December 23, 2003

from the bottom of the world

This entry is being written from the bottom of the world. We made it to Ushuaia
(pron. oo-soo-AH-ya) which our ride from the airport referred to as the 'outermost
southernness' - it's the southernmost town in the world. We'll be getting on the
boat this afternoon and we're looking forward to that. (I have determined that I
WILL NOT be seasick - with luck reality won't intervene.) There's lots of snow on
the mountains, and temps are in the fifties (F) despite it being midsummer. Rudder
is officially in his late thirties, since today is his

Merry whichever holiday you celebrate; Rudder and I wish
you a joyous, peaceful and prosperous new year, especially those for whom 2003 was
a bit bumpy.

Posted by dichroic at 07:13 PM

December 19, 2003

off to see the lizard, er, penguins

Don't ask why, but I feel a bit exposed leaving an entry that talks about me and
my beliefs so much up for the next couple of weeks. If you're interested in
surveys, it's one entry back.

Otherwise I spent this morning doing
errands and buying the black pants I decided I need for traveling (not to mention
life after traveling). No white shirt, though, wouldn't want the penguins to think
I was copying them. Then when I got home there was a message from Rudder saying
that he and several coworkers were taking the afternoon off to see the LOTR movie
and did I want to go with them. I did, which means I didn't get much else done
today. And we got back to a message that we'd gotten onto a direct flight, which
is good except that it means we have to leave earlier tomorrow. Translation: I
need to go get stuff done now instea dof writing here.

Off to go play
with the penguins. See you in 2004!

Posted by dichroic at 07:16 PM

100 points

I could have taken this from href="">Mechaieh or href="">Mer a> or a few others, but I took them from href="">M'ris because
somehow it seemed like a good idea to go back a generation or so. The words in
bold are those M'ris and I have in common.

01. I discovered e-mail
in college
-- I don't think they had email much before I was in college. The
Internet existed but as far as I could tell consisted mostly of email and
newsgroups -- and I've never played in a MUD or a MUSH.

02. I
never watched TV much,
but these days I watch Fear Factor and the Simpsons and
sometimes listen to the reruns Rudder turns on while I'm reading.

03. MI
don't much care what shows they cancel, except I'm very impresed that the SImsons
have been on so long and are still funny.

04. While I am not a talented
artist, I can draw moderately credibly when it's very, very important to do
but I don't do it much.

05. I like music but a lot of the
stuff I listen to is obscure enough that I'm always excited to me someone who
knows it. (Folky stuff, mostly.)

06. I'm actually pretty sure somebody
understands. If you'd hit me many years ago, maybe not, but I'm feeling pretty
thoroughly understood these days. Not universally. But thoroughly.
More or
less true, but some things are understood only by people I only know
electronically. But people I know in the flesh, where they don't understand, at
least give me room enough.

07. I hate when people type in all caps
Doesn't everyone?

08. I also hate people who TypE LyKe D1s.
Yep...although sometimes I am amused at mocking it.

09. I don't mind
people who cannot speak/write in proper English: it's the people for whom there is
no excuse that I mind. Hmmmmm. I'm not entirely sure of this one. My question is
what the standard is for cannot. If someone has developmental disabilities, a
different native language, or a thoroughly soul-crushing environment, I'll cut
that person some slack on the grammar and spelling. I sort of cut other people
slack, too.
Rudder can't spell anything whose spelling doesn't make sense
(i.e. a large fraction of the English language) and it means anything he's ever
written me can't be mistaken for anyone else. But I have no patience for people
who think spelling doesn't matter, who don't go out and find someone who can spell
to proofread it when it matters (a resume, for example).

10. I live
hundreds or thousands of miles from where I was born.

11. I have an MS
in Physical Sciences with a concentration in Space Science. I wanted to get a
Linguistics degree more recently but circumstances didn't cooperate. I have no
idea what I'd do with a Linguistics degree but I like learning (some things,
anyway) for its own sake. I expect to keep on doing it, in formal classes and out,

12. I wish my job paid better. Dude. Isn't this the human
condition? More reward for the same amount of labor?
What M'ris

13. I tend not to lose contact with people on my own, even if I
just know them from their journal or mine. Sometimes they disappear for awhile,
but if they'll e-mail me, I'll generally e-mail back.
I really don't like
losing people, assuming I liked them in the first place.

