May 31, 2004

Reviews - one movie, one book

Troy
Same thing I've said about the last half-dozen movies I've seen (IMAX excluded): too damned long. I'm tired of having to choose between risking a ruptured bladder and missing some of the movie just so some director's inflated sense of Art can play out for two and a half hours (plus about eight previews). I haven't read the Iliad for years and deliberately avoided reviewing it before the movie, so I had no idea what Briseis and Achilles were or weren't supposed to be doing and any departures from Homer didn't bother me as much. Even so, what happened to Casssandra, Hecuba, and Aeneas (apart from a two second cameo of the last)? Also, I don't recall Hector and Priam being quite such sympathetic characters and the lack of manifestation of the gods was closer to histoy but would have dismayed Homer.

Going in ignorant of the finer details, the movie wasn't bad. Brad Pitt did an adequate job portraying Achilles as a throwback to (even) more savage days and I liked the historic touch that showed people asnot terribly clean or air-brushed. It was amazing how little blood there was, given the amount of fighting and dying that went on -- apparently when you kill a man with a sword or spear, he bleeds a bit from the mouth and that's it. (In the interests of historic accuracy though, there did appear to be flies on Hector a day or two after his death.) I wouldn't be too upset if the film influenced fashions and men (at least those with good legs) began walking around in flippy little skirts. (Rudder would look good in one, if he could muster the presence to carry it off.)

The cinematography reminded me less of sunbaked Greece and more of washed-out 1950s Hollywood scenes, which may be appropriate since that's when epics were last in vogue. Speaking of the vgue for epics, it was amusing to see who this movie learned the lessons of Lord of the Rings: keep the camera moving quickly during potentially gory scenes and provide both pretty boys for the teenyboppers to drool over and men you'd actually enjoy spending time as well as looking at for those of us who've learned that lesson. In fact, Troy went LOTR one better by having Brad Pitt in to bridge the gap between Paris and Hector -- though for women still another generation older, there were no older men in Troy who could compare with Gandalf. (Priam had the character but not the looks.) I think they may have used the same set, as well, with a few minor tweaks to turn it from Middle-Earthian to vaguely Egyptian. Which was also a bit odd -- Troy's in Turkey, right?

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines
Given the amount of history Gail Collins has crammed into one book, it's not surprising that sometimes I was left wishing she'd included more details. Having said that, it's probably not fair to point out that she's included almost no information on Native Amercan women (except Pocahontas) or the Spanish community that settled in the Southwest some 400 years ago. Otherwise she did a very good job reasearching and communicating daily lives of Puritan and early Southern women, women of the early Republic, Victorians, abolitionists, suffragists, flappers, factory girls, immigrants in tenements, and so on. She's done a good enough job that I was able to connect the way my parents' rowhouse neighbors spend summer nights outside talking to neighbors with the way most of their grandparents would have lived in immigrant neighborhoods, a conection I'd never made before, and to see exactly why my great-grandmother, widoed by the Influenza Epidemic and her sister, widowed by WWI, moved in to raise their children together. There are also some shocking fatcs on how diapers were washed - in the seventeenth century and again on the wagon trains, mostly they weren't. Ick. As far as I can tell her facts are impeccable, though Collins does seem a bit frustrated by the total lack of evidence of how women in previous centuries dealth with menstruation, especially in the days of the earliest settlers when there were no rags because there was absolutely no spare cloth. I'm reading this from the library, but wouldn't be surprised if I end up buying it someday to keep as a reference.

Posted by dichroic at 07:34 PM | Comments (2)

May 28, 2004

same postulates, different conclusion

I'm not really quite a liberal. I'm sure as hell not a conservative. On some issues I agree with the Libertarians, who don't want government dictating what they do in their bank account or their bedroom. I rarely vote Libertarian because they rarely give me reason to believe their candidates know what they're doing (coming from outside with a fresh viewpoint is nice, but in that case you should at least have studied the instritution you want to dismantle, so you know which pieces can be removed without making the whole thing crashing down.) In general I vote Democratic more often than not because I typically prioritize social issues above financial ones, but I know people with very similar beliefs who typically prioritize the other way and so vote Republican. (They and I all are very annoyed with those in the current administration who want big government AND legislated morality.) There are no issues on which I walk a party line; there are many on which I espouse positions typically considered liberal, some on which I espouse positions generally considered conservative, and quite a few on which I have no opinion because I don't know enough. (THat may surprise some people -- not that I don't know enough but that there are issues on which I have no opinion.)

Still, in general I tend to disagree with conservative writers and speakers because so many of them are so very very very conservative. One of the exceptions to this is Bill Whittle. Bill is a thoughtful guy and like my own state's senior senator, John McCain, tends to think through each of his position rather than toeing a party line. Maybe it's not that surprising how often Bill and I agree; we're both pilots and something about his phrasing makes it clear to me that our thoughts have been shaped by some of the same authors. In Bill's latest essay, Strength, I agree with most of his points. I agree, for instance, that the US can't just walk out of Iraq now without a victory. I agree that Radical Islamists are frightening. I'm not fond of extremists of any faith and Bill is careful to state that he respects any Muslim who does not wish to put the rest of the world to the sword, and that he defends their right to practice their faith, as with any other religion. I agree with Bill's statements about American pride and the power of free choice.

Where Whittle and I diverge is in his conclusions. Bill is sure we were right to go into Iraq. That's one of those things on which I don't know enough to have an opinion. No, scratch that; the problem is that I have too many conflicting opinions. I will know someday, as will history, but that will be too late and the matter did have to be decided with only the information available at the time. I agree that Saddam Hussein was a great evil, but unrestrained anarchy, if that's what they end up with, can be nearly as bad. I have not entirely lost hope; thigs have seemed to be headed to destruction before, in the middle stages of what turned out to be some of our greatest victories. (Of course, those also tended to be the ones in which the original provocation was most clear-cut.) However, if we were going to take away what the Iraqis had for a government, we cannot be justified unless we leave them with something better. If I'm still ambivalent about the proximate cause of our current situation, I have no doubts at all that the way we did it was deeply wrong. Even in a mere business project, it's always a bad idea to go in without a plan to get out; how much more so when lives and honor are at stake?

Whittle thinks the solution is to make sure Kerry isn't elected in November, because he honors Bush for having the fortitude to go into Iraq in the face of world criticism. I don't quite see the logic of that conclusion, as I look to the future; last I looked the two candidates' plans for the region are not all that dissimilar -- and it's because Bush has moved closer to Kerry rather than vice versa. It could have been moral fiber that got us into this mess, but it's been looking a lot more like dumbass machismo. Bush has a responsibility to the Iraqi people not to tear up their land unless he can put it back together, carefully, monitoring each step of the way, but he's got an even greater one to the American military not to put them at risk until he has both a worthy case and a careful plan, one that can be carefully changed as events warrant. Don't take my word for it that he didn't - go read what Gen. Anthony Zinni had to say about it. As a retired Marine General and former advisor to this administration, he's in a position to know.

Kerry may not be the right answer; that's one of those things I'm not in a position to know. It's becoming more and more clear that Bush is the wrong one. Now that we're in there, we can't leave until we can leave a government that has at least the potential to be stable, but we need to be quick and efficient, not so much because of world opinion but because of the debt of honor we owe to our own people over there. Every time someone enlists in the military, he or she is stating a willingness to sacrifice even life itself for freedom. "The tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots." I respect their decision and can muster the cold logic to understand that for some causes a precious life must be sacrificed. But I am not willing to waste a one of them.

We really need to get this right from here on out. Bill points out in the Civil War, the North basically got everything wrong over and over and over until the enemy keeled over from exhaustion. Then again, the death tolls on both sides in that war were horrific - I recently saw raw numbers for that war that translate into 1 of every 6 Northern and one of every 3 Southern soldiers dead from wounds or disease. That's killed, not dead or wounded. We need to do better this time. In Lincoln's words, we need to resolve "that these dead shall not have died in vain" and I don't believe Bush can do it.

Posted by dichroic at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

assorted grumbling, and not

For obvious reasons of self-protection, I do not usually complain about work on these pages. However, I would like to say that whoever at this company decided switching to even cheaper toilet paper was a good idea was grievously mistaken. And was probably also male. I don't think this stuff is recycled newspaper, even. It bears a much stronger resemblance to UNrecycled newspaper.


Also, who told all these people they could take extended vacations? Rudder and I decided to finally throw a party (the one we'd have had for Mardi Gras is our back yeard hadn't been under construction at the time) on the weekend after Memorial Day, on the theory that everyone would be out of town on Memorial weekend itself. But no, apparently that wasn't a long enough vacation, so I've been getting nothing but replies on the lines of, "I've love to come, but I'll be in another time zone then." (This is somewhat exacerbated by the fact that my house practically is in another time zone from work.) Silly people. Don't they know they're supposed to plan around my parties?

I'd ask if anyone out there is coming *to* this town on that weekend, but given our June weather, that's not likely.

