I admit it. The tolerance on which I pride myself covers sex, race,
class, level of formal education, sexual preference, size, shape, and so on, and
even many aspects of relgion, but it stops short when people of any creed allow
their faith to turn off their (presumably God-given) brains.

I was
going to write a detailed essay on why literal Bible belief croggles my mind, on
why calling it a theory doesn't mean it isn't necessarily true, and on how
thoroughly the available evidence uphold the bedrock concept even though we're
still learning all the details. But while I've had it on a back window, this
computer has rebooted when it was just supposed to sleep, not once but twice.
Which just goes to prove something I've long suspected: it's impossible to have an
intelligent discussion with someone who believes in a system that can only be
supported by authority and who won't listen to reason (e.g. most creationists,
"scientific creationists", et alia).

I maye write that essay later
.... but maybe I'll find a different computer to do it on.

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

May 15, 2003

i can win i can win i can win...

First, go read today's previous entry, which contains href="">good news. (Not for me,
specifically, but for all of us.)

I think I'm being punished for not
going to the gym yesterday. It was too windy to row today, at least in a single. I
got to the lake and RUdder had already left -- we drive separately because of
going off to work afterward and he always gets out of the house earlier, not
having to deal with contact lenses, sports bras, or a crotchety gut. So I went
back home to find find him back in bed. I did think of erging (I swear!) but,
well, it wouldn't have been very nice to wake him, would it? Not that he was
asleep, as it turned out. (I confess, "punished" is not exactly the correct word
here. We're not really into that stuff anyhow.)

After writing href="">yesterday's entry, I
concluded that the best way to get myself perceived as a rowing goddess -- by
other rowers -- would sinply be to win a major regatta. Like, say, the one in less
than two weeks. The only flaw with that plan is that I can't figure out how to get
much faster without trading in both my body and my job, for a bigger and a smaller
one, respectively. Failing that, maybe I should just spend the rest of this week
practicing self-hypnosis. ("I am smooth and strong and fast......")

saved books!

Ti-i-ra-la-lu! Much and maybe most of the holdings of Iraq's national library have
been saved, according to the href="
+.shtml">Boston Globe
. A reporter was shown a collection of 40000 items hidden
in a mosque; the saviors are claiming to have 30% of the library's holdings hidden
there and 60% elsewhere. Not only that, thay saved even some of the library's
Judaica holdings along with the Islamic / Arabic items, so they really are
respecting knowledge, not even taking advantage of an easy chance for

The only cause of tears in the gladness is that the
national museum had to be looted to make people realize the library had to be
saved. I will be joyous if it turns out someone has hidden a substantial cache of
looted items away in safety, or if many of the looters have a change of heart and
return stolen items.

Posted by dichroic at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2003

I don't get no respect

Yesterday morning as we were about to launch off the beach. I told She-Hulk how
annoying I find it that the other rowers out our way never seem to take me
seriously. Yeah, I've cut back a bit (until the last couple of weeks) but still,
there I am out there at every race. And she answered, "Yeah, it's great the way
you support your team."

*bangs head against wall*

Rudder pointed out to me when we discussed it, I should have said, "See?? That
just proves my point. Even you don't take me seriously." Racing. I am racing. I
am at those regattas because I am racing in them. I might be off looking stupid in
last place, but I'm racing. Unlike all but a very small minority of rowers here
I'm not waiting for a coach to tell me what to do and when to race or coming up
with lame excuses. (Two recent memorable ones were "Well, we can't get there in
time to do a practice race," on a 1000m absolutely straight course, and "I don't
want to go all that way for only one race." This was from a woman who would be in
my same category and I'm even on more than one race. And I could be in four events
if I wanted, even without looking for someone to row a double with

I'm very conscious that I'm not all that fast, so I don't talk
big about how I want to kick butt, or about how I don't want to even speak to
anyone who's not serious, or about how hard I'm going to train. I know my body and
I know my workload and I know my stress level, and yeah, when any of those is
about to be overwhelmed or overwhelming I do take things a bit easier. I have a
responsible and frantic job and with my commute, no workday is ever less than 10
hours long. But dammit, I am out there on the water two to four times a week and I
almost never exercise less than three times a week total. And anyone who doesn't
think I am a serious rower can f@#$*&g kiss my oars.