14. For some
things in my life, forgetfulness is a blessing. I think this is the human
condition, too. I don't get that blessing very much --
I forget all kinds of
things I should do but rarely things I've done, at least not ones with any
emotional impact.

15. I hope to get faster at rowing and do a bit more
competing this year. Mostly, I just hope not to finish DFL. (dead fucking

16. My butt gets too cold if I am indecently dressed in the winter,
even inside.
This is especially true after I've been working out, before I
get in a hot shower.

17. Like M'ris, I complain about never having enough
time to get things done.
I blame my commute for a lot of it.

18. I
have a lot to learn. Wasn't I saying something about the human condition and
learning earlier...?

19. Another partial agreement: I like to talk to
people, but I always worry; in my case, it's that I will exhaust them, and they'll
be relieved to be out of the laser gaze or the babbling mouth, depending.
know I Overwhelm some people.

20. I check my email every day.
Compulsively. My e-mail client is pretty much always in an open window on my
computer. So it lets me know if there's anything there; I don't really have to
Even at work.

21. I am a writer by strict definition; that
is, I write. I have well over a thousand diary entries that say so. I don't know
if I'll ever try to sell anything I write and if I do it will be essay or
nonfiction. I don't do fiction; I seem to lack a plotting gene.

22. I
hate when people yell
but I don't mind at all if they've just raised their
voices to be heard. I have sworn to myself, due to experiences with a former boss
and a former rowing coach, that I will never allow anyone to yell at me again
unless I have given them that right. (Which may be implicit -- we're in an
argument of equals and both getting steamed or I've asked them to coach

23. I want to travel the globe and hang out in other countries
I've done a good bit of the traveling but am always short of time
for the hanging out part.

24. I don't really have the urge to collect
things, but sometimes I get them anyway, because friends or family see them and
think of me. Except books, if those count: I have the urge to collect books.

Which doesn't mean I don't like buying and getting stuff, but mostly I don't think
of it as collecting.

25. I sometimes have trouble finishing things I start.
I am a pretty compulsive finisher.

26. I drink coffee in decaf form
Real coffee does icky things to my digestion.

27. I love going
new places and seeing new things and trying out new stuff to eat. Also, I love
taking friends to places that are new to them, showing them new things, and
feeding them new stuff to eat.

28. I'm a weird person. Or so
I've been told. Some people have very confining definitions of

29. Like M'ris, I believe that human beings can understand
each other, with time, effort, patience and love, no matter what their backgrounds
are; however, I sometimes believe that the effort is more than some of them are
going to want to put into the situation.
And some people are naturally better
at it than others.

30. I love the sound of cats purring, but it
doesn't stop me from moving them when they're sittingon my hand and I want to use
it for something.

31. I took guitar lessons for a few years, but never got
all that good. I haven't played it for a year or more.

32. I think that
animals are part of the cycle of propagation and predation, and that excesses to
one side or the other in the animal rights issue are dangerous.
But I think we
have a tendency to run roughshod over the world, so inclining a bit over toward
the protection side may be necessary.

33. I procrastinate. Human
condition, right? But not too much; not enough that I feel it's a major flaw of
At least not usually.

34. Bratty kids make me sad, because
that's a direct function of how their parents treat them in most cases; some kids
emerge from the womb ready to be mean at the slightest provocation.
that some ages are almost bratty by definition, for most kids. But that passes and
you generally know when it hits -- for example, there's a limit to what anyone can
do with a screaming baby sometimes.

35. I'm not really much of a movie buff.
When I do watch them, it's usually for entertainment, not deep thought. I don't
like movies I don't understand, but I do like books that make me think.

