November 30, 2003

Death Valley

We came back early from Death Valley - bleak and desolate were the first words
that came to mind, but we enjoyed the park nonetheless. It's a stark rugged sort
of beauty, but it's got an undeniable appeal. We didn't enjoy the camping, though.
The park was packed -- we had expected it to be empty, as previous parks we
visited during Thanksgiving had been, but it was full. We camped the first night
in a huge campground, with 1000+ sites, in their "tent overflow" area -- basically
a big parking lot. The next morning, at the park rangers' suggestion, we got up
early and grabbed a spot as someone left another campground. That one was a bit
nicer, since it was only tents, but the campsites were crammed so close together
that the neighbors talking and singing kept me up half the night. (Rudder, lucky
man, is a heavier sleeper). I was enjoying the guitar playing, and they quieted
down at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately they started up again and didn't stop
until 11:30. That's late for a campground; lots of us tend to sit up for an hour
or two around a campfire after the sun goes down and then go to bed. This time of
year, that's only about 8PM. Because I was getting frustrated not getting any
sleep and because we'd seen most of the major things we'd wanted to see, we left
about noon yesterday (Saturday), after getting up early and going to see the
Devil's Golf Course, walk across the Badlands at the lowest point in the Western
Hemisphere, drive to the Artist's Palette, and hike into Natural Bridge Canyon.
That last was responsible for one of my favorite moments of the trip - an ironic
one, considering that we left early because of the noise in the park's
campgrounds. It was early enough that there were only a couple other people in the
canyon, and we were able to just stop and listen to utter silence. It was so quiet
that when a crow flew by I could hear each wingbeat.

The other high
points of the trip were on Friday. First we toured Scotty's Castle. I had thought
it was ironically named, but no, it was a bonafide castle, complete with turrets
and imported Spanish medieval carpets and hangings. It also had some very
interesting cooling and water-powered electricity systems, designed in 1930 or so
by the owner, an insurance tycoon and former engineer named Johnson. (Scotty was
his friend and hanger-on, who first lured Johnson out there to invest in a
fictitious gold-mine. They hit it off nonetheless and Scotty lived at the castle
or a nearby cabin for the rest of his life, while the Johnsons spent winters

After that, we drove for an hour on a bone-jarring
washboarded dirt road to look at rocks. Small rocks. There are rocks on a dry lake
bed (playa) that move, for no reason anyone understands. The most convincing
theory we heard is that when frost forms, it heaves the rocks -- sort of glacial
action in miniature. When the lake bed has a skim of water on it, it can be very
slippery, so the frost or wind or whatever moves the rocks sends them quite a
distance, leaving tracks behind. We had trouble getting out to them because parts
of the playa are still wet from a big storm three weeks ago, and had to skirt
south along from rocky hills, but that worked well -- from the ridge we could see
several sets of tracks going off in all directions. (One reason I don't think te
wind does it.) That was far more interesting than I had thought it would be. I
hope the pictures turn out.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 26, 2003


RIP Kearney. Take him for all in
all, we shall not look upon his like again. Kearney was a

(I was going to tag this on to the previous entry, but I
wasn't sure how amused he'd have been at being included under the "gender bending
title". Kearney liked women, and liked talking about rowing, which is why I've had
a fair few interesting conversations with him myself at various regattas.)

Posted by dichroic at 01:10 PM

gender bending

How unamusing. I submitted two recent entries to the href="">Gender Genie. It decided that
yesterday's entry, in
which I talked about how I felt, was written by a female, while my href="">Chanukah entry, which is
mostly description and history, was written by a male. Phooey.

algorithm appears to be based on keywords rather than content but I wonder if the
use of the different vocabulary might be endemic to one style of writing or the
other, rather than to the gender of the author.

The above was
purportedly written by a male, who is now off home to pack for camping this

Posted by dichroic at 11:06 AM

November 25, 2003

not sick

I went home a little bit early yesterday feeling like crap, but I feel much better
after a calm evening. I can tell because I'm looking forward to camping in Death
Valley instead of dreading it.

I still don't know whether to believe
in the blood type diet, but I will say that they nailed both me and Rudder in the
matter of meat and exercise. Basically, he feels best when his life includes lots
of both. I confine my red meat to occasional steaks or hamburgers, or a little
ground or shredded beef in Mexican food. Large hunks of protein leave me weighed
down for the evening and tend to lead to short-lived but incredibly painful
stomach cramps.

He feels better with lots of exercise. I do too, but
to a degree. Once it gets to being a stressors instead of a routine, or when
augmented by too much else to do, I start getting .... not sick, exactly, but
sick-ish, draggy, sometimes queasy, and mildly feverish. Which is what happened
last night. At that point, anything more energetic than a spot on a sofa with a
good book starts sounding like an unbearable burden, even when it's something I
would otherwise enjoy. I don't particularly enjoy describing myself this way, but
I suppose I am "delicate".

There is a good side; my sickish spells
tend to function like a canary in a coal-mine. They slow me down when I need to be
slowed, which seems to keep me healthier in the long run. I may feel icky
sometimes`, but I very rarely actually get sick. I think I've taken off maybe a
day and a half from work this year for illness, and I don't seem to get even colds
very often. Not having kids in school may contribute a lot to that as well, of
course. I'd have to look back in my archives to see when I was last really two-or-
more-days-off sick, but it's far anough back that I can't recall, though probably
recent enough to be in this blog.