Posted by dichroic at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

adjusting attitude

I'm thinking I need to make myself an Attitude Adjustment CD, and I was having some fun figuring what should go on it. I need something for driving home on a Friday afternoon with the windows open after a rough week, the kind of thing you can crank up and get in the mood to kick ass. I want something for road trips, to add energy when that white line gets to looking endless, something to kick a mood into overdrive. I've been having some fun trying to figure out what should be on it. What does it for me is old rock with attitude, happy pop beats joined to folkie sensibilities, ad the kind of thing that can only be properly listened to with the volume up while singing along. Driving-related music is a plus, obivously. And it should be stuff I have so I don't have to go looking for file-sharing. I'm cheating a bit, though, by including songs I only have on tape, even though I have no idea how to get those onto a CD.

To start with, I'd have to honor my blue-collar Philly with my all-time favorite bit of Bruce, Thunder Road. Then I'd continue in a similar mood with something by Gearge Thoroughgood -- probably Bad to the Bone. As a companion to that, I'd dig out that four-CD set of Last Waltz and burn in Ronnie Hawkin's cover of Who Do You Love. While I was in the Dixie rock vein, I might include something else from that set, maybe The Night They Drove Dixie Down. Or maybe some Creedence. And then if I wanted to mellow out a bit as I moved along the coast, some Parrothead music. I like singing along to Jimmy -- no idea what song to pick though. Maybe A Pirate Looks at 40. Or maybe something I'd pick completely different and go with his cover of Brown-Eyed Girl, which I've always liked since I am one.

My choices so far might not be too PC, but Jimmy would be my sole representative from Alabama -- no Sweet Home Alabama for me. I've never understood why a pro-segregation song is still getting airplay; I can only assume no one else listens to lyrics. Since I'm doing attitude adjustment, a little Hank Jr. may be appropriate, but definitely not the song of the same name (it hints at wife-beating). I have a soft spot for Bocephus though, the song, rather than the man.

While I was in Texas, musically speaking, Bonnie Raitt's got lots of good road songs. My favorite of hers is Angel from Montgomery but for this CD I'd go hunt up something livelier. Next I'd go into the heartland for some Melissa Etheridge, either Yes I Am or maybe We've Got Nowhere to Go. Or both. I like Melissa. And probably the Grateful Dead's Wharf Rat which is not terrribly upbeat but which has good associations for me.

I'd be unlikely to make any mix without something at least a bit folky on it. Great Big Sea's album Rant and Roar always makes me happy or at least happier so I'd have to include something from that. I was thinking Ordinary Day, but for real clout I might do better with the brilliant combo (not my brilliance; they're back-to-back on the album) of Mari Mac and their cover of REM's End of the World as We Know It. Or maybe for contrast I'd include REM's original, which I like just a hair better anyway. At similar speed, Stan Roger's Acadian Saturday Night. And then something from Pete and Maura Kennedy, likely Life is Large from the album of the same name, because I love the cameo of Roger McGuinn playing just a bit of Bach.

ANd maybe some blues, because this is the sort of thing the blues were invented for, after all. But it should be something loud and upbeat, so maybe Koko Taylor singing Let the Good Times Roll The rest of the album would probably not be in the order described, but I'm thinking of some obscure white-boy blues to end it: Dave MacKenzie playing Stumbling Home. Or some not-so-obscure: David Bromberg on I will Not Be Your Fool, to make me laugh.

Gah! I knew I forgot something! How could I have left off AC/Dc's You Shook Me?? And I think I need some Metallica, too, like maybe Gasoline ("Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire"). Of course, for sheer ear-filling power, that would have to be from the S & M album, where they played with the San Francisco Orchestra. I know I've forgotten something else obvious though....what?