I don't like housecleaning, but I mind some kinds more than others.

37. I
respond to some written erotica; pictures don't do much for me.

38. I don't
mind crowds, to a degree, but eventually I need a break and some quiet.

Like Mer, Mechaieh, and M'ris, I am married and grinning about it. Nice to see so
many happy marriages.

40. If you grab this meme from me, I'd love it if
you'd let me know.

[numbers missing here-- that's OK, I think 97 points are

43. I have a little brown splotch birthmark on my left

44. I live in a big two-story house -- well it feels big to me.
There's still no furniture in the front room. I don't love it, but I like it and
it's comfortable.

41. I really enjoy thoughtful gifts, period. Both
giving and getting and either way, I don't care what they cost.

42. I
like people who are a bit out of the ordinary, and I like people who are a lot out
of the ordinary even more
, maybe. Depends on just how they are

More missing numbers....

45. I love interesting
. I'll never bea fashion plate because my wardrobe varies too
much I like dressing up some days and going casual on others. Some days I wear
what's almost a costume and some days I just shlep. Either way, comfort is

46. I could not be normal if I TRIED. And I don't. I
don't think my abnormalities exactly match any set of people I know, but some are

47. I have no children yet and we're not really planning on
any. I'm getting a bit old for it -- yes, I know lots of women have kids when
they're older, but the rate of birth defects gets scary.

48. I can't ride
a horse.
I'd like to learn someday but it's not a priority.

49. I've
never done any role-playing to speak of. Back when I had friends who did (high
school) it seemed to be an all-male thing.

50. I am always pleasantly
surprised when I hear from someone new in my e-mail or comments.
But I love
hearing from the same people, too.

51. I like silence at

52. I've lived in Philadelphia, Houston, and Phoenix.

53. I
got glasses when I was 3 and have had them or contacts ever since except for a
year when I was 9. I had braces from 13-15. I'm thinking of LASIK next

54. Ithink it's way to easy for me to boss other people around so I
try not to.

55. I like being alone sometimes but only

56. I would rather cook than do dishes most days, but I'm
not crazy about every-day cooking, I like doing it occasionally.

57. I'm not
particularly neat -- I tend to leave a trail of books behind me, in

58. I need to exercise. I just took two days off because
I hadn't had any since Thanksgiving, but I went to the gym this morning.

I like when my friends write me letters and emails, it makes me feel
I love when people want to talk to me!

60. I'm cynical
sometimes, but I am very nearly a congenital optimist.
I do that on purpose
because I think it's a better way for me to live.

61. I keep in touch with
only one or two people from high school, plus one couple I've known since I was
thirteen, though they're older. I keep in touch with a few from college, but not
in close touch.

62. Crying at commercials, nope. Books, sometimes.

I overreact about things sometimes and underreact at others -- I've been
accused of being "too logical".

64. I cry at music sometimes but it's
generally more if I'm singing than listening.

65. I have odd dreams.
And sometimes, incredibly boring ones.

66. I wish I could travel more
And for longer.

67. I like living, growing things around
me, but cats are about as much as I can successfully care for.

Heights are fine by me. That includes everything from roller-coasters to
hang gliders, though I'm not stupid about it. I will jump out of a plane (and
have) bu of course I was scared!

69. I believe in God. I don't believe
that GW Bush is His Chosen One.
I am more interested in discussing religious
theory than practice.

70. I am not a pacifist, but I believe violence should
generally be a last resort. BUt it is a valid resort.

71. I like my
weather cool
and variable. Since 1989, I've lived in Texas and Arizona and I
am TIRED of hot weather!

72. I would love to seek the nearest corner in a
crowded room and find a book,
but only sometimes.

73. I have never
broken a bone.

74. I'm not quite sure what pathouli smells like. I generally
don't like strong perfumes.

75. I don't follow any celebrities' gossip or
love lives in particular
. I do read In Style but more for the clothes
and houses.