And I just a minute ago
accidentally deleted this posting and managed to reclaim it with Ctrl-Z so now I
feel REALLY good.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 24, 2003

self-hypnosis and truffles

What a ridiculously hectic weekend. I am trying to force myself to believe that
once we get started on the drive out there, camping this weekend will be very
relaxing, more so than staying home.

I suck at self-

I'm also reminding myself that one of the main reasons the
weekend was so busy was that we had to get all our chores and errands done just so
we could go out of town, and that changing our (my) mind would be a total waste at
this point.

I believe that one, but it doesn't help with the

Also, I'm a bit disappointed that there are still 3/4 left
of the applecake I brought in this morning -- not because my coworkers don't like
it (um, I think they do) but because half of them are taking time off this week
and because someone else happened to bring in chocolate truffles today. Nothing
can compete with truffles. It's always so disappointing when you bake and people
don't fall all over if, even if they have good reasons.

Posted by dichroic at 12:31 PM

November 23, 2003


Several people on one of my mailing lists asked me about the meaning and celebration of Chanukah. I probably gave them more than they wanted to know! (It's not usually a good idea to ask me a question about history or theology unless you're actually interested in the answer, but at least with email they can delete if not interested.) Anyway, I wrote so much that I decided I ought to reuse it here, combining the original two emails into one post. I tend to repost "Light One Candle annually anyway, because I find it so poignantly timely. And as always feel free to surf elsewhere it it's too much detail. Note that much of the following, especially the first half, is the traditional belief, not necessarily my own in all points.

When the Syrian Greeks conquered the land of Judea (the remaining one of two kingdoms roughly where Israel is now - the other was the source of the Ten Lost Tribes), the king Antiochus ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. (Actually, that's the children's version, the simplification. There were also Hellenized Jews who particiapted in all aspects of Greek life voluntarily. ) Antiochus' soldiers used the Temple in Jerusalem as a barracks, trashed the religious symbols, and deliberately brought pigs in to profane it. They forbade the observance of the Sabbath, calculating the new moon (Rosh Chodesh - the beginning of lunar months) and circumcision, which to Jews is part of our covenant with God - the word bris itself means covenant.

Matityahu and his sons, including Judah, gathered an army that became known as the Maccabbees and led guerilla warfare against the Greeks. There are very, very few examples (none, according to Robert A. Heinlein, who was clearly wrong in at least this instance -- at least if the legends I know match historical record!) of a conquered people throwing out their oppressors without outside help, but the Maccabbees did succeed, which is counted the first miracle of Chanukah.

One of their first steps was to rededicate the Temple. They cleaned it out but still needed to have the High Priest light the Eternal Lamp, which had to burn only consecrated oil. They searched and searched and found one small vial of consecrated oil, still sealed with the High Priest's seal, only enough for one day. Miraculously, it burned for eight days, enough time to make more oil.

Chanukah is the only traditional Jewish holiday commemorating a military victory. We celebrate by lighting candles in the menorah (actually, a special eight-branched menorah called a chanukiyah - the normal menorah you might see in a synagogue the rest of the year has six branches). We light first the Shammes, or "caretaker", the one candle that stands alone, then use it to light additional candles, one for the first day, two for the second, three for the third and so on.

Children play games with a dreidel, a four-sided top on whose sides are the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hay, shin, which stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham" or "A great miracle happened there". (In Israel, it's "Nes Gadol Hayah Po", for "A great miracle happened here.) Other traditions are that we eat potato pancakes and other fried foods and give gelt -- money -- to children. Mostly by proximity to Christmas, the latter has evolved in the US to giving gifts to everyone, one small gift for each day. Originally the Jewish gift holiday was Purim, which is in March. My parents would give us one big gift like a bike, and smaller gifts the other days. Rudder and I do a big gift for Christmas and small ones for Chanukah. (I usually take a basket and go through REI to find lots of small things for him!)

You can read the story in more detail here or more about traditional ways to celebrate Chanukah here.

During the centuries of exile, Jews were small farmers (think Tevye the dairyman), or teachers and doctors and scholars who were limited by laws to working among their own people, or moneylenders because that was the about the only profession they were allowed into. Because kings needed to borrow money, you see.... and then Edward I, whom Scots also have good reason to remember unkindly (think Braveheart) got around that by borrowing money, then expelling all the Jews from England, then only allowing them back when he needed to borrow more and then expelling them again - this time they weren't allowed back until the time of Cromwell, a man not otherwise noted for tolerance.

After a thousand centuries of survival by turning inwards, the military legacy of the Maccabbees became especially inspirational during the time of the Zionist movement and then the founding of the Israeli nation, when Jews again needed to form armies and fight. This is our only holiday celebrating military victory -- with God's help, as the legends are careful to remind us, but still a victory on our own terms without a deus ex machina stepping in, as in the parting of the Red Seas. The traditional Chanukah songs still exhort humility, though:

"Furious they assailed us
But thine arm availed us
And thy word broke their sword
When our own strength failed us."

from Rock of Ages, aka Ma'oz Tsur.

