August 31, 2004

confirmed unprejudices

Maybe it's because of their decision to spotlight moderate members of their party, but I'm having an odd reaction to the convention. Or rather, I'm having a completely standard and common reaction, but in an odd way.

I had my pre-existing opinions confirmed.

Yes, that's most people's usual reactions to political speeches. The difference is that this isn't an opinion on who's better. I have a belief that most people are not adherents to one strict line or another; that they have opinins somewhere in the middle on most issues and that they choose their candidate and party affiliation according to how they prioritize those beliefs. So you can have two people with exactly the same views on various issues, but one votes Democrat and one votes Republican according to which of those issues are most important to them. This is complicated further by the fact that most issues in real life aren't binary, even the most divisive ones. For example, I think most people believe in legal abortion in some circumstances, even though not all of those would describe themselves as pro-choice. Those beliefs run from on-demand in any trimester on one extreme to only to save the mother's life on the other, with in-between steps of saving the mother's life or health, legal in cases of rape or incest, legal only in the first trimester, and endless other shadings. Social Security, Medicare, Iraq, war on terrorism, taxes, personal liberties, same thing.

What I kept hearing over and over in speeches and interviews from Bush supporters, from John McCain to alternate convention delegates - and again, maybe this is just because they're highlighting the moderates - was, "I disagree with him on some issues, but we need someone who will be firm and unwavering on the war in Iraq." I have a niggling suspicion that "some issues" here means "most domestic issues", but I may be wrong on that.

Posted by dichroic at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

a Very Big Deal and a rather small conundrum

Eep. I really may be coxing in the Head of the Charles. If you are not a rower or not from Boston, let me just say this is a Very Big Event. Last year they had 300,000 spectators watching 7000 participants. And it's a coxswain's race; the river is very winding with narrow bridges followed by tight turns. There can be 75 boats in each event starting at 10-second intervals. And just to make it more complicated, I might not get to practice with this crew at all ahead of the race. Yikes.

However, I can pick the brains of Yosemite Sam and any of Coach DI's coxswains who have done this race, as well as Rudder who did it in a single and so had to both row and steer. I may be able to get in some coxing practice on one or another of the local crews, as well. It's still not definite because so many people apply that not all crews get in the race. The supposedly-random draw will be in the first week of September.

And at least I'll have no trouble exceeding the 100-lb minimum coxswain weight!

Meanwhile, a knitting conundrum, since I know several knitters read this. I want to make this poncho, which just requires a 16" by 55" square "of any yarn, any stitch". I have about 500 yards of Henry's Attic Monte Cristo, a bumpy undyed cotton yarn (boucle?). If I'd been smarter, I'd have gotten something with some wool content so it would stretch. The Monte Cristo information says it knits up at 4.5 st./in. on 7 needle. I currently have needles in sizes 5, 8, 11, and 15. What I need is advice on what stitch and needle size to use.

I want something in an open lacy knit, to let whatever I'm wearing show through and keep it cool enough to wear out here. I'm envisioning an earth-mother effect rather than anything delicate or dressy. I tried doing a small swatch of Diagonal Eyelet pattern on the sz 15 needles, but after a couple of rows it just looked like a jumbled mess and so I ripped it out. So do I need to find a tighter pattern, use smaller needles, or just stick with it longer and trust everything will look all right in the final product?

Posted by dichroic at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2004

expensive hobby

Drat. I thought I'd be done with my scarf now, but it appears to need two more stripes (a total or 36 rows, 32 stitches/row, so that's still not too daunting).

I'm a bit disappointed to realize that knitting my own sweaters may be more expensive than just buying the darn things. Yesterda I spent $75 at the local yarn store: 1 red skein of a tape yarn for a small scarf, to hang around the collar of a jacket (I'm envisioning only about 3" wide by 36" or less long); 3 pink-and-red skeins Rudder liked, in a cotton for my sleeveless sweater, and one long hank of undyed cotton yarn (500 yards, and what a pain it was to wind into a ball) for a poncho. Also one button to finish off my purse and a set of size 9 needles. At least with beading it was usually cheaper to make my own for most things.

A quick check of the Gap and J. Crew websites cheered me up a little, though; for one thing, to buy the same items thee would cost a little more, and for another I don't like the Gap's ponchos as much, at least not for my climate.

Posted by dichroic at 05:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2004

dizzy knitting

Bleah - I'm on my second day of being dizzy. I think it's probably a minor sinus infection, htough I don't really have any other symptoms. At any rate, it's not quite as bad as yesterday and at least today I don't have to row, drive to work or sit through an all day class, all of which conspired to make yesterday a bit too interesting.

