Retail therapy is one thing (though I always feel guilty anyway) but then there's
stupid retail therapy, Stupid retail therapy is when you can't decide so you come
home with three pairs of black loafers.
In my defense, it was a
discount store, and one pair was on the clearance rack, and they will serve
(slightly) different purposes .... there's the chunky pair with white stitching
and wedge heels that are enormously comfortable given the 2" heels, the flat
backless slip-ons that will be easy to wear often. and the sleek pair with heels
(2" again, but these are actual high-heel-type heels). I plan to throw out at
least two pair of old worn-out shoes to make room.
On the other hand,
I think Rudder has about three pair of shoes total, not counting sneakers and
technical shows (climbing, hiking, biking, shoes attached to the rowing shells,
etc.). He'll never get it.
But some of you will.
Note to the local gas stations who have raised prices 50 cents/gallon in the last
Summer They said prices would be up to $2 by
"summer". No matter how warm it is here, that does not equate to "by the
end of February".
Note to the media who reported gas prices would be
up to $2 by summer:
OK, this one's really not your fault. But could you be
a bit clearer next time?
Note to the Catholic Church:
When 4% of
your people are taking advantage of helpless children, in direct opposition to
your reason for being, what you have is not a few bad apples but a systemic
Note to same-sex couples marrying in California,
Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York:
I've always regretted being born too late
to see the lunch counter sit-ins, Montogomery bus boycotts, and Freedom Ride.
Thanks for providing the gutsiest examples of civil disobedience I've seen in my
lifetime. Thanks even more to all the freedom fighters in those earlier events.
It's because of you that there are no dogs or firehoses being brought out this
time, and this member of a later generation has not forgotten what you
Note to the guy running this weekend's regatta:
not looking forward to spending my whole precious weekend at the regatta just
because Rudder's in one lousy race. If you didn't insist on 2K races for
categories that just don't normally do that distance you would have more distinct
races and wouldn't force people to do run-offs Sunday against the very same people
they race Saturday. Incidentally, the reason I'm neither racing nor volunteering
this time is that I don't think the way you've set it up makes sense at all so I'm
trying to save myself another frustrating experience.
Note to my
It's not you, it's me.
Note to the guys redoing our
Note to people who still like GWB:
administration, I felt a lot better once I realized that being liberal on many
issues didn't mean I had to like Clinton. Really, just because you like smaller
government and the Republican party used to be all about that, doesn't mean you
have to like Shrub. Come over to the dark side....
Note to people who
preach hate in the name of a religion that's supposed to be about love:
I'm smart enough to see how illogical you are, then obviously God is. Also,
you make my friend Maria
sad because you make her faith look bad. You need to try using the brain and heart
God gave you. It might help if you actually read that Bible, too. With your eyes
open this time.
Note to Judaism:
Thank you for giving me a
tradition in which you're supposed to use your mind to find out about the
world you're in, and to appreciate the wonders of Nature and your own
Note to Jews who ignore that tradition:
What are you,
Baptists in tefillin?
Note to the rain this morning:
Note to usual readers:
Sorry, groggy today!
A decade or so from now, I would love to see a study done on the longevity of the
same-sex marriages happening this month in San Francisco. I have no data to
support this, but my gut feeling is that if you plot stability of the marriage
against the day on which they got married, you'd see sort of an inverse bell
curve: high on the first few days, lowering after a bit, then raising back up and
eventually (if the marriages are allowed to continue) leveling off. My theory is
that the first people in line would be those who have been aching to marry for
years, waiting for it to be possible, dreaming of the day. Given the numbers of
couples involved, that group may span a couple of days.Of course, some of those
will still split up, for the same reasons hetero couples do, compounded by the
stress of uncertainty, but I expect the divorce (or "divorce", depending on what
happens next) rate to be lower than the average for hetero marriages, because if
my theory is correct, these will be stable relaitonships. The next group will
still have some of those, but will also include couples who got swept up in the
joy of the moment and so rushed out to get married sooner than they might have
otherwise. These will still outlast, say, the average marriage of Elizabeth
Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Britney Spears, or my Uncle Walt (I think he had five
wives). The rise I postulate should be showingin couples who are marrying now:
these would be the ones who didn't rush out because they took time to talk it over
and decide carefully whether this is the right step for them. I'd guess their
divorce rate to come close to those we see in hetero couples, maybe a little
higher due to stresses over prejudice and so on, but I really have no idea. This
would be a fertile field for someone like href="http://faculty.washington.edu/couples/books.htm">Pepper Schwartz, to do
a follow-up to her American Couples book and see if gender makes a
difference when other factors are more equal.
I've seen suggestions
in quite a few places that maybe separation of church and state means that
churches/synagogues/temples/mosques shouldn't be able to perform legal ceremonies
at all, that all legal unions should be civil unions, with religions then free to
beless those unions if they like in a separate ceremony. The fairness benefits of
this are obvious, and it also has clear benefits for those who might want a
religious but not civil union, like senior citizens who couldn't afford what
marriage would do to their Social Security benefits, or those who just don't
believe the government has a place in marriage. One less obvious advantage of this
is that if civil unions are just a matter of registration, like getting a
passport, and people then have to plan any ceremony they might want as a separate
issue, we've added more hurdle to the process of getting married. They may be a
good thing; a more lengthy process may help reduce the divorce rate by
discouraging whim of the moment weddings or by adding one more step to lengthen
the ritual. According to Joseph Campbell, the more impressive the ritual, the more
likely people are to feel married and to stay married. My own wedding was
certainly enough of an ordeal to plan as it was, no help from the government
needed, but except for getting the bloodtests and license, that had more to do
with us wanting to have all our friends and family there and to feed them after
they'd come to join us.