Of course, every Jewish holiday has multiple levels of symbolism; the sages in
those ghettos over the centuries studied and studied and eked out every drop of meaning they could find in every bit of Torah, Mishnah, lore and legend. The candles, like those in almost all traditions, also stand for the eternal fight of light against darkness. But to me personally today, the best summation of the candle flames' meaning is from Peter Yarrow, (of Peter, Paul, andMary), and I apologize for the length but for about the third time here I will give you the whole song. I wish a few people in government, ours as well as Israel's and others, would heed it! Once I've finished humming The Thanksgiving Song (by Bob Franke), I will be singing it to myself all month:

Light one candle for the Maccabee Children
With thanks that their light didn't die.
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied.
Light on candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand.
Light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peace maker's time is at hand.

Don't let the light go out
It's lasted for so many years
Don't let the light go out
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never became our own foe.
Light one candle for those who are suffering
The pain we learned so long ago.
Light one candle for all we believe in
that anger won't tear us apart.
And light one candle to bring us together
With peace as the song in our hearts;.

Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out,
Let it shine through our love and our fears.

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment for those who have died,
When we cry out they have not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail.
This is the burden, this is the promise,
THIS is why we will not fail.

Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out,
Let it shine through our love and our fears.

Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

Posted by dichroic at 10:24 AM

November 21, 2003

changing tunes

Yee-hah and hi-yah! I am now OFFICIALLY a Black

Phew. One weight off my back. I'm sure they'll find a new one to replace it shortly.

I've been listening to two albums lately (because one is in the little car and one in the truck) that have me thinking about how singers change their songs over time. The two are by the same singer-songwriter, Alex Bevan. One album is a tape of a tape of a record (remember those?) that I've had since college; it was probably recorded twenty years or so ago. The other is a recent CD. Both are live and they have several of the same songs, including my two favorites of his, Carey and Grand River Lullabye. It's interesting hearing the difference between them that have sprung up over that twenty year span. There are some technical ones; the CD has far better quality than the dub of course, but the earlier tape has some incredible guitar work on songs where he's greatly simplified the arrnagments on the later disc (though it does have some songs where he proves his playing hasn't lost a thing over the decades). He's clowning around much more, in a more broad style, on the later album. More than that, on the early versions of songs, he sings the song plain and pure, while on the later version he camps it up here and tweaks the rhythm there.

You probably haven't heard of him unless you're in northern Ohio, and quite possibly not then, but I think it's a more universal thing. I have a bootleg tape off the radio of a couple interviews Gene Shay did with Joni Mitchell, one right after she'd finished writing Circle Game. (No, my tape's not that old. Shay rebroadcast the interviews in the late 1980s and I taped it then.) When she sings it there, she sings it very simply - actually, if you've heard Judy Collins' cover, it's similar to that. In the later interview, a few years after, she's bending notes, adding phrases, and playing with rhythms.

I have to confess I generally prefer the earlier, simpler versions of both her songs and Alex Bevan's, but I think I can understand why they'd want to vary the performances. It has to be a bit weird, as a singer/songwriter; you write a song and you think it's really good, so you sing it a lot. You're very happy when other people seem to like it too. And then ... time goes by ... more people like it ... and you realize you've created a monster and now you're never allowed to leave a stage without singing and playing that song, that song that was your truth when you wrote it but now it's years later and maybe you'd sort of like to move on a little. And so you do move on and you write new songs, and they're good songs and people like them, but still you can't ever step off a stage without singing that song. No wonder they play with them a bit.

I keep thinking of something David Bromberg says on one of his albums, while introducing Mister Bojangles, about his time playing backup to Jerry Jeff Walker: "We played that song every night and I never got tired of it. Jerry got a little tired of it, night after the shows we'd take it out and do horrible things to it."

Posted by dichroic at 01:59 PM

November 20, 2003

holiday (dis)organization

NOt not NOT organized this holiday. As in, we're still deciding what to do for
Thanksgiving. My in-laws were planning to visit but decided not to (airfares were
running high) so the choices are between camping in Death Valley and staying home
-- we both know we'll regret it if we don't go, but we're also both tired enough
that the planning and packing sound like a major undertaking. If we go, we'll need
to prepare a reasonable Thanksgiving dinner to take (a problem fortunately already
solved a few years back by my take-along turkey fajitas) as well aas plan for the
rest of our meals; if we stay home we need to get a real turkey and figure out
where to go for our needed dose of fresh air (not a problem; there's lots of day
hiking around here).

I still need to buy most of my presents for
Christmas, Hanukah and the various family birthdays that happen in Decemenber.
Hanukah is late this year, but the timing of the birthdays and the frnzy I
anticipate in packing for Antarctica mean I have to buy and send them early
anyway. I enjoy shopping for presents almost as much as I enjoy getting them (and
sometimes more) but there's a bittersweet element to it too. I have to buy so few
family presents these days, because the four grandparents I spent my childhood
holidays making cards and presents for aren't here to receive them anymore.
Holidays are always when I miss them most, as well as when I'm most grateful that
I had four grandparents until I was in college.

Posted by dichroic at 08:29 AM

November 19, 2003

Master and Commander PSA

Public Service Announcement:

Master and Commander: The Other Side of the
World is NOT REPEAT NOT a chick flick.