One thing to point out that's not grumbling at all: Gramarye has a new (new to me, at least) Dark is Rising fic up, Redeemed From Time.

Also in the realm of not-grumbling: three day weekend! Yay! Having just traveled last weekend, I don't think we're doing anything exciting for it, but not working is exciting enough in itself.

Posted by dichroic at 01:05 PM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

age is relative

The following is verbatim from the ergfreaks community at LiveJournal:

"You were born in 1990? Good LORD! I feel so old! I was born in '84 and my little brother was born in '90. Of course now he's almost as tall as I am, but the point still stands."
I graduated high school in 1984. I realize someone out there is probably reading this and thinking, "She think's she's old??? I graduated high school / had children / was working for a living before she was born!" It may comfort you to when I say that no, I don't think I'm old at 37. If that 20-year-old collegiate rower stays with the sport after graduation, in a few years she too will be a masters rower and will look forward to aging because she'll get better handicaps.

We compete by age category, so if you're say, 45, you are a C and compete against all the other Cs. However, if a regatta doesn't have enough people in a category to run a separate race -- which happens more and more as the age increases -- they'll combine categories and handicap by age. In that singles race I lost on Sunday, the 2nd place finisher was a woman in her fifties who had a 19 second handicap over me. I could do much better in races with a 19 second handicap, and I hope that eventually I will.

There is also the common tendency to feel freer to speak out as one ages. I'm not especially looking looking forward to that, because I've been speaking out all my life. What I am looking forward to is having it be expected of me and more accepted in me.

I don't like feeling I'm becoming conventional and over-civilized; it's something I watch for in myself. It's a balance, though; being weird for the sake of weirdness is silly and being rude because you think you're too special to be bound by conventions is crass. The nicest thing Rudder has ever said to me was when he tried to describe me in one word and came up with "free-spirited". I keep thinking of Richard Thompson's "Beeswing" and its portrait of a free spirit grown old:

And they say her flower is faded now
Hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that's just the price you pay
For the chains you refuse
She was a rare thing, fine as a beeswing
And I miss her more than words could ever say
If I could just taste all of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Then I wouldn't want her any other way
The woman in the song gave up love for freedom. I don't want to go that far. I've chosen the chains of love, not to mention the boundaries of stable employment. If not for the former, I'd have been out of Phoenix long since; instead I'll be here until I convince him to leave with me. (There are worse places.)

This is one reason I like rowing: I can do it as long as I'm reasonably able -- we've seen rowers as old as 91 not only practice but actually compete -- and it rewards age with the handicap system. I refuse to regret aging (though I may regret some of the physical symptoms). An integral part of that, for me, is making sure I don't bore myself as I age, that I season and maybe even mellow but don't retreat from living. For me that means I need to keep a bit of a feral spark under whatever veneer or actual refinements are required for daily function.

I will take my motto from Shakespeare: "Though she be but little, yet she is fierce."

Posted by dichroic at 03:16 PM | Comments (2)

workout entry

Been a while since I did one of these - races, what with the tapering and the traveling and the recuperating, really throw my training out of whack. Of course, it's also what my trianing is for.

Monday, 5/17: Began taper for race. Three sets of 1 on, 1 off, 5 min rest between sets. About 10K total.
Tuesday: I think I skipped the gym.
Wednesday 5/19: 2 or 3 300m race pieces. ABout 6K (one lap) total.
Thursday: Load boats on Hummer.
Fri-Sat: Drive to Sacramento.
Sunday 5/23: 1K race in single, 1K race in double, 300m dash in single. I figure about 10K on the water, along with more walking than I do all year, as is usual at regattas.

Monday 5/24: drive home.
Tuesday: much-needed sleep.
Wednesday: rig boat, row 1 lap (6K), touch up chipped paint.
Thursday: Back into it. Usual erg warmup (1K plus 300 cooldown plus 2x10 erg strength), weights, then an extra 3K. Coach Rudder thinks I should do less lifting, more water and erg time, since endurance is my week point.

Posted by dichroic at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

mouthing off again

There is an eerie parallelism in two excellent and heart-rending articles I've read recently. One is by a gay Orthodox rabbi and the other is about a nascent gay movement being born within Islam. (Really, the parallelism isn't all that eerie, on further thought.)

I do, I really, really, do believe that the issues of gay rights including marriage will turn out to be the human rights issue of this decade, as civil rights were a generation ago and as religious discrimination was a generation before that (and a generation before that, and a generation after, and right this minute in some places. Actually, on further thought again (some day I'll try thinking before writing), given that religious issues have been around for a couple of millenia and that race issues were at a rolling boil during both the 1860s and the 1960s, it may be stupid to talk about "the issue of the decade". What I menat earlier by that phrase is that I believe gay rights will be the sort of step-function issue where once we've gotten past this part of it, we will be incredulous to think what an issue it once was.

There are people out there who believe that all homosexuals are sick, twisted, perverse, evil and disgusting, just as there are people who believe that one race or another is animal or that all adherents of other religions are plotting to take over the world. It is possible to convert that sort of person, because it's been done, but I am neither saintly nor persuasive enough to do it so I don't bother to try. (This may be a moral failing on my part. After all, I compete in races I know I'll lose just for the glory of trying.)

With the race issue, in the past, there were also people of good intentions who just happened to be wrong in the judgement of history. There were good Christians who did not believe in hurting anyone, but who honestly belived the Bible forbade miscegenation.

There was Abraham Lincoln, who wanted the slaves freed but who told Frederick Douglass their two races could never meet as intimates. Douglass said, "Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man. He was preeminently the white man's President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country." Yet this was in a speech praising Lincoln and all he had done to free the slaves, referring to him as "friend and liberator"! Clearly, Douglass knew a man may be wrong in part and still be great.

There was Thomas Jefferson, who tried to outlaw slavery in the Declaration of Independence and who stood with those trying to do so in the Federalist days, who continued to own slaves because he did not believe that people bred as slaves could survive as free men and women. He once wrote to express a qualified opinion, stating that he might at any time be disproven by data, that given equal oppportunities, American Indians could equal whites but that Africans never would.

The vast majority of Americans celebrate Lincoln's and Jefferson's ideals while realizing they were tragically wrong on some points. In more recent examples, some of the most ardent Southern segrationists including Alabama's Governor George Wallace lived to admit they had been wrong. I hope and believe that in time the same will happen with today's issues.

For people of good will struggling with the gay issues now, there are a few things to consider. If it's a religious issue for you, bear in mind that most of you are reading a translation, and there is no such thing as a perfect translation between languages. The original passage in Leviticus usually taken to prohibit homosexuality is nothing if not obscure -- and besides, like Queen Victoria it only mentions men. I understand, too, that for many hetero people there's a squick factor, but the same was true in the segregated South on the subject of interracial dating -- and in most cases we only get past that even for "approved" kinds of couples by not thinking about the issue. If your first grade teacher was much like mine, pointing out that she likely did have sex with her husband will get the point across.

Then again, perhaps your first grade teacher had a partner of her own sex and was afraid to mention it in the community.

Posted by dichroic at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004

race report

We're back. Rudder medalled in every race: Men's single, Men's Double, Mixed Double, Men's Lightweight Single, Men's Lightweight Double. In the non-lightweight single, they had heats as well as finals so he rowed 5 races. As if that didn't prove what a glutton for punishment he is, yesterday he drove all 12 hours back, though She-Hulk and I kept offering to take over. (He insists it's not because he doesn't trust our driving.

I didn't get any medals, dammit. I was Not Happy with my singles race, coming in last with open water between me and the next boat, but the other two races were better. She-Hulk and I were reasonably happy with our doubles race, despite not having rowed together since a race last summer. We were fifth of six, but we were only two seconds from a medal -- fourth place was only a second behind third and we were a second behind that. In the 300m dash, the good news is that I was second, after having finished third each of the last two years. The bad news is that this year for some reason (maybe because the dash is last and it was a long day of racing) very few people entered, only three men and two women, so I was second of two. After the race, though, we went out to eat with a few California rowers and I found the woman who had beat me in the dash won Masters' Nationals a couple of years ago. I don't feel too bad for having her beat me!

Otherwise, the Arizona contingent did well; She-Hulk won a couple of medals, as did two of the other guys rowing with us. As always, the drive up and back was fun; I always like the chance to talk to Rudder when we're both awake and She-Hulk rode with us so we got to talk with her too. (Maybe I need a more flattering name for her, especially given that she may be twice my size, but one other woman who was there with our group is twice hers. Possibly literally.)

The dinner with the Californian rowers was good too, because they'd gone head to head with Rudder and She-Hulk for quite a few races now. In Sunday's races Rudder lost to them by less than one second in both the single and doubles race. It's always good to know other rowers, not only to know who your competitors are, but to be able to find people to put boats together with. Two of them may do a quad at Nationals with Rudder and SH, for instance.