I've been reading the Knitlist and I think it's being a bad influence. I'm beginning to feel lke maybe I should try having a couple of projects going at once, instead of one and ideas for the next. On the other hand, newbie that I am, I'm mindboggled by a few of the questions that come up there - some of them, from people more experienced than I am, seem like the obvious answer is either "think it through" or "try it and see". I'm beginning to think a ot of people just have a respect for patterns that's a bit foreign to me, though some of that is also because I seem to be most attracted to projects that are fairly free-form. I'm gathering my courage to try a sleeveless sweater, bolstered by the realization that each side is only twice as wide (in number of stitches) as the scarf I'm more than halfway through, and is much shorter. On the other hand, the pattern is for a 32" bust, so I'm just figuring on adding enough stitches to make it go around me. I don't think that will hurt anything, though I will have to guess on whether and how much to increase the armholes. (Given the trouble I have with armholes in purchased sweaters and my fall workout plan, the answer is probably yes, a bunch.) I also want to try a poncho, a lacy short scarf, and the Big Sack sweater from the Stitch and Bitch book, not necessarily in that order. Then I can figure out where and when I'd actually wear the BSS. I suppose I could give it to my mother or MIL, but it doesn't really look like either of their style. Maybe I could just do it in a lighter weight but still bulky yarn that could compress easily for travel.

Posted by dichroic at 09:48 AM | Comments (2)

August 26, 2004

changing of the guards (forwards, goalies....)

Olympic moment of the day: the expression on Rulan Gardner's face as he unlaced his wrestling boots for the last time and left them by the mat for someone else to fill.

I just figured out who he reminds me of: whatshisname who played Ruby's poor cheated palooka of a husband in the movie Chicago. Maybe that's why I'm so glad Rulan got to go out with an Olympic medal.

Similarly, in the women's soccer I don't know whether to root for the US so Hamm, Chastain, et al. can go out on a winning note or Brazil so they can prove to their country that soccer isn't only a men's sport. On second thought, considering the relative status of women's sports vs men's even in the US, maybe I will root for the US. Though I'm not sure a medal will help with that issue. After all, our women's basketball team has been doing far better than the "dream team" but I don't suppose that will do anything to bring parity between NBA and WNBA salaries. If I got to choose, actually, I'd lower the men's salaries to match the women's rather than the other way around.

Note to row2k: the Olympics coverage has been very nice, thank you, but now that rowing in the Olympics is over, how about some reporting on events some of your readers actually participate in, like say Canadian Masters Nationals and US Masters Nationals, both last weekend? It might be a nice change from worrying about why Sally Robbins laid down in the boat and whether her teammates are still ticked.

Minor soccer spoiler below:

NB: Apparently Zeus, the god honored by the Olympic games, is as ambivalent as I am. Just at the moment the soccer game is tied.

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

August 25, 2004

workout entry

Drat! The last workout record I can find ends August 10. I didn't leave for the races until over a week later on the 18, and I'm pretty sure I didn't take the whole previous week off. What must have happened was that since my paper rowing / erg log lives in my gym bag, I never got around to writing down Wednesday and Friday's rows. I'll have to estimate distances using some very vague memories and a knowledge of the workout schedule.

Tuesday, 8/10: Did 1200m warmup and then a 1K test piece, because a) it was far enough before the races not to hurt, b) I'd missed the previous Friday, and c) I wasn't thrilled with my 1K time the week before. 1K time was 4:27.2, my best in a couple of years but not best ever.

Wednesday, 8/11: Rudder's schedule said to do 3 1K pieces on the water - I usually only do 2 laps to his 3 so decided to just do 2 pieces, on the theory that anything more wouldn't really be tapering for me. (That's one of the very vague memories referenced above.) I'll guess about 9000m for the row.

Thursday: No gym, due to tapering.

Friday, 8/13: 3 sets of 3 x 1' on, 1' off, with the "on" parts of each set simulating the start, middle, and end of a race. Best guess is about 7000m. That day we loaded the boats on the trailer for Nationals, so I didn't do anything the next week.

Thursday 8/19 - Sunday 8/22: I'm estimating 32 km over the race, including rowing to the start, warmups, racing, rowing back in, and all those many many walks from the peninsula back to the boats.

Wednesday, 8/25: On the erg, 1K warmup, 1K with resistance at 10 and rate under 14. On weights, 1 set of 25 on each exercise with as little resting as possible.

Total distance for year as of 8/25: 1048.7

Posted by dichroic at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Autumn, Alcott, and memories of Columbia days

Coming home yesterday, I realized Fall had started for me. I had earworms of wistful old James Taylor songs (Carolina on My Mind, Sweet Baby James) and a jones for the big Fall LL Bean catalog. I understand the valid astronomic reasons for having seasons officially start when they do, but as far as I'm concerned they really start at the beginning of a month - to me, Winter runs from December through February, Spring is March, April and May, Summer is the three months I got off from school despite the undeniable truth that we only actually got about the last five days of June off (with a child's perception of time, I thought for years that July 4 came in the middle of summer vacation), and Fall is September through November.

I get so sick of summer that I'm in the mood for Fall well before it starts -- this year my annual mood swing is actually late because I've been so focused on last week's races. Last year I think I began wanting to wear Fall colors by about the middle of August. This year the weather has gifted me with a noticeable cooldown to complement my mood; it's hitting barely over 100 and our low temps are back to 80 or so. I do hope this lasts.

I've always enjoyed the first feeling of crispness on a breeze, but in the last decade and a half I've come to love Fall because it promises an end to summer heat that's overstayed a welcome I never gave it in the first place. Fortunately I have things like sleeveless sweaters or lightweight items in Fall colors so that I can compromise between a Fall mood and temperatures that would spell S-u-m-m-e-r anywhere else. And fortunately I can listen to elegiac Fall music and read cozy books that feel like nesting to me without any regard for weather or calendar.