That would be a good study too: does
complexity of the wedding, and the amount of work bride and groom put into it
(wedding planners' work doesn't count for this) influence the stability of the
marriage? We should do that study and then we should go and look at it to see what
we can learn. We don't seem to base enough of our decisions on actual data when
opinion will do. Yesterday on NPR, they had a piece about sex ed and who favored
teaching abstinence only instead of abstinence plus birth control. I sort of
wonder, remembering my own days in those classes, if it matters anyway -- does
anyone really pay attention? But if it does make a difference, then we should look
at the programs we have and see what works, not just decide based on someone's
rabid doctrine. Born-again parents and left-leaning atheist parents want the same
for their kids: health and happiness, which in this case translates to no STDs and
no kids of their own until they're ready (different parents will certainly define
"ready" differently). The thing is, we have programs teaching abstinence
only right now. We have other programs teaching ABCs. We have students who don't
take sex-ed at all, we have students in church programs, we have students who are
taught in a very medical way. We've got enough variety to just look and see what
works. So why don't we?
We probably already do, really. So why don't
we use that data to make our decisions?
I was listening to Garnet Rogers' song
about his memories of his brother Stan and thinking, as I always do, about what a
shattering loss href="http://stevebriggs.superb.net/stanrogers/biog.html">Stan's death must
have been to Garnet. Of course it generally does suck to have a sibling die, but
in one moment, thanks to some moron smoking in an airplane lavatory, Garnet lost a
major part of his life. These guys were brothers both in terms of shared parents
and in the sense in which some men like to use the word for a friend who is as
much a part of you as your own bones, and they were partners in their own
work. At the time Stan died, his was the bigger name and most of his records list
Garnet as arranger and backup musician, but it's clear from their later CDs and
from Stan's published comments that Garnet was integral to the music they made
together. In one moment in 1983, Garnet lost his brother, his best friend, and a
major portion of his job. (He went on to produce and back up other people, to
write his own songs, and to perform on his own, and is now a big name (in folk
circles - these things are relative) as a solo performer. I highly recommend his
album All That
I thought about how awful and how unusual it would be to lose
so much with one death, until I realized that it's actually not uncommon.
Something of that magnitude happened to my great-grandmother when her husband died
of flu in 1918 and to her sister whose husband died in the War in 1917. It's
happened to millions of women who have lost husbands they depended on for food and
shelter as well as love and help in raising children. Worse than that, while those
women would have had the same burden of grief Garnet Rogers must have had, until
the last few decades most wouldn't have had a chance to go out on their own and
build their own as successfully as he did. (Not that many people of either gender
have talents as formidable as his, but that's a separate issue.) If a woman had to
depend on her own work, if she didn't remarry or have family to take her in, she
would have had to deal with crushing grief and a huge drop in standard of living
and her children's.
As many times as I've thought about Stan's death
before, I'd never thought of that parallel until this morning. First it hit me how
lucky I am and how far we've come; if I lost Rudder or any other part of my family
I would be grieving, but at least I wouldn't also have to worry about my
next meal or how I'd pay the mortgage. Even if we'd had a kid and I'd decided to
stay home with her I'd know I could go back to an office job if it were necessary.
My next thought was to realize how telling it is that, outspoken feminist that I
am, I had always thought about that loss from the point of view of men before, and
had never considered how common a similar loss would have been for women. We still
have some ways to go, or maybe it's just that I do. I'm not sure if this is
lingering prejudices or just me being oblivious.
Even in the mostly cement courtyard between two cement buildings, I can smell the
the unmistakeable scent of desert after rain. It got me thinking of how Nature
occasionally likes to show she's bigger than us.
I could not live in this desert without air conditioning in summer; I think I'd be
a miserable invalid four months of the year, or maybe just nocturnal. A lot of
others couldn't live in colder climates without at least the primitive heat
technology of a fireplace. Yet every so often the power goes out and we're shown
graphically that our technology hammock is not indestructible.
Nature intervenes in kinder ways too. With all the regimented timing of modern
life a lot of us still wake up earlier in summer when it's light earlier. People
in the far north and south get depressed or go into nesting mode in the winter
months. Even the routine drive to work gets changed by things I can't control:
light, wind, rain.
Last Saturday Rudder had the brilliant idea of taking the tour of apprentice
shelters at href="http://www.franklloydwright.org/index.cfm?section=tour&action=taliesinwest">
Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and school. These are where Taliesin
students live while working on Masters degrees in architecture. First year
students are required to live in big individual canvas tents that they put up each
year on permanent bases. Each tent has a mattress with blankets and pillows and
not a lot else. (Clothes and possession are kept in closets in the apprentices'
locker rooms.) More advanced students live in shelters which they build or rebuild
themselves. A few of these are entirely enclosed, though even those aren't
terribly well sealed. Others consist of walls and roofs, not necessarily coming
together on all sides. One s a hanging tent, supported on suspension cables at the
end of a cantilevered bridge. They're out in the desert, separated enough that the
openness isn't a privacy problem. The idea is that the students live on and with
the land and come to know it so that their plans will growing from the land
itself. (It's worth noting that they pack up and go to Wisconsin when it gets hot
here, as Frank Lloyd Wright himself did every year.)
The thing that struck me most was the smell of the desert. The clean-washed-dust
smell is noticeable everywhere in the valley after rain, but out at Taliesin I
smelled sagebrush and palo verde and a whole range of scents. I don't know how I'd
like living in an open shelter for a season, but it would be fun to try. It seems
so far removed from life in my tiled house and fluorescent-lit office, shuttling
between them on a paved highway. Meanwhile, I'm just glad that Nature is too big
to let us shut out the smell of desert after rain.
San Francisco, February 2004
Soup lines, job lines, jurors summoned and waiting
There's nothing new in lines at City Hall.
Shuttered closed-in people, boredom warring desperation,
Bodies slumped, faces blank, betraying nothing at all.
But now there is a new thing in the city
This line is double file, two by two
Hands are held, there's music, joking, laughter
Old loves, new vows, on borrowed time, laws still blue.
This queue dares speak the name of loves here promised
Faces show a joy now not repressed
Hands are held as bodies lean together
No closet could contain this tenderness.
And yet there is a tension under all the celebrations
They know tomorrow could make today's joy mooted
Loves solemnized here without consent annulled
As though love's void unless in courts disputed.
Posted by dichroic at 12:09 PM
Here's a book-cataloging challenge for all you wanna-be librarians out there: how
on Earth would you categorize Douglas Hostadter's Godel, Escher, Bach: An
Eternal Golden Braid?