So it was a good weekend, and I'm glad to have a short work week and then another one coming up for Memorial Day. Next challenge: deciding if we're throwing a party the first weekend in June.

Posted by dichroic at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

Is there such a thing as a vs?

One of my discussion lists is talking about dating versus courtship. They seem to think there is a difference between the two. I can only conclude that either none of them is familiar with basic anthropoloy vocabulary (I did try pointing out that almost every human ever alive does, has, or will engage in courting behavior of some sort) or that I really don't understand people who think either/or categories apply to human behavior.

I think they're talking about modern dates as opposed to an older, more public and presumably more romantic model -- but even if I believed the former didn't fall well within human courtship patterns, I don't see why it would be assumed to exclude the latter.

Other than that I'm trying to do three work things at once and prepare for this weekend, so this entry ends here. Wish me luck in my races!

Posted by dichroic at 12:13 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2004

Broadway wisdom

On my way to work, I've been listening to the musical 1776 (the version where Brent Spiner brilliantly plays John Adams) and to Mandy Patinkin's Mamaloshen. For a Jewish girl from Philadelphia, this combination should count as roots music.

I don't think I listen to musicals for the same reason most people do -- that is, those people who do listen to them, and who admit to it. I can do irony when required (and sarcasm at any opportunity, and can sometimes appreciate camp and kitsch, but I think my natural mode of appreciation is fairly uncritical (to a point - I have put down books for being too badly written) and even a little sentimental. This would explain why I enjoyed Miss Clare Remembers, re eample, though it was panned by the Mrissa.

I can like musicals that do kitsch well (Rocky Horror) and be at least mildly entertained by those that contain nothing but entertainment and a decent song or two (the latter condition is why I enjoyed My One and Only far more than The Boyfriend or The Pajama Game). The ones that I keep coming back to, though, are the ones with something real riding on the music. South Pacific, where love can't grow until prejudice is rooted out. Oklahoma!, with the hopes of building a country. Fiddler on the Roof, which I suspect is not a far cry from my ancestors' lives. (Minus some but not all of the singing.) Even Godspell, whose message really isn't for me.

And 1776. Maybe because it's about men gathering together to do a job, the first thing it makes me think about is work-related; it reminds me that when you're trying to make a big change, it takes a while, and a lot of work. That even the biggest and most seemingly inevitable enterprises can be touch-and-go at their inception. And that if you agree there's a problem, even when you don't agree on the exact dimensions of the problem, you can still find a solution that will work for a while, at least -- buying you time to fix it later. And on the converse, it reminds me that if your initial fix has major problems, the latter correction can work but still be immensely painful.

(I can't read about the Revolution or the Federalist debates without being reminded of how they ended us up in a Civil War a hundred years after. But that still doesn't mean the Revolution wasn't the right choice and at that time and in that place, it could only be done by agreeing to ignore the elephant in the room, slavery, for a time.)

Another thing it reminds me of is my ideal of marriage. John and Abigail Adams' was one of the great ones, though it was tested by long separations, wrong-headed decisions, and failures and death of some of their offspring. LA posted something the other day that struck me because her definition is so far off for me:

Because you know what? I am a VERY GOOD WIFE. I do not nag. I do not overspend. I do not ever serve a meal hes not crazy about. He gets laid or blown every day. I am coping with a serious dent in my mobility with as much grace as I can manage. He never hears me complain nor do I dun him with household chores when Im having a rough time. He keeps exactly the hours he wants to keep and we all follow his schedule. I am starting the steepest descent into menopause and since that spin-out a few months ago the Hobbit House has been free of tirades and tears. My tongue is lumpy from biting it so often.
It may be right for LA, of course - that's up to her. Me, though, I'm not especially good about most of those things, and in most of them I don't particularly care if I am. In 1776, though, there's a short dialogue between Abigail and John. It's probably accurate -- most of the Adams' songs in the musicals are based on their own letters:

Adams
Oh, Abigail, what am I going to do?

Abigail
Do, John?

Adams
You must tell me what it is! I've always been dissatisfied, I know that; but lately, I find that I reek of discontentment! It fills my throat and floods my brain and, sometimes--sometimes I fear there is no longer a dream, but only the discontentment.

Abigail
Oh, John, can you really know so little about yourself? And can you think so little of me that you'd believe I married the man you've described? Have you forgotten what you used to say to me? I haven't. "Commitment, Abby--commitment! There are only two creatures of value on the face of this earth: those with a commitment and those who require the commitment of others." Do you remember, John?

Adams
I remember.

That sums up for me my concept of what a "good wife" does: she reminds her husband of who he is and helps him toward who he ought to be. It's a symmetrical definition - I think it has to be symmetrical or parallel for the marriage to succeed. I understand why Xtine of Squirrelx promised to "obey" her David, and even if I didn't believe that each woman has to define her own relationships, I would be reassured by David's promise to "honor" her. Living up to that, he'll never tell her to do anything that would be bad for her. For me, though, it's a straight mirror image, and there's nothing in my definition of a good wife that doesn't apply to a good husband except the second X chromosome.

On a subject related only in that there are numbers involved, I'll be telecommuting tomorrow because we're leaving at noon for our regatta and it lets me get more work time in. I've just calculated that I'll save about $10 in gas and lunch costs by staying home -- though of course that pales in comparison to the value of the time saved by not driving the 2-hour roundtrip.

Posted by dichroic at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2004

dentistry by trial and error

What did the people in the dentist's office say when I told them of their mistake? All together now, "That's why you need an appointment!"

Or maybe that's why items for individuals should be labeled with their names? It makes me wonder whether, if I'd actually had an appointment, it would have consisted iof them shoving random trays in my mouth until they found the one that fit. At least this person did apologize for my 'having been given the wrong information'

I feel compelled to mention this is the Southwest Dental Group, in the East Valley of the Greater Phoenix area, specifically their branch at Dobson and Chandler.

I've been teaching all morning and will go for about another two hours this afternoon. I'm feeling much less wiped than yesterday when I conducted a quickie refresher training in two hours, even though for that one I was sitting down in a conference room, whereas this time I'm standing and moving around a class room. It's just amazing how much difference the attitude of the students makes. Yesterday's weren't even hostile or especially hard to deal with. It's just that the purpose of this class, as I tell them, is to figure out how to apply my techniques to their work, so it needs to be a partnership. Yesterday they weren't getting their shoulders behind it and helping me to push.

Posted by dichroic at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

ordeal by bleach

A month or so ago, I went and got my teeth zoom-bleached, where they use the high intensity light to bleach teeth in a couple of hours. (If you saw me in person, you wouldn't notice. They're not freakishly white-white, just the shade teeth are supposed to be instead of rather yellowish.) Part of the deal was that they give you bleaching trays so you can re-whiten every six months or a year to take care of new stains.

For some reason I never understood, the tech wanted me to make an appointment to come back to get the trays made, instead of doing it there. Then there would be yet another appointment to pick them up. I had an appointment coming up with my regular dentist, another branch of the same office, and they do bleaching trays, just not the zoom bleaching, so I asked if I could get the trays made there. After a little discussion, they agreed.

Since I live far across town from where I work, and I prefer to keep all my doctors close to home (on the theory that that's where I'll be if I'm ever actually sick) it's not easy for me to get to appointments. Not only do I have to take off the time of the appointment, but I also have to take an additional hour to get there. I went to the dentist, hoping he could fix a chipped tooth as well as make the trays. No luck on the chip (too small) but they did take the mold. I made an appointment to visit again in a week or so to pick up the trays and spent 20 minutes explaining that I had already paid for the trays, at the other office.

When the week was up I went back. For those wanting to keep score at home, this makes five dentist appointments in a short period of time: one for a cleaning and to get a referral for the bleaching; one to consult with the bleaching tech; one to do the bleaching; one to get the trays made; and one to pick up the trays. They informed me that the trays had not come out and would need to be remade. They took my mold again (the tech was obviously not experienced with this, which didn't raise my confidence) but this time told me I could just stop in to pick them up and get the fit checked when I was in the area, no appointment needed.

Yesterday, I had my annual poke and prod scheduled at my OB-Gyn, who's in the same building. I called the dentist two days ahead of time to verify I wouldn't need an appointment and was assured this was the case. I left work an extra half hour earlier to have time to deal with the dentiat before going to my checkup. No extraordinary clairvoyance will be required for the astute reader to figure out what I was told when I walked into the dentst office and asked for my trays.

I discussed the matter with the receptionist, who spoke to the office manager. The receptionist said she was very sorry but I would still need an appointment. I explained further and in more aggrieved (but still polite) tones and offered to speak to the manager myself. She went off, spoke to the manager at length, and finally came back with my trays, which they had decided to give me "because I was so upset". Presumably, med school is no longer required; now you merely need to be associated with a health-related practice to be entitled to patronize patients. She also made it clear I'd have to come back iwith a proper appointment if the trays didn't fit.