76. I wish I had more friends, especially close-by

77. I love to read, period and full stop.

78. I re-
read a lot, in part because I can't afford to buy books as fast as I can read
Also because I can't store as many as I can read. I don't use the
library much any more, because of time issues.

79. I don't really have many
health issues to speak of anyway.

80. I am told I write well. At least for
an engineer.

81. I can be hard to deal with sometimes. Another of those
human condition things....
But I may be harder than most.

82. I don't
understand the appeal of horror movies.

83. I don't really have a
hard time living inside my current income.
But I do have trouble saving as
much as I think I should.

84. I love my family but thank the deity I
don't have to live with them.

85. On some issues, I'm very firm in my
I admire people who are willng to respect beliefs they don't agree

86. I am female.

87. I support gay civil marriage.
Hell, if people *want* to pay huge tax penalties and establish stable family
units, I think it hurts our society not to let them. (Though I wouldn't be averse
to doing away with those marriage tax penalties.)

88. I think kids are
resilient. Good thing.

89. There is no way on I wil vote for Bush. RIght now
I like Dean, but the election is quite a way away.

90. I am comfortable with
the idea of dying in theory but find it mind-boggling when I try to apply it

91. I do not smoke.

92. Most parts of my family I
actually know are middle-class.

93. I HATE when computers freeze.
Well, yeah.

94. I like talking on the phone but not long enough to
get a sore neck from it. Like with email, I love when people want to talk to

95. I don't particularly mind going to the doctors' office except
for that part about being sick. Or getting bits of metal shoved into my

96. I'm generally not socially anxious.

97. I have a pager but
never carry it. No one pages me anyway.

98. I have my earlobes and navel

99. I've never had a tattoo. I know what I'd get if I did,
but probably won't. I don't like pain much.

100. I am done with this
survey now.
I should probably have been doing more useful things

Posted by dichroic at 08:19 AM

December 18, 2003

pontificating again

I've been in class so haven't been able to comment on other people's diaries for a
few days -- I was going to write this or something like it in href="">Sixweasel's guestbook, but it began
expaning as I thought it over. So this is for Six, but also for any of you
young'uns or ones moving up into positions at work or out of it where you're
making decisions that scare you or working with people who intimidate

George Walker Bush does not know what to do to resolve
the situation in Iraq. Now, I don't like the man, but this time I'm not trying to
insult him. Howard Dean and General Clark & co. don't know either. What they're
arguing over is who's got the right combination of experience, smarts, and common
sense to make the best guess.

Similarly, none of you out there know
how to raise your children. Again, no insult intended; if you're a caring parent
and you've got some sense and gumption, you know your child better than anyone
else, and because of that your thoughts on what to do next are usually better than
anyone else's could be. But you don't know what to do next; you evaluate
the situation in terms of your experience and take your best

That applies to businesses, too (and universities). The only
problems anyone really knows how to solve are the ones that have already been
solved, and in a complex system like an economy or a person, things are likely to
have changed enough since last time that even those solutions must be rethought.
So in general, what most people do when faced with complex problems is to guess
and bluff. Obviously, some have more experience and knowledge and so guess better
than most of us, but just as obviously experience can often be of more use than
education. Some people who have a privileged background bluff so well they
convince themselves as well as others, but I am convinced they are still just

Look, I have an advanced degree (not to mention a
well-insulated house) and I know I have vast areas of ignorance. What I also have
that I find extremely helpful is a row-house background. I grew up in a 1200 sq.
ft. house among people who were blue-, pink-, and lower-level white-collar. What
it's given me is a lack of the sense of entitlement people who are raised rich
seem to have and an appreciation for people who deal with *real*

There is this thing about business, politics, and economic
decisions: they say the stakes are high, and in a dollar sense they are. But in a
more practical sense, they usually aren't. It is possible for high-ups to lose
everything or even go to jail if they make spectacularly bad decisions, but it's
very rare. More likely, if for example the CEO of my company makes some bad
decisions and our stock tanks, he jumps out, is wafted down on a golden parachute,
and then either finds a position at another company or makes vast sums of money
for being on some corporate boards and attending meetings a few times a year. In
contrast, his lowest-level employees may be making decisions that involve fewer
dollars by several orders of magnitude but that affect whether their families will
eat well or sleep warm. The stakes are far higher in real terms. When those people
make decisions, they know just what is at stake and they develop more common sense
because they need it more.