I think I may throw my hands up and toss
it in the Philosophy bin (figuratively speaking; I try to avoid tossing books.
Much.) His Le Ton Beau de Marot is going under Linguistics, though it's
more accurately about poetry, translation, cognitive science, love, and grief.
I loveLoveLOVE telecommuting! I have a meeting on the phone, a minestrone in the
crockpot and a friend (plus friendlets (friendlings? Babies, anyhow)) coming over
for lunch. Yesterday on the way home I did a couple of random sample counts and
found that 3 of 10 people on the highway I use were talking on cellphones while
driving. Only one of those was using a hands-free system.
morning, because of blessed telelcommuting, I didn't have to drive among them! I
can't do this more than occasionally because a lot of my work is better done face
to face, but I appreciate it so much when I can.
The cinnamon toast
for breakfast, the comfy sweatshirt I'm wearing, and the two hours I didn't waste
driving are nice too. And the work laptop worked like a champ on my new
Also, the totals are noted on
href="http://fivehundred.diaryland.com">Fivehundred as always, but I want to
proudly note here that I have covered 40 km this week, between erging, walking,
and rowing. And that's not even counting the hike we're planning to do tomorrow.
Later note: I stole this link from
edding pictures from San Francisco. There are serious amounts of joy going on
there, you can see.
Resolved: that discussion and debate are good things.
I think there's
something about communicating in type instead of voice that promotes logical
exploration. Or at least, it drags discussions out long enough that you can
realize what's going on. Last week I had a fascinating (to me, at least) email
discussion with M'ris about the
experience of reading that had me stepping outside myself to examine what is going
on when I read a book. I concluded that part of the fascination is that it lets me
step into a different world and see through the mind of a different sort of
person. I also came to the conclusion that I am a very biddable reader, prone to
identify with whoever the author thinks I should identify with.
of that I knew, but I also realized that sometimes I don't read for that reason,
but just to learn something new. Otherwise I don't think I could read nonfiction
except when set in the first person, or fiction that didn't look well inside
someone's head.. Oddly, even that sort of reading can have a lot of influence on
my moods and wishes; I would expect the experience of "being" another person to do
that, but apparently I'm suggestible to the printed word in
This morning I was enjoying a argument on the subject of gay
marriage, carried on the comments of a LiveJournal, until the party of the other
part asked me please to stop. (I am not linking to her journal in case that
qualifies as further argument.) I never quite understand why some people think
debate is useless if neither party will convince the other. I assure you all I was
being as polite and respectful as I could manage.
problem is that I think the other person was probably a literal Bible believer. I
am willing to be convinced otherwise but I confess I can't understand how an lBb
can be anything but a sloppy thinker. Even if you take as granted that God's word
was handed down to Moses and the various Gospel writers (obviously I don't), how
could you discount translation and copying errors? Even if you think all later
translations were divinely inspired and thus accurate, how can you look around at
all the translations available now and not notice the disagreements? Even getting
back to the original source and neglecting translation errors, the two versions of
Creation in Genesis disagree, so there are errors from the very start. How do you
logically reconcile that with any kind of divine infallibility?
wasn't really my po in there, though. My point is that for a logical thinker,
debate can be valuable even without either person convincing the other. As I wrote
in the original argument, I find debating a point politely has some value; for me
it ensures I have considered various points I might otherwise have missed. And for
a religious person, well... can an unexamined reflex faith as strong as one that
has been examined and has stood the test? Also, there are certainly at least some
Christian traditions (like the Jesuits) as well as mainstream Jewish tradition
that between in study and debate not to disprove G-d's role in the world but to
determine as much as possible about it.
I don't wuite know if
it's a sign of bias or what that most of the people I think of as very smart and
logical agree with me on most divisive issues. Maybe what I need is a smart debate
buddy on the other side.
Woof. Was bored to tears Monday, almost nothing to do. So I spent some of the time
poking at various people running projects I'm working on to get things moving. It
wasn't entirely because of that, but move things did, with a vengeance. Now
I am not bored so much as run ragged and exhausted.
A much better
state, especially as it better justifies my paycheck.
If Jasper fforde ever creates a large enough body of work, the guide to it would
be more fun to create than anything since the Lord Peter Wimsey Companion (of
which the book version is about sold out, but the CD is about to be released). And
without the need to learn French or Latin.
In Lost in a Good
Book alone, there's reference to everything from SSword in the Stone to
The Princess Bride and that's omitting the really obvious borrowed
characters (snitched from anyone from Lewis Carroll to Dickens to
I offer an explanation of one reference in exchange for
anyone who can explain a couple of others to me. I'd sort of grasped this before,
but didn't know until our Antarctica trip that the English version of Monopoly
apparently goes way back, far enough that most Brits think theirs was the original
version (they're wrong). That's why Thursday's husband is Landen Parke-Laine as
opposed to Landen Parke-Plaice. (Incidentally his parents are Bilden and
What I don't get are Thursday's brothers. I know enough
Britspeak to get the names of Thursday Next and her mother Wednesday (if there are
any English readers here, Americans are more likely to say "next Thursday" than
the other way 'round) bu I still don't see what's funny about Anton Next and Joffy
Next. Am I just being stupid?
made me leak happy
ncisco_dc?>This on the other
hand just raised my blood pressure a bit (the first and last few
paragraphs, anyway). I don't know exactly why this particular issue
has such resonance for me as to
affect bodily fluids (blood and
tear) but it does. On a lot of the other issues I care about, like
gender and racial equality, the major battles have been won and
we're into the post-war rebuilding.
Just as with shooting war, the
postwar reconstruction can be harder than the actual battle, but it
tends to have a tidal inexorability. It may be slow, and it's very
far from complete, but it's
happening; all I have to do is look at
the numbers of women in my company with good jobs, or the
interracial couples I see whenever I walk around the mall to see
proof. (It's true and regrettable
that proof of how far we have to
go yet is almost as easy to find, in reports of hate crimes or of
underpaid women and minorities. But it's not so long since that
counterproof was allthere was
happening with gay marriages looks to me like a tidal flood. When it's legalized
Netherlands and Canada, fought in the courts of
Massachusetts, legislated in Vermont and done in
California all within the space of a few years, that's not happenstance, that's
There are bitter battles yet to be fought; right now we're
only at the stage of the lunch-counter
sit-ins and the Freedom
Riders, but I smell change on the wind.