Posted by dichroic at 11:43 AM | Comments (1)

May 12, 2003

what Rudder does

Monday, and back on the four-days-on-the-water / one-at-the-gym schedule for
another week before I begin tapering down for my race. They've been more intense
workouts too: I've done 200 and 300-meter pieces today, and will do 500m pieces
tomorrow, steady state Thursday, 1K race pieces Friday, just like href="">last week. Normally, I do
try to exercise this many days a week, but Mondays and Fridays I do 5K on the erg
instead of ten or twelve on the water.

But last week href="">Marn wrote, "I don't know how you're keeping
up that kind of schedule. If I was one of those ducks on that lake, I'd be
freakin' amazed." So it's True Confession time, diary readers. Here's the thing I
haven't been mentioning. I had to read Marn's note to Rudder, and he got quite a
kick out of it because ... you see ... Rudder does this every week. He's kept up
the 5 days at 4AM schedule since the beginning of this year. Even scarier, most
days he does three laps, or about 18K, and a higher proportion of that distance is
at a race pace. One or two days he rows a double with She-Hulk -- usually I find
the distance a bit easier in a double, but since he's actually faster in the
single, I'd guess that for him the added drag outweighs the added propulsion.
(This is no reflection on She-Hulk; they'll be racing other mixed doubles, and
she's probably the best choice for that double of all the women here. She's got
the strength and the attitude, she's not lagre but is at least much bigger than
me, and she thinks Rudder is the Oracle of Delphi and listens to every word he
says.) All that pain has paid off; he's currently about the fastest of the 80 or
100 people who row here regularly. Last race he even beat a recent lightweight
nationals champion, though the latter was admittedly not in training. (But still
upset with himself, nonetheless.)

I don't know quite how Rudder does
it, especially while working a demanding and responsible job. My leading theory is
that it's a combination of natural endurance and mental toughness, rather than all
either one. I have none of the first, myself, and a bit less than he has of the
second. (Then again, he doesn't have to put up with small stature, contact lenses,
menstruation, or MEN. Maybe mine is just scattered around more.) Still, it's
impressive. It's also makes it damned hard (but never impossible) for me to whine
about doing for two weeks what he's done for five months.

Posted by dichroic at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2003

flying and not sleeping

It's been a Saturday full of aviation, cool people, and lack of sleep. Odd

On Thursday at the end of a meeting, one of the guys who had
been brought on the team as a subject matter expert said, "Hey, anyone want to go
fly a [local airline's] A320 this weekend? The only catch is that I have the
simulator from 2 to 6 Saturday morning."

Background, part one: This
is a man of a type you occasionally run into when you work in aerospace. He's
toward the end of a career that's brought him an incredible level of knowledge
about flying and about one area of it in particular, along with deep respect from
the part of the aviation community that knows about his area, and he wants to
share some of what he knows. (Also, he needs to log some hours and this is a
pleasant and entertaining way to do it.)

Background, part two: I
spent the first seven years of my career working on military and space simulators,
the real ones NASA and the USAF, Navy, and Marines use to train their pilots. I
have flown the A-10, the F-16, the C-130, and the Space Shuttle Fixed and Motion
Base Simulators. "Flown" is the correct word; because of their level of
verisimilitude, these are considered by the FAA to be

Background, part three: Rudder and I pride ourselves on
picking up on opportunities when offered, and making opportunities when possible,
and have gotten to do some very cool things as a result. I've known of people who
missed free chances to do everything from riding in a helicopter (not due to fear
of flying) to working at CERN, the physics lab in Switzerland, and they baffle

All of which explains why the correct answer to a question like
that, and the one I gave, is "Yes, sir! Thank you, sir." Then I asked if I could
bring Rudder. The man demurred, because he doesn't work for our company. A minute
later, he said, "But then again, you're a lady, and it's 2 in the morning, and I
don't want to be in a compromising position. Just have him bring his driver's
license, and bring your badge." First time excessive reastion to harassment
training has ever worked in my, or rather, Rudder's favor.

So at 1:30
AM, there we were at the airline's training building. Over the next few hours, I
flew from DC to Philly, Rudder got to shoot instrument approaches, and another
ride-along got to check out some details he was about to be working on. I can
report that as long as someone else does the initial setup, the A320 is so
automated that it's far easier to fly cross-country than, say, a Cessna 172.
Rudder reports the same of ILS landings in it. Even better, we got to enter the
time in our pilot logbooks, and because it's considered an aircraft, it's logged
as real time, not simulator time. And my company will count this as training for
me; certainly getting to see some of our products in their intended use, more or
less, can only help me do my job better.