At least the OB-Gyn appointment was as pleasant as these things can get -- a half hour wait, but they had decent magazines, and my NP is intelligent and personable. Also, I have been grateful for the past few years that they've retired those cell-sampling, innard-yanking wire brushes that replaced the old cotton swabs, in favor of softer plastic scrapers. Other women will know what I mean.

Again, no clairvoyance will be required to predict what happened when I tried on the bleach trays later that evening. Sure enough, they didn't fit. I spent some time monkeying with the trays in front of a mirror, wondering how good they had to be and whether I could make them fit well enough by cutting off some of the back teeth, which don't need to be bleached anyway. It was then that I realized the unusual part.

I've had my wisdom teeth removed. I've also had the foremost molars pulled when I got my braces, because they didn't think my mouth would have room for them. (They were right. I don't know where I'd fit four more.) As a result, I have only 24 teeth, 12 upper and 12 lower, rather than the standard-issue 32 or even the common 28. I counted. The trays had 14 teeth on the upper left, 14 on the upper right, 14 teeth on the lower left, 14 on the lower right.

They gave me someone else's teeth.

Once this debacle is done, I will certainly be calling my health insurance company for a recommendation to another dentist.

Posted by dichroic at 04:58 PM | Comments (3)

May 17, 2004

plotting

Sometimes it's hard to tell a writing exercise from a case of insomnia (which may actually explain a lot about my brother, come to think of it). Last night I couldn't get to sleep, so I set myself the challenge to come up with 5 sketchy plot ideas, quality not required. This is clearly not going to be a good getting-to-sleep strategy for me*, since I only got as far as one plot and still didn't really get solidly to sleep until 2AM or so. That's much worse than it sounds, if you recall that on our rowing days (which Monday is) the alarm is set to 4:00 AM. Yeah, not especially enjoying today, but anyway.

The plot bunny: girl and boy grow up together in small town way out on the outskirts of a loose-knit empire. (Going-to-sleep plots are excused from the niceties of world-building.) As they grow up they practice swordwork together and both become very good. They also fall in love with each other. Boy pleads with girl to marry him. She agrees but only to a contract marriage lasting a year and a day instead of a permanent one, because when she reaches her majority she wants to go out into the world to seek fame and glory. (She's young and idealistic.) The year and a day are very happy, but as it draws to an end and she prepares to leave, there are tears on both sides. She loves him but still feels the need to go. He understands, though he's more of a rooted type. Then tragedy strikes and honor calls her to stay at home. Possibly one parent dies and she must work the farm to preserve it until her younger sibs can inherit it. Instead, the boy decides he will go out into the world, performing deeds of glory in her name. (Why he doesn't just stay home with her, I have no idea. See "young and idealistic", above.) He does so, and achieves great reknown, always wearing her token and refusing to be swayed by other women; I'm thinking preaux chevalier in dirty leather, unshaven. (Which the other women don't mind because all men are like that. It's a Dark Ages sort of empire.) After five years or so he's on his way home to lay his glory at her feet and and ask her to marry him for good. Just as he begins to head home, though, an invasion force or a band of reivers descends on their village. She's kept up her sword skills all this time and has been studying battle tactics (possibly as a career move; she's afraid shen she finally gets out of the village she'll be too old to be an ordinary fighter -- she either finds the books at a local monastery or there's an old lord who has handed the reins of the estate to his son, who finds amusement in teaching her. Her skills and knowledge are well-enough respected int he village that they follow her lead and oust the invaders, who flee the country because they reason that if a small uncouth village is this ferocious, the actual army must be formidable. As the boy journeys home, all he hears are the bards singing of the girl's great victory; her glory has eclipsed his own. Not being a jealous sort, he arrives home and lays his glory at her feet anyway, commending her victory and telling her that she was the inspiration for all his, that he did all his glorious deeds in her name. She falls into his arms, saying, "Then we can trade -- because I fought my battle in your name." Possibly there is something about how she used a tactic they developed together as young students. Her sibs are old enough not to need her anymore, and the girl and boy marry and take off to travel the empire together. Having both sated their bloodlust, they take their swords along only for defense, and they go incognito to avoid being challenged by other young fighters eager for glory.

Phew. Long synopsis. Nope, don't think I could write the story. Actually, it sounds rather like something Barbara Hambly would do.

The second plot was going to begin like so many of my favorite stories, with a group of children finding a magic token and then ... The problem was that I got caught between their having magical work in their own world, la E. Nesbit, or traveling to remote semi-magic climes where they'd meet totally facical pirates or savages, la other Nesbit and Edward Eager, or going to a different country altogether, la CS Lewis or Pamela Dean.

After that my mind drifted off and I think I slept for an hour or so, woke up, thought about work and rowing, realized I hadn't downloaded the data from my StrokeCoach (boat computer) which would get overwritten by Monday's row), decided I needed to give up on laying there trying to sleep, went downstairs, downloaded the data, went back to bed, and got a blissful two hours of sleep until I woke three minutes before the alarm went off. If my sentence structure is unspeakable, kindly blame it on lack of sleep.

* What usually works for me in trying to get to sleep is alphabet games, picking a topic like song titles or poem first lines or places or words of 5 or more syllables, and trying to come up with an example beginning with each letter of the alphabet in turn. I usually drop off by about 'j'.

Posted by dichroic at 11:49 AM | Comments (2)

what kind am I?

Nabbed from Chickafinty:

I took the Blogging Personality Quiz at About Web logs and I am...

The Writer
Words captivate me. And, I like to capture words. Blogging enables me to write often. It also provides a place for me to share what I write with a reading public. I can be funny, inspiring, intelligent, cynical, or morbid. It doesn't matter what I write about in my blog. It only matters that I write.

Posted by dichroic at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

need import advice

If anyone can give me some advice on exporting Diaryland entires and importing them into Movable Type, I'd appreciate it. I've got the exported entry file, and have gone in manually and tried to get it in shape for MT. I've been trying variants of putting:

TITLE: whatever the title is
DATE: mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm PM
AUTHOR: Dichroic

-----
BODY:

body of the entry

--------

for each entry. I've tried it with pointy brackets <> and with quotes and blank lines and none of the above. It seems to understand where each entry begins and ends, and I can get it to read in the title, but it doesn't seem to understand where the title stops. It wants to include the date line and everything else into the title. Suggestions?

Posted by dichroic at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

Ladies of Missalonghi vs. The Blue Castle

I've finally gotten around to reading The Ladies of Missalonghi, by Colleen McCullough, which is widely reputed to be just an Australianized version of my favorite of L.M. Montgomery's books, The Blue Castle (henceforth Ladies and TBC) and I'd have to say that in large part I'd agree with that assessment.

It's true that many of the items the two stories have in common are standard plot devices, some straight out of those penny dreadful romances Missy in Ladies loved: the three maiden women living together, the character who doesn't fit in to a talented or prominent family, the marriage in which one or both people don't fall in love until after they're married (a feature in roughly every other Harlequin-type romance, I think, because it so conveniently legitimizes the sex). But there are so many little correspondances that I don't think they can all be coincidence. Three examples are the heroines of both books both being forced to eat the oatmeal they loathe every morning; the comment, in the exact same words, about how Alicia / Olive "keep all their goods in the shop window", and Barney's / John Smith's always having wanted to own an entire island / valley.

This bewilders me, because if I were reusing a plot so closely, those small details would be exactly the sort of things I would be sure to change. It's been pointed out to me that oatmeal every morning was a common thing in the Scots heritage widespread in both Canada and Australia, and that the "goods in the shop window" phrase wasn't uncommon in the period of both books (1920s-1930s). However, the "shop window" comment is used so much in the same context that I have a hard time believing that. Another possible explanation that has occurred to me is that possibly reusing some of those details may have given McCullough a chance to talk back to LMM, through the device of Una. ("And do you know what happens to goods when you keep them in the window, darling? They fade!") I've certainly had the experience of wanting to talk back to an author and can imagine McCullough might have had a lot of fun with this. It also let her give a strong opinion on the "Did they or didn't they?" perennial quation about Valancy and Barney Snaith. Missy and John Smith emphatically did. (Though I never could imagine why anyone would think Valancy and Barney didn't. She loved him, they were married, and they slept in the same bed. How not? Some LMM fans are a bit too determinedly pure sometimes.)

There are plenty of unique bits in Ladies; the number of other books on the shelf by McCullough shows she has no need to borrow ideas to fill out a book. (I didn't know she'd written about Caesar until I went looking for Ladies. Una is at least an interesting plot device, though she strikes me as a bit odd, and I absolutely fell in love with Missy's mother Drusilla, as her character unfolds through the book. Ladies has a much more explicit feminist message than TBC. In the latter the women in Valancy's family are as unpleasant as the men. In Ladies, the men are uniformly obnoxious, but only some of the women are. I enjoyed the BlueMountains setting (I've been there!) and the
irrepressible Australian bawdiness - everything from Una's comment that Uncle James would probably rather have someone else bite his bum, preferably someone masculine, to John Smith's question when Missy visits the lavatory: "Long visit or short?"