Speaking of cozy books, I was thinking about Little Women this morning, for some reason. There are some things about that book I've never understood and some that just seem odd in this time. Am I the only one who's always thought it strange that Theodore Laurence "thrashed" other boys to make them stop calling him Dora and then chose the nickname Laurie? Laura Ingalls Wilder was living on the prairie by the time Alcott was writing LW; if the name Laura was current, the nickname Laurie for a girl seems likely to have been around.

The word "middle-class" must not have been common in Alcott's time; the Marches are certainly not poor except by contrast to former glories; they have enough to eat and some to give away, a roof that doesn't leak, and even household help. Meg and Jo work because they begged to, and though the money they bring in does seem to help, there's no implication that necessity absolutely force the choice. But why does an Army chaplain's stipend not support his family? And what does Mr. March do after getting back from the War? There's never a mention that he's affiliated with any church, but he's too saintly to live off of his daughters' labor. (Bronson Alcott probably wasn't, but Mr. March seems to be a greatly idealized version of Louisa's father the flaky idealist.)

Also, it seems odd that the Marches' modest house would be immediately next door to the Laurence's mansion. I don't suppose there were zoning laws, but what about neighborhoods?

In other media, I am a regular Frankie fan:
rhps lips
YOU ARE A ROCKY GOD! You know this movie, you could
dress up as Frankie, and pull it off in style!
You can recite the whole damn movie and sing
every friggin song! YOU KICK ASS!!

Whats your Rocky Horror IQ?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by dichroic at 09:52 AM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2004


Here's what I posted to the Boathouse LJ Community:
Masters Nationals are done - loads of fun. Thusday was the worst, weather-wise - so hot and humid we were all wiped by the end of the day. Friday and part of Saturday we had some rain, but fortunately no thunder (well, only early Sat., well before the races) and Sunday was cloudy so those days were all nice and cool. Competition seemed to be at a higher level than last year, but of the five who went from my lake we came home with medals for one of the mixed doubles (bronze), one of the men's doubles (bronze) and the W1xD (gold), and I got to row finals in all my races (two went straight there, one we had to race a heat). We also got to see old friends from other clubs and hook up with a few nonrowing friends who came out to watch, so it was a good time. Did anyone else here go?

PS: Any of you juniors who want coxing experience, that may be the place to get it. There was one kid, I think from Long Beach RA, who coxed 18 events over the 4 days!

Some other things I didn't mention there:
The regatta site has sort of an inlet into which boats are lauched, with a peninsula in front of it where we sat to watch the races. (There are photos here.) That meant that every time one of us was in a race, I'd walk around to help them put in, walk out to watch or videotape the race, then walk back to help them get the boat and oars out. Lots and lots of distance covered. (Speaking of which, I need to figure a rough estimate of distance covered to post over at Fivehundred.) It was interesting to see what happened to my body in four days during which I was mostly either rowing or walking. Depending on whether you trust the regatta scale or my Tanita scale at home, I lost either two pounds or none but about 2% body fat. I'm inclined to believe the latter partly because I know what I originally weighed on it but also because one day there I ended doing a lot of running, braless*. One calf began to hurt from running in flipflops but the adipose tissue didn't ache at all, oddly enough.

*Stupid regatta rule: we found out after we got there that all crews except composite ones were sternly required to wear matching colored shirts. Apparently they think this is necessary to tell crews apart "because it's too hard to see the bow numbers". Since we didn't know this before hand and didn't want to wear the same uni two sweaty days in a row, and because one of the local clubs had borrowed one of my unis and lost it so I didn't have one to match what She-Hulk was wearing that day, I had to buy a navy top. Since all my unis have built-in shelf bras, I didn't have a spare sports bra along. At least rowing is low-impact. I'm not sure why I think it matters to write this all out, but anyway.

I'm definitely a bit squirrelly, being back to the desk job. I was tired enough to be able to sleep on the second half of the plane ride yesterday -- we spent the first half getting acquiainted with and then talking about boats for future regattas with the rower across the aisle -- but now I've rested I'm definitely not in sitting still mode. I do wish my job were a bit less sedentary (while still reasonably challenging, lucrative, and satisfying - the above definitely feels like one of those "be careful what you wish for" statements).

Oh and speaking of challenging, one possible result of yesterday's airplane discussion is that I just might end up coxing a boat at the Head of the Charles in October, a prospect to strike fear in the heart of any cox with skills as rusty as mine. If so, I'm going to pick Yosemite Sam's brains and get in some practice on local crews. I think it's likely to come to nothing, especially as I was honest that I thought she could get someone with more relevant experience. Still, it might be fun, if scary to be in that race, and it would be fun to cox a strong and nonwhiny women's crew, as this one appears to be. That would make planning my fall training interesting, if I ended up doing both that in October and doing the marathon regatta in November.

I'm waiting until tonight to make the obligatory "Mom, we're back" call, in hoipes she'll have talked to my uncle by then. I'm curious to see what he thought of the whole thing. We did get to spend a lot of time talking to him and I think he enjoyed a few of the characters he met there. Unfortunately we had to be running around a lot while Mechaieh was there and I think she was feeling a bit groggy, but at least she got a nice cool day to sit back by a lake and watch the boats go by.