Afterward, we caught us a
couple of naps (I don't nap well, but have an easier time falling asleep at 6AM)
then met my old friend the Rhino and some other friends of his at the Champlin
Fighter Museum. It's about to move from Mesa to Seattle to join the Flight Museum
there, so Rhino had suggested visiting one last time before they leave. It was a
bit better than I remembered or maybe I was just in the right mood despite the
lack of sleep. Somehow all the signed photos of young WWII aviators (and some from
WWI) were fascinating and comparing the jaunty US photos with the serious self-
conscious ones from Russia and Germany was revealing. My favorite part, though,
was the tiny aircraft miniatures mounted on wires to illustrate particular battles
or maneuvers.

We spent two hours there and then another hour or two
at the local airport restaurant sharing good Italian food (it's called Anzio
Landing after the battles there) and good conversation.

And now I'm
off to finish up my leftover pasta. Planned for tomorrow morning: Rudder has been
duly informed that I will be staying in bed with a stack of books as long as I
goldurn well feel like it. I haven't had enough time to read latly and I get
crotchety when I don't. (Don't worry, I spent some time paying attention to him
this afternoon. Wouldn't want anyone to feel left out.)

Posted by dichroic at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2003


Anyone out there know why I just got a book in the mail that I never ordered? It's
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, and was shipped from Jeffs Books, via Amazon
Marketplace. I haven't heard of it, but consulted y brother (in case he'd sent
it). He tells me it's a thriller that came out a few months ago and got a bunch of
good and a bunch of bad reviews.

Anyone? Anyone?

Posted by dichroic at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

comparative religions

Being the environmentally conscious sort I am, I'm recycling pre-used bytes today.
I wrote the following for someone on one of my lists who asked about intermarriage
and how that worked out for us, and wanted to know if I were Orthodox. Clearly, by
that she meant "observant", and it's a common misunderstanding, hence the lecture-
ette at the end. So with a few minor changes (read: things I left out to avoid
hurting feeling over there) here's my response.

In my experience
interfaith marriages work best when the partners agree on the level of their faith
if not the actual beliefs. I must also include a lecture on Orthodox Judaism,
becuause it's not an accurate synonym for "religious Jew", but I'll put that at
the end to spare you all. Neither Rudder nor I are terribly religious. Neither of
us attend religious services. We do each have our own beliefs, thought over,
defined and satisfactory to ourselves, and those are actually not too far apart.
We each have moral codes to which we hold ourselves. (Some religious types appear
to think you can't have a moral code unless Someone dictates it to you.
Horsefeathers.) We are also both rather scientific in our outlooks; I agree that
there is much wisdom in the

Bible, for example, but entirely flummoxed that
any reasonable person can believe every word literally (especially considering how
in many places it contradicts itself). I'm forced to conclude that quite a lot of
the ones who rant and rave most have never actually read the words they profess to
believe in.

And I am a Jew, after all; I come from a tradition that
has spent two thousand years interpreting and reinterpreting href="">literally every word of the
Torah, so I know how words can change according to the reading and the

That's the difference between me and my husband; though I
don't attend a synagogue, I do consider myself a Jew, and my traditions color a
lot of my thinking. He was raised in a middle-of the-road Protestant denomination
and comes from a WASP-ish sort of background, and of course that colors

thinking, though I don't think he realizes it as explicitly. So for example, we
don't do a full Passover Seder, but I do like to make traditional foods then, or
light candles during Chanukah, and think and talk and write (mostly here) about
the history of those holidays.

I have also seen examples of
interfaith marriage where both partners are religious, each attending their own
services and sharing in their partner's observations on holidays and special
occasions. Partnerships where the people differ significantly (on anything) do
require a little more work,

but I think interfaith relationships are easiest
when both are at similar levels of belief and observance.