I don't think Ladies has the heart TBC does. TBC can really be viewed as the emergence of truth from a tissue of conventional lies. When I peeked ahead at the ending, it looked like the marriage in Ladies was based on a lie, which I thought it would really poison the book for me. It's not exactly, though; it's just begun on a lie. Still, the lie is never cleared up and John Smith makes it clear that a woman's untruthfulness is one of the unforgiveable sins to him, so that though the book isn't exactly ruined, it's certainly diminished. Missy is nice enough but not as enchanting as Valancy -- Valancy is really a lady, a term not too old-fashioned for Montgomery's characters. While she might try to get her own back at Cousin Olive, she doesn't ever do anything untrue to herself. When Valancy rebels, her first act after leaving a family party early with a few well-chosen words, is to perform an act of kindness, moving in to stay with dying Cissy Gay. When Missy rebels, after leaving a family party early with a few well-chosen words, her first act is to return a dress Alicia had handed down with disdain, after festooning it with cow and pig muck. Valancy falls in love with Barney after getting to know him well at Abel Gay's. Missy falls in love with her idea of John Smith after three brief meetings and a few words.

Ladies isn't quite cotton candy; it's too good for that. But it's not the nourishing comfort food TBC is, either.

Posted by dichroic at 04:37 PM | Comments (8)

workout entry

Tuesday, 5/11: Slept in.
Wednesday, 5/12: a total of around 10K in the single, including two 1000m race pieces. Faster one was 4:42. Got a duck egg!
Thursday, 5/13: Gym, 1.6K on the erg and weights to failure on just a few machines - tapering for race. Also walked about 3K.
Friday, 5/14: About 10 K in the single -- 10 racing starts with 4 min paddle and rest between. Leapfrogged with double. Also walked 2.4 K.

Posted by dichroic at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

daily dissonances and delights

Dissonances

  • People who leave public toilet seats wet. (Ewww)

  • People who don't care about spelling and grammar in professional documents. (I knew one woman who'd sit there and correct spelling and punctuation in every defect report when she ran the review meetings. I have a sneaking sympathy, but I'd have just fixed the darn things, rather than make 6-10 people sit in a meeting and watch me do it.)

  • Wakes from coaching launches, when I'm rowing in a tippy single. It's even worse when they nearly run us over because they aren't looking where they're going.

  • People and systems who try to shoehorn the infinite variety of humanity into a few labels.

  • Anyone who holds meetings at 8AM Monday or 4PM Friday.

  • People who joke with me then think I'm taking them literally when I respond with a straight face to continue the joke. (Apparently my straight face is *too* straight.)

  • A certain occasional coworker who always seems to be implying I'm useless and incompetent. (I might be misjudging him but the phrase that keeps coming to mind is "Grrr, there, go. Water your flowerbeds, do."

  • People who have long or frequent cellphone conversations while driving. I understand you might need to call and say "There's a horrible traffic jam here -- don't take this road," and that it's difficult to pull off for the call in said jam, but that's a 30-second conversation, with no hand-waving required, which is not what I'm seeing on the road.

  • Extremely hot weather, especially when it lasts for months and months and months.

  • Cats who sit on the mouse or walk over the keyboard when I'm on the computer.

  • Sports bras whose designers didn't take the possibility of having to fit over & around actual muscles into account. Because really, who would think a woman might be doing sports in her athletic gear?
Delights
  • Sunrises over water. (Sunsets, too, but I'm less likely to be on the water for those.)
  • The view over the desert I gat on my way to work.
  • Rudder's skin.
  • The feel and smell of baby hair
  • Books good enough to reread imediately after the first reading. Seems like I used to find a lot more of these, probably a combination of being less critical and having more free time.
  • Online journals/diaries/blogs, which I see as windows into other peoples lives and thoughts.
  • Online discussion groups, because until I joined my first one (late 1980s) I only knew a few people in real life who shared my more obscure interests. Then I left college and "only a few" became "no one local", even when the obscure interests were not really all that obscure (books not on the bestseller lists and folk music, for two), so the discussion groups became more important to me.
  • Empathetic cats
  • Full bookshelves, especially when they contain things I haven't read yet
  • Getting my hair cut, especially the scalp massage part.
  • And speaking of massage.... er, massages.
  • My pretty boat
  • Public libraries. What a civilized and brilliant idea.
  • Driving with the top down.
  • The rumbling of a low bass voice, like Stan Rogers or Gordon Bok.
  • Wind. Water. (As in large bodies of, not running from the showerhead. Then again....)
  • Hot showers when I'm cold. Hot tubs are even better. With snow around.
  • Thunderstorms.
  • The smell of the desert after rain.
  • Posted by dichroic at 03:18 PM | Comments (2)

    An unpleasant hypothesis

    I am not generally much into conspiracy theories, especially as those who espouse them tend to be on the wild-eyed, spittle-spraying side. That's why it bugs me how plausible the following scenario sounds, if you've been keeping up with the news:


    George W. Bush talks his Saudi buddies into reducing their oil exports to drive up US prices, figuring when they lower tham beck right before the election he can be a hero. When Janet Napolitano (AZ Governor) requests the Federal goverment to look into whether price-gouging might be responsible for the rapid rise in prices, the adminstration blows her off with a list of causes everyone knows, but that may not be sufficient for the rapid price increases we've been seeing. Bush and his oil bidness cronies realize this is an even better opportunity to wreck the environment, while everyone is upset over the price at the pump, so they propose lowering prices by drilling in ANWAR, overcoming those pesky liberal environmentalists by the power of the pocketbook.

    Frighteningly plausible, isn't it? In the interest of truth, I will note that hard facts are as follows: Bush has close relationships with powerful Saudi families, unremarkable in a man with Texas roots and close ties to oil. His administration did brush off Napolitano, as described. They are proposing drilling in Alaska. The rest is a product of my (hopefully) overactive imagination.

    It would make me really, really happy to be told why this scenario can't be right. Someone?

    Posted by dichroic at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

    May 12, 2004

    too busy to listen

    I've had the worst music floating around my head lately. Yesterday it was "When Eddie Said He Didn't Like His Teddy" (maybe it's just called "Eddie"?) from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and today it's "Anything You Need (You Got It), from the 1970s or so. Now that I've typed this, it's a weird mishmosh of both.

    On the other hand, it was a nice calm morning with only one coaching launch out on the lake, so at least I didn't start the day with the Gilligan theme on the mental radio.

    Anyhow, work's been so busy I haven't really even had time to notice what's playing in my head, and I should now go finish about four things before I leave today.

    Posted by dichroic at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

    May 11, 2004

    the Matalin planet

    I've been reading Mary Matalin's Letters to My Daughters, because I was interested to see what she said about marriage. She is, after all, a master of the art of finding conjugal happiness in differing viewpoints. I haven't gotten that far yet, but from what I've been reading, I can only conclude that maybe Republicans really are another species. Maybe I need to read something by her husband, James Carville.

    My first hint was when she mentioned being passionate about George Herbert Walker Bush (or rather, his politics). She says later that "Poppy" tended to inspire a deep abiding loyalty in his people. I can actually imagine that (a tihng I can't imagine his son doing) but I have trouble connecting the word "passion" with anything about George Bush pre.

    Second, she stresses over and over to her daughters that boys are another species entirely and you will never understand them so don't waste time trying, that you will often have to remind yourself why you love your husband but you will have an instant soul-deep connection to your girlfriends and you will totally understand each other. (She does at least concede that a woman ought to keep a few male friends around "as sounding boards and a male viewpoint".) And, oh yes, that post-puberty boys are interested in nothing but sex. To all of which I can only say, "Huh?"

    It's been my experience that, while there usually are differences between men and women or boys and girls (and I won't speculate how much is genetic v.s. societal), the differences are dwarfed both by the similarities between the sexes and by the differences between individuals. I do much better with men when I assume that they think and feel as I do. Maybe sometimes they cover it more or differently as they've been trained to, but as even Matalin admits, the underlying insecurities are usually pretty much the same. It's true sometimes I have to remind myself why I love Rudder, but I think that would be true for anyone I lived with of any gender. Sometimes people are just annoying, whether pointers or setters.

    I can't say that I understand my girlfriends (a word I dislike, incidentally, but one Matalin uses frequently) but not my male friends. Take Egret and T2, for example; Rudder and I agree that we both understand him better than her. (It may have something to do with her being the only non-engineer of the four of us.) That doesn't mean I don't like her, sometimes for the very traits I don't understand. I don't understand several of my friends, but if there's any trend it's that mostly I find the male ones a little more comprehensible. I don't particularly find not understanding how someone's mind works to be either an indicator of their sex or a bar to friendship.