I keep seeing mentions of
Russell Crowe in tight pants but I am sorry to inform his fans that for most of
the film he's in saggy sailor pants laced up the back. It is true that those go
with a loose ruffled shirt generally open over half his checst, if you're a fan of
Crowe's chest. (Not me, thanks.) The tight white pants go with the dress uniform
which also involves a tailcoat that covers much of them.

The plot is
entirely un-chick-flick-ish; among other things there are no women in the film
except for a few rowing by bridling at the sailors off the coast of Brazil. And
the men don't bathe often, except for involuntary showers during storms.

Jo Walton href="">captured it
, I think.

Later: NOTE: I didn't say women won't like it - after all, I did. I just said it
isn't a chick flick. Which, in my mind is not at all the same thing.

Posted by dichroic at 12:06 PM

November 18, 2003

hope and worry

It's been kind of funny listening to news about the Democratic cnadidates for
President. No matter who they talk to or who they ask about, the refrain goes,
"Well, I like so and so's position on (fill in the issues) but mostly I just want
someone who can beat Bush." I tend to think that it's not so much that Bush wants
to take power away from the people*, it's just that he wants to give it all to big
corporations and to religious organizations (as long as they're Protestant and

[* Unless they're poor people, Middle-Eastern people,
people from other countries, or female people.]

Still, I maintain
that a good knowledge of history is an important tool in preserving hope. While
it's true, as I've said href="">before, that the history
of the United States can be read as a story of freedom's being extended to broader
and broader groups, it can also be seen as a histoor of fighting off challenges to
the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the common law from which it
derives. The administration may be trying to repeal rights which have already been
bled for, but that's not new. Try the Alien and Sedition Act, the
immigration quotas of the 1800s, the Know-Nothing Party, Jim Crow (read The
Delany Sisters: Having Our Say
; their memories stretched back before the
"rebby boys" began to defer the dreams of Emancipation), Prohibition, and of
course the McCarthy Hearings.

Another reason for hope: the href="
/rights_gays_dc">Massachusetts Supreme Court
. Sometimes, freedom fighters pop
up where you don't expect them, like a spoiled Egyptian prince speaking out for
the slaves. (One place religion does belong in the public sphere is as a source
for analogies.)

One thing that does worry me about the next
Presidential race is realizing just how uniform our Chief Executives have been.
Yes, electing Sharpton (shudder) or Lieberman would make history, but it's even
worse than that. While everyone knows Kennedy was the first U.S President who was
not a Protestant, I think he was also the last. We've had exactly two Presidents
with Irish names, the other one being Reagan, a few Scottish ones (Buchanan,
Harrison, and a couple of others). There are exactly three with names not deriving
from the UK: Roosevelt and Roosevelt (Dutch) and Eisenhower (German). Like most
Americans, most of our Presidents probably have a heritage more mixed than their
names suggest, but it worries me nonetheless. I'd be even more worried if I were
Kucinich. Though I suppose the white-bread factor may actually help Dean.

Posted by dichroic at 11:40 AM

November 17, 2003

hallways, hair, and bears, oh my

You know what I hate? I hate when you say hello to someone passing in the hallway, then say say hello to me and I realize too late that they didn't me me greet them *first* and they now think I am rude for not returning their hello. At that point, about the only way to rescue the situation is to have an actual conversation, a tactic not apt to be appreciated by someone who is on his or her way to lunch.

Grammarians of the world: Yes, I have totally given up on the issue of using "they" as a singular gender-neutral pronoun. I am far too lazy to say "his or her" every time. On the other hand, your rule about splitting infinitives is silly and is entirely based on 18th century English writers' hyper-reverence for Latin, so there.

And while I am addressing minor annoyances and oddities, I can report that it took TWO AND A HALF HOURS to cut and color my hair Friday evening. The reasons for my mind-bogglement may become clearer when I point out that all I wanted to do was to get rid of some faded blondish highlights left over from a previous experiment. (I've only ever colored my hair maybe four times, so I think of them all as experiments.) I wanted to go back to my natural very dark brown, but a maybe bit richer - the image that kept coming to mind was polished mahoghany. (The other image was of Elissa Driban, whom I sat behind in seventh-grade geography and whose hair was as dark as mine but gorgeously shiny and varied in color.) Fortunately, I was able to find a picture of Hilary Swank on one of the salon's magazine to convey what I wanted to Cool Salon Guy.

The reason it all took so long was that the previous highlights were put in when my hair was much shorter, and so are on all levels, not just the top layer. Also, neither of us wanted to just color the whole head,
since hair color is not particularly good for hair. CSG ended up painting the
highlighted parts in brown and dark red and wrapping them up in little silver foil
packets which were interspersed with uncolored strands left loose until I looked
like a peculiar high-tech witch. (The techical term is something like "two-color
weave".) And now eighty minutes and seventy dollors later, I look just as I would have if I had never colored at all, except that if you get close you can see strands of dark red enlivening the brown. A wild experimenter, I am.

Good thing I enjoy hanging out with Cool Salon Guy. Even if he did make me promise that next time I am in the local mall I will determine whether it's possible to assemble an S & M bear at the Build-A-Bear Workshop (where I regularly check in to see if they have the accessories to build a rower bear or a pilot bear). That chain is grossly underestimating the adult market, I think. Even avoiding the more *ahem* mature theme, I feel sure they could sell work accessories like businessman bears and engineer bears (I think they have doctors already) as well as the sports like climbing and rowing that adults tend to do more of. After all, who has the disposable income, anyway?