And now the
lecture. (I can see your eyes rolling from here. Maybe I should say, "the rest of
the lecture".)There are three major divisions of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative,
and Reform. One is not necessarily more "religious" than the other. Basically, the
easiest way to say it is that Orthodox Jews believe in the words of the Torah,
though still modified by interpretation as I said above; an Orthodox would

likely be a Creationist, but would be likely to frown on women doing
"men's work" or dressing immodestly, for example. Reform Jews believe in the
spirit of the law, and Conservatives are somewhere in between. An Orthodox Jew
would restrict him or herself to kosher food -- but a Conservative or Reform Jew
might choose to do also. A female Rabbi would not be Orthodox, would be likely to
be Reform, but might be Conservative. If I had a child, she would be considered
Jewish by all three groups. If my brother had one with a non-Jewish woman, the
child would not be considered Jewish by an Orthodox rabbi (unless the mother
converted first or the child did afterward) but might be by a Reform one, if
raised in the Jewish faith.

It's not valid, though, to think of
Orthodox Jews as being like Fundamentalist Christians. For one thing, they don't
want to convert everyone else. (Other Jews, maybe.) A rabbi doing a conversion is
required to try three times to talk the person out of it. Orthodox Jews

a tradition of scholarship and a respect for those who

study that
I don't see built in to Fundamentalist Christianity. (Before everyone jumps on
this, let me say I do know there are plenty of individual Fundamentalist
Christians who do share this attitude. I don't don't think it's mandated.) And the
whole relationship among the Jewish groups is complicated and is much closer than
that between, say, Episcopalians and Baptists -- maybe like Southern Methodists
and Baptists, without the rivalry, or like the Presbyterians and Methodists in
L.M. Montgomery's books. (As viewed by everyone except Miss Cornelia, naturally).
I've heard people refer to different Christian denominations as different
religions or speak of "Christians" in a way that made it clear they only meant
Protestants. We don't have that level of differentiation, maybe because we have a
tradition argument and disagreement among even the greatests Talmudic scholars.
Which is not to say that some of us aren't sometimes judgemental -- the bad as
well as the good things about humans transcend religious lines.

As a
concrete example, you'd probably consider Chasidic Jews to be extreme Orthodox,
and they'd probably consider themselves so -- long beards, black robes, heads
always covered, lots of restrictions on women. Yet their beliefs about taking joy
in the spirit rather than the letter of the Law are the beginning or the Reform
movement, and stem directly from Hillel, one of the greatest theologians and
philosopher whose teachings have become mainstream Judaism. (He was the one who
said, "Do not do unto others and you would not have done unto you. That is the
whole of the Law. The rest is only commentary. Now, go and study the

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

May 08, 2003

stupid is as stupid does

I've got a case of the stupids this week. I'm actually a bit proud that I figured
out the reason for it this quickly, since as anyone who has read Flowers for
will realize, this is the sort of ailment that makes itself difficult
to diagnose. That is, it doesn't mimic the symptoms of other ailments, it just
makes sure its victim is ill-equipped for logical deduction.

Long-time readers may remember that when I was training hard (this is a way to say
that I am too lazy to look up the reference) under the influence of Coach DI (who
has been in Jekyll mode recently), when we took a break from training I woke up
one morning and realized my brain had been defuzzed. Suddenly I was sharper and
more productive and my memory was much better.

I'd never actually noticed the change in the other direction before; it usually
just kind of sneaks up on me. With the more varied and (slightly) less strenuous
erg-row-lift-row-erg schedule I'd followed for most of this year, I'd been feeling
sharp and focused, a very good thing given recent work demands. However, compare
these lists:

Stupid things I've Done Lately

  • written in my own address instead of my mom's on her Mother's Day card
  • taken said card to work, found a label to cover wrong address, dropped card in
    mailbox. Without a stamp.
  • Forgotten to pack essential items (sanitary supplies) in my
    gym bag, two days in a row, and nearly forgotten a third day

Recent Training Schedule

  • Saturday: went out on the water with Rudder for critique session, rowed 9.5
  • Monday: up at 4, rowed 11 km including several hard 200m pieces
  • Tuesday: up at 4, rowed 10.5 km including several hard 500m pieces
  • Wednesday: up at 4:30, went to the gym
  • Thursday (today): up at 4, rowed 12 km, tried to maintain at least 65-70%
    pressure over the whole distance

Incidentally, during a normal week I get up at 4 on rowing days, 5 on erging days,
4:30-5 on gym days. I'm not sure whether the change is due to slightly earlier
hours, or the more strenuous workouts, or stress, or what. I'm going to keep up
the same schedule next week, then taper for the href="">Gold Rush regatta
on May 25, but I think after that I'm going to have to cut back a bit.