    Granted that sex is pretty high on the list of preoccupations for teenage boys (and girls) but even at that age it's not the only thing. I'm pretty sure that when I was that age discussing books with my male friends, they weren't really always and only thinking about getting me horizontal, especially as several of them had girlfriends they were perfectly happy with at the time, whom I did not notice them runnning off from our converstions to go and snog. Sometimes they were actually thinking about books.

    Another thing I find weird is the implication that menstruation is always accompanied by weird hormone storms and painful cramps. It can be, certainly, but it strikes me as bizarre to assume it always is. Most of us really don't turn useless for a few days every month. We keep going to work, we get work done, female athletes don't skip practices. Granted, sometimes I'll be well into the middle of a tirade before I realize it may have hormonal causes, but even then, I don't get upset by things that wouldn't normally upset me. I just react more, er, vividly. I can count on fingers of one hand the times I've had bad menstrual cramps. (I do get stomach cramps more often.) Matalin's story of incredibly painful cramps that started with her very first period and lasted as long as it did, and that are instantly cured by "two Advil and lots of water", suggest a psychosomatic cause to me. This is bolstered by the idea she absorbed from her mother that mentrual subjects are "incredibly private and never to be discussed with any male", including the man with whom she's had two children. Before anyone jumps all over me, I don't think that psychosomatic pain is any whit less painful or easier to get rid of than physically caused pain. When it's there, it's real. (I've got IBS, which is also exacerbated by stress, so believe me, I know.) Telling young girls that they will lose all sense of proportion as they bleed strikes me as a bad idea, though I would certainly warn them they might. I do like her strategy of telling her daughters to think about things before they do or say them at times when hormones might be raging.

    What with the alien boys and the Monthly Visitation, parts of this book sound so much like an adult version of "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," that I keep cringing. She's dead on, I think, with the parts about lying (summary: Don't.) and loyalty (summary: Do.) and the glimpses of life in a campaign and in the White House are interesting, so I'll keep reading. If I want a guide to friendships between the sexes, though, I'll go back to Little Women for one that rings a lot truer to me. After all, once Laurie got the (tactfully glossed over) sex thing out of his system, he and Jo maintained their friendship. I don't think Matalin's attitudes are really a reflection of her party necessarily. After all, I've got Republican male friends. It makes me sad to hear such stereotypes from such a smart and successful woman, though.

    NB: To be fair, I should note she's also got a lot of good things to say, about everything from work to patriotism to travel. Also, since I'm still getting comments, I should also note that she's got (obviously, if you know who she's married to) a laudable capacity to respect people whose political views differ from hers. She's been known to attack the other side during campaigns, but apparently she's learned from her mistakes.

    Posted by dichroic at 04:10 PM | Comments (3)

    May 10, 2004

    once more into the breach

    I wasn't going to post again on the Abu Ghraib scandal. I really wasn't. But I was writing an email to Zencelt about her entry today, and when it got past three paragraphs, I figured I might as well post it here. Sorry for the rant, Zen - it's a hard subject not to rant on.

    I'll at least put it behind a cut tag so those of you not in the mood for more ranting can ignore it.

    Zen,

    I don't particularly believe that the best way to deal with the scum of the earth is to descend to their level, but I won't deal with that point of view right
    now. Even if it were true, evidence seems to suggest that the Iraqi prisons are not exclusively reserved for terrorists. Unfortunately, if you look at the military report, it appears that a lot of the people in the jails were pretty much just swept in for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is why
    they're now finally releasing them.

    We didn't bother notifying anyone where they were either, apparently. In the US, even when we take a hardened killer into prison, we tell his family and others. We don't just create desaparecidos like some South American junto. Even the worst terrorist may have family who would at least like to know.

    Look, I live in the same town as Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the guy who bills himself as the "toughest sheriff in America". This is the guy who makes prisoners live in tents, eat baloney sandwiches, wear pink uniforms, and work on chain gangs. Having successfully run the first all-female chain gang in the country, he's now just started the first juvenile chain gang. He's got them digging graves, presumably to remind them of where they could end up sooner rather than later if they're not careful. I don't have a major problem with most of it except for the tents. I'm not sure they have AC and without it summer in Arizona is something beyond an inconvenience. More like a major health hazard.

    But even Sheriff Joe only takes them after conviction. He doesn't staff his chain gang from random people on the street. I think we owe it to ourselves, more than to anyone else we deal with, to maintain a standard of decency that lets us stand proud in the eyes of the world. And more importantly, in the eyes reflected in our mirror.

    Dichroic

    Later note: The Red Cross report estimates that 70-90% of prisoners in the Iraqi prisons were there in error.

    Posted by dichroic at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

    workout entry

    Rudder was away for work but I was a good girl even without having his alarm waking me.

    Tuesday, 5/4: Gym. Erged 1600m (1K + 300 cooldown + 2x10 'erg squats'.

    Wednesday, 5/5: Two 2000m race pieces and yes I did both. I let off a little in the first half of the second one, concentrating on smoothness, but I gave up and just pulled hard when Yosemite Sam and his damned launch took off just ahead of me providing wake for the whole last half.

    Thursday, 5/6: Slept in. (See Saturday)

    Friday, 5/7: Two 1K pieces, 4:40 and 4:39, and a 300m race with She-Hulk. She beat me by about 10 seconds, which was disappointing -- I'd hoped to be within 5 for that short piece.

    Saturday: Went to the gym to make up for Thursday. Usual erg piece and then because I had time I went to town and did every weight I ever even look at normally: angled leg press, plie squats, seated leg press, leg abductors and adductors, 45-degree donkey calf, leg curl and extension, pulldown, seated row, 2 pullups (unassisted, thank you very much), triceps dip, bench press, shoulder press, trunk twist (whatever that's really called), bicep curls, skullcrushers. I did each with one light set of 10 and one set to failure, except the plie squats and the trunk twist (too easy to get hurt). FInished with the usual back extensions, crunches, and stretches. Surprisingly unsore on Sunday.

    Monday, 5/10: 12.4 km at 80%, low rate. Way too hot by 6AM.

    Posted by dichroic at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

    May 09, 2004

    so that's what it's like

    It's amazing how much less a telecommuting day feels like work, no matter how productive I am. I feel almost as if I've had a three-day weekend. Rudder's back, so it's also been a snuggle sort of weekend. Add in few chores planned, lunch with a friend Friday, a trip to the library on Saturday, time to read at least a few of the ensuing books, AND to go to the gym Saturday morning to make up for skipping Thursday (since I had time I did about twice as many exercises) AND to do some embroidery and beadwork and I do believe this could fairly be called a relaxing weekend.

    Even better, after next week I have two four-day weeks in a row, because first we have the race and I took off the following Monday to drive home, then there's Memorial Day weekend. Also, we just bought tickets to go see the in-laws in Oregon in July, so now that feels much closer. I love Oregon (and the in-laws, too). It's not that I really get to kick back much in summer, especially what with trying to be outside as little as possible (it was 90 degrees by about 8AM today) but I've definitely got that summer relaxing thing going today. Too bad about having to go to work tomorrow -- I'd better get back to enjoying it while it lasts!

    Posted by dichroic at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

    May 07, 2004

    under cover

    So since I'm working from home today (yay!) I planned to meet Egret and the chicks for lunch at a cafe in a used-book store. Shortly before I left, a package was delivered with some clothes I'd ordered. They had that nasty new-packaged-clothes smell, so I tried them on quickly so I could throw them in the washer before I left. (Wouldn't want to wash something and then have to return it.) Afterwards, I put the dress I'd been wearing back on, a plain black t-shirt minidress with no fastenings or ornamentation, and headed out. About two miles from the house, I realized I'd put my dress on inside out.

    I had three options: go back home and fix it and be late to lunch; go right to the bathroom in the store and fix it; or assume no one would notice. I decided to go with option 3, since my hair is just long enough to cover the tags and the only other was to tell was the seams. I've seen external seaming used on purpose for decoration before. I decided that if anyone commented, I'd just tell them I didn't want to be visible to the Unseilighe Fey, this bookstore being one of the few places in town where that might just get a laugh or even a serious nod instead of a blank stare.

    As it happened, no one did comment and even Egret only noticed because I told her the story. It wouldn't have mattered what I'd worn anyway - I could have been naked, I think. I'd forgotten one important fact: when you're hanging out with nine-month-old twins, at the age where they're getting all alert, responsive and coordinated, no one looks at you anyway. There are better things to look at.

    Posted by dichroic at 03:47 PM | Comments (2)

    a review of the Diva Cup

    The Diva Cup is used basically like a tampon. If you're male or squeamish (or both) I suggest not reading further.

    The Diva Cup is a small soft rubber cup that collects menstrual flow and is inserted more or less like a tampon. It's reusable indefinitely -- the idea is that you take it out, empty it, wash it with hot water and put it back in. You can wear it up to twelve hours, according to the instructions. It comes in two sizes; the larger is only 1/8" bigger than the smaller, and they recommend the small size only if you're under 30 AND haven't had a child.