Does that mean I wouldn't advocate getting
advanced degrees? Hell no. I do think it's much better to go back after you've
worked a few years. That way, you know where the holes in your knowledge are and
you can try to fill them, plus you can enjoy all the incredible resources college
campuses offer -- you miss those when you've been away a while and you realize how
much you didn't take advantage of them as an undergrad. (Though I guess none of
that would apply when you work for a university.)

Anyway, the point I
am trying to make is that in general the people who sound like they Know All often
don't, and usually if you speak up they'll figure you know what you're doing too.
I have an advantage here: I know I'm smart. (I'm not being conceited here: it's
usually one of the three characteristics of mine people mention most, the other
two being Short and Mouthy.) So I'm secure enough not to mind looking stupid
frequently -- I know there are huge areas of things I know nothing about, but I
also know I know things other people don't. (As someone said to me yesterday,
"We're all ignorant in some areas.") If I don't understand something I just ask,
because I figure if I don't know, probably others don't either -- sometime the
ones who thought they do, don't. If you're at the table, you've got a right to
speak. Listen to what other people say, but if it doesn't make sense, don't assume
it's you that doesn't understand.

OK, that was one of the things I
know (or at least am pretty sure of my guesses about). I'm sure in about three
minutes something will come up I know absolutely nothing about. PS. Jenn, and then
there are people that don't know shit about anything including how to be decent
human beings. There's no excuse at all for those, not adult ones anyhow.

Posted by dichroic at 06:20 PM

December 16, 2003


DONE the Concept
II Holiday Challege
as of this morning!!!!! That's 200000 erg meters, over and
done with. I'm so, so tempted just to not bother working out for the rest of the
week before we leave for our trip.

Don't expect many updates for the
next couple of days. I'm in training, this time learning how to read a Profit &
Loss and a balance sheet.

Posted by dichroic at 07:13 PM

December 15, 2003

ghostly banner

I've been working on this for ages, on and off. It had its genesis a couple of months ago when a Turkish synagogue was bombed. The casualties were mostly Muslims who just happened to be in the area. Of course, the Iraqi casualties in the recent Iraqi attacks on American soldiers and the many casualties on both sides in Israel and Palestine factor in, too.

I see a ghostly banner wave,
Its emblem, crescent twined with star.
And crowding below it, silent shades
Of those who died beneath its thrall.

These are not the zealots, stained
By hatred, souls forever marred.
These never chose a warrior's way
Nor weighed their worth in battle scars.

These are the inadvertent martyrs
To cause and choices not their own,
Killed by foe or killed by "brother"
Killed. Intentions dead, deeds stand alone.

Wrong place, wrong time. Promiscuous shrapnel sails
And one more shade slips through the bannered veil.
Posted by dichroic at 04:43 PM

books and boats on parade

What luxury - I feel as though I'd been dipped in chocolate. I've just had a
conversation on books with a coworker who knows about them, really knows. I
don't get to do that often, not a real conversation in the flesh instead of on AIM
or in email. We talked about and the Free
Library of Philadelphia, Newton and Rosenbach, Gleick and Feynman, technical works
and books about books and the eight thousand books he's just inherited from a
professor. I only know him slightly and hadn't even realized he was a reader, but
I have a feeling we'll be talking again soon.