I don't mind look stupid or occasional stupid things, but I really, really hate
just being stupid.

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

May 07, 2003


Apparently I have a href=",12983,937443,00.html">male
. (It must be a bit confused finding itself in my female body, though
that could explain a few features of general outline.) This is not a great
surprise, given my curriculum vitae: degrees in engineering and sciences, more
male than female friends, interest in processes, good at English but more
fascinated with linguistics and history than fine lit'rachure, and so on. If you
go by stereotypes, I'm a guy ... until you look at the polished toenails,
drawerfuls of lingerie and cosmetcs, fondness for shopping, shelves full of
authors like L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and others whos fan bases tend to
be composed of individuals with two X chromosome.

The authors of that
article and the designers of the study it's based on do make the point, several
times, that brain type does not necessarily go by gender; a woman can have a male
brain (obviously) and vice versa. It leads me to wonder, though, (with that
systematic mind they say I have) why they pandered to stereotype by labeling the
types male and female in the first place. Why not just say, as so many other
personality tests do, that some people are people-oriented while others are
problem-oriented? That way you don't have to keep explaining that no, you don't
mean that word in the way in which every other speaker of ENglish expects it to be

And maybe, you'd weaken the stereotypes just a little more,
making it just a bit easier for each child to grow up in his or her own way.

Posted by dichroic at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2003

blackened and band-aided

Work is a little less insane this week and next. (Translation: I have six meetings
today but at least I'm not teaching all week, only 3/4 of yesterday and half of
Friday.) Between that and the fact that my biggest regatta of the year is on
Memorial Day weekend, I've upped my training volume. I've rowed over 30 km in the
past four days and have been doing more intense sprints -- I can't up my longterm
endurance in that period but I can improve my anaerobic threshold, which is what
matters since my races are 1000m and 300m. I'll try to row four days and lift once
this week and the same next week, then taper for the race.

In other
words, it's only Tuesday and I'm tired already. I get a bit of a break tomorrow,
though, because it's a gym day rather than a rowing day. Good thing as I already
have blisters on two fingers and bandaids over raw spots on two others. This is
partly due to rowing three of the last four days and partly because it's getting
warmer. When my hands sweat more, I always get blisters and more ground-in black
oar-grip rubber. My hands look like a mechanic's.

Fortunately, at the
moment, warmer doesn't yet mean warm, at least not at 5AM. The weather has been
just perfect, cool enough to start out in a pullover and warm enough to take it
off shortly thereafter, and there are beautiful sunrises to watch while gasping
for air after my intervals. What a great time of year to be on the water.

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

May 05, 2003

literally annoying

"She ate so much, she literally burst."

Presumably, this would have
involved little pieces of person and gouts of blood and used food showering the
room, like the Mr. Creosote episode in my favorite Monty Python movie, The
Meaning of Life
. (Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone else thinks Life of
or The Holy Grail were better.)

"He was literally
rolling on the floor with laughter."

Uh-huh. When was the last time
you saw an attack of hysteria that involved actual rugburn?