    So that's the background. I'd heard of them before, but decided to get one a month or so ago after Natalie linked to the website, which has a list of where they're sold. Only three places in the state were listed, but one is fairly nearby, and I'd been wanting to check it out anyway (The Gentle Strength Co-op in Tempe). You can buy them from the Diva website, too. I used it one day las month and then through this whole cycle, three days. (I'm on the Pill.)

    First problem: the Diva Cup is more expensive than I'd expected, just under $30. It's fairly easy to justify the cost -- what is that, half a year's worth of tampons? -- but only if it works for you. $30 seemed a bit much for a first trial, but I decided to buy it anyway.

    The instructions that come with it are very good, and insertion wasn't too hard. I will say it works for me; I've been wearing it all day, removing it only at night. The caveat is that I'm on the Pill, so I have fairly light flow. I think it would work for heavy bleeding, but you might have to take it out and empty it once in the middle of the day -- though that's not a certainty. Diva says the cup holds one ounce and the entire menstrual flow is only 3-4 oz, so you might still be able to go 12 hours. I confess I've been wearing it more than that, from when I get up to bedtime. This is a big deal, because when it take it out to empty it you're supposed to wash it with hot soapy water, not something I particularly want to be doing in the bathroom sink area at work. (Diva does say if you're in a public washroom you can just wipe the cup out with tolet paper, put it back in, and wash it later.) I just leave it out at night -- haven't used tampons at night for years now, since being horizontal means I don't bleed enough to worry about.

    I've had no leakage, and have never seen more than about 1/8" of blood in the cup. I don't think even a much heavier bleeder would have much trouble with leakage, because the cup gets such a tight seal (more on that later) when it's inserted right. Inserting it right mainly consists of wetting it, folding it as directed, putting it in, and not pushing it farther up the way to do a tampon. When I spoke to someone from Diva's excellent customer service (more on that later, too) she said to leave it riding as low as possible; I did that, with the little stem right inside the outer labia, but it does tend to move up a bit on its own during the day.

    There's no question that the thing works for me, and it's at least as comfortable as a tampon. It has some major advantages over tampons: it only has to be purchased once, and you don't have to slip a spare into your pocket (assuming your work clothes have pockets!) or carry a purse to the ladies' room. (I once had one fall out of my laptop bag during a conference -- under the table, luckily, so I don't think anyone saw.) And speaking of the ladies' room, that's another major advantage over tampons: you don't have to worry about urinating on strings, and it doesn't pop out like tampons sometimes do when you defecate.

    I've had two issues with the Cup. First, it's a bit harder to take a leak -- I have to bear down a bit. I think it's the same problem men with enlargeed prostates have, when there's a bit of compression of the urethra. It's not too bad, not nearly as bad as having a UTI for instance. Second and more serious, the thing is hard as hell for me to get out. Diva's instructions involve grabbing the bottom of the cup and pulling; never a devotee of fisting, I have to bear down hard to get it to where I can get two fingers on it. This should be much less of a problem for anyone who's been through childbirth or is just bigger to begin with. I don't know if either statistic is relevant, but remember I'm a very small person (size 4 pants, usually) and that I have such a small mouth that dentists generally go running for their child-sized implements of torture. However, even once you get a grip on it, the cup is hard to get out, because it seems to form a seal with all those moist tissues. (Oh, yeah -- Diva says another advantage is the cup doesn't dry out vaginal moisture like a tampon. They're right.) I called their extremely and impressively helpful customer service, and the woman I spoke to offered to exchange mine for the smaller size if necessary, but pointed out there's not that much difference between sizes really and offered a few other tips that help a bit -- cutting the stem to 1/4" so the cup can ride lower, twisting as you pull out. Even when I try to tilt it back as I pull, by the way, removal is only difficult; it's never been messy, the way Instead can be.

    I've kept the cup I bought, though I'm still thinking about asking to trade down a size. (I'm impressed they even offer, since it's not like they can resell the old one.) I might call back for further tips first, to see if I'm twisting on the right axis. There does seem to be a knack to it. I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone too squeamish to use an o.b. tampon (the non-inserter type) or who isn't comfortable wearing a tampon. For me, it works, it's comfortable, and I don't have to worry about carrying tampons around. I'm keeping it.

    Posted by dichroic at 12:26 PM | Comments (4)

    May 06, 2004

    a very bad idea

    Well, this is about the worst idea ever. (OK, OK, not as bad as torturing prisoners, but anyway. There are big signs over the higway I take to and from work that are meant to show when there are accidents ahead, notify commuters when the roads will be closed for construction, and broadcast Amber Alerts. This week they've been showing


    ROAD CONDITIONS


    CALL 511


    This is apparently a service provided by the AZ DoT; it uses voice recognition software and will let you know about road conditions on a particular road or for the region as a whole and something or other I missed about the Grand Canyon. It doesn't seem to understand me very well, but I'm sure if it did it would be useful.


    Still, about the last thing we need is the state encouraging drivers to use their cell phones while on the road! What are they thinking?

    Oh, and just to add insult to injury, I can't get it to work from my work phone, so I couldn't even call for info before I head home, just when I really need it. I hope my tax dollars aren't funding this.

    Posted by dichroic at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

    May 05, 2004

    honor and shame

    I remember My Lai. I know who Lieutenant Calley was and why he was in the news. I don't remember when they were in the news; I was barely a year old in 1968 during the massacre of over 300 unarmed civilians. I don't remember being told about it; my only memories at all of the war are that my uncle wasn't around much and wrote us long letters.

    For me this is history and that's my point: it is history. I'm not using the word just to mean "something that's well into the past", either; this is something that made it into the history books, so that those of us who came later know about it. It's a big deal.

    It doesn't sound as if what's happened at Abu Ghraib and possibly other Iraqi prisons is an atrocity on the scale of My Lai, at the individual scale, but that's a lot like saying My Lai wasn't as bad as the Holocaust. [Note: 25 deaths are currently being investigated, but at least half of them appear to be of natural causes. One was ruled a justifiable homicide.] The difference is in degree, but not in kind, and all three events show the same frightening mindset, a view of the enemy as a subhuman. Not even that, really; in this state there is such a thing as felony abuse of animals. Abu Ghraib, like My Lai, like lynchmobs to which some people are comparing it, betrays a level of hate that says that "the other" deserves any treatment, any pain, any abuse just for being who he or she is.

    I do not believe that all of our military is full of the same kind of mindset, because I don't want to believe it and I simply refuse to. Our military is a dichotomy. The academies turn out cadets who are indoctrinated in the idea that honor is their most precious possession, our Marines and Rangers are torn down as individuals and rebuilt as a band of brothers, our officers are given responsibilities and accountabilities few would ever get in civilian life. Yet on the ugly side, there have been rapes reported by servicemen serving abroad, there were those who collected ears or fingers in Vietnam, there are those who ten or thirty or fifty years after their war ended are still using pejoratives to talk about anyone of the same ethnicity as their enemy. (I have myself heard "Jap", "gook", and "raghead" used by former servicemen of the last several generations.) It's telling that even an MP who reported the Abu Ghraib abuses consistently referred to prisoners as "it" in his testimony.

    The only explanation of the dichotomy is that they're all human, but that's not an excuse. Being a civilized human should mean never giving in to the barbaric impulses, or being faced with severe penalties for those few who do. Being in the military should mean something more: a choice to put honor above easy pleasures and sometimes even above life. It doesn't always. I've worked with, been friends with, and been related to quite a few whose proudest claim is that they "served", and this is what most of them (who weren't drafted) say. They tell stories of the ship captain who, off duty and asleep when his navigator ran the ship aground, was nonetheless immediately relieved of command ... because it was on his watch and under his command and he was responsible. I've seen a few too many military abuses to believe that wholeheartedly, from rapes of Japanese schoolgirls to Tailhook. In some cases, those who perpetrated the offense as well as others who bore responsibility were broken, in others (like My Lai) some were broken while others higher up escaped charges.

    On the larger political scale, Abu Ghraib may well cause as much damage or more than My Lai. We're already in a precarious position in our relations to the entire Middle East; our one boast has been that we liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein. If we replaced him with a brigade of sadistic petty dictators, we have lost even that tenuous high ground. It doesn't help that Iraqis have been complaining about endemic abuse without being believed or that Rumsfeld and the military have known about this for a few months now and weren't admitting anything until the press broke the story.

    This outrage diminishes our credibility with the whole world, including those who are serving and dying with us. It decreases the chance that we will be able to build peace elsewhere in the Middle East. We're now getting many more claims of abuse and it makes it extremely difficult to determine which are true -- after all, for a long time anyone who complained about abuse at Abu Ghraib was assumed to be just propagandizing. Worst, it may prevent us from being able to build a democratic Iraq, which means all those soldiers who did enlist as a matter of honor and who died in that service, as well as quite a few Iraqis, may have died for nothing. How does it feel to render your brother's death meaningless?