On Saturday, we won the
Tempe Boat Parade's Man-Powered Boats division. I forget whether thisis the third
or fourth time we've won. (I shouldn't really say "we"; I bought some supplies and
rowed in the boat but it's really Rudder's project, and he and T2 did most of the
work and planning.) This year the organizers were smart and considerate enough to
put together a prize that could be shared. Last year the prize was a single
autographed jersey; this year there was a brunch for two, a lunch for four, three
movie tickets, a dinner or two and a night at a nice hotel.

year we used a four and RUdder and T2 built a tall PVC frame frame that stood on
the riggers. At one end it supported guy lines to an 8' inflatable Santa with the
words "Row, Row, Row" spelled out in glowsticks, and at the other a tall saguaro
made of more PVC piping and green light strings. Other lights and glowsticks were
stong along the frame, the boat, and the rowers. Rudder coxed, either because he
was tired of hearing me talk about how hard it was last year (we had an eight and
the organizers clearly had no idea how maneuverable an eight-man shell isn't) or
because he just wanted to drive.

Then on Sunday we got most of our
packing done, so now we just need to keep putting in all the things we've

Tomorrow, I'll finish the HOliday Challenge. Not bad: done
on 12/16, nine days ahead of Christmas despite missing a few days when we were
away at Thanksgiving.

December 14, 2003

a bit of etymology

I learned something today. I'd always assumed that powder rooms were called that
because of the euphemism about powdering one's nose. However, according to the
late A. Edward Newton, book collector, author, and Johnsonian, Samual Johnson's
house in Gough Square, where he wrote his Dictionary, had a powder closet near the
front door where one's wig was powdered and made presentable for the day. I can
see the utility of having a room for the purpose so powder didn't get all over
everything in the rest of the house -- the equivalent of a mudroom, I

Otherwise, today is dedicated to laundry (in progress),
packing (in the heaps of clothing stage) and erging (done). Only 21K left on the
HOliday Challenge! Also, only one more day of regular work, three of classes, and
then I'm off until 2004!

Here, incidentally, is a timely quotation from a later essay in the same book:

The six months from December 18, 1777 to June 19, 1778 were undoubtedly the darkest in American history. During that time it is estimated that several thousand men perished on these Valley Forge hills; and while the soldiers were dying of neglect, Congress talked, thus setting an example which has been followed right down to the present time.

A. Edward Newton, 1925

Posted by dichroic at 01:10 PM

December 12, 2003

my buddies Wilbur and Orville

They're handing out a free lunch today at the company cafeteria, not for the
approaching holiday but to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered

Though I notice the menu includes turkey or ham, mashed
potatoes and pie, and the decor is red and green tinsel. It's an interesting way
to avoid all the religious implications of a holiday lunch.

Not that
most people around here care. There's a natural affinity between engineers and
free food; I think it may come from all those years of physics professors
preaching the TANSTAAFL principle. ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch".)
Of course technically speaking there isn't, but I can deal with the resulting
$2 less in my paycheck for the year. As a result, people are lined up outside
the cafeteria (which is right across from my office) for about 100 yeards. I'm
hoping the line will eventually abate somewhat.

I do care about the
hundredth anniversary of powered flight, though; it's influenced my life a lot
more than just to the extent of one mediocre meal on the company. At my Sweet
Sixteen when everyone else chose puppies and kittens and harlequins for their
themes, I had mine in the 94th Aerosquadron restaurant and drew little biplanes on
each of 80 invitations. (I can still whip out a cartoon biplane in 20 seconds
flat.) In college when the other women had posters of puppies or kittens or
Patrick Swayze, I had airplanes. (Though I always say I'm the ideal audience for
the movie Top Gun because I enjoy both the fast planes *and* the half-naked
men playing volleyball.) I majored in mechanical engineering instead of aerospace
engineering only so I could work in aerospace but would theoretically be emplyable
in a broader range of fields in case of a downturn, but I have worked in aerospace
for the majority of my career so far. I've worked on the actual aircraft or the
simulators (not home computer games, the highly complex ones made of actual parts
used to train actual pilots and astronauts) for the AH-1W, F16, Spacelab, Space
Shuttle, Space Station, A-10, C-130, Longbow Apache, and Boeing 777. I've flown
the Cessna 152, 172 and 182, Piper SuperCub, Warrior and Archer, Great Lakes
biplane, Pitts S2-B, and Diamond Katana. I've flown simulators for the A-10, F-16,
C-130, Space Shuttle, Airbus A-320, and Boeing 737.