The above
examples are made up, but they're not far from the language I hear regularly, in
person, on the news, in movies, and even sometimes in print. I'm not a complete
knee-jerk language curmudgeon. I use the word "hopefully" because I know of no
exact substitute -- "it is to be hoped" is awkward and sounds unnatural to me.
Furthermore, I think the rule about splitting infinitives and all of the other
prescriptive grammarians' attempts to make English function like Latin are silly
and misguided. Sometimes I even say "me" when I mean "I", though rarely the other
way around. (When I want to be hypercorrect, I try to start with being actually

The word "literally", though, has an actual, current use,
one which is not covered by other words. It means "This actually happened; I'm not
speaking metaphorically." It is the antonym of "figuratively". It does NOT mean,
"I want this to be a really strong metaphor. If you want to do that, you're on the
hook to come up with an actual strong metaphor. Vivid and interesting speech is
an art, not a birthright. Or maybe it's a hearer's birthright, but not a
speaker's. I have a literal mind, and these things (figuratively) grate on

And if I hear one more damned newscaster telling me it's going to
be raining cats and dogs, I may be throwing those cats and dogs at

Figuratively speaking, of course. (Then again, I live in a
desert, so they'd be safe anyway.)

Posted by dichroic at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)

May 04, 2003

a new environment for Dichroic

Well, that was interesting. Last night on a whim, Rudder and I decided to
visit what Houstonians, whose city is apparently famous for theirs, refer to as
"titty bars". Actually, it was more like a whim and a lot of wine.

had dinner at the Roaring Fork in
Scottsdale, which I'd been wanting to try for some time; they always end up in
articles about the best places to eat in town, and the Western theme sounded
interesting. We started with salmon nachos, with fennel chips, bits of cucumber,
and what they called caviar, but which looked more like the tobiko used in sushi.
(Flying fish eggs, so I suppose it's the same thing.) I had the best salmon I've
had since we were in Alaska, surrounded by chunks of beet (why beets?) and yummy
grilled asparagus. Rudder had a beef tenderloin with whiskey "shellac". The nice
thing was that portions, while not small, were reasonably sized enough to allow
for dessert, respectively creme brulee and pecan pie with toffee and chocolate
toppings. We split a recommended Cabernet Sauvignon, which was entirely to blame
for what happened next.

There's this odd thing about Scottsdale.
It's one of our local high-rent districts, catering to golfing tourists, and has
most of the fancier hotels and restaurants in town. Oddly, the south end of town,
right by the car dealerships (ones like Hummer, BMW, and Jaguar, naturally) and
just noth of ASU, has a lot of strip joints and associated businesses. (Massage
parlors, head shops, lingerie stores...) I've never been in a strip place, and
Rudder, who goes only as part of a bachelor party, has been roughly once in the
seven years we've lived here. On the way home, we decided it was time to satisfy

We went to a new place that was part of the chain he'd
been to once before. To Rudder's surprise, the place was not, technically, a titty
bar. It was instead an all-nude place, which disappointed Rudder (really!) because
he'd gotten his taste buds all set for a rum and coke, and had to settle instead
for plain coke. They can't serve alcohol at the all-nude places.

place was not what I expected. For one thing, the lights were so low it was hard
to see details -- intentionally, I assume. There were ribbons of light sliding
over the girls on stage, dimness everywhere else. There were comfortable club
chairs grouped around (thankfully) widely separated tables. The cover charge
wasn't too high, so I assume they make their money on the drinks, which were
priced as though they had contrained alcohol. There were at least two other
couples present, and two young women sitting together who looked like they might
be doing research for a career change.

The girls all had more or less
the same body type, thin and not too muscular. They all had medium to long hair.
The only variation was in their breasts, which ran from small and natural to
medium and natural to large and silicone-ish. No real gazongas. They all looked to
be in their early twenties, all were entirely clean shaven, and all had no visible
blemishes, razor bumps, stubble, or uneven skin color. Rudder has remarked on this
before. I'd guess uniform use of self-tanners and body makeup -- no idea how they
all get such clean shaves and perfect skin.