And yet no revolution is just
like its predecessors. I have not yet seen any leaders like MLK or even
Malcolm rising up. What I have seen is any number of leaders on a
smaller local level, from Mayor
Newsom of San Francisco to the
couples filing suit with the Massachusetts Supreme Court. It will be interesting
to see how this plays out, but it's too much of a tidal wave for me to believe we
won't be left with some real change.
What's that I hear
now ringing in my ear
I hear it more and more
It's the sound of
Ringing up to the sky
It's the sound of the old ways
You can hear it if you try
You can hear it if you
So now we have three computers and two dining room tables, shortly to be joined by
two rocking chairs. In some ways I regret this whole moving-from-Arizona-in-the-
next-year idea. Those regrets are accentuated by the new roof we got last fall and
the pool redo currently in progress, and by the fact that Rudder likes it here. On
the other hand, I have told the powers that be at work what I want to do, so
changing my mind would be a wee bit embarassing, and I know that once summer hits
I'll have a lot more motivation to escape. Given the sheer amount of stuff we
have, it's clear we had better either get one or the other of our employers to pay
for the move, and that we need to move somewhere where we can afford a fairly
spacious house. I think the whole thing will be a lot easier to grasp once we've
figured out where we want to end up. Mostly, what I've got is a case of itchy feet
and an overload of hot weather.
That doesn't sound like a lot to ask for, does it?
There must be hundreds of places in the country that satisfy those few criteria
(or even out of it, in which case we add another: easy to get work visas).
Suggestions are welcome.
Meanwhile, I need to focus on enjoying what
I have. February is the best time of year here: dry and sunny, lows around 45 and
highs around 75. Only problem is all the extra traffic from all the other people
who come here to enjoy it. We need to spend more time outdoors while we can, so
next weekend we might do a long hike we haven't done in 3 years or so, the
Flatiron. Actually. it's half a hike, half a scramble. It's not that long -- about
5 miles round trip -- but there's a lot of elevation gain nad the trail only goes
about halfway. After that you're scrambling. href="http://www.cowley.addr.com/arizona/flatiron1.jpg">This picture shows the
terrain and also just why it's called the "Flatiron". Incidentally, I don't know
who owns the website I got the above photo from, but if you href="http://www.cowley.addr.com/arizona/goldencorridor.html">go to it you can
see a couple of photos of the Flatiron hike as well as a few others around here.
As God is my witness, I will never buy a PC again.
At least, not
unless there's a really, really good reason. ("Free" would
After an insanely expensive weekend, I am writing this from my
brand new pretty iMac on my nearly new monster table (um, "monster" because it's
reallyreallybig, not because it's ugly), in the living room that someday, after
the addition of more bookshelves and the arrival of one of the chairs we *also*
bought this weekend (I said it was insanely expensive) will be my new library.
I had forgotten what it's like to have almost everything work right
the first time. Even hooking up the wireless network so both the new Mac and the
old PC can be online worked the first time. Incredible. I did have a wee bit of
trouble getting my mail to send (though it received fine) bt the friendly dude at
Apple was most helpful. Not effective, since he couldn't figure out the problem
and it spontaneously fixed itself, but helpful.
On the down side, it
look like we're postponing our more-or-less annual Mardi Gras party a few weeks.
Neither of us had the energy to do all the prep work this weekend. We'll probably
just have it in a few weeks and call it Mardi Gras anyway, on the theory that we
're far enough from New Orleans that no one knows when it's supposed to be anyhow.
But we did have a very nice Valentines Day weekend, complete with holiday-
appropriate activities. Also chocolates.
"What were the
biggest lies you were told in school? What were the biggest omissions from the
curricula you were taught? And what were the biggest mistakes your teachers made?
I was thinking of these questions primarily academically -- the Noble Savage
instead of If You Don't Bother Him, He Won't Bother You -- but academic or social
or both are welcome.
Honestly, I don't remember being
told many lies in school which is not to say there weren't plenty of omissions,
oversimplifications, and positions I'd now disagree with. This may be related to
the fact that I can't actually remember learning very much before high school that
I hadn't already picked up elsewhere. This is a reflection on my memory as well as
my school system, I suspect. But really, here are my sum total of academic
memories from grades 1-9 (that's grade school and junior high). I'm not counting
being tested or answering questions; I'm keeping this only to memories of actual
in-school learning. But it's still a bit scary that this is the entire
I remember realizing I could spell words I hadn't been
formally taught, from my own reading - that almost doesn't count, since I wasn't
taught it, but it did happen in school. Various dumb songs, 1st-3rd grades.
Long division, 3rd grade. Cursive handwriting practice, 3rd grade (I'd learned the
letters outside school, but you do have to practice to really know them). The
"races" of man are Caucazoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid, 4th grade alternative social
studies. BASIC, 3rd-5th grades gifted. How to assemble dodecahedrons and similar
shapes, 4th grade gifted. How to throw up a stick and catch the other end, 5th
grade. What it looks like when mice have babies, 5th grade. A totally erroneous
explanation of Browning's line, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp", 8th
grade. Chisenbop (addition and subtraction technique on your fingers), 8th grade
extracurricular. Mixing sugar plus hydrochloric (?) acid in a beaker produces a
growing pillar of carbon, 8th grade. Mathematic proofs, 8th grade
In high school I did learn plenty of useful things: how to
dissect a frog or a plot (not in the same class), that even English teachers
dislike some classics, why Shakespeare switches between "thou" and "you", some
very basic economics and political science, carpentry skills (I worked on the
school play sets), Newtonian physics at a precalculus level, how to take a
derivative, a bit about probability, lots of things about airplanes and planets
(it was an aerospace magnet school), the effects of the Industrial Revolution on
the actual workers in the factories.