Posted by dichroic at 11:40 AM

November 15, 2003

Master and Commander review

I loved Master and Commander, Oddly, I think it's better if you've read at least
some of the books, even though they didn't stick to any one of them. The movie is
a pastiche of two or more of the books' plots (the title, Master ad Commander: The
Far Side of the World) is from the first and tenth books. In the movie, they have
two fights, a boarding, several assorted deaths, two of Maturin's more spectacular
surgeries, a bit of his naturalist studies, some reflections on the nature of
authority and friendship, a flogging, a couple of religious services led by the
Aubrey, a severe storm, hot weather, cold weather, and anecdotes about Nelson. In
other words, it's almost a Greatest Hits of the series, which made this one
wonderful, but made me suspect that the sequel will be a rehash of the same.
Unless they're smart enough to address some of the more landbound plot elements
that were left out of this one, like Aubrey and Maturin's marriages, Maturin's
spying, and the political ups and downs of Aubrey's career

The filming was incredible, and we couldn't spot which scenes
were shot in tanks and which on open ocean. Crowe was a perfect Aubrey, and the
actors playing Maturin, Pullings, and a couple of the young midshipmen were also
impressive. They also did a very good job of using fast and furious clipping to
convey a sensse of violence and gore when appropriate without actually showing a
lot of it.

No romance at all, and there's a lot about friendship and
duty and the conflict between the two - like the books, it's very much a man's
story but in the best of ways -- open to any woman interested in the virtues of
pride and honor and duty that men have so long tried to pretend are especially

One review I saw called it slow, but I didn't find it so at
all and I am not a patient woman in a movie theater - not much of a film buff at
all, in fact. It may have helped to be familiar with the mileu from the books.
They managed to stick astounding close to the spirit O'Brian created considering
how far the plot departed from the letter of his writings. I recommend it highly.
Sit back away from the screen if you're prone to seasickness.

Posted by dichroic at 08:25 PM

November 14, 2003

the baby news

How young is too young for a fix-up? Because I'm really thinking I need to
introduce Nora
to young Ar. (Young as in "about 5 months younger than she is - is
that a problem?) Apparently they have common tastes in music. He does this
headbanger thing when (I think) he wants to be jounced around more vigorously, and
dancing him around while singing the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" seems to be
just the ticket. I suspect he'd like it even more if I actually knew any more of

"Waltzing With Bears" works for him too, and I actually have the
lyrics to that somewhere.

Ar's sister Og, on the other hand, has
adopted puking (excuse me, spitting up) and pouting as her favorite hobbies.
Fortunately, the former isn't a major problem as she's still on an all-milk diet
and she does the latter most fetchingly, complete with tiny little lower lip
sticking out and chin quivering adorably. It cracks me up every time but it makes
Mommy Egret melt so fast I can only conclude it's an evolved survival

I've already warned Egret and T2 to beware of Rudder when
the babies get a little older. He's not a huge fan of tiny babies, but he's great
with toddlers and young kids, getting them all overexcited and riled up before
handing them back to the parents. It was hilarious at a family gathering a few
years ago when his now college-aged young cousin was getting flash-backs watching
him playing with the next generation of cousins. "Hey, he used to play those games
with us!" It was among other things a classic illustration of how much smaller the
distance ebtween 25 and 35 is, compared to the difference between 8 and 18.
Anyway, I shouldn't have warned Egret and T2 because now they're threatening
sleepovers at Uncle Rudder's house.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 13, 2003

Judge Roy, Moore or less

I'm trying to figure out whether I admire former judge Roy Moore for standing up
for his beliefs. I happen to agree with the Alabama Circuit Court that he's
entirely wrong. I'm not qualified to judge on the issue of whether the US
Constitution overrides the state one, of course; they're been arguing various
permutations of that one for about 212 years and it won't be completely settled
any time soon. However, I see no connection between his right (and duty, according
to his interpretation of the Alabama oath of office) to uphold his belief in his
God and the necessity to impose his particular version of that God on other
people. I'm glad they decided to remove him from office.

Still, in
some ways it's good to see someone stand up for a wrongheaded belief even if it
causes him personal damage. I think the key for me is the degree of
wrongheadededness and the degree to which it has been controlled by the workigns
of the law. I wouldn't particularly admire him if he'd won and I wouldn't even
think of admiring him if he'd said his beliefs required him to kill unbelievers,
for instance.

Posted by dichroic at 04:25 PM

pulp fiction

I have no desire (or ability) to ever participate in NaNoWriMo, but one of these
days if time permits I may end up writing some of the most obscure slash you'll
ever try to avoid reading. I had an entire hetslash idea for Marian and Harold
from The Music Man, of all bizarre things, pop into my head yesterday
morning. Complete with the realization that since they live in a musicalverse
there would need to be song interldes, not to mention allusions to
Oklahoma (when Harold turns out to be the guy that sold Will that
viewscope with the diry pictures, at the Kansas City rodeo) and mentions of
Chaucer, Rabelais, and Bal-zac. My subconscious is even geekier than the rest of

At least it didn't do anything with Marian's brother and

Later note: I may be twisted but apparently I'm not unique. There's an Oklahoma
fic (Laurie/Curly) over at, frighteningly enough. It's not
very good, though.