There were two girls on
stage at a time, one with some little clothes or an open robe and one mostly
naked, and they staggered entrances and exits. The naked one would exit, the one
with clothes would drop them, and then take a new girl's hand and walk her out
front. They didn't so much dance as squirm to music and several were
impressively flexible. Every one was wearing four-inch platform shoes with
stiletto heels, so even walking gracefully took some ability.

one came up to us, which surprised Rudder. He accepted her "offer" of a lap dance,
which surprised me -- The lap dance was the only time all night I was
uncomfortable, though the girl did her best. (I think he wanted to make sure I got
the *ahem* full experience.) She spoke to both of us and was really quite nice.
She led us to a couch a bit back from the stage (after asking if we wanted to go
there) and proceeded to wiggle all over Rudder. She touched me once or twice with
her shoe, but that was it. Again, impressive flexibility -- I try to stretch a lot
and I can't do some of what she did. She really was nice and seemed to be happy
with her job, as far as I could tell. I commented on her flexibility and she joked
that most of the girls there had been in dance or gymnastics from early ages "so
parents should watch where they send their daughters!" Moms, steer those kids to
soccer instead. Then you'll only have to worry about them stripping to a sports
bra after a big win.

The announcer did keep referring to this girl or
that as "Your toy," but he was a bit hokey anyway. So yeah, they were being
objectified, but it did seem to be a matter of choice at least. Rudder keeps
claiming it's the men in those clubs who are degraded, but I don't know if I
agree. I do suspect the girls regard the men as objects at least as much as the
converse. Not sure the whole thing is a good thing, but the club was about as un-
sleazy as it could manage.

I believe we have now formally established
that I'm not bisexual, or possibly just not visually oriented. The whole thing was
pretty interesting though, from sort of an anthropological perspective. For some
reason, my reaction keeps reminding me of my one trip to a rodeo; it was more
interesting than I expected in some ways but I doubt I'll be going regularly any
time soon.

Posted by dichroic at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2003

homer or virgil?

I forgot to write that the other day, some of us had a brief decription over
whether a certain project here was more like the Iliad, the Odyssey, or the
Aenead. I managed to persuade the others that it was the Odyssey, the trip that
was supposed to take a week and instead lasted 17 years.

See why I
love my job? Not because of a problematic project but because I get to have
discussions like that. (And because we were looking at ways to improve so we don't
have similar problems in the future.

Posted by dichroic at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

tortillas, saguaros, and butterflies

I am replete, having just gotten back from eating Mexican food with a coworker.
Our cafeteria's not bad, but I am very tired of it. Anyway, good Mexican food in
tiny unassuming restaurants is one of the good things about life in Arizona.
Though actually the best Mexican food near my house is instead in a large assuming
sort of place, decorate with large statues of Mexican patriots and a painting of
the sky on the ceiling.

Drat. I had an actual essay topic to write
about today an I have forgotten what it is. Perhaps when work calms down a bit at
the end of June, I can tilt the contents of this journal a bit more toward essays
and less toward daily minutiae, though I don't ever expect to give up writing
about both.

Meanwhile, it's probably just as well I've forgotten my
topic. The outline of a story about a girl and a cactus crawled into my mind
yesterday on my drive home and I should capture that in print, though I'm not
really sure what to do with the butterfly after I net it. To be the finished
product I envision, it will also need illustration and I don't know whether my
drawing skills are up to the task. The best thing, no doubt, would be to write it
and draw it and find out.

Posted by dichroic at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2003

class and con

Difficult class, this one is. Exhausting, but also rewarding -- they won't let us
(the instructors) get away with anything, but they're asking difficult questions
because they want to know, not just to be difficult.

I keep thinking
other jobs would be easier, and then having to remind myself they all have their
challenges. And even if I could persuade Rudder I should stay at home, I don't
have any kids, or any projects or home businesses I'd want to work on. Not only
would I feel guilty, I'd eventually get fidgety, wanting to get things *done*. Not
true for everyone, I know, but I think it would be for me.

Weekend after next, I think I am going to do
something I've never done. Though I've been reading fantasy and SF since I learned
to read at age 3 (literally, since Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was one of my first
books) I've never yet been to a con. But someone I work with occasionally turned
out to be a RPG-er and SF fan, as I expected (you can generally tell, somehow) and
informed me yesterday that there's a con voming up in town with Charles de Lint as
the Guest of Honor. Given his presence, I'm wondering now if Emma Bull and Will
Shetterley might also show up -- I learned only a week ago that they now live in
this state. So I'll need to double-check whether her info is correct, but if it is
and if my travel schedule doesn't conflict, I think I might go.

there some central web site with info on F&SF cons?

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