My high school teachers were in
general pretty good. The one thing I really missed getting from was good study
skills, and I can't really blame that all on my teachers. (My principal, yes. What
was supposed to be time for gifted students to work on Independent Study projects,
he made us use for SAT practice, because he wanted the school to look good.
As for omissions, there certainly were some of those. Some
of the biggest were in the area of history, where we learned almost nothing
outside Europe and the US (and not all that much in Europe). The history we did
learn was presented as a series of episodes, mostly containing wars. There was
very little on the connections between the episodes or on the long term causes
for the wars. (American Revolution: caused by mean King George III. Civil War:
caused by mean slave owners OR (never and) disagreements on states' rights. WWI:
caused by the assasssination of Ferdinand. Ferdinand who? Oh, just some aristocrat
in Sarajevo. More info please? Well, countries all over the war had lots of
entagled alliances. No one wanted to fight but they all were dragged into it.) A
related problem is the way so many fascinating subjects from history to sex were
rendered so boring by their presentation in dull outline.
biggest lie implied to us in college was that all engineering jobs would naturally
entail the sort of challenging technical problems we learned to solve in school.
In my first year out of school, I got to use what I'd learned in computer class a
little, and what I'd learned in my Mechanical Engineering classes exactly once. My
biggest challenge was boredom. I did eventually get to use what I'd learned in my
major, in approximately my fourth through seventh years in industry. Now my job is
fun and challenging and I very rarely use any of my technical knowledge. (Had I
majored in Systems Engineering I might use more of it, but back in college neither
I nor anyone else I knew could figure out what that department did.) What I
do use every day that I learned in my engineering classes is an attitude and an
aptitude for learning fast and solving problems in domains of knowledge that are
new to me, and those four and a half years were worth it just for that. I also
use the statistics from a class I took in grad school, though my company trained
me in that again anyway. And there were any number of classes in things like
folklore, English, and astronomy that may not help me directly with my work but
that do a lot toward furnishing my mind. To whatever degree it is furnished,
Seen on a poster at work:
I have to say this strikes me as a really,
really bad idea. I have a vision of a four-year-old, bottom lip quivering as she
watches someone pull a fish out of the lake. Quivering lip turns to tears as she
sobs, "Daddy, they killed Nemo!!!" Traumatized for life, she refuses ever to eat
fish again, and a few years later when she's unexpectedly stranded on a desert
island, along with a full kitof fishing gear, she starves to death before the
rescuers arrive. And all because of an unfortunately named company
Yes, I'm a little bored. But I am looking forward to the
weekend; tomorrow we're supposed to receive our profit sharing and so I have
designated Saturday as replace the PC (Piece o'Crap) with a nice iMac that will
hopefully take more than a year to get really annoying. (The PC managed that in
about 6 months; our previous Mac started being really slow when online after three
years or so and is still fine for standalone programs.) I have a feeling this will
be more expensive than expected, as these things usually are. The decisions are
whether to fork out for the MS Office update or just use MacWorks and whether it's
worth it to buy Mac.com. If anyone reading this has experience with either (recent
editions only), opinions are welcome. The other decision is whether I'd be better
off with a laptop than an iMac; I never moved around much with the old laptop, but
this time I'm buying an Airport so I'd have wireless Internet access. I'm just
suspecting that laptops are less reliable.
Hooking it up will
probably also be a bit annoying. What I'd like to do is to hook the old Mac, both
printers, and the digital modem to the Airport, which will live in the current
office, while the new computer moves out to the library, formerly known as the
living room. However, the laser printer is old enough that it doesn't have a USB
port. The Airport has no SCSI connections. ANd the old Mac is running an old
version of MacOS, old enough that it probably can't function as a printer sharer.
I suspect I'll have to use the PC to share the printers, but I can'thelp thinking
this all should be simpler than it is.
The saga: two laptops, mostly kept apart by the breadth of a city (not to mention
some incidental desert). Desperately yearning to share
their love a digital
certificate. The first one has it and the other yearns for it. But for the other
to get it, the cert must be revoked and reissued. Now this one is connected, but
then the first one
stabs itself can't go online. It desperately want to
communicate but can't and the priest and the old nurse have been replaced by
unfeeling IT people. Oh, the tragedy! Will it be possible for the first one to get
connected without revoking the certificate and dooming the other? Must both
poison computer viruses? Only IT knows.
that's been my day trying to telecommute so far. Is it too unspeakably greedy to
want to be able to remotely connect to work with both my home and work
computers? I do have a laptop at work, but I don't bring it home every night (too
heavy) and so if I get sick orwant to check email on a weekend I need to do it
from the home machine. They're putting in a new remote access system and so far I
am Not Impressed. Grr.
On the plus side, the pool guys started today,
sooner than expected. Destruction has commenced in my yard; they've already
removed the shack around the pool equipment and dug out a few areas where cement
will be poured. The pool gets drained Monday, and then we'll see if they are as
speedy at conscruction as they are at destruction. On the other plus side, I
taught on this side of town again today and get to be at home this afternoon. Yay!
Ooh, new find for the Buddies list:
href="http://damenora.diaryland.com">Damenora. Because how could I now read
someone who discusses medieval literacy and quotes Saint Augustine in the very
first entry I read? Besides, I found her through a comment in the inimitable (I
think that's exactly the right word for her) href="http://squirrelx.diaryland.com">Squirrel-X's diary, a recommendation in
I have got to get back to regular working out. It's just
been so cold it's difficult to haul myself out on the lake at 0'dark thirty AM. I
did go to the gym this morning, and even got in an extra 4K on the erg (in
addition to my usual warmup and erg strength sets).
The extra time
for that was courtesy of the class I'm teaching today (as well as yesterday and
tomorrow). It's at the company's site a mere 10 minutes from my house. What bliss
not to commute. Even better, I get to go home afterwards and telecommute for the
afternoons, except for yesterday when I'd rescheduled the meeting I missed when I
ran home last week to take Rudder to the clinic. (He's all better now, though
still on a bland diet.)
This class is a bit on the quiet side, not to
mention a little resentful at having to take this training. I may wear the griffin
in tomorrow. (See yesterday's entry for a description.)
I have acquired a familiar, courtesy of yesterday's trip to the Renaissance Faire.