Posted by dichroic at 07:02 AM

November 12, 2003


I was delighted last night when I read an email informing me I've been nominated
for a Diarist Award for Best Writing - my first nomination. So verbose thanks to
whoever nominated me -- I'm enormously flattered. (Especially since I have a
sneaking suspicion that I may have been nominated by someone who herself writes
better than I ever will.)

And now I'll try to forget it - given the level of writing around, I don't see
this going further, and I'd hate to find myself always thinking about how well I'm
writing. I keep thinking about Emily Byrd Starr being corrected for all her
attempts at fine writing.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 11, 2003

thank you, NPR

I want to thank NPR today for the pieces they've been doing on the soldiers killed
in Iraq. They let the families talk about them, without intruding stupid media
questions ("Your son died on his way home to celebrate his 21st birthday. How do
you feel about that?") and without interruption. It comes across as respectful and
proper- I suppose there must be substantial editing and probably a few questions
to get people started talking but it doesn't show in the finished pieces. Their
coverage is helping to keep me mindful that those are people dying out there, not
just numbers of statistical significance - definitely a case of the media doing
what they ought to be doing.

I'd like to hear a few similar pieces on
all those Iraqis caught in the crossfire.

Posted by dichroic at 12:24 PM

November 10, 2003

almost there...

I'm writing this a bit late today because I wanted to wait and see what I'd have
to report.

The day started off well; Rudder came home from his
marathon (at which he and She-Hulk not only won their race but set a new course
record for mixed doubles!) not even too late. We finished off the weekend in
appropriate style and then, joy of joys, slept in ALL THW WAY UNTIL 6 AM because
he is taking a week OFF!!!!! Well, not really "off", per se; we'll still go to the
gym tomorrow and Thursday but we get to sleep until 4:45 on those days and there's
not the chill factor that makes going out to the lake require such strength of
mind. Not that I'm at a point in my training where time off from rowing makes any
sense, but no way would I miss this opportunity to sleep in.

So we
slept and then I came in to work and basically studied and jittered around my
office until 10 AM when I met with my examiners and passed the technical portion
of my Six Sigma Black Belt certification! Yay!

For an idea of the
magnitude of this, in difficulty it's somewhere between getting my pilot's license
and my master's degree -- a year of study, teaching, mentoring, and project work.
Here's a quick definition of what it means - it's from a different company but Six
Sigma is more or less a standardized thing:

Sigma project leaders are referred to as Black Belts because these individuals
must have some of the same attributes that distinguish dedicated practitioners of
certain martial arts. They must possess mastery with the tools and skill in their
application, discipline in application of the method, and even a sense of humility
based on the knowledge that project success comes from the work and expertise of
many others. Six Sigma Black Belts master statistics and quantitative methods,
and, most importantly, have the interpersonal skills, leadership, energy,
enthusiasm, and a determination to follow an assignment to success.

basic Six Sigma premise is to challenge assumptions!

you want more detail (which you probasby don't unless you're a corporate type)
here are a few articles:

After that a bunch of us went out to lunch to
celebrate; I was going to treat but one of the senior guys wouldn't let me. Then I
came back to meet with the boss about the business end of it.

My boss
hasn't signed off on the organizational impact part of it yet; she wants us to
idiot-proof our process a little better, to make sure it really is followed
correctly. She's good at he big-picture stuff, and of course this is something we
need to do anyway, so I should be able to complete the whole thing shortly, I

One less thing to worry about.

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 09, 2003

mixed day

Well, today started off disappointing. Actually set the alarm on a Sunday
just to make extra-double-sure I'd be up in time, got up and showered and drove up
to Scottsdale to the massage school...

.... and waited and waited and
waited. My student masseuse never showed up. This is kind of a big deal for me; I
like the school because they only charge $29/hour and have nice facilities and
because they know they're being checked on by teachers, they *always* are careful
to talk to clients first to find out exactly what they want. Apparently other
people like it too because it's usually booked a couple weeks ahead and so by the
time I know I'll actually have some free time it's too late to get an appointment.
But this time I knew Rudder would be out of town and so I booked an hour and a
half this morning. Got there with my shoulders all anticipating a good rub, and no
one there to do it. The woman behind the desk was very apologetic and told me the
student would be written up and set on walk-ins; I asked if she would also please
guilt-trip him or her so the person would realize that this was not just a case of
"I've screwed up and I'll be punished," but one where they had really disrupted
the life of someone to whom this was a big deal. She agreed to do that, asked if I
wanted to leave the student a note, and handed me a $10 off card for next
time, and apologized again. Very profressional and I will be going back, but my
shoulders are still not happy.

The afternoon was a great improvement
on the morning, as I spent it with Egret, T2, and the munchkins AR and OG. Got fed
some tasty tialpia (by Egret and T2) and drooled on, nuzzled into and puked on (by
the munchkins. And I even got them both to smile and AR actually to laugh (he's
still learning how). Very satisfying.

Speaking of satisfying, Rudder
and She-Hulk not only won their race but also set a course record for mixed

Posted by dichroic at 04:07 PM

November 07, 2003

history and despair

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.

Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof."