In other words, I
owe Wilbur and Orville a lot. Powered flight was clearly an idea whose time had
come; if they hadn't worked it out someone else would have. But the fact remains
that they -- two bicycle mechanics and bike shop owners -- did work it out in
practice when all the eminent scientists working on the problem couldn't. They
combined the newest lightweight engines with an effective means of controlling
movement in all three axes (pitch, roll, and yaw, or x, y, and z), the lack of
which had killed several other would-be aviators. They figured out how to overcome
the torque from the prop, by having two counter-rotating propellers. They taught
themselves to fly it, not trivial even in that simplest airplane -- especially
since no one then knew anything about how to do it. They weren't lucky;
they were careful, methodical, and brilliant, not to mention brave enough to fly
the fledgling craft -- a look at thenumber of deaths in early aviation shows just
how brave. They didn't get much money for quite a while afterwards, and even had
their contributions downplayed by Glenn Curtiss, Langley at the Smithsonian, and
others who stole their ideas. Orville did eventually win his patent battles and
credit had been restored where it belongs. I owe Orville and Wilbur a lot; I hope
their spirits are still soaring over the dunes somewhere where there are no wrecks
and no patent infringements.

Posted by dichroic at 11:17 AM

December 11, 2003

the past is calling

Well, that was unexpected. I just got an email from a friend from several
jobs ago, whom I hadn't heard from in a couple of years. Aerospace is such a small
community, though, that it was inevitable I'd run into him again. Several times
I've even run into people who had worked for my first employer back in Houston,
with whom I've had mutual acquaintances.

Or maybe it's just me. I do
seem to keep running into people. Once, while hiking ten miles out on a trail in
the middle of Big Bend National Park (one of the more remote parts of Texas), I
was greeted by an acquaintance from the nature center where I volunteered in
Houston, 900 miles away. Even more oddly, once at a rock-climbing class at
Enchanted Rock, in the hill country of Texas, I ran into someone I'd worked with
at my college's Dining Service, in Philadelphia. (It was the matching Penn
sweatshirts he and his wife wore that first caught my eye.)

today's email wasn't totally unexpected, but still caught me by surprise. We
hadn't been in touch for a couple of years, but back when we worked together, I'd
gotten to know this guy almost too well. He was going through a rough patch in his
life and needed someone to vent to. I think, also, it may be a common thing for
people whose lives are happily boring to look elsewhere for drama. Some people
watch soap operas, some read romances. I find real lives are usually much more
interesting and less predictable, which is probably one reason I read online
diaries. Or maybe it's my otherwise negligible nurturing

Anyway, he's now got a new wife and a job at a good
company with an impressive title, so hopefully his life is now happier and more
boring as well. As for me, getting back in touch with old friends is exciting

No, wait: even more exciting is that I have only 54000 meters
on the erg challenge and I leave for Antarctica in a week and a half!

Posted by dichroic at 12:49 PM

December 04, 2003

not quite right

I don't feel quite right today. Last night at bedtime I had another of those
incidents where my vision gets all blinky, followed by a headache, which
fortunately started only about a minute before I fell asleep. Bedtime is also a
very good time for your vision to go on the fritz, if it must do so. The one time
I asked a doctor about that he said it might be low blood volume, but since I'd
just had beer, water, and a big dinner I doubt that's it. Rudder's latest theory
is that it's a blood-sugar crash, which makes more sense to me. The only problem
with that is that it makes me think I probably ought to avoid the huge tin of
butter cookies we've all been noshing off of for the past couple of

Given how fast those things can balance out the 500 calories my
morning erg pieces are burning, it's probably just as well. Anyway, I feel better
today (and yesterday I was fine until the last ten minutes of my day); I'm just
feeling a bit off.