I must say he is far better behaved than either of my cats have ever been; he's
sitting on my should as I type this, nodding occasionally.
He is a
griffin, with soft brown and white fur on his poll, carved wood gold and silver
beak and black legs, a long raccoon-ish tail, and feathers sprouting from his
back. He can turn or nod his head, and wears a piercing expression that is none
the less daunting for coming from a creature only about 8" long sans tail. I'm
considering either "Wynne" or "Jones" as a name -- Griffins are Welsh symbols
anyway, if I recall correctly, and anyone who's read The Dark Lord of
Derkholm or The Year of the Griffin wil understand the source of the
names. Other suggestions are welcome.
Unfortunately I figure I have
to leave him behind for my meeting this afternoon with a director. The director in
question is not a very whimsical individual. I may wear him tomorrow for the class
I'm teaching, just to see if I can liven those guys up a bit. I have gotten a few
strange looks, but I get those anyway, for using an exercise ball instead of an
office chair to sit on. I'm used to it.
Whil I was at the RenFaire,
Rudder was negotiating quite successfully with the pool renovation guy -- we are
going to be able to get a pebbled pool surface, new cement all around *and* a
built-in grill. Yay!
Dinner after that was chez T2 and Egret, where
AR and OG are now sitting up all by their own little selves. Yay again. Still both
drooling to the point that we could probably install them as pool-filler devices
during the renovation. (Oops, sorry, not a pleasant image.)
Rudder and I finished off the evening with a not-quite-spat. I've not been
sleeping at all well lately and his tossing and turning combine with his alarm set
at obscene hours is at least half the reason. (Come on, 5:30 on a Sunday??? But he
"doesn't like to get too far off schedule on the weekends". Phooey. Cruelty to
spouses, I call it.) To give you an idea how sleep-deprived I am, I just mistyped
"weekends" for "reason" in a previous sentence. For me, gross stupidity is usually
an indication of lack of sleep. This has been a problem for years, but he thinks
my complaints have escalated a lot lately. I can't say I can tell a difference,
but frequency of complaint seems like a reasonable gauge. Actually, I think the
long commute that eats two or more hours out of each day is a greater problem for
me (takes away from time to have any kind of life, which in turn detracts from
sleeping) but some of it is also his refusal to believe that no, I can't just go
to sleep earlier, because my body doesn't work that way. I seem to get my best
sleeping in from about 2 to 6 AM if it's not broken by alarms or the expectation
of same (the latter is almost as bad as the former for me).
Seen on a bumpersticker:
"Bill Lied, Hilary Cried.
Bush Lied, Thousands Died."
Heard on the radio:
"This (the mistaken information about WMD in Iraq) makes the rest of the world
uneasy. It make make other nations less likely to take action based on
Um, what would be the alternative? Acting based on gut instinct?
(No, you don't have to explain this to me. Yes, I know they mean "intelligence" in
the spy sense. But it's still an unfortunate turn of phrase.)
Rudder is much better and was able to work yesterday. Thanks to those who sent
good wishes. He is on a bland diet for a bit, though: no spicy foods, no caffeine,
no citrus juices, no peppermint, no fried foods, no alcohol.... in other words no
most things we usually eat or drink. At least Gatorade and pretzels aren't ruled
out. And I've got a nice (I hope) beef stew in the crock pot now.
OK, it was cold out there on the lake this morning. I think I saw a penguin
swim by. Now, it's true that I have in the recent past been in an equally small
boat in even colder weather, but I was wearing a drysuit at the time. And there
were icebergs. Even though that was hours ago and I had the car heater blasting
the whole way to work, I still don't think my body temperature has
There are plenty of people who row in much colder
climates, but they solve this little problem by just not rowing this time of year
-- and certainly not in a single, alone, in the dark. The one thing that saves
this from being as stupid an idea as it sounds it that the water was actually
relatively warm today. We can have daily temperature swings of 30-40 degrees
during the day, so the warm afternoons heat the lake water.
letter from a
rower in totally different circumstances, in an even warmer
OK, on to other stuff. I yield to few in my love of books,
but I thought the following, from a review of Nicholas Basbanes' href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-
1818501?v=glance&s=books&n=507846">A Splendor of Letters was downright
"A final section elaborates on the potential
threat of the e-book, but remains optimistic that love of the physical act of
reading will enable the printed page to
Threat? Prevail? Good grief, it's not a war,
any more than newspapers are at war with books. They have different capabilities.
I highly doubt e-books will put paper books out of print; they're not cuddly, they
don't smell right, and there's no thrill in thinking who else might have held that
-- file? -- in their hands decades ago. On the other hand, paper books tend not to
have search capabilities or the capacity to report exactly how many times
Shakespeare used the -eth suffix instead of the -es suffix, and it's harder to
find the exact words in which href="http://dichroic.diaryland.com/notpickle.html">Jo March compared her father
to apickle bottle. People made the same arguments with movies and television,
and as in that case, there's room for both.
Speaking of the things a
sense of history will tell you... in Frances Hodgeson Burnett's href="http://www.gutenberg.net/etext01/tmbrn10.txt">T. Tembarom, which I like
even better than A Secret
Garden, the elderly English Miss Alicia and the young American man Tem have
the following conversation:
sometimes even seemed to me that our Heavenly Father has a special objection to
ladies," she had once timorously confessed to Tembarom. "I suppose it is because
we are so much weaker than men, and so much more given to vanity and petty
He had caught her in his arms and actually hugged her that
time. Their intimacy had reached the point where the affectionate outburst did not
"Say!" he had laughed. "It's not the men who are going to
have the biggest pull with the authorities when folks try to get into the place
where things are evened up. What I'm going to work my passage with is a list of
the few 'ladies' I've known. You and Ann will be at the head of it. I shall just
slide it in at the box-office window and say, 'Just look over this, will you?