__Barbara Kingsolver

None of them were talking to me, but Mechaieh and M'ris and LA have all got me thinking (yeah, again) about hope and despair and what I need to do for my world, and I need to link some of it together. (And while I'm linking, I stole the quote above from Squirrelx.) For a while in college I wore a lot of message buttons on my backpack. I had one that sid, "Wearing buttons isn't enough". I didn't wear that one; my sense of irony wouldn't let me as almost all I did do for any cause I believed in was to wear buttons. (And vote.) These days I vote, and I contribute a little money, but what I mostly do is talk. So in a way I'm still just wearing buttons but really I think of it as more like witnessing.

I'm not saying that my writing here or talking to people in the office is in any way comparable to those who put in hours and sweat and sometimes blood for the things they believe in but it's what I have time and energy to do. I may be naive, but I really honestly truly believe that what I say might make a difference. I've worked in groups where I was the only Jew or the only woman or the only person who did this or believed in that, and I treasure a small hope that maybe somewhere out there are people who have thought, "Well, I always thought all Jews hated all Christians, but I've talked to Dichroic and she's not like that," or "I hear about people who run marathons but I never knew any everyday adults who still did competitive sports but Dichroic does; maybe instead of just dropping my kids off at Little League I could find something active we can do together". Or maybe even, "I always thought pro-choice types were horrible people who approved of killing babies and I still don't agree withthem, but Dichroic made me see that even those people think abortions should be avoided where possible. Maybe we could all get together and work on the things we agree on, like giving thirteen-year-olds enough support so they don't get pregnant just to have someone who loves them." That's what I can do right now and so that's what I do do.

It's not much, but I believe every drops helps. The times when I've had a real influence on people always turn out to be the times I wasn't expecting it, and I suspect the people who have influenced me weren't expecting that either. I am certainly a cockeyed optimist, but for me at least that's a far easier way to live.

The other thing that keeps me hopeful is a good knowledge of history. We take freedoms for granted now that were not part of our Founding Fathers' vision. (For one thing, they don't call them "Fathers", as opposed to Parents, for nothing.) They were working on from a background in which "liberty and freedom" meant things like the Magna Carta, in which powerful barons got some power into their own hands instead of the king having it all, or the Scots' fight for freedom which meant having their own king instead of an English one -- but still answering to a king. ("Wha, for Scotland's king and law / Freedom's sword will strongly draw...") They assumed the rich and educated would tell the rest of the people what to do, which is why only landowners had the vote at first. I read once that the story of the United States can be read as a story of liberty, in the object of the franchise, being extended to broader and broader groups: landowners, all white men, black men, women. And of course it hasn't been as linear as that implies; there were the grandfather laws in Jim Crow days and there are still cases where people are harassed at the polls. I heard an account of that just the other day. Poor mill workers were abused a hundred years ago as poor fruit pickers and maquilladora workers are today - there's still a long road to go. But if it's been two steps forward and one back, it has still been progress. That the story isn't over yet doesn't mean it's not a good story.

Robert Heinlein traveled around the world in the days of the McCarthy trials. He had people from other countries coming up to him to sympathize about the loss of the vaunted American freedoms during the Communist witch-hunts. But as he pointed out, those people just didn't get it. The McCarthy hearings affected a relatively (in contrast to the population size) small group of people. And they were reported in the news (at least in broad outline) for the whole world to see - very different from places where everyone lives in fear of being snatched away and "disappeared". The thing that scares me most by far about our current mess is that people are being held in secret and not allowed to make any phone calls. If we don't know what's going on we don't know how bad it is or what we need to do. But enough people have been held and released to tell us that there is a problem and I feel a bit better every time I head a story calling for accountability.

I am not trying to minimize the current situation; as I've written before, I am appalled at some of what's going on. But a knowledge of history gives me a view into what challenges we have already overcome and gives me a hope that's almost confidence for the future.

Posted by dichroic at 02:42 PM

November 06, 2003

not right now

Given that I'm thisclose to achieving my Black Belt (work, not karate, but kind of
a big deal anyway) I'm actually for once more excited to work on it than on
writing an entry here.

Maybe later when I get blocked and can't
figure out what to do next.

Posted by dichroic at 11:41 AM

November 05, 2003

retired coxswain

This morning I coxed for Yosemite Sam's crew for the last time, and I'd have to
say I got out of that just in time. It was expected to be around 50 degrees
(Arizona), and coxing is always colder than you think it possibly could be. In an
attempt not to fereze for once, I wore: a sports bra, a uni (in case I ended up
rowing instead for some reason), silk long johns, polartec 200 pants, polartec
socks (which unfortunately I had to put on in the boat after stepping into the
lake and getting my feet wet, since we launch from a beach instead of a dock), a
coolmax top, a polartec top, and a rowing jacket.

By the time we got
off the water, which was fortunately early due to one rower's wrist problems, my
hands and feet were numb. I was in a bow-coxed four and all those flip-catches
splashing me didn't help. And since I live in AZ I am not adapted for cold. In
retrospect, I should have worn a hat, gloves, and my waterproof socks.

The hot shower helped but I'm still chilled, even in a wool
turtleneck, jeans and boots. (Of course, that could just be due to over-zealous
office air-conditioning, too.)