    I wonder if those soldiers who abused the prisoners enjoyed it. The price we all have only just started to pay for their fun is way too high. The worst excuse I've heard so far is that the soldiers "weren't sufficiently trained in the Geneva Conventions". First, it's a matter of professionalism. The Geneva Conventions are not hard to find on the Web. If I were responsible for POWs, I might just go read them. Second, the first point is irrelevant, because this is one of those times where all you need to know you learned in kindergarten. The relevant principle is, "Don't be a bully." How does it feel to be flunking kindergarten?

    The soldiers shown in the photos are facing prosecution, but this is a case where the military concept of responsibility for what's happened on your watch must be invoked. The original Hersh article quotes one of the defense lawyers, "Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make them talk was to have them walk around nude?”. We can't erase a national shame; the best we can do is to go forward in accordance with the dictates of honor. Accountability needs to go all the way up the chain of responsibilty. Lt. Col. Phillabaum, Brig. Gen. G Karpinski, Lt. Gen Sanchez, it's your watch. And who is reponsible for putting civilian contractors in positions where they were inadequately trained and supervised? General Myers, Mr. Rumsfeld, Commander-in-Chief Bush, it's your watch too. How does it feel to be making history?

    Posted by dichroic at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

    muscle-headed but insured

    I'm brewing a political rant and a product review for later in the day. Meanwhile, I'll just note a few random thoughts.

    Rowers don't really like it when you yell, "Stroke...stroke...stroke" at them. If you're a large bunch of ROTC types about to start on a training run, complete with BDUs and backpacks, the rower in question is likely to be tempted to yell back, "What are you, practicing before you go off and torture some prisoners?" At least, if the rower is me. Fortunately I managed to restrain myself, as that didn't seem either prudent, safe or fair to them. I'd like to believe our military is not all tarred with the same brush.

    Exercise-induced brain cell attition continues. Yesterday I manage to tell a coworker about it twice, convincing myself in the course of the second telling that I had forgotten to list the conference room for a meeting I'd called. I hadn't.) Meanwhile, the resources diverted from the brain are going to my muscles. My shoulders and arms are noticeably -- to me -- bigger and I think my abs are too. Unfortunately, the surface fat is still there, so they're not more defined or better-looking, just bigger. All this means is that armholes are tighter and when I row my arms rub against my sides, which gets old after a thousand strokes. Maybe the next thing is that the muscle will burn more calories and so I'll start to burn fat and show some definition. That's what they claim is supposed to happen, anyway.

    I get a couple of long weekends in a row at the end of this month, because first we have the regatta, for which I had to take Monday off to drive home, and then it's Memorial Day. I get three weeks of vacation (two is standard in the US) as well as 11 holidays, but it's still not nearly enough. Five would be better, but I wouldn't want to pay European tax rates to get it. Some time, though, I really should do that math: add in my health insurance costs to my taxes and figure out the effective percentage. I do have decent insurance through my company, so even with reacent years' raises, I suspect it's still lower than in most of the countries with socialized medicine.

    That's an interesting point, by the way. I keep hearing horror stories about health care or lack thereof in the US, and I'm not denigrating those stories, but I've always had good insurance through work. So has Rudder, and granted that we're college-educated engineers and all that, but then so have my parents, generally through Mom's job as an admin. In fact, even when I was in college I stayed on my parents' insurance because I was in the same city and theirs was cheaper than Student Health. So there are a lot of us for whom the system works -- but even for us, costs have gone up quite a lot in the last few years, and I've never been a believer in the "I've Got Mine" school of poltical thought.

    Posted by dichroic at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

    May 04, 2004

    un-scrooged?

    Update on this incident: Apparently the same exact thing happened to someone else, which makes it considerably easier for the company to believe they were at fault. Furthermore, they have the tape of the original call, in which I did ask, "Are you sure there will be no negative effect to my account [if I withdraw the money]?" Smart me, for not specificially limiting the question to tax penalties.

    I should clarify, by the way, that this is not the HR department of the company I work for, but a separate company retained to manage our 401(k) funds. Apparently my company is not very happy with them over this.

    The two companies have worked out an offer: if I send in a check returning the money I withdrew, they will deposit the amount of matching funds I would have earned in those 90 days. I'm not thrilled about having to scratch up the cash (a few hundred dollars) but on the other hand I would be returning it to my own retirement account. Also, the amount to be gained is roughly twice the amount I withdrew. I told the rep I'd call him back tomorrow with my decision, and thanked him for following up.

    Either way, this is good. Honestly, I expected that the rep would write down what happened on a piece of paper, it would get passed up the chain of command, some higher-up would laugh at it, and I'd never hear of the matter again. Score one for my company.

    Posted by dichroic at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

    May 03, 2004

    Flowers for Algernon, last half

    I've been trying to work out harder lately in preparation for a race at the end of this month (the Gold Rush, in Sacramento) and sure enough, brain cells are ging on strike. I'm beginning to wonder if that stereotype about athletes being stupid has some basis in fact or if it's just me. Either way, with Rudder away, my nightly check has been extended to cover things that should be routine: check front door is locked, back door is locked, garage is closed, stove is off, both cats in, vitamin taken, alarm set, clothes packed for tomorrow. (The stove and garage door can be assumed in more highly functional times.) I left my PDA at work over the weekend so I couldn't address a card -- then when I got to work I started to write my name on the envelope instead of the recipient's.

    And tonight -- I don't know if this is stupidity or loneliness, though Rudder's only been gone a day) I caught myself saying to the cat, "I'll let you out back, but only if you promise to come in at bedtime." I stopped myself by 'promise', realizing that may well be the stupidest sentence ever to emerge from my mouth. (Cat owners will realize that even if they could speak and understand English, a cat would never make a promise. Or maybe he just wouldn't keep it.)

    Oh what the heck. I responded to this at Chez Mechaieh the other day -- I think that means I'm supposed to pass it on. And the way my brain cells are going right now, I'll probably believe anything I read: Invent a memory of me and post it in the comments. It can be anything you want, so long as it's something that's never happened. Then, of course, post this to your journal and see what people would like to remember of you, only the universe failed to cooperate in making it happen so they had to make it up instead.

    Posted by dichroic at 08:46 PM | Comments (2)

    retail therapy

    I have got to figure out a better way to cheer myself up when Rudder goes away than retail therapy. I'd have been OK with the pedicure and the mall trip, mostly because I couldn't find anything I wanted in the mall anyway except a couple of hair ornaments, but then I resorted to catalogs and the Internet to find the things I was looking for in the first place -- a few books (I ended up getting used instead of new, so hardbacks cost the same as new papberbacks would have), a twin set, another cardigan and a sleeveless turtleneck (on sale), two dresses (one on sale) and another sleeveless sweater.

    Whew. I was afraid it would look like more listed out like that. Still, Alibris, L.L. Bean, and The Territory Ahead are evil tempting places. No, they're not. It's all my own fault for seeking them out. It's not that I don't have the money, just that I'd be much better off saving or investing it. (Well, saving it, anyway. As soon as I invest in anything it immediately drops like a stone. At least when I fritter away cash on clothing I get something back for my money.)

    Unfortunately, it's getting too hot here to go hiking instead, which is what I used to do. Maybe next time, I'll go bouldering at the climbing gym. And then I'll get a pedicure.

    Posted by dichroic at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

    workout entry

    Wednesday 4/26: erged instead of rowing -- got a late start, got all the way out to the lake and decided my stomach still wasn't settled enough. Instead of doing starts as planned, I did 1Ks -- I'd been needing to before the races. 1K warmup, 1K on (4:28.9!!), 2K off, 1K on (only about 4:48), 1K cooldown.

    Thursday: We both decided to sleep in and skip the gym. Snuggling in your sleep is good for the soul, if not the biceps. Walked 2.7K at lunch.

    Friday: Did those starts I missed on Wednesday: 1: start + high 10; 2: start + high 10, settle for 10; 3 through 7: start + high 10; 8 through 12: start + high 20 because that's the start I'll do for the 49er Dash (300 meters) at the Gold Rush. Downloaded and plotted data. Walked 2.4K at lunch.

    Saturday: Dug holes for some more plants. Some of our soil is NOT cooperative!

    Sunday: Mall walking. Carrying shopping bags, of course.

    Monday: 4x300, with long rests between, for a total of 12,200m. Walked 2.4K at lunch.

    Posted by dichroic at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

    May 02, 2004

    photo album started

    I was just fooling around with my other domain and I've got our photo album started. So far, only the Projects and USA links work; the former is a clone of the backyard entry I put up here last weekend, and the latter contains some old photos I'd taken in Texas, made into a photo album using Photoshop's automated Gallery feature.

    It turns out I can make albums using either iPhoto or Photoshop, but both create reckless amounts of pages and images so I haven't decided if I like them. I do like Photoshop's templates much better, though. Anyway, go look. The Texas gallery lets you leave feedback, too.

    Posted by dichroic at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)