These were friends of mine, and they were mighty good to me. I guess if they
didn't turn me down, you needn't. I know they're in here. Reserved seats. I'm not
expecting to be put with them but if I'm allowed to hang around where they are
that'll be heaven enough for me.'"
gets that attitude from her strict old clergyman father, but given how notable
Victorians were for putting women on pedestals, his attitude seems much more
natural. But I was thinking .... not long after she was speaking so, a few hundred
miles north and east women were being sent to the href="http://users.erols.com/bcccsbs/bass/new_25magd.html">Magdalene Laundries
for getting pregnant, or even just being"in moral danger"; a fw years earlier and
a handred miles south no one much cared if girl as well as boy mudlarks scrounged
for a living in the stinking mud of the Thames and killed themselves with blue
ruin gin. Outside fiction, those pedestals were precious
Sometimes too much knowledge makes mindless entertainment
OK, so you know how my life is generally sort of drama-free, except maybe during
the travel episodes? Not so much yesterday.
On Tuesday Rudder left
phonemail around 2PM to tell me he was going home sick because his stomach hurt.
He hardly ever gets sick, but when he does he does it thoroughly. Also, he never
skips work or even working out unless he's more than half dead, so when he told me
his stomach hurt, I figured he meant in a writhing-in-pain sort of way. When I got
the message I did try to call and see how he was but eh didn't answer -- he can
sleep through a ringing phone. I got stuck in a last-mibute late meeting so it was
nearly 6:30 by the time I got home. He was still in pain, had puked once, and
couldn't get comfortable, so we considered options.
The doctor was
closed by then, so I tried this nifty call-a-nurse service my health insurance now
offers. She asked various questions to check whether it was any of the obvious
emergency things (appendix, hernia) and it wasn't, but she advised going to the
emergency room to be safe. My husband the stoic must have been hurting because he
didn't refuse outright, but we decided to wait an hour to see what happened. By
then he was alseep, and I certainly wasn't about to wake him. (The converse was
not true, however; he was tossing, turning, and waking up and taking a drink
enough to keep me awake half the night.
I skipped rowing in the
morning due to the lack of sleep. He seemed to be a little better when I called in
the morning, but when I called back in the afternoon he was hurting more again. I
tried to make a doctor's appointment and couldn't even get through on the phone (I
am going to have to change doctors. That's just ridiculous.) So I called Rudder
back and asked if he wanted me to come take him to an Urgent Care clinic. He just
sort of moaned at the awful stress of having to make a decision, so I made one. I
made a call and sent email to cancel the meeting I had in less than half an hour
with a Very Important Director, told the admin in my area I was leaving and sped
[drivedrivedrivedrive not without a bit of resentment that he
wouldn't just let me take him the night before when I wouldn't have had to cancel
Fifty minutes later (and *why* are all
those people on the highway at two freaking forty-five in the afternoon????) I got
home, bundled him into the truck and we got to the Urget Care facility at maybe
3:45. I wanted to go to the hospital but he flat out refused. Don't let that word
"urgent" make you think things there move fast. Almost an hour later we finally
got to register (tell someone his symptoms and give our insurance info) and
another 15 minutes later he finally got to see a
Unfortunately by then it was about 5:30. The other
complication I hadn't mentioned is that we had an appointment to do our taxes at 6
that night, and they're getting busy enough that I couldn't have rescheduled the
appointment sooner than about two weeks. That wouldn't be a problem except that we
couldn't decide what to do about redoing the pool until we knew how much money
we'd get back (or not). Which still wouldn't be a problem except that the only
reason we're redoing it now is that we have a broken pipe somewhere under the
cement. And until that's fixed we can't run the poop pump, which means the whole
thing will turn health-hazard green if we wait too long. All of which is why
Rudder especially wanted to get the taxes done as early as possible. (Yes, I know
we're weenies. We used to do our own taxes, but our finances are complex enough
that now we find having someone do them tends to ay for itself.)
to Rudder, still on the examining table. The doctor diagnosed gastroenteritis or
some such and gave him a cocktail of lydocaine and other stuff to calm his stomach
lining and make it stop hurting, and they wanted to watch him for a little bit to
make sure it worked. He decided sitting in the clinic afterward wouldn't be any
worse than sitting anywhere else, and sent me off to the tax place on my own.
Fortunately it's right near the clinic.
I explained my situation to
the nice accountant lady, because to my mind sharing information is useful if it
will help expedite things. (Rudder would disagree just out of a sense of privacy.)
It did work. She knocked out all of our taxes in forty five minutes and sent me
back to the clinic with the forms for both of us to sign. I got Rudder, who had
been waiting for "only half an hour", stopped by the pharmacy to drop off his
prescription (something to fix the problem and something to make it quit hurting
meanwhile), dropped Rudder at home, picked up the prescription, picked up some
grasy bad-for-me fast food for dinner because it was almost 8 by then, picked up
the mail, and finally went home and ate.
Before going to bed I made
the spare room bed so I'd have an option if he was keeping me awake again. He was,
but this time only for a quarter of the night. (I put in earplugs at one point
because he was snoring and I was afraid if I got him to turn over he'd be less
I skipped working out this morning too, on the theory
that I'd had enough running around lately.
On a different note, when
we were discussing communication skills in my review Tuesday, my crrent acting
boss suggested I aim to be more succinct. It's probably a good thing he doesn't
read this journal.
What the heck.
You have an exotic beauty. Many people long to be
Me with "exotic beauty" is fairly laughable, but
they are one of my favorite flowers.
First, a question. I keep wondering if I'd enjoy Umberto Eco's The Name of the
Rose. Any opinions? From what I've heard, it's hard to guess and I haven't
come across any bookstore copies I could browse through lately. (Actually looking
for the book last time I was in a bookstore would have helped, of course.) I don't
particularly mind philosophical discussions diguised as fiction, but I insist on
being entertained -- that is, it has to be a good disguise. I'm not willing to
spend the effort to think about the author's issues unless I can do so in the
company of a character I like. If it helps, I can report that I love Dorothy L.
Sayers' Gaudy Night, but I found A.S. Byatt's Possession a bit slow,
and -- not shallow but -- I somehow never felt I got under the surface of the
novel into its heart. If it has one, of which I'm still not quite
Next, a lack of logic in three vignettes.
morning, I saw a man at the gym doing overhead presses on a Smith machine. He was
sitting on an exercise ball while doing so -- this is supposed to bring the core
muscles in the back and stomach into play, to keep all that weight balanced. But
he was wearing a weight belt -- which, these days, they are not recommending
specifically because with its support you *don't* work core muscles.