Yes. Definitely fidgety. Two meetings and about three hours until time to go home. Tick tick tick tick.....

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

August 23, 2004

pour l'amour ou pour le sport

I can report that it is a lot more fun to compete in the Masters National Championship Regatta, even when finishing DFL, than it is to be a spectator. And I didn't only finish DFL, either. Of my three I got into finals in all three of my events. The two singles races didn't have enough competitors to force us into heats, but in the doubles race I rowed with She-Hulk, we did have heats races. There were four competitors in our heat, so we'd have only had to beat one boat to advance to finals, but one boat scratch so all three of us were in. (We still had to race, but nobody was pulling all out since it didn't matter.) We've have been in anyway, though, because we beat one of the other boats in the event. Just to prove it, we beat them again in the finals race on Sunday.

(Er, were you all paying attention there? WE BEAT A BOAT!!!!!!!!)

Rowing's infrastructure is inherently different that footballbasketballbaseballhockey. The people in it are playing for passion, not money, and most of the people watching will be rowing in the next race or the one after that. I mean, I'm not particularly fast. In golf terms, I'm a duffer. I compete at local Masters events; this was my first Nationals. And yet, piddler that I am, I've been coached by Olympians, including a gold medal winner. I was sitting next to a National team member (and his father, a former Olympian) this morning at breakfast before catching the plane home. They're not different species to me, the way a pro baseball player is to a Little Leaguer. I can see the continuity and the clear path from me to them.

I think it's the same in a lot of the other obscure Olympic sports - even in the two semesters of fencing I took in college, I was coached by an Olympian. I think sort of thing may be true in soccer in some countries - there are local kids clubs, and local adult clubs and then there are better and better ones so that there's a continuum from the kid learning to play to the Olympians. People are in their sports for passion, not money, and they're performing for themselves and for all the others who share their passion, not putting on a show for a disinterested audience. None of which is to say it wouldn't be nice if the top rowers could make lots of money. The only sports I can think of that combine the continuum with the big money at the top are golf and tennis, where everyone knows where they rank and how much better they'd need to do to play with the big boys and girls - and even there, the women's winnings usually aren't nearly on a par (er, sorry) with the men's. It makes the sports a lot more interesting, at least to me.

It was a good four days. I got to hang out with my uncle and Mechaieh, who came out to watch. We did a lot of networking with people from other rowing clubs (important so we can put boats together for other regattas). We met a 70-year-old woman rower from Alaska, who was there on her own and was delighted to find a group to be adopted by. I got critiqued by a four-time Olympian (Bulgaria, 1970s and 1980s) who rows on our lake but not usually when we're out there: "Your form is good but you need to train harder." (Sigh.) She-Hulk and I came in only 5 seconds slower than she did in another doubles race with a (much bigger) woman from another club. And we beat a boat!

Posted by dichroic at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2004

flinging myself into it

Richard Bach is best known for his mystical new-agey stuff like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions: Confessions of a Reluctant Messiah, and One. As mystical new-agey stuff goes, they're not bad, which is to say I enjoyed them on first reading but don't reread them much now. His aviation writings are definitely worth rereading, however. They are a bit more grounded, if you'll excuse the expression, and are suffused, shot through, totally saturated in the love of flying and airplanes.

In one essay (probably collected in A Gift of Wings) Bach tells of talking to a seatmate on a commercial airplane. The man spends most of the flight talking about his WWII military experience in loving detail, then winds up the rest of his life in one sentence :"And so I came home, got married, got a job with the company, and here I am." In contrast, Bach asks a recreational pilot what he remembers about his life and gets, "What do I remember? WHat don't I remember! Just yesterday I was out at the airport and ...." and he's off, spinning stories, hanger flying, living and reliving his life.

That's what pilots are like. That's what rowers are like. That's what people who compete (at any level) in any of those sports now going on in Greece and people who read SF and go to cons and people who knit and people who do just about anything they really, really care about are like. It's true that college was a seminal time for me, and that my wedding day had wonderful memories and so on, but if I thought those were the very best times and it was all downhill from there I think I'd have to shoot myself. My goal is never to be able to summarize my most recent decades as "and so I settled down and here I am". I don't want to settle down, if that ever means not caring.

And so I'm off to Masters Nationals tomorrow, and even though I'm not terribly fast I'm going to row each race knowing that I have at least a chance to do well in it. I'm going to fling myself into this weekend without worrying about how I'll get out of it (well, I do have airfare home!) and I'm going to suck the marrow out of it.

I don't know why I thought of Bach today. I haven't read him in a while. Maybe this is my brain's way of reminding me of what I need to remember now.

Posted by dichroic at 02:02 PM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2004

regatta, mostly

OKsonorowingtodayortomorrowandthenweflyouttoOakRidgefortheraces. Yeah, I'm tapering, can you tell? That's about the way I feel: no spaces between words. It's not too bad at the moment; hopefully the nervous energy will get much worse and I'll be dying to do something by the time of my first race on Thursday.

The weekend involved sleeping, finishing the purse, getting two and a half stripes into my Gryffindor scarf, and watching much Olympics including lots of artificially inflated drama. The low point so far in that respect was in the men's beach volleyball: "And he's got sand in his EYE!! Will he be able to get it out???" Ye gods. Ye Greek gods, in specific. Perhaps a thunderbolt or so would help?