I'm glad the coxing is over for
another reason too. The whole experience was a bit of a disappointment in some
ways. My intent was to learn to be a better race cox. In the head races we do in
fall, the cox can really make a difference; since the courses tend to be curvy,
the steering can make a huge difference. Also, the rowers are more likely to flag
over 5000 meters than in the 1000 meter sprint races, so it's up to the cox to
keep people intense and motivated. In his youth, YSam was a cox for the national
team, so he's the logical person to learn from.

I knew going in that
he's not always great at transmitting what he knows or telling you how to correct
a flaw, but to give him credit he did several times ask me to work on a specific
thing: painting a verbal picture to tell rowers where we were in a piece,
chattering to keep them distracted, whatever. (The former was good advice, the
latter I disagree with - I think it's better to talk to them and give them some
technique or power thing to focus on.) But I was expecting to get in some
practice, including some actual races, and somehow they just ... never did. We did
the race here at our own lake two weeks ago, one women's four raced at the Charles
and nothing more: not Newport, not Marina del Rey, not San Diego. There doesn't
seem to be any reason for it except that no one took control to make arrangements.
YSam, an old Bostonian, focused so intently on the Charles that he didn't care
about any other races. No one else in that program seems to have the initiative to
take control of their own training. I can make my own arrangements but wasn't
going to force them into anything because I was only a one-day-a-week guest. So no
races. I'll be glad to get back to operating in a milieu where if you want to
race, so go set it up, fill out the entry and book a hotel.

I've been hearing from a few people there how burned-out they're getting, and no
wonder. Training without a goal in mind is pure misery without a purpose. You
can't see gains because you don't know what your goal is, and you can't amortize
the more painful parts as being part of a worthy whole. So all you have left is
the joy in the moment and whenever that fades you have no motivation to keep

Hang on, I think I need to stop writing for a bit and think
about what I've just told myself.

Posted by dichroic at 12:35 PM

November 04, 2003

what passes

An Ampersand entry.
Topic: "That's what passes for love these days." - Ron Sexsmith ("These Days")
(this can be interpreted any way you like)

The Quotes:

"And you shall love
the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
-- from the V'ahavta, recited right after the Sh'ma in Jewish

"And what doth the Lord require of thee, But to do
justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
-- the prophet

"God is love" -- any number of penny-ante


More Iraqis than Americans are dying in the daily bombings
intended to get the US out of the Muslim world.

The Episcopal church may
split because a bishop has been appointed who will not keep his love

Orthodox Jews have been known to attack women with bare arms or
uncovered heads at the Wailing Wall.

The Peoples of the Book are still
killing each other over which meanifestation of God's Love is the One True

And this is what passes for Love these

Posted by dichroic at 03:45 PM

November 03, 2003

not idiot-proof enough

What is it with women's pants lately? Are they afraid we can't keep them on or
what? I was always satisfied with the way my jeans fastened: pull them up, button
them, zip them, and you're done. Or just fasten three or four buttons, if they're
501s. (I understand men like buttonfly jeans because of fear of getting caught in
the zipper. I just like the way they look.)

But now more and more of
my pants have more and more fastenings. Today's chinos have a zipper, an interior
button and not one but two hook-and-bar closures. The capris I wore Saturday have
a zipper, a snap and a sort of built-in web belt that only shows for a few inches
in front. I've also got a few pair of shorts with both elastic and drawstrings; in
one or two cases these are the sort of tight unpadded bike-type shorts with enough
Lycra to keep them in place during anything short of a concentrated debagging
attempt, so the drawstring is totally superfluous.

I have not figured
out the point. Many of the extra closures don't really show, so it can't just be
style. Perhaps it's meant to slow down the undressing process just so bathroom
breaks are longer, thus promoting sociability in the Ladies' Room? Or as a last-
ditch rape deterrent? I have trouble picturing an attacker stomping off in a huff
just because he couldn't figure out the depantsing process; a Gordian solution
seems far more likely.

All I know is that this trend does have its
inherent risks. I'm OK with remembering an extra hook at the top, and I don't have
too much trouble with interior buttons that possibly meant to help make pants lay
flatter, though that only really works on wrap skirts, or to relive stress on the
primary button. But when the designers get too creative my lamentable recent
absentmindedness is gifted with new avenues to explore. At least two or three
times while wearing the above-mentioned capris, I have snapped, belted, and
totally forgotten to zip.

I need clothes with fewer frills and more

Posted by dichroic at 04:59 PM

November 02, 2003


16 Americans were killed in Iraq today. Meanwhile, National Guard forces who have
been kept on active duty are not being given the support services they need (for,
say, treating wounds sustained in combat) and there are still military
personnel on food stamps. All this brought to you by the government that keeps
bragging on how it supports its troops. Meanwhile, every time I hear the news from
Iraq, it's accompanied by a soundtrack in my

And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we
fighting for?

Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,

Next stop is
V- *cough* Iraq and Iran....

...Be the first one on your block to have
your boy come home in a box!

Yes, it's
Greatest Hits Government, brought to you LIVE by the fine folks in
Washington. Up this week: a giant double-header! Relive the heady days of Reagan
trickle-down economics PLUS a side of Nixon military policy! And it's all yours
today for the low, low price of $87 Billion

Bitter? Me?

Posted by dichroic at 02:46 PM