One of my state's Congresscritters was saying on the news
yesterday that the faulty intel on WMD in Iran was because we chose to depend too
much on high-tech survaillance instead of on old fashioned human agents (a.k.a.
spies). He said we just need to spend more money on training people and sending
them over rather than on satellites and such. Now look, I know the average
American supposedly has the attention span of a flea and is assumed not to be able
to remember a news item from one day to the other. I happen to think a little
better of my fellow citizens, and to believe I damned well have a right to expect
better of someone who'se actual job is national and world affairs. I remember, if
he doesn't, back a six months or a year ago when they were saying we'd had trouble
penetrating Afghanistan just because we couldn't get in there with spies -- we
didn't have enough people who looked like natives, or who spoke the language with
native fluency, and besides, a lot of the relationships in the organizations we
wnated to get into were built on long relationships, by men who were related or
who had known each other most of their lives. That's clearly something we might
want to work on but it's not as simple as flipping a switch to send money here
instead of there.
The third piece of illogic is not as bad as the
above, since it has no consequences. I've seen a meme floating around various
blogs, asking questions about winning a million dollars. Who would you tell? What
would you do? Would you give it away or invest it? I don't get this. A million is
not that much anymore; for perspective, you could live comfortably but not
extravagantly on it for ten years if you didn't live anyplace expensive, like NY
or San Francisco; you could put about 7 students through a top college IF they all
graduated in four years and tuition didn't go up again (unlikely!); or you could
buy five middle-class houses in my area, two in San Francisco, three in New
Hampshire, or half of an NFL player's house most places. Granted, you wouldn't
want to hypothesize a billion dollars with these questions, because that really is
enough money to do everything at once, but since you are dreaming, why not dream
bigger? I want to be awarded thirty imaginary millions -- at least.
This will be a bits and pieces sort of entry -- lots to say but it's all in sound
bites and none of it is particularly profound.
I spent the weekend as a sports spectator, which is rare for me
-- sometimes I do sports and sometimes I vegetate, but I rarely vegetate watching
other people do sports.
As a matter of fact there wasn't really much
vegetation involved in Sautrday's spectating. We went to the Phoenix Open (now
known as the FBR Open, which strikes me as a bad marketing idea, since I don't
think it's a brilliant move to change your name to something neither euphonious
nor especially memorable) for the morning. This turned out to be a good idea; we
walked around most of the holes and could see anyone we wanted, and when they
asked the crowd for quiet nobody breathed. Even the food vendors had only short
lines. We figure we walked over 3 miles, and yes, I'm href="http://fivehundred.diaryland.com">logging it -- we've hiked enough to be
good at estimating distance. As we exited a bit after noon, huge crowds were
coming in, to the point where it was difficult to go in the other direction, and
the golfers seemed to be thrown off their putting by loud cheering from some of
the other holes. Fortunately, the new crowds were being directed to a different
parking lot so driving out was very easy. I'm no golfer, so it was interesting to
go once, but I don't know that I'd want to go again unless I learned to appreciate
the finer points of the sport. (On the strength of P.G. Wodehouse's golf stories,
I'm willing to believe it does have finer points.)
On Sunday, of
course, we watched the Superbowl. I believe in common national experiences. More
to the point, this year it was worth watching; we stayed up to the very end and
I'm glad we did. (This is somewhat more pathetic when you realize that it ended
around 8:30 PM in my time zone. But today was a rowing day.) What a novel concept:
a Superbowl in which the game was more exciting than either the halftime show or
the commercials. Yes, I enjoyed the donkey-wannbe-Clydesdale and the guy who drove
all the way across the country to deliver to his girlfriend a lipstick that wasn't
hers, though I can't actually see why either one would make me want to drink more
beer -- at least the former is easy to associate with its branding. And yes, I
thought the "accidental" unhooking of Janet was the most entertaining moment of
the halftime show -- but that's not a good recommendation for a singer, being able
to be upstaged by on of your own body parts. It's even less of a recommendation
for P. Diddy (why *did* he change his nom-de-microphone??), Nelly, and Justin, to
be upstaged by someone else's body part. In fact it sounds as if the streaker was
the funniest part of all, but the TV didn't show him. But none of that can compare
to a touchdown from the 90-yard-line or a game-winning field goal in the last 8
seconds. I hope the Panthers get over the disappointment enough to be proud --
both teams played a hell of a game.
If you're interested in that sort of thing, go join
books club. I won't be joining, myself; I need motivation to read like I need
motivation to breathe. For adults who just need a bit of a push to do something
they want to do anyway, this might work, but I never did quite see the point of
all those vacation reading clubs libraries have for kids. If they're going to read
they will anyway and if not they'll just feel guilty. The activities around
reading to little kids or clubs where books are actually discussed are more
interesting to me, and I'd expect them (the former especially) to do a better job
motivating nonreaders to try books.
I would consider joining
reading group buthonestly, I don't think I have time and energy for the books
that group is likely to read. Maybe I should point my mother at it instead.
I don't think my mind works in normal ways. Sometimes I
don't think it works in any ways but those laid down in print on a page. href="http://batten.diaryland.com/040202_49.html">Jenn's entry today had me
realizing that my views on what happens after death are probably derived less from
anything I learned in synagogue, or in Hebrew School and more from my
grandmother's fierce belief that she would see my grandfather again combined in
nearly equal parts with something Professor Bullfinch said in one of the Danny
Dunn books (Danny Dunn and the Time Machine I think) I devoured in third
grade: "To a scientist, death is another another adventure." Or words to that
effect. What a place to form your views on the great matters.
Yesterday I did an alumna interview with an applicant to my
alma mater. She handed me a "resume" that was a fulll page, front and back,
listing all of her activities, accoomplishments, and awards: sports, social,
educational, and so on. I'm sure a lot of them are very interesting and valuable
but I wonder when she has time to sleep. Or enjoy herself. Scary.