Schedule for this week is as follows:

We fly out Wednesday. I've got one heat each on Thursday and Friday mornings and then one race that goes straight to a final on Saturday. If I come in in the first three in a heat, I could have an additional race on Saturday or Sunday. Rudder has about three races each day and I fully expect him to make it into all of his finals. If you really really care, you can watch the results in almost real time at Racetrak We will be racing under the name "Tempe Junior Crew" (TJC) -- it's a long story -- or you can email me if you want our actual last names so you can tell which of us is which. And on the weekend, we've got friends and relations coming in, so it should be lots of fun all around.

Posted by dichroic at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004

finished purse

I like the way this came out technically and I really like each of the yarns I used; I'm just not sure of the color combination. (If anything looks a little weird it's because I had to Photoshop the image to keep the purse from being too dark and the background too light.) It's all finished except for the lining.

Posted by dichroic at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2004

Olympic coverage

Olympic opening ceremony: Beautiful. A bit odd in some of the symbolism but that's typical and it was all worth staying up past our bedtimes for. The parade of Greek history was especially cool, and whatshername the Games' organizer deserved to be every bit as proud and glad as she looked.

Athletes' parade: a quick lesson on what countries have good dentistry and cutting edge electronics, because of all the big smiles and videocams the athletes had. The two are surprisingly uncorrelated.

Sucks: All those athletes who are competing today and had to miss the Ceremonies. If I were one of them I'd hate that.

Proud: Of Alan Iverson, one of the few NBA stars who was there and looked excited about it. There were others, like Yao Min, but most of those were competing for their home countries rather than the US. For $ome rea$on US-native sports stars don't apear to properly appreciate the Olympics.

Complaints: It's not his fault, but I can tell I'm going to be very tired of hearing about Michael Phelps in a very short time. And where were the cameras when the Zew Zealand women's sculling pair flipped? All I saw (on our videotape, because it was broadcast at 2AM) was a quick shot of them getting back into the boat.

Perks: Thanks to all that time in front of the TV, the purse I was working on is done and is now drying after blocking. I'll post a picture later.

Posted by dichroic at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2004

Time: strand into the past

In a comment to someone who had written a beautiful essay remembering a Jewish friend, I told her about the Jewish custom of naming a child after someone you love who has died. It's not a strict custom; often the child is given a different name that begins with the same letter or has the same meaning, or is converted to the appropriate gender. My mother Marsha was named after her uncle Morris, and my brother was named after our grandmother Fanny. Her Hebrew name is Tzipporah, which means a bird, so in Hebrew he's Aleksandr Tzippor. (His first name is just one my mother liked.) It's a way of perpetuating a loving memory, to live on for another generation.

As I was writing, I realized somethign I should have thought about long since. My first and middle names are Paula Kay, after my great-grandmother Pauline and a Great-Aunt Kate (no one seems to be sure if Kate was short for Katherine and anyway her original name was probably in Yiddish). My Hebrew -- actually Yiddish -- names are theirs as well, Pesha Koppel. (That's a phonetic spelling, as Yiddish is properly written in Hebrew characters.) What I had never thought about before is that it's an old tradition. Pauline and Kate would have been named for their relatives, who would have been named for theirs and so on back, most probably for centuries. In all the upheaval that has accompanied the last two centuries of Jewish history, that will prevent me from ever knowing my family history over centuries the way some genealogists of some other ethnicities can, this is a strand that ties me to my history. I like that thought.

Posted by dichroic at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

time: compression

"Retro" tends to be popular in about a twenty-year cycle. So when I was a kid, the Fifties are in and we watched Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley on TV. When I was in college in the 1980s, the late 1960s / very early 1970s were in, and we wore tie-dyed T-shirts to parties where we played or listened to Hendrix, Led Zep, and the Who. Today I was talking to our summer intern, a talented and articulate person who doesn't remember the time before e-mail existed. He was born around the year I was joining my first newsgroups on the Internet, in the days before it was synonymous with the World Wide Web.

Back then, the Sixties music we listened to seemed current and relevant, but the times it went with, times of protests and love-beads and psychedelia, were historic. We could remember the tail end of that time (I remember sitting by a speaker as tall as I was, listening to "Let It Be" on the radio) but it was the sort of thing you hear your parents reminiscing about -- tales of a previous generation.

I've been realizing lately that the 1980s are as far back now as the 1960s were then, and by extension that in the 1980s the 1960s must have seemed like a recent memory to my mother and some of my older friends. Another way to look at it is that Jimi Hendrix is as far back in history now as big band music was when I was a kid. "Layla" is as far back as Oklahoma! was when I was in grade school. And yet Jimi is still cool. Eric Clapton is still playing.

That may imply that, though the pace of technological and social change has accelerated in the past century we haven't had any upheavals to rival the Sixties since. It's as if the magnetic poles flipped then and we've been adapting to it ever since. Or it may just imply that I'm getting old.

Posted by dichroic at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2004

among the Darwinians...

Hey, check it out. I'm included in Tangled Bank #9. (It's a showcase of science-related weblog writing.) So are a lot of people who actually know what they're talking about. Go check it out, because you might learn something from one of them.