Tomorrow I'm taking the day off so I might even
get to sleep in a tiny bit. A *very* tiny bit, considering the way my to-do list
is burgeoning.

Today I am thankful for: lots of days off or
out of the office this month!

Concept II Holiday Challenge:
Approx. 138000 meters left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 12:01 PM

December 02, 2003

2003 holiday challenge

Here's the deal with the Holiday Challenge I mentioned yesterday. href="">Concept II, who makes the rowng machines,
a.k.a. ergs, most used by actual rowers (probably the most-used rowing machines,
period) sponsors this every December. This will be the fourth year they've had it
and the third time I've done it.

The idea is to erg 200,000 meters
from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Only erg meters count, not distance on the water.
The Challenge begins at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, November 27, and ends at midnight
on December 24. Because Thanksgiving is on the last Thursday in November rather
than on a particular date, the time between the holidays changes. This year, there
are 28 days, which works out to an average of 7,143 meters per

Except, that is, for Rudder and me. We both erged on
Thanksgiving day before departing for Death Valley, but then missed on Friday and
Saturday while there. We'll also miss four or five days at the Christmas end
because of the Antarctica trip. That leaves us only 21 or 22 days, so we have to
average over 9000m per day. There is supposed to be a rowing machine on the ship,
but we can't find out if it's a CII, so we can't rely on finishing there. (There
are a few other kinds that would work, but it could also be the old-fashioned kind
with two sticks for handles and no way to track distance.) So I'm trying to do at
least 10K a day. Rudder, far more of a masochist, does his pieces in 20000m
chunks, letting him get on the water or to the gym some days. Myself, I refuse to
worry about normal workouts while I'm in the middle of this.

I am thankful for:
functioning arms and legs and the ability to use them. My
parents have a good friend who may be about to lose both legs due to complications
from diabetes and other things.

Concept II Holiday Challenge:
Approx. 158000 meters left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 02:08 PM

December 01, 2003

vacation planning

Feh. Back at work. Bleah.

The worst of it, I think, is luch from the
company cafeteria, especially when I know there's a big pot of chili I made
yesterday just waiting for me at home.

On the good side, due to an
apparent brain fart I still haven't diagnosed, I get to take off the Friday before
Christmas week plus the Monday after it *and* I have a day and a half I need to
take between now and the holiday. I'd been going around all year hoarding
vacation, thinking I was short of it. Fortunately, some of that time is sort of
unofficial incentive vacation awarded by the boss in the last couple of months, so
I don't have to feel bad about not going to Rudder's marathon race a few weeks
ago. I wouldn't have had the time far enough ahead to buy the plane

The extra days off around the holiday will be wonderful,
especially the one afterward. Our trip is about as long as it could be, within the
confines of the holiday weeks. That is, we leave right away on the first Saturday
off and get back on the last Sunday off, so there would have been no extra time to
finish packing or to recover before heading back to work.

dilemma of the day: in the coldest weather, I will be wearing a windbreaker over a
fleece (Polartec 200) jacket, along with a wool or lighter-weight fleece sweater.
I hope I don't ending up regretting it if I don't get a Polartec 300 jacket to
wear instead of the one I have. Rudder did buy one, but then again he has fewer
warm sweaters.

Hmm. In past years I have written down something I'm
thankful for in every entry from Thanksgiving to Christmas, as well as updating my
distance on the COncept II Holiday Challenge
which deserves another whole entry to itself). I suspect I could do Dilemma of the
Day just as easily, and I very well might end up doing that, but perhaps I had
better return to the Thankful entries in order to promote a less frenzied frame of
mind. Also, somehow, though I don't know why, sending out grateful thoughts into
the world just now feels more important than a simple matter of my own moods
should really justify.

Today I am thankful: that we did go to
Death Valley after all. There were a couple of moments of utter peace that were
entirely worth it. (And the moving rocks were far cooler than I'd

Concept II Holiday Challenge: The challenge is to
erg 200000 meters from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve. Approx. 169900 meters
left to go.

Posted by dichroic at 11:48 AM