Posted by dichroic at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

sleep, yarn and fat

Dammit. I did start an entry yesterday before I got pulled into an emergency. I know I hit Save but it's vanished. On the other hand, it wasn't exactly deathless prose.

Due to aforementioned emergency I didn't get home until nearly 7 last night but that was OK because we are tapering before next week's big race. That means that not only was I not planning to go to the gym, but neither was Rudder and so we got to set the alarm for a lovely late 6AM. Of course, I still woke up before it went off, but not much before. And this also meant I got to shower at home nad not have to pack clothes for getting dressed in the gym.

Having finished my flock on bunnies, all two of them, I've gone back to my very first piece of knitting. I don't have enough yarn to make a swatch and can't find more (it's Shetland wool from Scotland. I didn't know enough to save the label but did talk to the owner of the store where I bought it.) so on advice from the local yarn store I'm making it into a purse. The original wool is a dull teal with flecks of brick and cream. I had trouble finding something to go with it, but settled on a brick red with strands of other colors, in a very soft wool with a little acrylic and nylon. I'll be using that as a crochet edging (nearly done!) and for a handle. Yesterday my coworker the crochet expert verified that I'm doing the edging right, showed me how to slipstitch the sides together, and came up with some ideas for a lining. She likes it, which relieves my mind a bit; I couldn't decide whether I liked the color combination enough to finish it or if I should just rip the whole thing out and do something else with the pretty yarns. Current plans are to give the finished purse to my mother, and I think my coworker's tastes are closer to hers than mine are, so her opinion was very reassuring.

I should post a picture. Should have done some of the bunnies, too, but they're probably all chewed on by now. If I have enough of the brick yarn next, I may make a small openwork scark to drape around my denim jacket. After that and my Gryffindor scarf, if I'm not sick of the whole thing, I think I may take the plunge into clothing and try this sleeveless sweater. I wear that sort of top a lot to work. Small as I am, even I don't have a 32" chest, but it's a simple pattern and should be easy enough to either add a few stitches or use a slightly bigger gauge. Knitting I'm new at; basic math I can do. This tank top is also a possibility that looks like it's within my capability (both skill and patience).

Since I'm in trim for the big races, on Monday I went and got dunked to have my body fat measured. The result was 21.7%, which was less than I remembered it being last time (2 years ago) but a point more than it actually was. At my weight, though, a pound one way or the other makes that much difference and the test itself has an error margin of +/- 1%, so essentially it's about the same. I guess that's good. It's interesting, though: I've been measured with calipers quite a few times, by a variety of trained people, and we have a Tanita scale at home. Both methods are consistent, but both always come out much higher (6-7%) than the immersion weighing which is supposed to be more accurate. I know the different equations on the calipers make a big difference, but the people doing the measuring keep telling me they know about all that and are usign the right one -- and as I've said, I've had it done by different people, both gym trainers and health professionals. Odd. Maybe I just have a strange fat distribution in my body?

Posted by dichroic at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2004

data-based decisions: A Good Thing

I have no evidence whether this claim that Kerry and Edwards are not among the most liberal Senators is any more accurate than the rival claims that they are. I'm inclined to trust it at least somewhat because it references sources and describes exactly what data is being used. It does bring up some interesting points, though.

Remember, I'm a statistician by profession. I get paid for figuring out how to collect and analyze data. You have been warned.

First and most obvious, statistical claims are only as valid as the data on which they are based. Further, they are only as good as the sampling methods used to select a manageable number of points from that data. For example, say you decided to poll for the current Presidential election and decided that a good place to corner ordinary people would be at gas stations. That could bias the data in several ways: 1. Some men still gas up their wife's car, by virtue of the traditional gender model in which the car is the domain of the male. That could get a higher percentage of male respondants. 2. Possibly poorer people are less likely to drive, either taking the bus or carpooling to save money. Or maybe they buy smaller cars that use less gas. Or maybe they tend to drive older cars that use more gas. Whichever it is, it's a possible source of bias. 3) More people in crowded cities have access to good public transit systems and so drive less. Those city centers tend to skew more liberal, especially the Eastern cities, than rural areas.

The article linked above makes the point that 2003 voting data is not representative and thus not a valid sample.

Next, I'm getting very, very tired of hearing the word "liberal" used as a pejorative. The root is from "liberty" (or its Latin equivalent) and was formerly used to mean free in the sense of generous, as in "a liberal host". These days it's used to describe a certain cluster of political views. The thing is, it's a perfectly valid set of viewpoints. So is the set usually denoted "Conservative". Neither is intrinsically dishonorable.

The even more crucial point is that very few people believe in or even agree on all the viewpoints denoted by either convenient label. So how about we give up on empty convenience and actually argue real issues?

Final point: it's rare for a Senator to be at either extreme except as compared to other Senators. Most of them are more centrist than many of the people who elect them, precisely because they are elected by large numbers of people and because even the most homogeneous areas are not totally unanimous. The exceptions are where the only opposition is clearly unsuitable for one reason or another or where a politician has tried to appear more centrist during the election than he or she turned out to be in actual use. (The Shrub-in-Chief comes to mind here. And there I've displayed my biases, which are another thing an intelligent voter ought to bear in mind when reading anyone's statistical claims.)

Posted by dichroic at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

because we care

Spotted on a website today:


Sorry, no poll is available at this time.

Posted by dichroic at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2004

workout entry

Saturday, 7/31: 1600m erg plus weights. Since it was later in the day and I wasn't groggy, I was able to do increased weights on almost everything.

Monday, 8/2: 12 racing starts with high 15, first three with bungee. Total about 11000m and I was wiped at the end. Very hot.

Tuesday, 8/3: 1600m erg plus weights. Did a pretty good job of keeping the higher weights from Saturday.

Wednesday, 8/4: Erged 3K warmup, 3K race piece, 1K rest, 2K race piece, 1K rest, 1K race piece, 1K cooldown. Set PR for year to date on 1K, 4:31, but have done better previous years. I think slides slow me down.

Thursday, 8/5: 1800m erg plus weights -- my usual erg wamrup, but then two women asked us to show them how to do it right. They were on for quite a while after and seemed to really like erging.

Friday, 8/6: Bad girl. Didn't row due to IBS, tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep.

Saturday, 8/7: Tinkered with boat - swapped in new slides, oarlocks, small vent, connector for larger vent, and seat wheels.

Monday, 8/9: Very *very* hot. Boat equipment worked well, but I did have a catastrophic equipment failure. As I was heading back east on my first lap, doing racing starts, I stopped to swig some water only to find (quelle horreur!) my new water bottle's top had come off and all my life-giving water was swirling around the bottom of the boat. Oh, no! What to do? There was no way I'd survive rowing without water on a day that hot. I thought fast, and rowed slowly. At first I contemplated just doing one lap and only 6 of my planned 12 starts. Then I had an idea! I was just coming up on the new marina, which has actual flush toilets, and I realized that meant it probably had water fountains too. Was my wild surmise correct? I had a struggle to find out! First, that dock is supposedly designed for rowing shells but is very difficult to land on. Second, for some reason there's no direct path from the dock to the facilities. Yet I persevered, crossing a wide stretch of cement, gravel, and grass in my bare feet, luckily without encountering any sharp objects with my tender soles. My efforts were crowned by success! There was a drinking fountain - in fact there were two! I was able to fill my bottle, recap it firmly and continue on my way, after once again hazarding my feet on the way back. To be sure, the water was unfiltered, meaning it tasted bad (we have terrible water here and no one drinks it without filtering) and was chunkier than water really ought to be. Still it was wet and presumably safe. My practice was saved!

Short translation: I had a bit of equipment trouble but managed to get in 11 starts, about 9000m.

YTD distance as of Monday: 986.5 km.

Posted by dichroic at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2004

devastating intimacy

In writing to a friend who is in a period of thinking things through about her life, I quoted Jan Struther's Mrs. Miniver:

"A certain degree of un-understanding (not mis-, but un-) is the only possible sanctuary which one human being can offer to another in the midst of the devastating intimacy of a happy marriage."

It got me thinking. I believe in honesty and try not ever to lie to anyone, though there are some truths I just don't tell. I don't hide anything from Rudder, but there are some things I just don't tell him, some it wouldn't even occur to me to tell him because we just don't have the common vocabulary or common experiences that he would need to understand them. There aren't entire subjects I avoid, but I don't go into some of them (women's clothing, knitting, menstruating, books for four) in as much detail as I might with someone who participated in one of those areas more directly. I talk about what clothes I like but not exactly why, what I'm knitting but not how, whether I like a book but not why, or at least not in detail. At that, he probably hears more about some of my interests than he'd ideally like. And of course, this all applies in reverse too; I'm sure there are things he doesn't tell me just as there are topics I listen too out of love and courtest rather than great interest. Yet we have a lot more common interests and pursuits than most couples I know. I think it may not be possible for one person ever to connect with every facet of another. A good marriage connects a lot of the important ones, but even there I think Jan Struther may be right. Maybe we all just need a shelter in the back of our mind, a place where we can duck back to be alone -- but it may be different places depending whom we're dealing with.

Posted by dichroic at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2004

minor peeve

You know what I really hate? What I really hate is days when I'm so busy I don't even have time to update here at luch and when I feel guilty about going home after 9.5 hours because there's still stuff to do.

Part of the reason for that is that I'll be offsite tomorrow. Not sure if I can update then either.

Posted by dichroic at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2004

Fadiman books

My books are shelved by subject: F/SF, mystery, children's / YA in fiction, and everything from travel to religion to sociology to linguistics to books about books (one of my favorite sections) and so on. I'm beggingin to think, though, that I need a Fadiman shelf. On it, I could shelve Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major's New Lifetime Reading Plan; Ann Fadiman's wonderful Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader; Theodore H. White's In Search of History, his autobiography, which has a lot about Annalee Jacoby (Clifton's wife, Anne's mother); and my latest acquisition, George Howe Colt's (Ann's husband) The Big House, about his family and the decaying Cape Cod mansion in which they've spent summers for three generations.

Those aren't all the Fadiman books, by a long shot. For example, I have no great desire to buy Anne's bestseller on epilepsy among the Hmong people, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down or Colt's The Enigma of Suicide, just because those aren't subjects I'm as interested in. Clifton F. has any number of other books out, some of which may show up on my shelves someday.

I think I've figured out why the Fadiman books I do have are such favorites of mine: it's because those are books I could write, or at least they're the sort of book I could write. I'm having visions of competence here: I'm not an author, and I'm not claiming I could write a book as good as any of the Fadiman ouevre. But I could write something that would be at least a distant cousin to their work; I could write a book about other books and why or why not they should be read, or a series of essays about my life and the containers -- books or houses -- that have impacted it. It might even be readable. In contrast, I don't think I could write a fantasy novel, or if I did it would be awful. Much as I enjoy reading fiction I don't get the thrumming recognition of myself behind its pages that I do when reading what I am coming to think of as a Fadiman book.

Posted by dichroic at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2004

pity, silence, and shame

I've been reading Misia's post, "No Pity. No Shame. No Silence". The post is interesting, compelling, and a good idea. The comments are downright scarifying, in the sense of flaying a protective skin off your emotions.

Though I am one of the lucky ones, just the cases I know of among my friends support the commonly heard statistic that 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted. Given that it's not necessarily something people want to talk about basic statistics tells me the real number must be higher. Even that isn't enough to know, though, because the definition is so vague and because it leaves out the men who have been violated (one male friend I know of, and his brother - others have undergone emotional abuse).

Still, I can't entirely concur in Misia's slogan. No Shame and No Silence, certainly. We need to do whatever it takes to put the blame on assaulters rather than on victims, to help victims feel less isolated and to let them see that healing is possible, and especially to help adused children understand it's not their fault. But No Pity? I have more trouble with that. No escaping the consequences, certainly, whether those include jail time, therapy, having their names shouted out so everyone will know and resulting ostracism, or all of the above. Sane adults bear the responsibility for their actions no matter what led them into those actions, even if they themselves were abused. Juveniles need to bear whatever consequences are appropriate to their age (therapy, juvenile detention, etc) to teach them those actions are not acceptable in this society. But even so, I can't manage no pity. I wouldn't want to be inexorablyand irreprieveably sentenced to living in the head of a person who would do / has done such a thing. I keep thinking of the little boy in Rilla of Ingleside who, during WWI, said the best punishment for the Kaiser would be to turn him into a really good man ... because then he would have to live with what he had done.

Posted by dichroic at 02:45 PM | Comments (2)

August 02, 2004

still singing. also reading.

Come to think of it, why are there so many people who have that group of interests - F&SF, folk music, musicals? I understand the link between the first two; there are any number of fantasy plots based on folk ballads or folk tales or folk tales told in ballads, and as an outgrowth of that, even quite a few novels in which the characters like or sing or quote folk music, from War for the Oaks to Picking the Ballad's Bones to Tam Lin to Silverlock (hmm. need to reread that one) to Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories.

But why musicals? Is it just that after all those ballads we get used to music that tells a story and has a singable melody?

Also, why don't I run into people who sing or play music anymore? In college, people brought guitars to parties and even those who couldn't play might sing to them. When I did the Rocky Horror Show (I was Columbia for a year or two at the Theatre of the Living Arts on South St. in Philadelphia, back when it showed movies) we'd sing show tunes as we walked home at 3AM. (We did try to be a little quieter on the residential streets.) Even when I volunteered at the Armand Bayou Nature Center in Houston we'd occasionally get to singing and playing at some of the group's gatherings. I don't play guitar much any more (and haven't really gotten to try the mandolin) but I'm still singing and whistling and I have no plans to stop any time soon. The rest of my world is bloody well going to have to give up and join in.

Resistance is futile.

On a different topic, I've sent an email, but will also wish my college bf a happy birthday here. If I'm not mistaken, he's turning 40. It's now been about 14 years since I've seen him in person, though we've emailed occasionally. I was 17 we first met. How oddly age telescopes time.

Posted by dichroic at 01:25 PM | Comments (5)

another twin?

I have a coworker whose Myers-Briggs personality type matches mine: ENTP. On Firday we were talking about one of our mutual favorite musicals, 1776. He prefers the original cast with William Dnaiels, whereas I think Brent Spiner was absolutely brilliant. However, he's never heard the latter and appanretly didn't see enough episodes of Star Trek: TNG to catch Spiner playing Lor or Cmdr. Data with an emotion chip and thus hasn't really seen his range.

After that we discussed songs about UK history and debated whether Steeleye Span's or Ewan MacColl's cover of the traditional "Cam' Ye O'er Frae France" came first. (I suspect Steeleye learned it from MacColl, though they could as likely have gotten it from the usual folk process.)

We also both are F/SF people though it's somewhat reassuring that we tend to gravitate toward different ends of the field - I read more fantasy than hard SF these days while he prefers more military SF novels.

Fortunately we don't look much alike. He's got a closer resemblance to the snowman/narrator from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but thinner. And his favorite sport is scuba diving, whereas I mostly stay on top of the water. Still, I'm beginning to wonder just how accurate those personality tests actually are.

Or it could be his office, the previous denizen of which shared my birth date, month, and year, gender, coloring, and commitment to a sport. We did occasionally get mistake for each other. She had better biceps and much greater flexibility, though.

Posted by dichroic at 10:19 AM | Comments (2)